Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Snowshoe Rentals Today

When we arrived at  the Beaver Lake Nature Center today, we were greeted by a sign that read,
"No Snowshoe Rentals Today- not enough snow."
Well, excuse me, I beg to differ. But apparently, they only rent snowshoes when there's 10 inches or so
(Oh, silly us! We Floridians learn something new about this wonderland daily).
Still, Michael, Noah, and I made the best of a cold winter's afternoon by hiking the trails.
We were extremely bundled and waddled along as best we could.
The sun was bright.
The snow was a-sparklin'.
The tall tall trees creaked like a front porch rocking chair when the wind swept through.

I was looking for animal tracks, but mostly found cross-country ski lines cutting across the landscape.

But some creature ambled through here.

And some delicate beast intersected itself perhaps?

My husband left me a love letter in the snow.

These graceful ladies have learned to be flexible under the snow's burden.

Some wear wooly coats of crunchy moss and twig. 

We take a short respite.

There's Beaver Lake- frozen- behind me.

Noah and Michael are looking tired and cold.
Time to head home for hot cocoa and a nap.

Snowshoe next time?


Sunday, January 24, 2010

My little hankies

Lately, I've been trying to be more mindful about what I consume (purchase, eat, watch, read). When I notice that something I'm consuming doesn't match up with my values, I try to make small steps towards alignment. Sometimes, because of lack of resources or lack of imagination, I have to compromise my ideals a bit. Sometimes I'm lazy and change is too daunting. I have to remind myself that I'm still learning and growing and realizing who I want to be.
I decided a few months ago to stop buying paper towels. We use lovely cloth napkins now (which I purchased for mere pennies at the thrift store...and can now sew my own too), and I'm very pleased with them. I'm happy to not be contributing to the depletion of trees so that I can casually wipe my mouth and toss. Disposable bothers me. Occassionally, Michael and I will want to clean something with a paper towel, or cover food in the microwave, but we have learned alternatives to reaching for paper. This is a good thing in my mind. We are learning to challenge the way we've been doing things, and to think about how the small gestures we make affect others.
So I had another realization just last week: Good Lord! Look at all the tissues we use/dispose of!
With winter's presence comes constantly runny noses. Not from being sick even. Just coming in from the cold and drip drip drip. I read somewhere that each blow costs about $.20...(get your mind out of the gutter!). That's not incredibly expensive, but it adds up. Count how many noses are in your household, think of how many sneezes, blows are performed by each nose in any given allergy season. Go ahead and do the math. Math makes my head hurt. I didn't do the math since I was more concerned about the trees we were using to make those tissues to wipe our dear noses. But I get the impression that tissues aren't too frugal. 
Whatever did people do before the onset of all of these disposable paper products?
That's what they did...and if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any hankies at the thrift store. In fact, I had trouble finding them new. Target had one package of six plain white men's handkerchiefs for about $5. Those are the kind that men tuck into their suits. Instead of purchasing them, I made my own dang hankies!
My first experimental handkies were made out of an old ill-fitting skirt that has been in my "donate" pile of clothes, but I've loved the pattern of the fabric so much that I couldn't give it up. So I cut it into 8 by 8 squares and sewed around the edges to prevent fraying. They are cute, and they work like a charm. I feel very Victorian and dainty using them.
Next, I used some fabric scraps that my Aunt Beth sent me to sew some adorable dinosaur and pumpkin patch print hankies for Noah. 

Of course, handkerchiefs need to be washed, so there is energy and water and detergent used to clean them. And they will need to be washed fairly regularly to remain sanitary. I'll try the handkerchief method out an see if I notice it to be as much of a wasteful endeavor as tissues. I'll keep you posted with my discoveries.
I'd love to hear about your experiences trying out non-disposable items in your life...and how far you are willing to go...I can't fathom what to do about toliet paper!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last Week's Icicles and a Naked Dream

These icicles were hanging from the side of the house
last week.
Like a menacing NY version of Kudzu.
Sharp and angular.
I would hold my breath as I stepped past.
Being from FL,
and not accustomed
to extreme winter,
I can imagine all sorts of
icicle-impaling horrific accidents.

They were all pointy and fierce-looking.

But the sun peeked out and they began
to melt and break.
They would fall in clumps
 and murmur, "Slush-slush, slushy"
as they slid around the melting snow.

I did appreciate the icicles from an aesthetic distance.
I admired the striking constrast of dark shadows cast by
the almost translucent hanging wonders.
You can learn something from these icicles.
Let the sun shine in!

I had a dream a few nights ago that I was
strolling down a fairly busy urban street,
and I was naked.
I didn't have much anxiety in the dream
about being naked.
I was trying to cross the street
without attracting attention.
And I was successful, in my dream
 noone seemed to notice.

I welcome any interpretations!
Not sure if/how this dream is related to Last Week's Icicles.
That is also open for interpretation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Challah Experience

My first attempt at the sensuous endeavor of yeast bread baking.

I reach my hands in, knuckle-deep, wrist-deep even...into the dough.

This little pile of doughy goodness will grow and grow and transform, magically into something

Knead and wait for it to rise. Punch and caress and mold and braid.
Wait again.

Brush egg on top and bake.

Ooh! Challah is very very pretty.

Too late to have it for dinner.
So I enjoy it with Wild Blueberry Jam and a steaming mug of coffee in the morning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sew what?! Why should we buy postage stamps?!

On Sunday, I attended a class at JoAnn's Fabrics...Sewing 101.
Yes! I'm well on my way with the goals I set for my new year. I plan to learn many many supa sexy homemaker skillz in 2010. Sewing is on the ever-growing list. These plans/goals sort of revolve around a desire to be self-sufficient. And self-sustaining. Greener. Less consumer-oriented. But probably it is just a reflection of my desire to control things around me. Now, for some reason, I have part of a Dead Milkman song stuck in my head..."Why should we buy postage stamps when we can make our own..." I'm pretty sure they are mocking someone in that song, being ironic. I don't like them anymore. I can't believe I was so hung up on them in high school. My high school self really needed better taste.
Anywho...Sewing 101....I must say that the 2 and a half hours flew by. I am no longer quite so ignorant. I am now familiar with much seamstress terminology. For instance, I know where the bobbin is. Do you? I can thread a needle in my sweet litttle machine, get her motor purring right along with the push of my foot. I know not to cut paper with my sewing scissors...the teacher stressed this often, and she even mentioned that JoAnn's sells padlocks for your scissors, just in case you need to lock those babies up!
I have my first pattern cut out.
I'm making something for myself out of an old pair of flannel pajama bottoms...usable, wearable..which will decrease my wasteful impact on the environment.
So...I'm jumping right in. Wish me luck!

Reality of Change and Pressing Pause on the Fantasy.

Now the initial excitement over Michael getting a job and our upcoming move has started to wear off a bit, and the Reality of the MOVE is setting in. I'm still thrilled to be relocating to the DC area, but moving is always challenging.
Challenges to face:
1) Find a home (preferably one that has a yard so that I can have a garden...and maybe 3 chickens...and a beehive). We are probably going to be renting for the first year...possibly a yardless apartment...but we are hopeful that we can rent a house.
We want to live super close to Montgomery College, where Michael will be teaching. We fantasize about Michael being able to walk or bike to class. Seriously, Michael on a bike, head in the wind, not driving (saving $ on gas, no car insurance, no polluting), getting a workout in the process, is hot stuff. Hubba hubba.
Since we have that particular fantasy, we are limited to a small geographic area surrounding the our home/apartment options are indeed limited.
I would really love to have eggs laying around in the backyard, hiding under leaves of spinach and cabbage like sweet yolky Easter presents. And I'd love to harvest my own honey, hear the hum of industrious bees as they pollinate my hollyhocks and phlox. But alas, my beehive and chicken fantasies may have to be compromised for some time.   
2) Find another Co-op for Noah. This is a ginormous challenge! I've been so fortunate here in Syracuse to find an awesome co-op...not so sure it can be replaced. Noah and I are both going to miss the friendships we've luckily stumbled upon through co-op. Plus, even though co-op is not a 'preschool', Noah has been learning so much from the good Miss Lewis, and the good Miss Sarah. And he learns so much from the other kids too- like sword-fighting and new and interesting fart noises. And how to share. And how to accept differences. And how to listen. And how to put on and zip up his own coat. In Syracuse, this is a huge milestone that kids must meet before they are admitted to Kindergarten...otherwise those poor teachers would spend all day just getting kids bundled and unbundled.
3) Tying up all the loose ends around here. Can't leave my mother-in-law swinging in the wind. We have to make sure that we leave our current home in such fantastic condition that people will be lining up to purchase it! Packing. Cleaning. Repairing.
And I have to go through all of the STUFF we've accumulated over the past couple of years...the stuff piling up in the basement...laying around in the attic...bulging out of the shed....littering the yard. What to keep, what to yard-sell, what to freecycle?

Where to begin?  
So, while I am delighted for a new beginning in a place which promises opportunity, I am slightly overwhelmed (or maybe just over-caffeinated) by all the details to attend to...and the sacrifices that must be made.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Still watching these strange little beauties...
...putting on such a show....

My prom dress was that exact same maddening fuschia color senior year.

Best Laid Plans

I don't remember what my resolutions were for 2009, if I made any.

It was important to me to experiment with a few things and have some adventures.
Taste the New and see with a Fresh Perspective.  
Luckily, most of my experiments were edible.
Most of my adventures involved fresh air, trees, and kids.
All and all, I would say that 2009 wasn't too shabby, in spite of me being completely broke.
As a matter of fact, being broke has inspired me to be more creative.
Instead of mindlessly shopping at the mall and going deeper and deeper into debt, I was fortunate to search for treasures Mindfully at thrift stores and yard sales...or simply DO WITHOUT! Gasp!
Instead of entertaining Noah with more and more expensive toys and activities, I was able to share the bliss of beautiful parks, fantastic libraries, backyard and kitchen explorations, and wherever else our imaginations might lead us.
I was able to meet our weekly grocery budget of less than $100 with no problem at all by cutting way back on meat. We went from having meat in almost every meal to going meatless almost every meal. This encouraged me to experiment with vegetarian dishes that I'd never tried before...some that I'd never heard of before either.
I started taking joyful trips to the Farmer's Market.
I grew food. I ate the food I grew. I made preserves.
I made gifts.
I began to try to Do It Myself. Make stuff. Fix stuff.
In 2009 I had the Luxury of Time to acquire certain basic skills that I was lacking. Skills for self-sufficiency and sustainability. It has been rather empowering to learn that I can do it myself.

For 2010 I hope to continue learning and growing.
Some specific interests/plans/hopes:

1) I want to learn how to bake bread...the kind with yeast that you knead! Really, I've never even tried to do it before. I think Challah is lovely and delicious. I saw a yummy-looking recipe on The Frugal Girl's blog that I plan to try. I'll start there and let you know how it goes.

2) I want to learn to sew. I was given a sewing machine for Christmas from my wonderful and creative Aunt Beth. She enjoys sewing and quilting and all kinds of amazing craftiness, and I think she's happy that I've finally shown some interest. If only I lived near her...within the same state at least, then she could mentor me, take me under her wing. Sigh. But alas, she's in the sun, I'm in the snow. Luckily, I have a fabulous husband who listened to my request for experiential gifts for Christmas, and he registered me for Sewing 101 at Joann's Fabrics.
I plan to sew curtains for our new place in DC.
 Also, (now here's where I'll surely lose any male readers if I have any...and maybe even gross out squeamish lady readers too) I plan to sew some PADS! That's right menstrual stuff. Eww! Seriously would be less harmful to the environment (all the wasted paper, plastic packaging, adhesive, etc.), no more toxic chemicals around sensitive, er, um, special areas, and I'll save a ton of money too. Feminine products are expensive. I'm getting a Diva Cup too, just thought I'd share!
3) I plan to make my thumb a little bit greener. Which just means that I want to grow more stuff. I don't know yet whether we'll have a yard in DC...we may rent an apartment for a year...may have to settle for housplants and a potted garden...herbs and tomatoes. Whatever the case, I hope to educate myself more and continue to eat things that I grow.
4) I want to make my own soap and shampoo and lotion- free from all the junk that is in the products we buy at the store. I like the idea of cutting out all the excess chemicals...all of those ingredients that aren't even pronouncable. Plus, I think that I'll enjoy the chance to be creative with selecting essential oils and natural ingredients. Maybe I'm just a control freak!?
5) I want to fix the damn zipper on my favorite hoodie.
6) I want to continue to take pictures, write poetry, and blog a little too.

With all this said, I have to keep in mind that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," and I will try to forgive myself if I'm not as productive as I hope.

I did eat my Hoppin' Johns and my Mess o' Greens bring on the good luck and good fortune!
What are your plans and hopes for the year?

Gray Sea

Gray Sea