...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


All I Want for Christmas...

Holiday Lights in downtown Milwaukee
It seems as though our family of three (or at least Mommy and Daddy) is still batting around ideas about how we want to celebrate this holiday season in terms of traditions, meaning, and activities.  I grew up enjoying what seemed like fairly traditional American Christmas celebrations with a balance of religion (the story of the Christ child's birth) and Santa (the story of the rosy-cheeked jolly old elf and his workshop).  My husband's childhood probably wasn't as gift-focused around the holidays, but there was still a good combination of both holiday figures.

City of Milwaukee Holiday Tree Lighting
Presently, I find myself balking at both of these traditions.  As Unitarian Universalists--and individuals for that matter--we choose not to base our celebration so much on faith and salvation, though we feel the Christmas story is a good one...just as much as the legend of Hanukkah is symbolic, Dickens' A Christmas Carol teaches compassion, and tales of St. Nick shed light on the reason for the season.  This year so far, Vera seems to be understanding and delighting in the holidays more than ever as Halloween and Thanksgiving demonstrated.  That means she may finally take note of "the man in the red suit" as well as the lights, sparkle, and glow all around.  As you might imagine, because of my connection to nature, I'm more interested in celebrating the Winter Solstice, or "Yule," and the rebirth of the Sun.  I suppose many of these feelings come from the disillusionment I feel with the commercialism of "Christmas."  We all (or at least many Americans) sit at our Thanksgiving tables showing gratitude for what we have only to hit the stores the very next morning (or in the middle of the night) for Black Friday shopping madness.  To spend money we don't have and possibly throw down so that we may put gifts under the tree that show our kids and loved ones that we'd go to any length (even physical harm) to give them what they "want" all while pouring money into the accounts of national chains.  For what?!  (For the record, I observed "Buy Nothing Day" the Friday after Thanksgiving.)

Now more than ever, our society craves meaning and community.  I see this as the perfect time to reconnect, relax, sit quietly, share a meal, volunteer, enjoy the tiny lights through all the darkness, and reflect on the previous year.  Though we're still deciding how to present the Santa Claus idea, we are almost certain that we will encourage Vera to believe, at least in her heart.  Thanks to a friend's recent recommendation, we checked out The Polar Express from the library, which opened my mind a bit and made me remember that no matter what you believe, this is a magical season.  And how better to view it than through a child's eyes. I may add a little extra sparkle to our home this year--hopefully with Vera's help as we craft a special garland, wreath, or gift for a neighbor or friend.

On the topic of gifts, my homemade offerings are well underway and I'm enjoying every minute of crafting them, hoping for smiles on the kids' faces when the packages are unwrapped.  I received a treat myself the other day when my father-in-law unloaded a box of vintage canning jars that he'd acquired from a friend and antique-collector who'd recently down-sized.  They're not suitable for heat processing, but will make beautiful additions to my dry storage of nuts, seeds, noodles, and grains in the pantry.  There was also an interesting glass funnel type piece that I've decided must be a jar filler.  I really am easy to please and I want nothing more this season than to be safe and healthy with family and friends.

Beautiful, shining, old canning jars
Drey brand, hard to find these days
Interesting shapes and sizes
A very large, unique "jar filler," I think
I wish all of you a simple season starting yesterday.  To recall a favorite song from a high school holiday dinner theatre performance, "'Tis the gift to be simple..."  I hope you find joy in simplicity, meaning in the season, and hope in the new year.  Peace to you all through December and this winter.

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