Friday, September 19, 2008

Simple Supper: Country Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Fried Polenta

Doesn't get much simpler than this - - a perfect weeknight fall meal with all of the comforts of 'home cooking'! Yes, this recipe involves frying and sausage, so it might not want to be a weekly staple. But it's a great break from grilled chicken!

My grandparents had come back for the Kutztown Market with some fabulous locally-produced sausage; so we tried this Italianized take on classic sausage with peppers. Enjoy!

Country Sausage with Peppers & Onions over Fried Polenta

Cook one package of instant polenta as directed. Pour polenta into 2 mini-loaf pans, top with shredded cheddar cheese and refrigerate until firm.

In a large frying pan, place 1 lb. of fresh sausage, one sweet onion (cut into slices) and one red pepper (cut into strips). Add a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, two minced cloves of garlic, 1 tbps. dried basil and 1 tbsp. dried oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over high heat until sausage is cooked through. If it looks the sausage is starting to dry out, add a little bit of water to the pan.

In a separate sauce pan, heat up jarred or previously prepared tomato sauce (we're putting up a recipe for homemade sauce, soon!)

In a separate small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Slice chilled polenta in 1/2" slices and fry until both sides are golden brown. Place three pieces of polenta on a plate.

Slice sausage into 4" strips. Place one strip of sausage overtop the polenta. Add sauteed peppers and onions. Spoon prepared sauce on top.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Butterfly hunting in our tiny backyard...

So, although Petticoats Advance is a family-run farm, my husband and I actually just purchased and live in an 1880's era rowhouse in Baltimore City. We're one of the lucky ones - - we have a HUGE backyard for a city property AND a garage. :) We just finished re-seeding the grass and planting a new flower bed and are planning on mulching everything this weekend. (If you can't tell, we're trying to get ready for our open house in a few weeks!). Most of the perennial plants are new and we're hoping they'll 'weather the winter' and fill in next spring. I thought I'd share pictures as the backyard starts to evolve. :)

Our flower-filled backyard is one of our little respites in the 'big city' - - and another way we bring a little bit of the farm "home"... It's a great place for a cup of tea in the morning or a glass of wine with friends in the evening!

I actually work out of my home most of the week (as an educational technology specialist), so I caught these cute pics of our 'butterfly hunters' out back at lunchtime today. Thought I'd share!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DELICIOUS: Sweet-Potato, Apple and Walnut Muffins

Since the start of fall is just around the corner and I had picked up a 1/2 peck of locally grown apples, I was in the mood for Apple Muffins and looking for a new recipe. While stumbling around through sites online, I came across this recipe on Apparently, the recipe originated from the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission. The Lousiana Sweet Potato Commission has a whole host of recipes on their site, so I'm looking forward to investigating new ways to use the veggie (outside of baked sweet potato fries - - which are also fabulous...).

I'd never thought of using sweet potatoes in apple muffins and was intrigued - - especially since it cut the sugar content in half (and cutting down on mid-morning energy crashes because of high-sugar breakfast is always a good thing, right?). These were/are delicious!! Paired with fresh fruit, breakfast has been healthy - - and nutritious - - all week.

I used fresh sweet potatoes (boiled and mashed), although the recipe says you could use canned. I'm thinking this recipe might also be good with pumpkin? I like to heat the muffins before eating but my husband swears they are just as good room-temperature. I also froze a bunch to use later this fall... and will let you know how the frozen ones keep. Enjoy!!

Sweet Potato, Apple and Walnut Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If using fresh sweet potatoes, peel and slice 1 large sweet potato. Cut into cubes and place in sauce pan. Cover with water until approximately 1 inch above sweet potatoes. Boil until fork tender. Drain and mash.

In a bowl, sift together 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp. of baking soda and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix 3 tbps. of canola oil, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 1 15 oz. can or 1 cup of mashed sweet potatoes, and 1/2 cup of skim milk.

Slowly mix in flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Do not over mix.

Fold in 1 3/4 cups of chopped tart apples, 1/3 cup of walnuts and 1/3 cup of raisins. Spoon batter into paper-lined or baking spray-coated muffin tin. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes (or until done!).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fall Open House: The Invitation

Just thought we'd share the invitation we're using for our Napa-Inspired open house. Very simple - - scrapbook paper, a few computer-printed pictures and raffia. Enjoy! :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Easy Fall Entertaining: Napa-Inspired Open House

My husband and I moved into our "first new house" a few months ago, and are just starting to feel settled. To celebrate, we're throwing an afternoon open house on October 5th. We honeymooned in Napa earlier this summer, so it just felt natural to throw a Napa-inspired open house! Here are some of our party inspirations:

Since people will be coming and going all afternoon, we're planning to keep the decorations simple (the house is supposed to be the attraction, after all!) and the foods easy-to-manage. We love the idea of grilled pizza, bruschetta, meat and cheese plates, apple tartlets and soup "shots." Of course, we can't have a "Napa-inspired" party without wine, so we're planning to have a bunch of our favorite vintages on hand (and some microbrews for the beer-drinking crowd.) 

Stay tuned for pictures of what we come up with! If you have thoughts, ideas or recipes to share to help us plan, we'd love to hear them! 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inspired Cooking: Barbeque Grilled Chicken Salad

I don't know about you, but I think Thursdays are the toughest nights to motivate myself (or my husband) to cook. Walking in the door around 7 p.m., the last thing I want to do is kick off my heels and decide what's for dinner. It's not actually cooking the meal that's exhausting - - simply figuring out what to cook drains me faster than training for a marathon. And the "what" is usually determined by how fast (and easily) can it be done - - - hmmmm.... frozen pizza? Spaghetti with jar sauce? Cereal?

Not that we don't like pizza, spaghetti or cereal, but we've often found throwing a salad together is the healthiest - - and most satisfying - - choice. We team up: I chop and slice veggies, my husband grills/cooks/sautes the protein. 20-25 minutes later, dinner is on the table. Of course, the salad changes every time because it's dependent on whatever we have in the fridge. The grilled barbeque chicken salad below is one of our favorites!

On another note, we were (pleasantly?) surprised to see that shiitake mushrooms were featured as the "power food" for the latest addition of Body + Soul. It's funny because our last two entree recipes featured shitake mushrooms as key ingredients! According to the magazine, these mushrooms are high in fiber protein, as well as contain potassium and zinc. Apparently, shiitakes can help boost your immune system if you're fighting an infection or staving off a cold. Who'd have thought? If you haven't checked out the magazine, you should definitely take a look at their online website.

We especially liked's advice for breaking out of a food rut (and the recommendation seems timely given that Thursday is often too-tired-to-cook night!):

You don't have to be a trained gourmand to turn average, boring meals into inspiring creations. Just ask Sally Schneider, author of the "The Improvisational Cook." Her suggestion: "Tackle a few base recipes that lend themselves to many other things. For example, you can transform slow-roasted tomatoes into sauce, soup, jam, or a condiment." If you want to have a little more fun in the kitchen, don't be afraid to make a few mistakes. Plan an experimental night to take an easy recipe that your family already loves and change only one or two ingredients. When things go awry -- and they will --chalk it all up to the learning process. After all, Schneider says, there's always tomorrow night.

Guess we'll have to check out The Improvisational Chef! Here's to many more inspiring creations...

Grilled Barbeque Chicken Salad

Preheat your grill.

Lightly glaze all sides of 2 chicken breasts with honey barbeque sauce, Indian barbeque seasoning (if you have it!), pepper, worcestershire sauce, and garlic. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In large bowl, combine lettuce, diced celery, diced carrots, cooked corn, diced onion, shredded cheddar cheese, black olives, sliced tomatoes and coarsely chopped cilantro. Set aside.

In small bowl, combine honey barbeque sauce and light ranch dressing. Stir.

Grill chicken. Once done, slice into strips and place atop salad greens. Serve dressing on the side.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Searching for the Perfect Risotto...

My absolute favorite dish while I was studying in Italy was the Asparagus Risotto at a tiny little family-run restaurant near the Santo Sprito bridge - - which is somewhat mind boggling since asparagus is one of my least favorite veggies! The risotto was the ideal combination of creamy cheese, prefectly-cooked rice and yes, asparagi. In the five years since I returned home from Florence I've been searching for the dish. I've scoured restaurants and recipe books, magazines and online forums. Usually the recipes are intimidating, the restaurant versions sometimes pretentious or good-but-not-quite-it.

There have been many botched attempts (perhaps a result of a recipe with 600 steps?). Many times, the risotto stuck to the bottom of the pan like superglue. This usually resulted in some sort of crunchy fried rice thing and a call to a local pizza shop. I've had mushy rice that looked more like paste than anything you'd want to consider eating.... But tonight, I've finally gotten it! This recipe, adapted from, was delicious! I'm looking forward to experimenting with it more - - trying different herb combinations, various stocks and cheeses. And if I, the queen of risotto mishaps can do it, I'm pretty much convinced anyone can. I'd love to hear how it works out for you and the different combinations you come up with as well.

To balance the heartiness of the risotto, I added a side of fresh tomato salad. This weekend, we'll be posting our favorite tomato dishes, so check back for that recipe. It's a summertime staple in our family.

Mixed Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Rinse 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice. In medium sauce pan, cover rice with 1 1/2 cups of water. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed. Rinse rice with cold water and set aside. (Rice will be underdone).

In a large skilled, heat 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add 1 cup of diced onion and 2 cloves of garlic (minced). Saute over high heat until onions are caramel colored. Add 1 1/2 cups of mixed mushrooms (baby bella, shitake and oyster) and 10 spears of Asparagus (diced into 1/2 inch pieces). Toss in 1 tsp. of dried oregano, a pinch of kosher salt, pinch of pepper and 1 tsp. of dried basil. Cook about seven minutes.

Add boiled rice to the pot and stir. When rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1 1/2 cups of brown beef broth. Cook until beef stock is absorbed by rice and then taste the rice. If it's still not done, add more beef stock and cook a few more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese. Scoop into shallow bowls and enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Early September Sunday on the Farm

Since it's Sunday, we thought we'd take a break from blogging about cooking and entertaining and show you some of the things that are happening around the farm. We're starting to experiment with some new herbs - - including lemongrass and tri-color sage, which are shown below in our experimental beds. Our daylillies are blooming (we love the rustic orange color - perfect for early fall!) and the blue mountain tea that will go into our new blue mountain blends is thriving. The blue mint has a flavor quite unlike other mints and is a perfect compliment to iced black tea or on its own. We especially like brewing it in the winter months as a hot tea - - and hope you will, too!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Date Night! Braised Short Ribs with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic-Cilantro Mashed Potatoes and Strawberry-Rhubarb-Oatmeal Cobbler with Cinnamon Cream -- YUM!

So, it’s raining here. Not a little bit. A TON. Apparently there’s a tropical storm outside. It’s the kind of driving rain and howling wind that makes you just want to stay inside and curl up with a good book - - or experiment in the kitchen. It also made the decision to stay in on Saturday night an easy one. But rather than cook an old standby, we decided to experiment with fall flavors and cook a fabulous, cozy dinner for two. According to my husband, this is one of the best meals we’ve ever had.

Since it’s date night, the table had to get dressed up a bit. We have a rather large round table in the dining room, so to make it cozier I used placemats as a make-shift runner to separate the table in half. To finish off the tablescape, I added a few pink roses floating in footed dessert bowls atop cobalt blue appetizer plates and an assortment of candles. I used extra napkins as placemats and draped them off of the table, giving the feel of a tablecloth. A smattering of rose petals completed the look.

Now to the fun part - - dinner. Although the recipe for braised short ribs with wild mushrooms might look cumbersome, it only takes about 20 minutes to put together. The rest of the time the ribs are simmering on the stove and require relatively no attention. Now, the ribs take about 2 hours to cook so make sure to plan accordingly. This is not a meal that we could put together on a weeknight for obvious reasons, but it makes a fantastic date night meal. You could consider the short ribs a one pot meal; however, I liked to use the garlic-cilantro mashed potatoes to anchor the richness of the meat. The ribs require a cup and a half of zinfandel wine. We opened a bottle of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin to cook with --- and then had the rest with dinner.

And the pièce de ré·sis·tance? The strawberry-rhubarb oatmeal cobbler with cinnamon cream. SO delicious! And ridiculously easy. The oatmeal makes the cobbler have a heavier texture, so we liked the way the cinnamon cream balanced the dessert. It was absolutely to die for.

Braised Short Ribs with Wild Mushrooms

Season 2 lb. of short ribs with kosher salt and pepper to your liking. (We like a lot). In a large bowl, mix together 1.5 cups of Zinfandel, a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce, 1/4 cup of white sugar, 6 oz. canned diced tomatoes (with juice), 1 cup of beef broth, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), 1 tsp. of Chinese 5 Spice, 1 tsp. of dried thyme, and 1 tsp. dried basil.

Pour 2 tbsp. of canola oil into a 5 qt. cast iron pot or dutch oven and place over high heat. Once oil is hot, brown all sides of each short rib. (You may want to work in small batches, but I found it pretty easy to manipulate 2 lbs. of beef in a 5 qt. pan). After each side of meat is brown, remove all meat from the pot.

Add 1/2 cup of diced celery and 1 cup of diced onion to the 5 qt. pan. Allow the onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently!

Return beef to pot and pour in the wine mixture. Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce heat. Skim the fat from the surface and allow liquid to simmer a few minutes.

Add 1 package of fresh gourmet mushrooms (I like the mix variety pack, but choose your favorite!) to the pan. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and falling off the bone - - about two hours.

Once the beef has cooked, remove the meat from the pot and keep it warm. Turn up the heat to high and reduce the pot liquid until it’s thickened (about 10-12 minutes).

Place meat atop mashed potatoes and pour sauce on top. Bon Appetit!

Garlic-Cilantro Mashed Potatoes

Peel and cut 4 russet potatoes into large cubes. Place in sauce pan and fill with cold water until water reaches about an inch over top of the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste (again, we like to be generous with seasoning but usually go easy on the salt). Add 1 tbsp. of butter.
Bring the water to a boil and boil potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain.

In a large mixing bowl, put 1 cup of reduced fat sour cream, 1 tbsp. of butter, 1 tsp. of garlic powder, and 1 tsp. of dried cilantro. Add potatoes and beat with a mixer. Add milk a few tbsp. at a time until the potatoes achieve your desired consistency. (Mashed potato consistency is a personal choice :)). Enjoy!

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Oatmeal Cobbler with Cinnamon Cream

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup of white sugar and 4 tsp. cornstarch. Stir in the juice of one orange. Add 4 cups of diced fresh rhubarb. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat but keep the sauce hot.

In a mixing bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of flour, 3 tbsp. white sugar, 1.5 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 cup of quick cooking oats and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Whisk together one egg and 1/4 cup of milk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Mixture should have the consistency of thick morning oatmeal.

Stir 1 pint of strawberries (rinsed, halved with stems removed) into the rhubarb mixture. Pour hot fruit mixture into a 2 qt. baking dish. Spread oatmeal mixture on top - - you’ll want to cover the entire top of the baking dish, but you want a thin layer of oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle top with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place baking dish on top of a foil-covered cookie sheet. (Yes, the strawberry/rhubarb mix will spill over!) Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly (you’ll want to serve it warm -- but not right out of the oven).

In a large mixing bowl, place 3 tsp. of white sugar, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of vanilla and 1 small container of heavy whipping cream. Beat until creamy. Place a dollop on top of each cobbler serving.

(This recipe makes enough cobbler for 6-8 people - - so you'll have leftovers :) Makes a great late-night snack!)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fettuccini Alfredo - Delicious, Fast and Fresh with Baltimore Style

Last night was one of those too-tired-to-figure-out-dinner nights. One of those nights where it’s hard to take our own advice and slow down to enjoy a good meal and conversation. We hadn’t been to the grocery store in more than a week and the fridge, in all honesty, was looking a little sad. But rather than phone in a Chinese takeout order (which, admittedly was tempting!), we decided to be adventurous and see what we could put together with relative ease. A quick scan of the fridge revealed we had a few slices of leftover cooked ham, lemons and heavy cream. Thus, last night became Fettucini Alfredo night. I LOVE this take on a traditional Italian meal because it adds a Baltimore-style kick by throwing in some Old Bay, garlic, and onion powder. Enjoy!

And we’re excited to announce that Petticoat’s Advance is now on BAKESPACE! What a fun community of foodies! It’s easy to create your own online recipe box and find/print recipes from other fabulous food lovers. We’ll be uploading all of the recipes we share on Naturally Original to BAKESPACE. We encourage you to join, create a recipe box and don’t forget to add petticoatsadvance as a friend! :)

* * * * * * *
Fettuccine Alfredo - Baltimore Style

In large, heavy skillet, stir 1 cup heavy cream and 1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice to blend. Add 6 tbsp. unsalted butter and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the butter has melted, stir in one pinch of each of the following: freshly grated lemon zest, old bay, garlic powder, onion powder, and cinnamon. Add 1 cup of cooked diced ham, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Cook about another minute and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add 9 ounces fresh fettuccine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite. Drain. Put your sauce skillet back on stove over low heat. Add pasta, another 1/2 cup of cream, 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese to your sauce skillet. Toss over low heat until the sauce thickens, about two more minutes.

Serve immediately. Ahh --- Baltimore-ized Italian. And a fast, fresh dinner.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dinner Night and Farm Fresh Apple Crisp

My friends Lauren and Kelly were over for dinner night (potluck for the twenty-something crowd), and Kelly brought a fabulous apple crisp which has inspired me to share my favorite apple crisp recipe. With apple season just around the corner, this is an easy weeknight fall splurge. Kelly put together the dish after work and then baked it in the oven at my house while we were eating dinner. The recipe is at the end of the post.

In case you’re interested, the rest of our bring-what-you-have-in-the-fridge dinner night menu included grilled barbeque chicken breasts with oven-baked herbed fries, mixed green salad with raspberry vinaigrette and a 2007 bottle of Liguiria-region Pinot Grigio from the bargain wine shelf at Bin 604 - - - couldn’t have planned it better if we tried! We topped the night off with a cup of Roobois Bourbon Tea, a red loose leaf tea that I had picked up from Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter 2 while my husband and I were in Manhattan over the weekend. Another fabulous find and favorite! We're currently scoping out tea houses because we're creating new herbal tea blends on the farm - - so we'd love to have suggestions for places to visit.

Oh - - and creating ambiance for dinner night? It involved doing nothing. Simply moved a vase of flowers that had been sitting on my kitchen counter all week to the table and plugged in an iPod with all our favorite mixes. :)

All of us at Petticoat’s Advance are pretty intrigued by Bin 604’s “Girls on Grapes” - - a ladies-only wine club and online community. Membership starts at $25, which gives you a 15% discount on wine, exclusive invitations to tastings, an official “Girls who Swirl” t-shirt AND (the best part) a portion of your membership goes to support The Caroline Center. The Caroline Center is dedicated to helping unemployed and underemployed women find work in a career with potential for growth and advancement, thus creating a better future for themselves and their families. What a fabulous cause! Regardless of whether or not you sign up for the membership, a different grape is featured each month with notes on the grape and suggested selections. September features wines from Spain - - and the price is right! Selected wines range from $12.99 to $27.00. There’s a great archive of wine notes from other months (which dates back to 2004), too. A GREAT reference.

* * * * * *
Farm Fresh Apple Crisp
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8” square pan with shortening, butter or cooking spray. In a large bowl, peel and slice 4 firm sweet and tart apples (I like granny smith or pink lady). Toss apples in 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Spread evenly in bottom of prepared pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup of quick cooking oats, 1/3 cup of butter, 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. Mix well and sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

** Notes, images from this post from and

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Champagne Tuesday.... or Wednesday...

You have to admit, throw a bit of bubbly into an otherwise-routine night and suddenly your ordinary becomes extraordinary. (Tall flute glasses just seem to make people smile....) And it doesn’t take much to glitz up an evening - - a few lunchtime calls to friends, drive-by at the grocery store and quick stop at the wine emporium or liquor store....

Such was the case last Tuesday. Work had been chaotic and friends neglected. So a few calls and an intimate impromptu dessert/cocktail party emerged. The get-together was set to start at 8, which gave my husband just enough time to swing by the grocery store to pick up fresh berries, oranges and a store-bought angel food cake on the way home from work (he passes the grocery store so it’s only fair). I already had a bottle of our favorite go-to sparkling wine: Domaine Chandon Extra Dry Riche. We found it on our honeymoon in Napa (more to come on planning a trip to Napa this fall!). An hour in the fridge was all it needed.

There was no time for an all-out meal and quite frankly, no need for it. Nor was there any need for a smorgasbord of desserts, just one simple crowd pleaser. A favorite throw-together dessert? Berries a-la-Italia. It’s ridiculously quick and simple - - and always impresses. Simply rinse and slice a variety of berries (we like strawberries and blueberries). Toss with freshly squeezed orange juice or lemon (just one orange or one lemon) and a packet of your favorite no cal sweetener or sugar. Doesn’t get much easier than that. It’s fabulous on its own or over top angel food cake. And on Tuesday, who has time to bake? Store-bought angel food cake is usually great and easy on the budget.

Last but not least, ambiance is everything. Admittedly, an impromptu Champagne Tuesday doesn’t give one too much time to decorate. But we pulled together a quick “counterscape” (like a tablescape - - only you use your kitchen counter) with fresh branches from the crepe myrtle tree in the backyard, candles and a few napkins (setting the table would be too formal -- and all guests eventually end up in the living room or kitchen anyway, right?). This was a great way to pull off a Napa-meets Italy-meets Boho mix. The blue flutes helped create a relaxed chic vibe. We jazzed up plain tealight candle holders by placing them on top of intricate antique glasses.

And if you’re more of a mixed-drink fan and don’t like your Champagne straight, there are many fabulous ways to dress it up. My favorite way? Bellinis - Champagne or sparkling white wine mixed with fruit juice. No fresh juice in the house? Throw a little peach schnapps and peach slices into a glass of champagne. Fresh blueberries are great, too.

If you like the antique glasses (aren't they fantastic?) or funky purple cracked vase, let us know! They’ll soon be for sale at our online “Chic Seconds” store!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Welcome to Naturally Original!

Ok, admit it. Life is crazy. It’s tough to juggle family, friends, work, a social life, traveling, household projects, kids (if you have them), and stay sane while trying to show everyone that you care and are really trying to make an effort while also making time for yourself. Palm pilots and iPhones have propelled us into a tailspin where if it doesn’t make it on the digital calender, it isn’t happening. And somehow, scheduling “me time” between 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. just deflates the anticipated outcome like a pin prick to a balloon. How can you really unwind when you know the clock is ticking?

So we’re not suggesting anything revolutionary here - - just that we all slow down and take a breath. Not slow to a snail’s pace or stall so long we revert back to a ‘simpler time and simpler place.’ Quite frankly, the world would spin madly on without us. But we heartily endorse making time and space for a little bit of the ‘good life’ in our every day routines. Hence, Naturally Original is born.

Naturally Original is collection of thoughts, tips, ideas and reflections from the creative team at Petticoat’s Advance Farm, a family-run farm in northern Maryland. Although we’ve been growing things and have been following the “farm to table” mentality for years, we’ve just decided to start growing and selling herbs and perennial flowers to the public. We’ll be launching our web-based farmers marketplace later this fall - - but that’s not what this blog is about. It’s about enjoying the small pleasures in life.

Most of us have everyday 9-5 jobs (or are full time students) in addition to working with the farm, and many of those jobs or degree pursuits don’t necessarily qualify us as ‘experts’ on the topics and thoughts we’ll be blogging about. But that’s what makes us different - - we’re really real people. Living crazy hectic lives. We like to think we do it with a little bit of grace and glitz, but we’re also pretty darn average.

With a family full independent, opinionated and diverse women (there are eleven women in our family, ranging in ages from 11 to over 70), we read all of the latest fashion trends in Elle and Lucky but can’t help but wonder “what were they thinking” 75% of the time. We secretly covet the ideas in Martha Stewart Living and simultaneously curse her for saying everything is always so simple when clearly, it’s not (making your own paper looks cool but is messy and not truly something we have time for). We read the classics, We read classic trashy novels, too.

We’d like to be accomplished chefs and read Bon Appetit and Gourmet (and voraciously devour the Food Network and Bravo), but often don’t read the recipe careful enough and are surprised when the caramel ganache needs to be chilled overnight and the whole dessert ends up down the garbage disposal because we don’t have an overnight. So yes - - our weeknight dinners are often combinations and evolved versions of simple recipes and the occasional take-out. We’re often more adventurous on the weekends. And we have a collection of fabulous hand-me-down recipes that are always crowd pleasers but might send the healthy food extremists into a tizzy. There are just days when we require a little mac and cheese made with Velveeta instead of skim low calorie cheddar. Of course, the next day we’ll have an organic mixed green salad with beets and free range balsamic grilled chicken.

We love the decorating tips in Domino and Cottage Living although we think there needs to be some sort of compromise between the two (bohemian, traditional, cottage and contemporary can be mixed, right?). And we simply can’t ignore the good old fashioned advice in classic standbys like Better Homes and Gardens and Real Simple, even though we might resent the advice all the same. If we’re honest, we’re hot and cold about the Oprah show but sneak it in on the occasional day off from work. Her book club selections are usually pretty good reads.

Some of us have been married for 15-25+ or more years with children (some adults, some young). One of us has been married for more than 50 years, one of us is a newlywed and others of us are single (as in not-married, not necessarily not committed) in our twenties. We are a lawyer, hospital administrator, manager, antique dealer, IT professional, educator, retail associate, writer, soon-to-be pilot, and student. Some of us work one job, others balance two or three. Some balance part-time work with school. We are many different women - - just like all of you are.

This blog is meant to be fun, refreshingly honest, hopefully informative and help remind us to keep things in perspective. It’s not about throwing the dinner party that looks perfect - - it’s about throwing the party that entices conversation, looks beautiful, tastes great and doesn’t require Xanax or a 12 hour coma afterwards. It’s about cooking a fresh dinner for your family or friends that doesn’t necessitate days of planning, $700 at the grocery store or visiting twelve different stores for organic, obscure (but oh SO decadent!) ingredients. It’s about sprucing up a room without spending tons of cash or making it look liked a botched episode of Trading Spaces. It’s about planning a weekend getaway that reflects who you really are -- not a crazed race of “must sees” and “must dos.”

We have one single wish for this blog experience - - may our catharsis help you infuse a little bit of the ‘good life’ into your daily grind. And we don’t mean to be cliche when we say that every day has it’s occasions. We truly believe that every day has it’s moments. And, naturally, we should all enjoy them.