My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and we planned a small celebration in our friend’s backyard. The day before the party multiple people had to enter quarantine for exposure to COVID and so we cancelled the party. Still such weird and unreliable times! But I had already planned on baking myself a birthday cake and so went ahead with it and then spent my birthday dropping slices of cake off to friends, which it turns out was a nice way to spend the day.

I have admired Bronwyn Wyatt’s work from afar for years, and was very happy that she has had a couple of cake recipes published recently. I tried the Apple/Rye/Hazelnut number she wrote about over at Bon Appetit and it is SO GOOD. I recommend you try it too, it might even make a nice Thanksgiving dessert if you have pie-averse friends (and you are not reevaluating those friendships). For my birthday I made the cornmeal/vanilla/sour cream cake (I think of her cakes as slash/ cakes) with OLIVE OIL buttercream that she wrote about at Food and Wine. It’s so good. Like, just the best simple vanilla goodness—what you always want a wedding cake to be but it never is. And the olive oil buttercream is a real revelation. A couple of notes: I used a finely ground cornmeal, which I was glad for. I don’t like the grit that can sometimes come as a result of using the more coarsely ground stuff. Use a really assertive extra-virgin olive oil for the buttercream. You’re only using 2 tablespoons as flavoring and so it needs to be punchy. Bronwyn says the citric acid is optional, but I think it should be required. It adds some zing without any citrus flavor, which is ideal. It can often be found in the pickling/canning section of the grocery store, or ordered online.

Bronwyn is also serving as my guide (spiritual mentor?) as I attempt to develop a fruitcake recipe I am happy with. More on that later. You can find Bronwyn on Instagram here.

Kitchen Projects

Everything feels pretty horrible right now, so I am taking pleasure wherever I can find it. For most of this year, it hasn’t been in my kitchen. Cooking has continued to feel like a chore that I am, frankly, tired of. It doesn’t lead to great blog posts. 

The notable exception to my ennui (anxiety and depression?) has been Nicola Lamb’s brilliant newsletter, Kitchen Projects, which has been one of the bright spots of the past year. I am here today because I wanted to make sure you knew about it. In the newsletter Nicola tackles a range of pastry projects from the relatively simple to the complex, and somehow makes me want to take them all on. Projects that have extended over a couple of days have felt like no problem at all thanks to her careful explanations and encouraging voice, as well as her exceptionally good recipe design.

The newsletter typically follows Nicola down a rabbit hole investigating a technique or recipe. More than you ever thought you wanted to know about meringues, or custards, for instance. In a way it is the kind of writing that Serious Eats or Cook’s Illustrated has popularized, but without the joyless and quasi-scientific prose. There is real enthusiasm and camaraderie in Nicola’s voice, there is humor and emotion. The teacher that wants you to share in their excitement and curiosity versus the teacher that has prepared a lecture and isn’t really interested in your questions. 


Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

The weird shit I’ve bought during this pandemic! Sadly, there are days when the only way to interact with the world or to feel anything is through commerce and so I find myself buying things I don’t need to feel alive. It doesn’t work! But one of the better impulse buys was a case of Seville oranges from a company in Florida with the wonderfully literal web address floridaorangeshop dot com. I ordered them and kind of forgot about it until they arrived on a snowy day here in the Midwest. To be honest, I was mostly annoyed that I now had an obligation to do something with them and spent the first day avoiding eye contact with the cardboard box that said something like “A Gift of Sunshine for You!” on the side. I started plotting ways to make them disappear in a way that wouldn’t lead to questioning by Bryan. What happened to all of those oranges? Eventually I accepted my destiny and mustered the energy to make some marmalade which in turn gave me momentum and lead to a brief increase in kitchen activity which I do not necessarily regret.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Christmas Cookies

Nigel Slater, food writer and fellow atheist, argues beautifully in favor of a shared ownership of Christmas in his (extraordinary) cookbook/holiday diary, The Christmas Chronicles.

“Christmas is a vast steaming pudding of Christianity, folklore, paganism, tradition, and commerce. Those of us who are part of a tolerant, open-minded and intelligent society can make our Christmas whatever we want it to be.”

For this non-Christian who loves Christmas, the modern season is most fully encapsulated in the holiday cookie platter, a generous fantasia where butter cookies decorated like angels mingle with rugelach and rum balls. The cookie platter doesn’t care about your religion, or lack of one. It welcomes everyone and promises that you’ll find something you like. It reflects the kind of inclusive and joyful time that Nigel Slater and I both hope to find during the Christmas season. read more+++

Lottie + Doof Gift Guide 2020

Debbie Carlos has long been one of my favorite Midwestern artists and then she goes and blows my mind with this gorgeous Pond Vase. I wasn’t alone in my adoration of this broody little vessel, and they are often sold out. But follow her for shop updates to snag one from the next batch.

Martha Mae was, for years, the coolest shop in Chicago. While the retail space may have closed during the pandemic, the dream lives on. The most beautifully chosen office and art supplies and other wonders are all curated by the super rad Jean Cate. I am in love with this glass dip pen that writes beautifully and is a sight to behold. If Wonder Woman had a pen…

This coriander is bonkers! I didn’t really understand coriander until trying this stuff. Like everything Diaspora sells, it is really special.

This sweatshirt is clever and the perfect weight—not too heavy, not too thin—for wanting to wear every day. Book/Shop, who made this and other things I love, is a real delight of shop.

Like many people, the number of houseplants we own has increased over this weird year. I have found myself really frustrated by how difficult it is to find pots I like and that aren’t very expensive. They’re all, somehow, wrong—too modern, too rustic, too faux-French. I do love this terracotta weirdo from EQ3 (which is Canada’s answer to CB2—I guess? Ugh.). The huge flat rim is a nice frame for whatever plant you want to showcase.

Carrier Company in Norfolk is my favorite place to buy clothes, and I’ve bought a lot from them over the years. It feels good spending money on clothes that will last, and that are made in a community-minded and sustainable way. This year they made this beautiful Celtic Wool Jacket that is admittedly, a lot of look. But a nice burst of color on a grey autumn day. I love Carrier. 

Perfumer H is where I splurge for myself on things that smell really good. After spending a lot of time in their shop last year when we visited London, I have become a devoted follower and fan of Lyn Harris and her vision. She’s thinking about things like sustainability and scale while producing really evocative scents—as well as some related products that are equally lovely. She works with Michael Ruh on the handblown glass bottles and glasses she uses for perfumes and candles. (For those of you in the UK, the shop offers a refill service on the candles, cutting the subsequent cost of them in half.) This is a real splurge, but also one of the things that makes me really happy. The Frankincense candle is hands-down the all-time best holiday scent. 

At the beginning of all of this, I imagined writing letters to people. Ha! But I am still so happy I bought this stationery from Polk Paper in collaboration with Avery Williamson.



Socket Pen by Fort Standard

I’m a long-time fan of Fort Standard and this pen is one of my favorite objects they have produced. Made of stainless steel with a nice weight to it, the pen can be used to pivot the ball that rests in a little stand—a satisfying plaything and a beautiful writing instrument. A bonus is the perfectly formed cork container the pen arrives in, making this a great gift. It’s also available in brass.

Work Jacket by Ijji

I’ve been making an effort to find clothing that is more ethically produced by people who seem to care about things other than profit. Ijji is a company I have grown to love and these jackets/tops are my favorite thing they make. Sadly, they stopped making the denim version but the canvas and corduroy are equally wonderful. Also, everything they make is deliberately genderless and they’re working on expanding the available sizes with the goal of making a more inclusive clothing line.

Globe Cushion by Klay

I don’t want to become one of those people who cares about fancy pillows, but here we are. One of the most beautifully constructed and special objects in my house, these pillows are individually made in Aukland, New Zealand. The attention to details on these is really something. An absolute treasure.

Perfumer H Fragrances

This is unfair of me and impractical because really I am recommending an experience that can only be had in London—but maybe you’ll find yourself there! If you do, go spend some time smelling the beautiful fragrances crafted by Lyn Harris in her perfectly designed shop and laboratory, Perfumer H. Earlier this year we visited twice, smelled all of the scents, and I came home with a bottle of what has become my favorite fragrance. If you really feel like a splurge, spring for the hand-blown glass bottles that can be customized with your initials. Perfumer H is starting to be sold in limited ways outside of the shop, but trust me when I say that they shopping experience is a part of it. (Thanks, Caroline!)

Tote Bag from Lady of the House, Detroit

Has there ever been a better restaurant tote bag? (also, if you’re in Detroit—eat at Lady of the House)

Ruffage by Abra Berens

Midwest Made by Shauna Sever

Cooking for Good Times by Paul Kahan

Three of my favorite cookbooks this year were from the Midwest. Proving once again that Midwest is best. In Ruffage, my buddy Abra Berens wrote one of the year’s best books which highlights the glory of vegetables through the lens of the Midwest. Midwest Made is Shauna Sever’s homage to the baking of the region and is full of recipes that you will be anxious to make including iced oatmeal cookies, kringles, and poke cakes. One of Chicago’s favorite chefs and restaurateurs created one of the best entertaining books of the year with Cooking for Good Times. It is unorthodox in a fun and inspiring way.


The Rich Brothers

In the opening of Garden Rescue, a British garden makeover show, Harry Rich, speaking for himself and his brother David, says, “We want to be the brothers who change people’s perception of gardeners.” I’ve seen him say this dozens of times in the past few weeks because watching Garden Rescue has become my singular focus. To clarify, my interest is in the Rich Brothers, the program is simply a means of distribution. If you don’t know, Harry and David Rich are brothers who garden—which would be largely unremarkable if it were not for the fact that they are also hot. read more+++

Poached Radishes

One of my best friends, Abra Berens, wrote one of the most beautiful cookbooks ever but how will you believe me? The book, Ruffage, is a comprehensive guide to cooking with vegetables but more importantly it gives you real insight into how Abra cooks and thinks about food. She’s my favorite cook and if you’ve ever been to Granor Farm or her house for dinner, you know. You know.


Sweet Potatoes

My relationship to cooking changed a lot over the last year. I am decidedly less interested in projects and more interested in quick routes to dinner. Basically, I am a mom blogger now.*

Samin Nosrat wrote about the sweet potatoes pictured above in the Times, but the recipe is from Carla Lalli Music’s beautiful cookbook, Where Cooking Begins. For most of my adult life I avoided sweet potatoes because they were, well, sweet. And too often people would play that up with brown sugar, or most horrifyingly, marshmallows. At some point along the way I just decided I didn’t like them. But recently I have learned that really I love them, I just need to fight against their natural tendencies (this is a bad lesson for life maybe?!). So I have been cooking them a lot, and am excited about this newly blossoming relationship. Mostly they have been diced and tossed with olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, and lots of salt, thrown on a roasting tin and baked hot. A batch made on Sunday will find its way into quesadillas, and rice bowls throughout the week. read more+++


Last month we escaped to England. We ate well and walked and saw friends and visited old houses and gardens. It couldn’t have been better.