If you are not reading Lily's Big Bang Studio, well, what is wrong with you? Over the last year or two the rest of us have witnessed her carve out a most enchanted life in Joshua Tree, travel across the country hitting equally enchanted destinations in her 1978 revamped Scamp trailer, only to land for an extended stay in India. All while busting out breathtaking paintings. And words. And photos. I asked Lily to talk about one of our favorite mutual subjects, of course, Joshua Tree! Thank you Lily!!!!!

Until recently my husband P. and I lived in the little desert town of Joshua Tree, in Southern California, a place Jamie knows and loves well. On its own, the Mojave Desert is a hard sell. In mid-day, it's a bleached-out wasteland, an End of Days sort of place where you hope your engine doesn't overheat as you speed past abandoned homestead shacks most definitely inhabited by zombies and/or meth-heads, thinking, who on earth would LIVE here? But come sunset, come that golden hour when the desert sky explodes in ultraviolet and electric pink and the monzogranite rock formations glow like amber, the place shows its hand. And the wonky desert community of Joshua Tree -an unimaginable alloy of aging hippies, young Marines, bikers, rock climbers, musicians, artists, scrappers and several thousand very rare tortoises- is a place I'll always consider home.

After moving to Joshua Tree from Manhattan, I set up shop with P. (my brand-spanking-new husband) in a darling restored homestead cabin we found on Craigslist (which we've since realized had the nicest kitchen we'll probably ever have). I found a painting studio in town where I could bring the dogs (no plumbing, no problem), we bought a pick-up truck, and my mom sent me a copy of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Audubon's Field Guide to the Southwest. I learned to identify claret cups from hedgehog cacti, how to usher a rattlesnake peaceably into a trash barrel with a golf club, and how to pick cholla out of a dog's snout (carefully, with tweezers, followed by a bone for the dog and a scotch for the girl). And as we learned how to Live in the Desert we also learned how to Live as Young Marrieds, an equally mysterious and ever-wondrous education. And we fell in love, hard, with the community of Joshua Tree. We made cherished, life-long friends who taught us how to weld, cook and drive in loose sand without getting stuck. Friends who helped us rehabilitate a gentle but damaged rescue dog. Friends who called us up on Sunday mornings asking if we wanted to go looking for petroglyphs. Friends who had lived full, creative lives all over the world, and yet returned to Joshua Tree because there's just no place like it.

We live in another desert now, in Jaipur, Rajasthan. We've learned to love this desert's idiosyncrasies, too, but our thoughts always wander back to Joshua Tree, back to, as one die-hard Joshua Tree lifer put it, our "tribe." Next post I'll make a list of my favorite Joshua Tree haunts for you desert adventurers, to better help you bite a piece out of the marvelous high-desert pie. But today I'll leave you with a recipe for a real pie-of-sorts, my favorite spring treat, which I insist you absolutely must make because it is simple, beautiful, and it will knock your rhubarb-hankering socks off.

Rhubarb Galette with Crème Fraîche
from Bon Appétit, April 2010; for a printer-friendly version of this recipe click here.

Ingredients for Crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Ingredients for Topping:
1 pound trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 8-ounce container crème fraîche

Directions for Crust:
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; stir until dough clumps together, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

Directions for Topping:
Combine rhubarb and 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl; let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Place large sheet of parchment on work surface; sprinkle parchment with flour. Roll out dough on parchment to 12-inch round. Transfer dough on parchment to large baking sheet. Starting in center of dough round, arrange rhubarb slices in concentric circles and slightly overlapping atop dough, leaving 1-inch plain border at edge. Gently fold dough border up over outer edge of rhubarb topping, folding and crimping dough to create decorative edge. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of sugar over rhubarb. Dot rhubarb with butter. Brush dough edges with beaten egg. Sprinkle edges with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake galette until rhubarb is tender and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. Cool galette at least 30 minutes.

Mix crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl. Cut galette into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with sweetened crème fraîche and a sprig of mint if you have some. Huzzah.


  1. lily is the swiss army knife of people, and so humble you don't see it coming. she'll be telling you a story about elephants and then she'll slip in a stealth line about a dance she does that makes lightning fork across the sky and you're all wha? but it's too late, you're sizzled and you like it.

  2. this was such an interesting read - i'd love to live a day in her shoes!

  3. lily? well, she's poetic and lovely and generous and one rad gal.

  4. WOW! My current post is an ode to Joshua Tree -where we camped this last weekend - too! Your description of initial reaction is spot on and made me smile. So darn true. Nothing in the world quite like it. Can't wait to mosey on over to your blog, Lilly, and uncover all the great things painting your life. This post is a real gem, best of the week I'd say. Thanks much for sharing. xx


  5. Such a great guest post addition. Loved hearing a snippet of life in the Joshua Tree creative community. We are powerful and can adapt.

  6. Lily, I think any desert you're in would be a place worth living. <3

  7. how lovely! Joshua Tree sounds amazing.

  8. Anonymous6:10 AM

    lily, you are the coolest.

  9. great post, I loved to learn more about Joshua Tree and how it feels to live in the desert. The pictures are wonderful! and now in India? wow, how exciting!

  10. Anonymous6:52 AM

    I love Lily. Whatever she does is magic.

  11. Big Bang is my most favorite blog out there. I read old posts for days, until I had read them all. <3