moogielight

musings on art, life and family from a crunchy mama


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Yarn Along: Holiday Knitting

Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along.

The Christmas crafting was light this year and even then, I couldn’t manage to get it done in time. Thankfully, my family is patient and understanding (in this area, at least).

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The big girls’ knits are done, but for blocking. I put the finishing touches on Ani’s Miss Rainbow a couple days before Christmas and, after a blessed day filled with lots of dedicated knitting time, wove in the ends on Aria’s latest Milo a couple nights after. They both knew they were coming (there is no secret knitting in this house at the moment, nothing would ever get finished) and are thrilled with them and can’t wait to wear them, which makes this crafty mama very happy.

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Next up is my own mama’s Christmas present, an Adama cowl knit up in Luna Grey Supernova. Thankfully, I have until her visit later this week to finish it up. Or at least that’s what I thought until last night, when I realized that later this week is actually tonight. I would be worried, but I’m making quick progress, so far, and hope to continue the trend in the next few days. As long as it’s done by the time she leaves, I think we’ll both be happy. I’m completely head-over-heels in love with how this is knitting up – the yarn is devine and the pattern is fun, so working on it will be a treat. Those lace sections do take some concentration, though, so it’s not a project I’ll likely make much progress on during daylight kid time. Keith is off much of this week, though, and has been great about giving this tired mama some breaks, so I’m hopeful I’ll get some good knitting time in. He gets it, he does (got me knitting gear for Christmas from my favorite yarn store!), supports my craft and recognizes that some alone time for knitting (or whatever…as long as it’s at least mildly pleasant) = recharging mama, which is valuable to all in the long run.


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Last-Minute Vegetarian Holiday Recipes (Holiday Blog Hop #11)

This post is part of the 2013 Holiday Blog Hop.

As a vegetarian raising vegetarians, I’m always on the lookout for new festive recipes to add to our holiday repertoire. Over the years, we’ve collected some great ones and can put together a lovely holiday dinner that has won over even meat-and-potato types. Here are some of our favorites, with two special family recipes at the end:

Our go-to holiday entrée is the Harvest Stuffed Squash from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates (great book, tons of festive menus for a variety of holidays). It’s delicious, hearty and packed with nutrients, leaving the veg diner feeling as though they’ve had a meal fit for the day, instead of just a bunch of side dishes (no matter how delicious the sides are, everyone needs a main course). If you are traveling a short distance with this, that’s ok because it cooks in stages so you can start it at home and finish it up wherever you end up. If you don’t have that book, or time to run out and buy it, here are some similar recipes:

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Pilaf

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Brown Rice Mushroom Pilaf

I’ve said before how much I love this pumpkin pie. The recipe is vegan, but regular milk works just fine if you don’t have an alternative on hand; we usually make homemade whipped cream to go with it.

These “Snow Balls” are a new favorite snack/dessert recipe at our house. Kid-friendly, low sugar, high protein and no baking required.

As promised in my post on our holiday traditions, I’ll be sharing the recipes that mean the most to me this time of year. My all-time favorite stuffing is the savory cornbread stuffing my mom has made every year since I was a wee lass. It’s the dish that we make each year no matter where we are going, nor how many types of stuffing are already planned. It reminds me of holidays at my grandparents’ house, my grandma and aunts and mom bustling around the kitchen, my grandpa in his armchair teasing me or out in the garage looking under the hood of one of our cars. It reminds me of warmth and love and light. Plus, it tastes amazing.

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MoogieLight’s Favorite Cornbread Stuffing

Cornbread
(Make this in advance – either the night before or a few hours before starting the Stuffing so it has time to cool.)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cast iron skillet

Prehead oven to 425°F. Put cast iron skillet into oven and let heat while mixing batter.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt, then stir in cornmeal. Add eggs, milk and oil. Stir with fork just until smooth. Don’t over stir.

Take skillet out of the oven and grease the bottom and sides well with vegetable oil. Add cornbread mixture and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Test by touching lightly in the middle with finger. It should spring back when done.

Let it cool before beginning the stuffing.

Stuffing

6 Tbsp butter
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cup water
2 vegetable bouillon cube (can use chicken if not vegetarian)
6-8 slices wheat bread (can use a combination of white and wheat if using old bread)
6-7 cups chopped cornbread (see above recipe; I chop the whole thing)
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed in hand
1 tsp dried thyme, crushed in hand
1 egg, stirred (can be left out/substituted if prefer a vegan recipe)

In a small skillet, add butter, celery and onion. Cook on low heat until celery and onions are soft. Add 1 cup water and bouillon cube. Continue cooking on low.

Meanwhile, toast wheat bread. Place cornbread into large bowl and crumble cooled toast into the same bowl. Add sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Mix up 2nd bouillon cube with 1 cup water. Add the celery, onion mixture to the bread and herbs. Add bouillon broth slowly and as needed for the cornbread mixture to be moist but not wet or compressed. Stir in egg (for extra moisture).

Pour cornbread mixture into ungreased Corningware (or similar) dish, place lid on. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.*

*If traveling or making ahead of time, bake only 15-20 minutes at home and finish off at the new location or just before eating, adding additional broth then if needed.

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Saving the absolute best for last, my Grandma Dixie’s chocolate pie is the stuff of dreams. Decadent and rich, one only needs a sliver, but will crave much more. My aunts and uncle would (playfully) fight over this each year, each trying to get to it first and then hide it from the others; if I remember correctly, the grownups kept this one largely for themselves, wisely keeping the sugar and caffeine-laden pie away from little ones all too hyped up on sugar already.

I learned to make this for Thanksgiving this year, calling my grandma for the recipe, asking questions and then making it twice before getting it just right. It still wasn’t quite as good as hers, but she’s got that magical Grandma goodness that makes its way into each of her creations that I’m still developing.

Grandma Dixie’s Chocolate Pie

Crust
3/4 c flour
1/4 c + 2 T butter (softened)
1/3 c chopped walnuts
3 T brown sugar

Prehead oven to 425°F.

Use hands or knives to mix/cut into crumbly form, press into pie plate. Put smaller pie plate inside to hold together while baking. Bake for 15 min. Let cool.

Filling
6-8 oz choc chips
4oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 c sugar
2 T milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 envelope Dream Whip* (find it in the sugar and flour aisle)

Make the Dream Whip according to the package instructions and set in fridge.

Melt chocolate in the microwave or on the stove, stirring periodically as it melts to prevent it burning.

While chocolate is warm/hot and melted, add cream cheese, granulated sugar, milk, salt. Beat at high speed til smooth. Add prepared, cold Dream Whip and mix together.

Pour in cold pie crust and freeze until firm (an hour or two). Serve just out of freezer.

To travel, keep flat and cold. Place raw spaghetti pieces approx 3″ long in various spots throughout pie to hold plastic wrap over pie. My Grandma’s favorite is Press ‘n Seal cling wrap.

*I’d never heard of powdered Dream Whip until I got this recipe. It is basically whipped cream by the time it’s done, but the powder is full of all sorts of multisyllabic ingredients. One of these days I’ll ask my Grandma if homemade whipped cream would work – I don’t know why it wouldn’t, but I am no connoisseur – but this time I wanted to make it just like Grandma. It was worth it…and totally didn’t need the whipped cream on top.

For more yummy recipes, check out these posts from other Holiday Blog Hop participants:

Waldorf Moms

Sure As the World

Waldorf-Inspired Learning

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Setting Up Your Nativity (Holiday Blog Hop #10)

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A Homeschool Mom has the next Holiday Blog Hop post, all about setting up a nativity in a meaningful way and creative ways to interact with the figures throughout the Christmas season. Check it out.

Previous Holiday Blog Hop Posts


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New Holiday Traditions (Holiday Blog Hop #9)

This post is part of the 2013 Holiday Blog Hop.

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To celebrate the holiday season, there are some things we do every year.

  • We always make my mom’s cornbread stuffing** for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. There’s nothing like it.
  • We always make this amazingly good and healthy pumpkin pie – and whipped cream for the top (no, ours isn’t completely vegan) – and we eat it for breakfast at least once.
  • We always put up our Christmas tree and stockings right after Thanksgiving.
  • We always do an Advent calendar and each year I want to have something other than candy to put in it, but don’t plan far enough ahead to figure out anything else.
  • We always let the girls open one small gift on Christmas Eve, a tradition I’ve carried on from my own childhood.
  • Keith and I always stay up into the wee hours the night before Christmas, getting everything ready. (I’m sure this year will be no exception.)

This year, our first Christmas in our new home and our first holiday season as a family of five, we have started some new traditions and improved upon others:

  • There is an extra stocking hanging by the fireplace for our beloved Aurelia.

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  • We got our first live tree since having kids. It’s beautiful.

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  • I learned a new pie recipe, my Grandma’s scrumptious chocolate pie**. Learning this recipe, one so cherished in our family, provided an easy way to reach across miles and years and connect with my dear, sweet, spunky Grandma and bring an ole family tradition into our home. Mine isn’t quite as good as Grandma’s yet, but it’s on it’s way.

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  • I finally planned just slightly ahead and bought the Keeping Christmas Cozy packet to use in our Advent Calendar instead of candy. The lack of candy in the calendar cut way down on the arguments over sweets and helped us work some fun holiday activities into our days by allowing me to plan ahead for just one or two a day (and also do some switching as needed). We’ve made orange pomander balls, cut out paper snowflakes, written letters to Santa and decorated the tree and still look forward to making cinnamon play dough, candy cane-shaped pancakes and stringing a popcorn and cranberry garland. Great discussions have been started from the conversation starters included in the packet. It’s a wonderfully simple, inexpensive helper, a way to organize festive activities that make the season special, wrapped in a nice little package that even a sleep-deprived mama can pull off. (Bonus: I can use it next year, too!)

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  • We found a new favorite holiday light show. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s GardenFest is gorgeous and kid friendly, with the whole of the garden covered in twinkling lights and lovely garden-themed Christmas trees (such as a bee themed tree complete with hives!) and appearances by Santa and a Butterfly Fairy.

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  • We made our own wreath this year from trimmings off the holly trees that stand beautifully in our yard, as well as some free cuttings from the Christmas trees at the hardware store.

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  • Perhaps the most important new tradition, though, is one we’ve encouraged the girls to do: give their own, handmade gifts to eachother. They’ve done paintings before for Daddy or grandparents, but have never given to each other before and this year, Aria especially was ready to make something more complicated, so she handmade a cardboard dollhouse for Ani and bought (with some money we gave her for gifts) some gems to decorate it. Ani’s a bit tougher to explain the giving concept to, but we’re working on it. Additionally, both girls made pine one glitter ornaments to give as gifts.

None of these new traditions is complicated or even out of the ordinary. They are small touches that many families will repeat this holiday season, in their own way. But it’s these details and the merriment that comes with them that create memories that will last, that form traditions of pies or lights or stringing garland that get passed on to the next generation. The Christmases of my childhood were filled with these details. They didn’t always go perfectly and some things changed from year to year, but the ones that worked for our family stayed and became imbued with the spirit of the season. The off years were good for stories later or were forgotten. As I strive to create for my children the magical holidays I remember growing up with, I am realizing, too, that everything doesn’t have to be perfect every year. It’s also ok to have help. There is a lot of pressure to have Pinterest-worthy holidays, but the girls will remember the fun activities tucked into the calendar, the feeling and wonderful scent created by pushing cloves into an orange or kneading cinnamon dough, the twinkling of the lights, not whether I was organized enough this year – or any year – to come up with all the activities myself. The experience, the time together as a family and a more peaceful mama are what will be remembered, not the need for perfection. This, too, is what I hope to pass on – that my girls don’t need to be perfect, that the magic is in the details, sure, but those details will change as life changes and some years will go better than others, and all will become part of the magical holiday fabric that will be remembered for years to come…and that is good.

**If you’d like these delicious family recipes to become a new tradition in your family, check back on the 23rd for my last post in the Holiday Blog Hop – Last Minute Vegetarian Holiday Recipes.

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Favorite Winter & Holiday Books (Holiday Blog Hop #5)

This post is part of the 2013 Holiday Blog Hop.

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In the days following Thanksgiving each year, we pull out the Christmas decorations – the festive holiday plates and the gorgeous handmade (not by me) Advent calendar, the First Christmas ornaments for the girls and the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer figure set Keith bought me before we were married. Alongside these items that bring up so many cozy memories are wonderful books specific to the winter season and the holidays, books we only read this time of year, stories that hold their own set of memories between the pages – of the child who loved one book best of all, of the Christmas morning another book was unwrapped, of the countless times a little one demanded her favorite book read, of the cuddles in front of the tree as little voices pleaded for just one more story. Each year we add another book (or two) to the collection, a special story (or two) that will become a tradition of its own over the years. Here are some of our favorites.

Winter:

  • Story of the Snow Children – This tale of a young girl visiting a snow princess’ birthday party is full of dancing snow children and snowmen who deliver delicious frozen treats and is enough to spark the imagination of any little one watching the snow fall out her window.
  • Trouble with Trolls – A recent addition to our collection, Ani has already asked for this over and over again this year. The story of mischievous trolls causing trouble for a little girl and her dog and the different ways the girl outwits them makes for an excellent read. The detailed, colorful, and lively illustrations – indicative of Jan Brett books – make one feel that they are up in the mountains with her, breathing the cold air, yet staying warm in handknit woolens. The Mitten and The Hat are two more wintertime favorites by the same author.

Christmas:

  • This Is the Stable – This lovely little book about the birth of Christ has some of the most gorgeous illustrations I’ve seen in a children’s book. It’s rhythm is perfect for a calming bedtime story.
  • The Night Before Christmas – There are many versions out there of this Christmas classic, but I quite like this board book version for kids. It’s the complete poem with lovely illustrations and is durable to boot.
  • Home for Christmas – Another Jan Brett book, this story of a naughty little troll learning the value of family, kindness and helping one another is a fun tale with beautifully detailed illustrations.

For more holiday books, please visit the blogs below, but not before you leave your favorite holiday and winter books (or links into your own similar posts) in the comments!

A Homeschool Mom

Pie Jesu

Sure as the World

You Know What Mama

Waldorf-Inspired Learning

Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries

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