Have you ever daydreamed about being surrounded on all sides by your favorite thing, be it book, food, puppies, brand of clothing, whatever? When I was a kid I had a serious candy cane addiction. One Christmas I bought a friend a specialty candy cane the length of my forearm (now, as an adult), then wanted it so bad I ate part of the crook and then STILL GAVE IT TO HER.

Yes, the memory of it still burns me with shame. (Sorry, Heidi.)

I used to go outside, look around, and try to imagine the entire world carved out of peppermint. The lawn would ripple red and white, giving way to wider stripes on our house, or pure white peppermint when it snows. And then I imagined eating it all the time. All day, every day. I literally wanted to lick a doorway into our house.

I worked Sunset’s International Wine Competition for four days this week. (6,000 bottles of wine do not move themselves, my friends. Nor do those bottles open themselves, pour themselves out, or push themselves down an uneven tiled hallway to the waiting rock stars of the wine world.) At one point, I looked around at the unrelenting sea of bottles and realized this is that daydream come to life. And honestly, the abundance was hard to fathom. It became silly.

I’m writing this at my dining room table where I can see two boxes and four tote bags filled with dozens of open, half-drunk bottles from the competition and it still seems silly. But I’m using them as an object lesson of grace. The grace of surprise windfalls and unexpected excess. And to remind the person inside of me who has a hard timing accepting good things that it’s ok to receive. No, it’s completely necessary to receive.

It’s also completely necessary to have friends come help us enjoy the excess. Does anyone want to come over for a silly wine tasting bash?

blackberry biscuit cobbler

Things I am good at:

// Reading books about writing instead of writing.
// Talking through movies and TV shows.
// Memorizing song lyrics.
// Breakfast.

Yes, breakfast. Eating breakfast, making breakfast, thinking about breakfast. I’m not sure I’ve gone one day in life without eating breakfast. I can’t even fathom missing it. When someone tells me they’re “not a breakfast person,” it’s like they’ve said, “I kick puppies for fun.” It’s horrific and I must stage an intervention.

Consider this crumble your intervention. It’s almost like dessert and it’s rare for someone to “not be a dessert person.” And it’s easy. I mixed it up last Saturday morning in one bowl and the pan I baked it in. While it baked, I planned our meals for the week and made a grocery list. Between bites, Brad and I played this game I love where we go through a food magazine page by page, read the recipe titles on each one, and decide which on that page we most want to make. It is FUN. Don’t ask questions. Unless it’s How did you guys get so cool?

blackberry biscuit cobbler
makes four servings for the gluttonous (us) and six for the normals

Adapted from Sara Forte’s adaptation of a Bon Appetit recipe, which happens to be one of the magazines we looked through while eating this. The circle of life!

1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons organic einkorn flour
1/2 cup organic rolled oats
3 Tablespoons plus 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons chilled butter (I used Kerrygold, salted. It is my desert island food), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup plain organic yogurt
4 cups (roughly) frozen blackberries
juice from half a lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, oats, 3 Tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, using your fingers (or a pastry cutter if you’re profesh) to mix and smoosh until you have pea-sized butter covered in flour (try not to overwork it). Gently stir in yogurt.

Pour berries in an 8 inch-by-8 inch baking dish and top with the remaining flour and sugar. Squeeze the lemon juice over it and toss to coat. Spoon the biscuit dough evenly over the berries.

Bake until the biscuit topping is brown and sounds hollow when you tap the top and the juices are bubbling, about 40-45 minutes.


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Dear reader,

Did you, like me, grow up in the era of low-rise jeans? Did “hip huggers” not only embrace your midsection but squeeze it into the loathsome muffin top? Did you, as a result, grow up thinking you just had a bad-shaped middle?

If you answered yes, yes, and yes, today I’m setting you free.


Yes, it deserves the caps because friends: You are not born with a muffin top. It is not an anatomical part. It is not your fault, it is the fault of bad pants. And it’s maybe our fault for succumbing to the trends of our era.

But now you are a grownup and now you must buy mid-rise pants and watch your middle resume it’s smooth(ish) contours. Never worry about bending over again. Never worry about pulling a Britney and showing off your belly button.

I recommend the Dannie pant from J.Crew (I have two pair and they were my personal PSA pants), and these jeans from Madewell that a friend of mine wears and loves and looks awesome in.


P.S. I know that photo is not even remotely demonstrative of what I’m talking about, but I was too embarrassed to ask someone to take a photo of me and my pants.


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Time: A weekday, a few weeks in the past.
Scene: at work, drinking hot mint tea and eating cold raw cheese, remembering the day I learned to drink something hot when eating cheese. My Swiss friend Regi was giving me (and a few others) French lessons. One day, she planned an outing for us at the Thoreau Cultural Center in Des Moines. I think it was a meeting of French expats and students. They served so many cheeses, plus fondue, and lots of hot tea. Regi’s native-speaking friends asked us in French to pose for photographs with them–and I understood what they were asking. There’s a weird endorphin release when you understand something out in the wild you previously only knew by the book.

Thinking about it today, isn’t it interesting that when learning a language, the skill that comes first is listening and understanding? I could barely croak out a oui oui, but with careful listening, I knew the gist of the conversations around me.

In English, too often my first impulse is to talk, to share, to get it all out and wait for a reaction. But think of the riches–the endorphin hits!–I’m missing by not sitting back and listening intently, focused on what the talker is saying, really saying in between the words.

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With a title like that you might think that I’m quitting this blog (ha! you can’t get rid of me that easily), or that I’m quitting my job (and miss out on homemade steak fries, grilled steak, orange citrus pound cake two days in a row, apple pie and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers to celebrate a co-worker’s recent citizenship? That’s just this last week. And we’re having a picnic together next week on our lawn. So no.), but it’s not! The big news is that Sinead O’Connor has announced she’s retiring this song.

Part of her explanation (which you can read here), says:

“After twenty-five years of singing [Nothing Compares 2U], nine months or so ago I finally ran out of anything I could use in order to bring some emotion to it. … My job is to be emotionally available. I’d be lying. You’d be getting a lie.”

Her words made me stop and think. For all of us, but especially those of us in creativity-first jobs, if you realize you’re phoning it in, it’s ok to say phoning it in defeats the point and then stop doing that thing. Purpose isn’t found in the tasks we perform by scraping our internal reserves. Idealist Joanna is done speaking and now Realist Joanna will start: If only we could all be in position where we get to make that choice ourselves.

photo: of a recent tour of the design studio responsible for Heath Ceramics, and where it appears as if they never need to phone anything in.

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Earlier this week, I read a post by Erin Loechner at Design for Mankind. She compared comparing (especially social media comparing) with grocery shopping while hungry. What’s in someone else’s cart and on the shelves seems so much better than your empty cart. Then she said something that shocked me with its truth:

I am Eve, trading gardens for apples. 

See, I’m avoiding Twitter and Instagram for Lent. Not because I think they’re frivolous or because they drive me to compare (and feel bad and not enough–though occasionally they’re that and more) but because I realized I was giving those little app icons on my phone my best time.

As soon as I woke up, I rolled over and tapped Twitter.

The moment I got home from work (and back on our wi-fi because I am nothing if not data-conscious), I’d flip through Instagram.

And while brushing my teeth and crawling into bed, those last few moments before the light comes off, I’d check it all one last time, like an addict taking one more hit.

I am Eve, trading gardens for apples.

My garden, home to Brad, home to our hopes, home to our laughter, home to our crying, home to our heart-baring conversations–and a whole lot of run-of-the-mill ones, too–ignored so I could take a peek at someone else’s apples.

It seems so silly. Why would I ignore what has been planted around me just for me for a small apple slice of someone else’s life? But I did it again and again.

So I’m off until Easter, enjoying the extra time with my head on Brad’s chest in the morning, greeting him first when I get through the door at the end of the day, and teasing one another before we fall asleep. I want to be a gardener of my garden.

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creamy zucchini pasta
makes four servings

This meals is the result of being tired of broccoli, tired of salads, and almost tired of brussels sprouts. It was also born of my life motto: Put an Egg On It. It is good and fast, so it’s becoming part of our weeknight rotation.

1/2 package of spaghetti (we use brown rice to make it gluten-free)
2 zucchini
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 bunch green onions
2-4 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper

Put a pot of heavily salted water on the stove to boil for the pasta.

While it’s heating up, grate the zucchini (I left the peel on) and set it aside. Chop just the green part of the green onion (but save the rest for something else! I love the white part of a green onion), and set it aside.

In a small jar, add the lemon juice, milk, yogurt, green onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Shake it up.

By now, your water is probably boiling, so add your pasta and cook according to the package directions.

In the meantime, heat two or so glugs of olive oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, crack the eggs in. They should bubble up immediately–this is a good thing. Once the edges start to get brown and crispy, you’ll realize this is a great thing. Don’t touch them until the white is almost fully cooked. (For more detailed instructions for the crispy egg, go here.) Turn the heat off, the eggs will continue to cook while you drain the pasta.

To assemble, put a serving of pasta on the plate, top with the grated zucchini and pour the dressing over the top, then slide a crispy egg on top. Season with salt and pepper.



I’m not sure why a pancake recipe feels like the best thing to accompany a quick update on Brad’s health. Maybe because every morning when we’re just waking up, still in bed, one of us will always ask, “What do you want for breakfast?” And if I ask Brad, he’ll almost always say, “Pancakes.” (If he doesn’t say pancakes, it’s only because he said “sourdough toast” or “doughnuts” instead.) So in my mind, Brad = pancakes.

January is always a weird month for us. It was January seven years ago that Brad felt the pop in his knee that started the severe onset of his symptoms. We can’t help ourselves: Every January we take stock of how far we’ve come since 2008. And in terms of how Brad feels day to day, the answer is not far. His knees are still very swollen, all his joints now ache and get stiff, his energy comes and goes, and he can’t control his body heat very well. But–and this is a huge, hopeful but–we feel like we know more now about what’s going on inside him than we ever have before. We’re working with extraordinary, curious doctors. We’ve found new ways to measure what’s happening in Brad’s body. (You can read his very organized and scientific update at his blog here.) And we even have some new, very exciting treatments on the horizon. It’s called low-dose antigen therapy and I would explain it to you except I’m not sure exactly how it works yet. All I know is that a few Lyme patients treated this way have reported 40 percent reduction of symptoms after the first treatment, with near or complete cessation for subsequent treatments. To that I say YES. And also LET’S EAT PANCAKES TO CELEBRATE.

cinnamon pecan pancakes (gluten-free)
makes, I don’t know, 12 fist-sized pancakes? Is measuring pancakes with your fist an acceptable thing?

I had cinnamon bread on the brain the morning I made these. I was aiming for pockets of sweet, spicy, crunchy goodness in the pancakes, and this hit the spot. Come visit me and I will make these for you.

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste OR 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup almond milk or coconut milk
1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, heat the walnuts, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and cinnamon over medium heat until the syrup is thin and bubbly, and it coats the nuts. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining maple syrup, the vanilla bean paste or vanilla, and the milk.

In a small bowl, combine both flours with the baking powder and sea salt.

Begin heating a pan or griddle at this point. I use a cast-iron pan on just above medium heat with a little bit of coconut oil melted in it.

Dump into the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened. Add the nut mixture and stir until combined.

Spoon the pancake batter into the pan (I use my regular soup spoons and usually use 1-1/2 spoons of batter per pancake. Obviously, I’m very official about this whole process). Cook until the edges look dry and the center is bubbling. The bottom of the cake should be golden brown, but sometimes it won’t be depending on how much oil is in the pan. Regardless of the color of your bottom (ahem), flip the pancake! Cook it for another 30 seconds or so on that side.

Serve hot with maple syrup, extra cinnamon, and more pecans.

berry-glazed donuts

Monday at work, I rushed into my editor’s office and complained about a frightful person who figures heavily on my workload this year. Full of panic, I whispered, “I’m not sure how to say this, but they might have to choose between her or me.”

Later, I stopped her in the hallway to apologize for being so melodramatic. She laughed and said, “No, I loved it! She’s actually human, I thought!”

First, thank God for bosses who are kind and understanding and laugh things off. Second, “actually human”? I keep thinking about that and wondering what impression I’m giving. I promise you, I am fully human:

I gave my boss a childish ultimatum on Monday.

I went home and had a glass of wine after that.

I accidentally got paint on a new sweater last week and I haven’t wanted to cry so hard since we said goodbye to family over Christmas.

There is a giant pile of clothes on my dresser that aren’t yet dirty enough to launder but putting them away feels like way too much work.

I gave major side eye to a woman on the train whose hunter green coat looked horrible with her lime green tights.

I’ve been slowly eating my way through 1/3 of a bag of chocolate chips.

I love doughnuts.

Specifically, I love these doughnuts. I made them Sunday morning (after the paint got on my sweater, but before the dramz at work). Brad took a bite and said, “Now I know what heaven tastes like.” I’m not so superhuman that it didn’t make me grin with pride.

These doughnuts are caramel-y from the coconut sugar and vanilla bean paste, light from the mix of gluten-free flours, and, well, heavenly from the jammy glaze I spread on top. The whole thing is cobbled together, borrowing the base from Shanna, the flour mix from a book recommended by our food editor at work, and the glaze is adapted from another cookbook I baked out of earlier in the week, but the result is one of the happiest surprises to come out of our kitchen in a bit.

Get while the getting is good–it’s only human.

berry-glazed doughnuts (gluten-free)
makes 10 doughnuts, plus 2-1/2 cups sauce
adapted from Food Loves Writing, Zoe Nathan, and Catherine Ruehle

Life changed for the better when we bought a doughnut pan. Baking doughnuts is easier than making pancakes. These come out of the pan easily when they’re still warm, less so when they’re cold. Not that you’d just leave them sitting around, but just in case. 

gluten-free all-purpose flour mix:
2-3/4 cups/430 g brown rice flour
1-3/4 cups/430 g oat flour
1-3/4 cups/230 g potato starch
1/2 cup/90 g cornmeal (I pulsed mine in my blender to get a finer grain)

3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup almond milk + 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (recipe below)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

berry-cherry sauce:
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen antioxidant berry mix (mine featured lots of cherries, but whatever you have will work)
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon water

First, mix up the flour mix by whisking all the ingredients together in a large bowl. It will make way more than you need for this recipe, but I like it for other things too. Warning: It does make baked goods super tender, but it held up well here. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Then, start the glaze: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until the sugar melts to form a thick syrup with the fruit juices and you can easily mash the berries with a spoon. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Cool completely, then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate.

Finally, make the doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the doughnut pan with coconut oil (or whatever). In a large bowl, cream the coconut sugar and coconut oil. Add the egg, the water, and the almond milk and vinegar, and vanilla bean paste. Mix until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the doughnut pan, not quite filling each cup. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the doughnuts feel firm to the touch.

Remove them from the pan, then spoon the glaze over them just before serving. Honestly, I don’t know how long they last because we ate them all in about 15 hours. I’m not ashamed.




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My aunt chastised me over Christmas for not posting more (Hi Auntie!!!), so this is my promise to her that more is coming.

In the meantime, I think these ideas are so interesting.

// My friend, interior designer Brian Paquette, talks in this interview about how every Friday is an “input day” for his office. They do things that feed them creatively: Read, go on walks, visit galleries, have companies come show them new products. I’d like to formalize this in my weekly routine, but I’m not sure where to start.

// This woman also likes to read, make lists, and get rid of things (we might be the same person), so when she recommended Into Mind as a helpful resource for simplifying your life, I clicked in and am still reading.

// “That’s not journalism, that’s copywriting. It’s advertising! To say that no journalist can finance his or her work through readers paying for it is an astonishing indictment of journalism and a lack of confidence in the whole enterprise.”

// The Lone Bellow’s new album just came out. If I were cool, I’d say it dropped. I’m not cool. As I said on Twitter earlier this week, Watch Over Us is my perfect song.

// Finally, we’ve been eating this Lentil and Sausage Soup lately (we used organic chicken sausage) and surprised ourselves by liking this Peanut Pumpkin Stew (we used almond butter).

P.S. I put some books on hold at the library and like a fool, I thought they’d trickle in one by one. They’re all here. Lend me your eyes, friends! I can’t do this alone!



Where do I start? I have the entire back half of 2014 to share with you. All its trips, its visits, its everyday questions and answers, its food.

But that takes time and right now I should be writing about wool insulation, not plumbing my brain for you. So instead I’ll jot down a few sentences from Marilynne Robinson’s new book.

Doll would be glad to see her no matter what. Ugly old Doll. Who had said to her, Live. Not once, but every time she washed and mended for her, mothered her as if she were a child someone could want.

That last phrase almost had me crying on Caltrain. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I want to mother every child, I want all children to feel they are wanted and worthy of being wanted. Sometimes friends ask us if we would ever adopt (this is chatter with friends, not an announcement) and I’ll usually say, “Yes.” And Brad says, “Yes.” And the friend will say, “Like, international? Domestic?” And at the same time I say, “All of them, all of the children,” Brad will say, “She wants all of them, all of the children.” We all laugh, because it’s an outrageous truth.

Or maybe it’s because two weeks ago we flew back here after visiting family where I saw my sister and brother-in-law and Brad’s siblings in the midst of their child-raising. There’s nothing romantic or dramatic about picking out leggings for little girls or hunting down the missing Lego piece. And yet, there is. And both our families do it so well, with so much wanting their children. It was beautiful.