Hot coffee on a gray morning. The birds start twittering here at approximately 3:30am. I know this because yesterday morning I bolted out of bed at 2am (for no reason I can conjure yet) and spent the early hours on the sofa, with tea and my ripple afghan and The Secret Life of Bees. It's like my brain, bless it, will just not stop! I settled in to a very long day of painting after that, with a jam-making break sometime yesterday afternoon. It was totally the most relaxing thing in the universe. Crushed strawberries boiling on the stovetop with honey and ribbons of basil. Steam from the waterbath condensing on the kitchen windows, already misty from the outer bands of a brooding afternoon thunderstorm. I think just saying the word waterbath has a tranquilizing effect. It's so soothing.
On Sunday, my friend Hannah and I drove 90 miles south of here to Valley Home Farm for strawberry picking. I always forget how thrilling the Tennessee countryside is...it's lush and hilly, and the roads wind through it like corkscrews. You have to drive slowly or you feel like you're on a roller coaster. Valley Home Farm is a dream. It's exactly what you'd want a berry-picking farm in rural Tennessee to look like...a sprawling, white plantation home covered in tangly roses, a little farm store filled with honey popsicles and strawberry cakes, and rows of berry plants that stretch to the horizon. Oh, and bees and chickens too! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better.
Hannah made the most scrumptious cupcakes I've ever tasted...browned-butter strawberry cake with basil ricotta FROSTING! I think she's going to post the recipe tomorrow on her blog. I LOVE strawberry and basil together. Hannah is so talented. Yum.