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.

Friday, March 28

Crafty Loot

Yesterday was a day off for Gordan, so we set off, delightedly enjoying each other's company to an almost ridiculous degree, to run a couple of errands; one of which was to buy a certain book on embroidery that had been slowly and quietly working in the back of my mind.

This is what I ended up with:

Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. Most craft books I seem to love either for the introductory chapters, or the projects in the back. In this case, it's for the introductory chapters. And that's what this book is really about anyway: turning your own simple art and doodles into embroidery.

Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. This book, on the other hand, I got for the projects. I'm not sure if it even has introductory chapters. Oh right, there is one, but it's stuck in the back; pretty good, though. There are exactly seven projects in here that I absolutely, deeply love. The first one is the little birds which are featured on the cover photograph. And all the projects are sorted and labeled with the amount of time they take, so you know exactly what you're getting into.

The ultimately fantastic thing for me is that (a) most of these projects are meant to be handsewn, and many are small enough that this is quite easy and quick. This is so great because frankly I am still completely intimidated by the sewing machine and not yet ready to start there. (I'm keeping my eye out for nice basic sewing classes.) (b) These projects can also be embroidered, making them all the more exciting, and also giving me the opportunity to practice two new skills at once.

Lately I've been wearing an old scarf that I made several years ago. (Oh, now I'll have to take and post a picture. Here it is.) It's been reminding me how much knitting was, for me, about playing with color. It also remind me of the first scarf I made, in garter stitch, but using a gorgeous rainbow of yarns dyed in multiple colors; it was really beautiful, and I gave it to a friend. In fact I think this garish pink-red scarf is made primarily with leftovers from that first scarf. Right now I'm stuck on a vest with a burgundy yarn... it's all right, but it's not an inspiring yarn for me. As these project ideas were churning and combining in my head yesterday, I realized that color and sometimes concept are basically why I do (or don't do) this. Now the idea I'm most excited about will have to remain a secret for the time being. But it's exciting! Gordan says that I talked about all this for eight hours in total yesterday. Yep. Pretty exciting. For me anyway.

Bend The Rules Sewing by Amy Karol. This book, meanwhile, I got for the introductory chapters. And there are, I must admit, some patterns I like inside as well. Her clear and practical approach, and the descriptions of stitches and supplies, are just what I need. (And I'm tired of requesting and renewing this book from the library!)

And last but not least, Embroidered Textiles by Sheila Paine. Now this book is the big find of the day! I don't even know where to begin. Except perhaps that yesterday evening was spent at a Dragana's, passing this book around so everyone could spend some time looking at it and reading it--and these are people who are far more interested in religious studies than embroidery. It is full of amazing pictures, and also covers the symbols and signs used in traditional embroidery, and their origins in ancient religion. Just a fantastic book. And good for some unusual ideas, as well. There are two links in the title because one shows the apparently out of print copy I have, with reviews, and the other seems to link to a new edition that's coming out soon.

And then today, my delivery from arrived...

These are all Amy Butler fabrics, except for the quilt backing fabric on the far left. These might be for a quilted pillowcover project to do later on. 

At this point I'm basically collecting fabric that I love, as I mentioned recently. They don't have to get used in a project right away.

And these are some selections from a "Moda Simplicity 5" Charm Pack" with which I'm quite impressed. I wasn't expecting much at all, just something to practice on. Instead there are these very pretty patches. There are pink, white, yellow, green, and blue patches, roughly eleven of each. In this picture I laid out most of the pink ones, then two whites, two yellows, one blue and one green.

I'd get this again, happily; these are just the kind of pretty classic patterns that I really like, but not enough to buy that much of. Next time in fact I'll get bigger patches, if they are available.

Then, last and least, we have these large tie dyed... velvet pieces? How did I miss that these were velvet? I also got these just to practice on, so I wasn't expecting much, but they won't do. I'll have to give them away to some very happy velvety hippie. Or, I don't know, maybe someday they'll have a use... maybe someday I'll develop a hankering for a pair of flashy velvet pants or something...

Wednesday, March 26

Renewing and Refocusing

I've had a very tiny pregnancy scare this month. I say very tiny, because the chances of my being pregnant are still quite slim. Still, some things made me nervous. And I realized that my diet and health are still not up to fertility standards. I've been slacking lately. I've been drinking more alcohol--perhaps not enough to matter, but I think I'll keep it minimal from now on. I've been eating tuna. I'd stopped doing strength training (partly because I need more gym clothes, and haven't found them yet) and stopped counting calories. And in general my previous poor habits have not changed much. Although I do have something I can brag about--we are finally eating oatmeal every morning! Just as everyone said, pinhead oatmeal has a generally nicer texture than rolled oats. And now that I'm on an earlier schedule, it's no big deal to start the oatmeal cooking before sudden ravenous hunger sets in.

So I got out my copy of The Fertility Diet and brushed up on the details. By the way, I highly recommend this book. It's based on the results from the long-running, extremely thorough Nurses Health Study. While it's based on improving your fertility with nutrition, as it turns out good fertility is promoted with even blood sugar, a balance of hormones, and pretty much all the same stuff that is good for other aspects of your health as well. Not a big surprise when you think about it.

Here are the intentions I've come up with, in a bit of a jumble:

  • eat whole grains twice a day to start out with
  • breakfast: oatmeal with blackstrap molasses (for iron)
  • dinners: beans and other legumes for all dinners
  • for quick dinners, lentils and/or pastas...
    • whole grain pastas are best, combos are second best, but even refined pasta is apparently better than other refined carbs

  • yams instead of potatoes
  • have a fruit snack once a day
  • have nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds for iron) once a day, ie with yogurt
  • take supplements more consistently!
  • eat fish (wild salmon, sardines) twice a week to start out with
  • some other good snacks: hummus, avocado with yogurt, popcorn
  • drink more water!

As someone who doesn't tend to eat that much overall, it seems a little overwhelming. The next step is to mold it into a flexible system that works for me.

Tuesday, March 25

Two Imaginary Quilts

There's something else I've been doing for the past few days: reading SouleMama, and letting it sink in. This follows my recent decision to commit to learning to sew. And thus, some fabric purchases, from, ReproDepot, and now I find myself browsing over Sew Mama Sew. I'm still not completely sure what my first project will be, although I have some ideas. I'm thinking of buying some muslin to practice on. However I've decided that I'm going to do some quilting, somewhere along the way. Just now, looking over the fabrics at Sew Mama Sew, I came up with two particular quilts I want to make someday:

A black and white quilt, made with neat looking exclusively black and white patterns. (Ignore the patterns in there with colors.) I could conceivably make very judicious use of colors, which would be really exciting surrounded by black and white.

And a peach colored baby quilt, if I ever were to make a baby quilt of course. According to many, particularly those in the Waldorf tradition, peach is one of the most suitable colors for babies. This rings true to me. I also saw a lovely picture of the baby quilt that SouleMama made for her youngest; actually the picture I have in mind but couldn't find is relatively more recent, covering the baby at a year old, and also sun-bathed and therefore looking more yellow (and of course, adorable). I'd be using relatively soothing prints in colors such as tan, brown, pink, yellow, orange, and cream--another neat thing about peach is that it's such a blend-oriented color, so there's a lot to play with.

For now, I get to savor the easiest stage of all... ordering my favoritist prints.

Summer Travels

Lately I've been planning our summer travels. Because Gordan is in academia, the summer starts early for us--absurdly early. Last summer, as we trekked about Europe in the heat of August, to some extent missing the cool of Vancouver, I swore we'd make use of this virtue and do our traveling early in the summer instead. So that's what we're planning. Immediately after school ends, Gordan is going to a conference in London, where he's also promised to pick up the very expensive and very heavy encyclopaedia of magical uses of plants that we spotted last year. Then we're going to the east coast to spend most of May with my family in New York City, and some time with my lovely friend Leila in Cape Cod. Towards the end of May we'll borrow my parents' extra car and drive down to a conference in Charleston, and then head back home. We'll most likely also make a blended-family-road-trip to the east coast in the later summer, because for one thing certain members of the blended family don't have an early summer vacation, and for another thing because I have been missing the Cape, and I need to spend a little time there in the hot season to truly savor my time there.

Thursday, March 20

Getting Things Done

I may have first requested this book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, from my library nine months ago. It took a long time in coming, and when it finally arrived it did so in August, when I was in Europe. Then I requested it again, and months later, it is finally here. There must have been a long queue of requests!

So, at last, I'm reading it. I'd picked up details here and there, mainly from the blog 43 Folders. I'd started using a to do list website, Vitalist, that is based on 'GTD' as it's called. (I'd also read two long selections from the book posted on the web that I'd link to here, but I can't find them; they may have been taken down.) But I didn't quite get it.

First, I have the tendency to feel overwhelmed, even when you'd think there isn't much going on. I'm a person with many interests, and somehow they all seem to add to my to do list in some way. I also am sometimes haunted by the feeling that whatever I'm working on isn't the right thing to be working on right now. When I feel overwhelmed, it isn't so much because I'm afraid that the quantity of tasks exceeds the extent of my productivity. Rather, it's a sense that the tasks are mentally unmanageable in number. As Allen says, "You've probably made many more agreements with yourself than you realize, and every single one of them--big or little--is being tracked by a less-than-conscious part of you. These are the 'incompletes' or 'open loops' which I define as anything pulling at your attention that doesn't belong where it is, the way it is."

He goes on to write, "if it's on your mind, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through." That's his first step. I'd been doing that, with Vitalist. It was helpful in that I was able to better categorize my tasks, but reading the book I understand his next step much better. "I suggest that you write down the project or situation that is most on your mind at this moment... Now describe, in a single written sentence, your intended successful outcome for this problem or situation. In other words, what would need to happen for you to check this 'project' off as 'done'?" For myself, I'm also using the principles I learned in composing affirmations (don't knock 'em til you've tried 'em), to describe the desired state or experience in positive language (ie, 'I am strong and healthy', not 'I have no sickness'), using the present tense. Sometimes these subtle shifts in language have a surprising influence on the mind. "Now write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward... If you're like the vast majority of people who complete that drill during my seminars, you'll be experiencing at least a tiny bit of enhanced control, relaxation, and focus. You'll also be feeling more motivated to actually do something about that situation you've merely been thinking about 'til now."

Around this point I had to stop and try it out. I realized that I'd been using "projects" on Vitalist as "categories"... home, health, finances, etc. Instead they're literally projects. The website lets you create sub-projects, so I wanted to start with the top, overarching projects that I have in my life. What are they? I made a list:

  • Be financially organized and prosperous.

  • Stay in touch with friends and family, especially with visits.

  • Be fit, strong, energetic, and at peace.

  • Eat nourishing, homecooked meals.

  • Have a clean, practical, beautiful home.

  • Enjoy art-related outlets.

That was it! After remembering that I'm running out of socks I added "Be comfortably and attractively coiffed and dressed." That one doesn't involve that many tasks. I'm not going to add actionable first steps, yet, or sub-projects, or improve phrasing. Because it's time for lunch and grocery shopping. I'll enjoy doing that later. For now, it's relaxing to know that all the complexity in my life falls neatly into six priorities.