Thursday, January 10, 2019

Celebrate the Seasons: January!

It’s the dead of winter, which may mean knee-deep snow or just a lot of gray days, depending on where you live. January to me is a time of reflection and reframing, a time to appreciate cozy evenings, warm drinks, and fires. Here are five ways to celebrate the new year!

1. Start a library habit. There are few habits that will reap more rewards than getting into the routine of visiting the library. If you don’t have a card, figure out how to get one, then mark “Go to library” on your calendar. Visit on a prescribed schedule until it’s just habit. Libraries are one of the most amazing underutilized resources. Even if you don’t like reading, check out the movies, video games, audiobooks, and more!

2. Order seeds. If you’re thinking about a garden for springtime, now is the time to cheer yourself up by thumbing through seed catalogs. I highly recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

3. Forage some pine needles. Learn to identify white pine, and you’ll have ingredients for an herbal tea chock-full of Vitamin C to get you through the winter months! Simply chop the needles roughly and steep them for several minutes in boiling water.

4. Figure out how to cook something you’ve never tried. Winter is the perfect time to learn different cooking techniques— whether you’re baking, braising, roasting, or sautéing, the extra heat in the kitchen is a plus rather than a minus this time of year. Do you want to learn how to make sourdough bread? The perfect soufflé? Sushi? Meatloaf? The Internet (or the library, see above) has everything you need to get started.

5. Bundle up and get outside. Play in the snow, take a walk, watch winter birds (St. Louisans, did you know it’s eagle-watching season?), throw some rocks into a frozen pond. It can be intimidating to brave the cold during the winter, but the benefits are well worth it!

How do you celebrate January?

Monday, January 7, 2019

18 Skills I Learned in 2018

When I look back and reflect on a year, my first instinct is to be negative. “I never did build those cold frames.” “I didn’t have a fall garden at all.” “I still didn’t learn how to drive!” However, while scrolling through my blog, I found an old post titled “16 Skills I Learned in 2016.” It was fun to read what I had learned that year, and thinking about 2018, I realized that I learned an incredible amount this past year. Sometimes I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come, even if I didn’t do everything that I hoped I would. 

In 2018, I learned how to...

1. Identify dozens of plants. Point out a bird and I can tell you whether it’s a warbler or a wren, but until this year I could only identify a handful of plants. Zach and I worked together to start learning more plants— beginning with the ones we could eat— and although I still have a long way to go, I’m able to spot patterns now, and at least make educated guesses about whether I’m observing a leguminous vine or some species of dock.

2. Raise chickens. This has been one of my favorite things I’ve learned! Reading about keeping chickens was incredibly daunting, but once we actually started raising them, I realized that, like many things, it’s easier in practice than it is in theory.

4. Cook and eat weeds. I’ve always been able to identify dandelions, violets, field garlic (“onion grass”), stinging nettle, and mulberries, and even snacked on them upon occasion, but this was the year that I sat down and actually learned how to make them taste good. There is so much free food growing around!

5. Make sourdough bread. I have my favorite whole-wheat sandwich loaf recipe memorized, and incorporate it into my weekly routine.

6. Make flatbread through feel, rather than a recipe. After making bread so many times, I’ve started to get a feel for the proportions of flour, water, salt, and starter— and so I can make pizza crust or flatbread without measuring anything. It’s a fun way to use up the extra starter!

7. Notice when my brain is being hacked by advertisers. I wrote a blog miniseries about this, here, here, and here.

8. Cut hair. Well... this one is debatable. But I did give myself and Zach haircuts, and nobody reacted in shocked horror (or noticed at all). So I’m calling that a win!

9. Balance salt, fat, acid, and heat in my cooking. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is a must-read!

10. Grow sweet potatoes, butternut squash, watermelon, and cucumbers. I had never grown (or successfully grown) any of these crops before, but this year they all grew like weeds.

11. Use cloth toilet paper. Save money, save trees, gross out everyone even though it’s not gross! (If people can do it in the backcountry, I can do it with ready access to a washer.)

12. Allow my mind to be changed. I’ve tried to embrace more fully the idea that I can be wrong, and focus on reading perspectives and opinions that stretch me out of my comfort zone. It’s not fun, but the paradigm shifts are well worth the effort.

13. Preserve produce. I learned how to cure squash and sweet potatoes, cook down fresh tomatoes into paste, and preserve basil by mixing it with olive oil and salt. I also hung bundles of basil, thyme, oregano, and peppermint to dry in the dining room, and now I’m enjoying the benefits. 

14. Appreciate the true cost of food. I read several thought-provoking books about the impact that our eating choices have on the environment, the culture, and our spiritual lives. I highly recommend The Third Plate by Dan Barber, Kiss the Ground by Josh Tickell, and Food and Faith by Norman Wirzba.

15. Scale back our everyday spending. I came into this year hoping to cut back on our spending more than ever before, and I think we’ve been successful. It doesn’t feel like deprivation— we have plenty of walks and hiking, foraging and gardening, reading, potlucks, board games, and library DVDs.

16. Handle big expenses. Between a lot of doctor’s visits and having to replace our air conditioner and furnace, it’s been a year of cringe-worthy expenses. However, living below our means and having a cash cushion has helped us weather these expenses fairly gracefully, a trait I hope I’ll keep in the future.

17. Reframe questions. In permaculture design, knowing how to ask a question is an extremely important part of the process. For instance, instead of asking, “How do I grow all my own food?” you can ask, “How do I meet my food needs sustainably?” This kind of reframing has been key in our decision-making and dreaming this past year.

18. Make pumpkin pie from scratch. I grew pumpkins, harvested and cured them, baked them, scraped out and pureed the flesh, and used that to make pie for Thanksgiving. It was pretty simple, but for some reason, this was one of my proudest skill-building moments of the year. 

What did you learn this last year? What do you hope to learn this year?


Friday, January 4, 2019

Recipe: 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Peanut-butter-honey-chia toast with kale salad = delicious breakfast!

Since Zach and I loooove our carbs, we eat toast with peanut butter and honey basically every morning. And since we want delicious, hearty homemade bread for our toast, bread-making is a weekly ritual for me. 

I had tried for years to find a good recipe that was 100% whole wheat, but most of them had tons of sugar or honey, or weird ingredients like powdered milk, and half the time they still came out like crumbly bricks. That was before I discovered the magic of sourdough— it produces whole wheat loaves that, while denser than the fluffy country blond boules that Zach makes, have a nice crumb and a delicious nutty flavor. The process is a bit involved, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly simple. 

I can’t for the life of me remember where we got this recipe, but it’s my favorite so far.

This process has several steps:
Create a sourdough starter (see below)
Soak flour and water (20-30 minutes).
Add starter and salt, then fold several times at intervals (about an hour and a half).
Let rise (overnight or eight hours).
Shape into loaves and let proof (a couple hours).

Ingredients and equipment needed:
Whole-wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur brand because it’s very fine)
Rye flour (optional, can sub whole wheat instead)
Kitchen scale 
Very big mixing bowl
Knife or pastry cutter
Cooking spray or oil
Two bread pans
Kitchen towel
Kitchen thermometer (optional)

This particular recipe is made with a sourdough starter that was fed about eight hours previously (longer if the house is cold). I usually start the sourdough bread in the evening around 7:00, which gives me plenty of time to mix and fold it.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Makes two loaves; I wrap one tightly in a kitchen towel and two plastic bags, then freeze it for later use.

(Start in the evening)
Combine in a large bowl: 
1,006 grams whole wheat flour 
94 grams rye flour (or more whole wheat)
978 grams water, heated to 95ºF (very warm to the touch)
Let sit for 30 minutes or so.

Then, spoon in:
25 grams salt
200-250 grams sourdough starter
Aggressively squish together with your hands until thoroughly combined, then “fold” a couple times inward until the dough is a tight ball. (It helps to wet your hands.)
Cover the bowl and let rest 30 minutes.

The dough should be puddled out; grab one edge at a time and firmly fold it into the center until you have a tight ball again. Cover the bowl and let rest another 30 minutes. Do this at least twice more, resting for 30 minutes in between each time.

Let the dough sit overnight, or until it doubles in size. (If your house is excessively cold or hot [like ours], it helps to put the dough in a cooler with either a heating pad or an ice pack, to keep the temperature consistent. If you keep your house at a normal temperature, this is unnecessary.)

In the morning, spray two bread pans with cooking oil. Spritz some water on a counter or large cutting board and dump the dough onto it. Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in the loaf pans. 

Sprinkle flour over a dish towel and use the floured towel to cover the bread so it can proof. Let it proof for a couple hours, until the loaves are nicely fluffed. If you need to wait, you can proof them in the fridge, wrapped in plastic.

Once the loaves are proofed, slash the tops and preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Bake for 20 minutes, then check. If the top looks scorched, turn down the heat. It usually needs at least 15-20 minutes more, but I usually tell when it’s done by inserting a thermometer (it should be 200º on the inside). If nothing else, stick it with a skewer to make sure the inside isn’t still doughy. Getting it baked right is a bit of trial and error.

Let the loaves cool for a few minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks.

Voila! Delicious sourdough loaves, begging to be made into breakfast, lunch, or dinner!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

After anticipating the new year for several weeks now (I kept on accidentally writing “2019” for the date), I’m happy that the calendar has finally turned! Zach and I kept up our tradition of ringing in the new year with my friend Amy, accompanied by board games, cocktails, and entirely too much cheesy food.

As I reflect on 2018, I think about the goals I scribbled on a note and stuck on the refrigerator a year ago: “Grow food. Share knowledge. Build community.” Looking at each of those intentions, I feel pretty happy. We grew several hundred pounds of food (not to mention all the miscellaneous trees, shrubs, and herbs that we planted), I blogged fairly regularly to share what I’d learned, and we made some moves to plug in more to our local community. 

Last year’s intentions came pretty naturally, but this year I set to work overthinking my intentions for 2019. After a ton of back-and-forth, I ended up with three words:


Although this list sounds suspiciously like an inspirational string that would end up written on a t-shirt in a saccharine font, each of these words has a lot of meaning to me. Specifically...

Explore new experiences, step outside your comfort zone, and be relentlessly curious.

Design your life with intention, simplicity, and abundance.

Create art, memories, and joy more; consume things less.

(Side note: The “design” point was inspired by a book I just read called Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Highly recommended!)

Even with their broad scope, these are only part of the picture as I continue to grapple with questions like, “What does God want me to do?”, “What does true community look like?”, “What does ‘being like Jesus’ really mean in a 21st-century context?”, and more. Still, I hope these words will act as a compass to keep me on track through the next year. 

Here’s to a joyful and abundant 2019— God bless you all. Happy New Year!


Friday, December 21, 2018

Celebrate the Seasons: December!

“December” has always been synonymous to me with “Christmas,” which I’ve always considered a season unto itself. Since I’ve worked an outdoor Christmas job for the past 13 years, I have a lot of firsthand encounters with the weather! Despite that, it’s often difficult for me to slow down and truly appreciate the beauty of the onset of winter. Here are some ways I’ve been celebrating December so far.

1. Decorate with natural materials. Working with evergreens, twigs, or berries to make something beautiful is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. This can be anything from placing a few fir sprigs around a candle on a plate, to bunching together a bundle of attractively-shaped branches, to making a wreath. Don’t forget the traditional decorations for birds: string popcorn into garlands, decorate pinecones with suet and seeds, or simply leave fruit hanging from ribbons.

2. Celebrate the Winter Solstice. Light a candle or a bonfire and celebrate that the darkest day of the year is past! If you want to curl up with a mug of glögg and a book of Norse mythology, even better.

3. Commit to eating seasonally. When consumers eat food that’s out of season (for instance, “fresh” tomatoes in December), it creates pressure to grow food in a way that is often exploitive, both to the land and the people who harvest the produce (check out Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland for a great example of this). The way forward to sustainable agriculture lies in being in tune with the seasons, and that is paved by more and more consumers commit to eating winter vegetables in winter— kale, broccoli, root vegetables, and so on. Learn more about what’s in season in your area here!

4. Take a walk on Christmas Day. Christmas can be a hectic day for many people, but try to take some time to step outside and center yourself. Breathe the crisp air (or the unseasonably warm air, depending), look for birds, get your blood moving, and remember what the holiday is about.

5. Consider an eco-friendly New Year’s Resolution. I actually prefer the idea of replacing “resolution” with “habit:” think about one habit that you would like to cultivate in the upcoming year, and consider taking on an environmentally-related one. This could be committing to using a canvas bag instead of plastic, eating less meat, carrying a reusable water bottle, shopping at the farmers market, or doing a retail-shopping ban. Whatever you choose, let people know you’re trying to build the new habit so they can join you!

How do you celebrate December?


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Homestead Update 12/13/18: Just All the Orange Vegetables

Well, the garden season is (almost) over, and in the middle of the hectic atmosphere of my Christmas job, I’m left with a few moments to reflect on the past few months of finishing up the garden. 

Stuff that’s been going on in our homestead...

The Monster Orange Vegetable Harvest.

Zach and I officially have enough orange vegetables stored away to give us Vitamin A poisoning by the end of winter. Our butternut squash plants, despite being attacked by hordes of white squash bugs and every disease known to mankind, produced over a hundred pounds. Zach and I also learned that sweet potatoes are an AMAZING crop for the St. Louis area. Even when it hardly rained and was stupidly hot for weeks on end, I barely watered them. They just grew like weeds. We planted some very late in the season (late June), and they still grew huge tubers. The bugs hardly touched them. Weeds couldn’t compete with them. It was magic! Between the 4x10 bed in the front yard and a few random plantings around, we picked 120 pounds of sweet potatoes before the first frost.

This is one of the big rules of lazy gardening: find what grows well in your area, and grow a lot of it. I thought we were doomed to zucchini, but it turns out that sweet potatoes loooove hot, humid weather. So they’re perfect.

Monster harvests of other crops.

Daikon radish, tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes
In the last few weeks of summer/early autumn, we raked in tons of food in addition to the “Vitamin A crops,” most notably tomatoes (I was making new batches of tomato sauce every day for a while). For days I spent a ton of time boiling down almost-ripe tomatoes, harvesting daikon radishes and beans, drying herbs, and trying to protect the hardy greens (kale, parsley, chard) from the worst of the weather (the kale is still alive and kicking!). I currently have a single red tomato sitting on my counter that ripened from a green tomato I picked in October. Who says you can’t eat a “fresh” garden tomato in December?

The Great Chickie Molt.

In early November, our chickens started losing their feathers, in response to the shortening days and the onset of winter. They looked incredibly scruffy for several weeks, but now they’re fluffily svelte again (except Izbushka, who is still pretty scraggly). They aren’t laying eggs at the moment, but I’m hoping they’ll lay at least a few more during the winter.

Pumpkin Pie.

And finally... drumroll, please... I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving out of the pumpkins I grew in my own yard. I feel like my homesteading cred raised a solid point just for that. Sadly, the pumpkins weren’t as prolific as other orange veggies... but you can bet that there’s a lot of butternut squash and sweet potato pie in our future!


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Celebrate the Seasons: November!

Between sub-freezing temperatures and a four-inch snowfall, this November has been anything but ordinary, but there are still many ways to celebrate it! Here are some good ways to embrace the month of changing winds and oncoming winter:

1. Celebrate Buy Nothing Day. While many people are stampeding to the sales on Black Friday (and don’t even get me started on stores that have “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving) choose to do the opposite: Buy Nothing Day! This is a great way to protest consumerism and to remember all the wonderful things you already have. You might choose to take a hike, stay at home playing board games, pack a nice leftover Thanksgiving meal as you go to work, read books, or create something. (I always spend Buy Nothing Day at St. Charles Christmas Traditions!)

2. Go bird-watching. With the leaves falling or down, it becomes a lot easier to spot birds flitting among the bare branches. When I’m biking down the Katy Trail, I’m treated to flocks of cardinals, juncos, white-throated sparrows, mockingbirds, robins, and downy woodpeckers. You’ll also spot huge murmurations of starlings drifting through the sky. 

3. Find a winter farmers market. Although most farmers markets are closed for the season, if you Google “winter farmers market near me,” you might be surprised at what you discover! For instance, St. Louis features Creve Coeur, Tower Grove, and Lake St. Louis. These are great places to pick up hardy greens, preserves, meat and dairy, and other winter fare.

4. Make fire cider. Cold and flu season is upon us, but homemade remedies can really help! My mom and I swear by this Cold Kicker Remedy, otherwise known as Fire Cider— it tastes terrible but is a tremendous immune system booster.

5. Embrace the cold weather. The environment and your wallet will thank you if you take some time to bundle up over the winter, even when you’re indoors. There’s no reason to walk around indoors in a t-shirt when it’s freezing outside— put on a long-sleeved shirt and a cozy sweater, turn down the house heat, and allow yourself to feel part of the season. Zach and I keep the house at 60-62 most days and 57 at night, and I use a space heater and/or a hand warmer when I’m sitting at the computer for a long time. I wear two layers of pants and three layers on top all the time throughout winter, and sometimes more when it’s really cold. Consequently, when I step outside I’m not as shocked by the temperature. Winter is coming, after all!

How do you celebrate November?


Saturday, November 10, 2018

How to Murder a Lawn: The Scintillating Sequel

For the record, that "Grateful Thankful Blessed"-style shirt I'm wearing is my Halloween cast shirt, which says "Lose your head to the Queen of Hearts." I don't wear that font unless murder is involved.

Ever since Zach and I murdered our backyard lawn in February, the question has hovered over us: When would the front lawn meet its demise? Aside from the construction of a 5’x12’ sweet potato bed in May, we bided our time, waiting, as Jack Sparrow would say, “for the opportune moment.”

That moment came in early October, when my parents and their neighbor were having a couple trees taken down in their yards. Mom asked the contractor what he was doing with the wood chips, and later that afternoon we got a call from the guy asking where we wanted them dropped off. Within the hour he had dumped about fifteen cubic yards of freshly-chipped wood and leaves alongside our house— a value of at least $400, for free! (He left his business card, too, saying he’d be happy to drop off chips anytime. I feel like I’ve won the jackpot!)

Zach and I scrambled double-time to try to get our mulch pile into action. We disassembled the sweet potato bed and rearranged the blocks to enclose one half of the yard. We bought a bunch of cinderblocks for the other half (thank you Dad for letting us borrow your SUV!), which I think look cool in an industrial sort of way. We laid down cardboard he’d picked up for free at Walmart, and spent hours shoveling mulch. Zach even bought some mushroom spawn to inoculate the wood chips, in hopes of getting a crop in the spring, but we’ll see. 

We weren’t able to completely finish the yard, due to our square foot gardens still having veggies in them. After the greens die (which will be a while yet; kale and chard are hardy), we’re going to pull up the square foot gardens and remove the weed cloth underneath them, using biodegradable cardboard instead. But, for the most part, the yard is finished.

Even though the city’s Community Development truck drove veeery slowly past our house the first day, no one’s hassled us about it, and I’m hoping in the spring to plant a cornucopia of flowers, herbs, and veggies that will beat a boring ol’ lawn any day. In the meantime, I’m excited that we’re continuing to expand our permaculture dreams into the front yard, where all the world can (hopefully) see the beauty and joy of growing your own food.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Foraging Oyster Mushrooms

November is in full swing, complete with leaves showering down, juncos (pretty gray songbirds who migrate from Canada) flitting about, and northern winds blowing. Until this week the weather has been cold but not freezing, punctuated by downpours that soak the many-colored woodlands. It’s not exactly what comes to mind when I think of foraging, but as Zach and I were walking along the Katy Trail a few miles from our house, we stopped short at the sight of a fallen log.

Not the original log; we discovered these today!
Huge clusters of pearly-gray mushrooms billowed out from the rotting wood, shaped like shelf fungi but with delicate gills underneath. Zach and I immediately recognized them as oyster mushrooms, an edible species native to Missouri.

We stared at the log and the literal pounds of free nutrient-packed food just waiting for the taking. But we hesitated. Collecting nettles, garlic mustard, elderflowers, or mulberries was one thing— very few plants will do more than give you a bellyache. But if you eat the wrong mushroom, it will straight up kill you.

We debated for a couple minutes, racking our brains to remember what we’d read in the Missouri Conservation Department’s guide to mushrooms, the other foraging books we’d read, and the countless articles we’d scrolled through. Oyster mushrooms don’t resemble anything poisonous. This mushroom perfectly fit the description of the growing habits, shape, features, location, and time of year. At last, knowing that simply touching a mushroom isn’t dangerous, we pulled off one of the several clusters and dumped it in my backpack.

Once home, I chopped the mushrooms while Zach checked and double-checked and cross-referenced. I’m not used to cooking with mushrooms, and I was struck by how un-plant-like these fruiting bodies are. They inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, just like us. Their meat is fleshy and has a rich, woodsy, musky scent. The gills are delicate, like some sort of sea creature. I had to remind myself that I was harvesting the fruit; the real body of the mushroom is in the threads of mycelium underground.

I sautéed the mushroom pieces, then mixed them with some shredded carrot and stirred them into some miso soup along with a few chunks of tofu and some chives. Zach and I sat down to eat, and I found myself trembling with anxiety. All sorts of wildly improbable scenarios ran through my head: what if there really was a deadly oyster mushroom lookalike that literally no one on the Internet or in any of the books had mentioned? What if this were some strange new invasive species that had only recently been introduced? What if either of us had a horrible allergy to oyster mushrooms and just didn’t know it? 

I kept trying to shrug off these wild ideas, but at last I couldn’t do it any more. After a few bites (with the chewy, earthy bits of mushroom included), I pushed my bowl away and told Zach and I’d eat more tomorrow, after confirming that a small amount wouldn’t kill me. He laughed and finished his bowl of soup.

Now he’s dead.

Just kidding! (The plot set-up demanded that Zach die at this point.)

It turns out that, while you should be extremely careful when foraging for mushrooms, eating a ‘shroom that can’t be mistaken for anything poisonous, which you’ve double checked from almost twenty different sources, isn’t the worst idea in the world. (But still, BE CAREFUL! Don't be stupid! Don't be like us; go find an expert to help you!) The next day I used up the rest of the cluster making oyster mushroom chowder, which turned out deliciously.

Now that we’re more confident about what they look like, we’re keeping our eyes open. Today we ran across a dead tree that was chock full of them! We harvested just one cluster, which I’m currently drying in the dehydrator, but we might go back for more tomorrow (as well as bringing a bag for nettle, which was growing abundantly along the trail). We follow the forager’s rule of taking less than 10% of what’s around, which ensures that the plant (or fungi) will bounce back. 

All this to say, I feel excited that we “leveled up” in our foraging ability. Even though it’s going to take a few more uneventful meals to convince me that I really can identify oyster mushrooms (maybe this batch is a weird invasive that no one’s ever heard of!), I’m enthusiastic about expanding our horizons and learning to identify the bountiful food that’s all around.

Carrying the cluster in my sarong, so the spores can fall onto the forest floor.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Celebrate the Seasons: October!

This is the craziest fall I can remember, with muggy 90-degree heat and lightning storms, but I am holding onto hope that autumn really is coming! Here are some ways to celebrate one of my favorite months.

1. Go hiking. In St. Louis, there is no better month for hiking than October (well, usually). Check out some of the amazing fall colors along the Lewis and Clark Trail, Powder Valley Nature Center, Pere Marquette State Park, or any local park, or make the drive to Elephant Rocks or Johnson’s Shut-Ins.

2. Make some cozy hot drinks. Tea, hot cocoa, fancy coffee drinks, apple cider, wassail... ‘tis the season for hot drinks! (If you don’t know how to make any of these, Google is your friend.)

3. Don’t rake your leaves. Just joking... sort of. Instead of bagging up leaves and setting them out on the curb, think about how you can use this huge pile of nutrient-dense carbon to your advantage. Start a compost pile, mulch your garden for the winter... or give them to a neighbor who likes to garden!

4. Learn how to roast vegetables. Autumn is the beginning of a season of hearty vegetables that are best roasted in a hot oven until caramelized. Try out butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, onions, carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or cauliflower with the same method: chop into bite-sized pieces, spread on an oiled rimmed sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a 450º oven. Check after twenty minutes by piercing one of the pieces with a knife to see if it’s soft. Toss and roast the pieces further if necessary. Roasted veggies are delicious mixed with rice or pasta, spread onto toast with a sprinkle of cheese, scrambled into eggs, tucked into a burrito, or simply drizzled with sauce (kung pao, sweet chile, herbed melted butter, gravy, and more).

5. Press some autumn leaves. Gather colorful leaves that suit your fancy, and press them between any kind of paper in a thick book. In a couple weeks they’ll be dried out and ready for fall-themed decorations! You can glue them onto greeting cards, use them for crafts, or simply scatter them around the home for decoration.

How do you celebrate October?