Monday, January 21, 2013

Project Locavore...

have you ever read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle??  if not, you should...

i have been on a barbara kingsolver kick for a while now. my first encounter with her was when we read her book "poisonwood bible" for one of our first book clubs. is a truly thought provoking book, but aside from a great read, you really learn a lot about the politics in africa & our (america's) part.  though her books are all very different, they all share the common themes of the importance of both family & community, along with social, economic & environmental issues.  all of which are important to me, i suppose that is why we "clicked". ;)

kingsolver also makes sure to double check every fact she includes in her books & has said (in her book, small wonder) that she has stopped reading many books in the past because the author didn't bother to do their research.  this is extremely important to me because i, like so many other, read to expand my horizons.  my reading time is short, as you might guess, and so this allows me yet another way to "multi-task"...reading a book i love, while gleaning a little more knowledge about the world @ large.

@ any rate, i decided to read all of her books & am currently working thorough the last bit of animal, vegetable miracle.

background, barbara & her family of 4 decide to engage on a 1-year "food" journey, eliminating all foods from their lives that they cannot either make (or) buy within a 100 mile radius of their home.  (when taking food, in our present society, 100 miles is *nothing*!!!!)

@ any rate, we do our best to eat healthy & cook from scratch, but there is always "more" that you can do.  this book seems to be the natural, next step, for our family. 

& from there, i posed the question to our boys to base a homeschool unit study around the subject...

we shop @ farmer's markets & are lucky enough to have a really nice one, given the size of our town. but i want them to be more involved in the "why's" behind we do what we do & really have a say in where we are headed as this will affect all of us, as a family.

we began last week by taking inventory of every item in our pantry, fridge/freezer, & spice cabinet, reflecting on our findings along the way.

(we each have our own notebook to write down our findings, thoughts, ideas, etc as we work our way through this process.)

days #1-3 were spent taking inventory of everything that we had "in stock".  on day #4, i printed out a 10x18 photo of a U.S map & we charted our findings.
the map wasn't extremely detailed. in most cases it just had the state capitals, so if the exact city wasn't on there that we needed, we just added a dot to that state.  this is a bit vague, but it will still allow us a good idea of where our food is coming from.

today, day #5, we reviewed & discussed our map.  we were all surprised that more of our fruits/vegetables didn't come from outside of the US.  pomegranates, for example, are grown here in the US.  they have always seemed a bit more exotic to me...  we are curious about the story behind the spices.  the majority of ours come from either mccormick (or) frontier (typical for bulk spices & health food stores).  but where do these really come from??  again, they seem to exotic to be grown here in states.

we did a bit of math, figuring out what percent of our "inventory" was from outside of the US., what percent was "unmappable" (these products listed only where the product was distributed from & *not* where is was manufactured).  this was aydin's first go @ percentages...

we discussed what would be a realistic goal for our 'local" region.  barbara's family used a 100 mile radius (if you look on our map, it is the smallest circle, drawn in pencil).

it really puts things into perspective, doesn't it??  it almost seems impossible, although i know they did it, really & truly.

the boys & i talked & @ first they wanted to go with a 600 mile radius & me with a 300 mile radius.  in the end, we compromised on 450 miles.  for orin, the clincher (for some reason) was the spices.  most of our spices were mccormick & their plant is based in hunt valley, maryland. 

this is fun.  i am a bit of a "throw caution to the wind/extremist/cold turkey" kinda girl, when it comes to new adventures, so i am glad that i am working with the boys on this...moderation is a bit more their style & i feel that this will help the coming changes be met with a more open mind.

tomorrow, we'll remap some of the vaguer places to see just what we have been buying that is still 'acceptable' & see what we need to begin researching to find new source (or) ways to make our own.

we'll each pick a favorite food & learn a bit more about where it comes from, how it is grown, etc...the "real story".

the littles are actually working their way through a less intense version of "project locavore", i'll post about that @ some point soon.  i know we are going to learn about bananas, as ehren is very disappointed that those are getting scratched off our list...:(

until then...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

wooly goodness...

there is so very much happening @ our house right now, so many plans in the works, some already underway & many on the forefront...can you tell that we are hankering for spring???

until then, here's a bit of knit love...

this was, apparently, the year for hats...

15 bean soup, for my father-in-law.  another turn a square...this hat has definitely become my 'go to' for "manly gifts".  the great part is that no matter how awesome you think it's going to turn out, it always turns out better!!  gotta *love* that!!
i made a "twisted burl" for me, in lion brand organic's (pecan) & it is just so darn scrumptious, i had to make another...this one, bok choy, is for my sister-in-law...
this gorgeous "zigzag chunky hat", dubbed running man, was a special request from my mother-in-law. the colorway was chosen to match her running jacket...

ahhh...the infamous "fako mustacho", named after this super fun audiobook.   this was such a fun knit!!  first take on duplicate stitch, but turned out really swell, don't you think??
bean specially requested a yoda for his birthday...and, well, how can you say no to that??
a special request for a lovely mama...i *love* the way this knit up!!
pomegranate palms, for my michigan*der sister-in-law...

lastly, this was a special request that came into the shop...fingerless gloves for the younger set. 

this pattern took a bit of working out, but i got it figured out...still need to post it though.  don't worry, it's on my to-do list. ;)

and what lovelies have you been working on???  xo

Friday, January 4, 2013

baker's dozen...

we started back to school after winter break yesterday.

silly, i know, to "go" for only 2 days out of the week.  BUT my sister & i are headed to nashville come monday & i didn't want to use 2 of our *free* days for the semester right off the bat.  so....we began working our way back into our previously familiar groove yesterday.

why nashville??  well, it's interesting that you should ask. ;) my mother is retiring after working @ the same hospital for *30 years* & one of the doctors is hosting an evening with friends & family in her honor.  thus, my sister & i are scooting over that way to attend.

@ any rate, i have missed it, our daily rhythm.  i am a creature of habit, as the saying goes & i do so enjoy our routine person.

but enough about that, i have some really neat things that i am itching to share with you & with 4 children lurking around the corner, time if definitely of the essence!! ;)

so...remember the other day when i was saying that i have more or less forgone new year's resolutions??  this is still true, in essence.  BUT that being said, there are certain things that i have been wanting to do & there is just something about the new year that just makes me crave something new...some sort of goal that needs achieving. 

thus, my theme for the year is "baker's dozen" (it is 2013 after all, right??)  it perfect!!

so, 13 things.  now, why do 13 when you could do 26??  please hear me out before you decided that i am reliving the infamous new year's resolution madness that was 2011.  the key here is that they are all completely & totally doable.  see...i have thought this through & am being totally & utterly realistic.

now for the 2 main headings/catergories for these "13  things":

1) food items, to be made from scratch (vs) bought.  things that we buy a lot of & that i could truly make @ home.  the catch is that these new concoctions will need to be successful to actually count, as in able to replace the ones that we are currently purchasing AND i will need to stick it out for the year, once i start.

(this goes along with the overall theme for my life this year, which is to working to be more of a locavore.  but more about that later...)

2) general household items, ones that we use, could use (or) need, to be made (vs) bought.

(this goes along with being green, doing a bit more here/there when & where we can)

now, you might be asking how i know that this is totally doeable.  well, i know this beause i have already done 2 of them!!  not bad, eh??

Food Item #1

last night i made homemade flour tortillas!  we eat a lot of rice, beans, eggs, etc & thus *a lot* of tortillas.  the were super easy & though they turned out a bit wonky, in shape, they were muy delicioso!! 

they didn't take that long to make either, obviously more time than opening a store bought package, but then where is the pride in that??  (i was sooo proud of my tortillas!!  *and* i was glad that lance wasn't here, he would have made fun of me for being so excited about them. ;)

Household Item #1

we also made some dryer balls.  have you heard about these??   they are apparently wonderful for many, many reasons....

What wool dryer balls do:
  • absorb moisture from the clothes in the dryer, cutting your dryer time by 25-50%!
  • help reduce static cling
  • soften clothes
  • can lightly scent clothing naturally with essential oils (optional)
  • save a lots of money–dryer balls can last 7+ years
  • dry and remove static naturally without chemicals
cool, right??

bonus, they are super simple to make!  there are loads of tutorials out there on the web, so i won't bother posting one here.

all you need though is 100% wool (either felted sweaters, roving, or yarn).  i did see one tutorial that said you could make them with upcycled cotton sweaters, if you are allergic to wool, but i think that wool works the best.

the kids & i made a couple of wet felted one, but i still need to get photos of those & these when they are finished. 

the top photo is of freshly wound dryer balls, the second photo (in the pantyhose) is before going into the wash.  i'll post photos of each after they are thoroughly felted.  for this lot, i  wound up some yarn that i was planning on passing on...

another sort of "resolution" my mind only...well, i guess not anymore since i am now posting it here (tee, hee) is to reduce the crafting stash.

i have *loads* of crafting bits & bobs, a healthy stash of yarn, but also roving, felt, & some fabric.  and then the tubs of randomness, beads, elastic, ribbons, gems, sequins, etc...

i am toying with the idea of 13 *new* crafts/crafting projects, but i need to think on this a bit more before i commit.  anyway, i don't think it counts as "destashing" if i just pawn my things of on someone else (or does it?? :)


the official posting of the baker's dozen for the world to see & already 2 projects down.  i feel good.  this is the sort of "challenge" that can help you do all the things that you have been meaning to do for who knows how long...

we actually did a couple other projects today, recycling both crayons & modeling beeswax.  they don't count towards the "13" because we have done them both before, but maybe you could count them towards yours??

we buy stockmar beeswax crayons for our lessons, both stick & block crayons.  they are gorgeous & have a really natural feel to them & smell, like beeswax!  lovely to work with & gorgeous colors & they last a long time...unless you have dog that really likes to chew on crayons.  but i digress...when the crayons wear down, i put the bits in a tub for our youngest to use (the "good" ones are reserved for lesson work *only*).  today, we melted them down to make new un-block crayons for shading (which, the old me, would previously buy each fall). 

we used mini muffins tins & "baked" them @ 275 degrees for ~7-8 min.  once thoroughly melted, place them in the freezer to cool.  they should pop out relatively easily, ours do.

we use our modeling beeswax a lot & the littles have really taken a liking to it this past fall, which means there are loads of little, tiny, crumb-ish sized pieces.  these are very tedious to work with when big brother sit down to do their modeling.  so, we melted them as well.  same temp & ~ the same time as well, but in *big*/regualar sized muffin tins.

here's the trick with the beeswax though, as the color will settle on the bottom when they melt.  you will need to *carefully* remove the pan from the over & let cool slightly.  scrape (yes, you'll need to literally scape the beeswax out of the muffin tin) & knead it thoroughly to reintegrate the color.

it feels amazing in your hands & the smell is divine...i LOVE it!!

we like to reshape it into somewhat thin (1/8") rectangular slabs, let cool the rest of the way & store.

alright, now i need to do my tidying...i have avoided it long enough, don't you think??  xo

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ah, yes...a new year.

                                                (blows dust off blog)


i know is has been a very long time since i last posted...february 17th, in fact, as my father informed me a few weeks back. 

there came a time when i felt obligated to post & that is never a good feeling.  we should each do things because we choose to or want to...because we feel moved to or inspired to.  these are the feelings that should guide our days, but as we all know (or the majority of us know) this isn't *always* the case, is it?? 

my mind is one that likes to categorize things & then go absolutely MAD with various rules & restrictions about those categories. 

enter exhibit A:  my new year's resolution of 2011.

i decided that i would knit tings i had never knit before, a blanket, a sweater, a pair of socks, etc...the list slowly grew to about 9/10 & then i saidto myself, well, what the heck there are 12 months in a year, let's make it 12 (aka 1/month).

then i thought, why not choose 12 things in *4* different aspects of my life to work on as well. 

and so the list went from 12 things to 48 things, ranging it items for me to craft to aspects of my own self to work on (being more grateful, being more patient, loving my husband for who he is, etc...).  it was absolutely ridiculous & my sister & my husband both bore witness to my madness.

and then the list disappeared @ some point during the early portion of the year, never to bee seen or heard from again....  (enter dramatic music) 

i am guessing that one of the two fore mentioned people (or perhaps my own inner consciousness) disposed of it to save me from myself.

why??  well, because there is another aspect of myself that likes to lurk around dark corners as well.

i am not sure of its title, but it never lets things go.  if i say i am going to do something then i absolutely *must* do it, no matter what the circumstances or the time matter how "past date" it is, no matter what sacrifices have to be made.  period.

so, you see, i must be very careful about what i choose to do.

@ any rate, this month, january 2013, is to be filled with all manner of things that i was supposed to do last year.  i am pretty good about staying on task, so the list isn't that long, but there are a fair few projects that still need tending before i'll be officially caught up.

i know, i could do as so many other do & choose to let this first month of the new year serve as an eraser of all past obligations this would allow for a clean slate, but because of all the above mentioned bits of myself, i have gotten a lot better @ choosing what is truly important to me & so these projects are ones that i feel stongly about & truly do want to finish.

the thing is that i have changed A LOT since january 2011.  last year, believe it or not, i didn't even make any new year's resolution...not a one!  (if you don't believe me scroll through the posts from last january...i just did ;)

i believe i might have made something of an inner commitment to work towards finding more balance in my life, but this is one of those ongoing processes.

in in writing, is the rundown on my new "blogging" philosophy. 

i will post when i feel inspired to post. :)

simple, right??

AND instead of trying to fit into some sort of category, i.e.homeschooling (or) knitting, etc, i plan to post about whatever i am excited about @ the moment. 

*BE WARNED*, i am easily excited (don't believe me?  ask my husband/my children! :) 

welcome to the blog that is me, our family & a reflection of whatever is striking our fancy @ the moment...!!

happy new year to both you & your families!!  xo