First day of Preschool

Not until last night was I really nervous about the huge change of sending Jack to preschool.  He’s so excited and has been asking all summer when school starts.  I’ve been excited too, because I would have the mornings to work.  As of now, I do most of the stuff for this blog, as well as any other project I’ve got on my plate, once he’s in bed.  So having Jack in preschool is a win-win for everyone.  Yesterday he was practicing, “Hi, my name is Jack.  What’s your name?” over and over again.  My heart nearly exploded it was so adorable.

This morning we made a list of everything he was excited about: talking about Toy Story with his friends, playing with new toys, seeing Oscar (one of his best little buddies who is going to the same school), running fast, using a tiny kid toilet, space, eating food, and singing tiny songs.  He was so excited to get into the car it was hard to get him to sit still and smile normal for a photo – he only let me take four, so I decided to share them all.

I scrapped the post I was planning today – I didn’t like the way the project turned out and didn’t care to put the effort into fixing it.  All I wanted to do was to upload these hilarious photos of Jack and talk about how surprisingly emotional I was about walking out the door of his preschool this morning.  I didn’t expect to feel so distraught over sending him to school.  I woke up with that nervous first day of school knot in my stomach, which magnified  the closer we got to school.  I waited until Dan and I were back in the car to start crying, so that was good.  I felt like a failure as I was telling Dan how I should have reminded to tell his teachers when he has to use the bathroom, I should have been the one to introduce him to some friends before we left.  Maybe we shouldn’t of left so quickly?  Do the teachers think we’re the worst since we didn’t stay long?  I briefly entertained the thought having Dan turn around, and heading back inside to make sure he was alright, but that seemed like a crazy parent move.  Deep down I know he’s alright, and even if he is sad or missing me he’s surrounded by such a loving staff of ladies who know exactly what to do with a little guy missing his mama.  Oh my god.  I am a blubbering mess.

I really am so happy and excited for him.  Preschool is going to be so much fun.

P.S.  The winner of the cookbook is announced over here!  There will be another chance to win tomorrow!!!


Motorcycle Raspberries

I’ve just been let in on a most precious secret field of raspberries.  Technically it’s not secret, but the joy of picking berries is intensified when it feels like you’re in on some undisclosed treasure trove of fruit.  There’s a sign that goes up beside the road to let every passerby know about the raspberries ready to pick, but I don’t think the majority of people passing by who’d be interested in berry picking notice the sign in front of a motorcycle shop.  Motorcycle raspberries.  Brilliant! You enter the shop, flanked by people dropping off their motorcycles for repair or buying fancy new helmets, and you ask to buy a box for raspberries.  The same guy who was just explaining the goings on of a stubborn carburetor now goes into detail where to find the fall raspberries out in the large field.  He encourages us to dig deep and find the blackberries too, which are far to the right and have been picked over a bit, but they’re still there, and worth the hunt.

We pass the time ooh-ing and ahh-ing over our picks, scream at each other when we stumble on a full bush of perfect berries, share stories both heartfelt and hilarious, sing songs, tell jokes, and comment on the heat more than a few times.  If you’re three-years-old you might get into a raspberry-picking-trance and forget that you should head to the bathroom, so you may spend the rest of the time picking raspberries sans pants.

Two quarts of raspberries and blackberries means some delicious muffins, garnishing a fruit tart, and a bounty of berries in the freezer.  What a perfect way to end the summer.

P.S. Today is the last day to comment on this post for a chance to win the Tartine cookbook!  


Friday Favorites

Jack wearing Dan’s helmet is always a favorite!

Fall is my favorite season to get dressed, and these guys do not disappoint this season!  I look forward to pants and long sleeves – I dream of such days.

Cherry Hand Pies!  Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet Rolls!  Boozy Rootbeer Floats!

The Toronto journal post over on Kinfolk – a serious highlight of my summer!

Cannot wait to make more mini brioche, like these here!  The Swedish pearl sugar really makes it!  I also cannot wait to head to France in November, where I will scoop up some copper canelé molds so I can make these!

And, don’t forget: I’m giving away a Tartine cookbook with the last three recipes in the cookbook!  Enter here for a chance to win the first one!

Happy Friday, friends!  I’ll be shipping out a bazillion packages that have been patiently waiting for me to send them off, sleeping in, and checking off a mile-long to-do list!  Three day weekend!



Tartine Baking Project: #70 Fresh Fruit Tart

First of all, did you know honey turned into beautiful dew drops when you drizzle it on fruit?!  DID YOU KNOW THAT?  Life changing stuff.

Second of all, it’s happening.  I should say it happened, for the most part – there are just two recipes left after this!  The onslaught of wild and crazy emotions are heavy, and somewhat surprising, as the final recipe approaches.  I felt quite like I did as a senior in high school as I was graduating, “This is the last time I will walk in this hallway.  This is the last time I will eat lunch with my friends.  This is the last paper I will turn in.”  Of course, since graduating high school I’ve walked down hallways, turned in countless papers since then, and have enjoyed many lunches with amazing friends.  I felt the same dramatic tendencies as I made this tart – “This is the last tart shell, the final batch of pastry cream, the final time I’ll need a rolling pin.”  I know I will do all of that so many more times, it’s not like when I spent months training then ran a half marathon and then stopped running for seven months after I finished the race.  Thinking in terms of lasts just seems to be the way I’ve begun to process the end of this project.

Now, let’s chat about the best tart I’ve ever made.  I had so much fun gathering up the necessities for this one.  Produce from Michigan is some high quality stuff.  Seriously, and I’ve lived in California!  We’ve got such amazing fruit, well, usually.  This year we were hit with really early heat.  In March, so much pale winter skin was exposed when we had a string of days that were warm!  The norm is to be bundled up, sometimes well into April.  It didn’t stick, and another freeze came.  The heat wave did stick long enough to trick fruit trees though, which meant a season with no fruit.  And for some, it killed entire trees permanently.  Apple orchards, the idol of fall in Michigan, will have weak crops and will likely have to ship in apples from out of state.  Sheesh!  So sad!  But, I did mention that this tart was the best tart I’ve ever made – I found some really good peaches at the farmers’ market.  Very exciting stuff, folks.

Pastry cream is probably my favorite thing to make, certainly my favorite thing to eat.  I know I’ve said this before, but if I could marry pastry cream I would, I just love it so much.  I’d like to ask Obama and Romney what their thoughts on that would be – I’m assuming neither party could get behind that.  I guess that’s a good thing.  This tart is one of the simplest recipes in the cookbook – sweet tart shell, pastry cream, and fresh fruit.  I added some mint from my backyard, and that magical drizzle of honey.  Dan wants me to add a disclaimer: “It’s really not simple.  I saw you make it, but then eating it – yes, so simple and one of my favorite things you’ve made.”  I’ve made so many tart shells and batches of pastry cream, and it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say it’s simple stuff to make, but to someone who’s never spent time baking I would venture to say it’s not the simplest thing ever.  Simply judging from eating it, such a simple, unfussy dessert.  Perfection, really.

I shared this with a handful of friends, and it’s definitely a crowd pleaser.  I keep just staring at the photos and smiling, the same way I look at baby photos of Jack.  It was fun to share with many friends, one of which is pregnant.  She liked it, like really liked it.  She was so excited, it actually made her blush the brightest shade of red I’ve ever seen a person as she let us know just how it made her feel.  Some people say burping after a meal is a compliment, I vote that her response is the highest compliment that ever has been or ever will be.

A giveaway comes along with the final three recipes of the Tartine cookbook!  You could win!!!  Leave a comment here letting me know the best dessert you’ve ever eaten.  All comments need to be left on this post by midnight on September 4th, and I will announce the winner on September 5th here!


UPDATE!  And the winner is…#19!

Craig says:

Beautiful looking fresh fruit tart…. Elegant…
The best dessert I’ve ever eaten is one I can still see how ever far it is from her in Australia and that is simply the Bread (Brioche) Pudding at Tartine…

Congrats!  Please send your mailing address to kastner (dot) emily (at) gmail (dot) com!  So excited for you!  Now you can make that bread pudding you love!



Kitchen Envy

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Just wanted to share some serious kitchen envy today.  Just waiting for the green light to start taking cupboard doors off and painting cabinets, ripping out the old backsplash and replacing it with white subway tiles, and the new counter, oh a new counter!  Maybe if I just put it out there enough, you know that this is my dream, it’ll just happen.  Or, maybe I’ll get started this weekend.


Completely Pinteresting: Geometric Clay Magnets

I’ve been so in love with geometric shapes lately, and have already shared about how much I adore these magnets on my blog a few months ago. They’re incredibly beautiful.  And these earrings are perfect! So last night while catching up with Mad Men – we watched the first three episodes of season 5! – I decided to get out some Fimo clay to play around with.  Have you used the stuff?  You can make anything, then you bake it in the oven.

With one eye on Don Draper and the other on this little project, I used my hands to set the basic shape of each magnet and then a knife to flatten things out and clean up the lines.  I got better with each one I did, I must say.  Once baked, you just affix a magnet to the back.  Easiest DIY project ever.


Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, worthy of an 80th birthday celebration

Dan’s grandpa celebrated his 80th birthday this past weekend and requested a cake.  When asked what he liked, Dan’s grandma suggested something with cherries, and this was the first thing that came to mind.  Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is much more exciting to say than what English speaking counterparts call this: Black Forest Cake.  And, we don’t even acknowledge the star of the show – cherries (kirsch) in our translation!  Anyhow, I’d never made such a cake, but I definitely have eaten it before.  I used this recipe from Saveur that went the traditional German route, soaking the tart cherries with Kirsch (cherry liqueur), and including a bit also into the whipped cream frosting and the cherry syrup that you brush onto each cake layer.  Instead of decorating the cake with the kirsch-soaked tart cherries, I thought it would be more beautiful to have sweet cherries, stems and all, adorning the mounds of whipped dream frosting.

Since I forgot the candles at our house, this amazing little wax birthday candle set was pulled out of the back of some closet.  Isn’t it adorable?  I didn’t even care that it crushed the chocolate curls I worked so hard on!  And, I didn’t even care that Dan’s grandpa called me Amy a few times – it’s was his birthday after all, and that cake was delicious.


Friday Favorites

A little shot over my desk, here at home.

Hey!  If you have a Facebook page for your blog, your shop, your whatever, this post from Alison Presley is incredibly helpful!

These Moonrise Kingdom plush dolls are genius!  Have you seen the movie?  I adore it, and these dolls!  I want a Bill Murray plush doll – I do have a framed photo of him on our mantel.

I want to make this exact purse!  So in love with geometric patterns!

I adore every single thing about this photo of Jennifer Lawrence.

I got super weepy listening to this week’s “This American Life” episode, ‘Our Friend David’.  I adore David Rakoff, and will listen to this episode a few more times.  The bit about being Canadian and Shania Twain was spot on, so hilarious.  I feel inspired, as a writer and storyteller, hearing him tell stories.  He will be missed.

This interview for Great Food Photos with Andrea Gentl of Gentl and Hyers about photography is amazing.  While I don’t consider myself a photographer, it’s something I aim to get better at.  The interview is inspiring, and this particular snippet is applicable for so many of us, whatever you’re trying to creatively pursue: “I try to make pictures that come from my own vision and inspiration. It is not always easy, but I believe if you stay true to yourself and do not chase others you will be happier for it. You will find that you have an endless well of inspiration that comes from within.”

Happy a happy, inspiring weekend full of fun!


Completely Pinteresting: Twine Hanging Vase

Today’s l’il project was more of an inspiration from Instagram, rather than the usual inspiration I gather from Pinterest for this feature!  So I guess I should title it “Completely Insta-great!”  One of my favorite ladies in San Francisco, my dear pal @thegoodelena over on ye olde Instagram, shared a photo of a flea market find – a gorgeous little gem that I was instantly envious of.  So, as per usual, I set out to recreate it.

I used twine I had in my craft treasure trove, and started tying knots.  I plan on working on some more intricate designs, but I’m pretty excited about this first prototype.  I cut four 3-foot strands of twine, paired them up to make an X, then tied them together at the intersection of the X.  Then, each string was double knotted with it’s closest neighbor, not its partner.  Does that make sense?  I just continued to tie knots like that for a few rounds, and ended up with a rather simple net, of sorts, ready for something to carry.

The most fun part of it all was the hunt for the glass jar.  I found a beautiful oil and vinegar jar that dove off the shelf and into my arms.  The little spouts were perfect for plants!  How adorable to have a hanging vase in the kitchen made from an oil and vinegar container??!!!  I can’t wait to switch out the leaves for fresh herbs, flowers, twigs, and leaves throughout the seasons!


Tartine Baking Project: #69 Pissalidière

With all the sweet treats that line the pages of the Tartine cookbook, it was imperative to save something savory for the end of the project.  I do love savory baked goods so very much, so I had to be cognizant of the timeline so I didn’t bake them all right at the beginning.  I saved this little gem because it calls out to be part of a summer picnic.  In the cookbook it’s actually described as a perfect lunch in hand with a glass of Rosé.  So that’s exactly what I set out to recreate.  Such a beautiful little treat, just like you’d see in the windows of adorable boulangeries along the coast of the French Riviera!

Pissalidière begins with the brioche dough.  Honestly, brioche is one of my favorite things to make. (Here’s my video)  It’s a longer process than most recipes, but so simple.  The first time I remember eating brioche it was in Monaco as we were leaving the most amazing aquarium I’ve ever seen.  I pointed to the treat behind the glass that was covered in large crystals of sugar.  I took a bite and asked in French, “This is so delicious, what is it?”  The woman gave a gruntish laugh, shrugged her shoulders, and replied, “Uh, just brioche.”  It’s such a simple bread, customary and traditional for the French, and my sheer delight was out of the ordinary for this sweet woman who makes the stuff on the regular.  When I ordered a second, she was so happy and amused and told me, “Glad you found each other.”  I tried to save it in the car on our way back to Italy, but it was gone before we made it out of the country.

Finding the right olives was important to make sure the pissalidière as accurate as possible for the regional recipe.  It calls for Niçoise olives, which hale from just outside of Nice, France.  When I didn’t find them at first, I began to worry because I didn’t want to substitute them.  I didn’t even know what I’d properly substitute them with.  I went to the grocery store that has an olive bar, and after some serious searching, I found the Niçoise little gems as a part of an olive medley.  I walked away with my olives, making a woman who was stocking the olives disgusted with me in the process because she was super bummed I just wanted one kind of olive in the medley.  She watched me like a hawk as I filled up my container, even though I refrained from only grabbing the olives I wanted.  This deliciousness also included caramelized onions, anchovy fillets, and the best heirloom cherry tomatoes from a local farm here in Kalamazoo.  I found them at our food co-op, and they are the best tomatoes I’ve enjoyed all summer!

The salty pissalidière paired with a glass of Rosé made for quite the romantic weekday afternoon French getaway, right in our backyard.  My advice, don’t try and take a four-mile run immediately afterwards.  What was I thinking?!