Friday, November 18, 2011

Gift Guide for Men

Now that Thanksgiving is nearly upon us that means Black Friday is almost here. I will now be switching gears towards Christmas. This is the beginning of a series of posts dedicated to the people in our lives. The gift guides will help if there is a person in your life who you just don't know what gift to get them. Today's focus will be on the men



Stud Muffin Soap - Plunk Soap
Manly Man Soap Set - Rocky Top Soap Shop


Guitar Pick Necklace - Intentionally Me
Personalized Ring - Monkey's Always Look
Da Vinci Necktie - Tie Obsessed

Wild Man Bearded Hat - Breanna Gunderson
Custom City Cufflinks - The Green Daisy Shop
Chain Link Bracelet - Arctida
Bow Tie - Divine Domestication
Big and Bold Watch - Creative Urges
Fox Billfold Wallet- inblue

Ear flap Wool Hat - Yellow Stripe Lids

Techie Gadgets

8GB Flash Drive - Basement Foundry
Kindle/ Nook Book Safe - Conduit Press
Framed iPhone Dock - beeplus
Stealth Fight Watch - Ground Effect
Nerd Herder Gadget Wallet - RockitBot

The Man Cave

Man Cave Sign - Knotty Notions

Hand Printed Glasses - Vital
BMW Rotor Clock - Recycle Clocks
BEER Poster - I Screen You Screen

Buck Wall Hook - Morrell Decor

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Give Thanks: Part 3

Serving Fork by jessicaNdesigns

My Story
Anyone close to me knows me as a bit of a food nazi. Since watching Food, Inc. and reading Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan 2 years ago I've gone organic and never looked back. Food is not something highly valued in my family. Even though both my grandparent's grew up on a farm, I've quickly learned they really don't know a whole lot about farming, or cooking. I think they grew up farming more out of necessity than profit. My grandma recently said "I'm not much of a cook". I can agree to that. I guess my mother followed in her footsteps.

Growing up we never ate anything all that tasty. We ate a lot of  bland tasting casseroles. (Or as my sister calls them, craperoles). I never thought food was all that good. The food budget was also always a problem in my family. We occasionally ate black eyed peas on white bread. So my perception of food was tainted by my parent's food budget and my mom's horrible cooking skills.

When I moved out on my own for the first time I didn't know what to feed myself. I kept to my mom's food budgeting skills. (Although I never ate beans on bread ever again. Funny thing is when my parents came to visit once they took me grocery shopping and were all excited over the black eyed peas that were on sale.They bought me a bag and suggested I cook it and eat it over bread. I think it sat in my cupboard for a year when I decided to make soup from it instead). I did most of my shopping at Aldi. I got a thrill out of how much food I could get for as little as possible. I never did much couponing, but I still knew how to find all the best deals. Then my sister suggested I watch Food, Inc. This changed my perception of food forever. I wanted to know more so I read Omnivores Dilemma. Since then I've done a lot of research on food and I spend more money on food for 2 people (my husband and I) than I think my family has ever spent for 6 people. It's worth it!

The Food
So with Thanksgiving coming up and food is a major part of this holiday I wanted to focus today's post on how to find healthy food. I believe in supporting local sustainable farmers as much as possible.

The most important part of the meal. Your local farmer will have the best tasting turkey you will have ever eaten. You can click on your state at and a list of local farms will come come up from there. You may also be able to pick up a dozen eggs from this farmer for your holiday baking.

Go organic as much as possible. Fruits and veggies take up nutrients from the soil that are not available in synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic Fertilizers only contain 3 key nutrients, NPK; Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. These nutrients are all that is required for a plant to grow. Our bodies need far more nutrients than those three and a healthy soil fertilized naturally contains more nutrients than we are even aware to exist. Not only that the pesticides used on plants damage the soil, requiring the use of synthetic fertilizers, and do harm to our water, the farmers who have to spray the chemical and to us who eat the food.

Find veggies at your local farmers market if possible. If you live in the north as I do and the markets have closed for the season, shop at your local co-op or natural foods store. Food co-ops do an excellent job of doing all the research on where your food comes from so you don't have to worry about it. If you live in a small town like I do you may have to buy what you can at your local grocery store. The more you support organic, the more it will become available.

This brussel sprout recipe on epicurious was a family favorite last year when I made it. My grandma who hates brussel sprouts even came back for seconds.

Cranberry sauce. A favorite side dish for many people. I live in cranberry land now so its easy for me to find affordable fresh cranberries. I can think of many years when my family bought it from the can and sliced it up. (like I said my family isn't much into cooking). If you are one of those families, read your labels. Many canned cranberry sauce is is loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). This stuff has taken over our food pantries and I recommend avoiding it whenever possible. It raises glucose levels to dangerous levels, which is a major cause of Type II Diabetes. Hopefully you are smarter than my family and make your cranberry dish from scratch. Food made from scratch is the only way to know exactly what is going in your food.

Hopefully you are making your gravy from the turkey you are cooking anyway. I assume that is what my family does when they cook the turkey. If you get your gravy from a packet, again, be sure to read the label. Not that it will make much sense what is going on, but I think it will make you aware of how many chemicals are put into your food. The list is long and to explain what each ingredient really is would require another post. I'll take the easy way out and send you over here. A chemist can explain the ingredients much better than I can.

I know I sound redundant, but I hope you will be making this from scratch. The ingredients list on the boxed stuffing mixes will take another scientist to decipher. I didn't find another chemist, but I did find a health site that can explain the ingredients and their affects on our bodies.

By now you're too full for pie, but who cares, it's Thanksgiving and we are going to stuff our bellies full. As I mentioned in my first "Give Thanks" post you can pick up an amazing pie crust recipe at Chef Chez Pim's blog.

As for the filling I make my pumpkin mix from scratch. It's not difficult but it does take some time. If you can find pie pumpkins at your local farmer's market or grocery store get a few. Having extra to freeze is a great way to make pumpkin related goodies throughout the winter. This pie recipe on AllRecipes explains how to make your own mash in the notes at the end of the recipe.

Be sure to save those seeds. You'll never have had better tasting seeds than with these recipes on 101Cookbooks. My favorite is the Sweet and Spicy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Give Thanks: Part 2

Thanksgiving Bowl Fillers by RyensMarketplace

Since my aunt has always been the host of Thanksgiving I've never had to think about how I might decorate my home for this holiday. I think the decorating would be fun and there are so many talented artists out there who would be happy to have their art shared in our homes. Since I'm always looking for new ways to show my celebration for an event or holiday, I'd like to feature a few artists and crafters who create modern decor inspired by traditional themes.

Home Decor
Begin the holiday mood right at the front door with a holiday yarn wreath from Sisterly Designs.

Festive Thanksgiving Yarn Wreath

Autumn Yarn Wreath

Make your guests feel welcome when they enter your home with a sign from Army Mom of Twins that will invite them to dine at the table.

Gather Together Garland

Table Decor
Why use paper napkins when you can buy such cute handmade ones that can be washed and used over and over. I use cloth napkins in my home to help the environment, but also to save money in the long run. Washing is easy and it's not necessary to iron them either. Here are some napkins that fit the Thanksgiving theme by the use of color.

Cloth Napkins by re*architect
Cloth Dinner Napkins by lifescandy

And for the kids table these hand print turkey napkins from Thoroughly Mod Mom will go along with the children's artwork used as centerpieces. (At least that's what our mom did with when we were young).
Thanksgiving Themed Cloth Napkins

Spread some Fall colors across your table, literally! Leaf Decor preserves leaves and has done a wonderful job of creating the perfect way to decorate your table with real leaves in a variety of beautiful Fall colors.

Real Leaves - Autumn Confetti

If you are super fancy and want to add name cards to each person's place setting, these beautiful place card holders made by Karas Vineyard Wedding add a bit of elegance to a normally more rustic table setting (or vise versa in the case of a wedding).
Harvest Wedding Place Card Holders

 For either the pre-dinner snacking, or for use at the table, be sure to have some Fall themed coasters for everyone to use. These glass covered coasters made by Arthur and Olive appear to be very well made and add to that rustic yet modern look.
Thanksgiving Coaster Gift Set

I've never been one to go along with the bird trends, but Thanksgiving is about the turkey, and I just couldn't resist this paper bird made by Scrapafrass. It could work so well on its own or in multiples.
Beautiful Bird Centerpiece

Looking for something a little more durable and reusable than paper? Try wood blocks. These blocks by kanchaser are so versatile they will look great with modern decor as well as traditional decor.
Wood Blocks Give Thanks Holiday Decor

We can't forget about the kids. This turkey lollipop holder from Masters Craftsman will have your kids excited to sit at their table. It even includes the suckers!
Rustic Thanksgiving Turkey Table Decoration

Hopefully I haven't overwhelmed you with all of these ideas. I feel like I could go on all day finding such unique fun items for Thanksgiving. Although I touched on it in my last post, my next "Give Thanks" post will focus more on the food.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Give Thanks: Part 1

Give Thanks Earrings by Msemrick

It's November already and it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Every year for Thanksgiving my family gathers at my aunt's house who lives in this really small town of about 300 people.

After dinner we wander around town in a group causing all the trouble we can.

We tag my cousin's name under the bridge and visit haunted houses.

Now onto the food:
Well the pie at least. This year I'm making pie. My Grandma used to do it and at least one was made from berries in her garden. As she got older she didn't want to make it anymore so she just bought pre-made crust and everything from the grocery store. Now she doesn't even do it at all. Last year the task was given to my mom, but I think she's following in my Grandma's footsteps a little too early in her life so I made sure to take over this year. My aunt can't be expected to make everything.

A year ago my co-op (Outpost Foods in Milwaukee) posted a recipe "The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All". I had always made my pie dough from the Better Homes Cook Book, which uses shortening (yek!) and always comes out flat and tasteless. This one uses butter and is a little more time consuming to make, but in the end is so worth it. The crust is perfectly flaky. I will never go back to using shortening again.

For the best pie crust you ever made jump on over to Chez Pim's blog for "The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All" recipe.
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