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It’s that time of year.

You know, the time of year where we collectively take stock of the 360-ish days-before-yesterday to ponder every mistake we think we made, all of the negatives in our lives that need to be changed into positives, and most importantly (to us), all of the virtuous modifications we’ll make for the coming year in our homes, habits, relationships, jobs, diets; the list is endless!

While I tend to avoid dwelling on the negative, as well as the ‘year in review’ stuff that clogs most forms of the media at the end of every year (I’m lousy at back-tracking), I do love the idea of a fresh start.
For me, this happens twice a year, at summers end and at the start of the new year.  I’m not really sure why, but I suspect that these two times coincide with the biggest breaks from my ‘normal’ (and I use that word liberally) routine.  Other disruptions in my personal universe can bring on the need for a reboot, but I can always count on these two making their regularly scheduled appearance.
In the summer, I cram as many days as I can with sunshine, gardening, meals taken on the patio, neglecting housework, and letting my job, the weather, and the needs of the garden determine the flow of my daylight hours.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day also suspend my normal routine as well–the menu, the decor, the social calendar all change to accommodate the holidays, plus a birthday and a wedding anniversary.

As much as I love both of these seasons, I also love a fresh beginning when they are over.  Well, maybe I’m a little reluctant to let go of summer, but when I finally accept the reality of its ending, I embrace the change whole heartedly.

So what does all of this rambling have to do with confessions?

Hold on, I promise I’ll get there.

Part of my ‘Fresh Start’ has to do with this blog.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and one of the things that I keep coming back to is this–why do I do it?  Why did I start it and what is it’s purpose?
And wonder of wonders, there actually is one.  A purpose, I mean.  And, it has existed from the very first post.
I write this little blog (not as often as I’d like because I am neither a very disciplined nor diligent writer) to encourage and inspire.
I write to encourage you to try recipes or foods that you’ve never tried, or thought might be to complicated to attempt; to plant something simply for the delight of watching it grow; to spark creativity in some form or another.
I write to share the things that I love in the hope that some of you will love them too, and that they will bring a bit of joy to your day.

With these things in mind, I want to share more often this year.
That, my friends, will require the addition of a little more of the aforementioned discipline and diligence.  And, in order to do that, I reach the confession (of sorts).

Phew!  I bet you thought I’d never get to it!

I have ‘a thing’ for cookbooks. I’ve had it almost forever. Without some sort of inner restraint, it would balloon into a full scale compulsion.
It started when I was about seventeen, and by the time I was in my late twenties, I had amassed a pretty huge number of them–all of which I devoured like novels.  I treasured every one of those books–just the sight of them spilling off of the shelves or stacked on the kitchen table would bring me happiness.
When I needed to learn something, I inquired of Julia, or Fannie, or Marcella, or Laurel.  There was inspiration galore within the pages of Tassajara, Moosewood, and so many others!  My cookbooks always made me feel ‘at home’, no matter where I was living or what my circumstances were at the time.
And when almost every one of them–probably close to fifty or so–were destroyed in a flood, they taught me another enduring lesson; that contentment and comfort do not come from objects.
For the longest time, only the few that survived the flood (plus a couple of ‘staples’ that I replaced– live with out “Joy of Cooking”?  No way!) were all that occupied the shelf.
I still loved them though, and as the years accumulated, so did the cookbooks.  It took quite awhile, but gradually the collection re-grew, and they have continued to multiply.  And though I have more than I could possibly wear out in two lifetimes, I am still a push-over for any glossy tome full of recipes that look and sound wonderful to eat, with a particular scarcity of restraint when it comes to French or Italian.

I know, I’m weak…

Okay, I’m done with confessing and returning to the idea of a fresh start now…

This year, I want to use my cookbooks more.  Lacking a restaurant or a huge family, the best way for me to do that is to share the recipes in them with you!
Of course, doing this will require a little more discipline–not just in blog posts, but in menu making at home.
A menu will require a shopping list.
A shopping list requires a budget.
Because unlike these beauties that I just plucked off of the tree in the greenhouse,


015 money does NOT hang on branches around here!

Probably not at your house either.

All of those things though–recipes, menus, lists,spending–are part of my fresh start for the New Year, beginning with these three books that  have been sitting on top of the stack, waiting patiently for the holidays to be over.


Here’s a preview of what I’m hoping to share with you in the coming weeks…

Among countless others, I’m dying to try the Grilled Polenta with Mushroom and Red Wine Ragout and the Penne Contadina from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes.  Oh yeah, and the Lamb Stew with Lemons and Olives.

The Braised Lamb Shoulder with Marsala and Cinnamon in Erica De Manes’ “The Flavors of Southern Italy” will be appearing soon I think.

And since I have plenty of lemons right now, the Roast lemon-garlic Chicken with Green Olives from “Seriously Simple” by Diane Rossen Worthington is a ‘must try’.

Do any of these dishes sound as wonderful to you as they do to me?  Would any of those books fan a little flame of creativity in your kitchen, like they do mine?  I hope so.


What is your ‘fresh start’ for 2015?  (Wow, I just wrote the date for the first time–eek!)  I’d love to hear your comments below!

Thanks for stopping by and reading.  I hope your New Year is filled with joy, as well as good things to eat!