Advent

Yes, I know I'm a few days late on this. (Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving)

I could blame it on the 60 degree weather….. (I fear I will never adjust to winter in the south)

or perhaps it is the fact that I refuse to get Christmas decor out of the attic until after Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten….. 

Procrastination, I know! It runs in the family, by the way, which I am finding out with a teenage-homework-due-the-next-day-stay-up-until-11pm finishing it son…. wow, de ja vue….

So, back to Advent.

Last year I made an Advent/Christmas countdown calendar for our family. We use this in conjunction with our Advent celebrations. I fill the pockets with a few handmade ornaments, treats, Christmas poems, holiday decor and some family activities to share. {For an amazing list of inexpensive and free things, visit Uncommon Grace's Advent list. Wow!} We have a beautiful German candle pyramid that we use as our "wreath". This year we are incorporating some Waldorf things into our festivals. 

Each evening before our meal, we will light a candle and recite the week's verse. One candle in week one, two in week two, and so on. We light each new week with the first candle in hopes to instill the everything is connected idea with our children. Each Sunday is the beginning of the new week and we clear the nature table of anything from the previous week's focus. I found these verses while surfing the internet, and thought you may enjoy them. 

 

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Week One

The first light of Advent,

is the light of the stones.

Stones that live in crystals,

seashells and bones.

{on your nature table, each family member may place a special stone, crystal or bone. we'll be talking about how everything comes from, and returns to, our earth}

 

Week Two

The second light of Advent,

is the light of the plants.

Roots, stem, leaf, flower,

that in the breezes dance.

{on your nature table, each family member can place a special seed pod, leaf or flower. I think a forced bulb would be especially lovely in colder climates where the outdoors are gray and covered in snow}

 

Three

The third light of Advent,

is the light of the beasts.

The light of hope that we may see,

in greatest and the least.

{each family member can choose a small wooden animal to spend the week on the nature table, I find this verse a little confusing to explain to young children, in our home we talk about the mysterious relationship between animals and humans and of being hopeful for things in our lives, also awaiting the birth of the Christ child if that pertains to your celebrating}

 

Four

The fourth light of Advent,

is the light of humankind.

The light of love, the light of thought,

to give and understand.

{for those that bring The Nativity into their Advent celebration, it is quite beautiful to add Nativity figures throughout the week to decorate the nature table, ending on Christmas Eve with the arrival of Jesus. However if you do not celebrate The Nativity, you can instead add human figurines to your nature table and share some thoughts with your children about humans having the capabilities to love, to care for others and our inherent responsibility to care for our earth, plants and animals which we have thought about in the previous weeks}  

 

I do realize that sharing such a personal part of our winter celebrations can be, well, intimate. But years ago, I wish I had stumbled upon some of these things myself, so that is why I have decided to share them in this space. Christmastime is a very introspective time of year for many of us. I think it is very important to pull together some simple traditions that resonate with your own family. Especially to avoid the overwhelming consumer cloud that can hang over this magical time. 

Taking time to marvel in the change of the seasons…. the quiet of winter that can so easily transform into a quietness in our souls is an amazing thing to share with our children. Such an in breath. A moment to pause and savor.

Wishing you beauty in your own celebrations.

 

Thankful Recap

If you ask my youngest girl, the best part of the day may have possibly been this…..

 

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(photo by Jade)

 

Remember when you were 8 and marshmallows could totally make your whole day? Sweet bliss.

 

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This year was the first ever that we have had a Thanksgiving with just the six of us. It was quiet and full all at the same time. As we sat around the table enjoying all the wonderful food and talking and eating and laughing…. both Joe & I looked into the eyes of our kids thought about how very full our life is. How thankful we are to have a home, food and such a beautiful family. Heartwarming (and hilarious) toasts made with glasses of wine & sparkling cider. . to be gathered, laughing around such a bountiful table. 

 

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A day to be thankful.

For those that celebrate, I hope you are still smiling at the magic of your own day.

 

Whatcha Cookin’?

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Stuffing prep work, always Daddy's job, November 2008 in WI. Look at my baby!

 

The shopping is done and the menu is planned…….

Prep work for the feast will begin tomorrow at our house…. starting with pies and then on to diced veggies and such. The whole family gets in on the action of preparing food. Good music and good conversation makes the prep work pass by rather quickly. Our menu is pretty traditional.

 

Turkey & Gravy

Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Braised Brussels Sprouts

Stuffing

Rolls

Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Torte

 

We've gone sans dairy here so I am using coconut milk in my pumpkin pie and coconut oil in place of butter for the crusts. We'll see how this works out. For an appetizer we're trying White Bean Bruschetta from Clean Food. oops, the recipe is in Simply Organic. If you are roasting up a turkey, be sure to make a stock from the bones. Nourishing broths like this can be frozen in smaller portions for soups and are well worth the time to make! Delicious!

Around the web there is an awful lot of good food inspiration right now. Here are a few that caught my eye, some things for the big day and some others to transform turkey for the three days of leftovers you have.

 

Yogurt Garlic Dip (this website has wonderful recipes!)     

Sweet Potato Pie from Affairs of Living (an awesome website!)

Sweet Potato Garlic Spread

GF Cinnamon Rolls

Holly's Pilgrim Stuffing (a favorite of ours)

Thanksgiving Soup

Turkey Gumbo

 

Feel free to share some links to recipes below! Happy Cooking!

 

Monday Bites :: Pasties

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re remembering those stick on support devices for strapless prom dresses. And you’re thinking I’ve finally fallen off my rocker, knitting needles and all.

Before you shake your head and leave, let me explain. {said with knitting needle held high}

Pasty (or pasties) are pronounced like “nasty” not “tasty”…. but they are tasty…. really…. are you confused yet? I was too. When we lived in Wisconsin I kept seeing these signs for homemade pasties, all the while thinking to myself “these midwestern folks really are a strange bunch.”

I finally mustered up the courage to ask my friends Mike & Jena, “What the heck is a Paste-y?”

After a look of confusion they started to laugh, like the tears running down their cheeks kind of laughing. And I stood there, still bewildered, which just made them laugh more.

Finally Mike was able to say “they’re past-ies, not paste-ies” (you know past not paste).

Jena was still giggling.

This prompted Mike, an amazing cook, to make us some pasties. Which were far better than any I’ve ever made. I’ve been making them here in the gypsy house for just over a year, and they always bring a smile to my face. They are a staple midwestern food and must be accompanied by a nice cold beer. And after your first bite you must proclaim “Oh these are good, for sure.” And then whomever your eating them with has to say “Ya, you bethca.”

I miss you midwestern folks!

For pie crust, you can use your favorite double crust recipe. I’ve been experimenting with whole wheat crusts. I’ve had luck with 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 white flour. Traditional pasties have only ground beef, onions & potatoes. I prefer stew meat and always add another veggie to mine. Zucchini or dark greens are both great.

 

Pasties

{makes 4 pasties}

3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cubed into bite sized pieces

1 pound of cubed red meat (grass-fed beef or wild game)

1 small onion diced

1 zucchini sliced or 2 handfuls of chopped dark leafy greens

A splash of olive oil

Salt & pepper

A pie crust recipe that makes a double crust, you know, enough for a top & bottom.

 

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add your cubed potatoes, meat, onions & veggies to a large bowl. Splash some olive oil onto them and season with salt and pepper. (Just a smidge of oil, not too much) Mix and set aside. Divide your dough into 4 equal portions and roll into 6-8 inch disks. Put about 1/4 of your mixture (a generous 1/2 cup or so) into the center of your pasty dough. Pull two sides up to meet in the middle and pinch the dough together down the center of the pasty. (here is a cute picture of a felted pasty to show how to do this)

      

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Bake in the preheated oven for an hour, or until the crusts are browned nicely.

The filling will be very tender, I think it is steamed by the cooking process. I love the simplicity of adding raw ingredients to pie crust. We serve ours with a side salad and I always make a double or sometimes triple batch to have leftovers for lunch or to freeze. They are very good cold as well. If you plan on freezing them, cook them about 45 minutes and then when it’s time to defrost you can pop them in the oven, frozen, and cook them at 400 degrees until they are golden brown.

 

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For vegetarian pasties, omit the beef and add some crumbled goat cheese & extra green veggies. Delicious!

 

“frog”

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"Mom, I caught a frog all by myself, he could just live in my room.

Could I keep him?"

 

{I talked him into letting his "frog" live in our garden instead, sometimes it's hard to say no!}
     
 

The goats

So, I have this mild {ahem} obsession with goats as of late. (as I type this my husband is shaking his head at the word mild)

They are part of my grand plan for a dreamy homestead someday. Surely including chickens and perhaps a few pigs…. ducks if we've got a pond.

But the goats? Oh probably a little herd of 2-3 that will help us control the weeds and produce some sweet milk for us. I have SO been enjoying Living with Goats by Margaret Hathaway. We've got some cow milk allergies in our family, so we're hoping we can tolerate raw goat's milk in the future. I keep hearing that fresh goat's milk is far superior in taste to what is commercially available. Goats are far smaller and seem to be easier to care for than dairy cows….. and their spunk? Their disposition? I just love it!

 

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The kids….. so little.

 

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the Brookshire Farm goats…

 

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 I love their curious nature…..

 

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and they are sweet too…

          

While visiting Brookshire Farm I was quite thrilled to meet Cat, the farm's goat specialist. She was so kind to answer a zillion of my questions and talk about all the aspects of raising goats while introducing me to her herd in the pictures above. At Brookshire the goats help control weeds and are sold for meat. I seriously could have spent all afternoon chatting about these sweet spunky animals. 

Do any of you have a dream animal that you're hoping for on your {current or someday} homestead? I really love the opportunities to learn about the animals in person, and of course my library bag is always full of farm animal books. I'd love to know what homesteading obsession is going on in your lives!

Happy dreaming….

 

Of cows and beef

While a number of evenings around here find our dinner plates heaping full of vegetarian fare, both for frugality and health reasons, I can tell you that everyone in this house dreams of my pot roast with mashed potatoes or beef and barley soup and we should certainly not forget Joe's amazing smoked ribs. We love beef. 

But we also love cows.

 

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Sam getting to know Mooney 

 

Funny to separate the two "beef and cow" but all to often they are not considered as one in the same. The quality and health of the cow that made its way to your plate is something commonly overlooked. {Food Inc is an amazing documentary that really makes you think about the production and quality of the food you eat.}

Choosing to eat local, fresh, grass-fed beef is very important to our family. After moving to Louisiana last year we quickly began to locate sources for local quality foods. {see the sidebar for links} Last weekend we visited Brookshire Farm to pick up our quarter beef share, which we split with another family. The beef is harvested in the spring and fall, and this is the only beef our family eats.

Brookshire raises their cattle on grass only, a healthy and low impact way to raise cows. They take great pride in their resulting artisan quality beef, the quality truly is superb. Upon arriving at the farm they are happy to share the renovations of their beautiful 100+ year old farm house, serve you a delicious slice of persimmon cake and talk about farm life while the kids chase the chickens. We were able to meet the cows and goats that live on the farm. (more about the goats tomorrow) While the kids fed the gentle mama cows pressed alfalfa cubes, we learned more about what it takes to sustainably raise these animals in southern Louisiana. One of the things that struck me as being especially exceptional about these great folks was their relationship with their animals. The cows are all numbered for paperwork reasons, but out in the field our farm tour leader (and goat specialist) Cat referred to each of these animals by name. The care and respect they show for their animals makes us feel very good about supporting their farm. (Thanks again Anne, Ben & Cat for the wonderful hospitality!)

 

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Driving home with a cooler full of beef to stock our freezer for winter had my heart full of deep gratitude for the farmer and cow that made this possible. For my kids to meet the animals and humans that bring that meat to their plate is something very awesome to me. At the end of the day my eldest girl, with a basket full of farm fresh eggs summed it up perfectly for me, "This is why we don't buy grocery store meat, right mama."

Ahhh, yes. Yes it is.

 

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~~~To find grass-fed beef in your area, visit Eat Wild.~~~

 

because food is love

It is, isn't it?

I've been thinking so much about food lately. Wether emotional or physical ailments arise, nourishment always seems to be the answer. A cup of tea with honey. Immune boosting herbs from the garden. Dinner shared with friends. A family gathering to eat and talk about the day over soup lovingly prepared with broth made from scratch and fresh vegetables. Somehow as we travel the road of eating sustainably I always come back, amazed, at one thought: how simple it is. Food is Love. If every part of what you eat was grown and created with loving hands, it will be good. It will nourish the body and soul. Somehow during the chopping of vegetables and kneading of bread dough, a lot of good karma and love get mixed in, baked up and served alongside the meal.

 

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making grilled pizzas for dinner

 

It's no surprise that as a nation, we are unhealthy. Think of the general population's eating habits. Prepackaged factory made and frozen nutrients can never replace traditional cooking practices. Fast food, no matter how free range and organic the ingredients, can never replace the meditative values of preparing a meal yourself, of feeding your people, of gathering to enjoy a meal, of creating with love. I think so many of our ailments from arthritis to behavior issues in our children and allergies in all of us have a great deal to do with the way we eat. It seems as if we are at a pinnacle moment to take back our food. To take hold of the apron strings, head held high and continue (or perhaps learn) to feed our families. Taking the time to know our farmers, grow our own & learn some traditional ways to prepare a meal from scratch. To have a few less cans full of precooked food make their way into our house. To sit and enjoy this food while looking into the eyes of our loved ones. 

 

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table set & candles lit for our evening meal, even at the picnic table 

 

As a mother to a teenage boy, and all the turbulent moments that can bring, I can always coax a smile with a homemade snack. No words need be exchanged. When you've had a rough day and someone makes you an almond butter & apple pizza on fresh homemade sourdough tortillas sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, you just feel a little bit better. And I think, if more people took the time to do this…. we could change the world. One apple pizza at a time.

Cooking together. Eating together.

Nourishing body & soul. 

It's empowering, really.

Food IS Love.