Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm enjoying a cool evening outside on my daughter's laptop while she takes her brothers for a game of wiffle ball. Of course I'm blogging rather than doing the dinner dishes but summer is about compromise and once the sky darkens, I promise to get those dirty dishes taken care of, really I do!

Is there anything blogworthy going on in my corner of the universe? Hmm, I guess that depends on your perspective. Here are a few things others might find interesting.

First of all, as Ruthie noted a while back, we didn't join a CSA this growing season. We just couldn't find one that fit into our unique schedule (summer in one place, spring & fall in another). I agonized over this decision but I couldn't justify the hour and fifteen minute drive that we had for 10 weekends in the fall to accomodate the entire CSA season.

The solution to this conundrum, because I really wanted to keep my produce local as much as possible, sprung up unexpectedly when a local family opened a produce stand in front of their home about a mile from my house. Can you get any more local than that without growing your own? There are still farmers markets I intend to check out to improve our variety but I am just thrilled with the way this has turned out.

I've been making progress on my sewing & knitting projects in the evenings while I listen to old radio shows like Dragnet, Sherlock Holmes & Tales of the Texas Rangers. I just love those old radio shows! Current projects include a denim quilt and a log cabin blanket to use up my yarn scraps.

Actually, the log cabin blanket brings me to another decision I recently made. Once I finish with my current stash of acrylic yarn, which is massive by the way, I plan to only knit with natural fibers. It just feels like the right decision to me.

Alas, the battery on the laptop is running low so I'll end for now. Happy summertime to all!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Slug for the Slugs

You guys are so sweet for wondering if everything is ok. Thank you so much for being concerned. Everything is fine. I'm not even going to pretend that I have a legitimate reason for not updating my blog for so long. I just haven't gotten around to it. I've been busy enjoying summer vacation with my kids. I'm knitting a little, quilting a little, and gardening a little.

I don't know that I've done anything blog worthy except perhaps my ongoing battle with the slugs that are infesting my garden here in the Adirondacks. It's been rainy, really rainy. The slugs are just having a party. They're sliming over and eating just about everything I've planted, even the Jerusalem artichokes which usually aren't bothered by anything. In short, they really piss me off.

The weapon of choice when battling with slugs is beer, believe it or not. I'm catching slugs by the slimy cupful. It's disgusting yet gratifying. Today is marks the beginning of my third go round of putting out fresh beer for the little buggers. (The beer gets a white coating after about a week and seems to become less effective.)

Check out this link for more on using beer to get rid of slugs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Has it really been a week since I blogged? I'm up to my eyeballs in graduation preparation as well as putting the final touches on my yoga projects. My bags aren't packed and we're no where near ready to make our escape to the Adirondacks. It'll all come together I'm sure. Look for a post on Tuesday when life slows down considerably.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Father's Day DIY

I'd love to take credit for this idea but it isn't mine. It's Soulemama's. Check out this post which peeked my interest and then click here for the instructions.

I know I'm making you work awfully hard to look at something that I haven't really explained but I don't want to ruin any surpises. If you have kids (or even if you don't), minimal sewing skills and some fabric scraps, this is the answer to your father's day gift quandry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm Sew Proud of Tasha

I couldn't resist putting up this picture of Tasha at her cosmetology class graduation. She's wearing the dress I altered for her so that her bra would stop playing peek-a-boo out of the arm hole.

When I first tried to figure out how to fix this, I focused on the side seam but that just changed the problem it didn't solve it. After a lot of pinning and unpinning, I realized the seam that ran over the chest was the one I needed to focus on. Is it totally perfect? No, but you'd have to have your nose practically in her armpit to discover that. I'm really pleased with the result and so was she.

If I could figure this out, you can too!

Coffee Break

This is just too weird not too share. Yesterday, after working for several hours on my paper, I took a break to make a much needed pot of coffee. Notice I said pot, not cup, that was no typo. These last few weeks before summer are just killing me!! (It should be easier since the girls are now driving themselves to work and school but for some inexplicable reason its not, must be the stress of having two teenage drivers.)

Anyway, in my haste to make the coffee, something went wrong. The coffee wasn't perking. It turns out the stem of the basket that the grinds sit in was clogged up with old coffee grinds, but I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was I NEEDED a cup of coffee and it wasn't happening in the traditional way. So...I rigged up this apparatus and poured the boiling water over the grinds and let them drip through like the old style manual drip pot.

The basket that holds the grinds sat inside the mesh strainer to keep the grinds out and the canning funnel kept the boiling water going into the jar rather than down the side. Since I wanted my coffee string, I used a second jar and poured the water over the grinds a second time.

It's weird but it worked.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can You Fix This?

I shouldn't even be posting right now because I'm supposed to be working on the final paper for my yoga training. Truth be told, I'm having a little trouble focusing. I keep peeking at blogs and finding reasons to walk away from the computer. (Honestly who can write a paper without a fresh cup of coffee????)

Maybe it was the randomness of the weekend that got me in this frame of mind. I jumped from task to task like a bunny gone mad. First there was this pair of jeans Jim had that were in perfect shape but had developed a bum zipper. "I can replace that," I announced and began to root around my "jeans as fabric" stash for a pair of really ripped jeans with a perfect zipper. I came up with a candidate very quickly and, holy seam ripper Batman, I got right into setting the good zipper free. Of course once you set the good zipper free, you have to set the bad zipper free as well.

Alas, a graduation dress in need of alteration took priority over the jeans. It was time to set the jeans aside since by this time Tasha had come home and could model the dress in question. I'm a huge fan of trying the item in need of alteration on inside out to make pinning easier but I'm sure that breaks a gazillion rules of sewing so if you need to conform and do it the right way I understand. A few try-ons later (it took a few times to smooth out the 1950's bra as a torpedo look I accidently created when altering the top of the dress. No worries, it's all better now!) and the dress was hanging in her closet.

By then it was getting late and I needed to make bread but I couldn't find any bread flour (clearly there's a gremlin in my house who steals whatever I'm looking for!) On and on it went for the rest of the day. Start this, run and do that. Yesterday was no better.

I finished the jeans and btw I'm very impressed with myself. Of course, skills get you no thanks only more work. Tasha has already requested that I replace the broken zipper in her favorite winter coat. It's a good feeling just the same.

Jim brought a pair of incredibly ripped up pajama pants to be made into pajama shorts. This went well until I discovered that I didn't cut the line straight and the backs of the shorts are a little shorter than the front. He was good natured about it. "Who's gonna see them," he kept asking me when I offered to fix them correctly. The moral of this story is just because there are straight lines on the pants doesn't mean those lines are straight enough to use as a cutting guide.

The interesting thing about these pajama pants and other cotton flannel pajama pants we've owned is that the seams mysteriously wear away without actually ripping. (Maybe it's not so mysterious now that I think about it those pants are at least 10 years old...) My solution to this is to use a piece of fabric from the part of the legs that I cut off and pin it under the almost ripped section. Then I use the mending stitch setting on my sewing machine to anchor this patch in place. Once the patch is anchored I cut the excess fabric off and then continue to use the mending stitch to anchor the edges of the patch in place. It works beautifully although you couldn't really use on something you were going to wear in public. I don't know enough about sewing machines to tell you if a mending stitch setting is common on most sewing machines but mine is from the early 1970's and it has it.

Since the sewing machine was still out, I reinforced the seams on a favorite pair of sweats giving them new life. The sewing machine and I are becoming fast friends. Although, if I'm to get everything done that needs to be done in the next two weeks, the sewing machine and I will have to have far fewer play dates. It's time to start planning my summer projects and getting them packed and ready to go.

Ok now I really have to get going on this paper.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

I had to snap a quick picture of Tasha's bag this morning since she was using it for school again. Now I'm getting bag requests from her friends!

Del was wondering about my recipe for liquid laundry detergent. I got my recipe from the Twin Cities Green Guide which seems to be no more. This is the recipe that got me started. Over time, I've opted to use less water making my detergent more concentrated and therefore I use less detergent for each load of laundry (I use 1/4 cup). I'd love to tell you how much water but at this point I just know that I have to fill the pot I use to an inch below the rim. You'll have to experiment and let me know how it goes for you.

Here's the original recipe:
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
5 gallon bucket
1 cup washing soda
4 1/2 gallons water

Grate 1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap. Place soap in small saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup of washing soda and mix well. As it cools it thickens. May be used immediately. Use 1-2 cups per load.

I use Ivory soap in place of the Fels Naptha soap. I also find that you need to mix the detergent as it cools to keep it from seperating. I use a hand mixer, every half hour or so until it cools. Because I use less water than the recipe calls for, my detergent is almost like a paste. It doesn't suds up the way store bought detergent does but it does a great job.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Handmade Home

I finished Tasha's beach bag yesterday. I thought I'd take pictures this morning but she took it to school today. That's a pretty high complement when it comes from a 17 year old. Today's projects will be graduation invitations and sewing linen bread bags.

Lately, not a day goes by that I don't do a little sewing and knitting. I love the way that feels to make things by hand. I hadn't thought much about it being such a lost art until everyone around me started commenting on my projects. The comments varied but the overriding sentiment seemed to be surprise; surprise that you could hand make these things, surprise that you would bother to hand make these things and surprise that I knew how to hand make these things.

Taking these sentiments one at a time, I'll start with the last first. I often don't know how to make things but I have gotten very good at knowing where to learn. A google search or a visit to a trusted blog often solves the mystery. The internet is such a wonderful tool. I've also gotten good at looking at the task at hand logically. I often think back to my first real sewing project, the great jean alteration of 1987. No one taught me how to alter those jeans, I sorted the process out for myself. We all have that power, we just have to remember to use it!

I'm often surprised too at what can be made by hand too. I wonder, will my bag hold up as well as a store bought bag? However if you look at anything that's mass produced now, like a tote bag, surely somewhere along the line it was made by hand? A trip to a craft show is wonderful to give you a peek into the possibilities of what can be made by hand. (BTW, Never be one of those people who pick things up and announce loudly, "I could make this for much less." It's so disrespectful to the crafters.) Way back in 1997 right before we adopted Tasha, I bought myself a beautiful purse at a local craft fair. I loved it because it was made with the "children of the world" fabric. Twelve years later, I'm still using that purse and it's in great shape. Anyone who knows me knows the workout this purse has had over the years toting around everything a mother might need. It's been doused in coffee, washed in the washer and still it looks great. Quality handmade products really can last.

When people are surprised that I would bother to hand make something that I could easily buy, I try to explain why hand made is important to me and should be important to them. Sure I could buy a summer weight quilt cheaply at Walmart but I'd rather use what I have on hand and make a denim quilt that will last longer and wear better. I want to lessen my footprint on the earth and recycling clothing into useful things is an easy, inexpensive way to do this. (Think about it, what costs more solar panels or a spool of thread?)

Speaking of handmade and homemade, I've been making my own laundry soap for years. I used to make the dry powder but I've found the liquid works better in the long run since I can use cold water in the washer and not worry about the soap not dissolving. As it was cooling a few days ago I had a thought to make the process easier. Up until now I'd made the laundry soap in a pot and then transfered it to a plastic container when it cooled. Why couldn't I just dedicate a pot to making and storing the laundry soap? I'm on a thrift store/yard sale quest for just the right pot and lid for the job.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Garden in Pictures

Did I say photo's to follow soon? Oh what a liar I've become! Well here are the garden pictures, finally.

We'll start with the asparagus bed
Now we move on to the newly moved Jerusalem Artichoke bed which is right behind the asparagus bed.Although some Jerusalem artichokes seemed sad about the move initially,they did all eventually perk up.
Now on to the potato patchPerhaps you'd like a peek inside?
This is where the onions are planted, much later than they should have been but what's a girl to do?What's this?Tomatoes!Here's a peek at the raspberries that grow wild on our property. Isn't that nice of them?Finally, remember those twiggy looking elderberries we planted? They aren't twiggy anymore!
PS: I've been sewing like a crazy person. I'm more than half way through making a beach bag for Tasha. Pictures eventually (it seems more honest than saying soon!)
PPS: Ruthie, we're going to miss your blogging. Please don't stop commenting too!!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Garden is Growing

For everyone who endured my complaining about my non-sprouting asparagus, of the 30 crowns I planted 32 have emerged. Yes, 32! Not really sure where the extra two came from. I guess little pieces broke off to create new plants.

The potatoes are growing like mad. I've just added a layer of straw and a small shovelful of worm bin compost to each of the containers the potatoes are growing in.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are growing well too and they've been through a lot. I decided to move them to a different, smaller location when they decided to grow between the new elderberry bushes I planted. They didn't randomly do this of course. I planted the elderberries in the bed they had been in for the last few years because I thought they were dead. Last year they barely made a showing, of course it could have been the weeds choking them off...but this is a new year and we're taking our food growing seriously now!!

We've got tomatoes, hot peppers, swiss chard and zucchini in the ground already. We're hoping to get a little more in this week.

This growing your own food is scary business. Pictures to follow soon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stepping into the Sewing Time Machine

I remember being a high school junior and realizing that I hated most of the pairs of jeans I owned. Step into the way back machine and try to remember what jeans looked like in 1987. They were tight, really tight and tapered, really tapered. I can't be the only one who remembers having zippers on the ankles of her jeans because they were so tapered you couldn't get your heel through.

So there I was, 16 years old with four pairs of jeans that were straight leg (GASP! The social horror of it all!!!) Buying more jeans wasn't an option, my measly summer camp counselor job and babysitting money weren't going to cover that. I vividly remember having an epiphany as I realized I might be able to alter them. I wasn't sure what the correct way to accomplish this was so instead, in the words of Frank Sinatra, I did it my way!

I turned my jeans inside out, put them on and pinned them the way I wanted them to fit, making sure I could get my ankle through. It wasn't much fun wiggling my way out of a tight pair of jeans pinned from the knee down but a girl can make such sacrifices for high fashion when she's 16.

Since I had no sewing machine, I sewed the jeans by hand, a tiresome task to say the least, especially since I sewed each seam 4 times to make sure I didn't wind up splitting my pants. (It's cool to say look what I did, only if it doesn't leave you half naked in the school lunchroom.) Then I cut the excess fabric off and did one more seam over the rough edge to prevent fraying.

The project was an overwhelming success. I never did split my pants open. Those seams held long after the denim began to wear out.

Flash forward 22 years (where did that time go??) and last night Leen came to me asking if I thought I could make a pair of her slightly flared jeans into "skinny" jeans. For anyone keeping track, she's 16 and a junior in high school. (Weird, very weird.)

She put them on inside out but instead of pinning both legs the whole way down, I opted instead to put a start pin by her knee and a finish pin by her ankle on one leg only. When she took the jeans off, I drew a line connecting the two pins and then pinned along this to create my seam line. Then I measured and replicated the same seam line on the other leg.

Since we machine sewed Leen's jeans, I opted for straight stitching the seam two times and zig zag stitching it once before trimming the excess off. The result is a happy teenager with a "new" pair of jeans.

History really does repeat itself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Now Here's Someone Serious About Color & Texture

Suddenly my obsession with combining multiple strands of yarn doesn't seem so extreme anymore! Check out this video, Rachel John, Extreme Knitting, 1000 Strand Knit.

The Beach Bag is Complete

For anyone looking for the exciting conclusion of the beach bag tutorial, look no further. The straps were made out of the same fabric as the bag itself. I suspect there are simple ways of making the straps than mine but here's how I did it.

I started with 4 pieces of fabric that were 25 1/2" x 2 1/2". These measurements included seam allowance. I pinned and sewed these into two tubes, leaving either end open to accommodate overlapping the edge of the bag on both the inside and the outside. In retrospect this was needlessly fussy since my daughter is not likely to use the bag inside out. However, doing it this way does make the bag reversible if you wanted it to be.

Here's a closeup of the stitching.

I did all the stitching on the strap, except the part that is actually attached to the strap, prior to attaching it to the bag. When it came time to attach the strap I just continued the stitch pattern to create a strong anchor point. I'm no fan of basting but I did baste initially to attach the straps to the bag. The pins needed to hold the strap in place made it almost impossible to use the sewing machine, hence the need for basting. I did my basting in bright red to make it easy to see what stitches needed to come out when I was done.

Sew what's next? Two more beach bags, one for Tasha and one for Leen's best friend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Isn't How I Planned It!!

A big week of entertaining starts tomorrow and I'm not even showered yet!! I'm not a total lazy pig, I just got back from teaching a step class and I haven't had time to yet. I'm feeling so far behind that I even broke my own rule (never go anywhere after you teach without changing first) and went into the bank. Gross, I don't think that teller is ever going to help me again!

I've got to shake it off. I'm supposed to be packing a car, organizing meals, creating a shopping list for tomorrow...!

My menu planning daughter ditched on me so I'm on my own. Must get planning!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Beach Bag Tutorial

Although my beach bag isn't completely done, I feel I must at least start putting together my tutorial. If I don't post it I'll have guilt, especially since I started using the rag rug tutorial that Ruthie shared in exchange. I'm hooked on this rag rug! Thanks for sharing Ruthie!!

Since the bag is for Leen, we started with measurements from a bag her friend had that she felt was the perfect size, 14" wide, 16" tall and 7" deep.

She wanted the bag to have alternating stripes which were 2" wide on the front and back of the bag. Since the final bag was to be 16" tall, we'd need 8, 2" stripes (plus seam allowance) for the front and back of the bag. The two sides and bottom would be one continuous solid yellow piece for stability.

This paper was like gold to me as I figured out how this would all fit together. Feel free to click on it to enlarge it, you can pretty well see my thought process.

The Final Cutting Measurements which include 1/2 seam allowance on each side:

Side/bottom/side 8" x 47" yellow heavy cotton fabric, 1 piece
Stripes 3" x 15" yellow heavy cotton fabric, 8 pieces
Stripes 3" x 15" white heavy cotton fabric, 8 pieces

Pin and sew the stripes together for the front and back. Remember 8 stripes equals one side. I did one straight stitch and one zig zag stitch for extra stability.

Once the front and back pieces are sewn you need to attach them to the side/bottom/side piece. I'm not crazy about the way I did this and I strongly suspect there is a more fluid way to do it. Please feel free to make suggestions. I started by marking the side/bottom/side piece so I would know where to place the front and back pieces. Then I stitched the front and back pieces on using the same straight stitch followed by zig zag stitch. This went smoothly.

When I went to attach the sides of the bag to the front and back, I wasn't crazy about the way the corners came out. I fiddled with it until it worked but I'm in no position to tell anyone else how to do it.

For the liner, I used a single piece of fabric cut to approximately the same measurements as the overall bag if it was totally flattened out, plus seam allowance. My measurements were 22" x 41". I actually allowed 2" of "screw up room" in the larger of the two measurements because I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to attach it to the main bag. As it turned out this was a good choice because of the way I did the top edge.

I opted to start by folding over the top edge and sewing it.
Then with right sides facing each other, I sewed the sides together. I was able to make a much better bottom corner on the liner of the bag than on the bag itself as you'll see here.
Again, I'm not certain how to explain this maneuver so I'm going to leave it to the more eloquent to do the explaining.

I slid the liner into the main bag and decided to attach it by folding the top edge of the liner over and letting it peek out.I did two seams once very close to the bottom edge and one nearer to the top.

Here's the bag so far, straps are on today's agenda.
Don't let my ideas tie you down. Figure out what you have on hand, what you need it to do to be functional and then make your own version that's even better!

Friday, May 15, 2009

You Know You're Getting Old When...

...both of your teenage daughters have their licenses. Tasha just passed her road test this afternoon. I'm only 38, I'm too young for all this stress!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Honest Mechanic is Worth His Weight in Gold!

The beach bag is coming along nicely. Ruthie, I want that rug pattern so I guess I'll be sharing my beach bag pattern. Right now I'm working on the liner. Once the straps are done I'll share the whole process.

We've had quite a bit of contact with the Honda dealership that services two of our cars. Oh yeah, I guess I should back up and mention that Leenie got her license Monday and Tasha is taking her road test tomorrow. Both have bought their own cars, Leen a 2001 Geo Metro and Tasha a 2000 Honda Civic. Both cars are financed through the bank of Mom & Dad but this bank doesn't fool around. We even went so far as to draw up a contract, although we aren't charging interest. So about that service department at the Honda dealership, we just saved a boatload of money because the service department was totally honest with us.

When Tasha bought her car, we were told by the person selling it to us that her mechanic said it wouldn't pass inspection without a new catalytic converter. This allowed us to talk the price down by $1,000 from what she was asking. Even needing this repair the car was a great deal. We brought it in for an inspection and the catalytic repair and prepared to pay everything we saved on the purchase price. That's when the service department called me.

They wanted to know the back story on the car, specifically why we wanted them to replace the catalytic converter? I won't bore you with the details of the conversation but the outcome is simply this. We didn't need a catalytic converter at all. We did need a new battery and there was a piece of metal that was rubbing when we made turns that needed to be bent out but aside from that, the car was in great shape. Our thousand dollar problem was solved for a little more than two hundred dollars because our mechanic was honest.

So go find an honest mechanic right now!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sew This is What's Going On

It seems that my worries about the asparagus were baseless. Just about all of them have made a showing. Now if only those potatoes would start sprouting... Oh well, I think this is what the life of a gardener is like. You worry about each and every seed, crown and bulb. Slow sprouters spawn the worry, "did I screw that up?" So far the answer is no but the season is young.

There are weeds breaking through the hay that surrounds the elderberry bushes. I'm planning to deal with that today. My seedlings have been getting acclimated to the great outdoors the last few days by hanging out under our deck in the dappled sun. So far they're holding up well. Next week they'll go in the ground. Of course the ground isn't prepped yet but that's another days work.

Spring also means it's time to go through the boys' outgrown clothes. Two huge bags were donated this morning. I only kept the outgrown jeans for the quilt project and 2 sweaters to unravel. Everything else went out. If I don't get those last two denim quilts made soon, I fear my denim stash will be in danger. It's grown to dangerous proportions. Maybe I'll get a few rows sewn today.

Leenie doesn't know it yet but her beach bag is high on today's agenda as well. There's a possible tutorial coming but I'm not so sure the world needs another bag tutorial so we'll see.

In other frugal news, Memorial Day weekend is rapidly approaching and we need a menu since we've got half the world spending the weekend with us. This job goes to Leenie. I wonder if I should have told her first before posting it here?

I'm off to start the rest of my day.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Little Rant for Your Friday

Welcome to Friday! I wonder if I'm the only one who feels utterly brain dead from the week? Things always ramp up to an insane pace as the school year ends. I can't wait for summer to hurry up and get here.

Amid the insanity of getting ready for proms, graduations and trying to get in a few extra hours at work before I stop for the summer, I'm trying to keep the house running smoothly. Honestly, I don't think I'm doing so well. Oh well, everyday is a new opportunity to get it right.

One thing I think I am getting right are my yoga classes. I've been able to keep my prices low, making it more available to a wider range of participants and I've been able to cover my costs. At least I was until yesterday when I got a bill from a school district I'd been teaching in for almost 2 years.

After two years of no rental fee because I was servicing only their staff and their special needs students, I was hit with a $78-$130 rental fee PER CLASS!! (The $78 is if I commit to more than 11 weeks of teaching, the $130 is for less than an 11 week commitment.) I don't take in even half of that per class because the groups I teach are small (3-5 participants). Talking to the person in charge did nothing which surprised me. Surely some rental fee is better than no rental fee at all? (I had offered to pay a percentage of my per person class fee). Apparently in this school district it is not, so unless a miracle occurs, I will no longer teach yoga there.

Will I lose the students? Probably not, since they've already asked if we could continue in an alternate location. Still the inflexibility and greed of the situation bothers me. My goal is to make yoga accessible to everybody not to make a killing at it. To pay room rental fees that high I have to either have more students per class than I am capable of giving adequate attention to or dramatically increase my fees. I don't feel willing to do either.

BTW, just to give perspective on room rental rates in my area, I pay about half of the lower room rental fee at a community center in my area and the gym where I work charges room rentals a percentage of their per person fee (usually 20-30%).

I need to take a few deep breaths and let the whole thing go...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Keeping Sweater Poop at Bay

The thing about unraveling sweaters is that the process leaves "sweater poop" all over the floor in your knitting space. This becomes socially unacceptable if you do some of your unraveling while watching your sons' swim practice. It also takes time to unravel and roll into balls.

I had this great cotton sweater that I wanted to use the yarn from in my mother's day dish towels. I didn't see myself having the time to unravel and knit. I decided to get the unraveling started. This means getting past all the weird, impossible to unravel parts that exist in the neck of some sweaters. Once I was able to get a solid strand of yarn unraveling smoothly, I began to knit while I unraveled rather than rolling the unraveled yarn into a ball first. To keep the sweater poop at bay, I kept the piece that was unraveling as I was knitting in a bag. This worked out very well. The bag is a sweater litter box keeping my floor sweater poop free. (I'd show you but that would ruin the surprise so you'll just have to wait!)

Friday, May 01, 2009

I'm thrilled to report that the lonely little asparagus now has 3 friends. (Perhaps Ruthie was right and I buried them too deep. I swear I followed the instructions but...)

I've been on a cleaning spree inside as we try to integrate the summer clothes into the closet and store away the winter things. Robert is now almost as tall as I am so things are a little interesting in the clothing department. I swear he grew about six inches since this time last year! I'm going to see how creative I can get to deal with this.

This weekend will include more gardening as well as working on this towel pattern for Mother's Day presents.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Garden Really Does Grow!

This Sunday we planted our potato patch. I use the term loosely since the patch consists of three old garbage cans, 1 giant plastic tub and a rolled compost bin. Maybe I should refer to it as our potato cluster.

I'm delighted to report I finally have seen a single asparagus stalk sprout up. Don't misunderstand me, I'd be happier if I saw 30 of them but since its been almost a month and I haven't seen any, this one is pretty thrilling. At this writing, I'm feeling like quite the little gardener since everything we've planted is growing.

I was down in the back yard watering the apple trees, watching deer meander by the creek and enjoying the little oasis we've been creating when my new neighbor came down the street in his SUV blaring rap music. It bummed me out. I don't care what he listens to, that's his choice, I just wish he didn't make it so loud (it was really loud) that it bothers the people around him. Oh well.

I've got laundry going and bread rising. The next challenge is to go through the summer clothing and try to find more shorts for Robert. If there are no more, the next step is to look over his jeans for ones that are destroyed below the knee so I can make them into shorts. In the absence of that, a trip to the thrift store is in my future.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Don't Pitch It, Stitch It!

High on the success of the sock project, that is my new motto. I'm happy to report the rescued tube socks were given the thumbs up by Robert even after a full day of use, including several laps around the school track. My only concern was that the new seam might be irritating but my worries were unfounded. I love little victories like this.

Another frugal victory came my way earlier this week via my local online recycling group. Someone was giving away two rain barrels like the ones pictured here. I can't wait to get them set up. The two downspouts on our house are conveniently located very close to both the asparagus bed (which still has nothing sprouting) and the elderberry bed.

This weekend we'll get our potatoes planted. They've been sitting out by a window for the last two weeks growing eyes in preparation for planting. We're going to grow them in a mix of mulch hay, compost and a bit of soil.

I feel a lot of pressure with this garden since we opted not to join the CSA this year. I have really mixed feelings about this. I'll feel better once our last frost date passes and the plants are actually in the ground.

I was hoping to make a cold frame with old windows. Old windows and storm windows are one of those things that repeatedly pop up on online recycling groups and craigslist. Unfortunately there are none listed right now, unless I want to drive an hour away. I'm holding out for something closer to home. I'll just keep checking. At moments like this I need to remind myself, patience is a frugal virtue.

Rhonda Jean's post about simple drawstring bags really got my wheels turning. I love the idea of replacing the plastic containers I currently keep my homemade bread in with linen bags, especially since many of the containers are in really sad shape. Check out the links she provided to inspire and guide you. And remember, its not nice to outbid me as I try to procure some vintage linen tea towels on ebay to make the above mentioned bags! I'm also keeping an eye out for a bread box to use along with the bags. More on that as it unfolds.

Happy Weekend to All!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Great Tube Sock Rescue Tutorial

The tube sock rescue mission worked extremely well, so as promised, here's a tutorial.

Step one: Match all the socks you plan to rescue into pairs, turn them inside out and lay them on top of each other. Make sure the tops of the socks are lined up but don't stress of the bottoms (the part that the toe goes into) aren't perfectly lined up.

Step Two: Determine how much you need to cut off. You want to go far enough to eliminate the worn area while keeping in mind the length of the foot that uses the socks. Bear in mind that socks do stretch.

Step Three: Take a deep breath and make the cut. You need to cut through both socks of the pair at the same time to ensure the socks will be the same length when finished. Make the edges of this cut slightly rounded. Use the existing toe of the sock as a guide for how much to round.

Step Four: Separate the socks and pin the toes together. I know its a small seam but I found the loopy, strectchy material of the socks really made machine sewing a pain in the rear. Putting three pins in really made sewing much easier. But hey, if you're gutsy enough to skip the pins, do it proudly.

Step Five: Sew a straight seam across the toe of the sock. Turn your sock around with the needle still in the fabric and then sew a zigzag stitch. How wide should this seam be? The answer is, as narrow as possible so the toes don't feel bunchy when worn. Trim any edges that stick out beyond the zigzag stitch. Sew the second sock the same way.

Step Six: Turn your socks right side out and use an indelible marker to put a symbol on the bottom of these two socks identifying them as a pair. I did this because I found each pair of socks I rescued was a slightly different length. Marking them keeps the same length socks together. I used stars, squares, smiley faces, triangles, etc.

Here's the happy recipient of the rescued socks. He's extra thrilled because he always hated the long tube socks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sewing for Necessity

The frugal gods and goddesses among us know all too well that creativity is sometimes overshadowed by necessity. So although in my head I'm helping my daughter put the finishing touches on the beach bag pattern she's designing, in reality I'm darning socks, lots of socks. A big, huge laundry basket full of holey toed socks are just waiting for me to sew! Today's mantra will simply be, "Can't they cut their toenails?"

Actually I'm going to put on Radio Classics on XM, and enjoy some radio dramas. They are the perfect accompaniment to sock sewing.

Rob's got some tube socks with super worn out feet. I'm going to try to cut the worn parts off and make a shorter sock. If this works, you can expect a tutorial tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gardening Without the Yard

With signs of the impending summer all around me I've begun thinking about my garden at the cabin. Considering the lack of direct sunlight, the short growing season and the acid soil of a pine forest floor, I think things have gone really well but I'd like to ramp things up a bit.

The spot with the greatest amount of sun also happens to have no dirt. A friend suggested using EarthBoxes because the water reservoir would allow me to plant earlier despite only be there for sporadic weekend visits until the end of June. Great idea except for the price tag.

Here are some DIY links to make your own EarthBox
Making a self watering container or Earthbox
Building your own Earth Box
Self Contained Gardening System

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gardening Goings On

This twiggy little thing will one day be a six foot tall elderberry bush. At least the little buds on the side give me hope that it will be a six foot tall elderberry bush!

Here's a close up of one of the buds. Pardon my rotten photography skills. My camera is determined to auto focus on the mulch hay.

Speaking of auto focus difficulty, the green blur in this picture is a bud on my Native American Plum tree. Notice how well the camera focused on everything else.

The currant bushes never let me down. Little leafy buds now will most certainly lead to lush, leafy green bushes laden with berries in just a few weeks.

The apple trees look like they may be budding as well but the way the sun was shining a picture was out of the question. As for the asparagus, they continue to mock me and refuse to sprout. Its been two and a half weeks!!

Yesterday a box of seed potatoes arrived in the mail. I need to let them sit around in a warm sunny place and get sprouting for the next two weeks before I can plant them. These will be planted in unused garbage cans and an old roll out compost bin. I'm seriously considering growing them in mulch hay this year just to see how it goes. Here's another link that discusses growing potatoes in hay.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's My Beach Bag Baby & Don't Pull the Wool Over My Eyes!

A week off from school and all the kids are itching for summer. I must confess I'm getting the itch as well. Leen's summer blues must be a little more intense because she's is in the process of designing a beach bag that she hopes I'll make for her. Once she finishes her design requests, I'll share the making of it.

Here's something interesting I stumbled upon in my local paper this weekend, a yarn CSA! If you did a double take you're not alone. Here's the link. I know, wool's not vegan but this small farm seems to be going a long way to keeping their treatment of the sheep humane and supporting this CSA means supporting local business.

Can you call yourself vegan and support something like this? Personally, I think it's a tough call but in an effort to keep my dollars supporting small, local business I'd lean toward saying yes. What do you think?

Additional Note:
Here's a snippet from the Fall CSA share regarding their care of the sheep.
Our farm practices humane animal husbandry, we are “predator friendly” and none of our animals are ever sold for meat. The sheep and goats graze on organic pasture 9 months out of the year. We supplement with quality hay and a custom-made whole grain ration.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anybody Else but Me...

..especially since I worked so hard to get all five of them planted this past weekend! It was a team effort actually that got 5 apple trees, 2 plum trees, 8 elderberries and 2 mulberry trees planted. So far everything from this planting looks like its doing well. After all the work everyone put in clearing, screening and digging they better do well!

On the other hand, I haven't seen so much as a sprout from my asparagus bed. It's really killing me.

My seedlings are coming up nicely but the vegetable garden beds remain to be done. I guess its next on my gardening to do list.

I made eye pillows for my yoga classes. They made their debut at yesterday's class. One of the women in the class insisted on buying one, even though I wasn't planning on selling them. Here's how to make your own. I skipped the lavender flowers and just used the essential oil and it worked out beautifully.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a meat filled read as Ruthie had mentioned. Still, there was inspiration to be gleaned if you could find a way to leave the vivid imagery of butchering and the "meat is great agenda" aside. (Did it seem to anyone else that she was compelled to really justify her choice to eat meat?)

Inspiration turned to perspiration as 30 organic asparagus crowns arrived in the mail last week from Seeds of Change. Amid the flurry of obscenities swirling in my head (as in, Holy ___ how am I ever going to get these planted? What the ___ was I thinking? I'll never get my ___ together and get this done in time!) I tried to put on a brave face and make a plan. Jim puts it this way, he's willing to provide labor and capital but planning (ie. how to plant what where) is all me. He listens and participates but I read all the books on it and I used to help my grandmother in her huge garden so I've been deemed the family expert. No pressure at all! I suppose the cost of the asparagus crowns ($56 with shipping) didn't help alleviate any pressure either. Can you begin to see the root of all the obscene banter in my head now?

Saturday was deemed asparagus planting day and all other activities were suspended. We had picked out a patch of ground weeks before but done nothing with it. It was an area that had formerly held a flower garden. This was good news on one hand. I knew the soil was fertile from tending the flowers. On the other hand, the previous owners had used a lot of decorative gravel around their plantings and this plot was no exception. The soil was teeming with gravel which was certainly not ideal for an asparagus bed. I wanted to cry or break something. (I often hover between those two reactions.) How come we hadn't thought about this more?

Ultimately it didn't matter. Thirty asparagus crowns sat waiting in a cardboard box filled with wood shavings. They didn't care what my problems were. They just needed to get into the ground ASAP.

As when we built the sawbuck, our solution to the rocky gravel began with me trying desperately to describe a soil sifting device I'd seen my uncle use when I was a child. Jim was such a good sport, he listened to my rantings about hardware cloth, even though he'd never heard of it. (To further complicate things, even the guy at our local hardware store hadn't heard of hardware cloth. In the end, the label on the package he eventually bought said "hardware cloth" so I was vindicated.) Jim built ours to fit over our wheelbarrow since that was what we'd be sifting into. Of course a google search afterwards reveals that I could have saved a lot of breath. Here are instructions to make your own. This worked amazingly well for getting the gravel out.

Next the problem of size of plot and edging. We had a 20 foot roll of garden edging just sitting in the garage which became the edging on three sides. The fourth side is bordered by the driveway. We used all the graveled we screened out to make a gravel border around the asparagus bed. This left us with a bed that was roughly 5' x 10' which is too wide if we wanted to avoid walking on the newly screened soil. We needed a path down the center. We had some decorative patio block lying around so we used four of them to make a path down the center of the bed. Voila, two smaller beds which were easy to access without packing down the soil. Thank you Mel Bartholomew and square foot gardening for that knowledge.

I worked some worm castings into the soil and finally it was time to plant. I followed the instructions to the letter, reading and rereading them. Finally, I tried to channel the weedless, green thumb prowess of Ruth Stout as I topped the newly planted bed with mulch hay from a local horse farm.

I didn't have to worry about watering because we had a soaking rain that night and the following two days. Now I'm wandering around like an expectant mother. I keep finding any excuse to peek at the asparagus patch. They should sprout in the first week. I'm so nervous!

On this weekends agenda, setting up the other vegetable beds. I'm going to have a panic attack!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting Fruity with the Landscape

I've just begun reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I seem to be drawn to tales such as this one. I love stories of people trying to live closer to the earth in a very deliberate way.

Knowing that, I guess it only makes sense that these days you're likely to find Jim and I outside clearing and prepping various parts of our yard for planting. Apples, mulberries, asparagus, potatoes as well as the usual vegetable garden suspects, are all waiting in the wings for their turn to be planted. We're even going to try to grow most of our own veggies this year. (Fingers and toes crossed and all good wishes welcomed. I'm a bit nervous about this!)

If tree fruits like apples and mulberries seem like a commitment that bears fruit off in a too distant future (3-5 years down the road), consider this. If we'd planted some apple trees when we first thought about doing it a few years back, we'd already have fruit bearing trees.

I'm pleased with our garden projects so far. Our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made with homemade jelly, the product of our currant and gooseberry bushes. That was our most ambitious planting by far and it has really paid off.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Depression Cooking from Someone Who Was There

I've been really enjoying Depression Cooking with Clara on YouTube. Although not necessarily vegetarian, I love the spirit of her cooking. She uses simple, inexpensive ingredients to create tasty meals. I'm not saying that you should by the DVD that is currently being advertised but do check out the YouTube episodes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DIY Soap Crayons for the Dirty Little Artist in Your House

If you're thinking about knitting some Easter egg washcloths like I did last year, you may want to give them with homemade soap crayons.

There seem to be two basic ways of making these one uses grated Ivory soap and the other uses laundry detergent. Personally, I'm leaning towards the grated Ivory soap method. If you try it, let me know how they turn out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I don't mean to keep falling off the edge of cyber-earth yet it keeps happening. Actually, I've been nosing around everyone's blog except my own. Here's proof, I need to say congratulations to Ruthie on her new house, Rhonda Jean's knit along looks like fun, Ann & Kay at Mason Dixon knitting are keeping me in stitches, I'm jealous of Chile's tangerines and I hope Crunchy & her hubby get their internal thermostats in sync soon! Let's see if I can catch up and stay caught up. Really, I mean it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Flaxseed Meal, the Averter of Baking Disaster

Your task is to make mini cupcakes for a book report project with your son. The cupcakes need to be brought in to school in the morning and naturally its later than you anticipated starting to make them. As your son is mixing the dry ingredients, he gets a little overzealous and the bowl hits the floor. The majority of the dry mixture remains in the bowl but enough flour has hit the floor that you're concerned the wet to dry ingredient ratio might be screwed up. What now?

This was was the scene in my kitchen last night. I tried to eyeball how much had hit the floor. I think it was less than a cup but more than half a cup. I didn't want to take a chance and add more flour. What if I added too much?

I opted instead to add about 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal and 1/4 of oatmeal ground into flour. I hoped that the flaxseed/oatmeal combo would bind the mixture but maintain a moist final product. It worked remarkably well.

SInce I'm spreading baking wisdom, here's a tip I had to search the internet for again. Mini cupcakes take about 16 minutes to cook. For some reason this is the best kept secret in cooking.

If you're wondering what recipes I used, the yellow cake recipe from Simple Treats worked beautifully. We added chocolate chips to some of them which was very nice. The frosting recipe was the vanilla frosting recipe from The Compassionate Cook by PETA. Both were very simple recipes but they worked really well. Rob wants to make them again for his birthday in May.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kntting News

If you've held out this long and you haven't watched Pardon Me I Didn't Knit That for You from the ladies at Mason Dixon Knitting, do it now. It's the perfect answer to the midwinter blues.

Speaking of knitting, I've just completed a knitted ensemble (isn't that a great word?) for my sister who just moved back to the east coast from California. I figured she'd be freezing her cookies off as she adjusted to winter in NY. With this in mind, I made her a calorimetry to keep her ears from freezing.

A pair of mittens I really liked this pattern BTW.

A scarf in a feather and fan pattern which is just about the simplest fancy looking pattern a person could knit.
Here's a close up of the feather and fan design.
I got the pattern from a classmate when I took my knitting class a few years ago but I can't find a source for it. If anyone recognizes it, let me know. The yarn and needle size are up to you. I used three strands of fingering weight yarn knit as one on size 8 needles. Here's the pattern:
Cast on 24 stitches loosely
Row 1: Knit all stitches
Row 2: Purl all stitches
Row 3: K2tog twice, (YO, knit 1) 4 times, K2tog 4 times, (YO knit 1) 4 times, K2tog twice
Row 4: Knit all stitches
Repeat rows 1-4 until scarf reaches desired length. Cast off all stitches loosely.

I'm thrilled with the way this all came out and the mitten requests just keep coming from my kids! Right now I'm working on a recycled wool (it was a sweater that I unraveled) sock to wear over their regular socks inside their snow boots.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Have You Seen the Magical Pixies

I did a cooking/nutrition class last night for a group of teens that were in a transitional housing group home. They were all going to school, working and learning how to live independently as part of the program. I wanted to teach them basic cooking skills that could be applied to anything they wanted to cook.

I opted to make stir fried vegetables, biscuits and apple crisp. The woman who worked at the group home requested we make chicken to go with the stir fried vegies. I haven't been in the same room with unwrapped raw chicken in years so this was a huge compromise but since the benefits to the kids outweighed my disgust, I agreed. (However, It was just as disgusting as I remembered it.)

The kids learned about cutting things in same size pieces to promote even cooking, how to mix batter without overmixing, how to make a tasty fruit based dessert, managing leftovers, how a dinner biscuit becomes a breakfast biscuit(margarine vs.jelly on top), how to cook when you have very little time plus other random facts about cooking in the real world. They've invited me back and maybe I'll get them to try a veg dish next time.

We went around the room to get opinions on how everything turned out. The consensus was good although one girl said the chicken was bland. I asked her what she could do differently to make it more to her taste which started a great conversation about marinating and using spices to personalize your cooking.

Although I'm not usually talking about making chicken less bland, the thought process is the same as we strive to cook frugally. We try recipes and then look back on them and ask ourselves, should I do anything differently next time to better suit my tastes? If the answer is yes, right down those changes right on the recipe! I know, I'm telling you to write in your recipe books again but if you don't, you're doomed to have the same conversation with yourself next time.

While you're digging through your cookbooks, if you find those magical pixies who chop and premeasure all the ingredients on cooking shows so all the chefs have to do is toss everything together, send them over to my house. I could use the help today!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Business of Doing Business

I seem to have fallen off the frugal veggie planet! I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. I've been spending my time organizing my yoga classes and getting all the business of officially starting a business in place. I'm delighted to report it has been an extremely frugal process with very minimal cash outlay.

Here's a few things I learned along the way:
  • Getting a DBA is easy, inexpensive ($45 in my county) and will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run.
  • Getting a PO box is also relatively inexpensive ($60/year in my area, apparently it varies by area) and a lot less creepy than having your home address show up all around town.
  • A website is a must but it can be very affordable (My total so far is $29.86 which covers the next three months. After that I'm looking at a monthly expense of $12.94 to maintain the website) and easy to put together. Many people I knew recommended yahoo's small business service to set up a website and, having used it, I would recommend it as well.
  • You can fit 2 sheets of paper plus 6 business cards in a size 10 envelope and still use a first class stamp.
  • There are a ton of ways to advertise your business for free. Craigslist, press releases in local papers, local yahoo groups and enlisting the help of friends who live locally are just a few ideas.
In other frugal news, I've finally decided its time to do something about the ever growing collection of AFOs Kyle has. (It's not really a collection but he did get his first brace when he was about 2, he outgrows about one a year and he's 8 1/2. Just for the record, the little plastic buggers cost about $1500 because they have to be custom made. Thankfully our insurance covers it!) I've found an agency in Georgia that refurbishes them and distibutes them at no charge to needy people in Mexico. Now all I need is a box big enough to put them all in. BTW, if you're wondering why I'm not keeping my donation local, apparently they can't be used domestically because of health laws.

I'm off to find a box...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Knitting Needle Fix

I've unraveled all this yarn so naturally that leads to more knitting projects. I found this mitten pattern which would go nicely with the Calorimetry that I'd made. I got the yarn all set up, because naturally I'm not using a chunky yarn, I'm using several yarns together to create a chunky yarn. That's when I discovered that I didn't have size four single point needles, not even in the set of needles that I got at the thrift store last year. It seems the fours in that were replaced with sixes! What to do?

I wound a rubber bands around the end of each of two double pointed size fours creating a pair of temporary single point needles. This worked great for my mitten project because I didn't have too many stitches to cast on. If the project had been bigger it wouldn't have worked as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stretch That Fabric Out

Here's a weird little tip, if you need to write on fabric with an indelible marker, try stretching the fabric using a cross stitch hoop. We stumbled upon this a few days ago when my son was struggling to write on a t-shirt for his book report. I suggested it on a whim and was surprised at how well it worked. Don't forget to put something between the front and back if you're doing something with two sides, like a t-shirt.

He finished off the t-shirt by tie dyeing it, along with the fabric that will become the kids cape for Tasha's salon chair. We got the tie dye kit at the thrift store. I love the whole process, especially the thrill of finally seeing what your pattern looks like. Rob really enjoyed it as well. I used the bathtub as the center of operations for this to keep it reasonably neat.

Book reports certainly have come a long way from the dreaded two page monsters I remember in grade school. Next month Rob is planning on designing a quilt depicting his favorite scenes from the book he chooses. He told me this today as he left for school. I love that he has absolute confidence in my ability to make this come together. It's not that he wants me to do the work for him, he just wants me on as technical advisor. My job is to answer the tough questions like, should I use fabric paint or indelible marker and will the words still show up after we tie dye?

I'm off to shuttle the girls around to job interviews. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Success with the Ink Refill & Other Random Thoughts

I hereby declare the printer cartridge refilling a success. It seems my cartridge needed time to let the foam soak up the ink. It also needed to sit on a cloth soaked in the cleaning solution that comes with the kit for an extra hour to unclog two of the jets. These two simple steps made the difference. I'm psyched!

Much of today was spent shoveling snow...maybe Ruthie has the right idea living in Texas. We're still using ashes from our woodstove for traction on icy driveways and paths. I still can't believe how well it works.

There's split pea soup already simmering on the stove for dinner so I'm thinking I'll sink down into a chair and unravel a few more sweaters until Jim gets home. These are the same sweaters I bought to unravel last year and never got around to doing. Now that I did so much holiday knitting it seems to be the perfect time to unravel and refresh my yarn stash.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Refilling My Printer Cartridges

After hearing rave reviews from several people, I've just tried refilling the ink cartridges on my HP printer. I've heard it can shorten the life of your printer but I wasn't worried because my old DeskJet is practically an antique.

I followed all the directions and tried printing. I'm not so impressed with the results so far, although it is improving. Here's the main thing I've discovered. Although the instructions say HP cartridges don't need to have the holes you refill in resealed, mine seems to leak profusely if you don't. A few tiny pieces of electrical tape solved this problem.

Apparently it can take some time for the foam inside the cartridge to soak up the ink. The solution to this is just to let it sit. So, I'm going to sit on this project until tomorrow morning and then give my full report.

Will this be a wonderful money saving thing or should I just have gone to 123inkjets.com?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Are Your Freezing? Keeping Warm the FVM Way

I've been marveling at the adaptability of my family lately. We've been heating with a woodburning stove for a few years now. In the past, we always had the heat set to 60 degrees as a back up in case the fire died down overnight. When oil prices went wacky last year, we opted to not turn the heat on at all. So this entire heating season, we've heated exclusively with the woodstove. (We did compromise and move a small space heater that had been in the garage into the bathroom to make that room toasty while showering. We figured we'd wind up showering longer if the room was cold in an attempt to warm up.)

The thing that amazes me is no one complains, everybody takes it in stride. We all have a gazillion blankets on our beds and some have taken to wearing sleeping caps to maintain body heat. (In fact, Leen made sleeping caps put of fleece scraps for her father and sister for Christmas.) On exceptionally cold nights, we'll set an alarm to remind us to add wood to the fire in the middle of the night.

The boys crack me up the most. They really don't remember a time when life wasn't like this so they don't think twice about being asked to refill the log ring that sits outside our back door. They both know that they need to close the curtains to keep the warmth inside at night. Just this morning, Rob asked how much the yarn I was unraveling from a thrift store sweater would cost if I bought it at the store. When I told him what I thought it would cost he said, "That's ridiculous, why would anybody spend that?"

Even the girls have a slightly skewed view of things. Yesterday, Leen announced she was going to cook more often because she liked standing near the warm stove.

So what's the point? I guess if you do anything frugal long enough, it stops seeming odd, even to the family members who may have been your most vocal opponents in the beginning.

BTW, if you're curious about the fleece sleeping caps here's the basic instructions. This is a super simple project, especially if you wind up using fleece since the edges won't fray out.

Leenie's Keep Your Head Warm Sleeping Cap
1.Start by measuring the person's head and adding an inch to this number for seam allowance. Divide this number in half. This is your final measurement

2.Pin together your fleece with the right side facing in. (This will allow you to cut out both sides of your hat at once.) Draw a line across the bottom edge of your fabric the length of the final measurement you came up with in step one.

3.To create the body of the hat, draw a line up from the edges of the line you just drew:
8 1/2 inches for a man's head
6 1/2 inches for a woman's head
5 3/4 inches for a child's head

You should have something that looks like a football goal.

4.Now you need to decide how long you want your cap to be. Find the center of the first line you drew and draw another line straight up from that. This is the line that determines the length of your cap. There are no right answers on this one, it's purely aesthetic.

5.Draw a line from the center line you just drew down to each of the lines that create the body of the cap. Pin along the lines to hold your pattern together. You are now ready to cut your cap out.

6.Sew along all edges EXCEPT the bottom edge, that's where your head fits in.

7.Now turn the bottom edge under and sew all around to give you a nice finished edge. You're all done except for any embellishing you choose to do. Leen added a flannel edge to the one she made for her dad. She did a plain egde for her sister but used two different colors of fleece. Get creative!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Business of Moving Forward

It's been a week and a half since my gym closed. In that time, we've dealt with bounced paychecks, two teenagers searching for jobs and finding a place for my swim team members to practice swimming. I drove way too far for one swim practice, kept my sons up far too late to attend a meeting on the future of the swim team and then kept them up way too late the next night for a practice on dryland with the older swimmers. It's clearly imperfect but at least its beginning to fall into place.

Personally, I've struggled with what my next move should be career wise. I think it's easy to go overboard when you start something, especially when it's something you love. In the end, that can make frugal living damn near impossible. I don't want to get so busy that I can't keep making meals from scratch. I like unraveling sweaters and using the recycled yarn in new projects. I want to make more clothing by hand. Actually, I'm just getting ready to make two capes for Natasha to use when she's cutting hair, a solid one that matches her chair for adults and a smaller tie dye one for kids. I like being able to take the time to do these kinds of things. Aside from saving money, often I can make a higher quality, longer lasting version (and so can you!!)

With that in mind, I've begun taking baby steps to really develop my yoga business. I've started to set up a website (yahoo is really user friendly), ordered business cards(Vista Print came highly recommended even though they are the spam king in my opinion) and started getting the word out. I'm even considering setting up a DBA, it's only $25 in my county.

In an odd twist of fate, I've already got three kids registered to start a brand new yoga class with me next Monday in my home studio. I even got offered a job at another local gym (they came looking for me, go figure!) I have my eye on the fall as the time to really dive into things. Hopefully, by then both girls will be driving and I will be able to turn in my chauffeur's hat, at least for part of the week.

I'm hopeful. I'm grateful. I'm pleased. But I'm still angry. I'm hoping the anger subsides soon. At least it's not all bubbling up at the surface like it was last week.

In other postive, moving forward type news, we ordered some fruit trees and fruit bushes from a fairly local (within NY) grower.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Sprouts & Oatmeal!

It's bitter cold but I just enjoyed a little taste of spring. I combined the alfalfa sprouts(homegrown) with some shredded carrots and topped it with some salad dressing. The result was a crunchy little salad that really hit the spot. Sometimes its the simplest things that are the best.

Check out these past posts which talk about sprouting

If you're trying to keep it local, this time of year its all about what you've got stored away or what you can produce on your own with the occasional winter farmer's market thrown in for good measure.

We find ourselves with an abundance of apples, applesauce and apple pie filling. I've taken to making Amish baked oatmeal leaving out the raisins and instead topping it with apple pie filling (homemade in the freezer). I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon stirred into the oatmeal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let's Ponder Spring in the Garden

It's cold in NY! So naturally this means I have to make a Calorimetry. It seems lots of people have been bitten by the calorimetry bug. This nifty little creation keeps your head warm and is a fine use of scrap yarn that you haven't already set aside for your log cabin blanket.

It seems the more you knit the more the people around you want you to knit. Just this past weekend my sons asked if I could knit them some thick socks for sledding. I'm slowly becoming a knitting machine, knitting for the warmth of her family. Oddly enough, despite all the knitting I've done, my yarn stash is remarkably intact.

Since I'm so cold, I feel compelled to look ahead to spring. So if you look for me you'll frequently find my nose buried in a seed catalog. I want to know what I can grow that is going to give me the most food with the least amount of space and minimal hassle.

So what are you thinking about planting?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Kick In the Rear to Get Me In Gear

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Sometimes we all need a kick in the rear to get us moving in the right direction. It looks like I just got one this morning. It seems a coworker of mine went to work this morning and was greeted by a sign saying, "We will be closed today". While returning to her car, she encountered several electric workers who was there to shut off power to the building due to the financial crisis. It seems I'm out of a job.

Okay it's not the incredible financial crisis others are experiencing. I teach several places, most of which pay better than this one. (At this location, I only taught one class and my take home pay was only $7.06/week.) Even though this place has become a pit, I'm sad. Maybe its the just the fact that this is where I started my fitness career.

So I've spent the morning making calls, sending emails and trying to figure out my next move. There are 5 regulars who take my class there. I want to offer them an alternative venue so this class can continue. Maybe this kick in the rear means it's time to expand my home yoga studio class offerings?

Ever since the end of summer, people have been asking me about this and I keep putting them off. I think the time has come. But first I'll close my eyes and take a few deeps breathes in and out through my nose...