Three Magazines I’m Loving

Flipping through the nostalgia-inducing Seventeen magazine, I thought about the pounds and pounds and pounds of paper magazines I’ve consumed over the years. After Seventeen in junior high came the more sophisticated Glamour, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and (oh, yes!) Cosmo. Mailers for frequent flyer points that were to expire had me and Phil getting free subscriptions to a ton of magazines, including People, Entertainment Weekly, Wine Enthusiast, Economist, and once, because I wrote the code incorrectly, Golf Digest. I went through numerous cooking and lifestyle magazines like Martha Stewart Living, Readymade (RIP, Readymade), Better Homes & Gardens, Cooking Light, and Cook’s Illustrated. We’ve subscribed to smaller publications like Brain,Child and MotherJones and Country.

These days, I subscribe to three magazines, and getting my notice that the next issue of Taproot would be in the mail this week (yea!), I realized that they all have a theme.


Taproot is a brand new quarterly, no-ad magazine created by a team that includes Amanda Soule of Soulemama – a site I both love for the inspiration and loathe for the feeling I get when reading it that I’ll never be as organized, creative, or maternal as Amanda. I was on the fence about subscribing, but when I saw the first issue included an unbelievable cast of writers and artists, including Shannon Hayes and Maya Donenfeld, I subscribed. I consumed the first magazine front to back the first night, and then was annoyed with myself that I didn’t savor it more. I’m going to try to restrain myself when this next issue comes.

Taproot is, essentially, inspiration and how-to for living a more slow, sustainable, meaningful life. The first issue, which was themed on growing and gardens, beautifully mixed practical information with thoughtful essays on, as the tagline says, “digging deeper.” I love that the magazine is quarterly so that it has less opportunity for repeating itself.


Yes, Mother Earth News is the flagship publication for the back-to-the-land movement. Forty years ago, I understand the magazine was much more hardcore; today it’s very accessible, while still remaining committed to sustainability and responsible living. I understand that the readership is more country-living wannabes (like me), rather than people actually in the country. Either way, the mix of small projects like keeping your garden organically bug-free mixed with bigger-picture essays (installing a gray-water system) provide information for everyone on the sustainability spectrum. The magazine doesn’t tend to be political, but there is an undercurrent of the need for regulation where it’s responsible for health and the environment; they’ve got their eye on you, Monsanto.


I love Hobby Farm Home. This tends to be a lighter magazine; it almost always features food on the cover, includes product pages of farm-themed gadgets you can purchase, and provides very basic how-to information on processes like canning that people actually living in the country would be long past. And the recipe for rosemary-wine jelly last year was totally worth my subscription price.



Meet Anais. She’s trouble. We’re changing her name to Houdini.

When I was traveling a couple of weeks ago, Phil sent me an email with the simple header “Escapee” about a then-unnamed Khaki Campbell getting out while the ducks were still living in our basement. It was Anais. Thanks to her, he had to cover their trough with chicken wire to prevent future escapes.

Last weekend, after I’d talked a friend into watching the ducks while we went camping overnight, I went into the garage where the ducks were now living, and the trough contained three ducks, with Anais standing next to it. So I had to secure the ends of the chicken wire covering by upending some of Sylvia’s play chairs over each side, and explain to my friend that she, heh-heh, might be spending some time chasing down the ducks I told her were no trouble at all.

This morning, following the second night the ducks have officially lived in their coop, I let them out, refilled their water, filled the baby pool they swim in, got the kids breakfast, drank half a cup of coffee, lazily looked out the dining room window, and saw the ducks all huddled near the gate of the fenced enclosure. But something was wrong.

You know when you see a bug on a screen, and it takes you a second to figure out whether the bug is inside or outside the screen? I noticed there was no fencing in front of Anais. Don’t know how she got out, but there she was on the wrong side of the fence, her buddies trying to talk her through it.

So I went out, in my nightgown, and chased her. Tried to bribe her with chard. Tried to herd her back in. Yelled at whatever kid let the dog out to Take. Pepper. Inside. NOW. I’m very thankful our yard has a privacy fence.

I finally nabbed her, and she was very annoyed with me until she realized I was taking her where she wanted to go… back with her friends. Because ducks really are pack animals. They don’t like being separated. Every time she slips out, she stays close to whatever atrocity she escaped, desperate to get back in, while her buddies desperately quack at her.

Today Phil stuck some flimsy wire garden border fence in the ground inside the gate, which should be enough to discourage any more excursions. Beware, Anais. Unspeakable evil awaits outside the wall.

Universal Fruit Crisp Recipe

The garden’s in full swing. We’re already eating snow peas and lettuce and chard and strawberries, and the recently planted seedlings are springing to life. Here’s Phil’s snow pea harvest today, which we ate with our dinner; I love this time of year:

I’ve got rhubarb in two different places: The back yard garden, where it’s been for years and has been getting more and more spindly, and the front garden that Phil expanded this summer. The sad rhubarb in the back garden looks like lettuce. The front garden, with lots of sun, is producing big, beautiful leaves and stalks. After traveling for a bit, I came home to rhubarb needing a serious trim, so we had rhubarb crisp that night.

Crisps are one of my favorite fruit desserts to make because the topping is universal, the interior is versatile, and they are as delicious as pie but carry no pie-crust intimidation. Here’s the recipe for an 8 X 8 pan; for a 9 X 13, just double it.

Universal Crisp Recipe


2 to 3 pounds (about 4 cups) cut-up fruit
Sugar (none or 1/4 cup for very sweet fruits like berries, 1/2 cup or so for less sweet fruit like apples, up to 1 cup for straight rhubarb)
Optionally, a Tbsp. or 2 of citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange) and spices like cinnamon, although I rarely use these because I’m lazy


3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

Combine the fruit, sugar, and optional spices in a greased 8 X 8 pan. Then mix up the topping, either using a fork, a mixer, or a pastry cutter (my favorite). It’ll eventually resemble small peas, which is what you want. Pour the topping over the fruit and bake for about an hour in a preheated 350 degree oven; it’s finished when it’s lovely and golden on top.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

The ducks have moved from the basement to the garage, and spend several hours every day in a makeshift pen, covered with a porch umbrella, where they can bask in the sun, swim in a baby pool, and eat garden lettuce from the kids’ hands. We just finished securing their coop with (we hope) raccoon-proof hardware wire on the bottom, and once we build their kennel around the coop, they’re heading outside permanently.

I promise. I’m getting to the chive blossom vinegar.

Having them between the garage and backyard means I’m taking a lot of trips around the side yard, where we have a little garlic patch and a bunch of chives. So I kept thinking, taking their water or food to or from the garage and noticing that the chives were flowering, that surely there was something I could do with the bursting chive flowers. Turns out, there is.

I found this simple recipe for chive blossom vinegar — so simple I probably shouldn’t call it a recipe: fill a mason jar with clean chive blossoms (I washed these in a salad spinner), and then pour in about as much vinegar as you have chive blossoms. Then put the lid on and forget about it for a bit. If you think of it, give the jar a shake periodically as you walk by. I made this Sunday, and the color’s already really pretty; I think it’ll probably be a little more pronounced in a week or two when I strain out the blossoms and am just left with this flavorful pink vinegar.

Last year I made tarragon vinegar with our Little Shop of Horrors tarragon plant, and it’s great on salads or vegetables, either alone or mixed with olive oil.

Knitting Memories…

Last week and the week before I was traveling for work. All very sane and civilized, with a ton of Bliss sample products that were hoarded and brought home. But while I can resist the lure of online shopping at home and resist the urge to hang out at the mall, I’m really powerless against impulse purchases when I’m feeling a little lonely and isolated in a hotel room. That’s when I’ll purchase Flirty Girl dance-to-fitness DVDs. (Yes, I have — from a hotel in Sarasota.) So after some fairly intense work days and nights, I found myself on eBay and bought this vintage, August 1978 Seventeen magazine. With shipping, I paid 15 times the cover price; perhaps I should have invested in stacks and stacks of magazines back in 1978.

This magazine and I, we have history. I had a copy back in the day that I pinched from a pile at my church that had been donated for collage projects. That’s right; I stole it from my church. It was already a year or two old, but I pored over it, studying the Famalore shoe ads and tutorials on how to alter your wide straight pants into the new tapered pants — so hot this season.

So amidst the suggestive ads for Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific! …

… and the Columbia House offers (11 8-tracks or albums for only $1 plus shipping and handling!) …

… and supermodel Jennifer O’Neill talking and talking and talking about 87-cent nail polish …

… and late-teen Michael Jackson looking healthy and normal and not sporting a razor-thin nose or a weird split in his chin …

… and Mariel Hemingway modeling this season’s new Annie Hall-inspired menswear …

… was a feature on seven pieces you could make to assort for a month’s worth of ensembles:


A couple of years after swiping the magazine, I knitted my first sweater with my trusted friend, Seventeen — that green classic sweater that could supposedly knit up for $4.75 and assort into so many outfits. I used black K-Mart brand sayelle yarn; the same yarn my grandma preferred for all of the ripple afghans she was churning out at the time. So it wasn’t luxurious. And the fit — well, it was horrible. I later learned this was because I was knitting incorrectly, twisting every stitch, which made a tight, tight fit that wasn’t really appropriate for either that year’s preppy fashions or the dress code at my Christian junior high school.

A bit after my failed sweater, armed with a Coats & Clarks booklet that showed me how to make cable stitches, I tackled making cables and knitted that sweater’s companion, the vest (with “cables fore and aft”) on the same feature. That turned out much better and was actually wearable, so I wore it. A lot.

That 1978 Back to School Issue of Seventeen paved the way for the dozens and dozens of sweaters (and scarves, hats, mittens, shawls, baby blankets and, once, an attempt at a knitted cat cozy) over the next three decades. Some worked, some didn’t, but the win percentage has definitely increased over the years.

So maybe this late-night, lonely-hotel-room purchase wasn’t so frivolous after all. In fact, I might add to my bucket list to one day remake that green sweater, this time not twisting every stitch.

Universal Pesto Recipe

Back in March I took a day off, and Sylvia and I spent some time gardening — clearing out patches, lining the expanded garden in front with a few walking stones, and planting some cool-weather edibles like rhubarb, kale, chard, and radishes.

I don’t know why, but last year I had no luck with radishes. This was likely because they were in the backyard, which doesn’t get much sun, but I now have it in my head that, even though radishes are touted as one of the easiest vegetables you can grow, I can’t grow them. I planted them out of duty, but largely forgot about them.

Fast-forward six weeks and Sylvia and I needed to plant potatoes, so I was clearing out the radish patch that wasn’t going to grow anyway, and was surprised to see white orbs pushing through the ground. When I pulled them, we got these:

I was so excited to have broken the Radish Curse that I wanted to use the whole, lovely plant. So I made pesto with the greens.

A couple of years ago I made my first batch of garden pesto from basil, and now I make and freeze big loads of it to taste a little summer promise in the middle of a dark Indiana winter. It usually makes an appearance on one of our Friday night pizzas, but it also tops pasta for a super-easy dinner, is scrambled into eggs, or shows up at parties as a dip. But I learned that pesto is really just a combination of greens and nuts, so while the classic pairing is basil and pine nuts, you can make pesto out of pretty much any combination. For this pesto, I used sunflower seeds with the radish greens. These non-traditional pestos won’t taste like basil pesto, but each is delicious and showcases the unique flavors of the greens you’re using. The radish-green pesto didn’t taste like basil, but it did taste uber-fresh and spring-like.

Universal Pesto

4 (packed) cups of greens (basil, sorrel, chard, radish greens, kale, etc.)
1/2 cup or so olive oil
1/3 cup or so nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Put all of the ingredients except the Parmesan in a food processor and whir until it’s a nice consistency. I usually add about half the olive oil initially, and then drizzle more in until the pesto is a nice and creamy. Then stir in the Parmesan. If you’re using basil or another green that browns easily and you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, store it with a thin layer of olive oil (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch) drizzled over the top.

I’ve got my eye on you, overgrown sorrel plant: