Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No turkeys were harmed....

The salmon is thawing in the fridge and the house is clean--well sort of until I tracked in mud after my trip to the compost bin--and holiday decorations are ready to be unboxed. Yes, it is time for a nice cup of tea before jumping into the decorating fray.

Just finished 8 ounces of pretty sweater yarn.
DH and I are opting for wild caught salmon this year, partly in a nod to my anti-inflammatory diet which is very light on meat, and also because buying a huge bird is a bit much for two people. We'd have to get the whole thing if we wanted local/humanely raised. After seeing photos from a commercial turkey pen, I'm really glad we didn't buy a turkey breast. One of the big advantages of anti-inflammatory diet is how little meat we eat. Legumes and vegetable are given the star spot in our meals. Spices make them yummy.

Progress on the spinach
Weight is coming off at about the speed spinach is growing in the cold frame out in back of my house.  They've doubled in side but there is still a long way to go. I enjoy nurturing these little guys as they slowly grow into yummy vegetables. The cold frame needs to be propped open during the day and shut at night, and of course I water them. I'm interested in seeing how my experiment progresses.
pair of socks #16. time to knit something else!
The anti-inflammatory diet does wonders when I'm not slipping up and eating sugar. Those times when I am on it for several weeks and doing it perfectly, I feel amazing--pain and stiffness is gone.  So really I need to focus and be stronger through these sugar infested holidays.
Finished placemats with handspun bamboo warp.
And be thankful I've found a "cure" and stick to the prescription that improves my health. One of the things I've learned over the years is there is a lot of suffering we can avoid for ourselves and others just by changing a few things within ourselves and our surroundings. May we all look for those changes when we count our blessings so we can add a few new blessings to the coming year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Craftstead update

Growing winter spinach
Part of my "craftstead" philosophy includes trying to grow at least some of my own food on my small suburban plot. Here I am experimenting with growing spinach in a cold frame in my backyard. The frame is right behind my house and will have the advantage of whatever heat the house gives off.

I was encouraged to read about the Northwest Brightmoor Renaissance   a group trying to rehabilitate a blighted former working class community in Detroit--by cleaning up the trash that's been dumped there, fixing up the modest homes and yes, growing some of their own food.  And it is definitely not another gentrification project, but a real grassroots effort to carve out an affordable American Dream in an urban wilderness.
Sprounting mung beans on the kitchen counter: fresh homegrown produce.
I love how Brightmoor residents are using the Internet to catch and shame those who have used their neighborhood as a dumping ground. Visiting their website, you can see some really cute little houses on nice sized lots. What a great place to have a nice big garden! I read in the Washington Post that one couple chose the neighborhood to begin their organic farming enterprise, rather than a rural area. They are also using vacant lots for community gardens.  Yes, dedicated people can change the world.

I will have warm feet this year!
My craftstead is in a posh suburb where cute smaller houses are being torn down to create mansions. So my 1500 square foot 70's split is "small" compared to a McMansion of five thousand plus square feet. Funny to hear myself calling my house "small." It isn't by global standards. My house is giant and luxurious. It has plenty of room to raise a family, throw a dinner party, host guests, and house a few looms and spinning wheels.

But I understand what drives people to wanting giant homes and buying new stuff. It's a disease that plagues our society--consumerism--an endless Pack-Man like need to run the maze and eat the cherries of new acquisitions. It's like we have lost our souls and try to fill the void with stuff. Yes, I've struggled with the endless wanting and have fought to keep it at bay. One thing that has helped me is having a "small" house. I can only fit so much into it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just two little days....

Finished planting the allium 

Ever notice that when you are ordering bulbs, it seems like you can't get enough? And then you go to planting and think, "150 bulbs is a LOT." Fortunately, I took a couple of days off from work last week and spent some of it gardening. I planted about 75 allium. I planted them in close little groupings of them to pop up along the walk.

Filled cloth beam

 I also wove off the placemat warp I've been working on for a few months.  I now have eight mats to hem, but that should go fairly quickly.

Socks #13
And I finished sock pair #13--I'm in the 15 in 2015 challenge, and my goal is to knit 15 pairs of socks. I not only finished this pair but started the next one.

Basket ripened
Just had to show you these tomatoes too.  They were green a week ago. Sitting in the basket has done them lots of good. And I've been cooking with them too.  Nothing to do with the two days off, of course.
Besides finishing three projects, I also made headway on a throw I'm weaving and my gray rug yarn project. So three cheers for crafting holidays!

I've written the letter to P&G about those plastic beads mentioned in my last blog. It's crazy what they put in our personal care products.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Plastic beads in my toothpaste? Seriously?

Being a sucker for all things shiny, I just loved those multicolor sparkly toothpastes.  Sucker is right as little did I know that part of what makes them so pretty are tiny plastic microbeads.  The label will have either polyethylene or polypropylene as an ingredient. That is plastic. That is mircobeads.
Check the label before you buy!
These microbeads are in all kinds of things, usually stuff you put on your face. They are in facial scrubs, one of which I used to love until I started using cheaper things. I recall when that was the "new" thing oh, maybe 15 or 20 years ago.  And look what fifteen years of exfoliating and teeth whitening has done to our lakes and oceans:

All that smooth, clean skin has caused some big problems in the aquatic food chain. Me, I don't want the Great Lakes to become a plastic soup. I feel ashamed now that I ever used those things. I've been recycling for 30 years and bringing my own bags to the grocery for ages. But I didn't make the connection of tiny plastic beads going down the drain and into our waterways. I am only relieved that I stopped using those facial brands some years ago, opting for the more "organic" BHA free brands. Now, I'm thinking plain old soap with very few ingredients will do just fine.

This is serious stuff. I urge all readers to check labels on their products.  We don't need microbeads on our face or our toothbrush. A washcloth can do just as good a job exfoliating. As for toothpaste, at least make sure your kids toothpaste doesn't contain the stuff. Get the older formulations and brush longer.

Yes, yes, the FDA says the microbeads are safe. Big deal. My doctor also tells me not to injest any small seeds because of intestinal concerns (anyone my age should not be ingesting small beads).  And you know, it's toothpaste--there is no way we aren't ingesting a few of them. So if endangering our lakes and  rivers isn't enough of a reason, then think of what it could do if it got lodged in your intestine.

Fortunately, not all toothpastes have microbeads. You can save money by buying the cheaper older formulations of the same national brands. And then there is good old fashioned baking soda. But that is a lifestyle choice. I have yet to try one of those "make your own toothpaste" recipes, but maybe it's about time I did.

I'm planning to write polite letters to companies using microbeads and ask them to phase them out of their formulation. There is also a petition to sign on which I've already signed. 

But I'm still stuck with three tubes of shiny toothpaste that I will not use. Yes, there is the food pantry, but is it okay to foist my shopping mistake on someone else? What if they are older and have been told by their doctor not to eat tiny seeds? What if they are children? And knowing what it could do to the life in our lakes streams and oceans, how can I let this tube be opened and released into the environment?

I feel like I'm stuck with three tubes of Toxic Waste.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sock it to pure relaxation

Sock pair #12
I've always loved knitting socks, not that I did it that often. Not until I signed up for a challenge back in January to knit 15 pairs this year. I'm in the middle of sock #13, and interestingly, none of them are fancy. Oh, the yarn is pretty: colorful, self-stripping and more, but the actual sock is all from memory, or a cheat sheet when I'm to tired to remember.

Lace is out for me. I can't see deliberately putting holes in a pair of socks. I took a shot at cables, but found my shoulders tensing up as I worked with the tiny needles. So I've settled on pretty yarn and a straightforward plane Jane pattern. They won't win a sock knitting contest, but they are comfortable to wear.
Sock #13 is nearly halfway through
And relaxing. Knitting is a kind of meditation for me, a tranquil time watching the pretty yarn slipping through my favorite needles. The beauty of plane socks is they are so easy and straightforward, I can knit them anywhere. They are the perfect antidote to lousy morning traffic. It nice to finally get to my parking spot at work and spend a few minutes knitting a round or two before I leave the car to start my day. There's nothing quite like the soothing sensation of knitting! It helps me get back my Zen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Still picking tomatoes!

Tomatoes fresh from the garden
Our garden is tiny this year. It is the first garden we've had in a few years. A planned expansion to 20 square feet was postponed a couple of years ago when my husband hurt his arm, and this year we finally had the heart to plant some more--but changes in our lives kept us from doing much more than a bunch of tomato plants.

But gardening here we come! I was really encouraged by just how many tomatoes our six plants produced. They kept us in a steady stream of tomatoes all summer! And they continue despite temperatures in cool shortening days. This is exciting. Next year, the garden will be even better!

These will be going into a fresh pasta dish tonight a stirring of some delicious ingredient to make something extra delicious. But I'll share that recipe once I have it figured out.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Size doesn't matter

Fiber in the Park, the tiny fiber festival in Earlville, IL, is a true test of the adage "Size doesn't matter." I've found wonderful things at this fair, and so did everyone else I know who was there. It is one of those fun and intimate gatherings where you can find your friends and find great things at the same time. There was a lot of gorgeous rovings and fabulous yarns! They even had some finished projects, a bead maker and other excellent things.  And the food vendor is really good too, though we drove into Earlville to eat in this little Italian place called Francesca's.
Lamb's wool fleece from one of Kathy McClure's sheep.

I was early, which is good because I was able to catch a really great fleece. This is one of Kathy McClure's--she washes her sheep before she sheers them so the fleeces are amazingly clean and just about ready to use. This is a wonderful, crimpy and soft BFL cross with Wensleydale. I want to start carding it NOW! I am very happy with it. She sells through Green Valley Fiber Cooperative, which now helps sponsor the show.

Kathy's Crocodile Tears colorway
I am a big fan of Kathy McClure's dyeing. I found 24 ounces of this Crocodile Tears colorway! Yes! Enough for a sweater or a big weaving project. I'm thinking sport weight as really warm sweaters are too heavy for regular wear. I want to get started on this right away. I want to get started on EVERYTHING right away. It is a good thing I have more than one wheel!

I love all this colorway!

Frabjous Fibers was there I had to nab this Chromatophobia Pink. This should be a blast to spin. Not sure what it will be. A hat? A sweater yoke? is is Polwarth which might be something I haven't spun yet. Not sure, exactly--I've been spinning for a long time, and I'm not sure if I've spun Polworth or not. She also had this tiny PVC spinning wheel which was a blast to try out.

Jacob from Round Barn Fiber Mill
 I also found this intriguingly milled Jacob--yes there are three colors of fiber in this one bumb-- at the Round Barn Fiber Mill booth.  I want to try out their milling because I am thinking of bringing some fleeces to be carded. Yes, I do love doing my own processing, but I know my life will be easier if I let someone else do the work on at least some of my massive fiber hoard!

I'd better get going--I have lots of spinning and weaving to do.