Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One Super Simple Homemade Present Idea

I know you’re not thinking about homemade Christmas presents right now. In fact, you’re probably like me – about to be caught unawares when Thanksgiving wraps and you look around and think – “Oh my God, it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t done a thing!” Well, this year, undoubtedly, that will happen once again but I will have at least one present brewing away in the back of my pantry ready to give just in time for Christmas.

I’m making homemade infused vinegars. Specifically, white wine balsamic vinegar infused with lemons. It’s delicious. I love it with olive oil as salad dressing or drizzled on steamed vegetables. I even like to dip fresh bread in it. Yummo.

Most of the people on my Christmas list already have everything they need. I’m sure they’d be perfectly happy with a gift card or the latest bestseller. But I love to give presents that I’ve made by hand or at the very least put my heart in to. So this year, several of my peeps will be getting yummy lemon infused vinegar. A couple of them are probably reading this now, so I apologize for spoiling the surprise.

I’ve written in the past about homemade gifts here and here if you’re looking for some ideas.

Infused vinegars are probably the easiest presents I’ve made. The hardest part is finding the perfect gift bottles and thinking ahead. Infused vinegars take at least three weeks to reach their best flavors. I’ll share my ultra-simple recipe below, but I’m sure you can find other recipes online if lemon isn’t your thing. If nothing else, maybe this post will get you thinking about how you can pull together some heartfelt, handmade presents yourself this year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What to Do With All Those Leaves?!

What to do about the leaves….rake them? Bag them? Ignore them? Leaves are one of the best things about fall. It’s much easier for me to say that now than when I was a kid. I grew up in dense woods with old growth trees that towered over our world. Every fall my parents expected my brothers and I to help rake up the multitude of leaves that rained down on our yard from those great giants. I don’t know how they did this, I can barely get my own kids to clean up their rooms. The leaf pile in the back of our property was the size of a small house. Somehow the fun we had jumping in it never equaled the misery of spending your entire Saturday dragging sheets full of leaves to the pile.

My own kids love leaves. When the leaves finally fall from the woods that skirt our property, it’s time for “leaf sledding”! You’ve never heard of this sport? C’mon over, my kids would gladly introduce you to it. It helps that our entire property is a hill. There is virtually no level ground, which has forced me to be a creative gardener and eliminates the possibility of us ever renting a moonbounce, but as far as sledding goes – it’s a three season sport at our house. In the winter it’s the traditional snow sledding, helmet required because any piece of plastic carrying a small child can reach speeds well over the “oh-my-gosh-she’s-going-to-kill-herself” level. Come summer, we have the longest, fastest water slide in town. But in the fall it’s “leaf sledding” season. 

My husband uses the mower to maneuver all the leaves into a single thick lane for sledding. Any plastic tobagon or saucer will do. It’s a great way to spend a fall afternoon - great exercise for the kids and hours of entertainment. My kids like to sled down while holding a small video recorder in front of them and when they finally wear out and come inside from all the sledding, they watch these videos endlessly. The results are pretty funny, especially when a cat, chicken, sibling, or unsuspecting adult gets in their path.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Fantasy Root Cellar!

We all have dreams. My dream would be to live on one hundred acres in an old farm house retrofitted to function off the grid on solar and wind power, with geo-thermal heat. We’d have beautiful rolling pastures, immense and endless gardens, a fruit orchard, grape vineyard, and a big bank barn where I could raise my own cow, hog, horses, and chickens. We would have a greenhouse, cold frames to grow vegetables year round, and a root cellar! That’s my fantasy. That’s not necessarily my husband’s fantasy. But he goes along, good sport that he is.

Last year, in pursuit of making my dreams come true, he built me a small cold frame and I grew lettuce all winter. In the summer he rigged up a shade for the cold frame and my lettuce continued to thrive all summer. But alas, I wanted more. Late in the summer I began my campaign for a root cellar, just like Laura Ingalls. We live on this incessant hill, so a root cellar doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. Until you consider that we live on a Pennsylvania hillside where the most abundant native crop is rocks. Dig up any square foot of ground and you will discover at least ten square inches of rocks to be harvested.

But this is a fantasy, not reality I’m working with, so rocks didn’t figure in to my calculations as I lobbied for a root cellar to store the seventy-five pounds of potatoes and sweet potatoes I hoped to harvest. My husband simply shook his head at my pleas. He didn’t say no, though. He did what he does best with my plans and schemes, he thought about it.

And then he built me a root cellar….in my cellar.