You were right about the peanut butter, Court.  Now that I’ve made my own, I’m never going back. 

homemade peanut butter | Blue Jean Gourmet

Now we can add “homemade peanut butter” to a list of ways you’ve made my life better for the fifteen-plus years since we became friends as the two least-naturally-mathematically-gifted students in Mrs. Stemmler’s AP Calculus class.  Though we’d gone to school together since middle school, it wasn’t until senior year that we saw the inside of each other’s houses for the first time, conducting epic study sessions fueled by plenty of Diet Coke.  We worked our asses off that year and got to know each other better in the process; then we made 4s on the AP, and you’ve been one of the most important people in my life ever since.

I wish everyone could see you the way that I do, which is I guess why I’m writing this.  What everyone surely sees, because it is impossible to miss, is how stunningly beautiful you are, a beauty enhanced by your humility and deep inner goodness.  But what I have been privileged to see and come to know about you is how rigorously you carry yourself, the richness of your inner life, your faith, your desire to learn continually and grow your heart.  Your passion for teaching and desire for justice, your willingness to be uncomfortable and listen to views that contradict yours—you cultivate these traits with such deliberateness and carry them with such grace. 

Would that everyone be as lucky as I am to have someone like you, who listens to me without judgment and so consistently offers me your love, compassion, honesty, and respect.  You have cheered me through every victory of the past fifteen years of my life, prayed with me through every worry, soothed my panic with on-the-fly parenting advice, and inspired me regularly by your example.  You also once made me go to two spin classes in the same day and can run a faster mile when you’re five months pregnant than I can on my best day.  That all might be annoying except that you manage to stay super down-to-earth, the kind of woman who brings a six-pack to dinner and plops onto the grass in ripped jeans. 

nish & court 2016

We don’t have a lot of occasions, culturally, to celebrate our friendships the way we do our other relationships, and that’s a shame, because if we’re lucky, our friends serve as our witnesses and our teachers, collectors of past memories and cheerleaders for what’s to come.  Having known us for so long, they can appreciate who we’ve become in a way that we sometimes ourselves miss.  And it’s worth honoring, I think, the work that we do to maintain these friendships – letters and emails and text messages and plane flights and the rare opportunity to get drinks together, sans children, scheduled-ridiculously-far-in-advance. 

Court, there’s a reason that The Eagles’ song “The Long Run” always makes me think of you.  Because all the debutantes in Houston—or anywhere else, for that matter—really couldn’t hold a candle to you.  I love you & I’m so grateful for your presence in my life.  And also for peanut butter.


If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s so stupid-easy that I almost couldn’t believe it.  This post from Green Kitchen Stories breaks it all down for you, but the shorthand of it is that I used my food processor, roasted peanuts from the bulk bin, and a little bit of salt.  It took me about ten minutes, and the resultant PB has stayed creamy for over a week in the fridge—no separation, no hard-as-a-rock texture.  Basically a revelation.  I recommend it.

While I’m making recommendations, allow me to point your attention to this strawberry ginger punch from a few years back; made it recently with gin, and it was very well received.  Perfect for your Memorial Day Weekend, perhaps?  And while you’re buying basil for the punch, go ahead and make some of these lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, too.  You’re welcome.



This little piece of the internet turned seven today.  Kids, man, they grow up so fast!


It’s so humbling for me to think about all of the things that have resulted from this blog, which I started at the urging of friends and family who thought it would be a great outlet for me as a writer; I was two years out of my MFA program and two years into teaching middle school English and I hadn’t been writing much beyond lesson plans.  That break was necessary in some ways, I think—it was also a period of mourning for my dad, who died in the middle of my two years of graduate school—but I don’t do very well when I’m not writing.  I don’t feel like myself.

This blog became a way for me to return to writing on my own terms, to puzzle out my voice and audience, and to wed myself to a regular writing commitment.  Little did I know that, through this outlet, I would also meet people who would become close friends in real life, connect with a whole community of amazing online readers, finish my first book, and start working on another.

Though this space has evolved over the last seven years in tone, approach, and even content, the core of it remains the same—an extension of me.  It’s changed as I’ve changed, and I feel so lucky that those of you out there reading have been willing to go along for the ride.

To celebrate, I’ve got a drink for you…I mean, have I got a drink for you.  My friend Greg introduced me to this one, a riff on a drink they serve at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin.  The original calls for rum and Domaine de Canton; Greg used bourbon and homemade ginger liqueur instead—the results are ridiculously drinkable and so, so gingery.  I served these to Jill & our dear friend Courtney, who’s visiting us right now, and they both quickly asked for seconds.  As you can see, I subbed in whisky from South Carolina for the bourbon, since Courtney had just gifted us a bottle and this seemed like the perfect reason to open it!  Therefore, Courtney is also responsible for coming up with a name for this cocktail, stolen from what she claims “just might be the best Willie Nelson song ever.”



Originally, I wasn’t planning to make my own homemade ginger liqueur, because that just sounds like something a crazy person does—sorry, Greg—but it turns out that the whole process only takes a few days, unlike other infusions, saves you a fair amount of money (as opposed to buying Canton outright), and yields an incredibly delicious end product that I plan to use in all kinds of drinks all summer.  In short, I recommend doing it, unless you already have a fancy bottle of Domaine de Canton on hand.


2 parts bourbon

2 parts ginger liqueur

1 part simple syrup*

1 part lime juice

ginger ale or ginger beer (we used the latter and it added extra ginger spiciness)

lime wheels, to garnish

Combine the above ingredients in a shaker over ice and shake vigorously, to cool everything down.  Pour into a pint glass or tall water glass (strain if you’re feeling fancy) and top with ginger ale/beer.  Garnish with a lime wheel and enjoy!

*I used the leftover orange syrup from this dessert, which really complemented the flavors of the ginger liqueur.