Holiday Brainstorm

September 21, 2011

Holidays are around the corner. I hate to think about it but since i make a lot of gifts I have to start early. Last year I made a few small things but we mostly bought cookbooks and craft books for folks. We had lots of fun wrapping presents. I thought I’d share some of last years gifts and ideas for this years crafts to get the ball rolling!

We love to cook and we’re vegetarians so generally we love great vegetarian cookbooks! We hate to come across as trying to indoctrinate others to our lifestyle. We gifted the Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian Cookbook to one of Peter’s sisters who loves healthy recipes and vegetables. It’s a nice book with great photos along with the instructions.

I’m a craft nerd. I love craft books. We gifted to arts and crafts books last year. We got Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts for Peter’s other sister. It has lots of basic crafts but lots of really useful crafts laid out in simple Martha Stewart style. It’s jam-packed with gift ideas! For our niece who is into fashion and art we got a book called Fashion Designers Sketchbooks. It’s filled with fashion designers concept sketches. It’s goes inside the mind of someone who is creating a collection. It shows process and how designers get from point A to point B. We paired it with sketchbooks and a nice Pitt drawing pens.

We bought some H&M outfits for the little one. We bought a nice cheese board and cheese cutters from CB2 for Peter’s mom since she enjoys entertaining. She also wanted a vintage wooden ironing board for her craft room. Low and behold my grandmother had one collecting dust in her closet. She gave it to us to pass along. It had a cover with it but it was old and crusty so we bought some nice fabric to and gave it to her with the old cover so she could sew a cover for it herself.

Music is always a good gift. We like to pick out CD’s, yes CD’s, and give four or five as a nicely curated box set. One year we picked out prints for everyone. We bought some from Etsy and some elsewhere online. We framed them and matted them. We tried to pick things that were thoughtful and unique to each person.

I made some purses, some knitting needle holders, and aprons in the past. Last year i just made a few little things. For all the women I sewed little lavender filled squares with fun fabrics and presented them in little handmade pouches, The pouches could be used later for carrying jewelry while traveling or thrown into a purse for an extra pocket.

This year I have some ideas, most of which I can’t share yet. The one I’m willing to share is for our niece. I saw it on Craftgawker and then visited the original blog. It’s a project to make these fabric wings for a little girl . I think they’re magical. Has anyone made these yet? I’m dying to do it.

In many months I will post photos of all the goods we make. It’s definitely going to be a handmade holiday this year!
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let me preface this entry by saying that i do love carne asada tacos. i’ve eaten meat most of my life. i was a vegetarian for about five years when i was in college and for some years after that. strangely, i was never a vegetarian because of anything i knew about farming animals or the meat industry. i just didn’t like a lot of meat at that time in my life. somewhere along the line i started dating adventurous eaters and a world of gourmet foods and new tastes entered my life, which included many meat dishes. street style tacos could’ve been my lifeline if i had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life.

last year i was becoming more connected to my food. i wanted to know more about meat. i watched the movie Food Inc, and while it was a very good documentary i didn’t feel that I learned anything new. however, the parts with the cows hooked up to the machines with their sides ripped wide open and human hands digging into their stomachs was a bit intense. i kept reading about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals and i knew i had to read it.

well i read it. i read it when i was in texas visiting with my boyfriend’s family. it was a tough place to read about eating meat. texas is built around meat. i read it and i didn’t start any fights, so it was a success for me. half way through the book, i thought that i would still eat really ethically raised meat. that was until i found out that it doesn’t exist. i think it was the slaughter chapter that really got me. please understand that i’m not naïve, i didn’t expect that the slaughter of animals would be clean. however, i didn’t think that animals were skinned alive with their muscles being pulled off while they’re going down the slaughter belt. i never thought about the impact this has on the psyche of the laborers who stand ankle-deep in animal blood trying to knock out surly animals trying escape. i never thought about the factory farms and how they’re destroying family farms and the freedom to create another option for meat consumption. i never really thought about meat fillers and how we feed these animals that we consume. lets not forget the antibiotics and hormones that also are a part of the equation. i never thought that eating meat had so many components to think about.  well, i think about those things everyday now.

i think about it everyday. i also think about the social pressures to eat meat that were so clearly articulated in this book. the whole concept of “the communal table” when applied to meat is very interesting. when you tell a person you don’t care much for a certain vegetable, lets say brussel sprouts, it isn’t a big deal. if you tell a person you don’t eat meat it creates a weird divide. talking about meat is as uncomfortable as talking about religion.  people have strong views about meat. it seems to me that people assume that i think  i’m better than them because i choose to abstain from the act of eating meat. this couldn’t be farther from the truth. nonetheless, it creates an awkward dynamic. often, people feel offended when you don’t eat what is offered. this tends to happen more in places where vegetarianism isn’t as mainstream. i live in los angeles so i have it pretty good.

i guess my whole point in sharing this is that the root of the conversation about food and our society needs to be replanted.  the whole way we talk about touchy subjects like food and religion, two things that bring comfort to many, needs to be shaken up. the two most common negative reactions i receive when i talk about meat are “i just don’t want to know how it gets to my plate” and “i just don’t believe in vegetarianism”.  these reactions come from very smart people. all i want is for people to stop reacting and instead engage me. ask me why i’m a vegetarian. ask me why i became interested in not eating meat. i guess in the end i’m hoping to change the tone of the conversation that comes along with choosing not to eat meat. the dialog in our country is so divided right now. we can’t talk to anyone with opinions different from ours without cutting them down first to prove our point is right. we’ve attached dogma to everything.  politics, religion and food are going to segregate us more and more if we don’t remember that choices stem from opinions. we’re lucky enough to live in a country where we’re allowed to have them.  lets start talking about meat and how we can work on a more sustainable and compassionate system for farming animals. i’m not a utopian dreamer, i know that most americans will want to continue eating meat. i just think that we can start talking about solutions to changing the system instead of attacking each other. a good start is reading this book.

Eating Animals” has changed my life and my boyfriend’s life.  Slowly, my copy is being passed around town to friends and people keep asking me what that book about meat was that i was reading awhile ago.  i couldn’t be happier to share it. sometimes yelling at people about stuff just doesn’t work. people are quietly reading this book and quietly making decisions to eat meat differently. whether that is eating the same amount of meat, just cutting back or going full-blown vegan, it  is a personal choice that this book sheds some light on.