Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slow Living: February 2012

I love the idea of living a more sustainable and simple life.  It's one of the big reasons why we moved to our own farm in 2009.

Karen of Bare Feet and a Free Spirit turned me on to the Slow Living Project which seems right up my alley.  :-)  It's a monthly diary of things people are doing in a host of categories.  And since the One Small Change project formally ended last year, I've lost a bit of focus on these things.  So I hope they don't mind that a Yank is joining in.  ;-)

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

We already do a lot of preparing of food from scratch, but I know we can do better. For example, I love baking bread but generally don't and our freezer is often stocked with prepared meal items from CostCo.

I like the idea of making pasta from scratch... especially since Kelly at Twill&Dot makes it sound so luxurious.

I have restarted a yoga practice. I'm not entirely sure that this meets the intent of this category but it has been very nourishing for my state of mind. :-)

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

We're in the middle of winter now, so we have been enjoying the tomato sauce I put up last summer. In fact we're down to one jar left.

My snow-covered garden with piles of alpaca manure at one end

It took me a bit to realize this, but I have been stockpiling alpaca manure and spent hay since last fall.  We had been giving it to friends and our neighbor took a bunch for his beer garden, but this year it's all for us.  :-)  Most will be tilled into the vegetable garden once spring arrives. This will be our second year having a garden at this house, so I'm hopeful the added manure and hay will help the clay soil out a lot.

Two of my friends are leaders for local girl scout troops so we support them by buying our annual supply of tasty girl scout cookies from their two troops. :-)  We bought several boxes that went into the freezer. :-)

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

This has been a significant effort since we put our former house up for sale in early 2009. We have been very focused on using what we already have... especially clothing. It's quite surprising how much we had... and still do. In the last three years we've only purchased a small amount... things like undergarments, socks and jeans, but not much else.

Unfortunately the only recent re-purposing I can think of is taking some of the carpet we ripped out of our basement and cut up into mats for the dogs. Nothing fancy of course, but it was going to the land-fill, so I feel better about that.

We also continue to recycle more than we throw away but the amount seems to have plateaued, so I want to focus even more on the packaging before it finds it's way into our home and reduce both the garbage and recycling.

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

I bought some compact florescent lights, but have been hugely disappointed with them. The light feels sickening. Is there a version that feels more like an incandescent or natural light and not an institution? Also are there brands that are not packaged in an fortress of plastic?

I have not been traveling as much which has me working from home a lot more... therefore no commuting which means no extra fuel emissions for a while. I sure like working from home. :-)

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

It's winter now so there's not much growing around here with the exception of Alpaca. We have 13 alpaca growing their luxurious fleece which will be shorn in May. We also have (hopefully) four cria growing in our mommies tummies. The cria are due in late fall.

Alpacamundo's Big Thompson

I have also noticed that the trees are starting to swell in preparation for the buds to come out. This gets me excited since we planted several young fruit trees last year and they all are showing the same signs.  :-)

our young peach tree showing signs of budding soon

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here. 

I do a lot of creation... felting, knitting and knitting this month. :-)

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

Over the last couple of months, we have taken to discovering our (now not so new) community... mostly this has been new to us restaurants and long drives exploring the area. Even though we have lived here for more than two years, but with both of us generally travelling a lot for our day jobs there is still a lot to discover.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers and producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.

It felt like we were single-handedly be keeping our neighbor the plumber in business earlier this month. :-/ A new water heater and some pipe repair as a result of discovering two (fortunately small) floods in the basement.

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

I've been trying to spend more time with friends, knit night and dedicated time with Hubba, the dogs and alpacas.

With the days getting longer and me working remotely more, Hubba and I have been able to take the dogs on several walks together this month. It's a fun time for all of us. :-)

I was able to (finally) catch up with a friend for dinner after 6-ish weeks of one or both of us having to re-schedule. I just love her. We have a terrific time whenever we get together. :-)

View of Mount Audubon

I also went snowshoeing (my first time) with a group of friends. :-)

So this is my first journal for the Slow Living Project.  It's quite a long post, so thank you for getting this far.  ;-)  I plan to write more during the month as we do these things.  :-)

If you're interested in seeing what others are doing, please head over to Slow Living Essentials to see the February updates.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Flexibility, Calmness and Strength

I restarted yoga earlier this month with the goal of increasing my flexibility, mental calmness and physical strength.

I have practiced yoga regularly in the past but it's been pretty much non-existent for the preceding 3 years or so.  As a result I've gained weight and pain and lost flexibility and strength.

Usually when I restart something as intense as Bikram Yoga it's pretty rough, but my first class went remarkably well.  I think it's because I made sure I was well hydrated for a few days before as well as prepared my mind to be focused on the moment.  I had decided that if I needed to sit down I would, but my goal was to remain standing (and breathing) throughout the entire standing series.  I did.  I was very surprised and proud of myself.  :-)

My second and third classes were quite wobbly but I was able to experience improvement in many of the postures.  There's nothing quite like instant gratification, right?

I am really liking this studio.  Between the instructors, students, location and decor this studio has a great vibe; very welcoming and comforting.   Always a nice thing when you're starting out.  :-)

Behind making the time and actually going to the classes, I think the hardest part about restarting yoga has been leaving my stuff at the door.  It's been taking me about half the class to get into the zone of just focusing on my breath and posture and not thinking about the stuff that happened that day or still needs to happen or whatever.  Leaving the stuff behind has definitely been the most challenging.

So now that it's been a few weeks, I'm feeling great.  My pain, flexibility, strength and peacefulness are all improving.  Hubba says I look different.  I'm not so sure about that, but it's nice that he thinks so.  ;-)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Pre-Game Show

By most accounts, I'm not much of a girly-girl.

I can count the number of times I've had a pedicure (2), manicure (1), massage (about 20) and other-wise spa day (0).

I don't care much for dresses although my mom tells me I liked them as a little girl.  I do wear them to things like weddings and Mass, but I don't believe I've ever worn a dress to work.
... Oh, I take that back.  I did wear a couple of skirts when I had an internship in a down-town office building when I was a graduate student.  I remember resenting it at time.  It was clear we were expected to dress up, but I spent my entire time in an office... by myself... doing research.  So, apparently the books, papers and periodicals had high standards for the people who were reading them.  :-/
The evidence that I'm not really a girly-girl continues with (1) I love math and I'm really good at it, (2) I'm a mechanical engineer and actually miss it a little, (3) I love building things and working with my hands and (4) we are building a farm for ourselves.

But all of this not-girly-girl stuff goes out the window when it's red carpet time.

I like the Oscars because I enjoy movies, but I LOVE the pre-game show.  :-D

I love watching the celebrities go up the red carpet and seeing what they're wearing... mostly the clothing but also the jewelry, shoes and hair-dos.

I almost always pick up a copy of People Magazine and try to catch the appropriate episode of Entertainment Tonight... I'm such a little girl about this stuff.  Hubba thinks it's pretty funny.

I don't really know most of the designers very well... I mean, I do know some of them.  Oh, alright fine, I know who a lot of them are.  ;-)

I dream of creating my own line... and when they ask, "Who are you wearing?" Sometimes they'll say, "Kathryn Ray."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Challah Progress

I mentioned the beginnings of my Challah socks in December... Can it really have been that long ago?

I was knitting along and feeling pretty confident when I realized I messed up one of the larger cables... right at the beginning. :-/

It doesn't look too bad in this photo, but you can see the big cable on the right does not mirror the big cable on the left. :-/

Also my purl stitches are looser than I would like them to be. I changed to smaller stitch markers a few rows back which helped... but ugh.

I talked it over with both Hubba and Kristi and I tried on a few ideas...

(1) it will be in shoes and no one will see it anyway,
(2) it's my first cabled sock, so no one really cares if it's messed up,
(3) it's a design feature and
(4) I might just knit three socks.

I knit a few more rounds and the whole time I was thinking, the toe is wrong, the toe is wrong, the toe is wrong. It really started to bug me and I couldn't let it go. So I pulled it out and started over.

I meant to post the corrected sock at the same place as the photo above, but well, I'm a lot further than that now.  :-)

Check that out... a real sock that fits my very own foot. :-D

This sock demanded my full attention when I was working on the gusset increases, especially at the beginning... keeping track of whether I was on an increase round or not and where I was in the cable pattern.  It was a little challenging at first.  Now I'm past the heel and about ready to cable until my heart is content.

There are several mistakes in this sock... even after the big rip-out, but they are smaller and less noticeable, so I have decided to leave them.  I know the next sock will be better.  :-)

That being said it was a little snug pulling over my heal.  So I am planning to tink back a few rounds and switch to larger needles... as recommended in the pattern.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.  Be certain to check in with everyone over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I went snowshoeing last weekend with some friends...

View of Mount Audubon

As you can see, it was a beautiful day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

At Home

I came to realize over the last week that I've been home for most of the last three months.  It's quite surprising, because it's been three years since I've been home for more than a couple of weeks at a time.

I just love being at home and the time has flown by.

I have also come to realize that I enjoy working remotely.  This was not initially the case.

I do still have a suitcase mostly packed, but it has been very nice not using it.

Hubba said he wishes I could work remotely every day.  I guess he likes having me at home too. :-)

Personally, I now feel available to become part of our community.

Does that sound weird?

With being gone a lot, I haven't had much energy for or interest in being out.  Which means we haven't spent a lot of time going to the local restaurants, shops or festivities... all of those things that make sure one is part of their community.

That's pretty sad considering we've been in this house for a little more than two years.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Casting On

After I settled on a stitch pattern I began to cast on...

A little over half of my intended stitches were crammed on 29-inch US6 circular needles.  I definitely needed longer needles for this project.

It took me a few days to get it done, but I found a 60-inch pair of US6 circular needles at one of my local yarn shops.  whew.

620 stitches cast on.  :-)

... and because I made a mistake about half-way thru the first row, but didn't realize until about half-way thru the second row, I ripped it out and cast on again.

530 stitches this time. I think this will be closer to my intended final length after blocking anyway. :-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.  :-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Bear Down

Several weeks ago I told you about the Bear Hair my cousin's son who henceforth shall be known as my personal rare fiber dealer, found in their back yard.  Thank you all for your suggestions about how to incorporate it into some fiber-y goodness.  I have much to think about.  :-)

Today I want to show you what my personal rare fiber dealer found near the river...

1/8 ounce (~4g) of Black Bear Down.  :-)

So now I have a small amount of Bear Hair and a small amount of Bear Down.  :-D

This down is incredibly soft.  It's very dirty and much of it is matted, so I'm not sure how much of it will become usable, but it is definitely spin-able.  I will get to it as soon as I finish up the Rocky Mountain Goat.  :-D

I'm feeling very blessed in the fiber department right now.  :-)

Have a terrific weekend and Fiber Arts Friday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Felting the Big Hat

Hubba liked the Big Hat.  It was a little loose, but it wasn't ridiculous.

He wore it for a couple of days.  I thought I was ok with it, but as your comments came in last week, it made me want to felt it even more.

So I took Hubba yarn shopping.  :-)

It's true.  He actually went with me into a yarn store and chose a yarn he would like to have a hat made out of.... so one day, he will have a different hat.  But don't worry about his head getting cold.  He already has an alpaca hat that fits him properly and a cotton hat that he loves but I dislike very much.  :-)

So I attempted to felt the Big Hat in a bucket of hot soapy water.  All it really did was slosh soapy water all over my feet.  :-/

While Sunday was a very nice day, it is still winter so I wasn't keen on getting myself sopping wet.  So I set it aside.

The next day I ran it through the wash with a load of towels... which brought horror to my knitting group's eyes.  But it worked.

The hat is thick and sturdy.  It fits suggly.  It perhaps could have been a tiny bit longer.  Which has me thinking about making another big hat.

I'm calling this one a good save.  :-)

Oh, and I no longer have to figure out how to take a photo of me in the mirror...


Happy Fiber Arts Friday!  Be certain to check in with everyone else over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.