this month, this work

light on the desk

No matter what we do, there is good food and light. It’s how we work.

This past month, however, while we have been running the Kickstarter to bring the Gluten-Free Girl Flour Blends to market, the emphasis has been on the word work. We’ve had the computers on, the pens uncapped, the notebooks filled with scrawled ideas and snippets of blog posts and updates for Facebook. Good food has fueled us. We’ve been lifting our heads only to look up, notice the light, and then get back to work.

Kickstarter- how many people we need

The next time you see a friend post a Kickstarter link on Facebook? Do your friend a favor and give some money. Until you have run a Kickstarter, you have no idea how anxious your friend probably is, nearly every moment of the day.

There has been little sleep the past few weeks. Every few moments, we all looked up at this piece of paper taped to the window: “We need at least $2800.37 a day to make it. That’s an average of $62 per person. We need at least 1280 people to pledge to reach our goal.” (After a couple of weeks, we looked at the total and changed the amount we needed every day to $2307.67.) Every night I woke up between 3 and 4 am, wondering how we could encourage another 45 people to pledge an average of $63 the next day. Should we offer to make them pie? Should we send cookies? How many times should I put up an update on Twitter before I annoyed thousands of people by talking about it again?

We took this on voluntarily. I’m not really complaining. If you dream bigger than you ever have in your life, and have the chutzpah to believe you can raise nearly $80,000 in 4 weeks, all on the good will of people on the internet? Well, hard work is the only way. We can sleep in November.

claire in the studio_

Before I go much further, I have to tell you about this incredible woman, the third part of the we I’m writing about here. This is our right-hand woman, partner-in-crime on the Kickstarter, and now one of our favorite people in the world, Claire Moncrief. Without her work and encouragement, we would be falling down useless in this enormous work.

Claire arrived in our lives about 18 months ago, a complete surprise, the way everything that matters in my life has arrived. Last May, when Danny and Lu and I were in New York for book tour, I put up a photo of a moment of street life on 5th Avenue on Instagram. Someone left a comment saying “I want to meet you!” Okay, that happens quite a bit. But Claire followed up with an email. She was a newly diagnosed celiac, a big fan of ours, and a producer for CBS. Sure we can meet, I wrote to her. I walked to a coffee shop to meet her and stopped to take a photograph of a quote from Katherine Anne Porter scrawled on a chalkboard out front: “Miracles are instantaneous, they cannot be summoned, but come of themselves, usually at unlikely moments and to those who least expect them.” I walked inside and met Claire. Immediately, inexplicably, she felt like a sister to me. We were connected.

(About a month ago, I stumbled on that post again, more than a year later, with Claire inextricably a part of our lives now. When I sent it to Claire, she texted me immediately. “Look at the photo of the quote again.” I looked and looked but I didn’t see anything. “Look behind the signboard,” she wrote me. And then I saw it. In the back of the photo, walking toward me, is Claire, in her green shirt and black sweater. There she was, unlikely and unexpected. Miracles are instantaneous, indeed.)

Life took its twists and turns. Danny and I promoted our book, taught in Italy, came back to Vashon to start the next cookbook. And we looked for our second kiddo. Claire stepped away from her work as a television producer, even though she loved it, because she realized she could not heal fully from her celiac in that frenetic life. We talked and talked, wrote emails, encouraged each other, and tried to figure out how we could work together someday. Danny and I made plans for possible new websites and cookbooks but mostly we coalesced our ideas for bringing our flour blends to market. Claire decided to leave New York for awhile, to heal more fully. And since her family lives in the Pacific Northwest, she decided to work here for awhile. And, to collaborate with us.

Everything, everything in our lives has changed for the better because Claire is here. She’s a fierce woman and funny as hell. I can’t imagine my work days without her throaty surprised laugh. Claire has strong ideas and she’s unafraid to act on them. Danny and I have our own talents, but we’ve needed someone to help us aim for our goals with more organized clarity. And for years we have needed a colleague who believes in our work and what we want to give to the world deeply enough to call us on our crap and suggest better ways.

Claire has accompanied us on this path we’ve been taking, trying to build a sound business and a community on Kickstarter. Her years of experience covering hurricanes, political conventions, breaking news stories, and the top stories of the day make her swift of mind and talented at saying no when it’s necessary. She’s a powerful force of a woman and colleague. And we cannot find the words to say how grateful we are to have her in our lives.

desmond jumping_

Also, this little guy has given us so much joy the last seven months that we’re happy wandering through stress-induced sleep deprivation along with his six-month sleep regression. Look at that smile while he dances to early Michael Jackson songs. Desmond, you’re one of the biggest reasons we’ve made it through this month.

wide shot of the studio_

All day long, while Lucy is at school, Claire and I have stood at the big white door we propped up on a pile of cookbooks or at the 24-foot-long douglas fir dining table we had built for the space. We pace around, talking with Danny as he cooks and cleans, the three of us working and planning new ideas and following through on details.

I’ve started calling us the tripod. Without one of us legs, the whole thing falls down.

Danny keeps us fed throughout this. He listens. And then he throws in the pithiest idea of the day as he stands at the stove and prepares another meal.

This is our kitchen studio, a 900-square foot space we rent on a 12-acre-farm on Vashon. We adore our landlords, who run a pastured pork and grass-fed beef meat company. They come in and out of the studio, asking how we’re doing, cheering us on, and wondering what is for lunch. This is our professional test kitchen, as well as my writing space, Desmond’s jumping place, and the best office I’ve ever worked in.

This isn’t a bad place to spend a stressful work month.

oven in the studio

We’re so grateful to KitchenAid, who last year asked if they could send us appliances for our new kitchen studio. We jumped at the chance, of course. But more importantly, we have been using this oven and stove for nearly a year, baking every single recipe for our new cookbook in it, sautéing salmon, simmering soup, and making sauces. This oven has seen daily hard duty, cooking and baking and making great food. And I’ve never loved an oven as much as I have loved this one. There’s a lot of good food karma in this appliance.

always dishes to do

And since we never, ever stop doing dishes at the studio, we are especially grateful for this dishwasher. It is the quietest dishwasher I’ve ever encountered, with a silverware rack on top that leaves plenty of room for the stockpots and pie pans and casserole dishes we seem to always be washing. We would never have made it through this month without this workspace.

Danny making lunch

Even though we’ve been telling you about the flour blends we’re trying to bring to market, and thus showcasing baked goods on our Instagram feed and Facebook page every day for the last month, we have been eating as many vegetables as we can this month. I love baking. I love the creative process, the feeling of pie dough on my hands, and the joy in people’s faces when they see I have made them pumpkin bread or chocolate chip cookies. But let’s be honest — vegetables and good protein should still be the majority of our diet.

Thank you, Danny, for making us such gorgeous lunches every day.

Danny eating while looking at app

Danny and I both believe that it’s vital to put down the phones, turn off the work, and eat together in companionship, free of technology. But not this past month. All of October, Danny and Claire and I have sat at the big long table, in as much light as we could find, eating something great, and working working working. (That’s the Kickstarter app on Danny’s phone.)

I’m looking forward to a quiet lunch soon.

But we have one full day left on our Kickstarter. Tomorrow, we’ll be at the studio, working working working, eating Danny’s food, and coming up with new ideas for how to remind you about what we’re doing and why we’d like your support.

I’ll never forget this month. Thank you to every one of you who have pledged so far. We can’t wait to work until the very end.

And then we’re going to celebrate by sleeping.