Ashley Dahlke: The Five Question Interview

Ashley Dahlke is known around here as The Cookie Farmer. Her stunning cakes and luscious cookies have become kinda famous and sought after for special occasions and community events. She is a trained pastry chef and lives near Elgin with her husband and a farm full of pigs, goats, chickens, and vegetable gardens.

Her latest venture, a 2nd Saturday Pop-Up Bakery, has been put on hold until restrictions on public congregating and flour shortages ease up.

Until you can get your hands on one of her cookies, follow her Instagram for daily dose of life on her small farm.

1. Why did you move to the Bastrop area? 

I moved to the Bastrop area with my husband to have some space. We had first moved from Alaska to Round Rock and couldn’t handle being on top of everyone else! We were able to find some land and start our little homestead in Bastrop County. 

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

The fact that there is so much more to learn and experience compels me to spend my time creating. There is a learning experience in everything and if you can create something beautiful at the same time that’s just a bonus! 

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

1.Having a sense of community is invaluable.

2. Pottery! (during my baking hiatus)

3. How to start a hobby farm and just how many buckets and hoses you need. 

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

Currently making gluten free almond chocolate chip cookies, as I type actually. Reading Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Listening to Fair Folk podcast by Danica Child.

5. Cake or Pie?

Cake forever!! 

The Cookie Farmer on Instagram @ashley_dahlke

N is for Neville Who Died of Ennui

Lately, I’ve been thinking of my favorite page in The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Edward Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest, and Dr. Seuss’s similar tale of a puzzling and disruptive visitor, The Cat in the Hat, seem like a timely read these days.

While scrolling through my saved articles I found this article from The Atlantic I’d saved about a biography of Edward Gorey, Mark Dery’s Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey.

The article claims that Wes Anderson, Lemony Snickets, and even Morrissey have Gorey to thank for their sweet, dark, and humorous language and imagery.

This would explain my affection for all of the above.

You can buy this book on Amazon or why not order online from your local, or not so local independent book store? Like Powell’s or Book People

P.S. Check out some Wes Anderson color palettes and dive into some seriously cool tunes.

Home is Where the Art Is

Proving you can find inspiration at home, the always creative Dot Speyer Rocha has begun a series of Instagram posts where she is transforming her adorable daughter Birdie into the subjects of famous paintings.

It seems using whatever we have on hand these days is as applicable in art as it is in the kitchen. Dot adorns Birdie with a petticoat, a bunch of beets, and an extension cord to recreate Frida Kahlo’s 1939 painting The Two Fridas.

I know you won’t want to miss any of these remarkable recreations so be sure to follow @dotasinpolka on Instagram.

P.S. If Dot’s name seems familiar I bet Dot’s Blue Plate Specials will ring a bell.

Patience Blythe: The Five Question Interview

Patience Blythe is a metalworker, teacher, gardener, and writer. She lives in Elgin in a funky older home with her husband Cody, pup Oscar, and their cats Nakano and Tomoe.

She is an avid gardener and has recently become a beekeeper. Be sure to check out her gardening videos on her IGTV channel.

1. Why did you move to Elgin? 

We moved from Dripping Springs. It is a funny story. We had planned to take over a friend’s farm in Garfield while she went to France, but the deal didn’t work just at the last moment. We had made a lot of plans and concocted a lot of ideas, and were sorta ‘what now?’ about everything. We couldn’t find a place we liked in Dripping and so Cody said to me; “why don’t we buy a house?”. I laughed at him and said, “sure…let’s do that!”. A few days later, I said, “what about that house in Elgin?” as I had seen our house pop up for the last year. He said Elgin was too far and I said “why don’t we just go and look?”. Neither of us had ever been to Elgin, except for to pass through on 290. So we came to drive by the house and get some bbq at Southside. The rest is history; we loved the town, loved the house, somehow qualified to buy it, and three months later, moved here. That was February 2018. Soon I transferred to Elgin Middle School and Cody was hired by the district as well. And here we are! 

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

I feel compelled to create each day. Otherwise, I get antsy and, frankly, sad. I find that creativity keeps the Big Sad away. I am quite a nervous person and find that when my hands are busy, I am happier and more relaxed. I also love seeing, with the passage of time and attention to creativity, that hand-eye coordination grows and the work is better, more alive, more fun, more me. I am also compelled by the way we “write” our lives down in the work we make. 

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

1) That time passes by very quickly and you would do well to find a way to remember things a bit more concretely, so that memories can be called up with the feelings attached

2) My friends are the most important piece of my life 

3) We humans have far more in common, regardless of where we are on the physical planet, than we could ever be different 

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

1) Making – 2 rings, a bracelet, a dress and a quilt 

2) Reading – Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (it’s AMAZING and so relevant, being that it was written in 1995) 

3) Watching – Twin Peaks and the West Wing and also Beginners (tonight)

4) Listening to – various Spotify playlists but a lot of Pink Floyd and Kurt Vile

5. Cake or Pie?

BOTH!!! But I really love making pies the most. I like eating chocolate cakes and lemon ones, too.
Instagram @blythestudio

Whistle and Go Fishing in the Heavens

My sister and I landed in sunny Southern California on Memorial Day weekend 1981 (I was 16, Kelly was 13) to live with our father and his family in an idyllic town in nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Our father was a musician and introduced me to the music of Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt, Bill Monroe… and John Prine.

John Prine was revered by my father and his musician friends. “Fish and Whistle” and “Hello in There” were two songs that made their set list on a regular basis.

John Prine’s Bruised Orange was a constant on our turntable. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think I may have been the only 16-year-old in Riverside county blasting Court & Spark, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, and of course, Bruised Orange when I was home by myself.

I have a hunch I won’t be the only one blasting these songs today.

And bet I won’t be the only in my family thinking about our father.

RIP John Prine

Martha Cox: The Five Question Interview

Martha is a weaver and loves learning and exploring new colors and patterns, so most of her hand woven items are one of a kind.

She’s been playing with fabric since her mom taught her how to sew as a kid. She watched her mother explore embroidery, crochet, rug hooking, decoupage, and just about anything else people were doing in the 1970’s.

She also sews, practices aikido, and rescues cats.

1. Why did you move to Elgin? 

We moved to Elgin to be closer to my husband’s children and their mom. They eventually moved away, but we love it here, so we stayed. 

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

Part of it is that I grew up watching my mom make things in her spare time and it was always part of life in our house. Also, I had analytical jobs my whole life and I love the balance I get from making a product.

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

I really CAN learn some Spanish (slowly!) even if my pronunciation is terrible. I’m happiest if I learn a little bit and move a little bit every single day. That was a hard one because I think i can take time off, but I always regret it if I do. Curating works better for me than collecting stuff.

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

Watching: Midnight Diner- Tokyo Stories on Netflix. Twenty-minute snippets of delight and totally worth the effort of subtitles. Reading: a couple books about aikido and de-escalating conflict. Listening: The Moth podcast. Fabulous true stories told without notes. It’s my all-time favorite podcast. Making: sourdough bread!

5. Cake or Pie?


Instagram @luckyxenadesigns

Pantry Raid

I was bragging a couple weeks ago about my superhero power in this blog post so I thought I’d better demonstrate said powers.

This recipe is in heavy rotation March thru September at Chez Vee*. It’s simple, fresh, protein packed and bright. The ingredients are flexible, not only to your preferences, but to what you have on hand.

Also, I guess this is really two very simple recipes.

Tuna & Chickpea Salad

5 oz chunk white albacore tuna (chunky is best, but any tuna will work)
15 oz can chick peas or cannellini beans (drained)
1/2 of a red onion (chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons (bottled is fine)
Chopped Parsley (curly or flat-leaf, also fresh arugula or spinach are great)
Salt & Pepper


I a bowl, mix the chick peas, tuna, red onion and parsley with a glug or two of extra virgin olive oil and as much of the lemon juice your heart desires. Salt and pepper to taste. If serving with a salad with feta, you may want to go easy on the salt.

Serve with toasted pita, naan, flatbread, crackers, or whatever you have on hand. Or nothing, if you’re into that kinda thing,

This salad is also great as a pasta salad… just add cooked pasta (orecchiette and cavatappi are perfect) and adjust oil, lemon and seasoning. Arugula and spinach make this version even better.

Greek Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber (peeled, I sometimes leave a little stripe of skin, and sometimes scoop out seeds)
Fresh tomatoes (any kind, just sliced close to size of cucumber if not cherry)
1/4 red onion (chopped)
feta cheese (crumbled or chunks, cotija will work too)
chopped parsley (see above)


Toss all of this lightly in a bowl with either store bought greek dressing or a homemade vinaigrette. This can be as simple as some extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice shaken in a jar.

Rule of thumb 1:4 1 part vinegar; 3-4 parts oil

You may add fresh or dried herbs and maybe a smidgen of dijon mustard. You just want it to taste bright.

Note: I’d like to make it clear that while the Greek dressing pictured above is just fine, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing is better… but requires a 42 mile round trip. Full disclosure, I usually use store bought dressing for this salad.


My friend Rachel gave me a Zyliss Herb Mill for a wedding gift and I love using it for this recipe because just hold it over the bowl, cram leaves and stems into the little hooper, give it a few cranks and it comes out just perfect for this, or for a gremolata or chimichurri. I’m not a fan of one hit wonders in the kitchen, but this tool is a favorite.

Note: Zyliss does not make this model fashioned after a french mouli anymore, but there are similar new products out there.

Norpro Deluxe Garden Parsley Chive Herb Mill 
Stainless Steel Herb Mill

Or you can treat yourself and find a beautiful vintage Mouli Parsmint on eBay or Etsy.

* Chez Vee is the nickname we gave our home. We’re dorks.

Brooke Gaar-Bever: The Five Question Interview

Brooke Gaar-Bever is the owner, creator of OtherPeoplesFamily! She collects found photos in antique shops, flea markets, etc. and turns them into black and white watercolor images and portraits. Her paintings are inspired by these photos, as well as people and places which interest her. She lives with a disability called hEDS and uses painting as a form of physical therapy.

Brooke lives in Taylor with her husband Nathan, and a pack of sweet senior dogs.

1. Why did you move to Taylor? 

We moved to Taylor in 2013 because of our love of 100+ year old houses. Taylor had quite a few to choose from in our price range, so it was a good fit.  

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

I’ve always had a love of museums and the visual arts. In college I studied art history and restoration and was classically trained as an art conservator. Due to a medical condition I can no longer perform art restoration, but I started to paint 5 years ago as a form of physical therapy. My inspiration comes from found photos, books, and film. My favorite recent series is of Appalachian serpent handlers.

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

In the past five years, I learned that family doesn’t have to be blood-related, it’s okay to take time for myself, and I don’t always have to be in control, (still working on this one!).

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

I read one book a week and have a different theme each month. My current topic is injustice within the criminal justice system. This week, I’m reading the autobiography Solitary by Albert Woodfox, who spent 40 years in solitary confinement. 

5. Cake or Pie?

I really like cake, but I LOVE homemade vegan cherry pie!

Instagram @otherpeoplesfamily

Don’t Adjust Your Screen


I am gobsmacked that all this color! This amazing home in the Netherlands belongs to Kim and her family. As you can see I had a hard time choosing which images to use in this post, so grabbed a sampling from her Instagram.

Apparently she just started her blog on March 15th, but has been posting on Instagram for a couple years. Follow her feed and it’s guaranteed to brighten your days… even the gloomiest of them.