Merry Christmas!!

Hope your day is cozy and full of warm feelings.

Photo Dec 24, 7 57 08 AM

Sugar Plums

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

You know the verse.

But, can you tell me …

what, exactly, is a sugar plum?

My first thought:

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Photo by Kristen Taylor via Wikimedia Commons

Fresh, juicy, and sugar-sweet—much like the ones that grow at my farm.

But history says that my vision of a sugar plum is not accurate, at least not in terms of Clement Moore’s famous poem.

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And the cattle are lowing …

Here’s what my days are about. Momma “Sweetheart” nurses baby Charlie while Auntie Sally O’Mally sleeps nearby. Etta Jane and her baby, Eliza Belle, snooze out of view. Maizy and Miss Daisy are in the barn asleep. Otis, Yore, Brie, and Beau Vine snuggle in another barn. Milky Way and Samson in yet another shelter.

When Charlie isn’t tucked under momma, he and his older sibling, Eliza Belle, run like the wind. Run! Eliza Belle kicks up her heels sideways (too cute), and Charlie leaps likes a deer through the snow. I mean, he LEAPS. Bounds. I’ve never seen a calf leap like he does. It I weren’t trying to get my cow book done, I’d move in with my lovely cows. “Hay guys, is there room at the inn? Your beds look so cozy.”

Meanwhile, down at the farm … peace on earth.

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Goin’ Green

How about a Christmas tree that’s roughly four feet tall, perfectly symmetrical, and very much alive? In late September, my local nursery puts their trees on clearance, so that’s when I usually adopt my soon-to-be Christmas tree for around $60. Some years there’s another local endeavor selling live trees for $125 but not this year.

My feelings are identical to the way I felt when my parents let me pick out a puppy or choose from a litter of kittens. This one! Its roots are securely tucked into a root ball covered in burlap. Each year, I bring a tree home and carefully and routinely water it until I can get it planted, usually in March sometime.

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Grown and out the door, my farm is home to a couple dozen trees I’ve fallen for over the years. Some of them are now HUGE! Thought to protect homes from evil, it’s no surprise we want them indoors with us. Outside greenery, brought inside, is the centerpiece of our holiday season.

The worship of trees goes back to the time of the earliest Pantheists. (Pantheism is the worship of nature.) Integrated into our holiday customs are early Christian and Jewish practices, Roman traditions, medieval pagan rituals, and Victorian nostalgia. Germans introduced Americans to the Christmas tree (tannenbaum), but they weren’t the first to believe that evergreen trees represented eternal life because of their perennial green color during winter. Ancient homes were decorated with boughs and the tops of trees turned upside down to entice the spirit of nature inside for prosperity and good health.

Cut, faux, or alive—what’s your centerpiece this year? Having tried them all, I can make a convincing argument for all three. For every Christmas tree cut, two are planted. With over a million acres set aside to grow Christmas trees, one acre provides the daily oxygen requirement for some 18 people, but there’s just something sad to me about that lifeless hulk slowly turning brown out the back door. And I can’t for the life of me envision Pan, the god of woods, fields, and flocks, coming into my home to play his flute for my faux tree, even if it is an “eternal” tree.

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Check out www.livingchristmastrees.org, a Portland, Oregon-based company that’s been in business for over 20 years delivering full-size Christmas trees and then planting them at schools, churches, and parks after Christmas.

Advent Calendar Idea

Maybe you’ll be getting a new deck of cards this year in your Christmas stocking. If so, here’s an idea for what to do with your old deck. I made this scrapbook-inspired advent calendar last year from an old deck of cards.

In the spirit of upcycle and on a mission to make an advent calendar, I rummaged through my craft boxes, finding spare scraps, odd buttons, random thread and lace, and numbers, and then scrounged some holidayish-looking items. Using a fabulous vintage frame I’d been saving and an old deck of cards, I started cutting and pasting, the old-fashioned way. The cards have special meaning because my grandpa, now gone, gave me this deck many years ago after teaching me card tricks. Casino issue, the whole set had been punched with a hole upon its professional retirement, perfect for this project.

Most of my advent calendar is upcycled, but I did use a new alphabet stamp set and pad for some of the numbers and a dear friend lent me her Cricut machine that cuts paper into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Even the styrofoam backing is a scrap I snagged from the ‘shipping warehouse’ side of our farm.

When I showed my mother the finished project, she asked how on earth I burned all the edges of the paper and cards so evenly. Here’s a handy tip: rub the edges of your paper with a brown stamp pad, and it instantly looks rustic, aged, and even a bit burned in places.

Underneath each card is a smaller card with a note that is a 24-day treasure hunt for my children. Every year, I come up with things like, “Where on earth might your dollies be?” And then, underneath their sleeping dollies, sugar-plum lollipops await them or the promise of an extra-long bedtime story.

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This year we’re having fun with the Elf on the Shelf. Anyone else doing that?

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shopping for groceries

Wouldn’t you love to be shopping for groceries when …

 

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Creamy Polenta Gift Jar

The perfect side dish for a cold winter night makes a delicious edible holiday gift.

Mix 2 cups uncooked polenta with 2 T finely diced sun-dried tomatoes, 4 t coarse salt, and 1 t dried rosemary, and transfer to a quart canning jar. Top with 4 oz. mixed dried mushrooms. Write recipe directions (below) on card and attach with string.

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PREP TIME: 5 minutes
COOK TIME: 45 minutes
MAKES: 8 servings

12    cups water
contents of gift jar
½     cup freshly grated Parmesan, optional
4     T butter, divided
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dried mushrooms. Soak for 15-20 minutes, or until thoroughly softened.
2. In the meantime, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and slowly stir in polenta. Whisk constantly for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan (if using), 2 T butter, salt, and pepper. Cover and set aside.
3. In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, add 2 T butter, the mushrooms strained from their liquid, and ¼ cup of the mushroom liquid. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
4. If polenta has thickened too much, add ¼ cup water and stir to thin. Reheat, ladle polenta into a serving bowl or individual bowls and top with mushrooms.

And a little more holiday shopping…

Look what I found at our local coop, in our very own Glamping fabric!

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Alicia at Pink Sweetie is busy making some adorable hair gizmos, snappy pouches, and magnets. She has a great selection on her Etsy store. Happy shopping!

P.S. Can you believe I get to live the background of this photo every day?? I was on my way to the farm with snappy pouch in hand so I thought I might as well enjoy the view and the sun for moment and snap a photo of my snappy for you.