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!


Christmas movies and other traditions

We can’t go through the holiday season without watching:

The Grinch Stole Christmas- this movie though entertaining also teaches one to feel with their whole heart.

Christmas Vacation- great movie for the soul, for sure a 90-minute laugh fest.

The Nativity Story- tells the story of Mary, Joseph,  Elizabeth, and Jesus.

Christmas Carol- reminds me to make the best of every day and be generous with my time, heart, and love.

Santa Clause 1, 2,3- magic with a side of humor.

One Special Night- romance and family–starting again later in life.

Love Actually- love, all about love.

Food traditions we have- making fudge, rosettes, and spritz. On December 5th we celebrate Sinterklaas Day and we have always loved driving through neighboring towns and looking at Christmas lights. This year I am reading Christmas stories about the Nisse-Norwegian trolls. Very interesting.

What are some of yours?









Story of Nisse-Norwegian Trolls



Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser- a review

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser is a comprehensive look into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. I’ve been a lifelong reader about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I could not pass up the opportunity to read this one. I felt this book answered so many of the questions I’ve had about Laura’s life after she married Almanzo Wilder in De Smet, SD. I often wondered why her father and mother moved around so much in the early years. I was also very curious to know more about Laura’s relationship with her daughter Rose. Prairie Fires answers these questions and so much more. I started reading the Little House books in the 1970’s as a teen. Now nearly forty years later I can say I’ve come full circle. Prairie Fires provides a very comprehensive and historical account of one of the most interesting pioneer/settlers of all time.

This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever picked up a book written about Laura Ingalls Wilder. It contains the full breadth of knowledge about her early pioneer days. I read this book at quite a clip but found myself going back and re-reading the rich information found in it.  Readers will find it is hard to put down. I highly recommend Prairie Fires to all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, historians, those interested in the early pioneer history, and homesteaders.

I requested this book from NetGalley to review due to its subject matter, and rave reviews.

Professional Reader

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!!!

My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!

Homesteader Goal #5 & 6

Buy a cast iron skillet- check

I bought a Lodge at Walmart for $15.00. Right away I went to YouTube to watch videos on seasoning cast irons. There are a million videos out there. The first time it worked fine, but the video I watched suggested to season it a second time before use. This time it came out sticky even though I used a very very tiny bit of oil. I scrubbed it good with a brush and fried bacon in it and it seems to be doing just fine. No more stickiness.  I’ve hesitated for years buying another one after a disastrous seasoning experience in 2000.

For my birthday this past weekend, my husband bought us a Berkey Travel Water Filtration System. I’ve researched this system for over a year and we finally reached the point, tired of buying water, to purchase one. The taste of the water is incredible–absolutely incredible. We’ve been drinking Evian for years and both love it. However, the water we are getting from our Berkey is even better than that. Cleanest, clearest tasting water in the world. No more city water straight from the tap for us. The reason we didn’t buy the Big Berkey is this travel size is recommended for two people and it works just fine for us. It holds 1.5 gallons of water at a time, filters fairly quickly, and my husband has gone completely crazy over it. I’ve never ever seen him drink so much water.

Twenty-four years ago I couldn’t pay him to drink water. Then five years into our marriage he would drink flavored water. Fifteen years in still at flavored water until he started drinking Evian. Then he would drink a bottle here and there and he the last five or so years he’s up to a couple of big bottles a day. But drinking Evian is expensive, very expensive.

My goal for over a year has been to buy a water filtration system so–now we own one!

Goals 1-4 of this Urban Homesteader:

  1. learning to grow garden plants from seed
  2. learning to grow vegetables and fruits from both seed starters and plants
  3. producing food
  4. preserving food

I’m feeling pretty good. Hope you all are too! Until next time, be well.

Soulful Baker by Julie Jones–a review

Soulful Baker by Julie Jones is a loving tribute to baking made beautiful by Julie Jones. I’ve followed Julie Jones and her soulful excursions making pies, tarts, cakes, and bakes for some time. Beautifully decorated desserts made with natural ingredients, and pastry recipes perfectly extraordinaire.

There is simply nothing more beautiful than the story behind both her Instagram account and this beautiful cookery book. Both feature fabulous creations by Julie and her mum captured in beautiful photography and loving stories shared throughout.  From the apple roses to the salted caramel, and the chocolate tart– this book is filled with inspiration. This is your chance to learn how to bake like a pro. All you need is your imagination and Soulful Baker by Julie Jones.

I requested Soulful Baker from NetGalley to review because of its loving tribute to the author’s mum. I simply fell in love with the recipes, photos, and stories included with each recipe. I highly recommend this cookery book to everyone!

Professional Reader

Sundays in our home

Every Sunday in our home is roasted chicken day. It’s also fresh baked cookies day, in preparation for the work week. I begin to prepare dinner around 2:30 p.m. every Sunday and I’m out of the kitchen, usually, by 7 p.m. after clean-up. This time of year brings with it a lot of baking– I bake pumpkins and save the pumpkin for pumpkin bars and pie. I dry the pumpkin seeds for our winter population of birds. About twice a week for approximately four- six months we eat squash. We love acorn squash. Apples my husband didn’t care for were peeled, sliced, and cooked into homemade applesauce. I like mine a bit on the chunky side. For 3# of apples I got four cups of sauce–I peeled, cored, and cut the apples then added 1/4 c. sugar and heated on medium heat for 25 minutes.