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HOMEGROWN Life: The Family That Crafts Together Laughs Together

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-MAGENTAIf you’re anything like me, this time of the year has crept up on you like frost in a field: slow and inevitable yet somehow invisible and surprising.

On my homestead, I’ve spent days making pounds of chili and pasta and packing soups and sweets for my hunter to take along with him to his camp. I’m hoping this pays dividends, and he brings home plenty for the freezer. I’ve been planning the garden again and hauling and chopping firewood. I had the chickens processed before winter and put them up in the freezer, ready to provide a warm meal after a cold day. Despite this being a season for family, I wasn’t feeling like I was getting a lot of time with the ones closest to me: my kids!

ribbon

Weekdays are so robotic lately, reviewing stacks of homework and trying to make sense of fourth grade math. By the time we’ve sifted through the sea of confusion and then dinner, it’s bedtime. So I was determined to hold on to this past weekend with a death grip. We were going to make stuff, listen to Burl Ives sing “Silver and Gold,” and RELAX—and we were going to do it together!

Because this has been a year of tumult and change for us, I wanted to put together two holiday crafts I’m calling Grateful Globes and Pride Journals. For the first, I lugged out the acrylic paints, Mod Podge (plain, silver, and gold), brushes, and clear glass Christmas balls that I got at a craft store. I laid down some newspaper and gave my kids intentionally loose instructions: Make a globe that represents you and your year. Include what you’re grateful for now or what you’d like to remember in the future.

grateful-globes2For the next couple of hours, the kids diligently discussed, clipped, and glued their way towards truly personalized Christmas ornaments. They spent time pouring over an old dictionary to talk about words that encompassed these past months, what they hope to accomplish in the next year, and what they hold close. I wanted these decorations to be something they could reminisce over years from now, when they’re hanging their own trees with their own children. They succeeded beautifully! We now have a few more heirloom ornaments hanging on our tree, and we’ll repeat this activity again in the coming years.

The best part was listening to the discussion their efforts prompted. My daughter spoke dreamily of our travels as she made a ball celebrating our life on the road; my son selected random hilarious highlights to focus on; and our guest made a wonderful piece commemorating her grades and her dreams for the coming year. It allowed me to peek inside their heads, which can be cluttered and closed off to Mom and Dad. (One tip: Don’t use a pen! The ink bleeds wildly when mixed with Mod Podge. If you want to incorporate text, you might print your grateful list on the computer and use that.)

grateful-globes1

My next project is more of a commitment. I firmly believe that every child seeks a parent’s stamp of approval, no matter how old she or he is. (I’m talking to you, 16-year-old!) I also think that, in this day and age, it’s increasingly difficult for our children to hear us, REALLY hear us, when we say we’re proud of them. Frankly, sometimes we stink at saying it. To bridge that gap, I want to make sure I outline something my kids do every week that I’m proud of and that I think makes them better people.

I’ll sit down weekly to write out this one thing. It won’t always be warm and fuzzy. It might be overcoming something that was difficult for them in their everyday lives. Here’s an example: Recently, my son and I were watching a kid’s network that shall remain nameless and that was hosting an awards show, supposedly to honor kids for helping other kids. In the midst of this program aimed at kids, a musical guest sang about a girl having a “booty like an hourglass,” among other comments my boy had no business thinking were acceptable things to say about women.

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This led to a discussion that could have been incredibly awkward but ended up being very open and educational for both of us. It was certainly a moment in which he could’ve blushed and buried his head. I mean, his mom said “booty,” for goodness sake! Instead, we had a talk I was proud of. Into the Pride Journal it goes, along with some dialogue and a mother’s thought on why the moment was important.

My father is one of the rare and lucky few who has a treasure-trove of journals, letters, notes, and recordings left behind by his mother. No matter how many of these tangible memories he has, I’m certain he would always wish for more. Even now, I see him page through the books and glance over her handwriting or quote something she wrote. Her presence is palpable. Thanks to her example, I want to plan ahead and make sure my kids never forget how very proud I am of them and their accomplishments, big and small. At the end of the year, the journals will get packed away with the monthly photo books I’ve started to publish online, waiting for the kids to revisit them many years down the road—or maybe whenever they need to.

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This is an excellent time of year to plan ahead, not just for the new year but for a lifetime. How can you impact others and how can you make sure they know what impact they have on you? Within your family and well beyond it, you hold the capacity to spread far-reaching beauty. How can you start today?

HOMEGROWN-life-michelleMichelle Wire comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead where she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens. 

PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE

The 2012 HOMEGROWN Holiday Gift Guide

Friday, December 7th, 2012

As the cacophony of consumerism clangs around us, let’s take a moment to consider gifts with meaning—those that come from our hands, our hearts, and our local communities. Here it is, folks: the annual HOMEGROWN Gift Guide.

MAKE

Everyone loves gifts in jars. Personalize and prettify with fabric squares, ribbon, handmade tags, or a bundle of herbs.

 

PARDON ME…DO YOU HAVE ANY HOMEMADE MUSTARD? A homemade whole-grain mustard is grand—especially when paired with a few unexpected recipes that use said mustard. This recipe from Hunter, Angler, Cook is terrifically easy, while this one from TV food nerd Alton Brown sure would look cute paired with a few soft pretzels!

FLU FIGHTER: Rich, golden, homemade chicken stock—pressure canned for safety—is a welcome addition to anyone’s pantry, especially those without a pressure canner! Robert offers everything you’ll need to know to get a good batch simmering, sealed up, and ready to give in this HOMEGROWN 101.

 

DELAYED GRATIFICATION: Fresh salad greens are one of the easiest things for the home gardener to grow. Give the gift of salad by promising to make a hanging moss salad basket for your giftee. If you are targeting a fellow DIY-er, simply package up the necessary materials, along with suggested planting dates for his or her region! Those in warmer climates can get right to gifting and planting (note: thinly veiled envy, enclosed.)

 

 

 

 

 

LIVE IN A BUBBLE: Yes, they’re all the rage (still)—and, boy, are they dreamy. Make your own giftable homemade terrarium using this HOMEGROWN 101.

 

 

 

BUY

We can’t make it all, so when the wallet opens, here are some suggestions for making holiday shopping meaningful.

Minnesota slingshot!

LOCALLY SOURCED: By now we’ve all seen the data proving that dollars spent at local businesses means more of those dollars stay in the community. Shoestring Magazine offers suggestions for locally made gifts with a snazzy clickable map. Have any favorites for your state? Let them know, and maybe they’ll add it! New Mexico, you’re looking a little thin: We’re looking at you!

THREE MAGIC WORDS: A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share brings fresh, local farm goods to the table—and much-needed support to local farmers! Depending on the farm, you can choose a winter, summer, or year-round share.

SPOT ON: For $10 a month, a Spotify membership gives loved ones access to all of that new music you’ve been telling them about. Make some custom playlists to start them out!

TURN TURN TURN: A food mill is an indispensable tool for jam makers, sauce lovers, and mashed potato aficionados. Make note of Kate’s tips for finding the best one for you and yours.

 

READ AND LEARN:

Our picks for books to cuddle with over the winter:

KNOW GRATITUDE

Above all, let’s acknowledge that most of us already have what we need, while some folks are struggling for the basics. Give from your heart—and happy holidays!

Photo credits: Mustard by Chiot’s Run using CC Licensing on Flickr. Chicken Stock by Christene on HOMEGROWN.org. Lettuce by Pete & Izzy’s Mom on HOMEGROWN.org. Terrarium by Joshleo using CC Licensing on Flickr. Slingshot by http://theoriginaltreeswing.com. Radishes by Norm Halm on HOMEGROWN.org. Headphones by Beats by Dr Dre using CC licensing on Flickr. Food Mill by Island Vittles using CC Licensing on Flickr.

Dinner Discussion: Spring Foraged Dinner and Pickled Knotweed

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I’ve been meaning to share about a magical evening that I had a couple of weeks ago, and am just now getting around to it. I was invited to a Dinner Discussion hosted by Leif Hedendal and attended by people far more fabulous than I. Leif travels the country, putting together extremely fresh and foraged ingredients — The New York Times featured his work today, incidentally. I greatly enjoyed the evening’s conversations about art, music, community gardens and apple trees, and the highlight was the menu.

David Craft is a star forager here in Boston, and he had spent that morning picking greens and weeds at The Arnold Arboretum in my very neighborhood. Supplemented by locally-baked bread, and stewed beans, here is what we ate:

Cold salad containing: chickweed, violet greens and flowers, redbud flowers, linden leaves, lamb’s quarters, garlic mustard weed.

Warm salad containing: milkweed, pokeweed,  and stinging nettles.

Japanese knotweed pickles

The real revelation for me was the knotweed. That persistent, aggravating weed that makes its way under the fence from my neighbor’s yard now has a useful purpose — PICKLES!! Eureka!

David has been kind enough to share the recipe from his book, which is definitely worth picking up.

Japanese Knotweed Hot Pickles
1 part vinegar
1 part water
Bring this to a boil and add some sliced garlic, pickling spices and salt. I like whole black peppercorns and red pepper flakes.

Add enough tender knotweed (first couple weeks of growth, whole stalk, after that, just the top section that easily breaks off) so that it is just covered. Remove from the flame. It does not need to cook at all, just being plunged in the boiling water vinegar solution is fine.

Put into sterilized mason jars. Ready for consumption as soon as they cool off! Great in salads.

This is, of course, a pretty basic recipe, so feel free to experiment with your wild edibles!