CELEBRATING SAINT LUCIA | LUSSEKATTER

 
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Removing the tea towel to find the bowl of smooth, risen dough, not without little bits plucked and nibbled by hands that Just Couldn't Help Themselves. Those same little hands doing the good work of shaping dough. Tactile, deliberate, imperfect. Rolling, stretching, creating shapes that weren't there before. The lyre, the baby, the Christmas horse, the priest's hair — shapes that recall a tradition that long preceded us. Under the tea towel once more, allowing the buns to rise; impatiently waiting. Cuddle and read stories by the light of the tree. Oven hot, egg wash the buns. In they go. 8 minutes, maybe 9. Let them cool until the little hands cannot bear it any longer. Pull apart, savor the scent of saffron, share and eat with abandon. Smile at the magic of it all. Lucia, patron saint of light, a life worthy of celebration and a recipe befitting of her giving spirit. Lussekatter. An Advent tradition we will abide for as many years as there are hands to shape dough. 
—An Advent journal entry of sorts, regarding December 13th, the feast day of Saint Lucia. 

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—S

DOWN HOMEBREW | PETITE SAISON

 
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♩♩'Tis the Season of Saison ♩♩. . . well, actually, that's nothing new around here. In my second year as a homebrewer, I have been in hot pursuit of My Perfect Saison. It is, perhaps, the best style for experimentation and has called brewers around the world to a virtual infinity of interpretations. My first iteration, full of folly & flavor, was the Dandelion Saison. This little one came along next—a bit lighter, and buoyed by some new flavors courtesy of a wild yeast strain. Next up: a Christmas version, happily bubbling away in anticipation of the holidays . . . Hark!

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Petite Saison

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: A nice little beer, crisp as the December air. This one's right at home in the pale afternoon light of the shortest days of the year.

Appearance: Pale, pale gold; a touch cloudy; with a head that likes to jump out of the glass.

Aroma: Me: "What does it smell like to you?" Sam: "...I don't know. Sunshine?"

Taste: Bright, floral; light and crisp; a toasty lil cracker.

Mouthfeel: Lively champagne-like carbonation; dry as a bone.

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—M

THAT WHICH IS UN-PROTECTABLE

 
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While on the phone with a utility company yesterday, a well-meaning woman transferred me to a home security company to discuss "how to protect your investment." . . . Full transparency here: I hung up. I admit that I felt a twinge of guilt, but to her credit those words have echoed in my mind long after I disconnected. Protect your investment. 

Earlier in the day I had stopped into the hardware (one of those magnificently creaky, family-run ones) to pick up a $4 bag of bird seed. For many months, my 2 1/2 year old nephew and I have been doing this together—pick up the bird seed, walk it home, fill the feeder, marvel at the sparrows and chickadees who come by, repeat.

When we ambled to the register, the owner handed me my assumed-to-be-lost credit card. "I came to your house a few times and knocked, but you must not have been home," she said. Ok . . . the owner of the shop where I had left my credit card came to our house to deliver it. Bless her. It was an unbelievable moment for me, captured in my mind's eye with perfect clarity. I am not so naive to believe my loved ones are exempt from indiscriminate danger and misfortune. Devastating events happen in small towns all the time, regardless the perceived safety that accompany interactions like the one I had at the hardware. But the interaction did absolutely reaffirm why Mark and I moved here, why we choose to live rurally. What I wanted to say to the woman from the utility company was that the investments I want to protect are of much greater worth than the Stuff in the House. 

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The investments worth protecting are our relationships. Mark and I choose rural living because of its slower pace — dull, at times — and because we can leave our doors unlocked. The relationships we establish take more work than when we lived in the city, they're harder to come by, and they tend to be with people much older than us, but they boast a richness. Let this not be a diatribe about Why the Country is Superior, Et Cetera. Instead, let it be a call to dig deep, discover within yourself the investments you most want to protect, and allow yourself to be guided by those principles. (And, hopefully, the things you most want to protect are not Things at all.) I write this for myself as much as anyone, especially as Advent dawns and Christmas approaches.

My mom and I spent a day festive-izing the house with my grandma's Christmas decorations. Of course her folk paintings, hand-sewn Santa dolls, and window wreaths are immense treasures. Each has a story. Still, it's just stuff. They are nil compared to the beauty of my nephew learning to be gentle when stirring honey into a mug of hot tea; nothing compared to our baby kicking fervently when Mark plays piano; nothing compared to the interaction I had with the hardware store owner. So that's it, I guess. Just a long post about cherishing people and moments that are, by nature, un-protectable. 

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—S

PHOTOS FROM AFIELD | OHIO AUTUMN

 
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During our time as Instagram-aholics, it was common practice to fall asleep while scrolling through our own profiles, mindlessly scanning the same photos over and over and over again on small, illuminated screens. Engaging in social media definitely made us more savvy with cameras; maybe we even saw the world with more of an artistic eye. No two ways about it—our camera rolls are chock full of accidental photos of our feet and dimly lit shots of our cat looking ugly. But we read before bed now so, in the grand scheme of things, a junky photo roll ain't so bad. (Sam is reading Mary Poppins, and Mark 1Q84. One of us has pregnancy brain and thus appreciates a book written for small children.)

This collection of photos, taken in Autumn, comes from our phones and proves (to us, at least) that not all artistry is lost in a sans-social media life. Here's a bit of what we've been up to, really:

Leaning deeply into becoming Ohio people. She grows the baby and knits for shim, he does the odd jobs: tending bar at one uncle's island restaurant, re-seeding another uncle's lawn, changing fuses on the archaic fusebox at Grandma's House. We have logged thousands of miles in our aging Subaru driving around the state for work and for school and for play. Columbus boasts family time, old haunts, and illuminating & introspective lessons courtesy of Farm School. (It's been fun—oddly romantic, even—to exercise our academic muscles together, while doing A Very Adult Thing in writing a business plan for our future farm.) Cleveland offers fresh bagels, Thai food, our sisters, and the chance to remark on how there are young people everywhere. It's enlivening! In what is surely an effort to reacquaint ourselves with this mighty state, we hike—slowly, so slowly—around the preserves and wild spaces of our state. So far Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Holmes County have inspired us most acutely, illuminating our proclivity for rolling hills. (Note to selves: find and buy the farm on rolling land.) 

Some days, it feels as though we've been swept up in a leaf storm—pulled in different directions, quite literally, and trying to get our bearings about us. But sometimes the crisp autumn air stills itself, and we can see clearly just how blessed we are to be home again. 

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—M&S