This year I decided to give experience gifts to friends and family. I tend to prefer coordinating a shared experience to exchanging objects. I enjoy spending time planning special outings and field trips (both surprise and fully disclosed) with the people I love. Now that I’m in New York, I’m closer to much of my immediate family and I have access to so many amazing sources of art, entertainment, and activity. I’m excited to take advantage of my time between semesters and experience more of what the city has to offer. That being said, the thought of showing up at my parents’ house for Christmas completely empty handed just didn’t seem right. So I decided to make and gather a few trash-free offerings to try to express love and appreciation at this celebratory time of year.
Dry skin is a pretty common affliction at this time of year in this part of the world. Combating it from the inside out by eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water is a primary defense, but sometimes it’s nice to have a topical aid as well. So I made some lotion for my family with beeswax (pictured above) given to me by our incredibly talented friend Pam DeLuco. She harvested it from the hives she keeps at her community garden in San Francisco and stamped the forms with the seal from her paper, print, and book company, Shotwell Paper Mill. She brought the bars to me when she visited New York City this past fall. This batch of lotion has just four ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and water. This time around, the mixture was a little on the runny side so the wire bales jars weren’t the most ideal vessels for transport, but it’s still good stuff.
My family loves to drink wine. Curious to see if I might be able to bring them some in a reusable bottle, I took a walk in the rain on Monday afternoon down to the Red Hook Winery, located just a couple blocks from my apartment on Pier 41. When I entered the space, I was warmly greeted by vintners Christopher and Darren. I explained that I was looking to purchase some wine to serve at dinner with my family and that I was curious about where the grapes were coming from and how they were making and bottling the wines. Darren gave me a tour of the space, describing the sourcing and the processing that takes place right there in the beautiful and efficiently laid out waterfront warehouse space. I explained my No Trash Project and objective and withdrew my 32oz swingtop bottle from my bag. Darren patiently and graciously pondered options to accommodate my request, asking me questions about the details of my lifestyle. He then led me to a row of oak wine barrels that represented the 2011 vintage—or at least what remained of it after the winery was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year. He syphoned the burgundy juice into a glass for me to sample. It was bright and tart, but smooth. I nodded and smiled in approval and he proceeded to fill my bottle for me. He drew a label for me on some blue tape, “Seneca Lake CF, 2011” (CF is short for Cabernet Franc) and smoothed it onto the bottle. He told me if I brought it back he would reuse the tape. We agreed to be in touch the next time they were bottling so that I might have some of my own filled without too much disruption to their production. I left feeling even more in love with Red Hook and the people and projects that have settled here. I tried to hit up Cacao Prieto as well for some Red Hook made chocolate but they were completely sold out for the holiday season. I was able to get package-free chocolate from The Chocolate Room to share with everyone instead.
Also in tow was a large swing top bottle of homemade Fire Cider. Loved ones around me in Brooklyn and those I planned to visit for the holidays have all been sick with a cold or the flu, so I made up a large, potent batch to share with everyone. I’ve been trying to fortify myself over the past several months with homemade remedies to make it through a hectic time without falling ill. I first learned about Fire Cider when I fell ill with the flu back in the spring of 2012. My friend made a trip to Farmacy Herbs of Providence for me and came home with a bottle. I used it to combat my symptoms then, and have continued to use Fire Cider to ward off illness ever since. It is a warming concoction with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, meant to aid digestion, soothe sore throats, boost immunity, and increase circulation. As promised in my last post, I’ve included my recipe below. I determined the ingredients and amounts for this batch by browsing recipes online and combining things based on what I could find fresh and package-free from the store or the farmer’s market and what I had on hand in my fridge or on my spice shelf. Quantities can be tweaked in any direction according to personal preference and availability.
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup of grated ginger
½ cup grated horseradish
1/8 cup of minced garlic
1 quart of apple cider vinegar (with the mother)
¼ cup honey (or to taste)
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
fresh rosemary sprigs
I purchased the onion, horseradish, ginger, garlic, and lemon fresh and package-free. I’ve been able to find apple cider vinegar and spices in bulk at food cooperatives and health food stores. The 4th Street Food Co-op has a fantastic selection of dry and liquid bulk goods. They carry apple cider vinegar, turmeric powder, and cayenne pepper. The cider can be left to steep for a few weeks to a few months and then strained or it can be blended well and consumed immediately. This time around I prepped and combined all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blended them thoroughly with the immersion blender. I then poured the mixture into some glass bottles for storage and snipped some sprigs of rosemary from my beloved potted plant that lives in a south facing window and dropped them into the bottles.
The gifts were savored and enjoyed by us all and on Christmas night we were treated to the most spectacular sunset over Long Island Sound. The sky looked as if it was on fire and the water glowed red beneath it. Between the two, New York City appeared to float above the horizon. It was a lovely closing to the holiday.