Eating in a Wide Open Space


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.  When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.


The picture above is of a chocolate croissant from Le Quartier bakery here in Omaha.  It is one of my favorite things in the whole world.  Buttery, flaky layers of laminated dough encasing batons of dark chocolate.  With a cup of creamy coffee this makes for one amazing breakfast.  I don’t eat these very often, maybe once a month or so.  But when I do it will be with my full presence and appreciation.  Not an ounce of guilt in sight.

I have learned over the years, particularly through my relationship with food, that my soul prefers the wide open spaces.  Once I start placing restrictions and limitations on what I can and can’t eat, my soul forcefully pushes back.  I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your own life.  As soon as you say, “I’m not eating any more cookies”, all you can think about is cookies.  And the next thing you know you just ate half a box of stale Oreos from the back of the kitchen cupboard, and you don’t even really like Oreos.

Staying in this wide open space has become even more difficult in recent years as it seems everyone is seeking a label for the way they eat:  Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free.  There is always someone somewhere proclaiming that their way of eating is the best way, and they’ve got the science to prove it.  Never before have we as a culture felt so pressured to choose a particular restrictive diet to the exclusion of everything else.  I think there are many reasons for this:  an overwhelming amount of conflicting information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, a lack of a unifying cultural diet that has been passed down from generation to generation (think of the enduring legacy of the French or Italian diet, for example), a lack of fundamental cooking skills, and the desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves and to find an outward identity of sorts through what we eat.

But here is a radical notion:  What if, instead of giving our power away to the “experts” out there trying to tell us what is best, we trusted our own experience with food and let ourselves be intuitively led to the best choices for us?  In his insightful book, No Recipe, Edward Espe Brown says:

“When it comes to eating, we frequently have things backward.  We put a high value on obedience, while putting little value on permission and empowerment….The implicit assumption we often make is that we could never figure out anything for ourselves, so we better do what those who really know tell us.  Although that is sometimes called eating wisely, how wise is it to abandon your capacity to find out?  Do they know you as you know you?  How could they possibly have a formula that matches your uniqueness, your capacity to taste and experience, to explore and play, to enjoy and savor?”

When we eat from a wide open space, from a place of permission and empowerment, we make choices based on how foods taste to us, how we enjoy them and, most importantly, how they make us feel.  This requires us to be present and pay attention while we eat, a difficult task in our modern, fast-paced world.  It may also require that we get into the kitchen and learn some basic cooking techniques so that we can explore and play with food in our own space and on our own terms.  It may very well be that, upon your own experimentation, you find that you feel better when you eat meat, or when you eat a lot of vegetables, or that bread doesn’t agree with you.  The subtle nuances of YOUR diet can be unique, discovered through your own senses, through taste and experience, rather than through a blind adherence to an eating plan that is outside of yourself.  How we eat is yet another facet of our authenticity, an aspect of our lives in which we must align our inner knowing and experience to our outward actions.

We can reframe the way we think about food and eating so that it becomes, first and foremost, an intuitive and intimate act of self-care.  It just takes a little curiosity and a willingness to slow down and pay attention to what you enjoy and how you feel.  We all deserve to be nourished and experience the pleasure of food on our own terms.  Trust that you know more than you think you do.  Give yourself permission to eat in a wide open space.  I will see you there…I’ll be the one eating the chocolate croissant.

Simple Seasonal Pleasures for August

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While the warmth of summer continues, there is an undeniable shift in the air.  Autumn is just around the corner.  The days are noticeably shorter, children go back to school (at least they do where I live), and life starts to settle back into a more grounded routine.

  1. Harness that back-to-school energy and get organized.  My kids go back to school in two short weeks!  As they buy school supplies and get organized for the coming year, I find it’s good for me to do the same:  time to clean out my desk, restock paper and pens, clear out documents I no longer need in my files or on my computer, go through the photos on my phone and back them up or delete what I don’t need, reassess creative projects I’ve been working on.  Back-to-school time should feel like a fresh start for everyone, adults (with our without children) included.
  2. The return of ritual and routine.  Summer is a free-for-all…some lazy days at home, week-long camps, vacations, carpooling kids here and there for summer activities.  Routine is largely out the door for the months of June and July.  While this carefree living has its own appeal, I love settling back in to the school year, welcoming grounding routines and rituals back into our lives.  This is a great time to reconsider your everyday rituals and routines…what is serving you and what isn’t?  Perhaps you need a new morning ritual to get you started off on the right foot (see mine in number 4 below).  Or maybe you don’t like the way you are rushing around just before dinner and want a better routine around preparing your evening meal (me!)  Take a little time to write in your journal about the role that ritual and routine plays in your daily life and how you may want to shift yours in order to better support and care for yourself.
  3. A bike ride or walk with the dogs before dinner.  There are times during June and July when an evening bike ride or stroll isn’t even an option due to the sun and heat.  Now, as the days grow shorter, we can take advantage of the cooler evenings and get out for a little exercise before dinner.
  4. Quiet and solitude.  With the kids back in school, there is a welcome hush that comes over the house around 7:45 a.m. each day.  I love my children dearly, but I also love my solitude.  I plan to soak up these quiet moments first thing in the morning with coffee and my journal on the back porch.  You can keep your early morning workout or jog around the park, as lovely as I’m sure that is.  THIS is my idea of the perfect morning ritual.
  5. More porch time. More coffee, more glasses of wine, more meals on the porch as we wind down the season of outdoor living.
  6. Celebrate Lammas by baking bread.  It’s easy to forget that the grains we eat are grown in the ground and harvested just like corn, squash and tomatoes.  By the time we purchase a bag of flour at the store, it hardly resembles the wheat it once was.  Lammas is an ancient harvest celebration taking place around August 1 that marks the first harvest of grain of the season.  Literally translated as “loaf mass”, people would celebrate Lammas by baking a loaf of bread from the first crop of wheat and bringing it to church as an offering of thanks.   This is such a lovely reminder of the preciousness of the grains we rely on as part of our daily sustenance, and a great excuse to bake a loaf of bread from scratch in your own kitchen this month.
  7. Reread an old favorite.  This month I will reread A Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh as I do every year around this time.  This summer marks the 20 year anniversary of this book coming into my life.  It’s one of my favorites, and it’s perfect for the month of August as it is a book of meditations written on a summer sojourn to the ocean.  Have you read it?  Do you have a favorite book you enjoy returning to again and again?
  8. Make a batch of homemade ice cream.  We have not had the ice cream maker out all summer.  Better late than never!
  9. Eat as many peaches as is humanly possible.
  10. Listen to the changing sounds in the neighborhood.  Kids walking to and from school, the marching band practicing in the mornings, high school football games on Friday nights.  With school back in session, everything changes, including the sounds around the neighborhood.  What new sounds are you noticing this month?

So much love to you as you make this August uniquely yours with your own simple seasonal pleasures!


Joy as a Spiritual Practice

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“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

-Jack Gilbert

As I wrote about seasonal pleasures last month, I heard a voice in my head saying, “This isn’t important.  In light of what the world is going through right now, this sounds trivial…a silly distraction from all of the problems that we collectively face.  How dare you write about this?”  It is easy to feel as though we are not entitled to moments of joy when there is so much that is going wrong, so much that needs fixing, so much suffering all around us.  But perhaps we need simple pleasures more than ever right now, perhaps finding joy in the everyday becomes a spiritual practice in and of itself.  Yes, there is suffering here.  But there is also goodness.  And we can, we must, hold them both at the same time.  If we wait to take joy in the world once things improve, once we feel entitled to it, that opportunity may never come.  Why?  Because, in the words of Krista Tippett,  “we can’t call forth in the world something we don’t embody.”  We practice joy in small, simple ways in our daily lives as a call to ourselves and others to move in the direction of that which we want more of in the world.

Good things come from this practice.  We may feel as though we are filling a well of energy that lies deep within our being.  We may feel more grounded.  We may feel a renewed sense of hope and possibility.  We may remember what is so precious to us about being a human on this planet in the first place.  This is an act of radical self-care, to be sure, but it goes beyond that.  It is the recognition of something sacred, a connection to something ancient and universal, and it is deeply nourishing on a soul level.

From this place of deep nourishment and connection, we become more capable, compassionate humans.  We are more able to be of service to others.  Our well is full and we can see clearly, both the suffering and pain AND the hope and possibility.  You are more than entitled to joy.  You are doing us a great service when you find and celebrate it.  Let us first embody that which we want to call forth.

List Making and What You REALLY Want: A Journaling Exercise


List making is such an ingrained part of our daily lives that we often don’t consider it a journaling technique.  More than just a reminder of what we need to do today, lists are an excellent way to generate a lot of information in a succinct manner very quickly.  In her book, Journal to the Self, Kathleen Adams suggests creating a list on a chosen topic that is 100 items long.  Why?  Like many other journaling techniques, list making benefits from giving yourself the time and space on the page to work through that which is at a conscious level.  As you keep writing past a point at which you might have otherwise stopped, you tap into information that lies just below the surface in your subconscious mind.  You may be surprised by what shows up towards the end of your list when the conscious mind has exhausted its efforts and the subconscious has an opportunity to weigh in!

You can write a list on absolutely any topic whatsoever.  A few ideas include:

100 things I am grateful for

100 things I need to/should do

100 things I’m afraid of

100 things I would do if I had more time

100 things I’m worried/stressed about

100 topics to write about

100 things that I love

100 things I want to make

Your list can be about anything at all that sparks your interest or feels like it might be therapeutic for you.  When I’m feeling overwhelmed, for example, I love to make a list of 100 things I need to/should do.  Getting these things down on paper gives me a chance to capture them.  From there I can sort through them and choose what to tackle now, what to save for later and what to forget about altogether.  It is a very centering, clarifying process.

When making your list, feel free to repeat yourself as many times as an item pops into your head.  The fact that it is entering your thoughts more than once is something to note in and of itself.  Also, don’t worry if your list entries don’t make sense.  Just keep numbering on the page and continue writing.  This process benefits from moving swiftly, letting whatever pops into your head make its way on to the page.

Once you have completed your list, it is helpful to go through what you have written and put your items into categories.  You will probably find that your list breaks down into 5-7 categories.  For example, if you wrote a list of 100 things I’m worried about, you might find that 30% of what you worry about relates to money and finances, 20% to health, 20% to your relationships, 20% to daily tasks that need to get done and 10% to your job.  This can give you some clarity about what you want to do next.  Maybe you choose to tackle some of those daily tasks that are weighing on your mind but are also easy to cross off the list and then resolve to taking a serious look at your budget and financial outlook when you have more time over the weekend.  List making can help you focus your energy and generate productive and inspired action based on what comes up for you.

For today’s exercise, we are going to make a list of 100 Things that I Want.  Take out your journal and pen, and when you are ready, began making a list of 100 things that you want.  These can be tangible things like a new house or a jet-ski, but they don’t have to be.  Maybe you want a career that gives you a sense of purpose and meaning or for your partner to stop nagging you about the way you load the dishwasher.  ANYTHING at all that you want right now in this moment, put it down on the list.  Remember, repetition and nonsensical entries are just fine.  Don’t overthink, just write.  Keep going until you reach 100 items.  This should take you 20-30 minutes.

When you are finished, set your pen down and begin reviewing your list.  Notice that for every item, for everything thing that you want, there is a feeling state that you hope to achieve by getting this thing.  For example, if you wrote down that you wanted a million dollars, what you really want may be a feeling of security or comfort, or perhaps freedom.  If you wrote down a cabin in the woods, perhaps what you really want is a feeling of peace or connection with the natural world.  Or maybe you said you wanted to start running or practice yoga on a regular basis.  Maybe your underlying desired feeling is vitality.  All of our desires are fueled by a way we want to feel.  Go through your list and begin identifying what feeling states you desire based on the items on your list.  You will probably find that most of your items fall under 5-7 desired feeling states.  When you are finished categorizing your items into feeling states, tally the number of items that fall into each category.

Now that you’ve categorized and tallied your items, notice what it is that you really want, the desired feeling states that lie behind the items on your list.  These feeling states are available to us all the time in our daily lives, and by finding ways to access them more frequently in small, attainable ways, the easier it is to move in the direction of the things that will help us feel the way we want to feel.

When we are unaware of the feeling state that lies behind the want, we can get into a position of thinking that getting a particular thing is like a magic bullet.  More money=freedom.  A cabin=peace.  Running=vitality.  As I’m sure you’ve experienced in your own life, this is not necessarily so.  There are people with plenty of money who feel trapped.  There are people who own cabins who feel anxious and upset.  There are people who run regularly who feel exhausted.  Sometimes what we think is just the thing to fix everything is actually not.

But when we are in touch with how we want to feel as a starting point, that can change everything.  Beginning with our daily lives, if we desire a feeling of peace, maybe we begin a meditation practice or simply find more moments for quiet during the day.  We note what peace feels like and move in the direction of things that generate a peaceful feeling inside of us.  Freedom may be as simple as going for a bike ride or making what you want for dinner tonight rather than what others expect you to make.  We note what freedom feels like and move in the direction of things that make us feel free.  You have the power to consciously move towards things that make you feel the way you want to feel.  And away from things that don’t.  Find the feeling and continue to move in that direction.

Most importantly, this way of being keeps us from the “waiting to start living” syndrome.  In his book, A New Earth:  Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle says:

The “waiting to start living” syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state. Expansion and positive change on the outer level is much more likely to come into your life if you can enjoy what you are doing already, instead of waiting for some change so that you can start enjoying what you do.  Don’t ask your mind for permission to enjoy what you do.  All you will get is plenty of reasons why you can’t enjoy it.  “Not now,” the mind will say.  “Can’t you see I’m busy?  There’s no time.  Maybe tomorrow you can start enjoying…”  That tomorrow will never come unless you begin enjoying what you are doing now.

There is no reason to wait to feel the way we want to feel.  There is no magic bullet.  We can dance and play with these desired feeling states beginning with what’s right in front of us in this very moment.  Maybe, as it turns out, you won’t need that yacht after all!  Maybe it was a feeling of adventure and aliveness you were after.  Where can you find that now?  Today?

There is No Rush


“The mindful nature of sourdough production is that it can’t be rushed, in fact the essence of its success, and the accompanying feelings of satisfaction and pride, are bound into the amount of time it takes.”

-Jo Bisseker Barr, Breathe Magazine, Issue 11

There is no rush has been my chosen mantra over the last couple of weeks.  Simply saying the words to myself periodically as I move throughout the day has a grounding effect…my breath slows, I feel rooted in the present moment and an opportunity to refocus on whatever task is at hand suddenly reveals itself.

Rushing has become the norm in our modern world.  We run from here to there trying to accomplish what we can, all the while thinking of the next thing on our to do list.  We are rarely present in what we are doing, fully immersed in what is right in front of us.  I find that even when I’m not busy I feel rushed, not because I have so much that I need to get done, but because it has become my default way of being.

The practice of baking sourdough bread helps me embrace the values of an unhurried life.  From the time I mix the levain for a loaf of bread to the time I take it out of the oven is usually close to 36 hours.  The process cannot be rushed.  The dough sets the pace, and I am here to engage with it when it is ready for the next step in the process.

Intentionally engage in slow activities that encourage you to move to the rhythm of the natural world.  Your kitchen is a great place to practice this kind of slow living.  Good things take time.  Let them unfold as they will.  Be ready when they are.  There is no rush.

Declare Your Independence

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Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something that we are not.  But this is a move against soul, because individuality rises out of the soul as water rises out of the depths of the earth…Power begins in knowing this special soul, which may be entirely different from our fantasies about who we are or what we want to be.

-Thomas Moore

Today, for the sake of us all, please declare your independence.  Be willing to show up as authentically as you can, as the very essence of you, and go your own way.   This will serve the world in ways that are much more valuable than you showing up disguised as someone you are not.

Living someone else’s version of your life can be an exhausting, weary experience, like being on stage and in character all the time.  An authentic life, in contrast, is one in which you feel comfortable in your own skin, at peace with your choices and actions because they come from a place deep within you.  It’s a life that serves others in a way that only you can.  It’s a life that nourishes rather than depletes you.

That said, authentic living is not easy either.  It takes a willingness to get quiet and listen.  It takes trust, not in the booming, know-it-all voices that surround you each day but in the still, quiet voice inside.  It takes bravery and a desire for freedom in the likely event that your authentic path requires that you take a risk or two, or takes an unconventional twist or turn and does not meet the approval of your family, friends, or society at large.

Collectively, we need the absolute best of what you are here to bring us, and your absolute best comes from a place of authenticity.  It’s time we prioritize this process of getting to know who we really are, of carving out the time and space to figure out what authenticity means to us.  This quiet revolution of independence requires nothing more than a little letting go, a cozy spot for reflection, some quiet time and a notebook and pen.  Here are a few tips to get you started on your own authentic journey:

  1. Strip down.  Finding and following your authentic path is more like remembering than it is like learning something new.  It is getting to the very essence of who we are.   This may involve removing layers upon layers of personal and societal expectations and false beliefs about who we are at our very core.  Be willing to really examine everything you believe to be true, everything you believe to be possible.  Many of the beliefs and ideas we carry around with us are not helpful or true but are simply well worn paths in the brain that become our default settings. Be willing to let go of what doesn’t serve you.  There are many ways to do this, journaling being one of my favorites, but it is not easy work.  There are many good professionals out there who can help you through this process. Find a therapist or coach who can work through your core beliefs if you feel you could benefit from a little help along the way.  I also recommend the work of Martha Beck and Byron Katie.  Both have very inspired things to say about how your core beliefs affect your choices and actions.
  2. Make Space.  As it is on the inside, so it is on the outside. And vice versa.  Clearing our physical space can have a profound effect on our ability to live authentically.  Sometimes we purchase things in order to fill an empty space inside ourselves or to find an identity or a sense of self-worth through the items we own.  This kind of clutter is draining, both energetically and spiritually.  Once we realize that the thing we just purchased is not going to fill any internal void or provide us with a sense of self, it can leave us feeling even emptier than we felt before.  And so we look for more things to purchase and the cycle continues.  Know this:  There is nothing you can buy that compares to the feeling of getting to the very essence of who you are.  This work is about uncovering and remembering your true nature, not looking outside yourself for a pre-fabricated identity to purchase.  You already own your authenticity.  You already have everything you need in order to set forth on your own path.  With that in mind, go through your living space on a room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer basis and ask yourself if the things that surround you are beautiful and/or useful.  Do you want them in your life?  Get rid of the unwanted and the unnecessary.  If there are items that you are unsure about, box them up and set them aside in a garage or storage space for a few months. See if you miss them.  If not, feel good about letting them go.  Enjoy the space you’ve created and the sense of peace and possibility that comes with it.
  3. Create a Sanctuary.  Your authenticity depends on having a safe haven to explore what it means to be yourself. Find a cozy place in your home where you can curl up with a cup of tea and a warm blanket and write, dream or simply enjoy a few moments of quiet.  This may seem trivial but having a comfortable place to call your own, even for just a few minutes a day, can make the difference between you taking this time for yourself or choosing not to.  It doesn’t need to be anything big, just a corner of the couch or a favorite chair and a soft blanket will be just fine.  In the warmer months, consider bringing your cozy nest outside if weather permits.  Nature is a lovely compliment to quiet time.
  4. Get quiet.  In our modern world, we are bombarded with voices telling us what is best for us ALL THE TIME.  Between the internet, social media, podcasts, radio and television, not to mention your well-meaning family, friends and co-workers, there is no shortage of advice out there.  But ultimately, you are the authority on you.  You have the answers.  Cultivating a practice of quiet in your day is absolutely essential if you want to want to live a more authentic life.  We need to eliminate the other voices for a period of time if we want to hear our own. This can be a quiet cup of coffee or tea in your cozy sanctuary or it can be a more formal meditation practice. Or something in between.  Start with whatever sounds doable and appealing to you.
  5. Write.  Quiet is wonderful, but quiet plus writing is magic.  To say that journaling has helped me find my authentic path would be a profound understatement.  It has been the most critical piece in finding my way back to myself.  As a journal writing instructor and as someone who has greatly benefited from the practice in her own life, I encourage you to settle in to that cozy sanctuary you created with a notebook and pen and write. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer.  Journaling is more about the process than the product.  It’s about you writing your way to a deeper, truer sense of self, not writing the next great American novel.  There are several journaling exercises and prompts available on my website if you aren’t sure where to start.  See where they take you.
  6. Pay attention to what resonates with you.  Psychologist Carl Jung developed a principle called synchronicity which suggests that the universe is conspiring to work with you to uncover your authentic path. It does this by leaving you clues about where to go next.  They may take the form of song lyrics you hear that resonate deeply or a quote or poem that brings about a feeling of recognition.  They may also take the form of an overheard conversation, a line from a book, or a coincidence or chance meeting that seems too meaningful to be random. PAY ATTENTION TO THESE OCCURANCES. They are telling you a little something about what resonates with you on a soul level.  Whether you believe that synchronicity is the universe itself working with you (an absolutely fun way to go about living in the world…I highly recommend it) or whether you believe that it is simply your subconscious mind “noticing” things that it finds valuable that are not yet known to your conscious mind….what is actually happening here isn’t the point.  You don’t have to believe in magic in order to reap the benefits of paying attention to what resonates with you or strikes you as meaningful.  Write these things down in your journal and see what kind of patterns begin to develop.
  7. Be willing to trust and take inspired action.  Since you are the ultimate authority on you, at some point you are going to have to trust what you begin to uncover about yourself.  This can be difficult, particularly if it goes against societal norms or the expectations of those around us.  But trust builds on itself, so if we can begin to hear and compassionately acknowledge that still, small voice inside and act on it in small ways, we will begin to see the rewards of this deep listening practice, namely a more authentic, satisfying, peaceful existence.

So do us all a favor and go your own way.  Where will this journey take you?  I have no idea.  But you do. So please…make space, listen and BE YOU. Find out what that means.  We need you, just as you are.  And whatever light shines at your very core, we need that too, just as much as you need to share it.  Get to the business of making space and listening, of finding your essence and putting it out there.  We are all waiting.



Simple Seasonal Pleasures for July


The farm stand down the street has set up shop, the cicadas serenade us from the trees with their meditative hum in the evenings, and early revelers set off fireworks as the Fourth of July approaches (much to my dog’s dismay).  The sultry days of summer are officially here.

How will you immerse yourself in the month of July?  What sensory pleasures do you plan to enjoy? What experiences would really help you settle into and be present with this cycle of the year?  Here is what I’m focusing on this month:

  1. Those cicadas! They are not much to look at, but they are the sound of summer in Nebraska as far as I’m concerned.
  2. Porch time. We are fortunate to have a screened in porch off the back of our house.  Perfect for morning coffee and journaling, a glass of wine in the evening or dinner at dusk.  No bugs allowed!
  3. Independence Day. Find a way to celebrate the Fourth of July that is meaningful to me.  Sometimes it just seems like a day dedicated to blowing things up….not really this quiet introvert’s jam.
  4. Explore new ways with summer produce, particularly ways to pair it with my sourdough bread. I’m looking at you, tomato gratin!
  5. Frequent visits to the aforementioned farm stand and the farmer’s market. Bonus style points if I remember to bring my cute French market tote.
  6. Bake a peach galette, the sexiest and simplest of desserts.
  7. Plan and enjoy an honest-to-goodness picnic.
  8. Read some seriously light fiction just for fun, preferably on the porch or outside under a shady tree. You can keep your Oprah book club picks.  I’ll be tucking into a good thriller or romance this month, hopefully something unputdownable.  Suggestions are welcome!
  9. Perfect the mezze dinner for summer nights when grazing on small bites sounds better than a full meal.
  10. Eat as many cherries as is humanly possible.
  11. Vacation!  At this time in our lives, most of our vacations are working vacations.  This is what happens when you buy a cabin that is a serious fixer-upper.  Sometimes this means that our vacations don’t exactly feel like vacations.  This trip I am hoping to find a nice balance between work and play.
  12. Make pesto in my new mortar and pestle. After watching Alice Water’s new masterclass on home cooking, I splurged on a traditional suribachi, which is basically a Japanese mortar and pestle.  It is my new favorite tool and just the thing if you want to try doing more by hand in your own kitchen.

All the best to you this July as you find your own simple pleasures to enjoy.  Please share with me what they are!  I would love to hear how you plan to make the most of your month.