local

My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

made in chicago market2

Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

Made in chicago market1

After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

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Chicago Confronts Climate Issues

Most Sunday nights in December you will find me in comfy clothes and huddled inside.

This past Sunday, however, I pulled myself from my cozy couch, got dressed, and went to the Field Museum.

CCF4

I have not been to the Field Museum since elementary school, but I was not going to see Sue or King Tut, I was going to meet up with a community of people concerned about climate change.

The Chicago Community Climate Forum brought together over 60 organizations and OVER 2,000 PEOPLE in the climate movement.

 

CCF3

Chris Wheat, Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer

 

This gathering preceded Monday and Tuesday’s 2017 North American Climate Summit, where over 50 mayors came together to discuss climate change on a local level here in Chicago.

 

CCF2

Packed hall listening to great speakers

 

For the public gathering on Sunday, a plethora of speakers and performers provided a dialogue on what we can do on a local and community level. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to mingle and network, as well as sign the Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community (which you can sign here.)

CCF1

Overall, it was a really moving experience. Sometimes, especially with this administration, it can feel very frustrating and the future can look dismal. But seeing the passion and drive of all the attendees on Sunday calmed my anxious heart a bit.

Chicago is defiant.

Chicago is strong.

And Chicago will show the nation and the world that just because this country is is the only one IN THE WORLD that has not signed the Paris Agreement, we will persevere.

The Good & Bad of our First CSA Box

It’s been 25 weeks of eating local foods.

We received 11 CSA boxes, and now we are officially done. Overall, how did we like our experience? Read more to find out.

 

The Good

There are a number of aspects of the CSA that we really liked.

The location

We were lucky enough to live very close to our pick up location at Green City Market. It was easy to just walk over there on a Saturday morning, as opposed to having to get in the car and drive somewhere.

The variety

One of the reasons we picked this specific CSA is because it included fruit, which was important to me. We received a lot of different produce throughout the season, and it provided us with a lot of new experiences.

The quality

Our fruits and veggies were some of the most flavorful produce we had ever tasted. If you have grown up on commercial supermarket strawberries and then taste an actual strawberry, the different is life-changing.

The meal planning

It was nice to get our box and then plan the next week’s meals all around it. It also helped us make sure we got the most out of the box.

The Bad

There were also aspects of the CSA that irked us a bit.

The lack of flexibility

If you are out of town the weekend of your CSA box, basically you are out of luck. There is no holding of your box somewhere, and you can’t get an extra box another time. Luckily, we were only out of town once and I finagled my cousin into coming to get our box for us and leaving it at our apartment.

The quantity

Our CSA options were a full share (once a week) and a half share (every other week). We consulted with the farm to see what was the right size, explaining that we cooked pretty often. They suggested a full share, but we were still concerned that would be too much, so we chose the half share. Thank goodness we did! The sheer quantity of produce was almost mind-boggling for our tiny kitchen and fridge. Every other week we had to play Tetris to fit everything in.

The pressure

This goes along with the quantity issue. We felt so much pressure to cook and eat our produce before it went bad, or before our next CSA box came. Half the time I would open the fridge and feel like, “OMG we have to eat the kale NOW!”

The waste

Waste also goes along with the quantity and the pressure. If we did not use the produce fast enough or did not figure out what to do with it fast enough, we often ended up with some rotten veggies. We do have compost, so we were able to at least use that, but I would have liked to not waste anything in general.

Overall

I would say it was worth it and we will most likely do it again next year. For now, though, we are going to enjoy being free from the pressure and only purchase produce we know we can eat in a timely manner.

Buying Local: Week 12

It was not a CSA week this week and I eat fruit pretty fast, so I had to run over to the farmers market to get some supplemental fruits (and a giant sweet potato).

peachers

What We Bought:

  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Greenridge Farm lunch meat from Elk Grove Village, IL
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • S. Rosen French rolls from Chicago, IL
  • Peaches from St. Joseph, MI
  • Blueberries from Marengo, IL
  • Sweet potato from Marengo, IL

CSA4 week 2

What We Learned:

  • I tried the beet smoothie K made last week, unfortunately, I think I used a little too much beet and not enough berries…
  • We got almost got through the rest of our CSA box this week!

 

beet smoothie

So beety.

 

Buying Local: Week 10

I am back in the workplace now and no longer working from home, so it has been a bit of an adjustment. Unfortunately, I can’t just pop over to Green City Market on a Wednesday unless I go at 7 AM before work.

My biggest challenge right now is incorporating all our produce into my lunches.

CSA3 week 2

What is left from last Saturday’s CSA box

What We Bought:

  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • S. Rosen bread from Chicago, IL
  • To be honest, I don’t even remember what else (It’s my second week at a new job, give me a break!)

What We Learned:

  • Cherries are not the easiest snack to eat at work, but I do keep all the stems and pits in my glass container to bring home and compost. I’ve been eating them everyday.
  • Did not eat those beets fast enough, into the compost they went

Buying Local: Week 8

Just as we started figuring out how to deal with all the leafy greens like spinach and kale (ex: smoothies), their growing season has started to wind down.

We are looking forward to our next CSA box which should include some summer crops of raspberries and carrots.

2nd CSA share week 2

We gobbled up the broccoli, spring onions, spinach, and kale from last week’s box

What We Bought:

  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • Greenridge Farm lunchmeat from Elk Grove Village, IL
  • Greenridge Farm chicken sausage from Elk Grove Village, IL
  • Did do some random shopping at Trader Joes
  • Non-local flour and sugar

What We Learned:

  • The quality of your blender makes a huge difference when making smoothies.
  • Spinach season does not last forever. Thank goodness!
  • We still don’t know what to do with radishes…

Buying Local: Week 7 & 2nd CSA Share

I can’t believe it has been seven weeks since we have started this local journey.

Our refrigerator is full of so much green and our cabinets are looking more full of less processed products.

 

CSA week2

This week’s CSA box (photo by K since I was in Denver)

 

berries

On Wednesday I brought my CSA box back to the farmers market and picked up some raspberries. Instead of taking the carton the raspberries came in, I brought my own produce bag and plopped them in my berries colander when I got home.

What We Bought (Almost All from CSA box):

  • Head lettuce
  • Avon Spinach
  • Red frill mustard
  • Arugula
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • English Peas
  • Greenhouse Cherry tomatoes
  • Yellow Spring onions
  • Raspberries from Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph, MI

What We Learned:

  • We still need to up our arsenal of recipes for veggie meals, often we are just cutting up a bunch of greens and tossing it in a pasta or salad
  • Smoothies aren’t so bad after all
  • K really did not like having to shell those English Peas
  • Still not sure what to do with radishes

Buying Local: Week 6

We still have so much produce from our CSA share last week. Thank goodness we did not get the full share where we would pick up every week.

Since we still had so much to work through, we did not visit the farmers market this past weekend. We needed to concentrate on what we had left!

 

first CSA share week 2

We ate everything with an “X” through it. The others we are still working on! 

 

A variety of recipes were tried this week. We had some pasta with sauteed spinach and spring onions one day.  One night was veggie pizza night and I am usually against having vegetables on my pizza, but it was delicious! We used the broccoli raab and asparagus for that. Kale and quinoa were also on the menu one night.

In order to work through some of the spinach, I forced myself to start making some smoothies as well.

blender

What We Bought:

  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • Greenridge Farm lunchmeat from Elk Grove Village, IL
  • A couple other things that don’t make it under the local label

What We Learned:

  • Shaved asparagus pizza is amazing! Check out the recipe.
  • Our blender is really bad (we have no idea where or who it came from)

Buying Local: Week 5 & 1st CSA Share

We had been waiting in anticipation for our first CSA share and oh boy it was a lot of greens! Our box was jam packed with goodies and I am excited to eat the produce that I know and the new ones as well.

first CSA share

What We Bought (all from CSA box):

  • Baby leaf Salonova Lettuce
  • Avon Spinach
  • Red rover radishes
  • Red spring onions
  • Russet potatoes
  • Rapini (Broccoli Raab)
  • Asparagus
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Earliglow Strawberries (plus an extra box because I love strawberries)

What We Learned:

  • I have gotten a little caught up in trying to get everything local that I really forget how I originally laid this challenge out. We were going to focus on produce, meat, dairy, and eggs, and I basically forgot that. Back to focusing on those main pieces from now on.
  • Is local olive oil even possible?
  • CSA shares are awesome
  • We are so glad we got the half CSA share, where we get a box every other week, instead of every week. We would need a bigger refrigerator!
  • We can bring back our CSA box to the farmers market for them to reuse #score
  • We are going to have to start making smoothies
  • Rapini tastes like leafy broccoli and we are in love!

Passing on A Traditional Florist

I like flowers.

I really do, but spending a fortune on plants that are flown in from far away and most likely going to be discarded the next day is just not my cup of tea.

So I made the easy decision that a traditional florist is not the route I will be going for my wedding.

Luckily we have a family friend who started Avium Flowers, providing fresh-cut flowers grown right here in Chicago in a sustainable and organic manner.

avium flowers

Right now I am working with them on the flowers and colors that I like. When the time comes, they can then order the appropriate seeds and specifically keep me in mind for the next growing season.

My wedding flowers are legitimately being grown just for me, right here in Chicago.

Seriously, how cool is that?

See some of their amazing work below.

All of the 💗🌸💋🎈💖 for @curtismcassell today. You're fabulous!!!

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We flexed our design muscles this week! 💪🏼 Congrats Julia and Ryan ❤️🎉 #aviumweddings #farmerflorist

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Remembering these bundles of joy on this brrr day 🌬 #farmerflorist #slowflowers #dahlia #heirloommums #aviumweddings

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