July 28, 2009

"Gimme 5" Recycling Program

I don't know about you, but checking the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers has become a habit and a part of our daily recycling routine. To our dismay, our town accepts only #1s and #2s (club soda bottles/milk containers and the like). So I was happy to find the Gimme 5 recycling program that accepts and processes #5 plastics — things like yogurt cups, cottage cheese containers and even Brita® water filters. Preserve, the company that co-sponsors Gimme 5 along with Stonyfield Yogurt and Organic Valley, takes the plastics you return and makes them into toothbrushes, razor handles and cutting boards!

Right now, the drop-off locations are at select Whole Foods stores. Ours is not entirely convenient, but we believe in the benefits of this effort so we're banding together with our neighbors to make a bi-weekly trip. Visit the Preserve website to learn more about drop-off locations, mail-in information and retail outlets in your area. I recently read that in some states curbside recycling programs are including #5 plastics, so I'm hopeful that this will eventually make its way to us. It's this type of cradle-to-cradle system that is making a significant difference for all of us and for our planet.

July 21, 2009

Rise & Shine

These adorable recipe boxes landed on my doorstep the other day! Gina B. Designs is one of my wonderful licensees — and above that, they are wonderful people to work with. I have long admired the quality and whimsy of their stationery products and am so happy to be working with them on many new designs.

Recipe boxes are like heirloom time capsules containing nourishing and favorite meals perfected by great-grandmothers and fathers, moms, dads, sisters and so on. There's nothing quite like pulling out a batter-splashed, berry-stained recipe card, and to re-create seasonal treats made by family or friends. It might seem old-fashioned to get out a pen and hand write the details of a recipe on a card, but it's this type of time and care that makes them so personal and special, and connects us from one generation to the next. We season each meal with our own tastes and preferences, and add notes in the margins, making them ours.

Several of my friends have recently gotten married and for their bridal showers, everyone was asked to bring their favorite recipe on an index card that was provided in the invitation. I thought this was such a great idea and shared a to-die-for cupcake recipe from a dear friend. It's great that this tradition continues!

You can find these boxes on Gina B.'s online store.

This could be the first card entry of your new recipe box:

THE PERFECT CUPCAKE (makes 12 cupcakes with generous frosting!)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temp.
2 large egg yolks, room temp.
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 recipe chocolate ganache frosting

(to double this recipe, which I highly recommend, use 3 whole eggs and 2 yolks, and double the remaining ingredients)

• Adjust oven rack to middle position; preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Line standard muffin tin with cupcake liners
• Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed of mixer until smooth and satiny (about 30 sec.). Scrape down sides of bowl w/spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.
• Divide batter evenly among prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (20-24 minutes)
• Lift cupcakes from tin and cool on wire rack until they reach room temp.
• Generously frost cooled cupcakes.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING (makes about 2 cups, enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes, plus a bit extra for the cook)

1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

• Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and pour boiling cream over. Cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes.
• Remove foil and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and slightly firm (45 min-1 hour)
• Transfer cooled mixture to bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment (or use hand mixer); whip mixture at medium speed until fluffy and mousse-like, and forms medium stiff peaks (about 2 minutes).

* This recipe can be doubled
* Don't let ganache chill for more than an hour before whipping it or it can separate
* Excessive whipping may also cause the ganache to curdle

July 20, 2009


I just spotted this entry on the Cardstore.com website. Fun! It's such a joy for me to get feedback like this and makes what I do so rewarding.

July 12, 2009


When Pete and I were planning our garden, we thought about what we most like to eat. Tomatoes, basil (if we could grow mozzarella we would), potatoes, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and rhubarb topped the list. What can we say? We're pie (or tart or crisp or crumble) people.

We flipped through the Burpee catalog and selected two types of blueberry plants — "Blue Ray" and "Blue Jay". We thought it was so cute...they named that particular variety after the bird.

Fast forward: Year Two. Our blueberry plants had finally matured enough to produce almost a handful of the sweet fruits. We went out each morning to check on them and waited patiently and excitedly for them to ripen. Patience is key when gardening, and often rewarded. Anyone who has ever plucked a sun-warmed tomato from the vine knows that there's a time when it's at its peak of ripeness and will almost fall into your hand. We were waiting for such a moment. At last, the day had arrived for our blueberries...or so we thought.

We started off to the garden with a small bowl in-hand and turned the corner of our house, just in time to scare the blue jay flying away with the very last berry in its beak! Hopes dashed, spirits squelched...we'd have to wait another long year.

Year Three (this year): As soon as any sign of berry formed on our bushes, we were quick to notice how stealthily the blue jays would land on our roof and tilt their heads to spy the bushes, taking note of any blue shades coming through the green berries — just as we were. We immediately covered everything with bird netting. Take that!

So far so good. This is the third batch of blueberries we've picked so far this year and we hope there's more to come!

July 10, 2009

Art for a Cause

Last year, my friend Bridgette Auger approached me about creating a logo for her organization A Plate for All. She and her colleagues Amelia Reese and Daniel Masterson saw a gap in the aid being given to Iraqi refugee families. These refugees had been displaced from their homes in Iraq to a drought-stricken region in northeastern Syria. After months of planning, fundraising and logistics, these three young people and their partner organization — Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (GOPA) — conducted their first community food distribution program and were able to help 350 families with direct humanitarian aid. Amazing!

Bridgette sent these photos yesterday:

(Photos © Bridgette Auger 2009. All rights reserved)

The logo I designed (on the boxes) is meant to celebrate the welcome, respect and decency present in a communal meal — those simple and powerful forces that connect and affirm us all, beyond culture or geopolitics. I decided that the design should celebrate those positives while simultaneously evoking the Islamic ceramic traditions of majolica that originated in Mesopotamia over a thousand years ago.

Here's the logo up close:

(logos are © A Plate for All. All rights reserved)

It's both humbling and moving to see the culmination of these efforts — people in need getting relief. I'm grateful to have been given the opportunity to contribute a very small part in making this happen.

I'm so inspired by the courage, commitment and selflessness of Bridgette and her colleagues and look forward to hearing more about their efforts to reduce the daily suffering of refugees through their caring humanitarian actions. If you'd like to learn more about A Plate for All, please click the link under "Making A Difference".

July 7, 2009


My husband Pete and I love to explore. It seems that wherever we go, I find myself drawn into the ridges, bumps and shining surfaces of the unique natural forms we encounter. I'm usually the one kneeling on the ground with my camera lens inches from something, holding steady and waiting for the clouds to give way to sun. Zooming in on the details helps me see better, become better at drawing and keeps me amazed at the infinite interaction of light, shadow, color, shape and space. You don't have to travel far when you're looking at details. In fact, the center picture of that hosta leaf was taken outside our front door!