Thursday, July 31, 2008

the last day of july my last day at work for a while. Tomorrow begins my one-month sabbatical. Don't ask what I'm doing with it; I'm trying to avoid generating expectations.

The rush up to this last day at work has been horrendous; I don't recommend piling two+ months' worth of work into one month. HWWLLB and I really tried not to let my insanity ruin our home-life sanity. One of the things that was challenging but fun was trying to eat well and use the farmer's market and garden vegetables even when there seemed to be no time at all to cook, which has basically been every night this month.


One thing I discovered in the process is how much I love patty-pan squash. The variety that our CSA farmer grows is called Scallopini. They are richer-flavored and a bit meatier than your plain old yellow summer squash, and I could eat them by the pound.

My favorite way to make them is to slice them about 1/4 inch thick, and saute them in olive oil until they are tender, which doesn't take very long at all. Throw in a splash of white wine if you have some open, and toss with some sliced fresh basil leaves just before serving, with lots of salt and pepper.

To go with it, I cook up some angel hair pasta and warm up whatever leftover or frozen spaghetti sauce we have around. Eat the squash on the side and let the parmesan cheese and tomato sauce spill onto the squash slices... it's better than chicken or eggplant parmesan, I swear. The whole deal takes about ten minutes to make and is divine.

So, tomorrow the big month off starts, and I haven't figured out yet whether not-working means that I will post on this blog every day, or not post at all... I have a feeling that things will fall somewhere in between, though I know for sure that there will be a lot more knitting going on around here, and so lots more of that to share. Til then...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Hi there.

busy as a bee

I am peeping out from behind a big stack of work to say hello. And thank you for all the incredible ideas and suggestions that you all have given me in the last couple of weeks. I am keeping a list of all the great ideas for using up bits of scrap yarn (itty bitty toys! of course!) and ways to find freebie stuff (or cheapie stuff) to assuage my material urges. I never knew the Craigslist 'free stuff' section could be so addictive.

Sorry for being so quiet here the last couple of weeks. Starting next week, I will be posting much more often, and I'll have lots of fun new knitting things to share... the ideas have been piling up, with no time to write them down! More writing time is ahead.

Til then I have a big stack of work to get through, but the mileposts have been flashing by as I close in on the finish line... last week I officially ended my career as full-time worker / part-time student, by finishing up my Public Health program. Yahoooo! I took a quick break from the piles of work to celebrate becoming one year older.... wheeee... and I've been trying to sneak in time to stare at all the pretty things in our yard whenever I can.

See you all again soon.

gomphrena 2

Sunday, July 20, 2008

odds and ends

What do you do with the little odd bits of yarn that you have leftover from projects? A few months ago I tested out a bunch of free bootie patterns as a way to use up leftover sock yarn. It did a good job on the sock leftovers, but that's just a drop in the bucket.

Saturday was hot and muggy, so I spent part of the afternoon cleaning out my workspace at home (YES!), including the yarn stash. I think I am a pretty restrained yarn buyer, and was pleased to find that I really have been living out my resolve to only buy yarn for specific projects, and for the most part, I've been knitting those projects before buying more yarn (Sock yarn is the obscene exception that proves this rule in my stash).

I found a couple of bags of a sweater's worth of yarn that won't ever be knitted, and decided to sell them on eBay. One bag sold in about fifteen minutes. The other may be sitting there for a while, since it's an unusual brand, but if it doesn't sell I suppose I can always gift it. I bagged up a big bag of odd skeins of easy-care yarn for the Girls' Club, and I made a pile of single skeins that I can use for small projects like felted critters. But what do I do with all these little leftover bits? I have three little bins of less-than-one-skein odds and ends, two wooly and one cottony:


Do people throw these away? Use them for wrapping presents? I can imagine embroidering some little embellishments with some of it... but I think I could embroider til retirement age and still have plenty leftover. What to do with it all?

Cleaning out the stash is such a productive activity. It created so much space and made me feel so virtuous that I decided to order some yarn from kPixie (I really need it, I swear). I'll show you why I need it in a few weeks. Something cool is happening in town. I'm also working on a pattern for a fun kids' summer pattern -- I just need to borrow my friend's daughter for a photo shoot first, and then I'll have it up here as a Friday treat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

not buying stuff

price tages by lythane on flickr

Just past the mid-year, I thought it might be time to check in on my "not buying stuff" pledge for 2008. I took this pledge because I really wanted to pay down my student loans, and in order to make the big giant monthly payments I wanted to make, it seemed important to trim a bit from the budget.

And also, I realize that I am deeply addicted to Stuff, and Buying Stuff, and Getting New Stuff, and a bit of abstinence wouldn't do me (or the planet) any harm. A bit rough on our consumer-driven ecomony, though... I'm starting to feel a bit guilty about all these banks collapsing. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

The main part of the pledge was not buying new clothes. I allowed myself all the thrift store purchases I could want, but nothing new. I took the Wardrobe Refashion 6-month pledge as an inducement, but seeing as how I haven't made a thing to wear, I don't know if I'm still in that club.

I also have tried really hard to limit my purchases of general stuff, mainly by not buying anything on impulse. If there's something that I run across and think I "need," I have been putting it off until I either forget about it, decide I don't need it anymore, or find a free/used/cheaper one someplace else. It seems to be keeping down the general buying.

Also, no credit card use. None. Nada. Zip. Cash only. Very important.

All the same, I am amazed at how much stuff I have bought this year, and at how many consumer items are rattling around in my brain urging me to break out the plastic and make them MINE. I tried to make up as complete a list as I could remember. Here goes:

things i've bought this year (new)
- a SAF t-shirt
- a pair of red sandals
- solar lights for the patio
- yarn
- a recycled banner bag from holly aiken
- notecards
- tomato plants
- a ladder
- a ceiling fan
- a giant 500-gallon water tank
- earrings from yecART.

things i really want but won't buy
- a labradoodle (not really a "thing," is it?!)
- a charcoal grill
- shoes of all sorts, especially some elegant grownup-looking mary janes
- an energy- & water-efficient washer & dryer
- a couch for the living room

stuff i will probably buy before the year is out
- a used iMac
- a gas grill, hopefully in good (used) condition
- a new bathroom exhaust fan
- too many christmas presents
- more yarn

things i plan to make in the (not-too-distant) future
- too many christmas presents
- half a dozen or so baby gifts (!)
- an outdoor potting table/garden storage cabinet

Ugh! You know, listing it all out like this is making the buying impulse easier to resist. I have been struggling most with not buying stuff for the house. For some reason, buying clothes has been easy to abandon (which really surprised me), but buying stuff for the house has not been -- maybe because household goods seem more like "basics" or necessities. A couch. A washing machine. So practical. But maybe not so much when you already have a perfectly good one...

Anyone know a good web tutorial for making your own couch?

Saturday, July 12, 2008


There is a pile of clutter everywhere I look. Projects unfinished, stacks of paper, leftover bits waiting to be put away or thrown away... ugh.

When I get busy, I get messy. This is a challenge, because I don't think well with clutter around - makes it feel cluttered inside my head, too. And all the chores needing to be done distract me from all the work that needs to be finished, and it all seems to spiral higher and higher... you know the feeling.

However, I am not too busy for blueberry season. Well, I haven't found time to go picking, but I did buy a whole flat (!) of blueberries at the farmer's market this week. This morning we had blueberry muffins for breakfast:


I've also frozen a bunch of them, and I hope to find the time to make a blueberry pie this weekend. Blueberry pie is my all-time favorite (except for apple, cherry, pumpkin, pecan and lemon meringue, which are all tied with blueberry for first place). A flat (in case you were wondering) is a dozen pints, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 pounds. It's a lot of blueberries. But I think we can handle them.

The giant onslaught of work is due to 2 things: first, I am nearing the end of my final class in the public health program I've been doing the last 2 years. The final exam is due on my birthday (**sympathy appreciated**). Though it will be a nice birthday present to be finished with having school after a full day of work most days.

The other thing is, I have to pile about two months' of work into the next 3 weeks at my office, because I'm taking a sabbatical during the month of August. It is kind of scary. It's a time when I'm supposed to rest, think about big-picture questions like "what does it all mean?" and come back rejeuvenated and ready to make the next 7 years at least as good as the first 7 have been, only perhaps less stressful (oh please oh please). But in order to step away and chill out... I have to get through a mountain of work first. I should stop writing about it because it's making me tired just thinking about it.

One of the first things I want to do during my month of reflection and whatnot is de-clutter my home work space. I plan to get rid of a lot of stuff. In fact, maybe I should do that right now... might be easier to get through the next 3 weeks without so many stacks threatening to collapse on my head.

Friday, July 04, 2008

independence day

Happy Independence Day! I'm celebrating by thinking of all the ways that we cultivate independence in our lives around here...

energy independence

green clothesline


food independence

sprouts day 9


rainbow chard 2

material independence



socks in progress

I tend to think of independece as meaning both doing things for yourself, and not needing others. But looking at all the ways that independence flourishes in our lives, I see how much it all comes from helping each other out. From the co-op truck to sharing gardening tips... we couldn't be independent without each other. As we watch the fireworks tonight and listen to the Boston Pops play the 1812 Overture, I think I'll be toasting the independence paradox.

Happy Independence Day to all of you!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

july is purple


These purple shoes (and the accompanying tomato-colored beads) were my favorite score from the clothes swap last night. I love the clothes swap. It has really been helping me through this whole no-clothes-buying pledge for 2008. This was the second swap of the year (see my post/pictures about the first one on Sew Green), and one of my personal bests in a long time, in terms of quality of free stuff snagged.

I was also happy that a friend who I invited to her first-ever clothes swap last night had a great time and took both of the sweet vintage dresses that I brought. Both were a bit too tight on me, but she rocked them like a hurricane.

I don't give purple enough credit. Blue-ish purples look terrible on me, and remind me of earth mamas in muumuus, so I tend to dismiss all purple as bad for me and unwearable. But the truth is, reddish-purple is a fabulous color that I really should wear more often. One might call it "plum."

plum with stitch markers

This is the short-sleeve knitted top I'm working on for myself right now. I am amazed at how well it will go with the new shoes when it's done. The two markers show how I'm coping with managing a fancy stitch pattern across the seams in a top-down garment. The yellow marker shows where the increases go for the shoulder seam. The pink marker shows where the next repeat begins for the stitch pattern. It's a 4-stitch repeat, so every time I get 4 non-seam stitches worked up there, I move the marker up 4 and start the stitch pattern there. It's working quite well. But I'm going slooowly. Somehow it seems like my knitting gets slower all the time. Why is that?

I am dying to know what the next purple thing will be that comes into my life. I've got my heart set on a Labradoodle, but I don't think they come in purple. Perhaps some sort of sea creature...?