Friday, December 12

Sun & Snowflake

Look! With some new origami paper and six sheets of printer paper, I now have some Christmas decorations at last: a sun adorning the tree, and a gigantic 3d snowflake.



Thursday, December 11

Christmas Decorations, Links and Ideas

Christmas decorating! Since I moved to Vancouver three years ago, every year I planned to decorate for Christmas, and every year I didn't. We do usually visit my family in New York for the holidays, but I want to bring the winter festival home, too. This year, I think it might actually happen.

Our primary challenge is that we have very little storage space in this apartment, so I don't want to use large ball-shaped ornaments, which take up extra space. I have a preference for flat or nearly flat ornaments, which will be easier to store. Recently when I was feeling frustrated over these limitations, a friend brilliantly suggested that I buy some nice basic ornaments and then give them to thrift shops when the season is over. I may yet do that, but in the meantime, I have other plans as well. I thought I'd list them all in one blog post, for anyone else's benefit, and also so that I can keep my plans straight...

For the outdoors, solar Christmas lights look pretty much the same as any other string of LED lights, but they run by solar power. Not only is this environmentally friendly and thrifty, it also means that we won't have to run an extension cord out to the porch, thus not having to leave the porch door slightly open all the time. I'd love to have some mini-lights or cafe lights indoors as well... basically a string of lights that is not LED, and provides softer light.


Since live cut trees aren't allowed in our building, we bought a small potted Norfolk Island Pine. There's actually three trees in this one pot, I'm pretty sure, to make it look fuller. Here it is in its current naked splendor, in a picture taken today with the first snow of the year in the background.

In addition to the tree, I'd really like to hang ornaments and bells on ribbon strung up about the apartment, as in this inspiring picture to the left. There's also a great idea for creating a sort of mantelpiece from which to hang stockings, by painting a large stick and hanging it with ribbon.

Solid glass raindrop and berry ornaments are small, and they're on sale too. I love these, but like the solar lights, because they don't deliver to Canada, we won't get them until after we return from our trip.

Now on to handmade ornaments. According to this interesting post on the history of Christmas ornaments, many of the earliest ornaments were food:

In the early 1800’s fruit (particularly apples) and nuts were the first Christmas ornaments used to decorate Christmas trees. Soon to follow Christmas ornaments of foil and paper streamers cut and made from the hands of family and friends were added. Among German families (who popularized the Christmas tree) they made Christmas ornaments out of gingerbread and other hard home-made cookies baked in the shape of fruit, stars, bells, angels and hearts. In other countries such as America, their first lot of Christmas ornament additions were long strands of cranberries or popcorn to circle their trees!


I would love to wrap the tree with a string of cranberries, though I haven't seen cranberries for sale yet. There's a holiday farmer's market happening this weekend, and I'm hoping to buy cranberries and wreaths there. Body + Soul magazine also had a great article on holiday decorating, including ideas on making ornaments out of fragrant spices and oranges. For that matter, cloves could probably be used too, with similar techniques used in this tutorial on making clove necklaces.

Sewing and embroidery are the easiest to improvise. However I'm currently waiting for a delivery of kapok stuffing. Until it arrives, sewn ornament plans (such as these felt star ornaments) are on hold. (I've also been dreaming of a bird hung in a wreath for awhile.)

Many of my favorite handmade ornaments posted on the internet are made of paper. I'm really excited about making kusudama flowers or balls...



...3D snowflakes and intricate snowflakes...



...origami wreaths...



...and geodesic ornaments...



Those are my plans for now. We'll see!

Wednesday, December 10

High-ish Calorie Smoothie

Do you have the same breakfast, day after day? I usually do. For most of this past year, it was steel cut oatmeal with berries and nuts. After that, I needed something lighter... and drinkable... a smoothie! Since then it's been all smoothies, all the time.

First I had to buy a new blender--our (very) old one didn't blend well, and was starting to smell peculiar no matter how well you washed it. We got the "Braun MX2050 PowerMax Blender", which was top rated by both Consumer Reports and Cooks Illustrated... I figured that had to be a good sign. For some reason it isn't actually available on Amazon... I got it from Pickering Appliance, the only Canadian seller I could find. I haven't really challenged this blender, so I don't feel I can give a meaningful review, but I'm certainly very happy with it so far.

Smoothies are great for losing weight, but I'm actually supposed to be gaining weight. So I thought for awhile about how to make the smoothie higher calorie. My conclusion: add more banana, nuts or seeds, and oil. I haven't gotten around to the oil yet; this is my basic smoothie, which makes exactly one full glass, and truly needs no sweetener:

4 spoonfuls of plain yogurt
1 splash of water or coconut juice
1 banana (or 2)
1 smattering of pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds... using more makes this taste a bit like nut candy or halva)
1 smattering of frozen blueberries
1 smattering of cereal flakes, optional, only if preparing the night before so it soaks overnight (ie crushed grains, not boxed cereal)
1 chunk of peeled ginger, optional, especially if your tummy has been off

Mmmm!

And then, with a quick rinse of the blender, it's all clean and ready for the next smoothie.




I know that a lot of people are more interested in lower calorie smoothies, so what then? Definitely keep it to one banana only, and a relatively small amount of nuts or seeds. Also I'd check out veggie smoothies, inspired by "Eat To Live," something I might try for my husband after the holidays.

Saturday, December 6

Deep & Throaty?

Today's blend: black pepper, yuzu absolute, grapefruit, and patchouli. I was thinking to myself, searching through the essential oils, that I wanted something "deep and throaty". The black pepper and patchouli fulfill that, and the citrus oils keep it balanced (and, as always, uplifting and fun).

I'm loving the warm, autumnal, wintery feeling of our home this evening. We've been pretty busy this past week, and I've been feeling overwhelmed by all the details... this weekend we took a break, and I'm now I'm feeling really good about all that we've accomplished.

I had more in mind, but then I had to pop out to the store for some pasta, and had some conversations, and some of this new belgian beer... so now my mind is elsewhere. More coming up, though!

Monday, December 1

Enlivening Pair

This is becoming my standard "happiness" blend: lemon, grapefruit, rose. Spice oils are great additions to this blend, especially black pepper.

Today I'm rather zonked (surprisingly), so I tried something lively and unusual: frankincense, grapefruit, and rosemary. Grapefruit and rosemary together are an excellent enlivening pair, and the frankincense adds a deeper touch.

Wednesday, November 12

The Broomcloset Revolution

It's really hard to take pictures of our broom closet, because there's little space and far less light. So forgive the photographs, as I proudly introduce you to the revolutionized broom closet!


Before



After



As you can see, we put up a pegboard on the back wall. Vive la Revolution!

Saturday, November 1

A Good One

Tonight's blend: lemon, cumin, rose, ginger, patchouli, and clove. Mmmm.

Shoes, Food, and News

This is what I'm enjoying today: my new slippers. They're exactly what I needed for my perpetually cold feet in my perpetually drafty apartment... and I don't have to take them off when I'm curled up on the futon, because they're sort of socks too. They've also got a nice layer of foam over the soles. [Update: these types of slippers don't air out and dry very efficiently, so they get mildewy more quickly than regular slippers. Ew.]


I've been cooking more lately. We recently made pasta with dried mushrooms and tomato sauce. It was a bit disappointing, because the dried morels I used were tasteless, for whatever reason. However I think, minus the dried mushrooms, and halving the amount of pasta because I like a lot of sauce, I'll use it as my basic pasta and tomato sauce recipe from now on.

Then I made soup with winter greens and chickpeas, using cooked chickpeas rather than canned. I really love this soup. I'm going to work on the recipe though--change certain details, and try to coax a deeper, earthier taste out of it. So hopefully you'll be seeing an altered version of it here.

And have I mentioned that I switched to saving my recipes in MacGourmet? That little application has been getting a workout in the last few days, as the recipes have been pouring in off the web. Great inspiration, especially from The Kitchn, Simply Recipes, Bitten, Kalofagas, Mighty Foods, Smitten Kitchen, Desert Candy, the list goes on and on...

Meanwhile we're having a small election night tv-viewing party here on Tuesday (of course). We got cable just so that we could watch the election returns come in! And we're canceling it shortly afterwards... I think tv really needs tivo to be worthwhile. Anyway, I'm planning to make a snacky dinner. More harvest themed than election themed, and with a signature cocktail of some kind. Any ideas? I'll tell you what we come up with...

Thursday, October 30

Good Mag Is Hard To Find

Normally, I don't subscribe to magazines. I will buy a few, occasionally, when I'm traveling. While visiting my family this summer, on a whim I bought a copy of Body + Soul Magazine. I read it through, and was quite impressed. (By the way, the website is not very representative of the magazine.)

While reading, I often am amused at how successfully and simply they have pegged my demographic--women, interested in health, the environment, natural living, and happiness. While I'm sure there is plenty of research and market-think behind this choice, I'm sure it also came about because many of the women and men involved in the magazine have moved in this direction themselves. The magazine is really quite grounded and largely gimmick-free, I find. They don't need gimmicks, of course, because they're covering real subjects of real interest with real information.

I got the latest issue today, and the sheer quality of it really makes me happy. (And I'm damned picky.) I have been keeping the last few issues, because even though I've read them once, it's actually of value to read them over again--even just a few weeks later. Yet I could happily declutter them by passing them on--knowing that I am giving something of real value to the friends or strangers who take them.

As a side note, you know what else I'd like to subscribe to? A publication that was all about "fitness motivation." I want to be spammed with the benefits of being physically fit, regularly and frequently. I don't mind if there's lots of repetition so long as they vary the phrasing and layout a bit, and throw in just a bit of variety now and then. In fact, maybe repetition would be a good thing. I could really use a frequent and regular reminder.

Monday, October 27

My Ideal Bedroom

After pondering this bedroom conundrum from decor8, I thought I'd post about the bedroom decor I have in my head. This is what my bedroom looks like now.





This is what I want to do with my bedroom:

1. declutter the closet

2. install light-blocking curtains for nighttime light pollution

3. paint it with the lazure technique in a gentle violet, like this picture of Charles Andrade's work



4. install this Akari light and convert to a dimmer switch



5. install shelves that look like these from Atlas Industries, real wood with 'built in bookends'



6. buy this bedstead (only concern: fabric can get dirty, few color choices)



In fact with this bedstead, we could have the bed off the wall--since the headboard is enough on its own--and then we could have shelves on both walls in the bedroom.

Or perhaps one of these beds would be better, since we seriously do need some more storage for linens and old clothes...

Saturday, October 11

Too Much Funny

I discovered these hilarious Saturday Night Live skits online recently...



http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/its-a-match/250057/



http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/marble-columns/94844/



http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/vinny-talks-shia-labeouf/250054/



http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/iconoclasts/166787/



http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/surprise-party/237294/

Thursday, October 9

Imaginary Brown Quilt Progress



These are the fabrics I'm planning to use for a quilt, the one I wanted to make based on a overall tan/cream group of colors. The blue forest and brown bird fabrics are to be the 'centerpieces', most of the other fabrics are gentle light/dark brown and yellow, and the pink and red fabrics will be accents.

Now I would just like to find a pattern to more or less follow. I was planning to use Kaffe Fassett's "Morning Garden Quilt" pattern from "Kaleidoscope of Quilts", but I think I want something with larger blocks especially for the two primary fabrics... in such a way that the shapes are harmonious and well balanced.

Tuesday, October 7

Blends are Back

Today's essential oil blend, inspired by this post from Tigers & Strawberries and meant to go well with cooking: yuzu absolute (a pungent, pleasantly sour citrus), cumin, black pepper, and sandalwood. It's really lovely and surprisingly subtle.

I haven't been making blends for awhile, because the ceramic diffuser has been in our bedroom. After reading this article on sleep and scents, I decided to diffuse rose absolute in the bedroom. Actually I left the diffuser without electricity, because when actively diffusing the smell was too strong. It had a lovely effect for quite awhile. In the meantime, my nebulizer only had lavender in it.

Monday, September 1

Soapnuts

My dear friend Bug has convinced me to buy some soapnuts. I've been tempted by them before, but regular laundry has been working for us. However our towels have been getting some lingering mildew, even after they're washed in hot water... a common problem in Vancouver, where there is so much rain. Apparently this may be partly because of detergent buildup, which the soapnuts may clear away. Here's hoping! In any case, you can also use soap nuts to make a very mild shampoo... and apparently there are myriad other uses. I'll report back with my experiences when they arrive.

Friday, August 29

Eight Easy Speeches

I love watching good political speeches. At the same time that the audience is inspired, you can see inspiration lifting up the speaker, as they remember why they are in this--the passion, ideals, compassion, optimism, and vision. Alongside the politics and the occasional schmaltz, there's something so powerful--and inspiring--going on. So I'm posting the best speeches from the Democratic convention here. Some are more brilliant than others--I've embedded my favorites and linked to my second favorites. Take your pick.

Ted Kennedy

Michelle Obama











My heart is an arrow

My heart is an arrow
straight and true.

My heart is a compass
pointing the way.

My heart is a path
clear and bright.

For so long, I have wandered
as if I was lost.

I followed ghosts
through a fog of regret.

Yet I was never lost. Even in that walkabout
my heart knew the way.

It waited, always
quiet, and strong, and bright.

And when my eyes fell on that arrow, that compass, that path,
I would think, ‘No, not that. Not yet.

‘I should not believe
what I have always known.’

Now, I am at one
with my heart.

I will walk down this path
through which the future flows.

I will be the compass
pointing towards love.

I will be the arrow
flying.

Thursday, August 21

Moon Nights



My life here is quiet and regular. As I've embraced that, it has become a very happy and peaceful life. In the process, my spiritual experiences seem to have receded. While I was ambivalent about this, it was not at the forefront of my thoughts. As time has passed, I've grown comfortable with this new state. It fits with a message I got some time ago, that the 'fireworks' around a (spiritual) experience are not the substance of the experience, and that an experience may be important and yet not come with those fireworks. Also, I trust that if and when I have a need for that in my life, it will come back to me in the suitable form for that time.

Recently I have felt a nudge to do something more. Gordan and I have had this desire for some time, in particular to do things regularly that were meaningful to both of us, but without a clear sense of how to translate it into practical action. I did read "The Pagan Family" for ideas, reading my favorite parts out loud to Gordan. We'd forgotten about the subject over the last two months, and then I brought up the question again on Friday. The answer came to me immediately this time: observe the full and new moons.

This was perfect for us. It's not a daily practice; that would be too much. Yet it's fairly frequent and regular, so that it can be habitual. It's personal, and very open to creative interpretation. I did some further reading and found that moon phases, primarily full moons, are celebrated as Esbats by Neopagans. I checked the calender to see when the next full moon would be: Saturday, the very next day. It felt like a somewhat hectic sign of connection.

What would we do? I was not sure. It came together, some of it feeling a bit silly, and began to refine itself. We buy moon-like flowers. We have a relatively opulent dinner. (Saturday was a hot, slow day, so 'opulence' was greatly modified.) Perhaps a dessert of sweetened ricotta, an old fashioned cheesecake. We may read something--perhaps afterwards is best. This time, Gordan read a prayer to the moon, that it may be kind to sailors.

Gordan went to bed early. I finished watching 'Philadelphia Story'. Then I went out and stood on the porch, in the bright light of the full moon. It seemed to vibrate in front of me, brimming over with the light of the sun. Everything felt alive and bare in the illuminated night. I knew that this is what a full moon celebration is really about: standing in the light of the moon, standing beneath it, with nothing between us, looking up at it. I thought briefly that the moon is in me, as we have always evolved under the moon, its presence is a part of us, we are made in its image or in its light. I asked the moon, so known for its changes, to help me in my changes and cycles as I become who I am. There was a sense that these changes are now linked with the waxing and waning phases of the moon.

I am going to take the approach that the full moon lasts three nights. The second night, as the most perfect full moon, is the peak. But the first and third nights are also full moons, and times for celebration. We are now nearly halfway to the new moon, which is on August 30th.

Now that I think of it--at some point in the middle of 'Philadelphia Story', Katherine Hepburn's character told one of the male characters about a Chinese poet (Li Bo) who drowned trying to kiss the reflection of the moon. "He was drunk, of course."

Monday, August 18

Speedy Foray Into Speed Cleaning

I mentioned recently that I was going to try the "Speed Cleaning" approach to housecleaning. They have a set of rules which outline their method. But this is how I think of the changes I'm making:

  • Gordan and I will (usually) both houseclean together, at the same time, for the main weekly housecleaning. I'll still do a miniclean three days later, flylady-style... (this is where the kitchen counters and stovetop, and bathroom sink and toilet get cleaned). There's a neat approach where housecleaning roles are divided into four: kitchen, bathroom, dusting, and vacuuming. With two people, you both start out doing the kitchen and bathroom respectively. Whoever finishes first then takes on either dusting or vacuuming, whichever you find to take longer. That way your cleaning time is more closely matched.

  • Clean in a circle, usually from left to right, and from top to bottom; then clean the floor.

  • We're going to clean with aprons and trays full of the appropriate tools. This is an important part. The idea is that with your primary tools in your apron, and your secondary tools in your tray, you never have to take time away from cleaning or your clockwise circuit around the room. But it takes time to track down some of these tools. Gordan convinced me to just order the more obscure tools from the website. I did find an apron pattern that seems to be based on the speed cleaning apron, but I don't want to wait until I've sewed an apron or two to be able to do this.

  • I'm updating my homemade cleansers. I got my previous recipes from the cleanser recipe thread on mdc (namely the window/all purpose and the anti-mildew spray), and they worked well--along with diluted or straight baking soda, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. But the speed cleaning thing got me thinking about both streamlining these, and making them a little more potent and effective, so I requested a bunch of green cleaning books from the library. The very first one that arrived has such great recipes, I may just stick with these. They're from Easy Green Living, by Renee Loux.


    • heavy duty liquid cleaner (replacing what Speed Cleaning calls red juice)

      1/2 cup white vinegar
      1 tablespoon citrus cleanser concentrate
      1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap or castile soap
      1 1/2 cups warm water
      1/2 teaspoon total antiseptic essential oils

      glass cleaner (blue juice)

      1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
      1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap or castile soap
      2 cups water
      8 drops essential oils

      This is basically the same as my current multipurpose cleaner. I may experiment with other recipes, however, because it doesn't clean our porch doors very thoroughly. So far I've dealt with this problem by not cleaning the porch doors, and I'm looking for a better solution.

      disinfectant (bleach)

      1/4 cup cheap vodka
      1/2 cup 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
      1 cup water
      5 drops grapefruit seed extract (optional)
      15 drops total antispetic essential oils (optional)

      (Do not shake the bottle or the hydrogen peroxide will go flat.)

      tile & tub cleaner (tile juice)

      While the books has recipes for pastes, that may be too much work to make afresh each time. I'll try powdered baking soda, and if that doesn't work I'll just buy tile and tub cleaner.

      floor cleaner

      2 gallons warm water
      1/2 cup white vinegar
      1/4 cup citrus cleanser concentrate
      2 tablespoons liquid dish soap
      1/2 teaspoon antispetic essential oils (optional)

Saturday, August 16

A Walk In The Park


I've put up a new set of photos from a walk in Stanley Park.

Friday, August 15

Completely Unexpected--Cucumber and Yogurt Soup With Mushrooms

We got back late from a movie tonight. Neither of us were hungry--yet we hadn't eaten dinner, or much lunch, and we had lots of ingredients in the fridge that need to be cooked soon or else. Like the cucumber, and the mushrooms.

So we whipped up a light dinner. Cucumber and yogurt salad from Claudia Roden's The Book of Middle Eastern Food, and some crimini mushrooms fried with onions and garlic. To save dishes, and out of curiosity, we ended up mixing them together. And you know what? It was delicious. It really would not be out of place as a starter for a fancy dinner party.

Cucumber and Yogurt Soup With Mushrooms
based on Claudia Roden's The Book of Middle Eastern Food
serves 2 with light appetites or as a starter

1 small onion, chopped to reasonably small pieces, we probably used walla walla
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed and sliced, we used crimini
salt
1 small cucumber, or 1/2 large cucumber
1 1/2 cups yogurt, plain
1 small clove garlic, crushed (optional)
salt
paprika (optional)

Saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms until they are soft and somewhat darkened. Salt them to taste.

Slice the cucumber lengthwise, and cut into matchsticks (or dice, if you know how!). If you're not using these soon, salt them and put them aside for an hour.

Beat the yogurt gently until it's smooth. Add the garlic if using, and salt to taste. Stir in the cucumber.

Now combine the mushrooms and yogurt soup. You may prefer to put the mushrooms on the bottom and the yogurt on top, or vice versa, or you might stir in the mushrooms.

Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and serve.

Wednesday, August 13

A Ramble About Books; and a Cooking Oil Pamphlet

I recently read the book "Speed Cleaning". It's not hard to imagine what it's about; specifically the author runs a housecleaning company in San Francisco which was very focused on cleaning as fast as possible. He took a relatively scientific approach, timing different methods, and found the quickest way to clean a house. These rules summarize almost everything that's in the book, although the book itself unpacks them in a way that is easier to fully grasp.

However, they aren't very oriented towards ecofriendly cleaning solutions, at least not by contemporary standards. (The book I read was updated in '91.) I make my own cleaning solutions now, but this system calls for more solutions than I currently use, and I want to learn more about how homemade cleaning solutions work. So I've been browsing Amazon for green cleaning book suggestions, and then requesting them from my library. While looking through the excerpt of one of these books, I came across this great link: it's a "kitchen guide" or pamphlet made up by Spectrum Organics on different cooking oils, especially their respective smoke points, and therefore what their uses are in cooking. Very handy! Keep in mind that once an oil goes over its smoke point it may taste bad and can often become carcinogenic. Here is Spectrum's link to the kitchen guide, and here it is in pdf format.

Tuesday, August 12

Lebanese Black Eyed Peas with Greens

I'm eating these as leftovers, and I'm reminded of how utterly delicious they were. This is simple food, not a sophisticated dish--I'd be quite impressed if anyone can make black eyed peas taste sophisticated. However they are also delightfully easy to cook. Although many people seem unaware of this, you don't need to soak black eyed peas. After around 40 minutes of boiling, they are ready. For this reason, they are a great last-minute-dinner bean. I'm always on the lookout for good black eyed pea recipes.

This recipe is from Claudia Roden's "Arabesque", a book which I love so much that I actually bought it. And that's saying a lot, as far as cookbooks are concerned. I rarely buy cookbooks: I get them from the library and record my favorite recipes into a recipe application. This is because I know how easy it is to end up with too many cookbooks. How can I explain why I love "Arabesque" so much? Roden writes the most evocative and fascinating introductions to her cookbooks. I like the fact that there's one chapter for each of the three regions in this book (Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon), so that one can get a real sense of the flavors and styles of each. Most of the recipes are really quite simple--at least the meze recipes, of which there are so many, and which can easily be turned into a dinner. Likewise, even though the main dishes are strongly focused on meat (fish, chicken, and lamb), most of the mezes are vegetarian; some of them are clearly main dishes, though they're in the meze chapters. I'm particularly enjoying Middle Eastern food lately, and it's easy to blend with Mediterranean food and, with a little fiddling, Indian food. It's fun for Gordan since much of the food he grew up on in Bosnia is essentially Turkish. When it comes down to it, I want to cook just about every recipe in here.

Let's get to the food, shall we?

Lebanese Black Eyed Peas with Greens
adapted from Claudia Roden

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas (Roden suggests haricot beans or chickpeas as substitutes)
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, sliced (we used walla walla)
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 bunches of greens (ie spinach, chard, we used beet and mustard greens), washed, stems more or less removed, and dried
salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon's juice


Boil the black eyed peas for 40 minutes, with the bay leaf. When the beans are done, drain them, removing the bay leaf, salt them, and set them aside. You may want to reserve some of the bean's cooking water with which to moisten the dish later.

Fry the onion in two tablespoons of oil, until it is golden brown and caramelized.

In a fairly large saucepan, fry the garlic briefly in two tablespoons of oil. Toss in the greens and cover. When the greens have cooked down and are a brilliant green color a minute or two later, turn off the heat. Salt the greens. Stir in the black eyed peas and the onion. Taste and add more salt or cooking water if necessary.

To serve, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice.

We ate this with long grain brown rice--which I meant to "prepare in the Syrian manner" which essentially means to add butter to it. However our butter was old, so we skipped that step.

And for dessert we had an experimental fruit salad:

1 cantaloupe
3 strawberries
a little more cinnamon than I meant to put in
a little more cardamom than I meant to put in
a little more cumin than I meant to put in
a good drizzle of honey
2 tablespoons grand marnier

Stir, allow to rest while dinner is eaten, and then enjoyed.

Monday, August 11

The loving embrace: vetiver, elemi, bergamot

Late at night, I'm still up, daydreaming about painting my apartment and getting more done. I'm inspired to make my surroundings more lovely and hospitable now. I first go to put essential oils on the diffuser. Often, especially at night, I'll diffuse frankincense by itself, because it is just that pleasurable that it doesn't even need accompaniment. Tonight I was considering adding bergamot or rose. But none of these were quite right. What feeling was I going for? An earthy, gentle embrace. Ah, vetiver! I pulled the vetiver out. Should I add bergamot? I smelled the vetiver and bergamot in close succession and decided that one drop of bergamot would be nice. Then I added elemi, to lighten the vetiver--elemi is an essence that does not draw attention to itself, but opens up other essences, makes them more spacious and less heavy or cloying.

The combination is really beautiful and unique, which I think owes a lot to the quality of the vetiver I am using.

One regret I have in my obsession with essential oils--it is hard to really immerse oneself in them. They are such an ephemeral experience. If you use the right amount, they will waft in and out of your perception. If you want to experience them fully and use a lot, they may become overwhelming, or else your senses may simply tune them out. Individual oils are easier to commit to sensory and emotional memory, but it seems as if blends, though they become their own entities with unique influences, play on the edge of our awareness.

What does happen, energetically, when we blend the essences of several plants? I would love to know.

Edited to add: If you try this blend, be careful to use very little vetiver, as it can be overpowering. I'm using 4 drops of elemi, 1 drop of vetiver, 1 drop of bergamot. I'll try it with lemon instead of bergamot soon.

Wednesday, August 6

Middle Eastern Fusion Theme Night

More on the food later, but I wanted to quickly post this list:

Cooking:

Megadarra or Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onion, from Claudia Roden
Fried Zucchini Slices with Yogurt also from Roden
Salad Greens with Marinated Avocado and Tomato

Essential oils in diffuser:

Lemon
Ginger root extract
Bergamot
Cumin
Clove
Rose

Thursday, July 31

De Retour

Hallo! Imagine me saying that in a loud old lady voice, with an unplaceable accent. Hallooo! Je suis de retour! That is to say, I'm back.

Perhaps you noticed my complete silence for the last two months. Or perhaps you didn't. As it turns out, since this blog is about domesticity and productivity, I had absolutely nothing to say on those subjects for all this time. I could have been charming and clever, like the more professional bloggers, and posted some lovely summery photos. But really, blogging was the last thing on my mind. As I mentioned, we spent two months visiting my family. The first month (after a quick conference for Gordan in South Carolina) we were in New York City, acting as if we lived there. I was thrilled to discover the Salmagundi Art Club, which is a club vaguely like all those old style men's clubs--but for artists, apparently, any artists. They are so welcoming that when Gordan and I skipped up the steps on our late night constitutional in search of a peek and a pamphlet or two, they opened up the closed photography exhibit just for us. I also discovered that my favorite yoga center, Jivamukti, has opened up an uptown center (closer to my parents' place) again.


A woman dancing to some swing music in Central Park.



At some point during this time, I found myself feeling frantic and overwhelmed. I had to stop and laugh at myself and reframe the situation. I had so little to do, so little I could do--how could I feel overwhelmed? Clearly it was a case of "you take yourself with you". I resolved to be more mellow and relaxed about everything. And from then on, I was.

Shortly thereafter, there actually was something to do; Gordan had to get a manuscript out, and since the publishers provide no editor and English is not his first language, editing was my job. So we spent some time on that. Life basically consisted of editing in the beginning of the day, and walks in the park during the afternoon or downtown at night, almost always coming across a musical group or two.

Once the manuscript was sent off, our other family from Vancouver arrived shortly thereafter. It was so wonderful have everybody there. We whisked them off to a Fourth of July in Outer Cape Cod, and eventually figured out how to get everybody back. For me, this was a fun but busy adventure where I had to be the one who stayed on top of the organizing of food and amusements. I had planned to visit my dear friend Leila, but really didn't have the time. So when my mother needed someone to drive up to the Cape with her again a few days later, I took that opportunity and spent a few more days up on the Cape until Leila and I could hang out for a little over twenty four hours. We talked practically nonstop. How nice! Leila is one of my very best friends, thanks to the genius of whoever was matching freshman roommates when we went to college. I hadn't seen her since she was maid of honor at my wedding almost two years ago.

After that, we returned to the City and the last week whizzed by. That was my two month trip! I think my month in Europe last summer lasted longer, somehow. Anyway it was so nice in so many ways. I got to reconnect with my dear family, at last, which is essential since I'm not a telephone person. I even got to hang out with my wonderful and elusive brother a bit. I got to know the new family dog Roxie, and hang out with my favorite of the two parrots, Kiwi. I also got to experience the pleasures of having a dishwasher--boy, do I want one.

Alas, I don't yet have that good blogging habit of taking lots of lovely pictures. The photos I took don't do a great job of representing what the trip was like. Nonetheless, many are interesting on their own account. I've made a photoset with all the pictures, and explanatory captions underneath each. My brother also made a photoset of the pictures he took, most with beautiful film--nowadays when they develop your roll of film, they also put all the pictures on a cdrom for you. There's also a photoset for our long weekend in Charleston at the beginning of the trip.

Next post: Ever since we've been back...

Sunday, May 25

A Clean Home and a Packed Suitcase

I would like to take a minute to brag about something. We're leaving tomorrow, and we actually managed to thoroughly clean the apartment first! We dusted, vacuumed, laundered, and scrubbed. We cleaned the big plants, tidied up the porch as much as the aged tulips would let me, and separated out all the perishable food to give to a friend before we go. (I hope they like sweet potatoes.) Along with all the other little preparatory things that needed to happen. I even finally made a helichrysum under-eye ointment that I mentioned previously. I'm so gleeful about the prospect of traveling, with my suitcase packed with my favorite and most versatile clothes. And I'm also looking forward to coming home to this lovely, simple, clean apartment!

I've made a packing list for summer trips, based on the generic one from One Bag. It's a Word document in three columns, so that it all easily fits on one page.

    Clothes
    5-10 shirts

      - 3-4 tank tops
      - 2-6 long sleeves

    3-6 pants

      - 1-3 cool weather (jeans, nice)
      - 1-3 warm weather (capri, linen)
      - 1 rugged

    2 sweaters

      - 1 dark cardigan
      - 1 warm turtleneck sweater (if cold weather is expected, possibly also light jacket)

    7+ pairs socks
    7+ underwear
    1-2 pyjama tops
    1-2 pyjama pants
    1 swimsuit
    1 sarong
    scarves

      - 2-3 small
      - 1-3 large

    3-4 dresses

      - 1-2 very light
      - 1 beachy

    shoes in bags

      - 1 walking sandals
      - 1 covered walking shoes
      - 1 nice shoes


    Bathroom
    toothbrush (in a case)
    toothpaste
    dental floss
    facewash (honey)
    comb
    hairband
    moisturizer (hydrosol spray & oil drops)
    chapstick (shea butter in lip balm container)
    deodorant
    nail clipper
    nail file
    antiseptic ointment
    any medicines currently being taken
    soap/bodywash
    hairwash
    hair-rinse
    menstrual supplies
    painkiller
    pepto bismo
    hangnail clipper
    hairpins
    undereye oil
    any makeup
    ziploc bags for waterproofing?

    On Flight
    all important telephone numbers and other contact information and addresses
    cash
    tickets
    ID, passport, etc
    watch
    chapstick (shea butter in lip balm container)
    ipod & headphones & charger
    laptop? & power cord
    notebooks
    pen
    eye mask
    snacks
    book?
    any makeup

    Extras
    1 umbrella
    digital camera & charger
    vitamins & supplements
    empty duffel back for return trip
    straw hat
    travel kleenex
    gifts

Saturday, May 17

Ready

I will not be posting very regularly for awhile. We're getting ready for our trip to New York and Massachusetts. The tickets are bought, and Gordan and I are leaving in about a week. First we'll head to a conference in North Carolina, and then we'll visit my alma mater and its region, and spend the rest of the time with my parents in the Cape in Massachusetts. After a month, our blended family of Dragana and the kids will join us; Anselmo is coming on his own and his plans aren't made yet. We'll all be there for another month, most of which will be spent in New York City.

A couple of weeks ago, I was all bothered by the interruption, and the thought of all the things I couldn't do. Now those things don't seem so urgent. There will be plenty of time, whenever the time is right. I'm really ready for this trip now. There is something about traveling that is so clarifying and energizing for me. Life is simplified; there are fewer responsibilities, and those responsibilities which you do have are more clear and immediate. It will also be very good to spend some time with my parents and my brother, in a summery atmosphere. I can use some more of all of that in my life.

Even though I may be posting less for awhile, I've got a few posts lined up for the next few days anyway. We'll see if they come out or not!

Monday, May 12

Two Days


Ah, I'm so content right now, after a simple dinner of pasta with olive oil and garlic (and onion and portobello and asparagus) sauce. Gordan did most of the cooking, while I did the dishes before and after, and gave advice.

Earlier he had gone out for a few hours, in which I listened to Abraham and got some clarity and adjustment on a sense of struggle I'd been developing. He came back with a book on nature spirits which I'd never seen before. Soon after that we spotted Dragana and Anselmo walking down the street, thanks to Dragana's orange striped Mexican sweater. We called to them from the porch, and they came up to our apartment. There we sat around the dining table and talked for quite awhile, mostly about magick, as always. As we spoke, one of the flowers of our jasmine plant slowly opened.

After I had finished washing up after dinner, I put on one drop of undiluted rose absolute, and three drops of elemi. Heavenly.

Listening to Abe was so useful. I laughed when the very first track that came on--from one of the cruise recordings, which I thought I had excluded from that playlist as they aren't my favorite format--was about action, non-action, productivity and procrastination. Pretty much exactly the main thing that I was struggling with. Intellectually, the message wasn't a great revelation, but it was a great reminder--pay attention to how you feel, first. And in general just listening to Abe talking on any subject puts me in a much better, much easier and happier frame of mind.

While they were talking I also got a couple reminders on my own. First, a reminder of a message from last night, that came through just as I was falling asleep. I'd been reminded of the time when I was slowly deciding to leave California, where I'd lived and worked with great joy and passion for a year. I'd decided to wait a year and then move to Vancouver and marry Gordan, and yet some events came together which nudged me to do it right away. I thought to myself, back then there were two forces acting on me--one force calling me to stay, one force calling me to Vancouver. What are the forces acting on me now calling me towards? The answer was "Simplicity. A simpler life. Shed all extraneous attachments." (With the last sentence comes a visual of a barnacled outer layer being sloughed off.) And then a little later a reminder of a past message: "Do not put the center of your attention in him, put the center of your attention in yourself." Sometimes I can get caught up in the reflexivity that comes out of always having someone to talk to (and always taking advantage of that).

Sunday was an absolutely lovely day, too. (I really wish I'd get into the habit of taking the camera.) Mother's day almost seemed to be an accidental festival on the Drive, the main street of our neighborhood. It was a fairly sunny day, thanks to the winds. We headed out to brunch, not because it was mother's day, but because Gordan was craving french toast. We ended up spotting Dragana and her daughter Cailleach walking by, on their way to do a little clothes shopping. (Hm, I'm noticing a pattern.) We called them in, and they sat at the table next to us and drank their favorite, shirley temples. We had a really nice conversation about the trip to New York, and my identity crisis, as Gordan called it.

They went on, and when we were finished we went to the florist. I was very amused and said to Gordan that he is probably one of very few men who buy flowers for their ex wives on mother's day. He got her a very pretty posy, and since he wanted to get something for me too I chose a small pot of those lovely lacy pink geraniums that I'd been wanting anyway. Once in the shop they charged us three dollars for the geraniums instead of eight dollars and change, because they said they just wanted to get everything out. Then we went and found Dragana and Cailleach in one of the local used clothing shops, "My Sister's Closet". In the back of that shop there's an area that is more of a typical thrift store, with old books and plates and random things. They had very pretty mugs and teacups, though not quite what I'd want to bring home. Looking through them, I found this beautiful blue painted vase, and I bought it for two fifty.



Walking back in the direction of home, on the sunny side of the street, we were passed by a little parade--about eight people dressed and made up in old fashioned black and white, moving slowly, and pantomiming as if they were dancing, drinking, and playing music. The person in the back had a giant black and white puppet. As we passed the front woman said to me "The pirates have landed! A Ukranian will be calling you." At first I thought I'd misheard. We walked on, and ended up in a lovely little park nearby, which had just been beautifully redone. A neighborhood group was throwing a potluck for everyone, although there were just a few bison burgers left. Gordan, Cailleach, Dragana and I sat around in the sun, chatted, and listened to the accordion that someone was playing in the pleasant cacophany of accoustic guitars. Well, the day continued on like that for a bit longer. Eventually we wandered home, and ate Chinese food while watching "The Shop Around The Corner", a lovely 40s movie set in Hungary--Jimmy Stewart made a slightly more believable Hungarian than you might expect.

Reading and Reference on "Yes"

There's a part of this blog that doesn't get much attention, which some people might find interesting. At the bottom of the right hand bar of links and miscellanea, there's a a grey and white box titled "What I'm Reading". It links to the last seven posts or articles which I've clicked to "share" on my feed reader. If you go here, it'll show you pretty much all the posts I've ever shared. I read quite a few blogs and feeds nowadays. (Aren't "blog" and "feed" both ungainly words compared to the old fashioned "journals" and "magazines"?) I share a small percentage of what I read, the best and most interesting.

Above that, which you're more likely to have noticed, there are a few batches of categorized links. There are two that are worth bringing to everyone's attention: Food Blog Search and Craft Blog Search. As the blurb says on the Craft Blog Search, with these you get to "search the best [food/craft] blogs while eliminating splogs and inactive blogs
that clog the results on most search engines." I don't know what splogs are... but the gist of it is that somebody listed a whole bunch of good food & craft blogs, and made up a search through Google that would search only these sites. That way you can search for a recipe or craft tutorial, and get more refined results than you would through a regular search.

Sunday, May 11

High Fiber Goodness

A high fiber diet is good for many aspects of your health, including the cardiovascular system and diabetes prevention. Bottom line, though, it's good for your colonic health--in other words, anything poop-related, both short term and long term. These problems run in my family, all the way down to colon cancer. Since I'm starting to get far more short term troubles than one should really have at the tender age of almost thirty, it's time to start taking this stuff seriously. I'm very glad that this diet will make my bum happier, and benefit my health in all kinds of ways that I don't even think about.

I had only a vague idea about what foods were high fiber, and in the past few days I've done some reading to be more informed. I wanted to know how to get the biggest bang for my buck, which food groups which were highest in fiber, and in each food group which individual foods were highest in fiber. I've found that on the web, information sometimes conflicts, but a clear overall picture has emerged. Here are the websites I've referred to. And here's the list I'm using for myself, in order of fibrousness:

    - High fiber cold cereals deserve to be in a class of their own. They have the highest fiber content of all other foods, which is a little odd really, and makes me think that I should check their ingredient lists.

    - Beans, lentils, and other legumes (dried or canned--excluding fresh). Either dried or canned has the same benefit as far as fiber is concerned. Fresh legumes, such as peas and green beans, go in the "vegetable" category. Different websites had conflicting information about which specific legumes were highest of all. In any case, it hardly matters; they're all extremely high. Legumes seem to be the regular food group which is highest in fiber, by a wide margin. Lentils have the advantage of being very easy to cook. If you don't already have favorites, then try different kinds of lentils, as they have variations in taste and texture. Along with legumes for full meals, bean dips make great snacks.

    - Whole grains. For the biggest proportion of fiber, use wheat or oat bran. Otherwise, all whole grains are high in fiber. Again, information about specific grains didn't seem to be consistent from one website to another. The easiest thing is to use a diversity of whole grains. Legumes and whole grains together provide all the essential amino acids you need, so as far as protein is concerned there is no need for animal products. Boiled whole grains such as the brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, and quinoa are the easiest to use while cooking. If you buy your bread, it's quite easy to replace bread made with refined flour with %100 whole grain flour, and many special baked goods that require the lightness of refined flour can still be made with a large portion of whole grain flour. It's possible to find both whole grain pasta, and pasta made with a mix of whole and refined grains. Breakfasts can be switched over to oatmeal with nuts and berries, whole grain toast with yummy toppings, or a whole grain cold cereal. Popcorn is a whole grain that is reasonably high in fiber and makes a great snack.

    - Avocados are in a class of their own as well. They're very high in fiber, utterly delicious, easy to eat with just a spoon and a little salt, and they happen to go extremely well with beans and lentils. They're also high in healthy fat and probably have other benefits as well.

    - Spices. These aren't an ideal source of fiber, since we use relatively small amounts of them in our food. But they do have a great deal of fiber in them. And most spices have other medicinal and dietary benefits as well. And of course, they make your food all the more delicious. So feel free to go crazy with the spices.

    - Nuts and seeds. Flaxseeds, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and all other nuts and seeds. These are also high in protein, high in beneficial fat, and filling. Flaxseeds are high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and sesame seeds are extremely high in calcium. It seems that nut butters are also reasonably high in fiber. Dried coconut is also high in fiber, and I'll toss it into the nut category because it goes so well with nuts.

    - Berries and dried fruit. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries all have quite high proportions of fiber. They're also full of vitamins and nutrients. Dried fruit also has a substantial amount of fiber, especially figs, apricots, and prunes.

    - Vegetables. As you can see, vegetables aren't actually the highest source of fiber of them all. Still they're reasonably high in fiber, very nutritious in other ways, and usually they're utterly delicious. Again, I didn't find that much consistency among my different sources. But from what I gather, peas are impressively full of fiber, and of course they're very easy to cook. Frozen or fresh peas can be easily added to whole rice for extra taste, nutrition, variety, and visual appeal. Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage (is that a brassica too or am I getting confused?) are high in fiber. So is winter squash, baked potatoes if you eat the skin, sweet potatoes, and yams. While leafy greens and lettuce are often recommended for fiber, other sources said that they didn't actually have much. Either way, we know for sure that they're nutritious and yummy in other ways. In general tougher, more substantial greens probably have more fiber than the light greens; so for instance romaine lettuce apparently has more fiber than most lettuce, and kale probably has the most of them all.

    - Fresh fruit (excluding berries), especially pears, apples, bananas, oranges, and papayas. Often a lot of the fiber actually resides in the fruit's skin or other material such as the dividing inner skins within an orange. (What are those called, again?) Again, fresh fruit such as apples is often described as a primary source for fiber. All my sources seemed to agree that, when it came to the numbers, it is one of the milder sources. Still, fruit are a decent source of fiber, and like vegetables they're nutritious and yummy in many other ways. It's much better to eat a whole fruit than to drink fruit juice, as far as fiber and blood sugar are concerned, although sometimes a good quality fruit juice is an easy way to get a lot of nutrients all at once.


So there we go. Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 10

Low Sugar Goodness

Goodness! We've had an exciting week or two around here (I say a little wryly), including some news which shifts our priorities quite a bit. And meanwhile I've had a bunch of health problems crop up (or worsen) all at once, which call for some dietary changes--pronto.

The first change is a low sugar diet, to deal with a yeast overgrowth. Yeast, also called candida, is one of the microorganisms which lives in everyone's bodies, in harmony with the other microorganisms. However when we take antibiotics, they diminish the good bacteria that lives in our digestive system. That leaves an empty space, which is prone to being repopulated by yeast instead of good bacteria. Then, as any baker knows, yeast eat sugar, and its presence in high quantities sets off a population boom, which is the primary cause of rising bread. Since most of us eat a high sugar diet, in the form of both sugars and refined grains, the population boom can happen inside us. Along with the good bacteria, our immune system helps to keep yeast in check. If one's immune system is depressed or overtaxed, that also leaves room for an imbalance.

We have evolved to have only a small amount of yeast in our systems. Yeast just doesn't work in our bodies in high quantities. If you've ever had a yeast infection or thrush, you know how uncomfortable they are. Yeast overgrowth can become a systemic problem, meaning that it can impact the whole body. Like any other systemic problem, this causes a wide variety of symptoms throughout the body that vary per person. In my case, it causes or contributes to anxiety, blood sugar problems, acne, digestive troubles and food sensitivities, a low immune system and joint pain. Likewise, sometimes yeast overgrowth is not the only systemic health problem, but part of a vicious cycle that started with something else, such as a depressed immune system. This vagueness makes candida hard to diagnose accurately. If you have yeast infections or thrush, you know that you have a yeast overgrowth, although it may be external only or internal as well. If you've taken antibiotics in the past few years that resulted in digestive problems, there's a good chance that yeast overgrowth may be an current issue or risk. Since a low sugar diet is also good for your blood sugar, it can be worthwhile to reduce sugar drastically for a few months, and then when you bring it back into your diet, to do so in moderation.

I recently came across Candida Cure Recipes, which overall seems like the most impressive resource on the candida-free diet I've seen so far.

My moderation has been slowly slipping in the last few months. It doesn't help that Gordan will happily get me any treat that I ask for at any hour, as long as he's awake! This was a huge plus in our early days, and it still is when I'm craving something savory. So now I am going back to the grindstone again. I'm starting by cutting out regular sugar and sweeteners, except that for now I'm keeping a small amount of agave nectar in my breakfasts. At this point I rarely get severe sugar cravings--my cravings are usually more like whims, however insistent--so this won't be as difficult as it was last time, when I weaned myself off of sugar by eating vanilla yogurt progressively diluted with plain yogurt. I'm going to continue taking my probiotic supplement. I'm not going to absolutely avoid refined grains, which I didn't need to do last time. However I am eating more whole grains than I was before, which takes us to the next dietary change, to a high fiber diet, which I'll post about tomorrow.

There's a lot that I'm leaving out here, so if you want more information about this, feel free to ask for more details.

Thursday, May 1

Self Portraits Without Mirror

Some drawings from last night...



Wednesday, April 9

Spring Cleaning: The Deep Treatment With Apartment Therapy

There are two kinds of spring cleaning. The first is the traditional kind, where you clean every single inch of your home (or something that feels like every single inch when you're done). In the second kind of spring cleaning, you reevaluate your home and end up decluttering, reorganizing, and sometimes redecorating. The second one is more fun to do and more interesting to talk about, though in practice they go together well.

While it's the season for spring cleaning, Gordan and I had been thinking about moving. However none of the apartments we came across seemed better than our current apartment. We do like this apartment, even though it's on the shabby side, and it's a one bedroom while we'd prefer two. So we didn't mind staying, and yet expecting to leave meant that everything in here was neglected. As someone with a deep love of interior decorating (and a serious obsessive streak), this was starting to get a little frustrating. Finally we sat down and discussed the apartment. We decided to act as if we were staying semi-permanently, really make this the best home that it could be, and just keep our eyes open for a new home as time passed.

Then the other day I was dawdling in the home section of the library, and picked up Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. I remember looking at it before and being disappointed that there are few concrete suggestions regarding decorating. I'd also checked out the related blog and been overwhelmed with a glut of information. Basically it's a to do list in book form, altogether composing an eight week plan to make your apartment (or house) into a better home--structurally, decoratively, spatially, and/or practically. The tasks are generally open-ended, ultimately geared to getting you to do whatever you feel needs to be done for your home. Since I've been thinking of making some overall changes to our apartment, this seemed perfect for me right now. So I checked it out and took the book home with me.

I was particularly won over by the way that the book breaks down the process of working on your home into a manageable number of weekly tasks. The first week, for instance, starts with listing all the repairs needed in your home, vacuuming and mopping the floors, and buying fresh flowers. There are so many things that I'd like to do in here, when I list them all it feels quite overwhelming. I may say to myself "One step at a time" but that only partly helps. Here, each week has its own list of tasks, and you know that at the end of the eight weeks, it'll all be done.

Another detail that I really like is the way Gillingham-Ryan addresses lifestyle as well as the physical apartment. He doesn't go overboard with this, he simply includes a few relevant actions in his system, primarily buying fresh flowers and cooking. And with cooking he builds up very slowly, which is necessary for cooking-phobic New Yorkers (of which I am one, despite technically knowing how to cook, and despite having moved to Vancouver).

I mentioned above that this system works on the home structurally, decoratively, spatially, and/or practically. He calls these the bones (structure), heart (decoration), breath (space, flow, clutter), and brains (practical, organization) of a home. At first I rolled my eyes a tiny bit at this seemingly unecessary anthropomorphizing, but since then I've found it to be a pretty useful mnemonic device. There's a quiz on page 48 to help you determine which of these areas to focus on. Again, I usually roll my eyes at 'quizzes' yet this one was quite useful. To my surprise I found that more than anything, my home is not organized in a way that supports what I want to do; basically I have no workspace.

And yet all of the aspects of our home need some work. There are also some repairs that need to be done; some decluttering and placement changes are needed, especially in the living room; and I'd like the decoration of the apartment to be more colorful, consistent, soothing, and warm. The next few posts will cover the changes we're making in each of these home aspects.

Forthcoming

Although no one replied to my last enquiry, feedburner tells me that there are five subscribers, which is four + me. Oh, since I wrote this originally it has gone up to eight and then down to six. Heck, I'm happy with that! So I'll assume that the five of you are very busy and/or quiet people, and I'll keep rambling away, if that's all right with you!

I'm writing several related (to me at least) posts right now, primarily on spring cleaning related subjects. So they'll be forthcoming, sooner or later.

Saturday, April 5

Is anybody out there?

Tell me a little about your day or your life... what are you doing as you read this?

I have switched this blog's feed over to feedburner so that I can see how many, if any, people are reading this. I hope this won't disrupt the previously existing feeds.

Wednesday, April 2

First Little Bird





I hand sewed this little bird yesterday!

To my surprise, it turned out quite well in the end. I had to restart about three times though... the first time I'd cut the body pieces wrong (both on the same side, thus one would have had the cloth inside out)... the second time I'd pinned the belly piece to the head and back, instead of the neck and bottom... and the third time I mangled the sewing. After that it was clear sailing. Here's what I learned:

  • If I'm going to do any embroidery, such as eyes, it's best to do that when the piece is mostly, but not entirely, sewed up... but not yet stuffed.
  • It's better to sew a little further in from the edge so that it's well tucked in.
  • There's no need to make small stitches on this project.
  • While the quilt batting does basically work as a stuffing, I have to cut it up into pieces, so it's not a great long term solution, especially if I want to make something a little bigger.
  • And finally, I have to pay some attention to the direction of the ribbon, otherwise it will hang in a divebombing position:


Monday, March 31

A Remedy for Dark Circles

I'm a big fan of Nature's Gift, a high quality, personable source for essential oils and related materials. In particular, they're the best source I've found so far for precious oils (such as rose, etc). I'm also loving some of their body products, especially the shea souffle which I finally got around to ordering. Mmm, so good.

Anyway, that was not the point of this post. As I was browsing around on the site earlier today, for whatever reason, I noticed that they suggest using highly diluted helichrysum essential oil on dark circles under the eyes. (They have more information on the marvels of helichrysum for other purposes here.) I emailed them to ask exactly what level of dilution they recommend--they replied, 2% at most.

Alas when I went to try it I found that my helichrysum oil no longer smells right. It was diluted (10%) in jojoba oil and I guess that carrier oil finally turned. So I'm going to have to get some new helichrysum. But I'm very excited to try this out.

Saturday, March 29

Basic Sewing & Embroidery Supplies

You can't sew with just fabric and books! So today we drove out to the dreaded Michael's in order to buy the rest of the necessary stuff.



This is the sewing basket I ended up buying. In the store I merely thought it was the least hideous, but now I find it cute and charming. It is smaller than would be ideal though. And it was on sale, hurray! Let's look inside...



This basket visibly contains: (1) purple fan shaped needle holder, containing pins (2) four spools of thread (3) one of two cloth marking pencils, made of chalk or something (4) empty embroidery spools peeking out--forget the proper term for these (5) the essential tomato pincushion (6) the bottom of a hera marker. Invisibly, it also contains: (7) an exacto knife, covered (8) the other cloth marking pencil, (9) a very small spool of ribbon (10) a seam ripper (11) embroidery needles (12) sewing needles (13) a small pair of scissors (14) measuring tape (15) a crochet needle which apparently is the best thing for pushing in stuffing (16) the needles we already had that I just found. Whew.



Here we have the stuff that doesn't fit into the sewing basket: fabric scissors, another spool of ribbon, three embroidery hoops (I was indecisive about sizes, and Gordan insisted that they were cheap enough that I should get them all, and save time instead), a package of 35 skeins of embroidery floss, two sizes of stencil film for transferring and saving patterns, and cotton quilt batting... because they had no regular cotton stuffing, only polyester. I'm hoping I can use this instead, after a little mushing up.



You'd think after all this time I'd be dying to start sewing, right? As it turns out, before sewing I should wash and dry the fabrics. And I am way too lazy for that toady. So instead, this is what I did after returning from the store. I cut out the pattern shapes onto the stencil paper, and wound the embroidery floss onto the little spools. There are only twenty six spools for my thirty five skeins, so there are a few left over.