Monday, June 30, 2008

Christmas in July

I know, it does seem a bit crazy, or cruel to bring up the idea of Christmas right after encouraging a buying ban, but I assure you, there is a method to my madness.

I have a large number of family and friends that is getting bigger every year due to marriages and pregnancies. That means that every year I have more and more people to get Christmas presents for. I currently have about 30 individuals or families I would like to give personal gifts to. Even if I spent only $10 on each of these people/families (which we can probably all agree is a fairly small amount for a nice personal gift), I would spend $300 on gifts. In reality I usually spend much more than $10 on many of the people on my list.

The Christmas season (one wish should end with happy memories of family togetherness) often ends with reminders of debt accumulated during the season. We are also left with a mountain of discarded wrapping, but that is another story.

As green crafters we have the ability to make wonderful gifts, for little or no money, but it does require some time and planning. For crafters, especially knitters, July is the perfect time to begin thinking about holiday gift giving. Check out some of my Reuse posts for ideas on material scrounging. I will be adding more ideas in during the month.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

July No Buying Challenge




Nearly every eco-friendly blog or website I visit focuses a lot of it's content on the cool new green stuff you an buy, so that your consumption leaves a smaller footprint on the planet. They forget to mention that an even smaller foot print is left by NOT buying the cool new green stuff. Keeping and using your old stuff, even if the old stuff was not produced in an environmentally friendly manner, is almost always better for the environment then buying new green stuff (see note at bottom). Using your old stuff has the additional advantage of keeping a lot of green in your wallet.

This observation has led me to focus my blog on reusing products whenever possible, but I would like to do more. That is why I am officially issuing a challenge to friends, family, and readers. I challenge everyone to limit their purchases to necessary items only for the entire month of July. Lets try to do what is right for both our world, and our bank accounts.

Who: All of you, your friends, family, friendly strangers, whomever will listen.
What: Limiting purchases to only necessary items.
When: July 2008
Why: To open our eyes to truly sustainable living, both environmentally and economically.

What do you win? Potentially hundreds of dollars, and a new perspective on what is really needed, and what really contributes to our overall happiness and wellbeing.

What is necessary? I will leave this distinction up to you. My list of necessary items includes food (minimally processed, not including take out or eat out), prescription drugs, gas, personal higene products, and anything required for work, or basic home upkeep. It does not include shoes or clothes, craft supplies, or even gifts. I also plan on using items that have been building up in my house, like the speciality lotions that are often received as gifts, before I buy new ones.

Through out the month I plan on giving tips for buying less, and spending less, while living a eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. This will include eliminating many convenience items from your life, reusing items that would otherwise be discarded, and making or repairing items that would otherwise be bought.

I hope to hear from everyone that takes on this challenge. Please share both success and failure, as well as your own tips and tricks.

~Gerwerken

Note: When something must be replaced it is better for the environment to buy an environmentally friendly product; however, products are often replaced when they could be repaired or reused.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Convergence

Today should have been my second day at Convergence, the Tampa yarn fest; however, I am at home. I started feeling bad the night before I was to leave, and thought it was probably just stress after all of the medical issues we have been having lately. Since we still don't know what is wrong with DH I was a little worried about leaving him, and not being able to get back to him if something happened. After hours of vomiting the day before my wedding, I know that I react poorly to stress. My DS also vomited twice this week without any apparent cause, so I knew that real, contagious illness could also be the cause.

While I think stress may still be the cause of my own nausea, the kids obviously have some kind of GI illness. At this point I think I did the right thing by staying home, rather than potentially infecting lots of people, but I would still really liked to have gone to Convergence.

All I have to say about this situation is that only hospitalization or institutionalization will keep me away from SAFF this year. If I have to I will wear a bubble, just slip the yarn through the food slot.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gardening

Organic, local, cheap.... which type of food is best? How about all three?
The picture above is a sweet pepper blossom from my garden. It was grown organically, from seed, about 20 feet from my back door. Organic, local, and cheap. It's even better though. Not only does it provide everything I want in my food, it also gives me exercise, and time outdoors with my kids.
My kids love our garden. We play in it and around it. They help take care of the "baby" plants, and learn about them in the process. My DD has been particularly fond of it. She has her own planting box that she takes care of that is filled with non toxic flowers, but the edibles are her favorite. She received the tomatoes in the above picture as a treat for good behavior - a treat she requested.
In the future we would like to grow most, if not all of our produce ourselves, but this year our garden is rather small, housing only our favorite vegetables and herbs, as well as a few bug repellent plants.

Organic gardening has been a learning process. I can't just pour some chemicals on the plants to make them grow faster/bigger, and I also can't kill off the bugs and weeds with chemicals either. Growing in Florida has been a blessing and a curse. We have a much longer warm season than most areas so I can wait for plants to mature and fudge a bit on the planting dates. Our heat also kills off some plant varieties though (hardy here means an ability to survive the heat rather than the cold), encourages weed growth, and gives us more prolific bugs than most other places. Most gardening books are geared toward more temperate areas than ours, so finding information can be difficult as well.

Here is a few things I have learned from gardening in Florida thus far;
  1. Very tender seedlings should not be planted in the ground before April, because freeze is still a possibility however remote.
  2. Try to get seedlings established before June, or the heat will kill them. If seedlings are not established by June they can still survive with careful tending and protection from the heat.
  3. Herbs that like full sun else where may need afternoon shade here.
  4. Strong barrier methods are the best protection from weeds, but in Florida weeds still manage to find a way through barriers. Weeding is a must in organic gardens.
There is more. There is much more to know about organic gardening in Florida. I, however, am a novice, and I am learning as I go. I do plan to keep notes on the progress of the garden though, and I will be posting those notes regularly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Salvaged Skirt

After my first child was born I was in need of some new clothes, as mine didn't fit. I wasn't willing, or able to go out and buy a new wardrobe full of clothes that I was hoping I would only wear for a limited time. My solution was making some new clothes that could be easily taken in as my waist line diminished.

One of my first and favorite post pregnancy creations was a pleated, green linen skirt in New Look Pattern 6566 (I don't think it is in print any more). The skirt was worn extensively, taken in several times, and worn some more. The skirt was finally retired when one of it's small holes turned into one giant rip, that was beyond repair.

This skirt was recently reincarnated as a pillow cover. It is sized for a standard 14" x 14" pillow form with a side Velcro closure (a closure type I am not planning on using in the future). The leafs were simply painted on with fabric paint. I would have liked to make another with the same fabric; however, the fabric was in such bad shape that while there was enough fabric for a second pillow, it could be used. My kids enjoyed playing with the extra fabric though.
You can see in the second picture that the area directly under the leaves is slightly lighter than the surrounding fabric. That is because I originally tried to bleach the pattern into the fabric, rather than painting it on. Needless to say the bleach didn't work. That is probably what I deserve for using a harmful chemical I probably shouldn't have had in my house in the first place. My only excuse is that it is a left over from my nesting, have to sanitize everything, phase from my last pregnancy, and I didn't want to waste it.

Jean Coasters

The good news is that I am finally posting about all of the projects I've done in the recent weeks. The bad news is that I hurt my wrist (probably due to the marathon knitting done at the hospital the other night), and that most of my crafting endeavors are out of the question until my wrist is feeling better. Since I have several blog back logged projects, I am considering it a blessing in disguise.

On with the show.

While it is still not technically summer, here in Florida we have already had one full week of temperatures bordering 100 degrees F. I am behind on clothes shopping for the kids, especially for my oldest, because she is not wearing hand me downs. On a particularly hot day when there were no shorts to be found, my DH took scissors to my DD jeans and made long shorts. Not wanting to throw away perfectly good material, I decided to make the remnants much needed coasters. The following is the result.

Process:
I simply cut the jean material into 4" x 4" squares. I did the same to some wool felt (the felt adds an element of waterproofness to the absorbency of the jean material). I layered the jean and felt, then did some simple, geometric machine quilting to attach the pieces. Voila!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oops...I upcycled all over the wall.

I generally take issue with the word "upcycle", preferring to use the word "reuse."

The word upcycle was origionally proposed in the book, From the Cradle to the Grave: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by McDonough and Braungart. It was coined to give a name to the use of waste materials to make useful products. It is also obviously playing off the word recycle, that is now in the common vernacular, and is common practice. Recycling is the reprocessing of old materials into new products. The problem with recycling is that many of the most commonly recycled goods, i.e. paper and plastic, are turned into a lower quality good. For instance, recycled plastics are a lower grade than the plastics they were made of.

I believe that the word "upcycle" implies the opposite of "recycle," or the making of higher quality material from waste goods; however, in upcycling the nature of the good does not change, it is simply used in a new way. "Reuse" seems to me a far more appropriate term for the process.

However, I believe that I may have finally produced a product worthy of the name "upcycle."

A few years ago my grandmother gave me a beautiful ornate picture frame, with a gorgeous picture in it, that just didn't match my style.

The picture in question.

After about a year of looking at this picture frame everyday, I was in need of a message board, but I really didn't want a giant ugly white board on my wall. Finally, I had a use for the frame. I decided to paint the back of the glass in the frame leaving the front of the glass a perfect surface for dry erase markers. This system worked perfectly for about two years, but I was never very happy about the look of the paint on the glass.
The painted white board.

Then I found out about looking glass paint.

Looking Glass is a spray paint by Krylon that creates a mirror finish on plain glass. So I scraped all the paint off the back of the glass, and painted the back of the glass with Looking Glass twice. The finish I got is very similar to an antique mirror. I do not know if this is the finish that the paint should produce because despite the admonition on the bottle that the paint should not be used in high humidity, Florida did not provide me with humidity under 70%. The finish is however, exactly what I was hoping for, and I think it turned out beautifully. Unfortunately the picture really doesn't do it justice.
The new mirror message board.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Knitting Goals

Ali over at Skeins Her Way is having a Summer Knitting Goals Contest with some great prizes. It is actually the kind of event that I would love to host one day when I have a larger readership, and more money. Until then, here are my goals;
  1. Finish my sister's bag by her birthday, which is only about 3 weeks away. After about 5 different design iterations, I think I have finally landed on an idea that I can stick with.
  2. Finish the Gone With the Wind (ravelry link) hat. I have actually finished the knitting, I just need to install the brim wire. I have been having a hard time finding a local store that sells millinery wire, so I may have to go online.
  3. Fix my mistake, and knit at least one repeat of the Icarus Shawl, installing life lines at least every 20 rows.
  4. Finish all of the large projects that are currently on the needles before starting any more large projects. I am going to consider the sweater that I swatched for last night as on the needles. This goal feels like a not knitting goal, rather than a knitting goal, but I just can't leave these projects languishing any longer.
  5. Take pictures of and notes on the progress I am making while knitting, rather then the finished project alone.
Thats it.

I should note at this point that Ali, the woman that is running the project, has shammed me with her knitting goals. Despite the fact that she has 6 kids and one on the way, she seems to have more knitting time than I have day light hours. I need to find out her secret.

Back in the Hospital

For the second time in two months I spent most of the night in the emergency room with my husband. He again had symptoms reminiscent of a heart attack. He appears to be in no immediate danger, but we still have no idea what is wrong. So another barrage of tests is on the horizon.

Ironically, I spent yesterday in our doll hospital, performing plastic surgery on Isa, my daughter's iguana friend who was brutality attacked and mauled by our dog. She will always have the scars, but I believe that once she fully recovers from the surgery she will be able to lead a normal life.

The following pictures are of Isa post surgery. I will not be sharing preoperative pictures, as they are simply too gruesome.







On the up side I was able to do a lot of knitting in the hospital. I finished the large swatch for my sister's bag, and felted it today, Swatched for the Holly Jacket, and made an apple and lime which I finished today. Here they are;


Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Diaper Dash

Wow. Somehow it seems like it has been a long time since I posted last. Even though it has only been a few days a lot has happened. Last week my kids ran the Diaper Dash with M's kids. The local track club holds a track series every summer, and the first several races are 40 meter dashes for the under 5 crowd. Despite the sweltering heat here on the gulf coast the kids had a great time. Here is a picture of the girls getting psyched for the race. Little brother is running around in the back ground - there are no boys allowed, of course.

Below is a picture of my son running the race.
Here is my DD and her friend M on the home stretch.
This is another one of M before the race, ......
and one of my son after.
It was really hot, and bed time was approaching.

I have a lot of new projects to share with everyone in the next few days, but for now I will leave you with just a little peek.
I got my new bag, and so far I really like it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What is living simply/voluntary simplicity?

That is actually a difficult question. Living simply means different things to different people. As I have tried to practice it over the years my concept has evolved, and will probably continue to evolve as my priorities change. At the moment I believe that living simply means getting rid of the excess in our lives in favor of the basics, and getting rid of those things that do not positively contribute to our lives in favor of those things that fulfill us. Things can mean objects, projects, jobs, or even people.

One of the ways I have simplified is by becoming a SAHM. I decided that my kid's care was more important to me than my job or the income that it brought in. Now that my kids are getting older, and will be able to start preschool soon I may decide to go back to work or work more extensively from home.

Another way in which I have simplified is by getting rid of nearly everything in my home that had no greater purpose than collecting dust. Now my house is rather more empty than it was, but those things that remain have value for me and my family. In getting rid of those things I have saved my self time and money on the upkeep of those objects that I can instead spend on something that really matters.

Does living simply mean getting back to basics or living like the Amish? It can, but I think that "basic" living simply highlights those aspects of our lives that matter. It highlights family, people, self reliance, and social connections; however, a technologically advanced lifestyle can highlight those values as well.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Organopónicos

I came across this article the other day while researching organic gardening, and thought others might find it interesting as well.

Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Block Cuba got most of it's fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals from the Soviets. After the collapse their chemical supply was cut off. The city of Havana had been producing food through hydroponics. The hydroponic facilities were almost immediately converted to container gardens. Now small scale container gardens are all over urban Cuba, even in highway medians. These gardens now produce about a million tons of food a year. All of these gardens are sanctioned by the government, and use organic gardening practices (the only type of gardening allowed in Havana proper).

This practice in Cuba reminds me of Gorilla Gardening, but instead of being illicit, it is legal and encouraged. Just imagine what Gorilla Gardeners would be capable of producing if they were encouraged to produce.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mmmmmm......Fiber

See!!!!! I haven't forsaken knitting!

This pattern is Knit Strawberries by Pezdiva. I followed this patterned EXACTLY as written, which is very rare for me, but it is a really good pattern. It is actually my new favorite intermission pattern (that is when I need a break from a larger project). It takes only about 20 minutes to make a strawberry so they give me near instant gratification. Knitting one of these little babies helps me remember that larger projects will eventually be finished.

Knitting the fake food has also helped me realize that my kids don't need anymore cheap toys. Notice that I didn't say inexpensive.

According to Merriam-Webster cheap means "at minimum expense," and inexpensive means, "reasonable in price."

Christmas of 2006 my DH and I bought our DD some cheap toy food from the dollar section at Target. We bought a mix of fruit and vegetables. They were all one color, and about one size, regardless of the fruit or vegetable represented (the strawberry and celery were the same size). The following picture is a comparison between the strawberries I knit, and the plastic strawberry that was in the set we bought at Target. Sure there is a place for cheap plastic foods, but that place is not in my house anymore. Instead my kids are going to get inexpensive toys like these knit strawberries. The yarn was already in my stash, and it took very little time to knit. The cost to make these strawberries in both time and money was quite low, but they were not as cheap as $1 during a trip to Target. So now instead of supporting a big box store, the inappropriate use of oil (in the form of plastic), and instant gratification, I am supporting hand work, renewable resources (wool), and patience (waiting a little while for mom to finish the new toy). Most of all I enjoy making the toys for my kids, and my kids have already played with their fibery fruit than they ever played with the plastic stuff.

Speaking of reasonably priced, but not cheap stuff.......
After months of researching all of my options I have finally ordered a new knitting bag. It was a difficult decision to make. All of the options were really quite good, and the decision finally settled on preference alone rather than any particular strong point in the bag I picked or weak point in the bags I didn't pick. In only a few short days I will be receiving a Swift by Tom Bihn. It seemed the most utilitarian and adaptable for me. In a few weeks I plan to do a review on it.

Finally, a little something from the Tom Bihn website.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Simple Sunday

According to Duane Elgin, "we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living."

Loving life with less......

Stay tuned.