Monday, July 11, 2016

Unearthed, a Memoir #sponsored #review #UnearthedParty

As part of The Book Club Cookbook I was also able to participate in the Unearthed Blog Party. The book, Unearthed : Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden was released to the public this month and to celebrate myself and several other bloggers are reviewing the book and sharing recipes that came from the book, the author or were inspired by the book.

Unearthed : Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen (Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, July 5, 2016) is a memoir about Alexandra finding herself and her family's history through the restoration of a large garden.  The memoir begins with the death of Alexandra's father. She lives in a different city from her family and feels disconnected from her parents who immigrated from Ukraine. They would be considered "old school" and didn't talk much about their past lives in Ukraine.  

Shortly after her father's passing Alexandra and her husband take on a new home, small and in need of renovations but uniquely situated in the city with a huge garden in the backyard.  An opportunity too good to pass up they take on the challenge of restoring the house and the yard.  As they begin the restorations they continuously find new, unexpected treasures. Alexandra vows to share the experience with her young son and be the mother she felt she never had growing up.  As they go through the process of planning the garden, finding the right contractors and doing the work, Alexandra remembers certain aspects of her childhood.  

The novel passes over a period of a few years during which her mother, an avid gardener, is forced into assisted living due to dementia and eventually passes away as well.  As Alexandra and her sister pack and consolidate their mother's belongings several relics from the past are found.  Using old photos, and memorabilia Alexandra begins to understand a bit more about her parents past and why they did some of the questionable and seemingly embarrassing acts when Alexandra was growing up. As an adult with a child of her own there is more empathy and appreciation.

I related to this book in that we bought a house three years ago that needed some renovations. My husband and I had huge plans in terms of fixing up our fixer upper.  We were young and able but didn't always have the time or the money to do everything we needed to do.  We have done a lot to the outside and the inside of the house but still have a long ways to go. Our individual plans do no always coincide. We then through a baby in the mix.  We needed each other. I also gained a whole new appreciation for my parents and everything they did or didn't do for me growing up.

My favorite part of the book was that each chapter concludes with a recipe including an ingredient found and foraged from the garden. One of the early finds in the garden were maple trees. They were able to collect sap and make small batches of maple syrup from the very beginning of their garden adventure.  Although we do not make our own maple syrup we are lucky enough to have and use homemade maple syrup from Mr. J's family.  

I highly recommend this book if you are a child, a parent, a gardener, a fixer upper, a creative DIYer, a holistic person or just enjoy a good read. To celebrate the recipe of the book I recreated one of the author's recipes from her blog, The Best Maple Dressing Ever, with a few slight changes. We put it over simple arugula leaves. Quick, easy and delicious.

The Best Maple Dressing

by Emily Morris
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: raw salad maple syrup
Ingredients (makes 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a leak proof container and shake vigorously until emulsified, about 1 minute. Refrigerate.
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You can find this recipe along with many other of the authors recipes on her blog Foraged Love.

If you would like a chance to receive a copy of Unearthed : Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen (Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, July 5, 2016) please leave a comment telling me your favorite flower or plant. A random winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book and was given the opportunity to give a copy away to one of my readers.  In return we were requested to read the memoir, give an honest review and create or recreate a recipe inspired by this book.  Please visit the author Alexandra Risen and/or the publishers, Houghton Miflin Harcourt for further information. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's social media links:

Twitter • Facebook • Tumblr • Pinterest • Instagram

Alexandra Risen

Instagram @alexandrarisen


  1. I know I'd love reading this book and having a recipe in each chapter makes it even better!!

  2. I have yet to try that dressing. I loved all of her recipes. I am still trying to figure out how to substitute for some of the things that just don't grow here in California.


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