not bad for mid-December. and gosh I even wore my sandals on our bike ride to the library yesterday. still, I'm crossing my fingers that the wintry mix moving in this Solstice weekend ends up being a cold and white wintry mix. how lovely that would be. and what a fitting welcome for Winter.
this weekend was pretty much all about food. about food and about spending some time in the company of others who ended up in the same place(s) as me with the main intention of swapping some food. on saturday I hosted a small group of women for a soup swap, and this afternoon I attended my first ever cookie exchange. so, on the one hand, my fridge is now filled to the brim with about 2 and a half gallons of various kinds of soups in jars. jars that honestly, are unlikely to make it to the freezer because I am happy (thrilled, really) to have soup for lunch and dinner daily until the soup runs out. on the other hand, my countertop is heavily laden with enough cookies and yummies to more than throw off all that soupy-nutritional-powerhouse-goodness. I'll take it. and I suppose I'll share the sweets.
my contributions to these happenings were a roasted butternut squash soup with coconut milk and nutmeg and a bunch of other goodies, and some chocolate-peppermint meringues. I've already had a bit of chipotle black bean soup and a soupe au pistou a la Julia Child. yumyumyum. and maybe also a taste of peanut butter cookie, rocky road brownie, and glazed shortbread with rosemary and red peppercorns. let me just say that this cookie swap was no joke. said glazed shortbread (they are the trio of lovely round, glazed cookies with various toppings in the photo above) were made by one of the owners of the amazing and extremely popular French Broad Chocolate Lounge. it happens to be my favorite place to go for dessert in Asheville. it happens to be just about everyone's favorite place to go for dessert in Asheville, actually. so, you know- the cookies are good. there were other cookies made by other professional baker types as well. I met a woman who lives in the same town as me whose blog I've read here and there. turns out we have several (in real life and online) friends and acquaintances. so happy to have made the connection. the host of the cookie exchange was Ashley English (she made rosemary/orange shortbread cookies from her book Handmade Gatherings)- a very talented local author/cook/homesteader extraordinaire who is as lovely and gracious and warm in person as one would expect she may be after reading her blog and books. it was a lovely, lovely time and I am so happy I was able to attend. Claire stayed with papa while I went, and I will admit I am rather proud of braving it on my own, without the little one as an automatic-conversation-starter/diversion-if-needed. I'm enough of an introvert that going to a gathering where I don't really know anyone and am just barely acquainted with the host is, well, a brave thing for me. but I did it and it was great, and the group of women there couldn't possibly have been more inviting. and my goodness the abundance of treats that are now in my possession! (locals- who wants some goodies??)
also this weekend, we went for our annual Nutcracker viewing, and it was the best one yet.
and now, let the eating commence! (er, continue)
*weekending with Karen
the tree is up and decorated. (her wee little tree is still on the porch, propped just so with the trunk in a small cooler full of water, awaiting a stand of some sort. tomorrow will be the day, I think) that teeny little mouse-in-a-walnut ornament is one of my favorites from childhood. my mom made it I suppose 30 years ago or so. LOVE it. peppermint bark got made. I had an eager helper. also, some lavender coconut tapioca pudding. Rudolph. cards for friends. it's a busy time, but a good-busy time. we're taking things a day at a time, soaking in the season a bit here and there. coming up this weekend are a soup swap (I'm hosting a small gathering to get some photos and ideas together for my upcoming contribution to Heather's Hibernate workshop, which I am very honored to be a part of), our annual trip to go see The Nutcracker, and I'm attending my first ever cookie exchange. 'tis the season!
a couple of years ago I made a very simple advent calendar for her out of paper, crayons, string, and a handful of tiny clothespins. she adores it and looks forward to checking it each morning during advent and having us read the little card inside the envelope to her. usually there is a suggestion for something fun for us to do together, or perhaps a good deed. occasionally there is a little treat inside as well. I will admit she particularly likes those days. so far this year, this is what we've done:
12/1- let's go to the library and pick out some Christmas books
12/2- let's collect pine cones for our garland(s)
12/3- let's make hot cocoa and make the garlands and more swags
12/4- let's go shopping together for the food pantry and drop it off at the donation center
12/5- let's watch a Christmas movie and have popcorn- Nana and Pipop will be here!
12/6- (shoes filled with a few candies and dollars), coloring pages & a story about St. Nick
12/7- let's invite Nana and Pipop to go see the Winter Lights with us!
12/8- let's get out the rest of the Christmas decorations & take your bike out for a ride
there was also the town Christmas parade, complete with firetrucks and hot rods, a group with newfoundlands, a wolf-dog rescue group, greenway supporters on bikes, some horses, lots of interesting local business 'floats', (by which I mean various sized trucks pulling various sized trailers with varying degrees of Christmas decorations on them) and loads of candy being tossed out at the crowd. and even a pickle sample.
the following several photos are of the Winter Lights exhibit at the NC Arboretum. which was great, although in my opinion quite a bit overpriced. still, a very enjoyable time.
last year Claire started being really interested in nativity sets. I found a couple at the local thrift store and brought them home for her and she loves them. below are her acorn peg dolls, all surrounding Jesus "to keep him safe from the bears".
tonight we got our tree. trees, actually. we have been purchasing trees from the same organization that has a tree lot in town for the past several years. they are a nonprofit residency and counseling program for people with chronic addiction issues. a few local tree farms donate excess trees to them yearly for a tax write-off and they sell the trees (no matter the size) for $20. we got a reasonable 6 foot tall spruce this year, and the very nice guy sent Claire home with her own little 3 foot frasier fir at no cost. 'tis the season. tomorrow's envelope will definitely read 'today. let's decorate our tree!'
we watched the farm school dog over thanksgiving break. it was a pleasure, to be sure. as thanks for doing so, as I dropped Claire off at farm school today I was handed a lovely red and green cloth bag filled with homemade apple-pie jam, black and blue (berry) jam, yellow squash relish, and a pack of (from the farm) pork chops (I was also gifted many big sloppy kisses from the pup himself). this is my kind of economy, for sure. I'd love to barter on a more regular basis and would happily go about using the likes of pet-sitting and salsa, errand-running and elderberry syrup, bread and honey and jam as my currency. I suppose in a way we are doing this already with some folks, here and there. but no doubt there'd be magic in extending it even more.
Thanksgiving morning there was snow on the ground. just a bit, but the flurries kept up all day. She & Him Holiday station on Pandora, a fire burning..... and of course food prep.
I heartily recommend Ashley English's Rosemary-Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie from A Year of Pies. very heartily. yum. a couple years ago I made the Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving and that one was delicious as well. she knows her pies.
my mom drove out for a visit the day after Thanksgiving. this is a big deal. if you've read here for a while or if you know me in person, you know she came very close to dying this spring due to a severe case of pneumonia that lead to ARDS that lead to long-term intubation and multiple organ strain, sepsis, a tracheotomy, etc, etc, etc. but she is here, and she is very much alive and well, and she is doing great. she just started driving again (she got sick the end of February, so that was a long time not driving!), she isn't requiring supplemental oxygen. she is healing. gosh I love this woman. she got here and came walking in (even that- watching her walk up the driveway unaided, was huge for me) and scooped Claire up in her arms with just the littlest bit of difficulty. she read Claire stories and they played and we made about a thousand paper snowflakes. giving thanks for all of that. many, many thanks.
we took care of the farm-school dog, Bailey, for a few days. what a sweet and gentle old man he is. Claire and I are working the dog angle on papa a bit these days. we'll see.
there was some greenery collecting, some evergreen swag making. we brought one to an elderly neighbor who lives alone and two others to friends' houses. we've yet to make our own, but the goods are still sitting on the table out back so we'll get to them soon.
we got out in the garden on Saturday and pulled the remaining parsnips and carrots. I think I'm done with spring/summer carrots because these are just SO much tastier! we picked some greens and delighted in our hens' renewed laying and had a yummy kale-and-eggs brunch.
I bet some of you have seen the cute little orange peel star garland on pinterest, right? if not, here it is. well, I don't know how they cut the little stars, but I used an apple corer and now we have a bunch of little orange peel circles that are going to become a garland for Claire's (rosemary topiary) Christmas tree. tada!
we went to Asheville Saturday afternoon to see a one-man show (well, one man, some puppets and a puppeteer) of Dickens' Christmas Carol with my dad. It was great and afterwards she and I walked around town a bit enjoying street performers and picking up tickets to see these ladies on December 20th. I haven't seen them in a couple years~ they are so, so good.
We almost went into the new location of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge (yumyumYUM!), but this is what the line looked like and we needed to get home and get dinner started. this is often what the line looks like, actually. but so worth it. I love their Indian Kulfi (rose petals, cardamom, pistachios...) hot cocoa. mmm mmmmm good.
as we were driving back into town I noticed a crowd gathered in the town square, noticed a large unlit tree that wasn't there earlier in the day. so we stopped and got out. a few minutes later they lit the tree and a small group broke out in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". very festive. very cold, also. so we ran around for a couple minutes and called it a day.
weekending with Karen