When I began The Glossary back in May, Johanna Lowe was one of the first woman that I interviewed. I had admired Johanna's work and was so delighted to learn more about her story. Lucky for me, she reached out shortly after and asked if we could collaborate on an event. I knew that she was in the process of building Parchment House, so I was absolutely delighted by this prospect. We met at The Robey in Chicago to start discussing options for the weekend and then I went up to Michigan to see the process of her renovation. We wanted this weekend to be relaxed, yet informative, creative, yet slow. As tickets sold, we decided to limit the space to keep the group small and intimate.
As the weekend arrived, we had 10 women signed up with five women staying in the house and five joining us for activities alone. This could not have been a more perfect group or number of ladies for the weekend. BUT GUESS WHAT... not everything always goes as planned. Our Friday night dinner went a little awry as Journeyman Distillery was jam packed and the kitchen was behind schedule so they weren't seating new parties for over an hour. We attempted to go elsewhere, but came back to toast with cocktails and wait for our meal. The following days were filled with rain. Not sprinkling rain or rain for an hour, but a powerful, downfall of rain for 24 hours. Our plans for "Woodfired Weekend" (a day of cooking pizza outside, chopping wood, eating by the river) quickly disappeared.
We did however keep our travel itinerary in tact for the day. We took a trip to Field & Florist, where co-owner Molly took us on a wet and sloshing tour of her flower farm. It was honestly pretty magical - standing in a flower field of autumnal colors as the clouds rolled by and the rain danced on the plants was something of dreams. We brought home a bundle of dahlias and persimmons to adorn Parchment House. We then took our wet umbrellas and boots back to the car to continue on to Granor Farm to meet with the farm chef, Abra Berens. I've admired Abra's work for some time, so being able to meet her and sense her passion for food was incredible. Again, we braved the rain to see how Granor Farm operates (wow, is this a beautifully designed farm!) With a relatively small team and a group of onsite interns, Granor grow amazing, seasonal produce that they disperse through their farm stand, CSA, and farm dinners (seriously, who wants to go with me??)
Since there wasn't even a hint of sun, styling food and taking photos didn't go as planned. With the sliver of light that peaked through the clouds (combined with Johanna's all white, window covered sunroom), we were able to get in a little shoot at least. Johanna led our guests through a live styling demonstration with photographer Jennifer Marx . They touched on rearranging the shot, client expectations, tethered shooting, post-production, and knowing in your gut when something is right.
While this was occurring, our pizza dough was proofing and the rain water was draining into the basement. Again, this weekend did not go perfectly, but no one cared. Everyone was so helpful and understanding. We all cooked, cleaned, arranged and rearranged together. At 7pm, just 24 hours after meeting, we all had a toast to our newfound friendship.
As I mentioned, the woodfired cooking aspect was not happening, so we sat in the kitchen, around Johanna's beautiful vintage island, drinking and cooking together. Pizza after pizza went into the oven. We ate for hours with cooking breaks in between (this might be my new favorite way of eating). Some of the pizza highlights were potato + chard + basil oil + gruyere, homemade tomato sauce + fresh mozzarella + basil oil, and red wine poached pear + camembert + rosemary. Yes, I will be making my own pizza at home now. We ended the night all eating out of the same cast iron apple crisp from Bang Bang Pie.
Sunday was slow, full of conversation and coffee. Johanna made soda bread, we walked down to the barn, looked at the nearly flooded river, and visited some women-owned shops in the area. When the time came for people to disperse, I wasn't relieved or exhausted, but sad that we all actually didn't live in a beautiful house together, always cooking and laughing.
I want to say thank you to all of the women that spent the weekend with us. Kat, Katie, Jennifer, Gretchen, Peggy, Melissa, Nicole, Christie, Lori, Elissa, Sarah, you are all wonderful. Johanna, thank you for sharing your home with us all, as well as your creativity and warmth. Molly and Abra, thank you for showing us your work and passions. What I took away from this weekend is that nothing has to go perfectly for friendships to form.