Tuesday, December 28, 2010

At a Farm Near You!

This picture represents the amount of factory farming in the U.S. OH.MY.WORD! Awful, right? Not because factories are bad and not because farms are bad, but because most factory farms are not producing good food or treating the animals they're raising for it well.
SO...here's where you can be responsible about what farms you support! :) There's this great resource on the Food & Water Watch website where you can search according to your zip code and it will bring up all the CSAs, health supermarkets, and a bunch of other stuff. I put a 50 mile radius from my zip code this is what came up. Six CSAs (and yes, Victory Acres is on there), a bunch of farmers, 7 restaurants, 3 co-ops, 17 stores, 19 farmers markets, an orchard, a brewery, and even a B&B that cleans their furniture only with natural lemon oil and handcrafts their bathroom amenities with organic ingredients and essential oils AT the B&B. Isn't that cool?!?! I found some awesome new stores and restaurants that I didn't even know were super close to our regular stomping grounds. SO excited! 
And the website is....http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Christmas Eve with the Smiths

Every year we spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family, we usually do some sort of brunch or lunch at my parents house and exchange some gifts there and then move on to the extended Smith family at my Grandma Smith's house. I think the way my grandma decorates for Christmas is awesome! She puts a tree in every room of her house and often has themed decorations for them. When I was little she would transform her china cabinet into Santa's House, complete with Santa snoozing upstairs and Mrs. Claus knitting in her rocker in the living room. Since my grandpa died about 8 years ago (wow, has it really been that long?), I've gone each year to help my grandma decorate. I LOVE IT!
My mother is more intentional about traditions than Tevya, and it made my Christmases growing up magical and special. I have no idea how she never forgot a tradition, and if she was ever tempted to "not do it just this year" she didn't succumb to it. It was beautiful! One tradition that we still participate in with them is opening pajamas on Christmas Eve and taking pictures in front of the tree (which we help decorate). 
Below are some of our pictures from our fun times this holiday with the Smiths.
Elliot and his Emmy

Christmas tea...of course!

Putting a hook on the Noah's Ark ornament...or as Elliot calls it "a zoo on a boat"

Sisters and Joy

Elliot playing with his "people"

Helping with pumpkin cake...race cars are necessary when stirring

My hubby...isn't he just a hoot!

Ev & Beth

Cousins at Grandma's #1

Cousins at Grandma's #2

Me, Elliot & Cousin Madison - HUGS!

New guitar!

Elliot's gift to his grandparents this year! - SO FUN!!!

The Sibs + Elliot

My favorite men!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Creations!

This Christmas I made my award-winning "Christmas Calabaza Cookies" (they won the Christmas cookie competition at work - ha!), honey vanilla caramels, lotion bars and bath ornaments...which I dubbed "Bain d'Ornament." Yes. Cheesy, I know! Here are the pics and recipes! :)

Christmas Calabaza Cookies
Dry Ingredients
1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour (just started using Bronze Chief and LOVE it...chemical & GMO free, slowly ground to maintain a low heat, keeping in tons of protein, vitamins and minerals)
1/4 milled flaxseed
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
Wet Ingredients
1 c raw honey
1/2 c butter softened
1 c pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
2 c powdered sugar
3 T milk
1 t vanilla extract

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with aluminum foil. (This is a "pro-tip" that my hubby has been asking me to use for awhile. If you line the sheets with aluminum foil, you can immediately pull all the cookies off the sheet at once and the foil cools almost immediately, so the bottom of your cookies don't get any browner. Plus, virtually no clean up.)
SIFT dry ingredients into a large bowl.
BLEND wet ingredients in another bowl until smooth.
COMBINE (slowly) the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture.
DROP by the tablespoon onto cookie sheets.
BAKE for 15-18 minutes.
COOL for 5 min.
MIX glaze ingredients above and DRIZZLE over cookies.

Honey Vanilla Caramels
(yeah, just realized that I can't find this recipe anywhere! Basically, I just replaced the corn syrup with raw honey from a local farmer. I figured, why not fight allergy instead of cause them. They were pretty tasty too! :))

Luxury Lotion Bars
(note: lotion bars can be made with equal parts of just about any wax, butter (shea, cocoa, mango, kokum, etc.), and oil (olive, avocado, sweet almond, sunflower, etc.) I'm looking forward to trying many more combinations in the future)

3/4 c filtered beeswax
3/4 c virgin organic coconut oil
3/4 c organic unrefined shea butter
18 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops ylang ylang essential oil
10 drops geranium essential oil
7 drops patchouli essential oil

MELT beeswax in a double boiler, add in coconut oil and melt, add shea butter and melt (shea butter should be heated just to a "melted" point, otherwise it can become grainy).
REMOVE from heat and add in essential oils.
POUR mixture into silicone mold and let cool. Then pop out and rub it all over! (Elliot loves his "Christmas Tree" lotion)

Bain d'Ornaments

1. Pick up some glass ornaments from your local craft store...or ask a friend to do it for you. :)
2. Gather ingredients - I used (in order of layers) citric acid, french green clay, baking soda, powdered yarrow, epsom salts, and lavender flowers
3. Craft a funnel out of piece of paper if you don't have one small enough for the ornament opening. (I was actually thinking, I might pick up some of those free paper funnels at the gas station just for these sorts of purposes)
4. Add your ingredients in layers

Isn't it pretty? Now you can just dump it into your running bath water and feel all wonderful!

Our Christmas Letter

From our most recent family portrait session!

This year we sent out our Christmas letter electronically. You can view it here if you'd like - http://evangilmore.com/xmas2010/

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goat Cheese

You can find my recipe for kefir cheese here and my butter recipe here is on here somewhere too. Today I tried my hand at goat cheese. One of our neighbors gave us some fresh goat's milk about a week ago. I used some of it to make soap, and then didn't know what to do with the rest. So I checked out Little House in the Suburbs (love them!), and they had a recipe for goat cheese. I adapted it for my purposes, but they have some good pictures you can check out.

Goat Cheese
1 quart goat's milk
1/8 c lemon juice (you can substitute vinegar)

Salt or Herbs to Taste

1. Heat milk on medium until it's between 190-200 degrees.
2. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat.
3. Allow to curdle and cool until it isn't too hot to touch.
4. Line bowl with cheesecloth.
5. Pour curdled milk through cheesecloth and tie ends onto a spoon like in the picture above. Make sure there is a little room for your cheese to hang so it's not touching the bottom of the bowl.
6. Let hang for a few hours. For harder cheese refrigerate overnight.
7. Add salt and/or other herbs to taste.

For me, this recipe yielded about a pint of cheese and a pint of whey. I'll be using the whey in soup or bread or something.

Yummy Delicious Whole Grain Pumpkin Bread

(we ate a couple pieces :)
Yummy Delicious Whole Grain & Honey Pumpkin Bread
6 oz pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1/3 c coconut oil
1 c honey
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c oat bran
1/4 c ground flax seed
1/2 t baking soda
1 t pumpkin pie spice (1/4 t nutmeg, 1/4 t cinnamon, 1/8 t ground ginger, 1/8 t ground cloves, and a pinch of allspice could replace this)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bread pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, egg, egg yolk, coconut oil and honey.
3. In another bowl, mix together whole wheat flour, oat bran, flax seed, baking soda, and spices.
4. Sift dry ingredients.
5. Mix dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until just mixed.
6. Pour into bread pan and bake for 40-50 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Children and Home

Magnet letters, crayons, handheld instruments, blocks, balls, and animal toys. Little blankets, stuffed Super Why characters, Little People nativity set, and extra small washcloths. Sippy cups, varicolored spoons, Hot Wheels, and little socks. All evidence of the little boy that lives in this house.
I realized while cleaning my house today that every room has messages that would communicate to any stranger that a child that is living here. There are also many messages that communicate to a better trained eye that a child is being intentionally lived WITH...loved here. While this made things a bit complicated when trying to set up my living room and kitchen for company, the moment I realized that this boy has not only invaded my heart but my home, my soul swelled with contentment and a fullness. This "soul swelling" has occurred many times since I've had Elliot, and it always happens when something strikes me as incredibly lovely and true about my relationship with him that I then realize is also incredibly lovely and true about my relationship with God.
As I put the Thomas the Tank Engine placemat in the corner of the kitchen while I set the table for tea, I thought about my home - our home, and the place I desired for it to be. A home shared by three people in which we feel hurt and peace and freedom and love. A home where everyone has a place, where everyone belongs. A home where messages are left. A home with rooms and songs and pictures and socks and toys - "I am here." A home where uniqueness is celebrated and creativity is fostered - "I am special." A home where we provide for, talk to, and pray with each other, "I am loved." A home where all this is possible because God is there and His Spirit never leaves.
So now at the end of the day, I look at the board books, palm tree computer mouse, flashlight, purse, and socks on the floor of my living room and think, "Wow! Look at those messages. How beautiful! I'm home. I'm here. I'm special. I'm loved. And I live with a man and a boy that are the most special and loved things in the world to me!"
And then I wonder, "What does God's house look like do you think?" Can you imagine how beautiful it must be?

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 
- 1 John 3:1
"Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."
- John 14:23


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