Monday, August 23, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
When the package arrived, I was so excited to open it and, of course, the hat was lovely. But, there were extras, too! A crocheted face scrubbie and some information about a cool, environmental education project to do with kids (because Libby knew I was interested in learning more about this project.) And, there it is, the magic of buying handmade from someone you know. The connections are so much deeper.
I could easily have gone to Target or Ross and purchased a hat (those of you who know me well know that is entirely untrue because I would have gone to the thrift store,) but purchasing from the big box retailers is so impersonal. It seems a small paradox that purchasing a hat from someone at register where I will have a real face-to-face interaction is far less personal than the long-distance interactions I've had with Libby.
My grandfather recently recommended a delightful little movie, "84 Charing Cross Road," to me. In that movie, a woman in New York strikes up a long-distance relationship with a bookseller in London. Over the years their friendship grows into something profound without ever having met face to face. This is the magic of buying handmade items from people I have not met in person. It's personal. The items were made from the creativity that resides in their soul. They make the items because they want to, because it is what they are passionate about. The same cannot be said for most items from the big box stores.
I've been wearing my hat on the cold days and I love it. In fact, I think I look adorable when I'm wearing my special red hat. Here are some other items for sale in Libby's shop:
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sometimes, I hit a brick wall. I've been producing items for my shop and home every day this month and it has been awesome to stay so dedicated. But, yesterday, I was feeling really down about a difficult situation that I have to deal with in my personal life. I was feeling so down, I didn't want to sew or crochet or write my blog. Those all seemed like silly, cotton-candy things in a world full of problems. I just wanted to lie down.
Instead of giving in to this urge, I decided to start painting some new fabric for my new shop: Modern Queen Vicky (Victorian inspired hand-painted fabrics with a modern twist.) Drawing the pattern, mixing the colors, putting the brush to the fabric: all of these things were healing and nurturing to my soul. Here's the project I started:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I enjoyed three wonderful, old things last week:
1. I bought an old sweater from Goodwill that was obviously crafted by a person, not a factory. I love the idea of buying homemade items from the thrift store. It's nice to buy an item that was never in the mainstream stream of commerce, something that didn't come from China.
2. I finally started reading an old book I have been carrying around for the last few weeks. I bought this book, "Run, River Run," from the Denver Public Library when I worked at the Library Cafe a few years ago. It is a memoir of a naturalist's journey down the Green River. I decided to research a bit about the book and found out that the author lives in Colorado Springs, my hometown, just down the road, and that she sometimes teaches courses at Colorado College. She wrote "Run, River Run" in 1971. So, now, I'm really excited to read this book and to hopefully speak to her about it when I'm done. I'd like to do an "old book" review on my blog and I hope she'll let me interview her. I've added the book to my book carousel (on the main page,) if you'd like to check it out.
3. I made a pet bed for my little dog from our old t-shirts.
It took six t-shirts and a couple of hours to make.
It's honestly a little small for her. So, she crushes the sides down a little.
I still have to make a soft pillow. But she likes to lie on it as it is. I plan to make another bigger bed for her, then I'll stick this one in her kennel.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
- American tap water is among the safest in the world.
- As much as 40% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is just filtered tap water anyway. Be sure to check the label and look for “from a municipal source” or “community water system”, which just means it is tap water.
- By drinking tap water, you can avoid the fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, and other chemicals that studies have found in bottled water.
- Tap water costs about $0.002 per gallon compared to the $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon charge for bottled water. If the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.
- 88% of empty plastic water bottles in the United States are not recycled. The Container Recycling Institute says that plastic water bottles are disposed of (not recycled) at the rate of 30 million a day.
- Plastic bottles can leach chemicals into the water if left in the sun, heated up, or reused several times.
- Production of the plastic (PET or polyethylene) bottles to meet our demand for bottled water takes the equivalent of about 17.6 million barrels of oil (not including transportation costs). That equals the amount of oil required to fuel more than one million vehicles in the U.S. each year. Around the world, bottling water uses about 2.7 million tons of plastic…each year.
- Bottled water companies mislead communities into giving away their public water in exchange for dangerous jobs.
- It can take nearly 7 times the amount of water in the bottle to actually make the bottle itself.
- On a weekly basis, 37,800 18-wheelers are driving around the country delivering water.
- The EPA sets much more stringent quality standards for tap water than the FDA does for the bottled stuff.
- One out of 6 people in the world does not have safe drinking water, and about 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from bad water…that we know of. This while Americans spend about $16 billion a year on bottled water.
- Have you kicked the bottled water habit? We finally did a few years ago, when we started using reusable bottles and filtered tap water from our house. So what do you think? Think we can encourage more people to get rid of their bottled water?
Monday, February 8, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Almost everything in this remodel was secondhand, recycled or upcycled. (The employees at the Habitat for Humanity outlet store know me and expect for me to haggle.) We did all of the work ourselves and sometimes our friends and family pitched in, too. We're proud of what we achieved for so little money. We know there is still more to do, but it's soooooo much better than it was.
Monday, February 1, 2010
I can imagine that it must difficult to walk the line between engaging memoir writing and obtuse preachiness when you are trying to make the world a better place through living a sustainable lifestyle (I often wonder just how annoying my blog posts are for that exact reason); this quandary becomes painfully obvious at several points in "Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life." In this book, Jenna Woginrich writes about her love of all things handmade and her day-to-day pursuit of hobby farming/urban homesteading.
This is a lovely, little book with many positive thoughts and humorous quotes and, overall, I would say it is a delightful lazy weekend read. But, there were those moments when I found it nearly unbearable to read about Jenna's interest in, say, dog sledding or her particular feelings about what antiques she and her twenty-something friends feel are cool to buy. If all of the sustainable pursuits described in her book were necessary to living sustainably, the pill might have been easier to swallow.
Pursuing a handmade, sustainable life is a noteworthy achievement, especially for a twenty-six year old child of the world's most consumer culture. I applaud Ms. Woginrich's efforts. But, I must note, giving advice on how to be a successful beekeeper, even though she has not yet been successful as a beekeeper, seems a bit absurd.
The author relates her mistakes and disasters in a delightfully, vulnerable prose that is most definitely endearing, but she errs when she assumes that her readers either want to do what she is doing or are twelve-year olds who have not already done so. The preachy tone, at points, overshadowed the valuable resources and information that Ms. Woginrich included in her manifesto.
All in all, I'd give "Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life" a solid B+. Although the fixings may have been over-salted at points, the meal was sustainably harvested and made from scratch.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"Turn a chicken bone into rubber by soaking it in a
glass of vinegar for three days. It will bend like
You might wonder what possible use you could have for such a fact? I've got a couple of ideas. Perhaps you could craft a nice pair of earrings for your mother-in-law, "blessed" by a voodoo priest? Or, make a trick wishbone to fool your nieces next Thanksgiving?
On the serious side, vinegar is my most favorite household cleaner and fixer of miscellaneous problems. I've used it as a drain cleaner, fabric softener, air freshener, carpet cleaner, stain remover, wood floor cleaner, ant repellent, etc, etc. I've included some links below to various vinegar sites. There are a myriad of uses for this wonder liquid. If you have a wonderful use for vinegar, please share it in the comments.
This will be my last vinegar post for a long while. I think I've said enough.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Because of all those silly family viewing parties, I've long wanted to make a dress from my drapes. Last week I settled for a handbag. I had some fabric left from the curtains I sewed with a friend of mine, last summer, and decided it was perfect! I made a lined handbag for everyday use that I love, love, love. (Another friend of mine, had recently pointed out that I'd been using the same canvas tote for five years and, perhaps, I should consider a new bag. Needless to say, my old bag looked like Scarlett's tattered dress.)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I love to volunteer. I've been doing it for years and I can truly say, time and time again, the rewards far outweigh the time investment (That's not to say I haven't had a couple of bad experiences. I can think of two right now. But, it's just like anything some bad, but mostly good.) Once you become a volunteer, you can't help but talk about it because you want others to share the joy and rewards of helping.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
No one can be good all of the time. And, more interestingly, being good can sometimes be bad. For instance, sometimes when visiting relatives or friends, they may use paper plates, paper towels (in the bathroom even!), paper napkins, etc. But, I would be a horrible ass if I were to a) state out loud to the people who are giving me a free place to stay and providing me with delicious meals that paper plates are wasteful or b) refuse to use the paper plates and throw an environmental hissy-fit. Both of those options are absolutely inexcusable in my book.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I am a big extoller of the merits of vinegar. I love to use it to make cleaning potions and to solve household problems. Growing up my mom would clean the coffee pot every once in a long while by running it through a cycle filled with vinegar. That process, if you've never tried it, has an incredible aroma that cannot be called pleasant. So, that was my solitary experience with vinegar as a household miracle worker, and it stunk.
But, a few years ago, I decided I didn't want to pay exorbitant prices for "green" cleaners and started researching my options. I love, love, love reading books about the olden days so I knew vinegar used to be a common cleaning agent, but I didn't fully understand its powers. Flash forward to today, and I'm all over it, baby!
In the upcoming weeks, I'll share my common (and uncommon) uses for vinegar starting with one of my favorites: Laundry Softener. I fill the liquid softener cup on my machine with white vinegar, add a few drops of essential oil (usually lavender,) and wash. That's it. Couldn't be simpler. My clothes are soft, fresh and don't ever smell like vinegar. I can see your raised eyebrows from here, but trust me, it works, it's cheap and you know exactly what you're wearing against your skin all day every day.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
A few thoughts about trying to do better:
- Sometimes it hits me like a lightening bolt, I can’t believe I didn’t notice something so obvious. A behavior so completely counter to the sustainable lifestyle will be right in front of me and I’ve been doing it for years. There aren’t as many of those moments anymore. But, I’m still confronted with the fact that it is a challenge to live sustainably.
- The challenge of living sustainably often creates an inner conflict. There is an element of puritanical behavior in sustainable living that makes me sometimes want to fly in the face of my own ethics and throw some shit away without even worrying if it's recyclable or reusable. But, of course, those moments are brief. I quickly realize that I am just being myself by pursuing this lifestyle. It's what I actually like. I don't preach to people so, at least, I'm not a puritan preacher. And, I can be somewhat pagan when it comes to plants. So there!
- I realized last night that my family uses disposable, plastic sandwich bags to bring sandwiches to work and school. I didn’t really ever think about it because I eat at home and they pack their own lunches. Seriously, why have I not made reusable sandwich bags for lunches? We spurn paper napkins and paper towels because of their disposable nature; we use cloth. But at least paper napkins are biodegradable! So, there it is, another moment where I find myself feeling like a hypocrite. There is so much to do better. I’ll keep trying.
- In the pursuit of sustainability, I have been gardening for years. Each year I grow my garden a little bit more. I dream that someday the food I grow in the summer will last through the winter, but I’m not there, yet. I’m trying to be as local as I can by growing food myself and buying from a local farm all summer long, but winter comes and I still haven’t reached the level of squirrelness that I seek. Not enough nuts and acorns to get through the winter.
- I love lemons. They don’t grow locally in Colorado. So, I guiltily buy bags of them from the grocery store. Other women fantasize about a dream house with a beautiful master suite with a walk-in closet (I know this is true because I’ve seen them on HGTV) while I dream of a greenhouse with lemon trees and lots of other wonderful rarities. I once read that you can grow vanilla beans in a greenhouse. How awesome would that be!?
- If I were lucky enough for life to give me lemons, I would make something better than lemonade, I’d make lemon-basil margaritas.
- Next sustainable pursuit: chickens. I’ve wanted a chicken coop since I was old enough to read “Back to Basics” and I’m going to have one filled with chickens if it’s the last thing I do! I’ll be researching (and documenting that research in the journal) through the winter and would love suggestions and advice on how to proceed.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I'm a continual experimenter with essential oils and vinegar. My husband can pretty much expect that my solutions to almost every household problem will include vinegar. But, surprisingly, my air freshening tips do not.
Monday, January 4, 2010
This weekend my husband and I watched, Food, Inc. a well-done documentary, if a bit limited in scope. The basic premise of promoting consumer awareness about the origins of the foods we buy is a good one. The work done by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan in this area is undeniably the most important food-related consumer-awareness promotion of recent years. Their combined written works and films have given us a body of information on this subject that no longer allows us to claim ignorance.
Food, Inc. takes us through the agricultural factory system now in place in the United States. The idea that food comes from pretty, little farms is, of course, proven to be a conceived national mythology of the worst sort. The majority of food now comes from factory farms which bare little resemblance to the farms of yore or the farms prominently featured on most food packaging.
For those of us, who already know about CAFO’s and Monsanto, the film was just another stunning reminder, a renewed slap in the face, of the incredible importance of fighting this system. Fighting seems a strong term, but really, it is a fight. I fight with my compost and garden tools. Others fight with their reusable shopping bags at the farmer’s market.
Unfortunately, the fight is often seen as a Starbucks/liberal elitist fight against the masses. But, truly, it is the opposite. The food that is sold to lower-income communities in this country is abominable. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that the food factories made a deal with the health factories to keep them supplied with diabetic, overweight people far into the future.
For the future to be different, food will have to be different. Food Inc. should be required viewing for every citizen or, at least, for every student. It is imperative that this system be uprooted. And this is where I think the film could have done better. The solutions are a brief afterthought. A common problem with the environmental movement and many movements in general: here are the problems, they are terrible, it will take a monumental effort to change them…buy local and organic. While I don’t disagree with buying local and organic, it’s my preferred method as well, I want to hear about more options and more ways to change our food system.
Also, Food, Inc. did not do enough to highlight the environmental degradation caused by our current agricultural system. In the words of one of my most favorite historical figures, George Washington Carver, “A nation can only last as long as its topsoil.” The current system is quickly destroying our nation’s topsoil with no remedies in place for the future.
All in all, Food, Inc. is another valuable asset to the stock library of food education. I hope that those who need to see it most will be given the opportunity.
p.s. I've included some of my favorite food awareness reading and viewing in my Amazon picks.