This past weekend marked the official end of Christmas for our family. Kings Day, the 12 days of Christmas, allows a more gradual end to the season than January 1. The "Christmasy" decorations are put away, leaving behind, lights, candles and greenery to evoke the feeling of and offer light in Winter.
Like clock-work, immediately after the cake is served, I am invigorated for the new year; my synapses fire at a rapid rate and my notebook is close at hand to capture all my flowing ideas. I also look for ways to detox the body, mind and spirit and focus on tightening the systems of our home. Stick with me for a moment as I lead you from creating family traditions to tip to live more sustainably.
Holiday Ritual and Traditions
I recently read a quote, "Dont make fun of Christmas, the world needs all the celebrations it can get." We are fortunate to live in an urban area that brings so many opportunities to celebrate. Our family celebrates every Jewish holiday with best friends that seamlessly include us as family. My children celebrate Persian Chinese New Year, and Moon Festivals, and many other rich traditions at school. We remember lives lost at Dia de los Muertos each year in the Mission, welcome in Spring at the Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japantown. This cultural sharing is important in building empathy and understanding in our children.
Becoming a parent had me looking at my own biography for the important markers of the seasons. When Eva and Branch were quite young, I thought back on the seasons of my childhood. Living in California instead of the East Coast had me wanting clear signs of the season, beyond the weather. My mother, Mildred, decorated seasonally and I loved coming home to a mantel display, vase of flowers, or family figurines that only came out with the season. The signs were subtle but a visual demarcation of time. Food is even more of marker as we eat in season and bring forward the rich holiday traditions.
Growing up I was the youngest of four children. Our Christmas Day tradition was built from necessity, hosting brunch so siblings could go to their significant others for dinner. My children experienced this until my mother passed away five years ago and we opted to celebrate at home in California. I love researching and trying new recipes but my son is definitely a traditionalist and as soon as we found ourselves on the West Coast, he began asking for certain menue items that to him meant Christmas morning. I now look forward to sharing this meal with my family while memories present themselves with every bite.
I change up the ingredients and make it my own. Regardless of how exactly our menus match, sitting down to this meal brings me closer to our family in Virginia, knowing they too will fill their plates with similar fare.
Usually, we host 2 - 3 dinners over the holiday, crab feast, etc. However with the busy schedule of Millie | Lottie, we became more insular, enjoying simple time at home and walks on the beach. This year we forewent the Boxing Day Prime Rib + Yorkshire Pudding from my husband's family tradition, to spend it wisely with a large group of friends around a fondue pot.
Christmas Brunch Menu:
- Cinnamon Rolls while opening presents Recipe by Erin McDowell for Food 52
- Egg Strata, (aka Egg Casserole)
- Frozen Fool (Frozen Fruit Salad)
- Sectioned Grapefruit Salad with Vanilla and Star Anise
- Persimmon Carpaccio - new year because we got so many from a local source.
I grew up going to Wassail Parties on the sixth day of January, enjoying the family gatherings that ultimately meant more cookies! In college I was fortunate to spend the weeks after Christmas in Paris with a friend's family and delighted in the King's Cake Celebrations. I remember a merry band of street folks roasting oysters over an open metal barrel, toasting the season with bottles of red wine, wearing their crowns.
We started a tradition of the kings cake 10 years ago in our home. Sometimes we have the traditional Galette des Roi with the almond paste and puff pastry. This year I made the yeasted brioche version we had in New Orleans. I used the recipe from Emeril Lagasse's this year, it had the most yolks! I split the dough so we could celebrate twice. I replaced the cream cheese filling with the that from Food52's Erin McDowell from our Christmas cinnamon rolls. This year I forewent the icing as we celebrated with friends that are athletes and don't indulge in much sugar (see below more about this extraordinary friend). I went to insert the baby Jesus, but from the time I took the photo and the baking, he went missing! The traditions are not lost on my children. If I forget to plan for the celebration, the children will remind me, they too are rooted in the rhythm of the seasons. When this happens, I pick up a cake from either Noe Valley Bakery or La Boulange.
King's Cake Recipe below at the end of the post
Detox + Sustainable Inspirations
Millie | Lottie is featured in goop's The Annual Detox Guide in the Home Detox section of the website. I spent the weekend reading through the extensive guides. Andrea Arria-Devoe former editor of The Daily Candy, curated a section where she outlines a simple plan to 10 Easy Swaps for Creating Less Waste. Some suggestions were just reminders to get back to it, others challenge me to go further. I am already putting the following suggestions in to practice:
1) I now carry my stainless straws that I love with me in my purse. I love the Marine Mammal Center and visited the center as recently as last week with a guest. It is the largest center of its purpose in the world. A display shows examples of the plastic that shares our water with marine life, and after seeing the rescued seals, you too will say, "no thank you to the straw." I LOVE drinking from straws so these stainless steel versions are perfect and portable.
3) I have jotted down many of the recipes from the goop site to try. This weekend I started with The Working Girl Detox Chia Pudding from Sakara. I packed it for my daughter's volleyball tournament and while she was not enamored as I was, she ate it and admitted it gave her energy. I am back to juicing and my daily golden milk.
4) I have ordered my waxed covers for bowls.
5) Still an avid Millie | Lottie tote user. You can find our products buried deep in the Home Detox Guide and for sale on their website and in their permanent store in the Brentwood Country Mart. See more about what sets our our product apart below.
My Local Sustainable Roll Model
Our progressive city of San Francisco, California is sustainably inspiring but one close friend remains my supreme example on how you can live your life, and taking it beyond your home in to the community and educate. My friend Suzanne Bryan, professional photo stylist, marathon runner, maker, canner extraordinaire, is that inspiration for me. We met when our children were just entering toddler-hood, but it took me a few years of parenting with her to further understand, Suzanne lives her talk. Her family shopped in bulk, rode their bikes everywhere religiously, composted, shopped at farmer's markets,and salvaged building material, ahead of their time, WAY before it was cool or on our radars to do so.
When I hosted a beach bonfire party many years ago, Suzanne's gift was setting up, maintaining a three-part trash system (compost, recycling + landfill.) She regularly volunteered at the Recycling arm of our city to see the policies being made and to understand where our waste goes. If you went to the Cuesa Farmer's Market on Saturday's at the Ferry Building during these years, she was digging around the trash making certain waste landed in the proper bin. She did the same for our school, helping it to become a minimal-waste school, encouraging us to not use paper but bring our own plates to school gatherings. She has been the voice in my head for years and keeps me on my toes without ever passing a judgment, just by living as an example.
Suzanne & Peter took it to new level when they purchased a home, salvaging and re-purposing most materials from salvage yards and Craiglist. They converted part of their dark garage in to an airy guest space & family room (read about this space and resource list on Apartment Therapy.) Suzanne continues to educate on her AirBnB listing. Her Private Suite with Bath Near UCSF & GGP includes a vivid clear section in the the Other Things to Note Section:
"In developing this space we took extra time and care to insure that it is healthy, environmentally conscious and safe. It meets all current codes for safety, energy and water efficiency as well as San Francisco's green build requirements for zero VOC and formaldehyde free materials.
We made extensive use of re-use and salvage items, the last chance area at IKEA, Etsy, friends leftovers, builders' mis-measures and CL finds, buying new only when necessary. The goal was to minimize the amount of landfill our project generated and maximize materials saved from the landfill."
Had to photograph my taco bowl I made at Suzanne's the night of our King's Cake Celebration. Ingredients: Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, red sprouted quinoa, spinach, kale, arugula, shredded carrots, edamame, cilantro, avocado, lime and two kinds of salsa
Why Millie | Lottie
We live in a Totes-filled world. So many options are available to you on the market. Ours are designed to be a food & picnic tote but are hearty and stylish enough to become your everyday tote you will want to incorporate in to your life. Our tote may just be the one tote you need. I am a practical person who needs my product to multi functional and fit in to many avenues of my life. This aspect of streamlining is a model of sustainability that I support.
I love selling season because I get to go out and talk with clients. A vast majority of my clients shared this sentiment when purchasing a tote as a gift: shopping for "insert name" is so difficult, this is perfect for them, the person receiving the gift was a foodie; I had thought of everything. One of my favorite examples this season was the client who carries cakes to work on a regular basis (lucky co-workers.) She was concerned they would not fit. She went home and got the baking pans and plate and practiced getting it in and out of the tote. The "ah ha" moment came when she realized the shape was designed specifically to allowed her hands to guide the plate down to the cutting board. The second examples came from the lovely client who got it for her boyfriend who carries his Sous Vide machine and ingredients to her apartment most nights. She was so excited to get this for him. These are just a few of the reasons I do what I do.
Happy New Years to you all.
Recipe for Kings Cake adapted from Emeril Lagasse
- 2 envelopes active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup warm milk
- 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Note: I used a stand mixer but you can also use a bowl and wooden spoon as I have done in the past.
Put the yeast, sugar and melted butter in to mixer and mix a few minutes. Add the egg yolks and mix 1 minute. Meanwhile, melt the butter and warm the milk. Pour into the mixer.
Mix ingredients on medium until well-mixed. Then turn to high and mix until the dough forms a ball and begins to creep up the dough hook.
Remove dough and make a smooth ball and place in a bowl that has been lightly oiled. Seal with plastic wrap or towel or both and let rest until dough doubles in size. If you use Active instant yeast, this could be an hour but plan on 1 - 2 hours. I placed mine near the vent as it was a cool day.
Meanwhile make your filling. I made the one for cinnamon rolls. Melted butter, mixed with sugar and cinnamon and placed in fridge a bit until it became spreadable.
Once risen, take dough and pat out the dough in to a 6" x 30" slab. This is where I decided to make two cakes, one for now and one for later. I made a 12" x 30" slab.
Spread the filling (I put in the middle by accident) better if you put on one edge of the dough. Folded the dough over and pressed together. the formed a ring around an oven proof jar and connected the two ends by tucking one inside the other. Mine never looks completely smooth butt that is ok with me. Then set in warm place under a towel to rise again for about an hour.
Oven preheated to 350 degrees, I put a milk wash on the dough and baked for about 20 minutes. The original recipe for 1 cake said 20-30 minutes.
Let cool completely before eating or adding an icing.
- 2 Tablespooons of milk
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 - 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
Filling from Erin McDowell for Food52 - this a 1/2 recipe but you can double as well for a sweeter bread
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 cup granulated sugar