I’m knitting some Paddle fingerless mitts as a Christmas present for my granddad. I’m using some stash yarn I’ve had for a long time: Swish DK in Persimmon Heather and Grain Heather. I knit the whole thing on size 3 DPNs since switching to the recommended size 5 made a) a very loose fabric and b) a giant mitt, even for a man. I’m much happier with the results on the smaller needles.
I started reading Ready Player One last night on Gavin’s recommendation. He recently finished the audiobook, but I wasn’t convinced until I saw Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post on books she had to be talked into reading, which included Ready Player One. So I put it on hold at the library and here we are. So far I am really enjoying it!
Are you ready for Advent? It starts on Sunday! The youth group I run at our parish has been selling Advent candles as a fundraiser for the past couple weeks. I’m always surprised when it’s time to prepare for the fundraiser, but it does make it easier for me to not be surprised when Advent shows up at home.
I shared our new Advent door wreath on Sunday, but I like to do other special things during Advent as well. We don’t have kids at home with us so our traditions are probably a little different than the average family’s. Here’s what we have made our own.
1. Every night at dinner we light the appropriate candle(s) on our Advent wreath and then we usually sing the Advent song I learned in preschool. It’s a little silly/childish for two adults, but it just doesn’t feel like Advent to me without it. In case you’re interested, the tune for this quality song is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
See the candles burning bright
One by one, each week we light
Advent is a time to wait, not quite time to celebrate
When this waiting time is through,
There’s Christmas joy for me and you
2. We set up our nativity scenes as soon as Advent starts. We have a few sets, including a standard Fontanini from Gavin’s childhood, an Avon set that was mine as a child, and a unique stained glass set from my grandmother. I really like the idea of making your own peg doll nativity, especially this stylish modern one!
During Advent, I march Mary, Joseph, and the donkey from the Fontanini set across the room, mantel, or credenza, wherever it’s set up, slowly moving them to the stable in time for Christmas. That’s also the set we hide the baby Jesus and wise men from until later, too. The rest we set up in their entirety to enjoy for all of Advent and Christmas.
3. We celebrate St. Nick’s day! This isn’t strictly an Advent activity, but it does take place during Advent. We take turns playing St. Nick and bring some treats and maybe a small gift for both of us to enjoy. Gavin grew up celebrating St. Nick’s day and I’m glad to continue it as part of a celebration of his German heritage.
4. As a family, we have set aside the second Sunday of Advent as the time we make our year-end donations to charities. We set aside money for this purpose every month, giving from the pool to our parish monthly and a few other needs as they arise, but most of it is saved for this Sunday. It’s actually really fun to fill in our spreadsheet and write all those checks!
5. On the third Sunday of Advent, we set up some of our Christmas decorations. We’ll put up the tree and lights, but nothing else. All the ornaments and other Christmas decorations go up on Christmas eve. Setting up some of the decorations reminds us of what is coming and keeps us from being too much like Scrooge.
May you have a holy Advent this year!
I really like door wreaths. They’re cheap, they make me feel accomplished and festive, and they make our house (brick with white trim and a black door, classic but fairly plain) look a little more interesting.
I knew this year I wanted to make a new Advent wreath for the front door because…what do you put up between Thanksgiving and Christmas if you try hard to keep Advent and Christmas separate? In the past I’ve hung a plain green wreath, but that’s a little boring.
So I made a trip to Michael’s, armed with a coupon on my phone, and spent a whopping $13 to get all the supplies for this door wreath. I bought a plain evergreen wreath, a spray of purple poinsettias, and four picks of pink ornaments.
I used my trusty hot glue gun to make quick work of putting it together and will use some leftover purple ribbon to make a tying loop when I’m ready to hang it up. Done and done.
I often joke with Gavin that he would be happy if I never knit him anything but grey hats. Well, here’s #5.
I’m knitting a Graffiti Hat for him, size large, using two shades of Knit Picks Swish Worsted: Cobblestone Heather and Dove Heather. The first hat I ever knit Gavin was in this darker shade of Swish. I had him go on a scavenger hunt for it in my apartment in Wisconsin. That hat was lost many years ago, and I never got a proper photo of it, but it’s part of my memories of our long-distance times.
I won this pattern as a knit-a-long (KAL) prize from the Designed in Canada group on ravelry. So far, I’m really enjoying knitting it. I think watching those cables stretch themselves over the stripes is going to be addicting. I’m going to post it in the new Colorwork KALs group, whose first KAL is anything with stripes. This certainly fits the bill!
I started Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie this week. I’m really enjoying it and find it to be very thought-provoking. It’s not quite as compelling a read as Me Before You by Jojo Moyes which I finished earlier this week (and hated the end of…) but is still definitely a book I can’t wait to read more of.
Over the weekend, my mom took me to a holiday card-making workshop at Paper Source. (Thanks, Mom!)
We made four cards, all of which involved stamping and embossing. I actually own an embossing gun but had never gotten as nice results as I did with these cards.
Gavin was a little appalled to see all the glitter, which we came home covered in, and made me show him the cards over a sheet of newspaper. I’m not sorry at all about the glittery mess!
The class was a fun way to learn about some cool papercrafting techniques and we brought home the cards to boot. I won’t be hand-making all of our Christmas cards this year (sorry, I love photo cards) but I’m definitely inspired to get out some languishing supplies for other activities soon.
This is the LAST week of the CSA for the year. I can’t believe it’s been 26 weeks! This CSA season has renewed my love of CSAs and I’m looking forward to next season already.
I have to say that I’m pretty happy about being back to my biweekly meal planning and shopping though! There’s something about coming home with groceries for two full weeks that makes my heart happy.
Lessons learned this year:
- We don’t really like eggplant. I made one dish I thought was pretty okay and Gavin tolerated and that was the success of the summer.
- There’s no real need to peel carrots or salad turnips, especially when they’re tiny. Thankfully.
- Seeded watermelon is not good for the lunchbox.
- Put up tomatoes, put up tomatoes, put up tomatoes.
This last box had:
- Green onions
- Bell peppers
- Broccoli slaw with pecans and cranberries
- Sweet potato and poblano pepper soup
- Thai chicken pizza
- Pasta with chicken, spinach, and cherry tomatoes in creamy feta sauce (I’m using sun-dried tomatoes)
- Chorizo and bell pepper scrambled eggs
- Roasted butternut squash
- Broccoli cheese casserole
- Butternut squash, poblano, and chicken quesadillas
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a side of beef in a hardware store parking lot. Whenever people find out we buy our beef by the side, they have lots of questions. Here are some answers!
1. Where do you buy it from? We buy our beef from a fairly local farm about two hours outside of St. Louis. This is the second side of beef we’ve purchased through them. They have it processed at a small business about an hour outside of St. Louis and then deliver it to the metropolitan area.
2. Why bother? There are two main reasons: it’s grassfed beef, and it’s from a small local farm. I believe that grassfed beef is better for the cattle, for the land, and for us. Also, it tastes really good. I also like to know and support the farmer who raised our beef. Knowing the slaughter date and processing steps and being aware that one beef is feeding our family has led me to be a more thankful and careful consumer of our meat.
3. Do you get the weird parts? Almost all of them! I asked for everything but the liver both times. The bones make great broth and I learned that we actually really like oxtail soup. Some of the other parts aren’t necessarily weird but I had never purchased before, so I have learned a lot. For example: we prefer to use our sirloin tip steaks for stir-fries, not grilling. I’d also never had a bone-in chuck or arm roast before, but now those are among my favorite cuts of meat.
4. How much beef is that? It’s about 120-150 pounds, depending on the side. Because we got almost all of the “weird parts” our total was 169 pounds this year. Of that, we got 39 pounds of ground beef and probably 20 pounds of soup bones.
5. Isn’t it really expensive? It seems really expensive when you see the grand total of around $1000, yes. But it’s a lot of food for the price! Kind of like our CSA: that $600 pricetag seems steep too. But we save well over that amount by participating and increase the quality of food we’re eating. We could never afford to buy grassfed beef in any other way on our current grocery budget.
6. Where do you keep it all? We bought a small chest freezer and keep it in our basement. It’s pretty much just for meat, especially right now! I use small baskets to organize the freezer and make it easier to access everything. I’m still searching for the perfect freezer inventory system, though.
7. How long does it last? We finished our last side in about two years. Because we stored it in a chest freezer that’s rarely opened and paid the extra fee for vacuum packaging, it was still totally fine at the end of that period.
What do you like to do with leftover taco meat? We sometimes have tacos again, or quesadillas, seven-layer dip, or nachos. But tostadas are a nice (and I think underrated) change of pace. They lend themselves perfectly to leftover meat, taco or otherwise.
You could also make your own tostada shells out of corn tortillas or use these same steps on tortilla chips to make composed nachos.
Use whatever you have on hand, no need to get fancy.
- Tostada shells
- Cooked meat (leftovers are ideal!)
- Shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack are my favorites)
- Refried beans
- Sour cream, guacamole, or salsa
- Any other taco toppings you like: green onions, black olives, onions, tomatoes, cooked fajita vegetables, etc. This is a great time to use up odds and ends!
Warm your beans and meat to be at least lukewarm, not cold. Spread the tostadas with refried beans, then top with the meat and veggies. Use the cheese as a top glue layer to hold everything down. Bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 400˚ or until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted. Top with sour cream, guacamole, or salsa.
Only one box left! This week’s had:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Green onions
- Salad mix
There was also fennel, but we hate fennel (A LOT) so I left it at the pick-up site for someone else to enjoy.
This week we’re eating:
- Gnocchi with squash, spinach, and prosciutto
- Broccoli cheddar soup
- Scrambled eggs with bacon, cheese, and green onions
- Chorizo rice skillet
- Salad with ranch dressing
- Jewel-roasted vegetables (no Brussels sprouts this time + I just cut up the beets and roast with everything else)
- Sweet potato hash (for breakfast, topped with eggs)
Gavin and I went back to the University of Illinois this weekend for homecoming. We met tailgating our senior year so heading back to the fields and parking lots south of Memorial Stadium always makes me feel warmly nostalgic. Here are five of my (many) favorite things about our great university!
1. Homecoming! The University of Illinois has the first collegiate homecoming experience, starting in 1910. They skipped homecoming in 1918, so it’s not the longest running homecoming, but it is the oldest official college homecoming.
2. The Morrow Plots. How can you not love the first experimental field in the US, located right on the main quad? It’s now a National Historic Landmark and the university built the neighboring undergraduate library underground, so as to not cast a shadow on the corn.
3. The Altgeld Bells. I would think this bell tower above our main math building (slash castle) is awesome even if Gavin hadn’t taken me there on our first date and subsequently proposed to me there. If you’re on campus, take a tour!
4. Libraries. The University of Illinois has the fifth-largest library in the US and the second-largest academic library in the US. There are tons of library buildings, plus the huge stacks. Gavin and I went into the stacks as part of our senior year bucket list and I was in awe of the sheer number of items.
5. Illinois Loyalty. While I like all of the songs, this one is my absolute favorite. It was written in 1906 and was eventually replaced with a more appropriate fight song, but the lyrics are amazing, especially the last few lines.
We’re loyal to you, Illinois,
We’re “Orange and Blue,” Illinois,
We’ll back you to stand ‘gainst the best in the land,
For we know you have sand, Illinois, Rah! Rah!
So crack out that ball, Illinois,
We’re backing you all, Illinois,
Our team is our fame protector,
On! boys, for we expect a victory from you, Illinois!
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha! Go Illini, Go!
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha! Go Illini, Go!
Illinois! Illinois! Illinois!
Fling out that dear old flag of Orange and Blue,
Lead on our sons and daughters fighting for you;
Like men of old, on giants placing reliance, shouting defiance,
Amid the broad green fields that nourish our land,
For honest Labor and for Learning we stand,
And unto thee we pledge our heart and hand,
Dear Alma Mater, Illinois!