My BFF and I spent the weekend enjoying the holiday fun in Manistee during the Sleighbell Weekend.  We checked out the huge craft fair at the high school that wound around all the halls and into the gym.  I think at least half the town was there.  So many vendors were there, I was surprised to see such a large turnout.  I was tempted to buy a holiday decoration but I refrained for fear it might become a cat toy or be knocked over by my hyperactive Australian Shepherd, Abbie.  Sadie and I both ran into several people we knew and were able to exchange a few pleasantries before the crowds propelled us forward. It became a bit crowded for our comfort levels so we ducked out into the unseasonably warm day.

The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining with just a slight overcast.  The temperatures got to nearly 50 degrees on December 5th.  That’s really unusual for northern Michigan.  Typically we are navigating through a pile of snow with drifts framing the perimeters of the roads.  Yesterday we both got so warm we had to step outside to cool off and we weren’t wearing jackets, merely sweaters.  We got some good ideas for new craft projects, smelled a lot of bars of goat milk soap and admired a lot of talented artists.

sadie with science treeAfter the craft show we headed to the Fesitval of Trees at the Ramsdell Theater.  Sadie’s science class had a tree entered and she could get extra credit if she took a “selfie” by the tree.  She took several selfies and I took a few on my camera.  Later we came back again to take a few more, just to be sure.

me with quilting group treeOur quilting group, Victorian Quilters, had a large tree decorated with home made ornaments, some of which I had made.  So I had her take a picture of me standing by the tree.  My arms aren’t long enough for a sefie, especially when standing by a very tall Christmas tree.  I was wearing one of my Christmas sweaters that bordered on the tasteful side of ugly holiday sweaters.

Before we left town, we had to stop to shop for a little fabric for me and some craft supplies for Sadie before we called it a day.  She was looking for felt and pompoms and I for quilting fabric so the Variety Store was our best bet.  The streets were being blocked off for the parade later that day, so parking was a challenge.  I was able to “borrow” a “reserved” spot close to the shop due to the nice guy directing traffic.  When I asked him if there was a handicapped place I could park given the circumstances, he waved us through to a convenient enough spot.  I was able to find a couple of yards of plain black cotton for the current quilt project I’m working on.  I never realized that black cotton can sometimes be hard to find.

Sadie and her family were coming back to town to watch the Sleighbell Parade.  My neighbor, Ben Reed, brings his draft horses and sleigh that transports the huge Christmas tree.  The tree is about three stories high and adorns downtown for the holidays.  Benny’s horses pull the tree from one end of town to the tree’s final resting place at the other end of River Street, the main street in Manistee.  I would have loved to have stayed but I had to get back for dinner guests.  Here’s a video of the Sleighbell weekend taken a couple of years ago that I really enjoy watching.  It puts anyone in the Christmas mood, even between “Bah Humbugs”.

We enjoyed the hours we spent together, laughing at each other’s wry comments or racing each other up the stairs.  I took the elevator and she took the stairs and she beat me both times up three flights of stairs.  I should have snapped a picture of her smug face as the elevators opened to let me out.  She stood waiting for me as if she’d been there all day.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Such a good time, but at last we had to get back so I dropped Sadie at home and after a few stops along the way, I made it home just in time to bake a pie, stir my soup and prepare for neices and nephews to join us for dinner.

I started cooking the day before making a recipe from my cookbook known as “Caponata”.  The first time I made it my husband remarked it was just like his mother’s “Gobladina” (not sure about the spelling folks).  My mother-in-law had me looking for a recipe for at least 20 years that never existed in any cookbook I could find.  Her name for this dish apparently was one that only she used (Gobladina) and featured eggplant instead of cauliflower like she described.  The recipe I used referred to it as “Caponata”.  Last night I learned from our nephew that this recipe is called many different things. It is side dish served on Ciabata bread and eaten as a side dish or as an appetizer.  I had prepared that yesterday in my crock pot and refrigerated it overnight.  I reheated it and served it just slightly warmed above room temperature.

italian wedding soupThe main course was Italian Wedding Soup which I made in my crock pot.  Have I mentioned how much I love the invention of the crock pot? I was able to cook for family, enjoy my afternoon and come home to a declicious aroma and a hearty appetite.  Not having to prepare the meal just before eating it somehow heightens the appetite.  It’s almost like someone else did the cooking and you are one of the guests.  How cool is that? It was delicious and so full of folate from the fresh spinach.  Folate is the natural form of what is known in the synthetic version as folic acid.  My body cannot digest folic acid (synthetic) but craves folate (natural) due to a genetic mutation known as MTHFR.  This was a soup that made my body happy, all the way down to my very cells.  I may appear to be lazy but I’m very busy at a molecular level.

I started from scratch, down to the Italian Seasoning Mix I used.  I created my own blend of seasonings which I’ve decided to share with you below.  This combination provides 24% of your daily Vitamin K, which is important for keeping calcium in all the right places, as well as keeping blood clotting optimum.  If you are on any blood thinners, please check with your doctor.  I have provided links to each of the herbs for more information. I will be developing a new feature on my website for herbs and this is just the beginning.  To minimize the amount of sodium (salt) in my diet I use a lot of herbs in cooking.  Not only do they flavor your food so much more than salt but if and when you do use just a little pinch of salt, everything is taken to a new level in a way that salt alone can’t do.

Italian Seasoning Mix
This makes enough to fill my spice jar.

3 tsp. marjoram, dried
3 tsp. thyme leaves, dried
3 tsp. rosemary, dried
3 tsp. savory, dried
1 tsp. dry sage, ground
3 tsp. oregano, dried
3 tsp. basil leaves, dried

Our niece, Cyndi brought a beautiful salad that was a delicious accompliment to the meal.  It was full of greens and purples leaves, salad sized tomatoes, sliced peppers, olives, cheese, salami, and so much more.  I love her salads…she includes all the good stuff.  A huge dish of salad with organic Green Garden dressing just made for the perfect antipasta.

But dessert….oh my….cherry pie.  I made an cherry pie using organic cherries from Northstar Organic Cherries, a local organic cherry farm that supplied me with a lot of cherries this year!  There’s nothing like a homemade cherry pie, especially when you start with local, organic ingredients. Hubby and I canned a bunch of cherries for pies and froze a bunch more this past summer.  You can read about our cherry advernture this summer in my earlier post, Life’s a Bunch of Cherries.  The cherries we canned in July sure bring back the taste of summer in the midst of the winters here in Michigan.  Of course a little spoon of organic vanilla ice cream just sealed the deal….I’m stuffed.


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