IMG_0696

It is hot outside. So hot. High of 102 degrees hot. There are a few things you can do in this kind of weather and before I had a/c my version of today would have looked like re-wetting a tank top with ice water several times and not going upstairs because it was unbearable.  Now I have a/c but that also means I am stuck inside and baking seemed like the way to go.  It certainly isn’t apple and pumpkin weather and chocolate seems too heavy, but I am also feeling done with summer.  Berries and watermelon are heaven, but frankly, I am choosing denial about the heat. So I was looking for something light but earthy, and not too sweet (a common requirement for me).

Starting with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, I developed a new flavor profile that fit what I was looking for while on a/c lockdown.  I used a particularly grassy olive oil with the purpose of bringing out the brightness of the lemons and the earthiness of the rosemary. Nearly all my cakes get adapted in include yogurt or sour cream for moisture and texture, so starting with a recipe based on that concept is probably wise. I finished it off with a glaze of rosemary simple syrup. If you are looking for a sweeter treat, drizzle more syrup on each slice or pair with a favorite sour cream frosting recipe.

Just the type of end of summer, lazy Sunday afternoon treat I was looking for.

Lemon Rosemary Vanilla Yogurt Cake
1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened greek yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
2 sprigs worth of rosemary leaves
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Rosemary Simple Syrup
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. (Seriously, I didn’t use paper and was rilled with woe and regret)

Add chopped rosemary, scrapped vanilla bean seeds and lemon zest to the 1 cup of sugar. Work together with the back of a spoon to release oils and flavors into the sugars.

IMG_0695

IMG_0700

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, and juice. Whisk in the eggs one by one. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir with a spoon until just combined.

IMG_0698

IMG_0701

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Syrup:  Place rosemary, water and sugar in a small pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  As soon as it begins to boil, cover with lid and remove from heat.  Let sit until cool while flavors integrate. Remove sprigs.  Syrup can be stored in airtight bottle in fridge for about 2 weeks. Use extra syrup for cocktails. Seriously.

Waste not, want not: Put your leftover lemon peel and scraped out vanilla bean in a small pot with a sprig of rosemary. Cover with water and simmer on the stove for the MOST AMAZING scent to fill you home.

IMG_0703

I realized I posted a picture of my dining room wall art the other day and had never really filled in the story. When I first moved into my house, I got a picture for my dining room wall. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Mostly it helped me fill a giant empty wall and was the right pallet for the room at the time (very neutral with tiny bursts of orange). Over time, I have learned not to spring for temporary “fillers.” I mean, some things have functions that you neeeeed. And then, yeah, do what you gotta do. But the picture I hung was just a really solid reminder that I didn’t love it and needed to do something else. And it cost me $50. Awesome. A blank wall could have done that in a far less berating manner for free.

At some point, I got sick of it. I took the picture down and put it in my basement. I knew I wanted something original and meaningful on that wall, but I didn’t know what. I did know what size it should be. So a couple weeks later, I went and bought a canvas. And hung it on the wall. Blank. Mind you, I don’t paint…or anything. So what I thought I was doing, I don’t know. And it sat blank on my wall for months, gently calling for some thoughtful creativity. A few people commented on it. “Oh, is that modern art?” “Is that an original?” Um, yeah, that blank white canvas on my wall? Yes. Very modern. “No, I don’t know what I am doing with it yet.”

Funny thing is that *this* kind of temporary was so much better for me than the other. It provided space to think about what I really wanted hanging on my dining room wall – where people I love gather and I feed them  (because my love language is what I like to call “the Italian Grandma love language” – if I like you, I feed you. I can be a food pusher. I’m not proud. Just know that it comes from a good place. And have some more soup.) Point is, I needed the empty: both on the wall and in me in order to give it the proper attention.

At some point, thoughts started to form. I didn’t want anything too crazy. That room has enough going on. I just wanted something natural and textured. Also, the idea of people sharing food together has always been so important to me. That ritual – I think it is more essential that most people can properly express. We all know it. We even talk about it. But even so, it is deeper. Family dinners, celebrations, tea with a friend…these things are so central to my life and heart.

Meanwhile, in my life, I had been reflecting on the concept of “Anthologies” and how we are responsible for curating the anthology of our own lives. I had various scraggly notes and glimpsy thoughts I had written in a notebook while mulling and as I was looking over them trying to organize them in some sort of coherent fashion to write an article on the matter and found a quote that I knew summed up my heart on the matter and needed to be on my dining room wall.

Living room art.

A photo posted by Sarah Zook (@zookling) on

The execution was easy, although, I am the first one to say that it took SO long based on me absolutely making in that last priority in my life. I was very accustomed to the blank white canvas by now. I just got wooden letters from the craft store. And actually they were on clearance, so if you look closely there is some improvising for upside-down “V” working as “A” action and a purposely broken “T” working as “I”. Whatevs. I hot glued the letters in place and gave the whole thing a few coats of matte white spray paint. Then I hot glue gunned some dried moss in place. And done. Glue had barely cooled before it was on my wall looking perfectly at home and ready for people to come have food pushed at them – because I love them.

Just a little public service announcement that Emerson Fry began her Spring/Summer end of season sale today. Her too-perfect-to-be-true items are too pricey for me to justify buying new so I live for these end of season sales, the efoutletstore, and ebay rejects. Items I do own are of the utmost quality and tailoring – I know why she gets away with her prices. All remaining items are 50% off with the exception of the V neck tee I really wanted. That said, I did score a pair of her Charcoal Skinny Straights prior to coming here to let you know what was happening. What can I say – priorities man. Her indigo skinnies (from the EmersonMade days) are by far my favorite pair of denim. If you are not familiar with Emerson Fry, you are new to the internet.

Happy shoes even on my feet at a shoot all day.

A photo posted by Sarah Zook (@zookling) on

Patch toe slangbacks in racing green and bronze from last fall purchased for $68 in the early days of the EF Outlet. Super comfy, very well made. On my feet all day at a shoot today and didn’t think twice about the 4″ heels.

Living room art.

A photo posted by Sarah Zook (@zookling) on

I think if you asked my friends, they would tell you I am one of the most difficult people to connect with regularly. I hate that about myself. In person, I am not quiet. I think most people find me loud, a trait those first meeting me read as “extrovert.” Those who know me see the reality as quite different. I hate this part of me that makes people feel like they aren’t an important piece of my life. I don’t call, I don’t write. I choose quiet. Rather I need quiet and I don’t easily force myself to choose otherwise. To exacerbate the situation, I don’t do large group hangouts, so where my extroverted friends are able to enjoy maintaining a large circle through efficiency of gatherings, my limited social time is more likely to go to individuals in an highly inefficient way that allows my heart to connect more deeply, but doesn’t allow an impressive social calendar. And while everyone’s job eats up time, mine also forces me into heavy people interactions – eating into a reservoir of social capacity that bleeds over into my free time when finding replenishing activities. New jobs are especially draining and generally why I disappear more than usual. When I am ready to reemerge, frankly, I am overwhelmed by the amount of catching up I need to do.

All this to say, friends, family, people I love – I need you and desire you in my life. When the volume of time isn’t there, know that the time I do spend with you is time you have my full and undivided attention. My little introvert heart couldn’t live without the time we do spend together – know that in those times you have been chosen and prioritized in a significant way. I don’t know the words to explain to extroverts this pattern of quiet and know that seems as though something is wrong or that I am putting distance between us in a way that may hurt. For an introvert, that isn’t what the quiet it. The quiet is the very thing that allows me to cherish our time together.

You can still call it that even if it happens at 1pm, right? Right.  Sometimes mornings are busy, filled with things like reading and coffee and walks, and it is hard to make breakfast happen before 1.  One of my favorite neighborhood things is having a breakfast cafe in easy walking distance. The kind of cafe that isn’t the least bit pretentious (that was in a across the street from this one and is better suited for days when I got fancy with a shower instead of a ponytail) and has breakfast foods that are delicious, but also nothing special. The kind where all the regulars are 70 or older and you want to ask them if the secret to long life is in fact pancakes with a coffee chaser.  Coffee (and more coffee), pancakes, eggs, and bacon are essential to Sundays.

Coffee

This was one of those weeks where I woke up on Wednesday morning and nearly cried because I couldn’t believe it was only Wednesday.  It wasn’t bad, it was just wearing.  I stopped for coffee this morning and am playing the mind game with myself where I try to relax into productivity.  Something about whipping out the work laptop on a Saturday morning often sees more checks just because it is a proactive choice.  Sometimes this works in the office too. I tuck my legs up on the chair and remind myself to keep breathing deeply.  Problem is, I was on email until midnight last night and started it again at six this morning and still have about a week’s worth of work to do. That, and of the nine hours I will spend at the office today, four of them will be spent in meetings. Someday I will catch up.  Fortunately, I really like my job. Unfortunately, true to form, I seem to like things that push and challenge me to my limits.

It will ultimately be this photo and the promise of another Friday night in that will carry me through today.  I am looking forward to slippers, tea, and some reading or a movie. After going for a run.  Because apparently even in men, I find things that push me.

Saturday night in.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.