Saturday, April 30, 2011

Japanese Inspired Clothing

Today Little had a birthday party to attend; a Japanese tea party complete with kimonos. Only we didn't have a kimono. Fortunately a quick search of the internet revealed this fantastic (and free) pattern. Coupled with a pair of matching lounge pants our Japanese inspired outfit was born. This outfit will also serve as a lovely set of summer pajamas.

The material is a vintage sheet and the bia tape a thrifted shirt. Making your own bias tape is fairly simple and definitely opens up your options where color and pattern are concerned.

Now the birthday girl is half Japanese and half American. We wanted to give her something special. Something to let her know we care. This pattern was just the thing.

I do hope she likes it.

And that, folks, is what I've been up to this past week. That and hosting bunco which was a challenge in and of itself. It took a good two days to make my house presentable. My we Peculiars are messy people.

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Things I'm loving today:
  • Eggs on toast with basil and homemade cream cheese
  • Berry smoothies with homemade yogurt
  • Sunshine
  • Anticipation of tomorrow's beekeeping class (complete with Middle in tow)
  • Drives in the country fantasizing about a small farm of my own
  • Trees that are finally beginning to bloom

I hope you are having a lovely weekend!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

{This Moment}

A moment of reflection in the middle of a very busy week. Right here. Right now it feels so good to simply sit and enjoy a cup of coffee.

The dishes can wait. As can the laundry. I am going to read and take a long hot shower. After which time I will rejoin my previously scheduled life.

Tomorrow I'll return with a show and tell. 'Ol Bertha and I have been busy.


Friday, April 22, 2011

What in the World Does a Can Opener Have to Do with Earth Day?

Growing up we had an automatic can opener. A lovely avocado green machine that not only opened the can but pulled up the lid with it's fantastic magical magnet. My parents still have that machine. It is forty-years-old and it works like a charm.

Now I'm not as fancy as my folks. In college I bought a simple hand held model. It worked well and I was satisfied. Satisfied that is until the day the opener disappeared.

Where has it gone? Nobody knows. Perhaps it was carried off by a can opening crow.

Ah but I digress. That disappearance was the beginning of a frustrating series of events. First I went to the garage and dug our really super duper basic opener out of the camping box. Now this opener works. Sort of. The lids come off but not without great effort on the part of the user. This opener was meant to be temporary.

The next time I went to the store I bought and inexpensive opener. Did I save the receipt? No. I expected the thing to work. It did not. Not at all. Okay, so you get what you pay for.

I went back to the store and bought an expensive model. Shall we just say lesson not learned. The damn thing didn't work either. And that was several months ago. I gave up on can openers and learned to live with that which was less than perfect (i.e. the camping model).

That is until last weekend. Last weekend we went to a small farm flea market. One of the vendors had a trailer full of odds and ends -- including the opener pictured above. It was filthy. It was questionable. The five dollar price tag was steep. Did I really pay five dollars for a grungy used can opener. Oh yes. Yes I did.

I brought her home, cleaned her up and placed her in the crock on the counter. Yesterday was the first day she was put to use. Oh my! The can opened like butter. It was a glorious thing! I forgot how simple opening a can could be. I will be keeping this gal for ever and ever.

I only wish I'd found her sooner. You see in my search I didn't think about vintage. I didn't think about used. It seems I simply didn't think. A used can opener was just what I needed. And had I gone that route in the first place there would be money in my pocket and less crap in the landfill.

So the next time you need something new think again. Do you need something new or something new to you?

Happy Earth Day!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter already!!

Up until now I've been putting my head in the sand. Easter isn't coming, Easter isn't coming. Nah, nah, nah, nah. I can't hear you!

You see I was (am) scheduled to work on Sunday. And I was feeling sorry for myself. Poor me. I have to work while others are having brunch and hunting eggs and enjoying their friends and families. Boo hoo! Poor poor me!

Then, in a flash of inspiration, it occurred to me I *might* be able switch up my schedule. And indeed I could. Now instead of working the morning I am working the afternoon. This is much more amenable as I can participate in festivities before running off to make that pesky living.

With my schedule switched came the realization that Easter was nearly upon us. And I have done NOTHING to prepare. But, despite my procrastination, I couldn't bear the thought of plastic baskets full of disposable plastic junk. Additionally our finances require frugality and creativity rather than expenditure. As such I've been on a crafting binge.

First came girly baskets from an upcycled pillow case and left over fabric. I'm hoping they'll use them as lunch bags once our egg hunt is over. I'm also in the process of making these fantastic finger puppet bunnies. A tutorial can be found at Purl Bee.

Now I decided not to mortify the boy with a basket of his very own. Rather I tried to go masculine and yet stick with my crafty homemade theme. As such he will be getting a freezer paper stenciled tee shirt. I'm rather tickled with the way it turned out and am feeling quite crafty indeed. In addition the boy will get a new pair of flannel pajama pants. These pants were born from a left over sheet and are a quick and simple sewing project.

Also in the queue are these fantabulous carrot pouches which will be filled with jelly beans. Yes, some candy is warranted.

Tomorrow I hope to plant wheat grass in recycled tins (if we're lucky it'll sprout by Sunday). And tomorrow will be the night to finally dye some eggs. I've not quite figured out our strategy there but I'm sure inspiration will strike.

Now I must bid you adieu as I must go to work.

Have a fabulous day!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fuel to the Fire

This weekend we went to a small farm equipment auction and flea market. Marching around in the cold and the wind, perusing the vendors, petting the animals -- this did nothing but add fuel to the fire. Now, more than ever, I dream of a small farm of my very own.

Just a couple of acres (two ... or perhaps five). A red weathered barn. Pasture for goats and sheep and maybe one cow. A pig or two. Chickens and a greenhouse. And old farmhouse or a log cabin or both. That's all I need. Oh and honey bees. A place for hives. Now that's all I need.

Tonight I will dream sweet dreams and send my desires out into the universe. Oh the life I'd love to lead. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will come true.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Sustainability in the Kitchen

I eat a lot of yogurt. A lot. Typically I'll have a smoothie a day made with plain yogurt, a banana, and frozen berries. Sometimes I'll add peanut butter. It's delicious and oh so healthy. We buy a lot of bulk plain yogurt and thus have collected many large plastic containers. Our collection is ever increasing and I'm concerned about our consumption of all this material.

But here's the thing. We don't have to collect containers any more. As of yesterday I started making my own yogurt following the basic instructions here. Only I didn't heat the milk to 180 degrees. Thus my first batch came out a touch runnier than I'd like. So this morning I am making another batch with the extra heating step to thicken it up. Last night's batch is going to be turned into cream cheese.

Additionally I have a bottle of whipping cream waiting to be spun into butter. If these kitchen experiments pan out not only will I save money I'll also save on packaging and decrease our overall carbon footprint; a definite win-win.

But I'm not done there. I've got issues with milk. With the way it's produced. The way the cows are housed and treated in large production dairies. Milk is pasteurized because it invariably comes with contaminants -- bad bacteria and the like. And most of our milk comes from grain-fed cattle. Organic milk is no better. Believe you me -- one of the worst dairies I've ever visited was an organic facility*.

So I'm scheduling a tour of a small local dairy that sells cow shares. Their cows are pasture raised in small groups. Though contamination is still possible it is much less likely in a small properly run dairy.

If this facility meets muster I will purchase a share and we will join the raw milk revolution. This milk is whole and pure. It comes with cream on top. It would be delectable for making yogurt and butter and sour cream and cream cheese.

One share would get us about a gallon of milk a week. This is not enough to meet the needs of my milk guzzling children. However I'm going to try to substitute almond milk for the remainder. And even that I'd like to make on my own.

I may have been raised a child of the industrial revolution; new technology at every turn. But I'm slowly but surely stepping back; learning the crafts of yesteryear and finding them to satisfy my needs and desires. As it turns out some things were better in the good 'ol days.

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* Though I am a small animal veterinarian I was also taught large animal medicine in school. Thus I was given an intimate view into the dairy world and livestock production.

I believe in organic for many things -- fruits, vegetables and grains for instance. However I also believe in judicious antibiotic use. If an animal is sick it deserves the chance to become well. And antibiotics can play an important role in healing for certain and specific diseases. If these animals are pulled from the milk line for the prescribed withdrawal period then the drugs will not enter the consumption stream.

I've seen too many animal suffer with curable illnesses simply to gain an 'organic' label. My goal as a omnivore is to eat animals that were treated humanely. Parasite ridden diseased animals do not fit this category for me. This is not to say all organic animals are treated as such. But one should know where their food comes from.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Sustainability

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about sustainability. Several weeks back our microwave broke. We elected not to replace it. Consumer goods are made to break. To be replaced. And I've had enough. I am tired of everything being dispensable and/or obsolete. Companies do that you know -- planned obsolescence. Ours is a throw away society and it breaks my heart.

The thing is. These things, these items we are throwing away, have so much life left in them. My sewing machine for instance. This "worthless" machine has whipped out numerous projects. Most of which were made from thrifted material. All stuff thrown by the wayside.

Sure. My machine is basic. It doesn't embroider fancy logos or harbor computer chips full of intricate stitch patterns. But guess what? I have needles. I have floss. If I want something embroidered I can do it by hand. And it feels more personal that way. A bit of love stitched in.

On the thread of sewing and sustainability and I whipped out a new project yesterday. Reusable grocery bags born from feed bags.

Oh how I *love* that I have feed bags.
I adore my chickens and only wish I also had room for
sheep and goats and cow and maybe a pig.

I did not follow a tutorial. It seems I've amassed enough sewing knowledge to knock out a bag on my own (I know how to sew! I know how to sew!). However in writing this post I scavenged a tutorial for you should you like to try this for yourself.

I don't have a serger so I simply sewed across the bottom. I did triple stitch for extra security. The material doesn't fray when cut so rather than sew or glue down the triangles I simply trimmed them off. I've been walking through the house with a gallon of milk in the bag and it seems plenty sturdy without the extra (and somewhat tedious) sewing step.

I also made my handles shorter -- more like a traditional paper bag. Now I can't wait to go to the grocery store. Hmmm. Looks like I ought to make a shopping list.

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One of the perils of searching the web is finding projects I didn't know I needed to make. And yet, after seeing them, I clearly have to take part. While searching for the feed bag tutorial I came across these projects that are now in my queue.

Oh the beauty of the world wide web!


Friday, April 8, 2011

{This Moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Playing along with Soulemama this week. You, too, can join in.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Caught in the act (of reading that is!)

I walked upstairs camera in hand. My hope? To find enough light for product photos. Though I'm told it's spring the snow and hail speak otherwise. Natural light is in short supply.

I popped my head into the girls' room expecting to find Little at the computer. She adores Club Penguin. But she wasn't at the desk. She was on her bed - reading. A girl after my own heart!

Oh I have been waiting for this day. I, myself, am an avid reader. Always have been. But my children? Not so much.

We do read. Stories before bed; girls all snuggled up and winding down together. Every once in a while the boy joins us. But, sadly, he seems to have outgrown this tradition.

Despite my example and gentle nudging it's rare to find the kids reading of their own accord. Oh how I hope this trend continues, and grows like wildfire to boot.