by Molly Kay Stoltz

Feeling a little indigestion from your last holiday party? You probably have the remedy hiding in your baking cupboard.

Just today at work I was a bit full from my lunch. I reached into my secret stash of tea, and found the ingredient I was looking for- cinnamon.

A cup of chai roobis later, and my stomach was back to normal!

Cinnamon is a tasty herb made from the bark of a cinnamon tree. There are many varieties, but we in the U.S. use cassia, or Chinese cinnamon.  However, cassia is not actually the “true” cinnamon. “True” cinnamon comes from Ceylon, and is much more pungent than the variety we’ve all grown up with. You can find different varieties at specialty spice shops if you are looking for a stronger tasting cinnamon!

Cinnamon has been used as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Egypt and China, and was widely used in medieval Europe on meats and with fruit. Today, we sprinkle it in stews and soups, steep it in teas, simmer it in curries, and of course, bake it in our cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pies. I can’t imagine my morning bowl of oatmeal without a dash of cinnamon.

Cinnamon isn’t just tasty, however. It has many benefits for your health, including soothing an upset stomach and aiding digestion, clearing urinary-tract infections, helping diabetics metabolize sugar better, relieving pain and inflammation, slowing the flow of blood, and killing disease-causing fungi and viruses. Cinnamon is a powerhouse herb, but is also relatively side-affect free- IN MODERATION, of course. IMPORTANT: Too much cinnamon will create a laxative effect. Don’t over-do it!

During the holiday season, when we do tend to overindulge on everything but cinnamon, it can be helpful to use cinnamon to break down fats during digestion and reduce intestinal gas. A spicy tea like chai or apple cinnamon tea or a spiced apple cider is a wonderful after-dinner drink.

Here’s a recipe for a spiced cider- add a dash of amaretto for an extra-special treat : ).

Spiced Cider

5 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
5 whole allspice kernels
5 whole cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 gallon apple cider
1 or 2 oranges

Blend cinnamon, star anise, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and apple cider in a large pot. Use a zester or grater to remove the rind of the oranges, and add to the cider mix. Add the juice of the oranges to the cider. Heat to just below simmer for several hours. Ladle into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick.

And the extra-added bonus? Cinnamon has a germicidal effect. Using cinnamon may add extra protection from the flu and colds that appear during the holidays. So, here’s to cinnamon for keeping us healthy and happy as we go about our merry way! Happy Holidays!

Resources:

Cinnamon Health Benefits on The Modern Herbal

Cinnamon Varieties by Vanilla Review

If you have a full-out foodie on your shopping list this holiday season – don’t fear! Alisha of the blog i like it too! put together the following suggestions for getting the perfect gift for that gastro-savvy guest or friend:

1) Handmade Table & Bowls from Haymaker Shop

2) Bike Snack Sack from Green Heart

3) Chain Links Apron from Decorative Instincts

4) DIY Indian Spice Rub from Eating Well

5) CSA from Montalbano Farms

6) DIY 3 Bean & Barley Soup Mix from Eating Well

7) DIY Spiced Nuts from Martha Stewart

It truly takes a visionary to come up with a list such as this – and Caitlin Peters of Wanderlustings is just that! Her incredible taste combines with a soulful whimsy to bring Sprout Chicago these fantastic gift suggestions for women:

1) Navy Phantom Tights by Qoo Qoo Fashion

2) Vanilla Chai Perfume Oil by Long Winter Soap Co

3) Aqua “Life She Imagined” Print by Amanda Catherine Des

4) Craft Nail Transfers by Kate Broughton

5) Double Gal Vintage Bag from Bird Trouble

6) Bilbao Colored Handle Teacups by A Quartzy Life

7) Love Made Me Do It Ring by Manoy Metal

8) White Blouse by Arcelia Home

9) Gold Dipped Geo Earrings by A Merry Mishap

The holidays are just two short weeks away! And if you’re scurrying to collect last-minute gifts, you’re in the right place! Over the next few days we will be sharing shopping lists curated by people straight from the community.

The first list was created by Kelli Weber, a super duper filmmaker who spends her days working at DraftFCB and her nights blogging and cuddling with her four adorable felines. We couldn’t think of anyone better to come up with a gift guide for pets! Here are Kelli’s finds:

1) Handmade Snowman Dog Sweater by My Fabulous Puppy

2) Pet Popcorn by Wizard at Work

3) Mini Christmas Dog Donuts by Judy & Lainey

4) Christmas Catnip Mice by Crochet Kitty

5) Green Gift Set by The Leash We Can Do

By Lydia Krupinski

As we are all busy running about trying to find the perfect handmade gifts for the season – many of us forget an essential – gift wrapping!

To keep you from procrastinating, and purchasing that gaudy roll of wrap that’s strategically placed at the register end cap, create your action plan now with these great easy-to-make alternatives that I pulled from my website Pierogi Picnic.

Newspaper – If you’re looking for something cheap and chic, newspaper is the best way to go. The high contrast black and white will give your gifts an elegant look with a rustic edge. For some great suggestions on how to best use this upcycled material check out Design Apothecary’s article here.

Paper Bags  – If you ever take a spontaneous trip to the grocer and are (gasp!) caught without your reusable shopping bags – never fear! Those old-fashioned paper bags can be put to use! The stock of paper that’s used for your average grocery sack lends itself perfectly for wrapping gifts. Check out this awesome post from My Home Ideas for some great tips on using this everyday item.

Looking for more tips? Read the full article here.

By David Paul Downs

“Black Friday” is the day after Thanksgiving where stores open up early with huge discounts for shoppers, at least for those who themselves do not work retail and are off for the day. It is a kick-off for the most consumerist holiday of all: Christmas. In no way should that be a reflection of Christmas. The foundation of Christmas, whether you’re a follower of Christian or non-secular beliefs, is a day for sharing and giving. Black Friday has become a day for retail corporations to freely abuse their employees by forcing them to work unreasonable hours. The only thing Black Friday accomplishes is impeding on a holiday whose true message takes a commercial back-seat every season: Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the one day of the year dedicated to giving thanks for what we have in our lives. We gather for a family feast and reflect on the things that really matter in life. In essence, it’s the opposite of what Christmas has become. Read the rest of this entry »

by Lydia Krupinski

Tis the season for holidays, food, family and friends. As some people prep for the fellowship, reflections, and feastings of Thanksgiving, others around the country are already salivating at the midnight shopping promises of big box stores and retail chains. While the term Small Business Saturday may not be as catchy as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated as such to encourage consumers to support the vendors in their own communities.

In the spirit of this week’s holiday and the upcoming shopping stampedes Sprout Chicago would like to highlight a group that’s launching a special campaign to remind Chicagoans to spend their dollars locally this holiday season. Urban Folk Circuit is a group dedicated to supporting and growing the handmade craft and music community in the city. Started in July of 2010, the team unites artisans from around Chicagoland in monthly traveling craft shows that highlight the diverse talents and skills of handmade business owners.

Sprout Chicago caught up with Kelli and Jess, super-crafter extroadinaires and founders of Urban Folk Circuit, to pick their brains about crafting in the city and their latest campaign: Shop Chicago for the Holidays.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Lydia Krupinski

The annual Chicago Craft Mafia craft extravaganza, otherwise known as the DIY Trunk Show, is coming to Edgewater this Saturday at the Broadway Armory! Set apart from other shows of its kind, this indoor fair pulls together talent from a 100 mile radius of Chicago – making it a locavores dream! And with the holidays so close, it couldn’t come at a better time.

Commute up to Edgewater early via the Red line and hop off at the Granville stop. Hit up M.Henrietta’s for an awe-inspiring brunch. Then take a brisk walk over to Metropolis to arm yourself with caffeine and take Broadway three blocks south to the show! There you’ll find indie handmade crafters, papermakers, artists, designers and more! And yes – Pierogi Picnic will be there too, selling seasonal wares and also doing craft tutorials and free eco-friendly gift wrapping.

So get your holiday shopping off to a good and conscious start by not only finding one-of-a-kind quirky gifts, but by also supporting the small businesses that keep the local economy afloat!

What: DIY Trunk Show

Where: Broadway Armory at Thorndale & Broadway

When: Saturday, November 19th 10am-5pm

See you there this weekend!