Honey-Citrus Granola

We get a lot of our groceries from Costco.  It saves money, but it means that we end up with things like 10 lb bags of rolled oats.  And there is only so much oatmeal you can eat.  After a round of oatmeal Craisin cookies or banana oatmeal bread, you still have five pounds of rolled oats staring at you.  Let me tell you, the Quaker Oats guy can give a mean stink-eye after a while.

And so I’ve been making granola on a semi-regular basis*.  The other night I pulled out my current favorite recipe from Mother Nature Network.  Unfortunately, I was short several ingredients: no nuts, limited cinnamon, and limited vanilla extract.  I excavated a bottle of orange extract from the back of the cupboard and found lemons and limes in the fridge from a recent grocery trip.  Add in the rather large jar of ground nutmeg and and idea formed: Citrus Granola.  That sounded breakfast-y!  Time for an experiment.  Below is the recipe I used.  The result was a granola with a very distinct citrus-flavor.  I have enough orange extract left that I will most likely make it again.

If you decide to make it, let me know how it turned out for you.

Continue reading Honey-Citrus Granola

Yuletide – Celebrations and Decorations

For a lot of people, this time of year is filled with stress and depression glazed over with the guise of requisite and expected holiday cheer.  For some there’s not enough money to purchase gifts and even when there is, there’s high-impact shopping and impatient crowds to deal with.  For others, it’s the spending time away from loved or lost ones.

One of the main celebratory meanings behind Yule was that the days stop getting shorter and the long, dark nights become less so. The concept that the hardest part is behind us and worth a twelve-day-long celebration is, well, celebration worthy, in my opinion.  Getting together at the end of the darkest days of the year with friends and family to celebrate the light, celebrate the lives of those lost, celebrate community, and celebrate life is something that I feel may have been lost along the way.

I want this to be a positive post, not a rant (those come later) so I won’t focus on where I feel it’s been lost.  I want to focus on happiness, laughter, light and love.

For me, a Viking from Michigan who loves the cold and snow, this season is very very important to me.  Yes, shorter days and longer nights, colder weather and greater inconveniences thanks to inclement weather, but I like to look at the positive aspects those things bring:  Shorter days means I get to burn more candles and oil lamps.  Colder weather means I get to wear sweaters (a thing I love) and cuddle with my family more.  Cold and snowy weather… well, that’s just a Northman’s playground… snow forts, snowball fights, sledding, hikes in the woods with the wind whipping around you in blurry white gusts.  For me, that’s fun… getting to share that with my family, Charlotte and Ben in particular, is a little bit of heaven.

The day after we brought Ben home, there was a huge snowstorm here that dumped a few feet of snow on the ground overnight and pretty much closed everything down for the week. Charlotte and I got to go sledding and go play in the snow.  It was amazing. I got to spend the week inside, with the love of my life, our daughter and our new-born son.

It reminds me to appreciate those moments, and to remember what this holiday is really about:  Celebrating the fact that the darkest part (of whatever) is behind us.

This year, we have an actual Yule log we’re working on together.  We will have our usual Solstice bonfire on Friday night (scheduling reasons, we know the actual Solstice is on Sunday), we are putting the book tree up tonight (pictures to come tomorrow), the house has transitioned from the scents of cinnamon and harvest/pumpkin spice (Autumn) to pine/cedar trees (Winter).  The shield-maiden made decorations, seen in her tutorials here and here.

All in all, it is gearing up to be the best Yule/Solstice yet, for us… and with that said, I hope it is becoming that for you all as well.  If you’re having trouble, start within. Start by finding something, anything, that reminds you of a happy time this season and work from there.  Decorate your living space with whatever makes you happy, whatever symbolizes the end of struggle and renewal.  If you’re still feeling not in the Yuletide celebratory spirit, feel free to comment, or email and I’ll be happy to send words of compassion and love.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my celebration with you all.  Happy Yule!

Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

If you’ve been saving your toilet paper rolls for seed starter pots and find yourself with still more rolls than you have use for, make a pretty holiday garland.  Little crafters can help with some of the construction, so they can feel part of the holiday decorations.  The idea of this garland was inspired by toilet paper roll flowers pictures here.  Coloring them green and red give them a festive feel. Continue reading Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

The thing about yard clean up, the kind that involves cutting branches and hauling stones and pulling down fences, is that you end up with a lot of stuff. Most of it gets sorted into the compost heap, or rubbish bin, or stacked up for use later on. Some of it you look at and think, “I bet I could do something with that.” You might not know what, exactly, you could do. But you decide to set it aside just in case. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

The idea started off simply enough: to turn the backyard into a garden.  The indecision, however, is in the details.  While we could, theoretically, pull up all the lawn and plant right into the ground, we have two dogs who have no regard for boundaries.  Enya, a German short-haired pointer, will trample over plants, push over fences and chicken wire, and steal cucumbers right off the vine.  We also have our share of rabbits who trek through the yard, despite the wooden fence and the presence of the dogs.  I’ve lost more pea shoots than I can count to bunny thieves.  Taking all of those factors into account, we decided raised beds throughout the backyard would be our best bet. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

In my quest to create a backyard garden (as opposed to a garden in my backyard) some things had to be tidied up.  November was going to be that month.  We knew we had to work quickly as possible since winter seemed on planning an early arrival.

Nightshade Covered Woodpile
Nightshade had taken over the wood pile. Pretty, but smelly, and got in the way of getting to the wood.

The big projects for the month involved trimming the branches from trees, the woodpile and the compost heap.  Trimming the branches would give us all sorts of wood for the fire pit next year.  Alas, the wood pile was still filled with branches and wood from previous years. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

Gardening as a Radical Act

My grandparents’ house stood on an acre of land, half of which was given over to gardening.  Most of it was taken up by vegetables: peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, even a few pumpkin plants for the grandkids come Halloween.  There was a small strip that I always thought of as The Orchard: an elderberry tree, pear, apple and cherry trees, as well as a few grape vines.  The perimeter of the area was ringed by berry bushes: gooseberry, currant, Chinese cherries.  Having raised five kids on little money, my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, had the cultivation and production of foodstuffs down to an art.

Continue reading Gardening as a Radical Act

Doing the Math

I’ve been trying for a while to write this all out.  I’ve gone through several drafts.  The obstacle I keep running into is not knowing how to start.

So let’s start here: At one point I went through lengthy arbitration with The Bank That Shall Not Be Named.  I had to show P/L sheets, bank balances, invoices, etc. to prove my low-income status.  Looking over my year’s expenses and sales showed a net income in the low three figures.  The man who represented the bank was less than kind in his response.  “That’s all you make from sewing?  Why even bother?”*

Continue reading Doing the Math

VikingDad Pro-Tip #41(Kid’s Breakfast)

So, when you’re a stay-at-home Viking looking after the little ones, a healthy breakfast is important.  Knowing how chaotic things can get in the morning, it might not be a bad idea (like the one the shield-maiden gave me) to prep breakfast for the kids the night before.

I know what you’re thinking… sure… sounds great on paper but how is it in practice.  While it may seem like a herculean task when you’re trudging off to bed, but trust me, your early morning bleary-eyed self will thank you for it.

Vanilla Yogurt, Homemade Granola, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Pineapple
Vanilla Yogurt, Homemade Granola, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Pineapple and a cup of apple juice.

For instance, this breakfast above can be prepped in only a few minutes and put in the fridge for the next morning.  A couple of spoons of vanilla yogurt then a couple of spoons of granola then more yogurt, then more granola and then topped with some fresh berries.  Just cover with some plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

When morning comes, yank it out of the fridge, pour them a glass of apple juice and Viola, a healthy breakfast that they can eat while you’re still waking up!

I Had to Believe

While I was learning to work with clay, I made a lot of pots and had to believe that even if they were less than perfect the making of them was worthwhile and important.  To continue, I needed to find faith that the expression of my inner forms would become easier and that it had intrinsic value to me as a process of growth.  I had to believe that my vision and its pursuit were valuable to me and to those around me even though the world didn’t necessarily need more mediocre pottery.

—Rheya Polo, “Spinning from the Center—Creation & Transformation”