Happy Winter Solstice, friends! Today, on the shortest day of the year, I find myself with visions of summer days dancing in my head and the season’s first seed catalog open on the table.Â I am so grateful for the abundance of winter vegetables that I am still pulling out of my garden and am beyond delighted that starting tomorrow, the days will begin to lengthen, meaning we’re on our way to the fruitful and hopeful Spring. Here’s hoping this winter brings us all cozy times, creativity, and love!
*image by Jenn Ireland
Because you are dying to know what new gingerbread men (and ladies) are gracing my tree with their presence, I give you this update. A few of the favorites (and less weird and creepy ones) from the night.
Clearly, as you’ll see from these photos, we had an awesome time decorating cookies and Rachel and Gabe brought their decorating A-game and their iPhones, which really helped when needing inspiration or a point of reference.
There was a lot more attention to detail and thinking “outside of the box” this time around. This year, cookie pieces were broken off to create specific shapes and for the insertion of items like toothpick lightsabers. Obi-wan had one too. Special holes were “drilled” into cookies’ faces to create the perfect look, like the crooked smirk on Elvis’s face. Cookies were even inverted to create unique accompaniments like the Delorean for Marty McFly.
My dad sat at the table with us, contributed to the silly (ok, just plain weird and sometimes embarrassing) banter that you only hear around a Brewer’s table, and lovingly made fun of the weird cookie people we were creating.
I’m going to spare you the sneaky photo Gabe took of Rachel and me belting it out to our fav Christmas album, the Jackson 5 Christmas. You just don’t need to see that.
Those of you who know us well may even be able to tell which one of us came up with each cookie, as they, unfortunately, reflect our kookyÂ personalities…just a little. Although apparently, they do not resemble us as I discovered when I held up a mini version of me (red Hunters and all), asked my family to guess who it was, and was met with completely blank stares. After being asked why it had boxing gloves on its feet, I said, “Those aren’t gloves. They’re boots! That’s me!” This ultimately sent me into a fit of laughter that brought me to tears. I’m saving you from seeing that picture as well.
Early this year, when writing a post about my small steps toward sustainability, I realized that I was turning into my grandma. Open up my kitchen drawer of Â clean, but previously-used Ziploc bags and pieces of aluminum foil around my family and they’ll likely say, “Oh my God, you are just like grandma and Poppy.”
We used to joke about how silly it seemed when they cleaned out a to-go container to save or how weird it was to unwrap a present to find a Cheerios box inside, which was creatively being used to hold some practical gift. And now I follow in their footsteps, only to realize it during random moments of reflection. Yep, I’m their granddaughter for sure.
Yes, I’m discovering that I’m the type of girl that will carefully unwrap a gift so as to reuse the paper again. I’m the type of girl that has an under-the-bed-tote billowing with gently used gift bags, tissue, and paper that are in perfectly good shape to be re-gifted. Â I haven’t gone so far as to iron old gift wrap and tissue paper, but I could totally imagine doing something like that now. I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased a gift bag.
This year, I’m going to take it a step further. I’m dolling up my kraft paper packages with holiday stamps and then, what I can salvage, I’ll save to stamp and decorate on the other side for other gift wrap-needed occasions. Kraft paper is sturdy, so I’m likely to have lots for future uses. Whatever gets ripped will get shredded and used later in my worm bin. Like I said before, I’m in the Christmas spirit and this year, I’m putting my own spin on it. I just might also be making myself the crunchy black sheep of the family in the process.
Ever since October Unprocessed, the tea thing has been nagging at me â€“ the fact that I drink processed bags of tea every morning without really giving it another thought. It was one of those things that when I started this localtarian lifestyle, I made an exception for, along with the Italian and Spanish wine and olive oil I love so much. Oh yeah, and the spices too. A few choice things would have to be imported.
In October though, I started to rethink that habit. The loose leaf tea that was once a weekend comfort, became part of my weekday morning routine. I put the pot on to boil, fill my metal tea ball with loose leaf tea, prop it on the edge of my reusable to-go mug, and let it steep while I finish getting ready for work. A process that I thought would add more time on to my morning to-dos, blended right in and now, rather than composting a tea bag everyday, I’m composting just the tea leaves and washing the reusable ball.
But while this has been great for all the standards like earl grey and chai, I couldn’t help but miss the one tea bag that had yet to be replaced – my spicy ginger tea. Until, I remembered the infusions I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine months ago. With nothing to lose, I gave it a go. I peeled one end of a piece of ginger root (admittedly not local, but something I am deciding to eat consciously and with appreciation), cut it into chunks, threw it into my to-go mug, and poured the boiling water on it. With the snap of the lid, which conveniently prevented the ginger from being consumed, I was set and the result was delicious! If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was drinking ginger tea.
Later, I tried it with a few slices of an organic tart apple and it was even sweeter! Martha suggests using a French press to create other lovely infusions like lemon verbena and lemongrass; Â peppermint; and tarragon and orange peel, but the sky is the limit! Oh my, cranberry pear? If you’re not a caffeine seeker like me and just want a little warm and cozy in your belly, try these infusions and let me know what other delicious combinations you come up with!