Land of Enchantment ~in photos~

Some photos from our amazing trip to Santa Fe. Everyone should go there at least once in their life, especially at Christmastime.

icicles

icicles

Buddha in the snow

Buddha in the snow

blue glass chile ristra

blue glass chile ristra

glass pumpkins

glass pumpkins

Palace of the Governors, Indian Market

Palace of the Governors, Indian Market

giant snowball

giant snowball

Apache Spirit Dancer

Apache Spirit Dancer

Apache Spirit Dancer, up close

Apache Spirit Dancer, up close

sunset

sunset

tree outside Loretto Chapel

tree outside Loretto Chapel

candle prayers, Loretto Chapel

candle prayers, Loretto Chapel

state flag

state flag

 

On Gifting This Year

the last of the rum balls

the last of the rum balls

As usual, I gave a lot of homemade gifts this year. I started planning for this early….very early. At the end of summer I did a whole bunch of canning, which helped immensely this winter.

I love putting up food, but have realized I’m awfully bad about actually consuming it all. So I made certain things I knew would make great gifts. I made some jams, mustards, relishes, and ice cream toppers. I also started some vanilla extracts months ago, but they still seemed fairly weak for now, so I only gave away 2 jars.

Chris makes some excellent beef jerky, so I gave little baggies of that to my meat-eating friends. I even wrote up the recipe over at From Scratch Club too, in case you want to make some for yourself.

I also wanted to do a few non-edibles. I used this tutorial to make some whipped body butters, and I got a few items from Mountain Rose Herbs to make salves.

I made some close friends and family knitted items as well. Those really need to be started in November, at least for me, to make sure I finish them in time.

For Jack and Chris I’d say we spent a little more than usual (which by traditional standards is still pretty low), but I feel really excited about all of the gifts I bought for them. Chris has been planning out some elaborate gift for me too, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

Plus we are gifting each other tattoos in the new year, since the last time we got them done was when we lived in Washington, over 4 years ago!

Now that we live somewhere with a lot of friends, all of the advanced work really made a difference. I was able to give to more people than usual this year. Next summer I’m going to keep this in mind as I work my way through gardening/canning season.

What homemade goodies did you give or receive so far this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

I have so much to be thankful this year, it hardly seems fair. I hope you have a lovely day of feasting and friendship today.

In much of my adult life I’ve had an interesting series of Thanksgiving meals with friends, since we don’t live near family. They’ve all been lovely.

I’ve had vegan Thanksgivings, Friday Thanksgivings, one where I was already so tipsy on red wine that I scorched the mashed potatoes, and tomorrow will be the second I’ve had with a turkey from the farm I work for. And this year when Chris pulled out the innards I actually knew what the gizzard was, and wasn’t freaked out.

I am shocked at the love and gratitude and great friendships I’ve had as a grown up. I’ve lived lots of places and it just seems highly unlikely that I’d be at such a wonderful place in my life surrounded by so many amazing people.

Like my friend Paul used to always say….”You are like a cat, you always land on your feet!”

Indeed.

A Different Path

Spirit of Life, Saratoga

Almost 4 years ago we moved from one coast to the other and our lives changed in a lot of ways. One was a huge cut to our overall income. This put us on a different path, and I honestly feel like we are much better for it.

It is easy from time to time to get off the path. Sometimes less important things or people creep in and cause a lot of distraction and I forget the end goals.

Recently I joined a discussion group on Voluntary Simplicity organized by Jillian. She wrote a great post about it which I strongly suggest you read if this sort of thing strikes your fancy. I had to miss the first two meetings but I have done all of the readings and really like the course so far.

Week Three’s topic was work. Just in our small group I realized that I am in a minority (I think) when it comes to how I view satisfying work. To me work is very physical. If I’m not manipulating things it doesn’t seem very gratifying.

Most of my “work” now belongs to the things I do at home. It isn’t necessarily the most fun, and I’m certainly not getting evaluated on it or anything, but it’s important and I take pride in it.

I enjoy baking bread and making our Christmas gifts and sewing Halloween costumes. In a minute I’ll start working on chicken pot pie for dinner, but I already made the crust this morning with Jack. There will be something more special about dinner, because I made it myself. I put time and energy and thought into it, and to me that’s valuable work.

In the course of the discussion I mentioned skillful work and that I think it’s important for everyone to have some form of skill. You should have something you are good at that you could use to help you trade for some other good or service, if necessary.

Oddly, when I brought this up a woman in the group said, “Whoa this is sounding a little bit Tea Partyish if you ask me.” Whoa. Ok, I know not everyone has the same perspective as me, but when I think Voluntary Simplicity I think of living with minimal inputs, closer to nature, low tech.

People seem to forget that our “modern” way of life has been very brief when you look at the history of humans over time. It is amazing and interesting to be alive during this area, but there’s no way to sustain it for the long haul.

I want to put forth the energy and the time to learn skills that should not have been forgotten in the first place. I don’t choose to learn chicken butchery because I think it’ll be as fun as a walk in the woods. I do it because it empowers me and it adds to my own ability to sustain myself and my family.

Voluntary Simplicity, to me, is living with technology and modern life in a way that is fulfilling, not all encompassing. To be thankful and grateful for all that the modern world can do for us but to still be able to put up your own food, whether you choose to or not.

I’m not sure exactly how that has anything to do with people who can’t understand why we need taxes for roads and fire departments, but I guess everyone is allowed to have their own opinions. :)

(The course is through Northwest Earth Institute if you want to check it out.)

A Political Week

We have had back-to-back evenings filled with government and history this week, and it’s only Thursday.

Monday we went to our friends’ farm for Guy Fawke’s Night (also called Bonfire Night). Our friend is English and so is one of our neighbors. I rode up with our neighbors and there was another English couple at the party too.

The other couple and my neighbors both made parkin, which was really good, and we also got to try treacle toffee. Since I love molasses both were a winner for me.

Jack and I talked about effigies earlier in the day and made some of our own. We talked about who Guy Fawkes was and about plotting against a government. Then we talked about what it means to be drawn and quartered and that when a person was quartered their body parts were brought to the four corners of the country. Pretty gruesome but interesting nonetheless.

Jack and his devil.

Tuesday was the election and we discussed how only white men could vote originally. He was confused and asked why I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I told him that among other things, they thought women weren’t smart enough to be able to have that responsibility.

Then he looked at me and said, “People used to be mean.” I asked what he was talking about and he said, “Well they used to cut people up and not let people vote.” I informed him that in many places people are still very mean, and that many people still can’t vote in other countries. Pretty mean indeed.

Then I stayed up until quarter after two to hear all the speeches after the election. The results of this election gave me hope that we are all becoming less mean. There are more women in elected office now, people who had said horrific things about women were voted down, an openly gay Senator was elected, and several states let voters choose if homosexuals had the same rights to get married as heterosexuals…and those voters said, “yes.”

There is a long, long road before us, but I feel like progress is being made.

I’m just glad I have a kid who knows when it’s a proper time of year to eat tomatoes, that homemade bread tastes better than store bought, and that being mean isn’t right. Yep, I call that progress.

When the Spirits Come

our altar

Today is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. I enjoy celebrating this as it reminds me of growing up in the Southwest. I’ve always loved Mexican folk art as well, and really love the ideas behind this holiday.

Jack and I made Pan de Muerto last night, which you leave out with other goodies for the spirits who come to visit, on this day when the veil between our world and theirs is lifted. It’s filled with orange and anise, a little sweet and a little bitter, just like life.

On top you can make a skull and bones as well, and that was Jack’s job this year. He made a pretty awesome skull, although the little bones sort of slid down the sides as it baked. It’s still delicious!

We also left out pumpkin tea, Mexican chocolate spice cookies, Jack made a special bowl of his leftover Halloween candy (he even unwrapped them so the “good spirits” specifically could get at the sweetness), he also put out coins and I added a squash, some candles, the sugar skulls Jack made in art class, and this cool little Our Lady of Guadalupe light I got ages ago in Phoenix.

This year I was especially glad we did this. Chris and I both lost old friends who were very young and died suddenly. Just this week a good friend of our family passed away as well. In some odd way it comforts me to place these ofrendas out for them. It makes me feel like the distance is less, like those spirits still walk among us.

Even if those spirits are really just memories, I’ll take it.