Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgivings, Past & Present


I love Thanksgiving SO so much--I really do...I think it could easily 
be my favorite holiday.*  Its just about good food, being with family 
and having a little down time--which is always so needed.  

Beyond all that, of course, is the fact that Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on
 how fortunate we, as a family, are... and to be thankful for all that we have.  
This--more than anything, is what I hope
we can instill in our children about this holiday.

I am the crazy mom who, night after night, tells her kids
 if they haven't cleaned their plates with 
"Right now, there are children starving in Africa 
because they don't have enough food to need to eat all your dinner, 
because I am NOT throwing any of that food away!"  

Yes, that is me...and I am unrelenting in this when it comes to throwing food away. 
I don't do it, I loath to do actually kind of breaks my heart if I ever have to toss good food.

But anyway, back to Thanksgiving...there is SO much to be thankful for, but
if I can just get my kids to really, REALLY understand how wonderful and
precious good, home-cooked food is and for them to really be thankful for it, 
I will feel like, in a big way, I will have succeeded as a parent.  
Because then, they will know what a priority wholesome food is 
and with it, they will nourish themselves and their loved ones.  

And honestly, that is all that I can ask for.

Onto the crafts...This is the GIVE THANKS banner I made two years ago.  Pottery Barn Kids
did something similar (and was the inspiration) but as I recall it was around $60+ and
there was no way I could spend that kind of money.  

So, I made one.

Here's a detail shot...I used old buttons, felt, yarn and my trusty hot glue gun.

It was fun to come up with different ideas for each letter; like each was its own work of art.
And it just adds a nice warm and festive touch to the house...

without going TOTALLY over-board--

which is what we did in this next photo...see below.

Yes, there is the thanksgiving table, in all its glory, circa 2010.

I got it in my head two or three years ago that kids would like to play with puppets!  I mean,
c'mon...doesn't every kid like a cute puppet?  Well, my kids like these for all about 5 minutes 
and then they are off to something else, but I can't help it...I still put these guys out--even if its 
only me  that plays with them!

*And just for the record, I think it was totally awesome of the Native Americans to share their food with the pilgrims and teaching them how to grow local seeds and fish in those early Thanksgivings of the 1620s...I DO NOT think it has been so great how the anglo folks have been treating the Native Americans ever since...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Craft: A Vintage Book Leaf Wreath-For My Sister

 There is something so warm and wonderful about a beautiful wreath--hung on the front door...
welcoming you inside.  And there seems to be something so traditional about it too.
but traditional in like an ancient Greek and Roman kind of way.

From Wikipedia:

The use of the laurel wreath arose from the Greek myth involving Apollo, Zeus’ son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne. When he pursued her she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her, in which Peneus turned her into a laurel tree. From that day forth, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head. This became associated with what Apollo embodied; victory, achievement and status and would later become one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece and Rome.

The Romans use of laurel wreaths echo the Greek traditions. The wreath was a symbol in the arts, literature, government and education in Roman society. In the arts, it expressed that one was valued and respected with a laurel wreath resting atop one’s head. Ovid, the famous Roman poet, is almost always depicted with laurel in his hair. Kings in both Greece and Rome donned the laurel wreath to illustrate sovereignty. Julius Caesar for example, proclaimed the laurel wreath "to be a symbol of the supreme ruler." The wreaths worn by kings were reminiscent of the traditional laurel wreath by the shape and its connotation yet were embellished with gold and gems. This eventually led to the modern day crown.

But then, there is the origins of the Advent wreath:

In Christianity, wreaths are used to prepare for the Advent season or the "coming of Christ." The first known association with these now modern day wreaths dates back to the Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. In 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach. For every Sunday of Advent, starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he would put a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he would use a red candle. The Advent wreath is constructed of evergreens to represent everlasting life brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represents God, with no beginning and no end. The Advent wreath is now a popular symbol in preparation for the coming of Christ, to mark the beginning of the Christian Church’s year and as d├ęcor during the Christmas festivities.

So, yes...very interesting!  I like to know the origin of the objects in our lives that maybe we take for granted or maybe we have no idea that this every day object had its roots in Greek Mythology--
 Just fun to know!  

My latest wreath-making project is something I wanted to make for my sister...I got the idea/inspiration/directions from Martha Stewart...See here.  
I thought this was a fitting gift and its a fun twist on an OLD idea...

I took Luca's vintage copy of Robinson Crusoe 
(SORRY LUCA!!--I will replace, I promise!)
and cut out about 60 leaves...
and then cut out another 30 because the dogs chewed up 1/2 of the first batch! 
(but by the end, I was a pro!)  

To do this: I cut out and glued together two pages, 
with floral wire in between them.  I then cut out the leaf shape and then wrapped
brown floral tape around the base...(all very clear in Martha's directions)

and I winded and twisted them onto a circular base that I made out of more wire 
and finished the whole thing off with a pretty bow...

I think it turned out really well, but what is so cool about it is that if you get 
up close and really look, you can see some of the illustration details.  This is fun
and kind of makes the wreath come to life a are some examples:

So, there is it is: my vintage book leaf wreath for my sister.  A nice warm welcome
for her door and fun to look at too...

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spaghetti & Marshmallows!

Last week, I came across this AWESOME BLOG!!  I cannot even believe how awesome this blog is...its called What I Made--and it is hands down, one of the coolest blogs to look at for kids and adults around.  I found this post about spaghetti and marshmallows and thought that would be a fun thing for me and the kids to do--so this past weekend, we got a bunch of spaghetti and a couple bags of marshmallows and tried our hand at making some, ahem...towers...

First, you start with your building supplies.  
We went for your basic spaghetti and your average marshmallow in regular and mini.

Its a little sticky and takes a light touch...

but then, you kind of get the hang of it...

and Volia!  Our first structures emerge!

Its kind of all about using exact lengths of spaghetti...but c'mon, who were we kidding??

We were just having fun.

Magda did build a tower that got pretty tall.  Very impressive; she realized quickly that the cross pieces helped to reinforce and give more stability.

But in the end, just how stable can a mini-marshmallow be??

Sadly, her tower went down in a blaze of glory...
in a kind of slow-motion, folding over on top of itself sort of way....
Which made us all laugh.  A very fun project which we highly recommend!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Fig & Hazelnut Jam

One of my favorite breakfasts during the fall and winter months is this hearty whole wheat seed bread from Whole Foods--toasted--with a little bit a butter and a lot of this Fig & Hazelnut jam that I make...

The jam is super easy and actually the recipe is adapted from a Giada recipe (from Giada's 
Kitchen), its for an appetizer--Pecorino Romano with Apple and Fig Jam--I hijacked the jam recipe and never looked back...its really good!! The other reason I like it is because the hazelnuts give the jam a little protein and in a weird way...its kind of like a fancy version of PB&J...but much, much better!

Fig & Hazelnut Spread
6-8 dried figs, haved
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water 
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts--without skins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
pinch salt

Combine the figs, cinnamon, orange zest,  salt, sugar, water & brandy in a small saucepan.  Bring mixture to a simmer over  medium heat, then turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to plump the figs and cool slightly.  Toast hazelnuts over medium heat in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.  Transfer fig mixture to food processor pulsing a few times.  Add hazelnuts and pulse until pureed but still slightly chunky. Store in fridge in air-tight jar.

Its got a very homey, earthy taste-sweet but not too sweet and the brandy, orange and cinnamon give it a nice depth of flavor.  And as far as I am concerned, hazelnuts are totally under-appreciated in the US--I would like them to take over kitchens every where and this is my one small step towards that vision...

I hope, if you are looking for a new breakfast idea, you might try this one--the jam couldn't be simpler to make; its keeps for a couple weeks in the fridge and its a nice change of pace from a bowl of cereal!!