Monday 31 December 2007

Paper, Plastic, or Neither!

Warning: far too many pictures for only one project ahead :-) Canvas bags are great, but oh-so-bulky. So, needing something I could tuck into my purse for impromptu grocery shopping...

Two thrifted scarves from the stash and a pattern (which was evened out after this photo) made from a plastic grocery bag later....

The original had round holes for handles, but, as this project has taught me, my skills with flimsy silky material are sketchy at best, so I just made slits reinforced with lots of bar-tacks at the ends. I did do the fancy bottom thing at the bottom, after a sewing-table-plastic-bag-dissection (not pretty - how am I going to put it back together?)

Yay! I may make more of these (after adding a way to keep it folded up in my purse) and give bunches of them as belated holiday gifts :-)

Saturday 29 December 2007

Everything is...

Family walks at this time of year are joyous; swinging arms, crunching snow, and making up songs. However, once in a while I love solitary winter walks...

This makes me smile every time I walk by:

And tucked in the corner...

Full of promise, waiting, witnessing the winter...

Craft stuff soon, I promise :-)

Thursday 27 December 2007

Excitement and an Offering

There is nothing equal to the bursting-at-the-seams excitement of a child. Safiya had been out with Mr. S. while I went to get the tree, and when they came home, I could see immediately that she had been told of its imminent arrival. After she had meticulously vacuumed up all of the errant pine needles on the floor (this child loves vacuuming), out came the ornaments. For each and every one, she picked it up, held it aloft like the holy grail (but with more enthusiasm than reverence) and shouted: "What's in this one, Mama?!!" Every single one. No other comments, just an entire afternoon punctuated by "What's in this one, Mama?!" and some other childish murmerings.

And, from the appearance of the tree, you can tell that a three-year-old lives here:

Later, I was surprised to find this by the back patio doors:

What is that? Well, at our house, there's the myth of the party-hat. Once, Safiya left a paper party-hat outside. It was subsequently ruined in the rain, and, well, (shhhh) it got recycled. Except that she asked where it went, and being the sensible parents we are, we told her...that the raccoons that live around here must have taken it for their party. So now she believes that part of raccoon behaviour is to appropriate little girls' party hats.

So, when Mr. S. and Safiya were making hats that afternoon, she insisted he make one for the raccoons. And leave it outside for them. And thus is born a new Solstice tradition: an offering for the raccoons. :-)

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Waiting for the Bus

Taken by Safiya:

Interesting to see what catches a three-year-old's eye...

Saturday 22 December 2007

Let's Start All Over Again (Part the Second)

This is what last weekend brought us, much to our glee. I love the muffled sounds, the crunching of snow under the feet, the assertiveness of a good blizzard; the kind that makes people grumble cheerfully about "the weather we're havin'!"

It's started to melt just a little today, but the huge drifts are still there, making the obtaining of the tree even more satisfying.

Yesterday was the first day of the return of the Solstice spirit around these parts (see the previous post). It was spent anticipating today. Today, with a clean house and a super-clean and re-organised craft room, I started to make a few things, and it felt good. We decorated the tree, I did some sewing, there were crafts, and I stayed up late to wrap the few gifts for our precious girl.

The above picture is the table at breakfast this morning. More Safiya craft than food....

And this is Safiya's table, which has been moved from the playroom into the kitchen so that she can play in the light that comes in through the patio doors. Her pinecones, collected in a bowl in the living room, are the only decorations we have in the house other than the tree, and it is enough; just perfect. We aren't "doing" much to celebrate this year, and it feels oddly more celebratory than previous years of fussing and worrying over gifts and decorations and such.

Tomorrow we'll have our Solstice morning, and then I'll indulge in some more sewing. And I have all night to dream...

Let's Start All Over Again (Part the First)

The Moon Through Our Window

People often say not to fix things that aren't broken. Well, that may be true, but sometimes you have to smash something; tear it asunder, in order to fix it. And this enables you to experience the meditative quality of picking up the pieces. And sometimes you don't even put it back together again. Sometimes you collect it only to throw the whole thing out, bury it, burn it, what have you, straighten your shoulders and start anew. (Fully aware that you've probably missed a few pieces and if you're not careful they'll end up sticking you in the foot, but still...)

You may have noticed that I haven't been around lately. My heart hasn't been in it. The craft room noticed as well, and so did Mr. S. and Safiya, I think. And so did the goddesses of house and home and hearth. As of two days ago, besides our little wreath I had neither baked nor cleaned nor wrapped nor prepared in any way for Solstice or Christmas. Not a thing. Until I found a voice of mine, an angry one, that had been shelved, and finally put it to good use.

This blog, this space of mine, is a little craft, a little political, a little mothering, a little figuring things out, a little this and a little that. As I get older I'm learning the difference between personal and private. That being said, I'm writing here to commemorate the day that my anger finally rose up to confront someone that I should have long, long ago. The day that I learned how purifying the expression of anger can be, how it can distill all the convolutions of a problem into its essence, simplifying it and sifting it like flour until you can look in the bowl and divine yourself by how the dust falls.

Tonight it the longest night of the year, and I am so glad to be able to welcome and enjoy it. And to welcome tomorrow, the beginning of the return of the sun.

Peace, strength, and health to you and yours on this longest of nights.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Festive Zen, Dragged Over a Day or Two

Amongst piles of scraps, mountain high, divided by colours, we claimed our territory: "Pink, it has to be pink!" And so, just sitting and talking, scissors in hand, in-between learning to tie and finding the perfect scraps, we sl-ow-ly assembled what was declared to be "The best wreath ever":

Our little gesture of festivity is inspired by this wreath, found via whip-up. And as I look at the original now, I realise why Safiya kept insisting that it have a blue bow...well, tomorrow that will have to be changed :-)

there's that long-ish piece sticking out on the right-hand-side....arg!....I have to go and fix that....right now

Thursday 6 December 2007

A Confession

Dear Goddesses of Craft:

I lied today. I said "I hate handsewing" and "I hate knitting". This is not true, and for such transgressions I am truly sorry.

In truth, I said these things out of love. When you love to do something, picking it up in the knowledge that you soon must put it down again can be painful. And so I lashed out against something that I love.

Don't worry, I'll make it up to you.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Wearing Our Green On Our (Second-Hand) Sleeves

The video above is timely, considering the season about to fall upon us (THUD). It was first posted on Celsias a couple of days ago, and now No Impact Man has a post on it as well. I'm posting it here because the more (even if it's just a little) the merrier! Annie Leonard is a waste activist, and the video is engaging and clear. It seems that more "ordinary people" aren't waiting for politicians to set policy and well, just getting the word out or making their own. Including this guy's video on global warming: "How It All Ends" (this is the revised one, in response to feedback from the first, more succinct version).

And then there's the Riot for Austerity. It's an invitation to, over a year, reduce your consumption by 90% and keep it there. That's right, 90%. There are pressing reasons why this figure was chosen, and I'll let the link speak for itself, but I will say that it's an inspired idea. Our household hasn't officially joined, but we're being sucked in bit by bit :-)

There are sooooo many well-spoken people discussing the statistics, the checks and balances, the politics, of global warming, the coming fresh-water shortage, peak oil, greenwashing, and etc. These are important foods for thought, mostly because all those words are (hopefully) catalysts for growth of action. But we are an average family. So here's my average family rant on going green (wait, gotta find the soapbox - oh crap, Safiya's using it as a house for the Mama toy dog....)

(Deep breath...)

I am not part of this new religion, and a religion it does seem, sometimes. I am not better than you because my honey is wildcrafted and yours comes in the plastic bear. You are not going to heaven with your recycled totebag in, er, tow...

And that's the point, isn't it? First, we are in this together. Second, we cannot buy our way out of what is coming.

I do not believe the government will fix things for us (there, I've said it, but please don't stop protesting!) There is a long list of reasons why I think this, but maybe for another post. I do believe that people are very good at getting together to help each other out in a crisis (look at the Big Summer Blackout of 200? here in Toronto - no pandemonium, just people helping each other out - it was coool! I wish we could celebrate it every year!) I don't believe technology is going to save us (we don't have the time). Also, my limited understanding and observation has lead me to the idea that it's better not to hedge my bets on everyone getting on the ACTION bandwagon anytime soon. So here's my radical statement:

I do not make "environmental" changes to stop global warming.

When I took a health psychology class, one of the studies that struck me involved health in the elderly and the idea of anticipation. As far as I recall, there were three groups (randomly assigned): elderly who were not assigned regular visits by volunteers, elderly who were assigned random visits by volunteers, and elderly who were assigned regular (same time, same day) visits by volunteers. The surprising result was that the second group did worse, health-wise than the first group (the third group did the best, obviously). It seems that it was the expectation, the looking forward to the visits, that were of more benefit than the actual visiting!

And so, I make changes in order to practise what is likely to be coming down the road soon. To take care of my family. So that the visits of beans-and-grains, of low-water-levels, of less-of-everything are familiar friends who stop by regularly, not spectres to be feared. The major ones are done: we buy second-hand, have signed up for environmentally friendly electricity, make a lot of our own stuff, are vegetarians, don't have a car, and Mr. S. bikes to work or takes transit (and we picked our house to enable this). There's much more to do, to practise (the garden this year was a bust :-), but it really is a riot!

Funnily enough, I don't even notice much of a difference (and this from a formerly decent shop-a-holic).

Once you stop buying things, you can stop reading labels and trying to weigh products according to their enviro-moral worth. Once you start eating local and in season as much as you can, you can once again stop fretting over labels. Once there's no expectation of being entertained all the time, you start to actually have fun.

And just in case you think I'm all doom-and-gloom (Hi Mom :-), here's some links about why this really works, and what fun we can look forward to:

Sharon's post on Post-Peak Hedonism.
The benefits of living this way from Colin.

And by the way, we have the plastic bear. It just gets refilled, is all.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

It's On the Jar!

I came across this recently as I was tidying the recipe box:

Seriously. The above recipe, scribed in my adolescent script, is a relic from the past; it is one of the two favourite casseroles that our family grew up with. That and "Potato Chip Casserole". I kid you not :-)

These days our cupboards look mostly like this:

Butter and cheese are lovely (I'll pass on the "cream of" soups!), but not to a lactose-intolerant vegetarian (how unfair is that?). Why all the writing on the jars? First, it must be noted that that kind from the pre-Safiya era. But it has served us well. For example:

"How do you make amaranth again?" "It's on the jar!"
"Am I really getting enough calcium?" "It's on the jar!"
"Marnie, are you sure you're getting enough protein?" "It's on the jar!"

It's yummy eating, and although I can't find locally grown quinoa or amaranth yet, for the most part the whole grain, beans, veggies, and fruit thing (and vegan baked goods!) is 100-mile diet friendly. And, incidentally, wallet-friendly as well.

Of course, sometimes the jar is a little vague: ratio water to oats: 3 to 1 or 4 to 1, cook 10 to 40 minutes. You know, more or less...

Saturday 1 December 2007

Four Hour Round Up

The low-light setting of my camera is great except that you've either got to have a tripod or a really steady hand. Hmmmm, as the above picture proves, must cut back on....what? I don't drink coffee, so maybe chocolate? No, that can't possibly be it :-)

If this works it will be quite possibly the easiest way to clothe a child, ever. Felt sweater, cut off sleeves and neckline, cut out armholes. Ta-da! I added slits at the bottom sides for a little bit more ease of movement because it wasn't quite a-line, but since the shape is based on a little dress she already has, it'll probably fit. Yay for felt tunics!

Some other things finished in the four hours of lovely craft time this afternoon:

New legwarmers for Safiya! And, from Cynthia Treen's Last Minute Fabric Gifts:

A hat pour moi. "Why hello, Robin Hood" said Mr. S. upon my surfacing from the basement. Hmmmm, I thought so myself a little, but I was also trying to persuade myself that at a certain angle it could be jaunty-and-just-a-little-glam-in-a-30's-kind-of-way. That is, until Mr. S. burst my bubble. Well, it's off to rob the rich and give to the poor I go!