Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday thoughts

Today was the first day in 2011 for leaving the windows open. It often seems warmer outside than in, given the slow temperature shift inside the house, but today was warmer enough that letting the fresh air inside felt pleasurable. Another seasonal marker, there were three eggs in the nest box this evening... yay! The hens are getting back in the groove, spring is definitely returning. Hopefully there will be some gaps in the dampness this weekend, and I'll be able to get out in the yard and get some peas and greens planted.

As you recall, our trusty heroine is moving towards an improved EDC, and with that in mind, picked up a P-38 last week. Yesterdays supper was a great opportunity to actually try it out. While not as smooth to operate as my trusty decades-old Swing-A-Way, it was surprisingly quick and easy to use. It left the can lid rather scallopy, but not sharp enough to be dangerous; there is a narrow lip of metal left inside the can edge as well, but as long as you use utensils, and do not lick the can, you would really have to make an effort to hurt yourself. Given that either this useful tool, or it's bigger sibling the P-51 is under a dollar, and small and light enough to add to a key chain, I'd say that it is an excellent addition to anyones kit.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wishful Wednesday - thinking about canning...

There are quite a few packages of various berries in my freezer here, as well as all sorts of leftovers, and an assortment of cold-packs. I'm not actually certain what is on the bottom layer down below all of that. Berries are one of the easiest things to process, being acidic enough not to require adding lemon juice; they can be canned simply as whole berries, turned into puree, or sweetened and made into jam.

Goodness knows that there is more than enough jam on my pantry shelves, so I am thinking about turning the frozen berries into canned fruit puree. Why? Because one of my this-year goals is to defrost the freezer, which will be easier if it is not so full; I have a chest freezer, which is more efficient than an upright, but a bit more challenging to deal with.

, I just discovered that storing a case of apples in the coldest cupboard in the house, even in my beloved (and very chilly) Acorn Cottage is not a good idea; for the first few months they held well, but it has been over three months, and more than a quarter of them are no longer edible (sigh...) Compost without guilt. The few that are still sound will be turned into sauce.

While I still have some of the common metal one-use-only lids, I'd like to acquire and try using some of the reuseable canning jar lids. One friend has tried them with successful results. Based on the prices around town, and online, it only takes between three and five times before they pay for themselves. If anyone out there wants to get together and learn a bit about canning, do let me know, I'd be happy to share information, as part of continuing to build resilience into our local community.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

tuesday thoughts

Sometimes, it feels like there is nothing noteworthy to write about... life goes on, the work of the world of Acorn Cottage continues being done, some things easy, some challenging. Maybe it is just that this has been a pretty intense year so far, and the last few days a breather of sorts. Sometimes it helps not to focus entirely on the handbasket and the route the world is taking, lest burnout become overwhelming. And grateful I am indeed for the friends and family that help keep me from losing my balance...

I always forget that I actually like drawing. Don't seem to do as much of it as in younger days, when it was an escape from the boredom of the classroom. There are a few new regalia projects in the works, and that requires proper working drawings for reference and approval, rather than my rough sketches, so yesterday I set up a drawing spot on the dining table. A few years ago, one of these Levengers "Editor's Desks" showed up at the local Goodwill, and promptly came home with me. I like having a slanted surface to work on, and the other details actually work as designed to facilitate keeping reference images handy to view, and pencils and pens close to hand at the base. I'd certainly never purchase it new, but for $4.99 it is a useful addition to the workspace...

Between chores and studio work, and before tackling the "make a new pattern for overalls" project, it seemed a good time to start on new curtains for the living room. Found some thrifted chambray flannel sheet sets that will be enough fabric so that both windows can have curtains that match. Several years ago, I started making curtains from some beautiful woodgrain jacquard linen, partially finished one set, but it has become apparent that the curtains should have been cut with greater width. No loss, the lovely fabric can become something else, and the chambray flannel, (which is not as soft as preferred for bedsheets) will work well in its place. Hopefuly, by the next week or two, this project will be completed.

The past week has been particularly social... Not only did I have some unexpected mid-week visiting time with G, which is always a treat for me, but two of my favorite Olympia women friends were down here all Saturday. There was shopping (Ikea and Powells) sushi eating (Sushi Ichiban) and additional visiting with the delightful A. But wait, there is more... Sunday was a mixture of work and play too... Had an incredibly tasty breakfast* out, at the Berlin Inn, a new-to-me restaurant that is definitely being added to my short list. Thanks to W for bringing me along, and it was a great chance to catch up with folks I'd not seen in far too long... After quite a while sorting out ideas for a new medallion design for M, I headed back north to the St Johns Pub, to meet with friends and see The Illusionist (my second viewing) The film was just as beautiful, and heartbreakingly sad, as the first time. It is fun to see films in the pub theater though, since it is all tables and chairs, and you can order food and drink to enjoy while viewing - I love McMenamins!

* two homemade potato pancakes topped with smoked NW salmon and melted parmesan, dill cream fraiche, and fresh spinach and marinated cucumber salad. (half came home with me for another meal)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

random fragments

Despite the cold wind and rain, spring is on the way. There are flowers on the forsythia, and the ornamental plum trees that shade the front of Acorn Cottage all summer are dresses in their springtime finery, the delicate pink blossoms that precede the dark purple leaves. Those never last long, and the wind will turn them to pink snow across the yard, but for now, 'tis very lovely to look at. The street trees up on Lombard are also starting to flower, they are the much maligned ornamental pear trees (ornamental meaning no fruit) but for a few days each year, they soften a harsh environment...

Friday started most leisurely and excellently, as I was able to see the new ink that G had acquired the day before... (I had a hand in the drawing up of the artwork, following his requested designs and lettering, and collaborating via the interweb)This is the second time I've helped with artwork for skin art, and it is quite an honor.
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Spent part of the afternoon visiting with S & B chatting about resilience, and also taking pictures of my old car Nimblefoot, so as to be able to get the Craigslist ad up and functional. There is also a Yakima rack (bars, towers and locks), not necessarily being sold with the car - anyone looking for something like that? Would be willing to barter, as I've not much use for it these days.
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My online pal A in Tennessee sent me a huge envelope, all decorated with drawings of acorns and oak leaves, full of "artificial silk" embroidery floss. I'm not certain how old the floss is, but based on the tags on some of the skeins, it looks to be from somewhere in the teens to the thirties of last century; I'm thinking possibly bungalow era. Very vintage, very nifty, shiny and pretty. I have seen old vintage embroidered house-linens and suchlike with similar materials used... Thank you so much, it will be fun to use this in various projects for around Acorn Cottage.
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An interesting bit about the use of focus and distraction... for various mostly boring reasons, I've had several blood draws done in the last few weeks. This is always a difficult process, even for a good tech, as my veins seem to be as tiny as my wrists. The tech at the most recent one, though, did something I've never before experienced, which helped a lot... while the process was going on, she held my hand and gently rubbed her finger in circles on the back of my wrist. (no, she wasn't being flirty!) By doing this, it gave me something else tactile to focus on, rather than the process and the pain, and greatly eased the entire event. I thanked her for making it significantly less traumatic than usual, though I do my best to relax and calm during, this simple act made a huge difference.

Friday, March 25, 2011

start where you are...

One of the things I've been meaning to do is to make up a pocket first aid kit, as part of making my EDC more resilient. Found an unused altoids-size tin floating around, and realised that rather than just continuing to research what might be appropriate, that simply putting in some of the obvious bits would be a far better option. Then it would be in my pocketses, and could be upgraded as knowledge allowed, but still with me starting right now.

I'm already carrying around my epi-pen, and an albuterol inhaler (both useful, but hopefully never necessary) Looked all round-about to find one of these "Uncle Bill's Sliver Gripper Tweezers" locally, and finally tracked it down at Winks. I like the fact that it is all one piece of stainless steel, and the keyring-ready steel sheath-holder cleverly locks the tweezer in place with an integral steel lug. (what can I say, I get a thrill from elegant design)

So, what is in the pocket tin currently? Bandaids, butterfly strips, antibiotic cream, burn gel, 4 days worth of my basic meds, benadryl, and ibuprofen. Not sure what else would be a good addition...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

thursday thoughts

There were a number of comments in response to my last missive; as part of his reply, A posed some interesting questions:

"Who are you? What do you do? Are you worth my time? Am I worthy of yours? Not 'What can you do for me?' which is a more common question in our selfish and materialistic world, but rather: what excites you? what do you do about it?"

My reply to these was...

Who I am is a woman who does her best to create a life that makes sense, given my view of reality; this has been my goal for as long as I've been conscious. Who I am is a woman who makes an effort to BE conscious, to the best of my ability, and to have a reasonable amount of voluntary control in how my being in the world creates ripples in the common reality. I am a woman who has somehow finally managed to become an grown-up, without (I hope) losing my sense of and connection to childhood joy

What I do is make things; with my hands and eyes and various skills, I bring things from the world of idea to the world of materiality. What I do very best is design, next best are my sewing skills, and my other skills of metalwork and enameling and home-keeping are still very much a work in progress.

What excites me is where, I think, that my focus is shifting from past interests to some new as yet unknown... There is, inside, a turning of some kind, and I do not yet know where or what I am turning towards... The subjects of my former delight are, while still enjoyable, no longer magnetic.

What I do about all this, (other than write about it) is to have faith in my own process of growth, which has brought me so far, though not without great struggle over the years, to a place of balance at last. What I do about this is to continue to do the work of the world that comes to my hands, and to share what skills I know with any who seek that knowledge.

I'd be curious how other friends and folks would answer these questions....

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here is a tiny glimpse of one of my current projects...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

be creative and make stuff...

Not sure why, but my interest in the MeMade challenge is just not there, it feels somehow less relevant right now. With all else that needs to be done, why take time each morning to take pictures of what I am wearing that day? Maybe it is the state of the world, which continues to devolve, and why focus on what feels like frivolity? Maybe it is simply a been-there done-that, and isn't really challenging me, but that doesn't feel accurate, since my desire to sew for myself right now is not very strong either. Maybe it is that there are an assortment of sewing-for-others projects on my plate right now?

I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, since I read Sigrid's post yesterday, and really felt a resonance. I'm solidly committed to MostlyMeMade clothing in my life already, not just for a particular online challenge, and that may be part of why MMMar feels a bit irrelevant to me. And somehow, there are other challenges in the outer world that feel a more immediate necessity for me to focus on.

Now mind, this doesn't mean a sudden change in my behavior or habits. I'll keep on sewing, and cooking, and preserving, and making, because that is what I do and who I am... As in the essay that Sigrid referenced, making for ourselves is a kind of revolutionary act, or as I myself told a former housemate who was berating me for being apolitical: my politics is in the actions of my daily life, the choices made there are what really changes the world...

Monday, March 21, 2011

in which our plucky heroine wishes for splinter-tweezers...

Another misty moisty morning... Eventually it will warm up, (in another month or two) and I'll be whinging about the heat, but for now, every day is chill and grey; layers of clothing, and remembering a hat, are what keep a body relatively comfortable. Today's clothing: black knit top, light blue flowered dress, navy corduroy jumper with embroidered hem, stripey refashioned vest, light blue handknit baktus scarf, goretex hat.

It is surprising how much difference smiling makes. I should remember this. Of course, I do smile quite a lot actually, but it is not necessarily the default. More so now than in years past though...

Am thinking about simple ways to improve my EDC*. Probably adding in a small first aid kit in something like an Altoids tin would be a big help. I often end up needing something like a splinter-tweezer, or a bandaid and something to put on a cut, (while out and about cleaning houses) and having my chosen self-care tools and supplies handy would be, well, rather handy! Might be a good topic to share with local pals and/or neighborly roundtable folks. After all, having a good first aid kit at home does not much help when one is not at home...

*EDC = Every Day Carry = the stuff that gets carried around in ones pocketses/pocketbook

Sunday, March 20, 2011

not bored yet... MeMadeMarch - day 20

It sure is good that my idea of an appropriate wardrobe doesn't involve wearing something different every day. There are a modest number of clothes in my closet, and they get worn, mixed and matched until they wear out, whereupon I make some more. Everything I'm wearing today has already been seen at least one or more times already: the grey long-sleeve top, grey corduroy jumper, handknit sweater, long knit scarf and knit hat...

I'm almost ready to start making a few more garments for myself, just trying to decide if it will be better to take apart my overalls, or pull a pattern off them without disassembly first. The former is easier, but leaves me with no pants at all (until the new pair is made) while the latter is a pain to do, but does not require destruction of the original garment. Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

signs of spring

Looking around the yard, there are more and more indications that winter will be turning to springtime before long. Though my eyes love the grey days, warmth will be a welcome change, when wearing four or five layers will no longer be a necessity for the body's comfort...

But look, there are buds on the blueberry! This is a happy thing indeed, as I'd feared that transplanting it into the ground last year had been a fatal mistake. This plant was a housewarming gift six years ago, from my late friend L, and glad I am that it has survived and will be continuing to bless my home and honor her memory...

The garlics, planted last fall, are looking strong with new growth. Hoping to get enough to eat a few one or two heads as well as seed garlic for next year.

This is bittercress, (for anyone who was unsure of what they look like). Now that I know they are edible, will most likely add a tiny bit to things like salad, or cooked greens; as a kind of nature vitamin.

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Today's me-made clothing: grey rayon knit top, grey acorn and leaf print dress, grey chambray pinafore, grey sunhat. It isn't raining, and my plan is to go to the big farmer's market downtown for Opening Day...

Friday, March 18, 2011

not media monday

I loved the sounds of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits from the first time I heard them long years ago...

but somehow I missed this one, not sure how? (with much gratitude to G for introducing me to "Telegraph Road" on Wednesday) it's a long song, but well worth it...

Though I didn't take time to photograph my clothing midweek, today I wore my blue ikat dress with the brown corduroy jumper...

On Wednesday, I wore the dark grey chambray dress and the grey corduroy jumper with the bird embroidery

And yesterday I wore the same jumper as today, but with my green Hawaiian shirt instead. Having my clothing all mix and match makes my getting dressed in the morning quite simple, which is always my preference.

an unexpected journey

in which our plucky heroine travels up the river to New Stonehenge.

On Tuesday night, there was a chance that G might be stopping here for a bit on his rambling round, so with that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to mix up some gingerbread. With impeccable timing, he came walking up to the front door of Acorn Cottage about five minutes after the cake came out of the oven... On hearing that I'd never been to the Henge, he suggested a road trip up the Columbia River (seemed like a delightful idea, especially since there was no work on my calendar for Wednesday) After a leisurely start the next morning, we headed east on I-84. At a rest stop somewhere before The Dalles, we found the most alarmingly pushy squirrels ever...

As we drove up to the parking area, a woman exited the building only to be chased to her truck by a group of huge grey squirrels. She called out, asking if they would attack; feeling very naughty, I replied "well of course they will, and one will run in front of you so you trip and fall, then they will take everything from your pockets..." She looked even more frightened, so I reassured her that I was spinning a tale, and that they were not dangerous!

The little rodents were strangely marked, being spotted from the shoulders on back with little white spots like a guinea, and really huge. It seems that visitors feed them, since they come right up to folks, and will grab things from your hands. It was a very odd feeling to have a squirrel touch my fingers with tiny clawed paws, though all I was offering was one of the maple samaras that were covering the ground. Leaving there, we continued east, and the further we traveled the brighter and sunnier the day became...
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In the years since my last visit to the eastern lands up the Columbia Gorge, the landscape has acquired some new denizens - there are myriads of windmills, with vanes dancing with the wind, generating electricity and looking far more delicately beautiful than I'd imagined. Of the various manmade additions to the landscape, these seem to be lovely rather than loathsome, perhaps a function of their clean and elegant design. It made me very happy to see them. A vision of a bright and wholesome future...
The light was extraordinary. The variety of mosses and lichens coloring the stones were just beautiful.
Inside the Henge, springtime green and shadow shapes dance, while light and shadow pattern the world; overhead the sky and clouds dance as well...

Doorways and doorways and doorways, and on the far hillside, some of the windmills are barely visible.
The light and dark play hide and seek among the standing stones.

Look south through a doorway, far below is the river, and the distant Oregon plateau beyond.

Only in springtime is the grass ever so green. Not visible in this picture is the wind, which was an almost constant companion on the trip... but of course, the wind is the reason for the windmills moving into the neighborhood...

the Moon showed her lovely face in the late afternoon daytime sky, before we left the Henge to travel west again...

We also visited the Maryhill Museum, and Multnomah Falls, and had a tasty pub dinner at the Edgefield before finally returning to Acorn Cottage late that night. It was a wonderful day from beginning to end!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Today's clothing: black/grey polkadot dress, navy corduroy jumper with embroidered hem, handknit shoulder shawl (Noro Kuryeon +Noro Silk Garden yarn), handknit fingerless mitts (salvaged merino worsted)

Fingerless mitts are a good thing to help keep hands warm in a cold drafty cottage. I wear them often, until the temperature moderates, which does not usually happen here in March; while they look rather 19th century, they are really practical. The first pair I made were only wrist length; these, my second attempt, come halfway up my forearms. The next pair will come almost up to elbow height...

Other than wishing I had more long-sleeve knit tops, there really are enough dresses and jumpers in my closet to keep total clothing boredom at bay. Though it was a great disappointment that my indigo ikat jumper, which I'd hoped to wear today, started disintegrating. Though both the jumper and the fabric are almost new, the black stripes started shredding in the laundry.

Black is a hard dye to get right, and requires usually at least four times the dyestuff to get good color. I've no idea what was used on that particular fabric, but the actual fibers are noticeably weakened, (only the black, not the indigo). This is not the first time that I have had black fabric disintegrate after only a few washings; maybe I should think again about choosing that color, though it is a favorite of mine...
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I've been thinking a lot recently about the ephemerality/survival continuum. The Japanese earthquake is looking to have had pretty horrific effect, and that in a country that is far more advanced than our own in standards and preparation for such events. My heart is grieved at the devastation there. Living as I also do on the edge of the ring of fire, I've never been able to be complacent about the ground staying put, or the built infrastructure holding fast. To a great extent, survival in an earthquake is dependent on luck, but it is also possible to have made Useful Preparations, should luck find one at home at the time (rather than, say, on a bus in the middle of a bridge that should have been upgraded years ago)

With that in mind, I've been just mentioning to the various folks I talk to in my daily errands and such, that having a shelf with ready to eat foodstuffs, and some stored water and suchlike, is a good idea. Some agree, some already have done that, and some just scoff... Methinks that a Neighborly Roundtable meeting about this topic might also be good. Having spent more than half my life on the far western edge of North America, and having been in several noticeable earthquakes already, simple preparations just seem prudent. Yesterday my friend M posted this link, showing the geologic structure that underlies the west coast. a very long sloping fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California. It separates the Juan de Fuca and North America plates. New ocean floor is being created offshore of Washington and Oregon. As more material wells up along the ocean ridge, the ocean floor is pushed toward and beneath the continent." This is the same kind of fault zone that is off the coast of Japan... and there is no reassurance about the same thing not happening here, any time at all, (could be today, could be a hundred years from now...)

*(do check this out, The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network site is full of clear information)

Monday, March 14, 2011

in which our plucky heroine hears a discouraging word

Another blustery day, the rain and wind last night was so intense it was hard to sleep, as the turbine ventilators on the roof ridge were rattling quite loudly. If only they were little wind generators instead, that would be useful...

Clothing today was grab, toss on, and run out the door, as my alarm never went off, and now it is dark in the morning again. I really do not like the twice a year time change. So I'm wearing black leggings, my munki-munki mermaid print top, a blue stripey dress and the denim overall jumper. Goretex is my go-to favorite for rain, and this is the old Eddie Bauer jacket that was refurbished and remodeled to fit better, and the black rainhat that I made.

Waking up late meant that instead of a relaxed transit trip to the Dr this morning, I was hoofing it at a fast walk all the way there. Did 2.25 miles in about 35 minutes, which is not bad. Got there almost on time, if'n I'd waited for the bus it would have taken at least another 30 or 40 minutes or more. Felt pretty pleased with my walking speed, which was rather a push from my more comfortable amble, but got me there quickly...

Unfortunately the news I received there was quite discouraging, OHP pretty much does not rarely ever pays for the necessary surgery, though we will apply anyway. The Dr was unsure if they will even pay for the necessary diagnostic testing. I am attempting to stay calm, and just move forward on doing the next thing. I forsee lots of walking in my future, as that is what I do to improve my equanimity...

On a brighter note, spring continues to arrive. There are small sunbreaks, and the big ornamental plum trees in my front yard are starting to blossom. I finished filling out my 1040, which means that my task of evening arithmetic is more than half done. There are several pleasant social visits planned for this week, and some fun projects in the works.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

our plucky heroine channels her inner geek

Today's clothing: polartec leggings, black/grey rayon long sleeve top, dark grey chambray dress, light grey chambray jumper, and to keep warm, my favorite handknit nightsky partlet. I had to do some serious adaptation of the knitting pattern to get it to fit properly, but it really keeps the chest/shoulders/neck warm.

Today's chores: basic householding, dishes, laundry, catch-up cleaning... interspersed with the delights of income tax form filling out. Have done a little sketching as well, some for projects, and some for my own amusement. Am really wanting to make time for sewing!! Feeling the need for additional long-sleeve tops, and want both overalls and an overall jumper with multi-pockets

Am also quite pleased with myself. Though not outstandingly geeky, I managed to get my computer back to playing tunes again... and managed to locate an alternative media program (this one, open source), check it out, download, scan, and install it on the computer here at Acorn Cottage. And guess what - it worked on first try! I can now reward myself periodically for tax prep tasks, by watching another beloved episode of Firefly. Happy happy me (well as happy as anyone spending the day doing arithmetic can be)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

washing the car...

One of the chores today was washing the car, which as is traditional, quickly turned the afternoon sunshine to rain. This action/reaction is a lot more fun in the summertime. However, the plan is to turn Nimblefoot into a small pile of funds to help pay the taxes, and that requires a bit of spiffing-up to look well both in person and in photos. Nimblefoot (my well-used Saturn wagon) is soon to be going up on the local Craigslist, and hopefully will soon find a new home. It will be much more useful to have the covered carport space empty, than to have it full of a car I don't drive.

So I'm not showing the me-made clothing I wore this morning, since by midafternoon they were all soaking wet and I was quite cold! After some hot tea and warm-from-the-dryer towels, I changed into this: stripey flannel dress, blue polartec leggings, grey corduroy jumper, stripey wool refashioned vest, blue handknit wool scarf and blue handknit acorn hat. All of these have been worn at least once already this month, except the vest.

A few years back there was a fun project at the Church of Craft (sadly no longer meeting) that involved cutting up thrifted sweaters and turning them into other things. I made two vests: one is dark grey with stripey edge-binding, and an embroidered patch on the back with...a bird on it, the other one is mostly stripey, with a floral band on the back, and an applique patch with a stenciled design of an Akita dog and the kanji that say the same thing "akita dog"
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Yesterday my friends S, and her sweetie B, came over and we did a short neighborhood "edible weed walk". It is kind of fun to see what is growing in the alleyways and parking strips that is potentially forage-able. Made me realise that I have some knowledge that is not as ubiquitous as I'd imagined, another skill to both add to my inventory, and to make an effort to further upgrade.

It is still very early spring, but there were early greens to be found. I'd hoped to see some miners lettuce, but none showed up around here, alas. That is one of my very favorite greens, and it might be good to acquire seeds and scatter them around, as it would be a tasty thing to have.

There are some violets nearby, which are edible both leaves and flowers. The flowers make a beautiful edible salad garnish, and can be sugared for cake decoration. There are dandelion greens aplenty, supposedly edible but I've never tried them, being allergic to them.

Another theoretical edible is Rampion aka Rapunzel - Campanula rapunculus, which I believe is growing in my parking strip. It is a campanula, and introduced from Europe to North America. I let it grow in my parking strip because it is a pretty weed, and will take some to Portland Nursery for definitive identification (not wanting to try eating something if'n I'm not certain what it is)

One plant that is extremely common is Bittercress - Cardamine hirsuta. Some of my friends up in Olympia gather this and cook with it in early spring. It is somewhat bitter, and has a pungent peppery nutlike taste, quite similar to arugala, but more "wild". It would be good added in very small quantities to a green salad, and I may try it cooked and mixed in with some feta or other mild dairy.

Chickweed - Stellaria media, is found all over the place. This plant would be a good introduction to foraging, as it is very mild and tender. The first time I was offered some, it reminded me a lot of the taste of salad sprouts that were so common on sandwiches in the seventies. Again, there is none in my yard, but that should be easy to fix.
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Over about four blocks away, on the way to a bus stop, there is an odd little kiosk in a front yard. Some kind of industrial salvage, about the size of a shoebox, and mounted on a pole so as to be high enough to see inside, it currently shelters this poem:

being a person

be a person here.
stand by the river, invoke the owls.
invoke winter, then spring.
let any season that wants to come here make it's own call.
after that sound goes away, wait.

a slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space
even the outracing expanding thought.
come back and hear the little sound again.

suddenly this dream you are having matches everyone's dream,
and the result is the world.
if a different call came
there wouldn't be any world,
or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

how you stand is important.
how you listen for the next thing to happen.
how you breathe.

william stafford

methow river poems

Friday, March 11, 2011

thoughts on color

My friend E asked me:
I've been curious - in the past, I remember you wearing some brilliant colors, at least at Fair. When did that change for you? Was it a change in preference/ style, or more a shift in emphasis?
Long years ago, I did wear brighter colors in general. Several things shifted my color preferences over time...

I started noticing the difference between the comment "you look good" and the comment "what a pretty dress" and decided that I'd rather not have my clothes be wearing me, but vice-versa. As my hair became more grey, my personal coloring, always rather low contrast became even more so; I find that folks who have a lot of contrast in their coloring look better in stronger colors and higher contrast in their wardrobes (My friend V looks good in her bright colors because she has white white skin and dark dark eyes and hair) whereas if I wear bright cobalt and purple I just look washed out, and all you see is the beautiful color.

In some Japanese traditions, the brightest colors are for children, and the softest colors are for the elders, and that feels comfortable to me. Another theory is that our eye and hair colors will inherently look well when chosen to be worn as clothing, as they will be in harmony with each other and our appearance.

And some of it is, of course, greatly dependent on what is the intention of the wearer. I like having the colors of my garments be "unobtrusive" and having the details and handwork be what is noticeable, by those who care to notice. My personal modern wardrobe is (while easy to wear, and greatly pleasing to me) highly eccentric compared to what is commonly worn on the streets, even here in ecotopian Portland; by choosing my beloved dust and sky colors, my oddity is not obtrusive (such is my intent anyway)

be of good cheer

What a mixed weather day. Started out rather blustery, afternoon was actually kind of sunny, and warm in the sheltered places. Todays clothing was, as pretty much always this time of year, layers: underdress is bluegrey ikat cotton (originally a duvet cover from the Ikea as-is bins) and the jumper is brown corduroy with multiple pockets.

All the pocketing, as well as the neckline, armscye and hem edges are bound with multicolor floral babycord. The edge binding means that the jumper looks well with most of my other options for wearing with it, and the brown corduroy, which was a gift, is also about as far as I am comfortable stretching my color palette. (whoo hooo, brown! how exotic! how daring!)

While my favorite length for dress sleeves is about 3/4 length (keeps sleeves out of the way while working on stuff) it does tend to be a bit chilly this time of year. Normally I'd wear a longsleeve knit top, but only have two me-made ones currently, so, I'm also wearing chocolate brown merino wool handknit Voodoo wrist warmers. Wrap a handknit light blue wool Lacy Baktus scarf around my neck and be warm until needs take me outside, when more layers will be necessary.
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Enjoying the birdsong in the morning a lot, but an even better sign of spring a-comin' is that the rhubarb in the front yard is unfurling. Not ready yet, but waiting is worthwhile. Last fall leaf mulch was added to their location, and when the worm bin is dealt with soon, some of the wonderful worm castings will go to nourish my favorite springtime treat. There just might be some local strawberries still in the chest freezer. Mmmmm, strawberry-rhubarb crisp, pie, jam...
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The Ravelry kitchen swap package arrrived today, with all sorts of fun gifty things for the kitchen here at Acorn Cottage: a textured red and white dishcloth, two felted red wool potholders ( just in time, as my one remaining potholder is wearing out) two bamboo implements and a narrow red silicone spatula. Also a nice bamboo tea towel, a useful and cleverly made hand-covered tape measure (more asian/japanese fabric) a cute kitchen angel, and what I first thought was another ornament, until on closer look I realised that it was actually also a star-shaped box, which opened to reveal two yarn needles. Rounding out the bounty is the rest of the red yarn, and a length of gorgeous indonesian batik all in my beloved indigo and white, with a design of sea creatures... Dear swap pal, you have done a superb "stalking" job, and have made me very very happy, as well as adding some fun color to the kitchen here at Acorn Cottage; my cooking time will be rather more cheerful now...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MeMadeMarch day 10

Todays clothing: black velour leggings, stripey printed flannel dress, navy corduroy jumper with embroidered scrollwork design on the hem edge, blue handknit shawl/scarf made from re-used silk/wool blend yarn. This combination is both happy and warm; the grey + blue is a good match for my eyes. The scarf is made from yarn that a friend salvaged from a thrifted sweater, and that I traded other yarn for, in a color that she liked better. every now and again we have a supplies and materials swap, either here at Acorn Cottage, or elsewhere; a good way to continue moving stuff around to where is will actually be used.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

MeMadeMarch - day 9

Tuesday really felt like the first day of springtime. Air temperature during mid-day is soft enough that no sweater or jacket is needed, and fleecy leggings are likewise superfluous. In addition, not only are there crocus blooming everywhere, and robins looping through the trees on my street, but I saw the first bumblebee of the season, slow and confused, but clinging to the screen door...
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Today's clothing: Grey dress, (made from leaf and acorn fabric from Ikea), grey corduroy jumper, grey and brown stripey handknit vest. The pale blue cowl-like object around my neck is a handknit se[ven]-circle scarf;made from fine gauge alpaca yarn, it is surprisingly warm for something more like a necklace than a shawl. Can you guess that I really like to wear grey; rather than finding it depressing, it feels really peaceful to me.
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Met with V yesterday and started working on some embroidery designs - what fun! Norse dragons with asian-inspired clouds (the Vikings weren't much into cloud imagery) This was the second design we came up with, and I worked on the details tonight during Open Studio time, in between soldering, and doing my best to answer A's questions...

MeMadeMarch - day 8

Today's clothing: grey tunic with embroidered yoke, worn over my grey corduroy jumper. Handknit blue-grey wool scarf. While I love the combinations of fabric in the tunic, and it is soft and drapey which makes for comfortable wear, when looking at pictures of me wearing it, it really is not the most becoming garment, as it makes me look rather more chunky and shapeless than needs be.

While I am a short round woman, I actually do have a waist... Perhaps it is just my imagination, but I think I look better wearing my jumpers as the outer layer. There are things about clothing that become apparent only when looking at photos - not sure if the me in the photos is how I actually look to others, or if my critical eye is doing that artist thing of seeing the flaws first.
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Sunday, March 6, 2011

monday musings - reconnection

in which our plucky heroine finds that conversation is a useful antidote to disequilibrium... An excellent Crafternoon yesterday, wherein much conversation on various topics was the activity of the day, though there was a modest amount of crafting as well, of primarily the textile persuasion.

The evening followed with more conversation when five of us proceeded to Sushi Ichiban for various fishy tidbits. Though not the traditional eating format, my tummy is much happier saving the rice for my hens, and just eating the tasty toppings off various nigiri sushi (thereby turning high carb into low carb) One idea that came out of our conversing was to have days, or even some weekends, for sharing/teaching workshops of various Useful Skills that we have between all of us. This is a great way to increase competency for all of us.
Doing a personal inventory of such useful skills seems like a good place to start:
what do I know how to do?
what do I know well enough to teach?
and probably also
what do I want to learn?
what gaps in my skill/knowledge am I aware of?
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Day seven of MeMadeMarch: Really, there are not that many clothes in my closet and cupboard, so mix and match is how my wardrobe works. Today my favorite embroidered jumper, grey corduroy with a bird on the bodice (no jokes now about "put a bird on it", even if I do live in Portland) works well over the cornflower blue ikat dress. Blue polartec leggings, and my grey hat from last summer. I'll probably wear my intarsia sweater (seen here) when I head outside later today.

That sweater has garnered a lot of comments, and is a proud bit of make do and mend... This is it's second incarnation and is about 11 years old in this form. It was originally knit, by me, in the mid 80's, from a now unavailable Penny Straker pattern, I added the decorative motifs myself. I wore it so much that it wore out, with the yarn becoming thin and even worn away in places. My dear friend B offered to re-spin the yarn and ply it double, if I would take it apart. I was delighted at his offer of help, and the sweater gained a second life, being re-knit after being re-spun. After the additional eleven years of wear, some of the edge bands are starting to look a little worn, but those can be unravelled and re-knit fairly easily.
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this post, on Luann Udell's blog, seemed in a way quite apropos of my own current concerns. Good to read, well... her writings are always clear and thoughtful, and thoughts about moving forward whilst not getting trapped in anxiety are both helpful and necessary. For me, my connection with community (friends and family) is what I count as my true wealth, and renewing my connection reminds me that whatever the future holds, we will be moving into it together and not alone. As I'm so fond of saying "all of us together are waaay smarter than all of us one at a time..." So a grateful shout out of thanks to my pals for helping me stay grounded.
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Favorite, and unexpectedly now-ist...

Dust In The Wind - Kansas

Life Gets Away - Clint Black


Today is Crafternoon, and I'll be changing my clothing after mornings prep and errands (why do I always forget to pick up some tea milk?), but for a change I am wearing my only trousers, this aged pair of overalls... Worn over black velour leggings, and a fun MunkiMunki print knit top, with a handknit light blue wool scarf. Add a heavy sweater, and swap out my handknit hat for a bike helmet, and I'll be ready to run to the grocery store.

Why the overalls this morning? It is dry enough for bike-riding, but not warm enough for one layer on my legs to be warm enough. The jumper will have to wait till errands are finished. After my several days of woods-walking last month, I decided that new overalls are necessary; that will be the next sewing-for-me project, taking a pattern from these and stitching up some new ones.
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Is feeling happy so foreign to me that it has shaken my equilibrium? perhaps... There is always a sense that if things are going well that the end is just around the corner. Decades ago, in college for the first time, I remember reading a book titled The Wisdom of Insecurity - don't remember the content, but am quite familiar with the Buddhist idea of samsara, and that everything changes. This belief is somehow less comforting, though no less true, when things are going well.

My disequilibrium has also been fueled by internet reading, there is a lot of information out there about possible near futures, and none of it looks like a lot of fun. A lot of it looks frightening. I'm not looking for reassurance about benign reality, I'm pretty aware that though times are somewhat difficult right now, life is still pretty much okay right here, right now.

My intention is to continue to act towards a sustainable life, to learn better how to garden, to further improve the infrastructure of my little city cottage, to build community with friends and neighbors, to do better at self-care... in short to continue my efforts to build a life that makes sense to me. My action is to savor as fulsomely as possible the delights that come my way, with a poignant sense of ephemerality. Maybe this feeling is just a function of my age and personality, but there is a scent of the wind that is disturbing, like when there were wildfires in Idaho, and we waited with packed vehicles and the radio on, to find out if it was time to leave. We could smell the smoke...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday snippets

A semi-typical Saturday, errands and cooking and cleaning... Hoping for some studio time/sewing time later this evening if all goes well, and some jam tarts and cake baked for tomorrows Crafternoon. While walking back from the post office to catch the bus home, the St Johns bridge looked beautiful as ever in the soft grey light...

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Yesterday just never managed to find time to take a picture for MeMadeMarch - I wore basically the same thing as today, just with a rayon Hawaiian print short sleeve blouse, (since the early morning involved a clinic visit/blood draw, and that is just easier with short sleeves). Today, my brown corduroy multipocket jumper, over a black and grey rayon knit top and black velour leggings. My handknit dark brown sweater has grey acorn and oakleaf motifs on the front, and my running horse logo on the back.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday thoughts

Third day of MeMadeMarch, and it is grey and chill and damp outside. My clothing for today: Polartec leggings, printed rayon tunic top, blue denim jumper (edge bound in darker denim), navy wool handknit vest, Noro triangular wool handknit shawlette, blue handknit hat. Really, there was a handknit sweater over all this, but made it hard to see, so it came off for the photo.

It is becoming clear where some of the areas that need improvement are. Somehow, even the lighthearted way of thinking about wardrobe planning that came so easily to me last year is shifting, turning to slightly more "practical" ideas. Not that I've any intention of giving up either my beloved jumpers or my penchant for embellishment, mind you.

When the weather is chilly and damp, often my first layer of choice is a high-neck knit top, most usually a turtleneck pullover, and those are one of the few usable pieces of clothing that show up at Goodwill. Not sure that making my own is the best use of my limited sewing time, but is certainly possible if necessary. There are two lengths of thin merino wool knit in stash, that would be good ideal for exactly such, and now are earmarked for that layer.

There is only one pair of pants in my dresser at all, (other than longjohns), a very worn pair of overalls, so old that the pattern has disappeared. Finding two lengths of durable suitable fabric has become a pretty high priority, as while they are not often needed, when necessary there is no useful substitute. This is not exactly the imagined list of what sewing-for-me would be happening this spring, but summer dresses are fast and easy, and can be a quick evenings project once the weather warms up enough to need them.
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Yesterday, a trip to Costco with E allowed a start on re-stocking the "earthquake shelf" - canned protein, nut butter, dried fruit, and bottled water... (Now if the zombies attack I'll not need to subsist on jam!) Truly, after re-organising my pantry, the amount of jam was rather astonishing. Need to figure out good veggie storage (maybe some kind of solar dehydrator this summer?) and also acquire some of the Indian veggie curry things sealed in bags. Anyone out there have additional Useful Suggestions?
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A call this morning to Mutual Materials about concrete block was informative. Since my last inquiry, the cost has more than doubled. Delivery is available, but at far more than the cost of the desired block. Not sure if that means a switch to plan B, or C, but very possibly. A great drawback to lack of motorized transport is that materials acquisition is significantly more difficult. The water project has two components: tapping into the downspouts, and raising the barrels. Minimal concrete block cost is around $50 and probably finding someone with a suitable vehicle that is willing to trade for transport... The "plumbing" part is simpler, since that requires smaller lighter parts that can be easier to transport.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

wool is our friend

For at least half the year, in the cold and damp, one sure way to stay warm is to wear wool. And even when any available petrol will no longer be available to make such helpful fabric as Polartec, sheep will still be here. Though I have been unable to master spinning, knitting has been a useful skill for decades, since my mother first put yarn and needles in my hands over fifty years ago. Aside from all that though, it is a mightily wonderful treat to have a friend knit for me; dear J heard my plaint of the lost wool glove, and created these amazing gloves for me! Not only are they custom-sized for my tiny paws, but they have blue bead-knit Totoro's on the backs!! Truly, my friends are my greatest blessing in this life - warm fingers, and the Spirit of The Forest in glittery indigo - happy happy happy...
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Today is day two of Me Made March 2011 - and as it is still wintery out, though there is a feel of softness in the air this morning. My layered clothing starts with grey Polartec longjohns and a grey rayon knit top, over which goes a grey cotton dress, and my grey corduroy jumper with bird embroidery. Wool knit acorn hat, and lacey light blue wool scarf keep the warmth in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

a pleasant afternoon, + MMMar day 1

Today, after a rather rough start*, turned into a Very Good Day. I've been trying to connect with E for quite a while, but schedules were not cooperating. We finally managed to be in the same city at the same time, and her suggestion, that we meet at the Lan Su Chinese Garden for walkabout and tea, was an excellent idea.

the lanterns reflected in the pond

and raindrop patterns add additional texture

boss moss hugs the tree trunk

forsythia branches create shadow calligraphy

Whenever I've had a chance to visit the garden, there are always new bits of bright beauty to see; it is truly an amazing place in the heart of downtown. It was even more a great pleasure to have such a chunk of time to visit with E; a new friend is a joy, and she and I are continuing to find more areas of common ground.
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...and, it is the start of Me Made March 2011. I forgot to take a picture until late tonight, so the image quality is rather poor, being taken in the mirror in the hallway. My clothing for today: polartec leggings, cornflower blue ikat dress, navy corduroy jumper with grey embroidered hemline, and two knit scarves, though only the smaller one is in the picture. My me-made rainhat was very useful whilst out and about; the refurbished raincoat (not me-made but very much the better for my structural alterations), and a handknit cardigan, were the outerwear of choice.
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* woke up around 2 AM from a terrible nightmare, and needed to spend quite a bit of time making certain which world I had awakened into. Fortunately, time chatting online with G, (who was quite surprised that I was awake), returned me to my normal happy equanimity, and sleep finally was a option again...