“AN EXEMPLARY VEGETABLE” with a recipe for EXCELLENT BOILED POTATOES

An excellent little plate of boiled potatoes

An excellent little plate of boiled potatoes and what makes them sing is the knob of butter, flaky sea salt and fresh parsley

I referred to a line from Pride and Prejudice when writing a recipe in a post in 2011 ((click THIS to see recipe), and I cannot tell you how many times the phrase “excellent boiled potatoes” has brought people to my blog! It makes me feel bad when they discover there is in fact no recipe to be found for this much sought after potato dish, and it is high time I put that to rights!

Georgous potatoes from the local Good Work Farm

Local Fingerling Potatoes; these potatoes have a wonderful buttery and almost nutty flavor.

If you are bewildered as to what I am referring to, it is this: (in a 21 second nutshell)

Johnstown Castle and Gardens built right at the time Jane Austin wrote how the Bennett sisters would tromp over hill and dale in all weathers

Johnstown Castle and Gardens in County Wexford, Ireland, built right around the time (early 19th century) Jane Austin wrote marvelous descriptions of her characters traipsing over the English landscape.

I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that I will watch any movie based on the books of Jane Austin. Some are better than others, but my very favorites are Pride and Prejudice (both the 1995 BCC mini-series version and the 2005 Focus Features movie) and Sense and Sensibility, (starring Emma Thomas who also wrote the screen play and whose is an exemplary actor herself)

I love little potatoes.

I love little potatoes.

Anyway, the reference to “excellent boiled potatoes” came from the lips of an odious cousin of the Bennett Family who were obliged to entertain him. He was ingratiating himself in every way possible and when he asked to “which of my fair cousins” should he thank for making the dish, Mrs Bennett cut him in two with a remark that they were “perfectly able to keep a cook!” (I am quoted from memory here which exposes my true inner-fan heart!)

Toss potatoes into parsley butter

A veritable cornucopia of color: Potatoes tossed with butter, salt and fresh parsley.

I don’t really think for a minute that most people would go to such lengths to find this recipe (it is only a bowl of plain potatoes after all), if they were not so fascinated and enthralled by that scene at the dinner table. It captured the atmosphere of a family dinner where one has to put up with unwanted company so perfectly: the quiet clatter of cutlery on plates, the ting of glasses, the sidelong glances of family members to each other, along with some muffled snickering at the poor guests expense.

Boil potatoes..

Boiling potatoes..

When he inquires about the potatoes you have already been salivating over the meal, and the quick pan of the camera over the potato bowl is a hard thing to forget. Mr Collins (the undesirable guest), also describes the potatoes with words that are usually reserved for a more elegant vegetable such as asparagus or artichokes. Adjectives like “exemplary” and “excellent” only heighten your impulse to jump through the screen and try them for yourself.

Boil baby potatoes and slice in half.

Boil baby potatoes and slice in half.

So, I want to boldly suggest that it was not the potatoes you fell in love with at all: it was Jane Austin herself! But, I will give you the recipe anyway, just so you can complete the movie by actually tasting it too.

mash potaotes very well..

potatoes ready to be tossed gently in butter, salt and pepper

I am confident that this recipe will satisfy you and will bring to life the potatoes you have been dreaming about since seeing this sweet movie. I did not write to the producers, director or the food stylist to get the recipe either. Being a girl who was born and bred in Ireland, the land where once it was all we had to eat (or all we were left to eat, but that is another very long story), I feel about as sure as a person can be that I don’t need to inquire as to how this bowl of excellent boiled potatoes came to be.

June's roasted potatoes

My sister June’s roasted potatoes

The word “boiled” is a dead giveaway and there is only one way to boil a potato. The trick is to find the RIGHT potato for the job and in Ireland we call the potato in question a “floury” potato. A floury potato, when boiled, acquires a sort of outer layer of fluffiness that crumbles when you touch it with your knife or fork. They fall apart easily in the best possible way when very roughly chopped with a knife after they have cooked. All they need is a knob of butter and some salt and voila. They are so delicious you will want to forgo the rest of the meal and just eat the potatoes.

Excellent Boiled Potatoes

I would normally want you to absolutely ignore my suggestions for ingredient brands if you don’t have that particular thing on hand or it is too darn expensive, but here I am afraid, if you want that “exemplary” experience, you will have to follow my suggestions.

2-3 lbs best potatoes you can find (I suggest Russet, white, or baby potatoes of any color)

4 tbs (or more if desired) unsalted butter (use something special like Irish Kerrygold butter or Plugra butter from the United States OR any butter with a high butterfat content)

Flaky sea salt such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or other good quality rough-cut salt

2 tbs fresh flat leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley) – very finely chopped

Method:

1 – Peel potatoes and, quarter if large and half if on the small side. Rinse with plenty of cold water.

2 – Add to saucepan or pot and cover with cold water  (until potatoes a just covered with water). Place on high and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down slightly and boil (the water should still be bubbling, but at a steady rate, nothing so crazy as to make the lid hop around).

3 – Cook until a knife pierces the potato very easily (but not totally falling apart). Drain off the water and leave the lid off to let them cook for about 2 minutes.

4 – Add the butter and a sprinkle of salt (the amount is up to your taste and what your diet will allow). Replace the lid and using a cloth on each hand, lift the pot and shake it ever so gently. The potatoes with break a little and the butter will melt.

Turn into a large bowl and toss the chopped parsley over them. Set on the table and watch a movie (you know the one I mean!)

One of the many 150 year old trees on the estate

One of the many 150 year old trees on the grounds of Johnstown Castle

Why do I like the films based on Jane Austin’s books so much? (if you want to know, and just so you know).

I like listening to the ease and flow of normal conversation. In those days, even the most uneducated had a way with words. It came from practice. It was the only form of communication and of entertainment. So many people did not have access to books or any other forms of amusement. Talking was it, was the center of everything. The story lines do fall short for me sometimes but that doesn’t matter one bit because I am far too enraptured by every delicious word to care.

PENLAND SCHOOL OF CRAFT – NOT REAL LIFE (my small ode to a place I love).

This post is dedicated to my friend, master metalsmith and teacher Chuck Evans (1940-2015)

tjfdjy

Approaching the Ceramics and Metals Studio, Penland School of Craft

It is early Saturday morning and I really should be lingering in bed in a haze of lovely weekend sleep instead of sitting here typing on my computer. It can’t be helped: I cannot get Penland out of my mind.

Penland: Not Real Life

Penland: Not Real Life

I erased everything I have written in this post up to now because it is saying what I want (or mean) to say all wrong. A clean slate is the only solution and I feel better already. Sometimes fixing something is a lot more difficult than starting anew, so here goes.

One View

One View

I have found an excuse to write about Penland School of Craft numerous times in this blog because it is so easy to attach it to food, which in turn I can attach to people, and the people who you meet at Penland are well-worth talking about.

A picture of typical food at Penland (just to keep within the rules!)

Typical food at Penland (just to keep within the rules!). This was what I had for dinner August 13th 2015 – I remember it well as it was also my son Calder’s 16th birthday – what a place to celebrate!

This August at Penland will standout as one of my very best visits.

One of the many beautiful ways to choose to get you to your destination

One of the many beautiful ways to choose to get your to your destination

Connecting a life in Ireland in 1986 and finding another life in the United States took two things: Grennan Mill Craft School and Penland School of Craft.

a peak at the view

Ireland – where I grew up

While going to school in Ireland it was impressed upon me that if you didn’t draw, you were not an artist or artistic. This was certainly the parochial view, where I grew up anyway. If you wrote, you were are writer, but if you fiddled around like I did making jewelry out of electrical wire and other scraps I found, it was not really anything – just kind of crafty.

The hike route to Pedlers Lake (an ancient Glacier paradise) county Cork

The hike route to Pedlers Lake (an ancient Glacier paradise) at Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland and one of the highlights of the Dingle Peninsula

So I did what I was advised to do after secondary school and studied business in college – no Art School for me!

Reading on The Craft house porch, Penland

Reading on The Craft house porch, Penland

I actually loved college though. I’m just one of those people who love the feel of a classroom. Think about it, you get to sit somewhere or be somewhere all day long where other people (teachers) feed you information. I suppose when you attach the word “learning” to the experience it feels like work.

Leaving the Craft House Porch

Leaving the Craft House Porch

Nowadays when I ask my kids “well what did you learn in school today?”, I really want to know…..like what did you learn, because I want to know that too!! Ha, I just cannot help myself. They put up with me though and are used to my wanting to be involved (home schooling them for years took care of that!)

The Pines at Penland which is where we eat meals had

The Pines at Penland , where we dine, has a blackboard at the beginning of the line announcing the highlight of the meal. This year there was a particularly imaginative person doing the job. This was a standout!

This summer my son had to read a book, The People’s History of America by Howard Zinn for his upcoming history class, and write a synopsis of the book as he read. He was daunted, and I was exciting. This was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the history (albeit, a point of view of history) of the United States for once and for all. I had learned lots of bits and pieces over the years but I wanted a clear view, a timeline, and this book was the answer.

One of our reading spots

One of our reading spots (outside The Pines)

We read the book in all sorts of places over the summer and discussed and argued. I was completely fascinated from beginning to end and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a history book but doesn’t want it to feel like school.

There is the place we happily crashed this year and every year that we visit western North Carolina. It is our friend Shawn's

There is the place we happily crashed this year and every year that we visit western North Carolina. It is our friend Shawn’s House which is located exactly 2 miles from Penland School. (That is Shawn making our dinner!)

Oops – getting off track a bit, but back to me and my connecting the dots of my life. After college I was still itchy to “make stuff” as I referred to my little diversion. I got a friend to make me a big wooden board that closed up like a suit case from which to hang and transport my wiry earrings and necklaces and proceeded to hawk them on the street in town – very “hippie” thing to do in those days, but I was quite serious about making money to live on while satisfying my desire to create.

Dave took Shawn (his college freind) t drobe the 6600 miles to Penland

Dave (my man) hijacked Shawn one weekend (they were in college together) and drove the 600+ miles to Penland from Pennsylvania in 1990. He has been there ever since.

I heard about Grennan Mill through my then boyfriend (still friends – hi David!) and so I decided to check it out. It was in its infancy but it had the clout of  Kilkenny Design Workshops behind it (famous for its tradition of silver and silversmiths).

ounded in 1981, Grennan Mill Craft School is located in the converted grain lofts of the Island Mill, an old flour mill dating from the 18th century, on the banks of the River Nore in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny.

Founded in 1981, Grennan Mill Craft School is located in the converted grain lofts of the Island Mill, an old flour mill dating from the 18th century, on the banks of the River Nore in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny. (you can see canoes here on the river – well we used to take out a dingy old boat when it was nice. There is also a weir right there by the mill and I experienced the most magical hour or so watching salmon jumping the weir back to their spawning grounds. These fish were desperately torn up but determined to make the trip home)

A group in Ireland called AnCO ( it is/was a Training Advisory Service set up by the government to promote skills development within industry) was sponsoring an all silversmithing course at the mill for the first time (up to then students studied a wider range of crafts while there – ceramics, metal, textiles). It was full-time and the students got a small stipend so they did not have to work while studying.

Grennan Mill

Grennan Mill’s lovely Windows

Most everyone applying was involved in some way with art and/or craft so I went to the interview full of angst and apprehensions. I took my giant wooden suitcase with me and sat across a desk from the then director the lovely George Vaughan and my prospective teacher, the wildly talented and quirky Peter Donovan (he was head of the metals program for 30 years – only recently stepping out of the role). What was I going to say to convince them that I belonged in that class??

River Nore across the road from Bernie's house

The river Nore flowing through Thomastown, home of Grennan Mill Craft School (this was the road I walked to the mill)

To be quite honest, I don’t remember what I said but after showing them my work (if you could call it that) and saying whatever I said, I was one of the twelve chosen to take the course. These two men knew talent when they saw it – ha!

my freind's house in Irealnd

This is the house where I lived while going to the Mill. it was more rustic in my day. (when I moved in with a fellow student, Grace, we even decided to live without electricity as an experiment – a youthful notion imagining that the more impoverished it all was, the more romantic and artistic the experience would be  – we did it for 3 months and would have lasted forever but for the students who moved in next door used the same fuse box!). FYI  – Living by candlelight was kind of magically…

But on a serious note, I think they could actually see my passion and desire coming through because I really didn’t have anything else going for me at that point. My business degree would be put to use later I told my anxious mother and off I went to Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

My friend Bernadette Kiley lives in that house now. She is a most amazing painter and you should take a moment to look at her work. (River Nore Summer - Oil on Canvas

My friend Bernadette Kiely lives in that house now. She is a most amazing painter and you should take a moment to look at her work. (River Nore Summer – Oil on Canvas)

It changed my life.

This is by the artist Barry Cooke who I had the great pleasure to get to know while in Thomastown

This is by the artist Barry Cooke who I had the great pleasure to get to know while in Thomastown

It was there that I discovered a part of me that was itching to be discovered and it was also there that I found the company of the most interesting people I had ever come across. My kind of people, and for the first time in my life I had found a community that I totally and utterly belonged to. Yep – dramatic thing to say, but true.

The tabernacle at St Mels Cathedral County Longford

The tabernacle at St Mels Cathedral County Longford made by VCD Silversmiths, Thomastown, The “V” stands for Vicki Donovan and this is the kind of work that my fellow Grennan Mill classmate now produces

I am so thankful for that time in Thomastown as it wasn’t just the course of study that awakened me. I got to mingle with painters, potters, weavers and sculptures, all working on being the best they could be. I made friends for life, and that happened to me all over again when I took a class at Penland School in Western North Carolina seven years later.

Frutta di Mare by Shawn Ireland (Oil on Canvas)

Frutta di Mare (NFS) by Shawn Ireland (Oil on Canvas)

Moving from Ireland to the United States was a culture shocking experience, especially in the late 1980’s when the connections to other countries were not as instantaneous as they are today. It is so much easier today to get the sense of a foreign place with the click of a button. It is not like being there of course, but it does help you prepare if you are planning a journey, or as it turned out for me, a more permanent move (you always leave thinking you are coming back).

This is how Íde got around campus!

This is how Íde got around campus!

But, this was also the part of me that needed to be satisfied; my never-ending curiosity about everything and everybody. What makes a place tick? It turns out no matter where I go, the answer to that question is the same; it is the people.

Dave also liked this form of mobility - whoosh!

Dave also liked this form of mobility – whoosh!

I will ignore my NYC story of where I lived for seven years before venturing further (plenty of posts to read about that if you are curious) and skip right to Penland. I went on the recommendation of a friend who could see I needed to get back to my creative side (I took classes at Parsons School of Design just to keep fresh and I was renting a little studio in a dingy basement on 6th and 2nd Ave).

The Penland Annual Big Auction happened right before Dave's class so we made sure not to miss it.

Penland’s Annual Benefit Auction happened right before Dave’s class so we made sure not to miss it.

What can I say? It was like Déjà vu, only Penland was a scarier prospect in that I felt totally intimidated and out of my comfort zone: very good ingredients to thrive in I’d say. What I mean is if everything comes easy and there is no challenge or apprehension involved, then what is the point? The day you feel comfortable is the day to make a change.

This auction plays a huge part in financing all sorts of plans at the school, from new buildings to new equipment and various programs

This auction plays a huge part in financing all sorts of plans at the school, from new buildings to new equipment and various programs (there was a great cocktail party held before the auction in and around the new printing and book arts studios)

Creativity is something that is pulled from you and it takes a certain kind of work, although I hate to use that word. Maybe courage and effort are better descriptors.

Cocktail attire Penland style (Dave & Matt)

Cocktail attire Penland style (Dave & Matt)

Penland gave me a place where I could work with tools and materials that felt familiar to me. That was a good start. But the difference here is that there were no traditions or rules to upkeep. At least not with my instructor, Chuck Evans.

Wood Tiles made by donor's as part of the Lucy Morgan (founder of Penland 1928) Luncheon which honored Stony Lamar Lucy Morgan Luncheon, and Outstanding Artist Educator Stoney Lamar was honored

Wood Tiles made by donors (with the help of long time artist and regular Penland Teacher Brent Skidmore) after the Lucy Morgan Luncheon (founder of Penland 1929) which honored Stony Lamar for Outstanding Artist Educator

At Grennan Mill I learned how to use tools correctly, and techniques that I would call upon forever. Here at Penland people were doing whatever the heck they felt like doing, whether they had the knowledge or not. They would try anyway and see what happened.

Chuck Evans made this spoon in 1993 at Penland while teaching our class (He gave it to Dave and we have treasured it ever since)

Chuck Evans made this spoon in 1993 at Penland while teaching our class (He gave it to Dave and we have treasured it ever since)

I warmed to Chuck Evans immediately. He had a rough and tumble kind of friendliness, no frills, no bull. Sometimes politeness is overrated when you find yourself as an instructor having to coax a timid person into being more courageous. Chuck bypassed all of this when he saw me fretting over a box I was trying to solder, “well what are you waiting for, light the damn torch and start putting that thing together!”

This is my freind Dan Essig who was also taking Chuck's glass. He is the most amazing book arts guy I know

This is my friend Dan Essig who was also taking Chuck’s class in 1993. He is the most amazing book arts guy I know (Lucky for me he was also at Penland this year)

It was a two-week class whose purpose was to bring me back to myself and it succeeded. How could that happen in a short two-week period of my life?

This is a book that I own made by Dan - it is a very simple and beautiful example of his work (the rose bud is from the garden of a freind of ours)

This is a book that I own made by Dan – it is a very simple and beautiful example of his work (the rose bud is from the garden of a friend of ours). Check out his website if you want to be awed.

Well, Penland is not real life that’s why. Not even for the people who live and work at Penland. They know this fact too. Because, the moment they drive down the mountain and away from the school, a different kind of reality hits them; the real world.

Another Penland

Another Penland beauty made in an Iron Class in 1989. Trading work with other students is a big thing at Penland. It is the very best memento you could bring back to remind you of your class, or your visit, and to remember the person who gave it to you.

The really good news is that after being there, you take a bit of the place with you and the real world takes on a different color or tone. You come away a better artist for sure, and with a happiness that just lingers. YES CORNY – and I am certainly not corny so I will defend myself.

This sweet bird and nest was made by a wonderful fiber artist Ann coddington rast

This sweet bird and nest was made by a wonderful fiber artist Ann Coddington Rast. Her class was in the Lily Loom house one of the most atmospheric and warm buildings on campus. She was so generous, sharing her talent with anyone who was interested and allowing visitors to her classroom like myself a chance to even try their hand at making something.

Penland proved that it is a catalyst for sparking creativity and happiness. People travel all over the world looking for these sometimes elusive things: going on retreats, pilgrimages, sitting on the top of mountains with fantastical views looking for inspiration for their work and their life.

Matt Fergason

This is Metals Studio Co-Ordinator Ian Henderson at Penland, a highly skilled metalsmith who has an addiction to peanut butter cookies from Penland’s Coffee House (pretty sure this is where he is headed for here)

It is in different places for different people, unexpected places at times. I didn’t go to Penland expecting anything but a way to use a good studio space with a teacher whose reputation preceded him.

The sweet treats at the Coffee House, whcih can be enjouyed up to midnight most nights

The sweet treats at the Coffee House, which can be enjoyed up to midnight most nights

I found out that the irreverence to traditional approaches and techniques (at least that it how I saw it the first few days) did not disregard good craftmanship, rather it was a way to show students that objects could be created in many different ways, using others modes or means of getting there.

The lovey Edwina and Cynthia Bringle. if you have never met them, you have never been to Penland

The lovely Edwina and Cynthia Bringle. if you have never met them, you have not experienced Penland.

So the big lesson for me was: there is more than one way to skin a cat!

Keiji Shinohara

Keiji Shinohara (check out his work) taught the Woodblock Printing Class this session and my son Calder was captivated by his talent and highly animated larger-than-life personality.

What a revelation (and a philosophy to be applied to anything really). Without being technical, the time I spent in a studio which was open 24-7 was invaluable, because of my crazy talented teacher and because of the other students in my class.

Dave giving one (of many!) demos to his metals class. this was a most amazing group of students of which the majority were absolute beginners. They made marvelous work and fell in love with thier teacher

Dave giving one (of many!) demos to his metals class. This was a most amazing group of students of which the majority were absolute beginners. They made marvelous work and I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and relentless quest to make great things

The transformation did not stop when I stepped from the studio. It was happening all around me. I got to hang out in other studios and watch other artists doing the same thing I was doing, pushing themselves in a place that encouraged daring at every turn.

At the end of the session there is always an auction which benefits the Core Program. This auction consists of mainly student and instructor work made during the session. the pice that Dave's class collectivly made was bought by the class and they surprised Dave by presented it to him on that final day. Needless to say there were

At the end of the session there is always an auction which benefits the Work Study Program. This auction consists of mainly student and instructor work made during the session. The piece that Dave’s class collectively made and donated was bought by the class and they surprised Dave by presenting it to him on that final day. Needless to say it doesn’t get any better than that!

What happens when you come back from a really amazing vacation or  pilgrimage, or retreat, or some sort of holiday which made a big impact on you? You get all mushy about it right? You become the champion for that place or that thing. The feeling does wear off or is eroded by the daily grind and that’s only natural, but these warm fuzzy things happen.

Approaching the Metals Studios

Approaching the Metals Studios

It is 22 years since my class with Chuck and I maintained that fuzzy feeling by becoming a full-time metalsmith, and that is how I have been making my living ever since.

Forged Bracelet by David Jones

Forged Bracelet by David Jones

I forgot to mention that Chuck’s aspiring assistant became my husband! He was already a seasoned Penlander ( a good name for us all) and had just completed his masters in Metalsmithing & Jewelry at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

his oh so sweet plate was made by the talented hands of Michael Kline. i met Michael when he was a resident artist at The Barnes (Penland has a wonderful Resident Program). He is also one who never left!

These oh so sweet plates were made by the talented hands of Michael Kline. i met Michael when he was a resident artist at The Barnes (Penland has a wonderful Resident Program). He is also one who never left!

He will tell you to this day that Penland is where he received his true education and the place were his craft was allowed to flourish with no limits.

These funky glass skulls were given to us by

These funky glass skulls were given to us by the equally funky Paul Marioni when we were both teaching a class at Penland.

We are both in the art business and I do most definitely consider it a business too as it has to be viable if we are to remain doing what we love. (Consolation to know my college years were not a waste of time!).

The blacksmith Elizabeth Brim is also a valuable fixture at Penland

Blacksmith and Penland’s next door neighbor, Elizabeth Brim is someone I always love to see. She is just a breath of life and how could you not love a woman who hot forges high heels out of steel!

Since then we have been back to Penland many times together to visit and to teach.

another pices from the auction (Artist: Borris Bally)

Another piece from the auction (Artist: Boris Bally)

This August Dave taught the 6th Session Upper Metals class ( I opted out of teaching simply because I wanted to hang out with our now two teenage kids on campus for this intense two weeks, and because I  wanted to take a break from actual work) and the visit was the most memorable ever.

Another totally awesome friend i got to see is Anne Lamanski - she is the total package of talent, fun and downright loveliness!

Another totally brilliant artist i got to see again is Anne Lamanski – she is the total package of talent, fun and downright loveliness! (This is one of her prints but you must check out all of her work to be fully amazed)

Reconnecting with all of my friends and fellow artists as well making new friends was the glorious highlight of my whole year. (There was a little teaching done when the students found out in Dave’s class that I was also a metalsmith and willing to offer any advice if asked. This is why I knew I could not teach too: our kids would never have seen us!)

My Three Amigos

My Three Amigos (David Jones – Metal Guy, Andrew Glasgow – Consultant Guy & Brent Skidmore – Wood Guy)

This was also the first time Calder and Íde lived on campus as semi-adults and were able to completely immerse themselves and have that “Penland experience”.

Coffee House

Coffee House

They spent their days exploring studios, hanging out getting to know instructors and students, watched their dad do demos and visit the Coffee house for delectable treats on a whim. We also made several trips to Asheville to see old friends and to eat yummy food.

Our favorite place to eat was Thai Orchid for thier Pad Thai

Our favorite place to eat was Suwana’s Thai Orchid for their Pad Thai. I make Pad Thai and while it is pretty good, it will never taste like this. There is something to be said for a native making their own food and the owner of Thai Orchid is most certainly invested in what comes out of the kitchen. Worth visiting for the Pad Thai, great service and for the way the paper wrapper from your straw comes to the table in a festive twisty celebration!

Now of course they are dying for the time when they can take a class (you have to be 18). In the meantime they can look forward to a long visit in spring 2017 when Dave will be teaching the Spring Metals concentration.

This is Northlight and the place that you gather for your introdcution to Penland meeting the evening before classes begin.

This is Northlight and the place that you gather for your introduction meeting to Penland the evening before classes begin. What I remember most about that first evening at Penland in 1993 is Paulus Berensohn who has lived in the Penland community for 40 years. He is a poet, dancer, teacher, potter and an iconic figure at the school. He read a poem by Mary Oliver titled White Flowers. It took my breath away and I will never forget that moment.

I could really keep going about how Penland and Grennan Mill changed the course of my life. There are so many stories left to tell, so many more people to include, but hopefully this taste will make you want to click on the link to the school and take a wild and wonderful adventure and see it for yourself.

Penland 2015

Penland 2015

It will not disappoint.

As I said: Not Real Life

As I said: Not Real Life (Coral Chandelier Dress by Susan Taylor Glasgow – one of the pieces at the Annual Benefit auction which brought a substantial sum)

I could not close without mentioning the Caretaker of Penland, Jean McLaughlin (real title being Executive Director). She has a quiet way of being a truly powerful advocate for the school and it’s mission, to support individual and artistic growth through craft. She has done, and continues to do an admirable job and I hope this little ode of mine serves to demonstrate some of her accomplishments.

Penland School of Crafts

Penland School of Crafts (1 mile straight up!)

This Just In!!!!! Never Summer 100k Race Update – Nearly LIVE!!!!

So, as I write I am waiting on a race report from the infamous HB! Take a look at my last post here to see what I am talking about.

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes

My brother is running in the inaugural Ultra Race Never Summer 100k (as we speak) and my last update has me hopeful of a finish. My first report from HB was at 2.04pm (EST in these here United States) and was this: “He’s headed for this mountain range first. I’m going to bike to Agnes Lake and try to see him at mile 10. The first aid station I can help at is mile 18. I’ll send updates as I can, but there is extremely limited service and I expect that this course is going to be very slow (I’m not expecting him to finish before midnight) with over 13k of elevation gain”

HB met Seán pretty much on schedule here,

HB met Seán pretty much on schedule here (a view of the silver Creek Trail back towards the shoulder of Braddock to be specific) – kind of annoying how fresh he looks eh???

The thing you always want to know first and foremost is how the runner is feeling and looking. That says it all, and from what I read from a quick email to keep myself and everyone else on the list abreast, was that Seán was feeling good: “Just saw him at mile 21 and he was looking great” 
What a relief. Now I could get on with vacuuming worry-free! Yes, I was cleaning my house while he was out there somewhere in the Never Summer mountain range in Colorado.

Beautiful Summer Flowers (photo by HB )

Beautiful Summer Flowers (photo by HB )

I ran 10 miles in solidarity this morning to feel close and to share some of his pain. This was a joke however as I was running on relatively smooth surfaces with a few hills sprinkled in, while he negotiated overgrown and tree-strewn logging roads, steep mountain passes, waist-high flowers and mud! I have been moving slowly all day after my trek and now here I sit at 12.38am and he is still out there with a light on his head somewhere around mile 55 plugging away (or so I’m hoping).

Sean Mile 29.4

Seán Mile 29.4 (why is he smiling????)

I got a great update at mile 29.4. Seán looked in control and happy to see his crew. I have crewed for him a few times and know 100% that the aid station is what keeps him moving forward. He gets to eat, hug his friends and family and get that much-needed emotional support he will need to get him up that next steep climb.

The Aid Sations give the illusion that the runners are all running happily along the trail togther, but for the most part, they are alone, doing

The Aid Stations give the illusion that the runners are all running happily along the trail together, but for the most part, they are very much alone out there.

This time around he is lucky to have his amazing girlfriend out there pretty much keeping him alive while all he has to think about is running, and his friend Jay also showed up and is on hand for anything and everything.

Seán and Jay a few hours ago (Jay is now waiting at the  North Canadian Yurt aid station

Seán and Jay a few hours ago (Jay is now waiting at the North Canadian Yurt aid station for Seán to appear – Mile 50.4)

So here I am close to 1am (11pm Mountain time) waiting on some more news. Did he make it to that next Aid station……is he still smiling?

Moose on the Trail

Moose on the Trail (today)

I am hopeful that everything is going well and am sending out all the good vibes I can muster for a strong and happy finish. Will let you know…

Go Seán!

Go Seán!

*FYI – all these great pictures were taken today by HB – quite the Photojournalist!*

NEVER SUMMER 100K 2015 – GOOD LUCK SEÁN

Well, I wasn’t able to get my brother on the phone tonight to wish him all the best of luck in the world for this grand undertaking of his tomorrow, so I thought maybe he might see this before he went off to bed early to rest up for the next……perhaps 24 hours.

Your first view of the Nokhu Crags from the start of the Never Summer 100k.

This is the place my brother will open his eyes to in the wee hours of tomorrow morning: first view of the Nokhu Crags from the start of the Never Summer 100k.

I say Twenty-Four hours because that is the official cut-off time for the 100k he is will be running in Colorado in the morning.

This is the place my borther will open his eyes to in the wee hours of tomrrow morning - flah light on his head and ready to rock this race!!!!

Lake Agnes

Over the past 4+ years this blog has centered primarily  around food, but, I have given myself leave to also write about running, and more specifically, my bother and his Ultra-Running life. I write about it because I am deeply interested in running and because I love my brother: perfect excuse to write about both!

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The trail of the Never Summer 100k

Tomorrow Seán is doing something that people dream about when they go to bed at night – I’m not talking about all people, just a select crazy few who dream one day they might don a pair of running shoes and let those shoes carry them over all kinds of cruelly beautiful terrain to a finishing point perhaps 50 miles later. The stats on this race tomorrow break down like this:

Never Summer 100k

  • Start: Gould Community Center, Gould, CO.
  • Distance: 64.2 Miles with 13,000ft of vertical gain and 13,000ft of descent.
  • Max Elevation: 11,852′
  • Min Elevation: 8,450′
  • Average Elevation: 10,220′
  • Terrain: Trail, dirt road, rough trail, high alpine, rocks.
  • Fauna: Moose, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep.
  • Mode of Transportation: Foot
  • Date: Saturday July 25, 2015, 5:30am
  • Cut Off: 24 Hours
Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes, a place Seán is looking forward to seeing

These statistics might not mean anything to you but if you are a trail runner, these facts are daunting and downright scary!  Running at an average elevation of 10,220′ tells me that you need to to be well-trained and prepared, as well have a good set of lungs to get you to the finish line.

A view of the Silver Creek trail back towards the shoulder of Braddock.

Another trail on the course: A view of the Silver Creek trail back towards the shoulder of Braddock.

Seán is no Super Hero but he does aspire! At this point he has run in enough of these races to know that he is in fact only human, and for the most part tomorrow will be a painful, albeit,  truly wonderful experience in his life.

The route leaves Lake Agnes directly under the Nokhu Crags.

YIKES: The route leaves Lake Agnes directly under the Nokhu Crags.

I have stopped asking why and am now the invisible hands on the small of his back pushing him up the tough bits.

The Highest point: cViews from the summit of North Diamond. Longs Peak is visible far to the south.

The Highest point: Views from the summit of North Diamond. Longs Peak is visible far to the south.

I won’t be alone tomorrow rallying him onward. He will have his ever-faithful woman, Kristi (aka Hunny Bunny) and his friend Jay out on the trail meeting him at the designated Aid Stations, and his friends and family scattered all around the US and Ireland pushing him forward, as well as his son in London, who I’m sure, will be the most anxious of us all!

The Yurt Trail crosses several gorgeous meadows. Footing is rough and the weeds and flowers may be waist high by race day.

One of the Cruel but beautiful spots on the trail: The Yurt Trail crosses several gorgeous meadows. Footing is rough and the weeds and flowers may be waist-high by race day.

I will do my usual ritual and run a few miles “with him” tomorrow. I plan to start out at race time in the morning here in rural Pennsylvania, and run ten very easy miles. Part of Seán’s strength is that he is an excellent mental runner. He can get through almost any race if he stays strong in his head. My mental chat with him will be to tell him to run within himself and to stick with his plan. There is always a plan and sticking to it is hard when you are physically and emotionally challenged.

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Watch your step here: The Ruby Jewel road is as rough, rocky and technical as most trails

I am writing this to cheer him on and by showing these great photographs try to give a sense of the place and the task at hand. I want to court as many people as I can to shout out Seán’s name tomorrow: he WILL hear you!

The road Home

The road Home: if he makes it to here, he will have done what he set out to do.

So Seán, this is a GOOD LUCK from all of us. We will be on the sidelines at every tough spot of the trail of the Never Summer 100k, and, whether you finish this race or not, we want you to have the time of your life; to enjoy every bend in the road, and the sound of  the dirt, mud, gravel, rocks, grass, snow and flowers under your feet. You will not be running alone.

Running

 Seán on the Widow Maker, Steamboat springs Colorado

MORE BEACH & AMAZING STIR-FRIED BEEF with RICE NOODLES (serves 6-8)

Cape May

Cape May Point, New Jersey

Our week at the beach was one long party from morning to night. There is nothing quite like waking up and lying in bed thinking about what to do first……should I run, should I go to the bakery  for pastries, what time should I hit the beach…..all such trivial thoughts…..and I loved every second of it!

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles (recipe below)

When the Life Guards ended their shift at 5.30pm, bottles of wine and cocktails emerged from the depths of people’s coolers (including ours) and the evening took on a whole new atmosphere.

jy

Lovely Cape May Point late afternoon

It was really fun mixing drinks on the beach and then settling in to watch the light changing.

Everyone has tried this at least once!

Everyone has tried this at least once…right??

By this point we had usually lost one or two of the kids who were exhausted from the sun and ocean and had no excuse as delicious as ours to linger on the beach.

jg

I loved watching all kinds of boats sail by our beach

 Chat was non-existent at times as we each sat in our own quiet reverie sipping our lovely drinks.

It was also really lovely watcing all kinds of sea birds hunting for food

It was also fun watching sea birds hunting for food

When we did talk it was mostly about dinner preparations and who was on what task. Nothing would be done however until after a visit to the cool and invigorating outdoor shower!

jyg

This bird blended perfectly into his surroundings

 The last evening my daughter stayed in the water until the last possible moment. The only company she had were the waves and a pod of dolphins swimming further out.

This Bird may have been eyeing up my daughter very close to my daughters head

A Bird eying up my daughter for his lunch!

Happy Hour is approaching

🍹Happy Hour is approaching🍹

We packed up on Saturday morning and left our little spot on Cape May Point for another year. It rained all the way home.

Junior Life Gaurds in training - very Baywatch!

Life Guards in training

 I made a great Asian Noodle Dish one night and here is the recipe – it was scrumptious and a big hit with everyone!

🏄

*This is a great Blood Type A Recipe if you substitute the beef for Salmon or Tofu*

You will need:

3-4 tbs olive oil

2 lbs top sirloin beef – cut into very thin pieces (or salmon fillets without skin – two 3 oz pieces per person)

2 medium sweet onions, sliced in half and sliced thinly

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

2 carrots – grated

4 cups chopped spinach

1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)

1 cup chopped peanuts (simple place the peanuts in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling-pin or bash with a mallet)

1 lime cut into 6-8 wedges (for serving)

1lb rice noodles (I use rice noodles from Thailand. Try to find imported rice noodles if you can. They are the same price as the brands produced in the United States but are so much better in texture and taste – anther good importer is any rice noodle from the Roland company)

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand

Dipping Sauce & Marinade (I used this mixture for both as it was less hassle):

Mix together in a medium bowl with a whisk:

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup mirin (sweetened sake found in the Asian or Ethnic section of your supermarket or Specialty Store)

2 tbs soft light brown sugar

2 or 3 cloves garlic – finely minced

juice of 1 lime

1 tbs tomato ketchup (sounds odd I know but this adds another layer of acid)

Method:

kv

This is an amazing dish with tons of flavor and can be made very quickly!

*put big pot of water on to boil for the rice noodles and cook according to instructions. Drain in colander and rinse throughly with cold water to stop cooking and to rinse out the starches*

1 – Put sliced beef in a bowl or ziploc-type bag and add about a 1/4 cup of the soy mixture. Mix it all up to coat everything and leave in the fridge for at least a half hour or overnight.

OR

Place salmon fillets into a baking pan or shallow casserole and add a tbs of marinade/sauce for every 6oz of salmon and turn to coat. Place in fridge for up to 30 minutes (or several hours)

*set aside the rest of the marinade/sauce for the noodles and for the table to be passed as needed*

2 – Place a big saute pan or wok on high heat and add 2 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot, stir-fry the beef in batches for 3 to 4 minutes until all the meat is cooked. Transfer to a bowl as you go and add more oil as needed. Keep meat warm in a low oven (170*) while preparing the rest of the dish.

*If using salmon, fry in oil on high heat for 3 minutes per side and reserve and keep warn in a low oven*

3 – Turn heat down slightly and add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes before adding the carrots. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes or so.

4 – Turn the heat to medium/low heat and add the drained and rinsed rice noodles. Add about a half cup of soy sauce mixture and stir. Add the cilantro and spinach at this time. When noodles have warmed turn the heat off (or down to low if not serving straight away).

5 – Divide between shallow bowls or large plates and top with a serving of the beef, (or salmon), a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and about a tablespoon of peanuts. Use more garnishes if you love them!

At the table pass more cilantro, peanuts and some Sriracha sauce.

People addicted to Sriracha sauce end up doing this to most anything remotely asian in stlye

People addicted to Sriracha sauce end up doing this to most anything remotely Asian in flavor.

This dish can also be prepared with a fish protein or with no meat whatsoever. If using no meat, you can fry tofu (using the same method as the salmon)

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This can also be served with fish like salmon – since the protein is prepared separately from the noodles and veggies, it is easy to make two different proteins to satisfy all tastes and diets (instructions for using salmon are given in this recipe)

Cape May 2015

Cape May 2015

BEACH GAMES & SALMON with CAPERS & CREAM

Our dinner last night (Salmon with Capers and Cream)

Our dinner last night (Salmon with Capers and Cream)

It has been three days since we arrived at the beach and we have already settled into a nice rhythm.

I love the colorful umbrellas strew along the beach

I love the colorful hotchpotch of umbrellas strew along the beach

A few years ago the kids would have been jumping on our bed and begging us to go to the beach as soon as we opened our eyes, but now that they are older they are happy to sleep in and hang out in the cool of the house until the hazy seaside heat begins to dissipate.

Strolling on the beach in the late afternoon

Strolling on the beach in the late afternoon

This morning we strolled over to The Red Store for chocolate croissants and caramel-filled buns for breakfast before there was even a mention of the beach.

The Red Store

The Red Store, Cape May Point

We got to the beach at about 3pm. and set up our little camp. When you sit around with six other people the constant chatter and running around doesn’t really lend itself to picking up that book you were determined to read. Right when you get to that good bit someone asks you to pass them towel or begs you to play frisbee or paddleball.

Dave was determined to conquer the skim board

Dave was determined to conquer the skimboard

I noticed that the only people reading were the ones who came alone so they could actually enjoy a good book against the backdrop of the ocean, with the sound of the waves mixed with the pleasant din of touristy noises playing in the background.

Ide and Marie-Lyse were content to lounge in the ocean

Ide and Marie-Lyse were content to lounge in the ocean

The kids are older now and not content to just dig for hours in the sand. Dave brought a couple of skimboards and he and our son spent quite a bit of time trying to get the better of the thing. You throw it out in front of you when a wave is hitting the shore and jump onto it and sort of hydroplane across the water. So far neither one of them has spent more than a split second riding the board and have had quite a few spectacular falls. We’ll see.

Calder running for the little blue paddle ball!

Calder running for the little blue paddleball!

I was happy enough throwing a ball around in the water, take pictures, munch on snacks and generally laze around until we headed back to the house at 7pm for cocktails and dinner.

Nap Time

Nap Time

After dinner we all walked back down to the ocean to enjoy the cool night air and the empty beach. It was wild and windy and so different for the scorching hot afternoon.

Cape May Point lifeguards practicing boat maneuvers.

Cape May Point lifeguards practicing boat maneuvers.

We played paddleball and ran around by the water’s edge until we couldn’t see each other anymore.

Ide's after dinner beach romp

Ide’s after dinner beach romp

 Salmon with Capers & Cream (serves 4)

This dinner was so quick and easy and a great idea for any of you who want to make something scrumptious in a hurry. I made this with rigatoni pasta because we had pasta leftover form the night before. I simply reheated the noodles in the sauce right before serving.

Salmon wit Capers and Cream

Salmon with Capers and Cream

You will need:

4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ozs each and cut in two lengthways)

salt and black pepper to season fish

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbs capers (unrinsed)

2 medium tomatoes (cored and diced)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (more if you love it!)

1/2 lb rigatoni pasta

Method:

1 – Season the prepared salmon (see instruction in list of ingredients) with salt and pepper. Put saute pan on medium heat and let it warm up. Add the butter and the oil and when it has melted, add the salmon in a single layer. Cook until browned (about 4 minutes). Turn and add the capers. Cook for 2 minutes.

*put pasta water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions (it will be done at the same time as your fish)*

Cook Salmon on one side, turn and add capers

Cook Salmon on one side, turn and add capers

2 – Add the tomatoes and cream and turn heat down to low. Cover and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon).

Add tomatoes and cream.

Add tomatoes and cream.

3 – Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Serve!

The sun has set for the day

The sun has set on another glorious day

BACK AT THE BEACH and A KILLER RECIPE FOR A ROASTED CORN SUMMER SALAD – All worth writing about!

It has been quite a while since I posted something on this blog of mine and being back in Cape May for our Annual Trip with friends is the perfect opportunity to write about something and share a couple of amazing Summery Recipes (including cocktails!).

Back on the familiar beach

Back on the familiar beach

 We set off, as always, on Saturday and now that we have gotten the hang of this routine, have found that is it best to bring dinner already made for that first evening. When we get to the house all anyone wants to do is race to the beach and take in the ocean in all its Summery glory – who has time to cook!

Roasted Corn Salad: crunchy and delicius

Roasted Corn Salad: crunchy and delicious

I decided to make this amazing corn salad the focal point of the meal. I knew it was going to be hot and that the air would be sticky with humidity, so eating something refreshing and cold would be the perfect counterbalance. It was also super easy to make at home  and transport (along with some cooked chicken and fish).

Nothing like having a plate of warm cookies to nibble on after dinner.

 I even made a big batch of these cookies (toffee and chocolate chip) which are great sweet snack on the beach or warmed up for dessert.

Filling the car to the brim with a crazy amount of groceries and kitchen tools (good knives and my trusty giant All-Clad pan), as well as our clothes, paddle ball, boogie boards and all manner of digging equipment is so worth the trouble.

Cape May Point, New Jersey

Day 1: Cape May Point, New Jersey

Now the whole week will be about fun and relaxation with no worries about what’s for dinner.

Mod Sand Castle

Mod Sand Castles

Calder diving into the waves

Calder diving into the waves

Marie-Lyse

Marie-Lyse

Evening Cocktails on the Beach

Evening Cocktails on the Beach

ROASTED CORN SALAD:

5 ears of fresh corn – shucked

1 red pepper – finely diced

1 yellow pepper – finely diced

big bunch fresh cilantro – chopped (about 2 or so cups)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs mirin

juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

salt to taste

Method:

Dry Roast the sweet corn for 30 minutes

Dry Roast the sweet corn for 30 minutes

1 – Put a skillet on medium heat and leave it to get warm/hot for about 3 minutes (cast iron, stainless steel work best – do not use a non-stick pan). Place corn on skillet and time for about 30 minutes. Turn every 5 minutes. It will get brown and roast in spots. Turn heat down if this is happening too fast (you will know because corn might crack or pop!).

My new citrus squeezer from Orivieto, Italy

 Make dressing (fresh lime juice is key!)

2 – While corn is cooking dice the peppers, and chop the cilantro. In a small bowl whisk the oil, soy sauce, mirin and lime juice, pepper flakes (if using), and add a pinch of salt. If it needs more salt, add a pinch at a time. If you would like it to be a little sweeter, add more mirin.

3 – When corn is roasted, place on a plate or board to cool. When it is cool or cool enough to handle, take the corn from the cob using a knife and work in straight lines from top to bottom (hold the corn upright in your hand).

Mix everything together

Mix everything together

4 – Put the corn in a big bowl with the peppers and cilantro and mix in the dressing, stirring well to coat everything.

Here we had it with a lots of yummy stuff like Asian Marinated Salmon, chicken, avocado and crunchy romaine lettuce. Alway nice to add a squeeze of lime juice!

Here we had it with lots of yummy stuff like Asian Marinated Salmon, chicken, avocado and crunchy romaine lettuce. Always nice to add a squeeze of lime juice!

You can serve this in any number of ways: as part of a green salad, in a taco, on grilled fish or poultry – anything really.

Here we had it with some fried tofu in a homemade flour tortilla

Here we had it with some fried tofu in a homemade flour tortilla

See you tomorrow!

See you tomorrow!