Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Knitted Coasters

I came up with the idea of knitting coasters about 4 years ago when I taught myself how to knit.  my coffee sits on one every morning and my water glasses sit on them all day long.  Because it is humid here in the summer, the condensation on the glasses will drip onto regular coasters and make them stick to the glass.  I like that these coasters soak up the moisture.  Yes, they get wet, but they dry quickly and don't leave a puddle of water behind.

I use cheap-o yarn or FREE yarn for these and #8 needles.

Cast on 20 stitches.
K5, P5, K5, P5 for Rows 1-4
P5, K5, P5, K5 for Rows 5-9
repeat for 5 total sections
Cast off.

This will not give you a perfect square, but I don't care.  After a few uses, the basket-weave pattern will flatten out.

This is a coaster that I just finished.  You could dampen it and iron it if you want it flat sooner.

Added bonus: These are washable.  The white comes clean easily in the wash.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rambling Simple Living Post

First peas of the season are like candy
Yesterday, I began my search for a place to volunteer in my community.  I spent a few hours in the morning in a preschool classroom, a place I am familiar with as it's what I went to school for and an environment that I have worked in on and off for 20 years. I think I can safely say, I no longer want to teach in a classroom.  I'll stick with my piano students.  Next up I will try a local food pantry.

Spending time in the classroom was valuable in that once I returned home, I was newly grateful for this simple urban gardening/sustainable life that I have carved out for myself, and could cross one thing off of my list.  I make almost all of our food from scratch.  I grow most of our summer and fall produce.   And most of the decorative items in my home have been made, sewn, or painted by me.  I LIKE making homemade laundry detergent and hanging that laundry on lines to dry.  I have time to walk or bike where I need to go.

 I know that having most of my days to do as I like is a luxury that most people do not have.  I am grateful every day that I have time for creative pursuits and can sink into a sustainable lifestyle without worrying about how much money I am making.  My husband spends his days in an academic setting at a university working in the environmental field and we are frugal which has allowed me to only work part-time for money.

We've been able to afford living on one income for one major reason: We don't subscribe to the American culture of buying more.

We have owned four homes in our 23 years of marriage.  All have been what realtors consider "starter homes".  While our income has gone up (and down), our mortgage has stayed about the same.  That extra money has mostly gone to pay for travel all over the US and a few places abroad.  Our latest move was a downsize as two of our three daughters are now in college, we don't need the space, and we wanted to be able to help pay for some of their college expenses.

I don't dye my hair or get expensive haircuts.  I have long medium/dark blond hair and so far the bits of gray are only noticeable to me.  Because my hair is long, I don't have a "style" to maintain.  My daughters also have long hair, don't use product or heat to style their hair, and never have split ends.  Make-up is rarely worn by any of us, though I have worn moisturizer every day since I was fifteen. 

Lots of people think I'm cheap.  I prefer "frugal" or "choosy about where I spend my money".  I'd rather travel than have a large new house with a pool and granite countertops.  Those homes are beautiful, but that is not where my priorities lie.  At one point, we thought about buying a vacation home in the country, but I don't want to be tied to one place to visit on weekends. I have commitment issues to places.

You don't have to live in the country with chickens and goats to live simply and sustainably.  You can do it in the city, too.  Sustainable simple living, simply looks different in the city.  But it is still rewarding.  If you like that sort of thing...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Exchange Student Visit

The girls taking pictures at the botanical gardens.

We are hosting a French teenage girl in our home for the next month.  My oldest daughter spent time in Paris with her high school class a few years ago and her french brother came to visit us a few months later so this is not a new experience.  However, the duration is longer. She and our youngest daughter are sharing a room and seem to be getting along nicely. 

Apparently, the exchange students were told that Americans eat a lot of hamburgers and pizza (true) and very little fruit or vegetables (also true).  However, in THIS house, we eat a lot of vegetables and fruit, not a lot of meat, and mostly homemade pizza.  Because we live in a bike friendly city with mass transit, we don't drive as much like most Americans.  So she will go home with a slightly different opinion of Americans.  I hope. 

Already, we have biked places and taken the bus. Her response to every new activity? "Very cool!"  At a neighborhood music festival on Saturday (which we biked to), we ran into a friend's sister who is a French teach in Montreal.  So the assumption that Americans do not speak other languages, got blown (though that's a safe assumption). I speak French, badly, as do two of my daughters (less badly).  My husband and another daughter speak Spanish. 

Touring my gardens, she was happy to see all of the vegetables and I was happy to know most of their French names.  We had to google the french word for summer squash: courges d'ete. She hasn't had that before so I'll have to make sure we find some before she leaves.  I'm not sure mine will be ready.

We are looking forward to showing her more of our city and state and experiencing it as a nonnative.  It is wonderful to see the place that you live through fresh eyes. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

I've spent the better part of the past week, weeding my vegetable and flower gardens.  The large maple trees in my yard really want new saplings!  Thankfully, the seeds are finally done dropping.

Harvested some herbs and hung them on pegs in my kitchen.  Today, I'll finish drying them in a 200 degree oven.  Last year, having a new garden, meant very little got dried, frozen or canned from my gardens.  This year, I should have lots to store.  August-October should be a busy harvesting time for me.  I'm looking forward to freezing and canning lots of green beans, squash, tomatoes, and salsa. 

This year, I planted more peas than I ever have.  My youngest daughter eats them out of the garden before the rest of us can get to them.  It is my hope that I can get at least one meal out of the extra before she eats them all.  Not a bad problem to have at all.

My salad greens that I planted in the cold frame in February and March are just about done.  I think we will have 1-2 more dinners with a green salad before the heat makes them bolt.  All that is left is the buttercrunch lettuce.  The spinach bolted a few weeks ago and the rainbow chard was done last week.  I planted more spinach and lettuce under the bush beans and in about 2 weeks, I'll have salad again.  I'm hoping that the beans will shade the greens and put off the heat making them bolt.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Garden Is My Happy Place

Cold frame is a raised bed in the growing season.

I've been dealing with a lot of uncertainty since February and my husband's impending job loss/restructuring due to our proposed state budget.  Sadly, his department did not have funding restored.  He is probably not out of a job, but pay and job title will most-likely change.  Two kids in college and me working just part-time make me nervous and pissed off.  I'd like to be all zen about it, but I'm not there yet.  At times I feel like my city is Berlin, surrounded by idiot East Germans.


The garden always cheers me up.  I love being able to turn a boring yard into a beautiful one and create a sanctuary where there was once none.  I have 8-10" of topsoil in my yard!  That's incredible!  Everything seems to be doing so well that I planted last summer.  Last fall, I added deep mulched beds to the borders of the backyard.  Now they are filled with berry bushes, fast-growing shrubs, hostas, an apple tree, and lots of perennials, courtesy of my mom.  The backyard is beginning to come together.

We built a large, 9 foot tall by 8 foot wide trellis to add some privacy, but also as a place to grow hops, which my husband uses when he brews beer.  I planted rhizomes about a month ago and thought they had rotted or not taken but 2 days ago, I found tiny little buds emerging from the ground.  Success!

The picture above is of my cold frame.  The plants are from seeds planted in February, which due to the colder than normal winter, took awhile to sprout, even with protection.  The spinach has gone to seed but the lettuce is still doing well, the carrots are growing, and the peas are flowering.  I'll replant this 4x8 foot bed in late July so that we'll have salad greens and carrots this fall and winter.

I like to create things.  Sometimes it's on canvas, sometimes in the kitchen, but mostly I like to plant, and tend, and grow.  I'm a nurturer by nature and that is a necessary trait for a gardener.  Knowing that the work I put into my gardens in the spring will turn into food that goes into my family's bellies in the fall is rewarding.

So even as I look toward an uncertain financial future, I know that I can keep my family fed on healthy organic fruits and vegetables for little cost.  That more than makes up for my small salary, I think.