...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.


Enjoying [All] the Holidays

Miller Holiday Lites display
Our multi-cultural interfaith exploration of the holidays is well underway and we're having a blast experiencing bits and pieces of so many different celebrations.  Since last week we've talked about Chalica, St. Nicholas, Bodhi Day, and Hanukkah.  And there will be more fun tomorrow with the Swedish Saint Lucia Day.  The best part for me so far--aside from finding my holiday identity--has been the baking.  Not only have V and I been able to spend quality time together but these efforts have doubled to produce the cookies I volunteered to make for bus drivers and crossing guards at school as well as for our Holistic Moms Network Alternative Cookie Exchange and subsequent donation of surplus cookies to local seniors.  Though this diverse holiday celebration required a lot of planning, I honestly feel this year that I am more calm, more collected, taking more personal time, and finding so much more meaning in the entire season.  V and I have had a ton of fun bouncing around town to various events, Ben and V will be having some quality daddy-daughter time this weekend, and I'm even finding time to  do things by myself--tonight I'm going to hear Handel's Messiah at a local church.

Our chalice for Chalica.
We left a coloring page, Bag of Promises and plate of pfefferneuse for
St. Nicholas who in turn left fruit, nuts, and a small box of wooden puzzles.
Our laughing Buddha incense holder for Bodhi Day
Our Bodhi Day setup--Dec. 8 is the day that Siddartha
Gautauma experienced enlightenment under the ficus tree.
We decorated our ficus with multi-colored lights to
symbolize the many paths to enlightenment (The
Eightfold Path), added our Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma,
and Sangha), and burned some "peace" scented incense
in our Buddha dish.
Visited the Shambala Meditation Center on MKE's
eastside for a more authentic Bodhi Day experience.
They were incredibly warm and welcoming.
Lighting the first candle of our makeshift menorah and trying to be as
authentic as we can.  I don't have a windowsill on which to put our
menorah so I'm reflecting it outward via a mirror (a little Feng Shui
if you will)
Our Hanukkah gelt.  It's not totally authentic as it's
made in Ghana though it IS fair trade so that's a plus.
V is not judging.
Playing a game of dreidel after dinner on the first night of Hanukkah.
Guess who had beginner's luck?
Huge menorah at the Community Hanukkah Celebration in the northshore.
Basilica of St. Josaphat's--an incredible MKE landmark.
Bel Canto Chorus and Bel Canto Boys Choir
performing "Christmas at the Basilica."
We've added a few more homemade decorations since last weekend when the tree went up.  In my pantry I've been squirreling away the parchment rounds that separate the gluten-free brown rice tortillas I love to buy (I figure it I'm going to indulge in them that I'm at least going to be responsible for upcycling the waste.) When I bake a layer cake at home I like to put a piece of parchment at the bottom of the greased pan.  Makes removing the cake a little cleaner.  So I saw this part of the packaging as a prime candidate for that purpose.  Little did I know they'd also make the perfect base for hand-cut snowflakes.  The round shape make them easy to fold into six and cut, but because they're sort of "waxed" they won't tear as easily so we can hopefully press them into a book and use them for years to come.  I also realized that cutting out snowflakes is incredibly therapeutic.  You don't know where you're going when you start, you just trust the scissors and your imagination and it'll most likely turn into something beautiful.

Let it Snow...
Let it Snow...
Let it Snow.
I've also managed to find a good amount of time to sew.  Finished a holiday dress for V last week that she calls her "sea serpent dress" as one calico has "scales" and another looks like water.  Plus we recently read this delightful book so it was fresh in her mind.  Yesterday I finished an off-white two-piece knit outfit (turtleneck and skirt).  Both of these projects had been cut out and on my project pile since summer.  I saw them as holiday outfits so that motivated me to get them done.  The off-white outfit will make a perfect Saint Lucia Day outfit for tomorrow.

V's "Sea Serpent Dress" with a great "spinning rating" as all our
dresses apparently must have the days
Planning to wear it Friday night for a date w/ Daddy
Contrasting thread
Using what I have--I thought the turquoise zipper would
be a nice contrast like the "water" patterned fabric
Two of my holiday goals are well underway--giving the gift of time (as I mentioned above, baking with V) and spending more time outdoors.  In fact, I've managed to put those two together as I determined yesterday that if/when V says she wants me to play with her in the afternoons then we have to go outside.  It will make her more robust for our [hopefully] cold, snowy Wisconsin winters and will improve her sleep too.

Making traditional pfefferneuse to leave for St. Nicholas
Pfefferneuse baked and ready to glaze
I juiced some spinach to make green coarse sugar for our Bodhi cookies
Sprinkling the Bodhi cookies--upside down hearts
are "leaf" shaped like the leaves of the Bodhi tree
Gluten-free, grain-free, vegan Bodhi cookies.  They don't taste as "healthy"
as they may sound
"Latkes, Latkes, good too eat.  Cook me up a
Hanukkah treat."
After a night of traditional latkes we went with something
a little different--Celeriac and Fennel Latkes with Fennel-Pear Relish
Still focusing on the light this season brings via the many candles we've lit for all these cultural celebrations.  As the Winter Solstice nears we'll celebrate the darkness as well and the hope for longer days ahead.  I'm also enjoying the memories that this season holds.  Today I indulged in a couple of CDs from the library--holiday albums that were part of my mom's cassette tape collection when we were kids.  I'd play, sing, and rewind these albums over and over until I memorized them.  This morning I'm listening to them as I wait for the dough to rise for my Hanukkah sufganiyot, which I'll put together with a Jewish friend this afternoon.  I'm reminiscing about Christmases past in the house where I grew up, but realizing that this year will be very different because my parents are in a new house.  Not only will our holiday visit be the first celebration since they moved out of my childhood home, but it's the first time I'll be down in their neck of the woods, period, since last Christmas when I videotaped our house all decorated for the holidays, knowing that the move was imminent.  I imagine it will be a bit similar to the shift we experienced after my grandparents passed and we no longer spent holidays at their house, but at least the same people will be present in this case.  My folks are very healthy and we still have lots of time to make new memories.  Can't wait.


  1. I love the repurposing of the parchment paper! Good idea.

  2. Finally some of my "squirreling away" is coming in handy. :)

  3. I love, love, love your multicultural holiday celebrations. As I am so inspired! Cant wait to explore all of these different traditions next year!

    1. Thanks Nora. It's been such an educational experience for me. The planning will be much easier next year as I've got the groundwork laid. Already thinking of different cultural traditions to explore next year as friends have contributed their ideas. Thanks for reading. :)