...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.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Enjoy this time off of work (hopefully), with your family and friends.  We'll be thinking today, and every day, about those who don't have a meal for their tables or can't be with friends and loved ones.  Peace!

And in case you're looking for ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers.


But First, Thanksgiving

Every year for Thanksgiving I think I'm going to plan weeks ahead to give you all kinds of recipes for the feast.  The big meal is upon us and here I am behind again.  In keeping with the theme of simplicity for the late fall and winter holidays I've decided just to give you one recipe.  If there's any dish that keeps popping up every year it's this one.  I'm trying a couple of new sides and desserts this year, but I won't share those until I know they're good ones.  But this salad is one I tweaked to taste like something my Aunt Mitzi would make for either Thanksgiving or Easter.  It's a bit decadent what with the bacon, sour cream, and sugar but I've indicated substitutions when possible.

Mitzi's Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad
Serves 6-8

I love the sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, and chewy components of this salad.  Unfortunately it's best the day it's made so make just enough for Thanksgiving day.  I intend to hit the farmers' market early this week to pick up my brassicas for this dish.

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small head broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and diced
1 medium sweet (or yellow) onion, chopped
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. sour cream (or plain whole milk yogurt)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sugar (you can try honey or granulated xylitol or simply cut back on the white sugar)
1/3 c. shredded/grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. raisins

Toss together cauliflower, broccoli, bacon, onion, and celery.  Combine sour cream/yogurt, mayonnaise, and sugar.  Add to vegetables and toss gently.  Add Parmesan and raisins and toss gently. Serve chilled or at room temp.

Aside from mentally and physically preparing for Thursday's company and feast, trying to get my head around the December holidays, and otherwise holding things together around the house, I've found small pockets of time to finish some sewing and knitting projects.  I always think I need to have huge blocks of time to move along with my craft projects, but even in fifteen or twenty minutes I can put in a zipper, turn up a hem, set in some sleeves, or decrease and cast-off for a winter cap.

With the cold weather teasing us I thought I'd better get working on the balaclava I planned for V.  I knew that if we wanted to keep walking the few blocks to school all winter that I needed to find a way for V to keep her nose, mouth and head warm all at once.  Of course, a scarf tied around her hood would work, but I thought a balaclava would be easier for her to put on and take off by herself as she likes to do these days.  If I made this again I would tweak the chin part of the front to be a little more snug, but the two or three times she's worn it already it's worked just fine.

I also found a few moments last weekend to finish a pair of pants for V that I'd started months and months ago.  It was one of the few patterns I've tried making from a book--tracing the pattern pieces onto tissue paper.  Fortunately V's only objection to this new garment was that it's not purple enough.  Oy!

Just not purple enough

Back in the summer I was on quite a roll cutting out all kinds of dresses for V, but only finding time to follow through on a couple of them.  Finishing the aforementioned pants got me rolling again and I decided to set a deadline for myself to finish one of the dresses.  Thanksgiving!  Why not have a new dress to wear for the holiday?  My mom gave me this darling woodlands corduroy over the summer so having her here for the holiday was another reason for me to finish soon so she could see it.  The pattern was one I bought on super deep discount a couple of years ago at the fabric store and the buttons were from a stash I've had for several years.  I absolutely love the fuchsia color of the corduroy.
Woodland Thanksgiving dress
Contrasting buttons
A little poof in the sleeve
Hoping to have a low-stress week to prepare for our company and meal on Thursday.  We're trying to keep the colds away in the process.  Elderberry, echinacea, and other various natural preventive remedies are in full effect. 


Holiday Plans

Many thanks to those who noticed my absence last week.  It's always great to feel appreciated. The weeks have been a tad busier than expected and I decided not to stress if I couldn't post.  But I'm glad to be back.

Among other projects, I've been spending time considering our holiday plans.  We'll welcome my folks to Milwaukee for Thanksgiving, though I haven't thought a bit about my menu yet (though I have officially acquired an organic turkey for the occasion.)  The December holidays are also right around the corner.  As our beliefs have evolved over the years, we've been trying to figure out how to present Christmas and other winter holidays to our child.  Last year in the eleventh hour I realized I wanted to give her a sampling--or at least begin with a story--of various religious/cultural holidays that happen around this time of year.  I've started much earlier this year thinking about how we'll celebrate, if/how much we'll decorate and spend, what we'll cook, if/how we will give gifts.  Yesterday I attended a very timely meeting of a new parenting group I recently joined at our congregation.  We had an in-depth dialogue about what holiday traditions we observed growing up, how we choose to celebrate now, and our concerns for how we and our children will handle our celebrations outside of the "mainstream" beliefs.  It certainly won't be easy and I'm sure it will continue to evolve over the years, but I feel that because of the time I've already spent pondering, the celebration will be much more meaningful.  I'm hoping to spend time this week putting together a list of ideas for how to get the most out of the season of celebration while keeping it very simple especially from a consumerism standpoint.  Experiential giving and receiving seem to be the informal "theme" thus far.

Hundred Dollar Holiday book cover
Which brings me to the idea of giving my child, my husband, and my family the gift of time now (if not more in the new year altogether.)  I stumbled upon a pre-21st century book (i.e. pre- explosion of the internet, cell phones, and other electronic devices which have all changed our culture so) by environmentalist Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holiday: A Case for a More Joyful Christmas.  It's been interesting to read his work prior to the extensive writing he's since published on the impact of global climate change (though this 1998 view of one of the nation's biggest holidays could be loosely linked to all the consumption and waste that do, in fact, relate to the "greenhouse effect.") His point in this piece is to greatly reduce all the money we spend on this national holiday.  I feel that we've already majorly reduced holiday consumption in our household, but I was interested in what he says about finding meaning in the holiday (whether you celebrate "Christmas" as a religious holiday or otherwise.)  It gave me great insight into why so many Americans celebrate in the current ways they do: huge fussy feasts, mass consumption, packed schedules, expensive decorations, endless parties, etc. One of my favorite passages from his book:
"...time is in many ways our most valued commodity.  If we could buy more of it from the store, the line outside its door would stretch to the horizon.
Our strategy with Christmas, then, has gone slightly awry.  We've gotten used to spending more money to make it special.  But if money's no longer as valuable as time, we're offering each other a devalued currency...If Christmas is going to be special, then make sure to spend time in special ways--make it relaxed time with the people who count in your life."  
He discusses enjoying this feeling of less stress year-round and voluntary simplicity (a lifestyle choice and social movement focused on reducing one's rate and scale of consumption and living with fewer possessions; in balance with the social and natural environment.)  There are so many more fantastic ideas in this very quick read, which makes a great handbook.

Aside from exploring other religious/cultural holiday celebrations, I'm planning to keep the meals and event planning simple.  I'm not making any homemade gifts this year (aside from one for a friend that's part of an on-going barter system).  We're focusing on spending time together; enjoying the stillness, light (or lack thereof), and warmth of the season.  In fact, I've made a short list of personal goals for myself this holiday:

  • Give the gift of time to family, friends, and my child
  • Spend more time outdoors (even in the darkness)
  • Visit those who don't have anyone (possibly after the holidays when people may be more lonely)
It's just a start, but if I can make time for those three simple things, I think the holidays will have much deeper meaning for me.  It's amazing how much less stressed I already feel as the season approaches.