For my second collaboration with Makr, an addictive print design app for the iPad, I knew I wanted to create menus & place cards for a meal celebrating this, my favorite passage—winter receding and spring emerging. So I channeled my affinity for the moon and designed the suite you see here. Before I knew it, I had custom menus on my door step. Just like that. All that was left to do was have a few friends over to share in a meal to send winter on it’s way, to usher in spring. I baked fresh bread to go with honey roasted radishes and cultured butter laced with my herbal salt, steamed clams from South Carolina in a wine broth perfumed with saffron & mint, and made a big pot of farro risotto with local beets and greens to round it all out. It was a simple menu; the entire thing was thrown together in an afternoon. The way I figure it, you don’t need a reason to create a dinner complete with beautiful menus. Life is reason enough to make anything special. So if you’d like to do the same, a reminder that Makr is generously offering a special for Local Milk readers—you can enjoy a free Makr credit and 20% off a print order! Just register with the code LOCMILKFAN and enter the same code at checkout. You can download the Makr app here—and you can check out this project and customize it for a gathering of your own. I’ve already moved on to new projects from baby shower invitations for my sister-in-law to blank labels for my dry goods. I, it would seem, can’t stop.
The ash tree moon—the Celtic moon of March, the last of winter. The crone the maiden becomes; a cycle starts anew. This world is always going around rising from the ashes, coming back to life. How strange. I try to be aware of the seasons as they pass. I find making notches—gatherings, rituals, observances—as one season, one moon, passes into the next helps me remain present. When I’m not mindful of it, the cycle fades into the background, and I lose touch with time. I don’t want to sleep walk. Stress has a way of making all the days look the same, no matter how charismatic each tries to be. The snow and the dogwood blossoms bleed one into the other, and all that you notice is that feeling in the pit of your stomach that there isn’t enough time, never enough time, until finally you get a perverse pleasure from being so damn busy. Oh! I’m just so busy! It’s so crazy around here! And we figure it means we’re doing something right. How productive we must be! We have to stop ourselves. It’s a lousy vortex.
I’m still learning to make time. It’s a creative act I haven’t even begun to master yet, the weaving of that golden stuff out of thin air—that wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff. I have a vision for my life: it’s the vision I create in this space, the vision I create in the vignettes I share with you all, slivers of small triumphs, of mundane dreams carved out of space-time. It’s an expansive vision, one where the seconds yawn out into hours and there’s time for it all, for the farmer’s market, baking bread, and tea breaks. I imagine there’ll be time to make myself shiny as a new penny each morning, time to read my runes with a cup of tea, time to make breakfast from scratch, time to water the plants and clean up the chaos I’m so adept at creating, and time to create recipes & photos and meet my deadlines. One day, I tell myself, there’ll be time to make everything myself, to make candles that smell like honeysuckle and bath salts laced with lilac. Time to paint the guest bathroom and hang those shelves. Time, even, to slip out of that cold productivity. Time to be a different sort of creature, one with skin, with fingers and nape of neck and collar bone. It’s hard to be flesh; mind is a tyrant. It’s been a minute since I’ve felt much like a creature with blood at all. Since some night, unseasonably warm, in November that I won’t remember. I’d aim to find time for being instead of doing.
I’d love to carve out corners of my day between weeding my inbox to weed my yard or to sit and craft layered rituals and gaze endlessly into bowls of dark water, trying to touch the invisible. But I’ve barely learned to make time to calm my mind before I fall asleep far too late at night, much less spend time scrying and trying to dissolve the boundary between me and not me. So in the end, this space is a story of what life can be, is sometimes, what I wish it could be always. It’s the story of aspirations. Of arguably boring aspirations. But the truth is I’ve already walked down the lurid plot line. I like boring. Nice looking dust pans do it for me. Still, I’m mostly a fraggle running around with dirty hair, a fake cigarette hanging out of my mouth & swearing (albeit amiably) under my breath. Or not under my breath. But it’s moments like this weekend past, with friends around my table and a few blooms in between, that this story I tell comes to life. And that is why I bake bread, use the special things on the pantry shelf, and make menus and place cards and fill amber bottles with flowers that splay out whichever way they please. I do it because while it can’t always be so, it can sometimes be so. And I like it so.
I have, since I was a child, love steamed shellfish of all types. I don’t think I’ve ever met a mollusk I didn’t love, and this is currently my favorite base for steamed clams. The mint and saffron are both unexpected and delicious; the combination is impossibly bright.
- 2.5 dozen clams well scrubbed
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 a medium shallot minced
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup chardonnay or other dry white wine
- 1/4 cup water
- good pinch of saffron
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- three fingered pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- hand full of fresh mint leaves chopped
- In a medium-large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and shallot and sautee until just translucent and fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the clams along with the wine, water, saffron, red pepper flakes, and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes until all of the clams have opened up. Discard any that fail to open.
- Remove from heat, stir in butter, and top with the fresh mint. Serve with plenty of crusty bread for sopping up the broth!