Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Senspiration: Celebrating Fall, from A to Z

This past Friday marked the first official day of fall, and this season brings with it a vibrant array of sensory experiences. I had so much fun writing a Farmers Market A to Z list a few weeks back that I've decided to do it again, in order to celebrate the season. Hopefully this post will inspire autumn weather to return to the St. Louis region. I hope you enjoy this list. What are you favorite fall things?

Cool breezes and crunching leaves

Deer season

Everywhere full of color


Glow of jack-o-lanterns

Hot tea, hot chocolate, hot cider

Introspective moments – As we enter the last quarter of the year, what accomplishments can we celebrate, and what else can we bring into our lives?

Juicy pomegranates

Knit sweaters and scarves

Lower temperatures


Nature preparing to sleep

Orange hues at sunset


Quiet nights, after summer evenings were so alive with crickets and locust

Roaring fire

Squash, savory soup, salted caramel

Toasting marshmallows

Under the covers, such a cozy feeling

Vivid colors


White chicken chili

eXquisitely scented candles with ambiguous yet festive names like Fallen Leaves or Flannel

Yummy cinnamon and caramel treats that smell even better than they taste

Zealous squirrels scampering about for their food

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

This week I have decided to depart from the mini-series of words ending in -escent or -escence, and instead, to celebrate the changing of seasons. Even though temps are in the 90s in the St. Louis area, today marks the fall equinox.

Most of us probably know that the autumnal equinox marks the first day of fall (at least in the Northern Hemisphere—it's the first day of spring down under). But do we really know what that word means? defines equinox as "one of the two times in a year when the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator, and day and night are of equal length." According to, equinox is derived from the Latin roots aequus, meaning "equal," and nox, meaning "night."

The equinox is not actually a day—it's the specific moment in time when the sun crosses the equator. The autumnal equinox usually happens on September 22, but that's not guaranteed. Furthermore, the idea of equal nighttime and daytime on the date of the equinox is not exactly reality. Because the atmosphere refracts sunlight, most places experience the phenomenon of equal day and night a few days before or after the equinox, and this is actually called equilux. The Latin root lux refers to "light."

The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, known as the Harvest Moon, marks when the time between moonrises shortens. Although moonrises typically occur about 50 minutes later each night during the lunar month, at this time of year, the delay is only 30-40 minutes. The Harvest Moon is right around the corner on October 5.

Many cultures celebrate the fall equinox. With the season of shorter days upon us, it's time to reap what we have sewn and be thankful. It's a time to reflect on what we have accomplished through the year thus far and decide what to do with it, how to move forward. May you have a wonderful day celebrating the seasons and the progress of your year!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Senspiration: Fresh Figs

Fresh figs, along with sushi, avocado, and onions, are among some of my favorite foods that I had no idea I liked until the last few years. Now I can't get enough of them.

I, of course, am enthralled by the sensory appeal of figs. They're smooth on the outside with a delicate edible skin, and on the inside they are incredibly soft and smooshy. You can cut a fig open and spread the inside onto toast, just like jam, no process necessary. The colors of figs are beautiful–from browns to soft greens to deep reddish plums, depending the variety. On the inside, figs are like jewels. Some sparkle like a bright ruby while other varieties are soft pink like rose quartz or even a pale orange like citrine. And then there's the taste— delciously sweet.

According to my 100 Best Health Foods book by Judith Wills, figs are quite the superfood. They are high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Thus they promote healthy hearts and bones and are an excellent source of natural energy.

Fig season is short, and I'm taking advantage of it. If you're in the St. Louis area, I recommend buying fresh figs from Ivan's Fig Farm at the Tower Grove or Schlafly Farmers Markets. Vendor Ivan Stoilov cultivates over a dozen varieties not native to this area in a custom-designed geo-solar greenhouse at his farm in Dittmer, Missouri. In order to celebrate this fleeting season, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite ways to eat figs.  

  • Goat cheese and pistachio figs—The simplest way I prepare figs is to butterfly them, stuff each piece with about half a teaspoon of goat cheese and two pistachios, and bake. It's dessert. To make it just a tad sweeter, I'll use goat cheese infused with honey.

  • Figgy flatbread—I always love a good flatbread. I like to start with a plain Flatout wrap and layer on thin slices of figs, brie, and caramelized onion. It's always an option to add some sort of nuts, bacon, or prosciutto.

  • Rosemary fig skewers—Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, and I came across a savory fig recipe that uses rosemary braches as skewers! I would have never thought of that. It involves whipping up a quick marinade of olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a dash of salt, minced garlic, and finely chopped rosemary. Pour it over a few figs, gently slide them onto the rosemary branches, and bake.

I hope that you can enjoy some fresh figs before they're gone for the season, and if you have some scrumptious recipes, please share!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

According to, evanescent means "passing out of sight; fading away; vanishing" as well as "ephemeral or transitory." sites that the word is derived from the Latin word evanescere, meaning "to evaporate" or "to vanish." The word vanish in English also comes from the same Latin root.

When I think about evanescence, I mostly think of experiencing it through my sense of sight. I think about how fireworks flash so brightly, then fade away. Or smoke dissipating. Or fog. A few years ago I went on a trip to southern New Mexico over New Years, and there had just been a snowstorm. Over a foot of snow covered the ground, and as we drove for a few hours through mountains and valleys, we passed through thick pockets of fog. When the fog cleared, we'd be surprised by the rocky ridges that were revealed and how close they were to us.

Sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings can fade just as easily as things can vanish from sight. As the first few weeks of September pass, summer is evanescent, and we can notice the changes through all of our senses. The heat and humidity slowly dissipate. The sweet smells and bright colors of blooming flowers and trees fade away. The buzz of cicadas in the evenings has nearly disappeared already. As the season changes to fall, new elements will unfold, ready for our senses to soak them in.

What awe-inspiring examples of evanescence have you experienced?

For the past 7 weeks the Sensory Word series has featured escent or esence-ended words that describe unique sensory experiences or abilities. If you have any suggestions for words that can keep this mini-series going, pass them along.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Farmers Markets from A to Z

"The florist's stall was a riot of bright color, and the fruit and vegetables were piled high in perfect pyramids."

For me there are few things that feel more like summer than farmers markets. The above line came from a book I started this past weekend. In Cooking for Picasso, 17-year-old Ondine prepares meals for the mysterious artist who has secretly come to hide out in a small seaside town in the Côte d'Azur in the off-season in order to concentrate on his work. I'm only a few chapters in, and the pages are filled with descriptions of fantasy-worthy French food. The French are known for preparing food that is in season, and Ondine visits a market regularly to buy supplies for her family's café. I loved the vibrancy and excitement captured in the line above.

Farmers markets are a whirlwind for the senses—sights, sounds, scents, flavors, textures, colors all swirling around you from every direction. I love the shapes of the smooth produce piled high, the bright-hued patterns, row after row. The opportunity to touch and carefully inspect before you buy. The samples. The sizzling of breakfast sandwiches. The smell of fresh-baked breads and treats. This time of year I go to at least two markets a week.

As a way to celebrate the unofficial last weekend of summer, I created an A to Z list of my farmers market favorites. 

All natural, vegan, handcrafted soap by SeedGeeks
Blackberry goat cheese ice pops by Whisk
Diamonds, as in black diamond watermelons, and dryer balls made of alpaca wool
Edible flowers
Fresh figs - I had never bought figs before this summer, but I quickly became obsessed. I'd slice them in half, stuff them with goat cheese and pistachios, and bake. Or, I layered thin slices on a flatbread with brie and caramelized onion.

Grandma's Nuts - The Hawaiian Blend with dried pineapple and macadamia nuts goes great on salad with a tangy vinaigrette.

Iced tea
Jams and jellies
Kitchen Kulture - This is the booth with sizzling breakfast sandwiches made from local eggs. They also sell a variety of other seasonal items like strawberry tamarind vinaigrette.

Lime peppercorn shrub - I know I've mentioned them on the blog before, but I just can't get enough of the cocktail shrubs by Heirloom Bottling Co.
Moon and stars watermelons - This heirloom variety is nearly black with tiny flecks of yellow.
Nests - One morning at the farmers market I suddenly heard high-pitched cheeping. I looked up and discovered a nest with 3 baby birds perched on a tree branch only a foot above my head. I think they must have woken up when they smelled the breakfast sandwiches.
Orange watermelons - Did you know there are watermelons that aren't pink on the inside? Did you know watermelons are my favorite food? You probably should have guessed by now.
Peacock feathers
Quail eggs - I can't say that I've ever bought them (or the peacock feathers), but it's impressive to see such a wide variety of eggs available.
Ripe everything

Sunflowers, snapdragons, and succulents
Tomatoes, tomatillos, tube beets, and Tamale Man
Unique finds like clothing and clutches by Beautiful Mexicana

Vibrant vegetables of every variety
Watermelon radishes (did you think I would say watermelons again?)
eXquisite berries and peaches
Yellow watermelons

Farmers market season is far from over. Though the watermelons won't be around much longer, different crops are coming into season, and I'm looking forward to spending fall at the market as well. What are some of your favorite finds?