...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.


Taking it Day by Day

Christkindlmarket, Chicago

Keeping the holiday schedule simple is no easy task as I've found in the first few days of December.  I keep reminding myself to take it day by day though, ironically, holiday simplicity feels like it takes more planning.
View from our friends' place downtown
Daytime view from our friends' place
We kicked off the month with a jaunt to Chicago for the weekend.  If we get down to the Windy City for the holidays at all, it's usually just a short weekend so we try to see as many friends as possible in one trip.  (Again, making one trip versus three trips to Chicago for the holidays required making the connections way in advance to see this person, that one, and the rest.)   We met one of Ben's buddies after work on Friday.  They've known each other since they penned letters back and forth between Germany and the United States in middle school.  Now Carsten's in Chicago, at least semi-permanently, and much more available to get together with us.  We landed downtown at the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza, found some authentic Bavarian sausages for dinner, sampled some gluhwein and beer (for the gents, of course) then perused the outdoor stalls with traditional glassware, ornaments, fiber arts, wooden toys, candy, etc. then turned in early.  Saturday allowed time for breakfast with one of my favorite college chums and the evening brought a semi-annual holiday party at the cozy home of some long-time friends and others who are more like family.  One of the best things about being away from home--and I believe I've said this before after last summer's travels--is that Vera's naptime brings quiet time for me as well because there are no to-do lists staring at me from the chaos that can sometimes be my desk at home.  Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, which ended with us back in Milwaukee putting up our holiday tree.
Tree at Daley Plaza, Chicago

My favorite vendor at the Christmas market

A highlight of our weekend in Chicago--our German friend's Angela Merkel reamer!
I'm still displaying the same tabletop tree I've had since my first holiday in Milwaukee in 2000.  It was a gift from a big box store and has served me well through my urban adventures even as my current values would now lead me to support a local grower and cut/buy a fresh tree.  I figure that as long as this tree is relatively in tact--though it loses more and more of its artificial needles every season--I will hang on to it. No sense in wasting the resources that were used to make it--however high impact--now that it's here.  Plus, having it up on a table offers fewer temptations for a curious two-year-old.  Afterall, I hang my great grandmother's glass ornaments on the branches.  Some are probably 100 years old and although at least one breaks each year, I don't need to create an opportunity for more damage.  I do look forward to having a tree which Vera can help decorate in the future without any anxiety on my part.  On a simplicity note, Ben and I have more or less vowed to keep our holiday decor contained to one plastic bin (plus the small tree box).  The tree holds three strands of LED lights, the antique ornaments, and a few small strands of gold and silver beads I believe were castoffs from some of my mom's Christmas decorations in the last decade.  Ben has a very simple ceramic creche he bought while living in Chile, my mom made appliqued fleece stockings for us in recent years, and I set out a few sets of wooden nesting dolls.  I've added a little extra sparkle this year for Vera--an extra strands of LEDs around the front hall tree, and some shiny antique garland bits I found at the flea market a couple of years ago (actually that isn't new, but was re-placed this year for a new effect.)  Perhaps V and I will make a garland together this season before it's all said and done, but otherwise that's it.  It takes me an hour or so to decorate then we get to sit back and enjoy the glow for the next month.
Our cozy living room with holiday decor
A little extra sparkle
A little extra sparkle on the mirror too
Ben's Chilean creche
Front entryway and stockings
Great Grandma Spang's ornaments
Oh Holiday Tree!
The tree at night
As I was reminded this morning (typical rough Monday) of the potential chaos of anxiety that this month can bring and was commiserating with a girl friend about it all, I realized that there are a few super important and relatively simple things I can do this month to keep myself in tact: eat healthfully, get enough sleep, don't overimbibe, keep exercising, and take time for myself each day.  As I mentioned in my last post, I'm doing my best to enjoy the silence each morning with a cup of coffee before Vera awakes.  I'm also trying to keep lots of veggies at the ready for salads and quick meals/snacks--there are always plenty of colorful, crunchy foods in the house, but I need to make sure they are at least minimally prepped and ready to grab and go.  Forcing myself to get in bed early will be tough.  Lately I've been lingering an hour or so after Ben's turned in and often wasting time in front of the computer.  Even if I get into bed before my usual bedtime, I can relax and unwind with a book (I just started an excellent, inspiring, quick read over the weekend--Learning to Breathe.)  Exercising actually isn't a problem for me because I've quickly gotten back into the groove of going to the gym just three days per week, which allows Vera to have some play time with the kiddos at the childcare facility there.  I once thought that gym time for me was too luxurious, but was reassured after hearing that it can make me a better parent by giving me time to myself (even if it means me just plugging into my headset and slowly riding a recumbent bike while flipping through a magazine for an hour), but also because it helps me build strength and stamina, which will ultimately help me get through the days and weeks with an energetic toddler.  I'm realizing that all of these steps to staying healthy throughout the hectic holiday schedule should be carried on always.  Do I see a New Year's resolution here?

I haven't posted many--if any--recipes lately, but will get back to that soon I hope.  But I do have to say something about carrot juice.  Speaking of keeping healthy things at the ready, there's a huge bag of organic carrots in my fridge just waiting to be sucked down in a glass.  I juiced some with a few homegrown red beets recently and Vera even went for this beverage.  I recommend adding a hint of ginger juice to spice it up.  When I make juice I often feel bad about the great fiber that's lost in the process.  So I saved and temporarily froze this "pulp" and today I'm drying it along with my standard almond meal in the dehydrator.  I will then grind the dried carrot pulp and use this "powder" in smoothies, soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, you name it.  Once again, nothing goes to waste.

Carrot and Ginger--a great combo
A little hand grabbing the carrot juice--I won't complain
Looking forward to the simple things this week like enjoying the sweet little voice in this house that always makes us laugh.  Last week I heard Vera reciting "This Little Piggy..." and the first line was "this little piggy went to the farmers' market..."  Only my daughter.  I was cracking up.  Our bedtime ritual lately has been to read a chapter from The House at Pooh Corner, an old fragile copy which I found in a small bookshop in Wellfleet on Cape Cod over the summer.  Those moments as well as rubbing up against my husband's new seasonal beard are my intended focus for when the going gets crazy this holiday.  Peace to you!
Trying to keep it simple with some art projects
And crayons!
At least someone is using my old watercolors!

1 comment:

  1. This is my seventh Christmas in Arkansas, and I still miss my family in Wisconsin at this time of year. It's so good to see your pictures and to recognize names of places that I know. It really helps with the seasonal homesickness, mild as it is.

    Your house looks charming, and your decorations are wonderful! Your great-grandmother's ornaments remind me of my parents' and grandparents' ornaments, too. The old-fashioned style is making a comeback.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!