Sunday Night Apple Cake with Brown Butter and Bourbon

Easy Apple Cake

 

We went apple picking this weekend, which means I have about 20 pounds of apples in my kitchen, which means this easy apple cake recipe is going to be made again soon.

Apple picking is one of those things I used to miss most about living in the northeast.  From the first autumn Ken and I were dating (16 years ago now!)  we used to climb into a car (first a tiny blue Ford Festiva, later a zipcar), drive out into the country, and see some beautiful color and pick apples.  When we moved to Southern California, we thought our New England apple-picking days were done.  But, as I described three years ago, we were mistaken.

It took us three years to go back (a delay I attribute squarely to a curly-headed imp we call Typhoon Bootsy) but we’re glad we did.  As we were driving through the Inland Empire (such a glamorous name for a less than glamorous place), listening to the incessant chatter and music of our delightful children (Bootsy is perfecting his Ozzy Osborne version of Kumbaya), we realized that the apple orchards are just as close to us in Los Angeles as they once were in New York.  We pulled up to Stone Pantry Orchards (trees laden with apples!  Close enough to the ground that even the littlest one could pick!)  and proceeded to fill a bag.

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A Seat at the Table

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The light filled the room.

The speaker, a slight woman with dark hair and the faintest trace of an accent, was talking about beauty.    I gazed behind her through wide glass doors at a stunning vista of hilltops and trees, clouds chasing the sunlight through the sky.  There was the faintest scent of lavender in the air, and vases full of perfect roses, alliums and hydrangeas dotted the room and the picturesque patio beyond the windows.  It was the most beautiful of settings, and beauty seemed a fitting topic.
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This weekend, I attended the second Big Traveling Potluck, in Murrieta, California.  The word “Conference” seems too sterile to describe this event – I see mental images of gray business suits and fluorescent lights.  “Workshop” is better, but is too taxing.  There were workshops – writing and photography and packaging darling gifts of food and love – but the weekend as a whole didn’t feel like work.  “Retreat” implies withdrawal and quiet.  We were not quiet.  

 

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Perhaps I’ll just return to “Potluck”, which is, after all, the name given to this weekend by its creators.  At a Potluck, you bring something to share, and you partake of others’ offerings.  It can create great anxiety  –  Will my dish be enough?  Will it be popular?  Will it pale in comparison to the dishes of others?  But in the end the act of sitting down and sharing tends to eclipse any fears.  After all, what is more communal than sharing a table?

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I dislike those recaps of blogging conferences that show fabulous pictures of fabulous things and fabulous people that leave you wildly envious that you weren’t there yourself.  There were lovely people and lovely things and lovely food, but I can’t share that with you directly.  I can’t bring you to the Potluck with me, but I can share some of what I brought away with me.  I can give you a seat at the table.

Beauty needs ugliness to make itself known.  The real beauty of blogging isn’t in perfection – in the light and the shoulds and the immaculate food and the gorgeous writing, and the SEO and the sponsorships – the real beauty of blogging is sharing the reality.  You may wake up one day and realize that your blog (or your life) don’t really reflect the whole you, but you can change course.  Success is defined however you want, and you should celebrate your successes.  Give yourself.  Share yourself.  Be yourself.  

I attended the Big Traveling Potluck last year, and I found inspiration and motivation.  But this year I feel like I found bits of myself that I didn’t know I had lost.  I try, here at The Domestic Front, to reflect the reality.  I know you know my life isn’t perfect, my food isn’t perfect (and we ALL know my photography isn’t perfect.  But I don’t always share.  In that light-filled room, in that most beautiful of beautiful locations, I realized anew that the beauty is most apparent in the imperfections, and the flaws. That this place should be a window into my life, my whole life, with its messiness and its grace.  This is my place, my space, my story to tell.

I’d like to tell it to you.

Won’t you sit at my table?

imageNote:  my potluck contribution was these bourbon balls, only I gave them a little extra kick by adding 1 tsp each of ground Saigon cinnamon and ginger, and 1/2 tsp. of ground chipotle.  Keeping it real?  They were awesome.

 

On Creativity, Inspiration and a Big, Traveling Potluck

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I have heard that if you spend a lot of time researching in a book, or staring at a computer screen, or focusing on what your hands are doing, you need to stop, frequently, and rest your eyes by gazing off into the distance. Looking at the horizon. Thinking big. Going long. Then you can return to your task with renewed focus and less eyestrain.

I like the metaphor.

Blogging (or “digital publishing” as I will now be calling it) is like this. It’s so easy to focus on the little things – the aperture of your photographs, how to title your posts to maximize SEO, whether Facebook or Google plus provides a greater social media benefit, the best time of day to Tweet. Plus, you’re literally staring at a computer screen. But it’s so important to stop, step away from the computer, and focus on the horizon.

Big Traveling Potluck, held this weekend in Murrieta, California, allowed me to do just that. We were in a beautiful place where the sky was bigger than normal, and you could literally see for miles. And we talked about the big things — motivation, inspiration, creativity, community. The mind’s horizon and the heart’s horizon.

But because the organizers (Maggy and Pam of Three Many Cooks and Erika of Ivory Hut) are, in fact, bloggers digital publishers, they also knocked it out of the park when it came to  details.

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Summer Vacation II: Great State of Maine and Crab Rolls

Maine Crab Roll

After we went to New York this summer, we decided to head up the coast to Maine. Ken and I both love New England — he spent part of his childhood there, and we met in college there. I’m a total California girl, but the other place I really feel at home is New England.

Neither of us had ever been to Maine, though I had been fascinated with it since I was a child. To a kid growing up in Los Angeles, nothing is quite so exotic as the Pine Tree State. We rented a darling little cottage with a water view, no cell service, and a lot of peace.

And here’s the thing about Maine — it’s exactly how you imagine it to be.
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