Spring Planning– Seed Catalogs for 2018

It’s not long after Christmas that I begin to think gardening. This year I requested my seed catalogs early–

Richters Herb and Vegetable Catalogue and Seed Savers.

I mentioned earlier this fall I was going to overwinter a geranium and rosemary plant. Well, the geranium ended up getting gnats in it and all new growth was yellow so I threw it. The rosemary plant, however—

has some new growth. I could hardly believe it because it has really been looking rough. For once following directions for care has gotten me somewhere. Anyone else out there have the same problems as I do when you follow directions of care. I’ve killed African violets, succulents, Christmas cactus, so many to mention following care directions. But my 40-year-old cactus and a couple of succulents I have are thriving and I’ve ignored them both.

At Christmas time I bought a bag of Halos at Walmart, which almost always tend to be a bad idea, but this year perfection!

Three a day has kept the doctor away even when my husband came down with a slight cold/allergy that lasted for four days after Christmas. I had him take Sambucol Elderberry syrup from his first symptom and whatever he had was cut in half and like I said lasted just four days.

My Lemon Cypress is holding on as well–

This year, coming soon, I will be posting about Endocrine Disruptors–a subject I’ve been researching for about three months.  I will have that post completed in the next two weeks. I also hope to take you on my journey ordering and caring for Heirloom tomatoes, what I order from my seed catalogs, some favorite Keto and Paleo recipes I tried over the holidays, and so much more.

 

 

If you’d like to make a one-time donation for my writing, research or anything that has inspired you through my blog you can here-

PayPal.Me/KimVanderWerf

I thank you and my family thanks you. If you ever have any questions about any of my posts or just want to talk to me feel free to email me at runjumpbegin@gmail.com

 

Advertisements

Christmas Present

If you’ve read my essay “Christmas Past” (growing up in the 70s) then you know the Christmases I had growing up were simple, family-centered, and very traditional in the area we lived in.  For as long as I’m alive those childhood memories of Christmas will always be a part of me.

Unfortunately once I graduated high school I would never be invited back home for a family Christmas at the farm. Christmases in my late teens and early twenties were pretty lonely– I truly existed on my memories from childhood.  Even though I was in a long-term relationship, I wasn’t invited to his family Christmas until I was twenty-four. I spent seven Christmases alone or working and if I was lucky enough to receive an invitation from friends, I did everything I could to help make their Christmas the best Christmas. Often that meant helping them afford Christmas gifts for children, cleaning for them, and/or preparing Christmas dinner. I felt at the time I had to “buy” my Christmas invitation from “friends.” I never gave much thought to what I was asked to do because I felt so grateful to have somewhere to go for the holidays.

In the early years, I made trips back to the family farm–two of them at Christmas time to drop off gifts for my mom and siblings. Both times I remember going out on the road to travel the two-hour distance in perilous weather. Because I didn’t have a car I had to pay friends for the use of their vehicles. The last time I drove to the farm for Christmas I was nineteen years old and my mother didn’t want to come out and take the gifts. I remember how upset I was, I cried all the way home through a blizzard and never made that trip again.

The last Christmas I had with family was in 1997 at my sister’s home. I remember it was a couple of years after I got married, and I believe just after my step-father had passed away.  Even though my husband and I both enjoyed being with my family for Christmas, nothing was like it had been. I remember feeling like a complete stranger, walking on pins and needles, and feeling out of place. The years I was cast out swept under the rug for this person’s sake or another, and I meant to sit quietly and take it all in and not spoil anyone’s fun.

Throughout the years I’d had to adjust to not being allowed home. I had been forced to push aside and push deep inside all my emotions, and hurt in not being allowed to come home and see family unless of course my step-father was down in the barn still doing chores.  I learned to cope, but it was not easy. For a few years my work kept me busy seven days a week/ fourteen hour a day. As a home health provider (live-in)I was kept busy around the clock. I was also responsible for helping to make the person I took care of and her very large extended family have a wonderful holiday season each year.  Whether it was baking around the clock, decorating, or wrapping a mountain of gifts each year, that’s how I spent Christmas until my early twenties.

Nothing changed when my siblings got married or reached an age where they could reach out and make the decision to reconnect with me. Instead, they chose to carry on the “family tradition” of disownment which hurt even worse. Of course, once my parents disowned me I never saw or talked with my brother again until I was thirty years old. He was eight or nine when I left home. I next saw my sister when she was 24, she had been 15 when I left home. Neither of my siblings would come out and get their gifts from me at Christmas time, they instead expected my mother to gather them up from me. I never heard a thank you, or even if they liked them. But those things never stopped me from wanting to give them more. Though I never received a gift from any of them for all those years, and I surely never expected one, the best one I could have ever received would have been time with them.

I reached a point in my mid-twenties when I realized that even though Christmas time may be about family time, family gatherings, and building family memories this was definitely not going to be my story. I had spent too many holidays looking in windows, crying in driveways, and pleading on telephones for “family” to take me back and include me in their celebrations.

I believed that Christmas miracles were for other people and songs like “I’ll be home for Christmas” just made me sadder, and hope, hope that somehow I’d be forgiven for the reason I was disowned (the person I was in a “relationship” with) never came.

Eventually, in time I made the solemn pledge, I would begin my own traditions, and carry on with Christmas with or without family because in my heart of hearts Christmas was and would always be– a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday. No one could take that away from me. He hadn’t disowned me, forgotten me, or cast me out of His family.

And so for several years, it was Jesus and me together at Christmas time. I decorated simply with whatever I’d managed to find at a thrift store and saved all year to buy small gifts for close friends. I also offered help to my friends by way of assisting with holiday meal preparations. Instead of buying my way into an invitation with friends I simply chose better friends who appreciated my company–no materials gifts needed.

From this came me offering a plate of food here and there for people I knew didn’t have food or family to spend Christmas dinner with. And from that came years now of volunteer work in soup kitchens, shelters, and churches.

I was able to turn my hurt, rejection, and pain into the gift of giving. Giving to others took the pain of my not being allowed home away. Giving took my mind off of myself and turned it towards people far more in need of my time, than those who had turned their backs on me.

When I got married I married into a family that took Christmas and gift-taking to a whole new level. The first two Christmases family arguments ensued over someone or another’s idea of how much was spent on their gift. This would not do for me, or for my husband’s and my Christmas. So while we compromised and continued to celebrate with them Dec. 5th (my husband is Dutch), he and I had our own Christmas in our home by ourselves each year after that.

Our Christmas present is a mixture of giving to others, keeping with our own traditions, and including some from Christmas past. First and foremost though it’s about Jesus.  How big our tree is, or how fancy our decor, how many gifts bought or who’s coming to dinner are secondary to our Christmas celebration.

At 53 years of age, I’ve come to terms with a lot. Time goes by so fast– twenty, thirty years are suddenly behind you. In my case, 53 years have gone by and no longer am I 17. So many of my friends have passed away–my best friend growing up, a good friend I had out of high school, roommates I’ve had over time, friends I’ve met from online, and even some of my co-workers (some considerably younger than me) gone too soon. Now not for many years have I been on the outside looking in, and no one, for too long to remember, has made me feel as insignificant and unloved as my own family once did so many years ago. I can’t condone or accept disowning one’s family members for any reason at all. My family was not royalty, or heirs to a fortune and even then I wouldn’t approve of it. Over the years I’ve learned to move forward from that young girl and transition into a functioning young woman and eventually a grown woman up until and into middle age. Older age is not far behind. My life has not been perfect one minute since I’ve been alive and anyone who believes my life is perfect doesn’t know me. I could and may someday write pages about my husband’s and my struggles both financially and with family during our almost 23 years of marriage. We’ve got what little we’ve got today because every day we struggled and never gave up. Each Thanksgiving our thanks is given first to the Lord and second to each other for hanging in there.

Christmas is often a time for family members stress loads to reach an overwhelming state. I experienced this with my husband’s family and their competitive natures at holiday time. Meltdown after meltdown was our typical Christmas day for several years with his family. Each time I longed for the simple times I had growing up. Each year I longed more as each Christmas became one more power struggle between his family members. I will never fully understand the dynamics of some families. Admittedly I am not perfect, and along the way have made some regrettable mistakes. There was a time a few years back where I would have endured a bit more pain from family in order to set some things right.  That time came and went and in the interim, I’ve dealt with a family member whose ability to recognize the truth is impaired and her actions toward me border on levels of pure cruelty. Which of courses reaffirms to me that it was a good thing I never returned to the fold. To a family that thrives on devaluing and disowning one of their own.

I think that everyone in a family should feel valuable. For most of my life, I never quite got over how my siblings got away with everything (including things way worse than I’d ever done), and I’d been severely punished and disowned. It’s one thing for partners, friends, or co-workers to devalue you, though that really hurts too, but quite another when flesh and blood decide they don’t want you around anymore. I would guess for over thirty-five years I felt like less of a human being because of it. I was always waiting for my family to take me back. No doubt had they, they would have found another reason to push me back out. Years later it would be a lie that was very hurtful, told by my sister, maybe to intentionally sabotage my coming back into the fold that stopped me from reconnecting. Her hurtful words of why they hadn’t reconnected with me for almost thirteen years–“we thought you were dead” when all along they had received letters from me and returned them to sender really hurt me to the bone. If she would have said anything other than that I think the outcome would have been different.

Once FB came along it got way easier to connect with long lost family and friends. My experiences with reconnecting with family through FB have been relatively uneventful. I find FB to be a very shallow, disconcerting form of social media and keep connected to it only to keep up to date on places we visit, volunteer at, and for marketing our new business in the coming year. I’ve been fairly disappointed in those I thought I would have some kind of online “friendship” with me, and quite surprised by others who have stepped right up and become true friends to me. I think FB is a lot like the illusions we kid ourselves with. I waxed nostalgia for years about how I grew up–all Norman Rockwell like. But the truth is very little about my upbringing was even close to idyllic and charming. The same goes for the shock and awe of my family when I finally chose to walk away from their ill attempts to win me back. They couldn’t believe that this sweet, nice, and generous person could be so cold and cruel. They hadn’t been around that sweet and generous person for many years– their choice. Luckily, though it took some years to get through the hurt, that sweet and generous person still existed.  Equally as bad as the first attempt the second attempt was also a dishonest one. Suddenly I felt like I was 17 again and finally put an end to it. Judging by the words conveyed to me by this family member her intentions were never honest, I was just being brought back into the fold for a need they needed satisfied. So I passed. Any and every attempt since my first refusal has become more desperate to downright evil. I often think if the roles had been reversed how they would have felt, acted, and moved on watching their family forget them and believe them dead. Deep down I believe my family wishes I would have fulfilled their prophecy of me and that was to end up a drunk or an addict or dead in the bottom of some river. Unfortunately, I’ve done just the opposite and live a happy well-adjusted life surrounded by people who value me as a human being first, and secondly as a friend/family member.

One shouldn’t have to wait for Christmas time to show those around you how much they mean to you, or how much they are loved. For those that don’t have a family– then value your friendships and hold them near. Feeling special, or giving of one’s self shouldn’t just happen once a year. We shouldn’t just hope for miracles at Christmas time but in every day. Social media is overwhelming at this time of year. My head spins looking at the amount of stress some people must be under. Nevermind how much they spend$. Every year I watch it all come to a head, and every year I watch these same people on social media have meltdowns. If all Christmas time ever means to you is stress, maxed out credit cards, and disappointment than that’s all it will ever be.

You’ve probably asked yourself how I, after such amazing childhood memories of Christmas past; and then later heartaches, was able to move forward to share a wonderful Christmas present. Well– here’s a tip or two. 1) Start simple with a strong foundation and build from that. 2) If you don’t have childhood memories of Christmas to fall back on then create some now for future holidays. 3) Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, because you know what? The Joneses are broke. And stressed out and sick–don’t forget that!!

For many years I couldn’t see the Christmas miracle in my situation, but it was there all along. It was my willingness to reach out to others and give of myself at Christmas time instead of sitting back and wallowing in my own unhappiness. In doing this I was saved from a life of misery and introduced not only to the real reason for the season but also to the gift of giving. With that, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

A Minnesota Christmas- A Ghost from Christmas Past (growing up in the 70’s)

559_image1

Photo Source

A Christmas Essay by Kim VanderWerf for goodfoodgreatdesign ™ (previously posted on my blog Feast 12/12/15)

I grew up in the 1970’s in a little valley about thirteen miles from the nearest town and belonged to a family of five. There were my Dad and Mom, my younger sister and a little brother. We lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse next to our grandparents’ on the family farm.  From our home, we could see our grandparents’ next door, our neighbors across the main gravel road in front of our house and distant neighbors by their barn light (known as a security light now) and the wisps of smoke from their wood stoves.  Occasionally we would hear the bark of that distant neighbor’s coon hounds if the wind blew just right. As the year wound down and the holidays grew near, a certain mood took over in our household.  Christmas time was a special time in our home; a time when it seemed my parents’ moods brightened and even they had a child-like state of mind. You know the one I’m talking about. The happy, peaceful and hopeful feelings that every child has at Christmas time. My siblings and I didn’t have to be reminded to behave, nor do I ever remember being threatened that Santa would not come. Though no doubt we were anxious, and probably at times slightly giddy, we knew that Christmas was about more than just presents.  You see our parents’ weren’t like some of the parents’ of the time, they did not compete at Christmas time with the Jones’.

First and foremost in our home at Christmas time it was all about Christ. Christ was brought into our lives by way of the church we belonged to and its annual Christmas program. It was there that we learned the story of the baby Jesus as each year one of us took a turn participating in the play. Though I loved going to church and enjoyed watching the Christmas play, I really looked forward to the box of candy we were given as we exited the nave.  The play was held at night time so all the way home all you would hear from Mom was “no candy before bed”. To which of course meant I had very little time to ever so quietly sneak out the biggest piece of peanut brittle I could find.

Christmas time meant a lot of time spent with the elder members of our family. I grew up with four great aunts all in their 70’s and one great uncle. There was also a reverend in our family along with a church choir director. So one could say I was brought up surrounded by Christian influence. Often my father would include bible verses in simple conversation, even though he himself was a lapsed Lutheran. Whether it was the ever-present Christian influence or the spirit of the season, Mom made sure that giving to others remained an important part of our Christmas festivities. She was ever busy trying to find just the right gift for the elders, wrapping them just right and making arrangements from one to the other on when we’d come over to visit. Even at their ages each great aunt had their home warmly decorated for Christmas and all had made the customary goodies from their native country of Norway. Once the meal was ready we would enjoy Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrots, corn, and gravy. Desserts were varied but usually were cranberry salads, glorified rice and of course- lefse, rosettes, and sandbakkels.

After the meal we three kids would sit quietly amongst the adults as they visited. Then eventually we’d be handed our gift. From the elders, our gifts were usually homemade. Over the years my sister and I received handmade knit Barbie clothes, stocking caps, mittens and homemade Christmas tree ornaments. Never did we look down upon these gifts even though we knew our friends were receiving the store bought kind from their aunts and uncles.

Because of the different groups my Mom belonged to there was always the Secret Santa gifts to look forward to buying and receiving. It was fun to watch her get someone’s name and then have to go out and try to find the gift requested. It was, even more, fun to see her expression when someone who wasn’t shopper savvy would draw her name and ultimately give her a gift she hadn’t requested. But of course Mom would make good use of it and the rest of us, well, we’d sure get a good laugh out of it.  My sister and I belonged to 4-H so we would also have a Christmas party and exchange gifts. I always asked for a Lifesaver’s Storybook for my gift and sometimes I would actually get one. For me, that was the ultimate gift and one I still asked for up to a few years ago. As a family, I think we enjoyed the giving of gifts way more than ever receiving them.

Christmas Eve was always spent at our grandparents’ home watching Doug Henning, the magician, on t.v. while grandma prepared her Oyster Stew. Neither of my siblings nor I or Mom would eat the Oyster Stew so grandma would prepare a casserole for us to eat.Of course,  it goes without saying my eyes were constantly perusing the candy dishes because grandpa would usually have quite an assortment of hard candy at this time of the year.  After the evening meal, we would present grandpa and grandma with their gifts. Grandpa was easy to buy for like me he had a major sweet tooth. So he usually got a flannel shirt, some mixed nuts, and hard candy. Grandma liked the prettier things in life so her gifts were pretty knick-knacks, gloves or her favorite– a gift set of Chantilly dusting powder. Before the end of the night, grandma would open a box of chocolates and each of us would be able to pick one. I always wanted the vanilla cream one but usually ended up with a caramel nougat. Then back to our home we would go where we would shortly be sent up to bed. After a few reminders that “Santa won’t come if you’re still awake”, we would settle down and go off to sleep.

Come Christmas morning we would wait for two (sometimes more) hours for Dad to finish chores. Mom would be in the kitchen making a special breakfast which was usually sausages and eggs while each of us picked up our gifts trying to guess what was in each one.  Once Dad was in the house we could open our bigger present; as we each got one big present. I usually asked for LP records, while my sister asked for games or clothing.  Our little brother always wanted whatever new John Deere tractor or piece of machinery was popular that year from the local farm implement.  Smaller gifts were Christmas nighties or slippers, new denim jeans or socks. After our presents were opened it was Dad’s turn and I think all of us were most excited for his reaction. Each year he got the same things, yet, he was always thankful and happy to get new ones-socks, long underwear, and that ever-present winter staple in the Midwest, a flannel shirt.  And what about Mom you ask? Well, she purchased her own Christmas gifts because she was ever so particular as to what she would want. Usually, she wanted a flannel nightgown, soft socks or slippers and sometimes a soft sweater or housecoat. She bought the gifts I wrapped them and come Christmas morning they were a complete surprise to her.

Christmas decorations in our home were simple; our tree was always decorated with handmade ornaments. The traditions were abundant from the meal we ate on Christmas Eve with our grandparents’ to the oranges in our stockings Christmas morn. Christmas vacation was a time for sledding parties and ice-skating and one year even going for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Mom would spend two weeks every year making her famous homemade fudge and special Christmas Sugar cookies. Which of course meant that between all the Christmas break activities I was forever sneaking into the pantry eating fudge and sugar cookies. Christmas dinner was usually Mom’s famous baked BBQ ribs but sometimes it was a ham with her delicious scalloped potatoes and creamed corn. I loved, loved, loved Christmas growing up. It set in stone how I’ve spent each Christmas since I’ve left home. Steeped in tradition with its common theme in giving, Christ is still the reason for the season in our home.

Each year at this time I look back, and the ghost of Christmas past is very present. It’s a great experience, I’m very thankful for the memories I have. As I grew into an adult I passed some of my family’s Christmas traditions onto others, and I am certain that if they’ve remembered the giving part rather than focusing on the receiving part their Christmases have always been memorable. When I first met my husband he was very stressed at Christmas time. His family celebrated, throughout his childhood in the states, Christmas on December 5th. That is the date that people from the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas Day. I’ve written about this day on my blog a few times. In short, it is a day dedicated to the children in the Netherlands where St. Nick arrives by boat and gives gifts and candies to all. As adults, my husband’s family drew names and then got together on December 5th to exchange the gifts.

When we got married I was expected to change my day of celebration to December 5th.  But I would not do that. Instead, I compromised and did both because there was no way I was going to give up the way I celebrated Christmas. Their celebration did not involve Sinterklaas arriving in their home giving gifts to kids but instead was each adult drawing names and then buying the gifts from that person’s list. Christmas dinner was the same meal served at family get-togethers throughout the year. And although we enjoyed getting together with family on Christmas day what inevitably happened between family members and gift giving made it a very stressful day for us. Let’s just suffice it to say what usually happened would definitely rival some of the Christmas movies made today where the entire family is having a meltdown.

By our second year of marriage, I had taken my husband home so that he could see how my family celebrated this special time. I wanted him to experience how warm, and friendly and giving centered my family made the special day. After that experience, he was sold on celebrating Christmas the way my family enjoyed celebrating it. By the third year of our marriage, we were celebrating in our home with some of the traditions I had grown up with and some new ones of our own.  Now twenty-one Christmases later Christ and the gift of giving is still the main focus of our Christmas time.

As your family gets ready to enjoy whatever celebration you have in the month of December don’t let how others choose to celebrate the day affect how you enjoy yours. Comparison really is the thief of all joy. Enjoy your traditions and make new ones. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Good Cheer!

 

A Christmas Essay Disclaimer: As I grew up and moved away from home I became very aware of the fact that there are many other celebrations, throughout the month of December, by many non-Christian religions that are just as important as the one I celebrate with my family.  There are also many organizations in the world, non-Christian religion based, that are very giving.  I’m also keenly aware that the way I grew up in the 1970’s is not the way everyone did.

Here are a few more Christmas decor pictures. Notice half-way through our little ham needed to get in on the action. He kept posing in front of the camera each place I stopped to take a snap. Finally, once I got the hint, I took his picture.  Our Christmas tree is decorated in Blue, White, and Red as a remembrance of those who lost their lives and the families of those whose life was lost in Paris. You may also notice if you click on the photo that there are spaceships. Yes, spaceships. For nearly twenty-one years my husband has been collecting Star Trek ships (Hallmark Ornaments) and this year I promised him they could go on the tree. So they are there amongst the blue, white and red and if I may so I think they look just grand!

Joyeux Noel
IMG_1149
IMG_1147
IMG_1116
IMG_1119
IMG_1120
IMG_1121
IMG_1167
IMG_1145
IMG_1148 IMG_1152
IMG_1153
IMG_1156

Until next time always remember to eat good food!

A Very Cranberry Christmas

Cranberries are definitely not just for Thanksgiving. Cranberries work perfectly paired with ham, duck, and turkey at Christmas time too.

Last Christmas I made an Orange Cranberry Bread w/ Honey from a recipe here that was a hit.  It worked great to serve it Christmas morning, and by Christmas dinner, it was ALL gone.

Every year I watch two Christmas movies from the show Little House on the Prairie–A Merry Ingalls Christmas and then the past three years I’ve made one homemade ornament or decoration inspired by these heartwarming shows. The first year we made a silver star out of aluminum foil like the one Carrie buys for a penny at the mercantile. The second year my husband made this paper garland–

this year we are making a cranberry garland like this one over at Ocean Spray only we’re skipping the popcorn.

At Thanksgiving time I don’t make cranberry sauce, I make a cranberry relish instead. I use a recipe by Tyler Florence that works great and goes well with turkey, ham, or duck. I also use it to spread like butter over bread with leftover ham or turkey for sandwiches.

So, that’s my story about my love for cranberries at Christmas time. Making homemade ornaments for Christmas is a way to incorporate something simple, yet cherished, into your holiday making. Cranberries though traditionally served at Thanksgiving look marvelous and taste great when added to bread, relish, even salsa.

I’ll be sharing my post with Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life— come on over and join the party!

Thanksgiving Menu–adding a couple of new dishes to the menu

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 18 years old. For my husband I’ve been making the same Thanksgiving meal almost 23 years. Several years back I decided not to try new dishes for the first time during holiday meal making, because if they don’t turn out then my stress level goes through the roof. Nothing worse than a dish that flopped and there are a minimum of10 hungry people at the table. Every year though I say to myself– “self, I should try something new this year”, but I never do. Until this year when I began prepping our Thanksgiving meal a few weeks in advance with a trial run of mashed cauliflower and a new dessert- pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting.

The recipes I chose worked great and both the cauliflower and pumpkin bundt cake turned out terrific.

I followed a recipe from Eating Well for Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.

Now, I don’t like garlic. Well, I used to, but I haven’t been able to tolerate it or onions for about five years now. No clue why?

Once my cauliflower was cooked, mashed and creamy I added butter, buttermilk, and nutmeg. Try Nutmeg– I promise you this will become your go to seasoning. It works well on cauliflower that has been steamed or boiled (just sprinkle a little over the top once done) and works great with green beans and brussel sprouts. Just make sure to have a bit of butter worked into the veggies and then lightly sprinkle with nutmeg. In place of butter, if you like, you can use any oil you would normally drizzle on veggies. I would find a good priced quality extra virgin olive oil if you are opposed to adding butter.

My menu looks something like this—

Roasted 16# Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Baked Squash drizzled with Maple Syrup
Gluten Free Stuffing
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Pecan Pie  

(I love King Arthur Flour recipes– their pecan pie recipe is a big hit everytime I make it)

Until next time Happy Thanksgiving!!!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

img_4062

img_4063

img_4087

img_4116

img_4126

Happy Sinterklaas Day!!

img_4122

My Sinterklaas gift! – Beekman 1802 Snow Globe String Lights (sold out in stores)

img_4129

Welcome December and busy schedule. Time is moving quickly as it usually does this time of year. Between trying to catch holiday lights and holiday movies, and Hallmark’s Christmas shows there is work, baking, entertaining and of course our volunteer schedule to keep up on. I’ve baked peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars, lefse, sugar cookies and rosettes thus far. More to come before Christmas I am sure. Here in Wisconsin the snow has finally arrived a long with the bitterly cold temperatures of this time of year. I hope this December day finds you happy, healthy, and full of the spirit of Christmas!

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy.  And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).

My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.

thanksgiving-pictures-4

Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Crafts and the fall garden

img_3396
img_3454
img_3460
img_3437
img_3440

The fall temps of late have been just wonderful. Fall color came and went so quick that we really didn’t get a good fix from it this year. Everywhere we traveled the predominant color was rust, though we did see some beautiful red maples too.

Our container garden has been put to bed and our trees have been mulched. We grow trees year round on our deck and given them away as gifts. A tree my friends is a gift for a lifetime. We have two junipers and one pine. We had two pines but one died and we actually thought the other one would too. I took special care of it this past spring and though it still looks rough in the places it dropped needles, I think it will survive. My mum has lasted longer than any mum I’ve ever bought, it was grown locally near La Crosse WI and purchased at our coop. I think I paid $12.00 for it the first weekend in September. It’s made it through three light frosts-no problem.

We’ve made a few more changes this past summer and into the fall here in our home. The first one is once we were done with the margarine we’ve been buying nearly 20 years, out it went and in came butter. We had been using butter sparingly on sandwiches and sweet corn. But I hadn’t been cooking with butter for probably 30 years or more. Now after using it for cooking these past few weeks I never want to be without it again. We use Organic Valley butter- because well we love Organic Valley products. The one thing that has always turned my husband off from eating butter is the after taste or salty sour cream taste he claims he’s had upon trying it. Whatever that is? Organic Valley butter doesn’t have it. We’re loving the switch. The second change we made, that probably should have been made a long time ago, is we threw out the last four frozen french fries and have replaced them with homemade home fries. Every week I go and buy 8-12 organic russets to make home fries from. To make these fries you wash the potatoes well, cut into wedges and place on a greased cookie sheet- I put foil down first on mine. Then drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt and make sure all wedges are well coated. I put them into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes until the edges are crisp but the inside is tender. I serve with a dollop of organic sour cream and voila!- no more GMO french fries ever again!
The third change I’ve made is that after 35+ years of saying no to coffee I’ve learned to enjoy a cup of French pressed coffee every now and then. I’ve never liked coffee. I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the after taste. We have bought really expensive grinders, presses and coffee pots and oh boy have we bought some expensive whole beans to grind. Nothing ever changed my mind. I’ve even owned and resold two very expensive, before they were trendy, French presses.

A year or so ago I began drinking tea, something else I said I would never do. But I don’t drink just any tea I drink therapeutic teas-Marshmallow tea is my favorite. It’s not what you think- Marshmallow tea is tea made from the Marshmallow Root, it’s an herbal tea that has mucilaginous properties. What’s that? Marshmallow tea produces, once it is digested, a silky smooth mucous-like liquid. A liquid that coats your membranes all the way down to your intestines and possibly further. You have membranes all over your body- it coats them and soothes them and calms inflammation in them. It is used by people with IBS, digestive disorders, bowel/intestinal issues even some urinary and bladder issues. It’s an anti-inflammatory herbal tea. I’ve never read about anyone getting sick from it and you cannot drink too much of it. Although I limit myself to one cup a day.

Even after starting to drink tea coffee was still out. I love hot cocoa in the winter when I want to warm up. I don’t like homemade hot cocoa instead I’ve always opted for store bought -Swiss Miss. However a couple of winters ago I experienced some issues after drinking some and discovered all of the scary ingredients in it. Which one made me sick? Well I continued to try and drink it and continued to get sick -mainly diarrhea and dizziness. I am guessing the dried milk whey and the carrageenan and the mysterious artificial flavor added. Every other kind of boxed hot cocoa mix is the same so I needed to find something else to drink in cold weather. Ahem. All that was left for me was to try coffee…again.

A friend bought me a French press for my birthday, and my husband went out and bought a breakfast blend- mild and coarsely ground and I tried it and I liked it. No plans to drink it every day, but I would have a cup socially or as a means to warm up on a cold Winter’s day. Which at some point will be upon us here in Wisconsin.

The wreath in my post is one that I am making. I bought the green part of the wreath believe it or not for $6.00 at Menard’s. I’ve added mini lights and a poinsettia that clips on and may add something else ? Maybe a bulb or two just not sure at this point. I am not a crafter, but making your own and having it around year after year makes much more sense to me than buying fresh and having it last a month and then throwing it away. In our case living in town it means city dump and I’m just not going to do that to something so beautiful that belongs out in nature. We haven’t had live trees or pine boughs and wreaths in the house for over 20 years- cats, yes cats. Though Gabe has never messed with our faux tree and ornaments he would eat a real tree- bark, sap and all. Last year we bought a new 8ft faux from Target and then this year way back in September, when Walmart was just starting to think about Christmas, my husband spotted a skinny tree. I’ve wanted a skinny tree so bad the past three years. In fact that is what led us to Target last year – they had skinny trees in their ads. But to my dismay, by the time we got there, they were all gone. So we bought a beautiful almost real looking 8 ft. tree instead. The skinny tree at Walmart was really cute and under $60.00 so we bought it. And yes you guessed it, it is this year’s Christmas tree.

The painted frame is my attempt at painting. I don’t like to paint, but I found this antique frame at a barn sale this past summer and I wanted to spruce it up. Sage is an old color, an old primitive color. I’ve got a few things in sage throughout my home so sage it is. It looks nice and will go well in our kitchen. I guess painting isn’t so bad after all.

That’s it for now. I hope you can all get out and enjoy the weather if it’s good in your area and have a great weekend!

Fall Feast Plans

mums

Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending.  Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.

cap-1 cap-2 cap-3

I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~

fall-1

fall-2

freshly cleaned carpet

fresh-carpets

cozy new pom pom throw

cozy-throws

My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.

I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.

That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!