...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.


Ready for the Holidays--Ready for some Snow

Brick Road Skirts for my nieces  Ruffles Galore!
Although it's been stressful at times, the holiday hand-crafted gifts are just about done.  I had a slightly rude awakening late last week that put my procrastinating in check.  All this time I thought I was going to be seeing my nieces and nephew at my parents' house between Christmas and New Year's, but found out that our paths shall not cross this year.  So the final week of sewing that I thought I had starting today was cut short so that I could finish the gifts, get them mailed before the postal rush, and have them arrive in time for the girls at least to open their matching gifts together before they go home to their respective states.  I spent a good solid 5 hours this weekend completing the second Brick Road Skirt for niece #2--whoever invented ruffles should be tortured with one.  Wow!  There were yards and yards of ruffles, hours and hours or gathering and re-gathering, but I'm very happy with the results and I hope the girls enjoy spinning around in their new fanciness.

I also spent late Saturday night--as I watched some junk TV--cutting and piecing together my nephew's gifts.  As long as their mother--who I think is still a regular follower here--promises not to show/tell them about these gifts, I am posting photos here.  After reading Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot, I've been trying to consciously choose gifts that challenge the gender barriers.  From what I've read, boys don't often excel in reading/writing like young girls do so I thought I'd make some journals for my tween/teen nephews to encourage them to write, sketch, or whatever else 10 and 13-year old young men would do with a blank book.  I've had some minor bookmaking experience over the last ten years and have been keeping a box of scraps and cool paper at my craft corner in case I got back into it.  The idea for these journals evolved over time--mostly last week as I was lying in bed with my "monkey mind" going a million miles an hour.  As I found out what supplies were/were not available, the binding and composition changed.  But overall, they are what I had imagined.  I used some newsprint paper I acquired a couple of years ago and used some cool maps ("Who Says North Is Up?") from the Syracuse Cultural Workers annual calendar that's regularly gifted to us from some of Ben's relatives.  I have a feeling these boys will appreciate the work that went into these books and I hope they have fun jotting or scribbling down their thoughts, ideas, and drawings.  This week I just need to put the finishing touches on a couple other projects.  In general, I feel like I can somewhat coast until this weekend when we hit the skies.  

Basic stitching around the cover's edge
"Monogrammed" with stickers from the craft store
Used paint samples as separators
"Sleigh Ride"
We've done a good bit of running around this month, but I feel like I've seen and hung out with more friends in December than I've seen in all of 2011.  Friday night we joined some close friends for a "sleigh ride" (actually a wagon ride for lack of snow) up in Cedarburg.  It was a great cold night and fun to be bundled up in the back of the wagon pulled by two beautiful Percherons.  There was cider, hot cocoa, old-fashioned board games, and Santa for all to enjoy afterwards.  Still hoping to do something special for Solstice this week and will also try my hand at some potato latkes to acknowledge Hanukkah and have a family gift exchange before we pack up and leave town.  

Yesterday I made special pancakes to celebrate our first family breakfast together in quite some time.  I got this idea from the children's book Christmas in the Big Woods.  Ben reminded me that it was a work of fiction, which is why their gingerbread-person-shaped pancakes turned out perfectly.  Yeah, I guess I should have realized that, but we gave it a shot nonetheless.

Gingerbread Pancakes (Gluten-Free)
Serves 3-4

It is KEY to spray the cookie cutters before pouring in the batter.  Otherwise, just drop scoopfuls on the griddle.

1 1/4 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 t. xanthan gum
2 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
3/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 1/3 milk--cow's, almond, coconut, soy, etc. (start w/ 1 c., add extra 1/3 c. if needed for thinner batter)
1 T. molasses or sorghum syrup
3 T. oil
1 egg, slightly beaten (I also tried it with egg replacer, but the consistency was a bit gummy)
Pure Maple Syrup

In large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients until well combined.  In small bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until smooth.  Let sit about 10 min.  Heat griddle or skillet on medium-low heat (lightly grease with butter, ghee, oil, coconut oil.)  Pour 1/2 c. batter for each pancake (into greased cookie cutters to make shapes if you desire), allowing room for them to expand.  Cook until tops get bubbly and start to look dry.  Carefully flip and cook other side until golden.  Repeat until batter is gone, greasing skillet in between as needed.  Serve with maple syrup, butter, or other accoutrements of your choice.

Now all we need is Frosty!
We received a special delivery today after returning from a holiday lunch with Great Grandma.  My cousin, who is spending more time at home with her kiddos these days, has had more of a chance for creativity--something all of us moms need more of, no doubt.  She came up with this "Just Add Snow" Snowman Kit, which I think is brilliant.  Now we just need some snow!  I do look forward to seeing some of the white stuff outside our door.  I know it will encourage Vera to get outside more on cold days, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if it waited until after all of the holiday travel.  Happy Holidays to you all; I hope you find peace in these last couple of weeks of the year.

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