January 17, 2014

Remember when?

I used to actually blog?

The ironic part is that I’ve been editing a novel instead of writing a blog. Yes, the writer doesn’t have time for writing.

I would like to get better about it, especially now that I’m ramping up for the 2014 garden season. Soon, I’ll have to place my seed order and then it really won’t be long before I start my onions.

Suffice to say, this has been a pretty intense winter so far! The snow started back in November:

Guess I should have taken the laundry off of the clothesline. Anyway, it just kept going. At first, we liked it – we were excited to have a white Christmas for once! Usually, the snow doesn’t stick until the lake cools down – about mid-January.

Jason’s probably shoveled more snow in the past two months than he did all of last winter. Suffice to say, it gets old after awhile. Case in point:

This was after a very cold run that we took in Brown Deer Park on Christmas Eve. The moisture from his breath/sweat froze right on him. This just might be the cover of our Christmas card next year…

Along those lines, we had a lovely holiday.

Being a part of a home church is more like having another family to be around. It’s a beautiful mix of being very festive and also very wholesome. We did a Christmas Eve-Eve service at our house on the 23rd, with just a handful of people who could make it. Awkward bumbling through Christmas carols and discussions about the stark contrast of the over-commercialized, over-purified versions of celebrating that time of year vs. the reality of the Messiah being born to an unwed, pregnant teenager ensued.

 

For our December service project, we gathered together (in a snowstorm) to assemble sandwiches and make cookies for a local men’s shelter. This is what happens when you have graphic designers frosting cookies:

Overall, there was much baking and merry-making to be had.

However, we were both relieved when the holidays were finished. As much as we love our family and friends, as introverts it gets to be really exhausting to run around from house to house and have so much stimulation. If I was at your house at some point over the Christmas/New Year period, please don’t be offended – chances are that I had a wonderful time. But, I have to be real and admit that too much activity wears me out, especially when it’s almost three weeks of it.

Which mostly brings us up to date. We’re now enjoying a fairly quiet January, getting a kick out of the birds that hang out in our Forsythia bush all day and the cat who will stop at nothing to keep tabs on them:

Jason bought me a gallon of safflower seeds for the bird feeders as a Christmas gift because apparently, the squirrels don’t like it. So far, it’s worked! We’ve seen lots of birds at the feeders and no greedy squirrels:

Other than wildlife viewing and editing, I’m drawing silly pictures, working on applications for going back to school (what? Yes. More on that later) and making giant pots of soup. Jason is finally getting comfortable enough with his table saw to use it, and is planning on purchasing the wood for building a workbench this weekend. We have some weekend trips planned to various Wisconsin locales, and at some point we intend to paint the hallway.

And now that we’re all caught up, let’s hope that I blog on a more regular basis and don’t have to bombard you all with these types of posts…

In other words, happy winter from Milwaukee!

Christmas Card-3

 

October 26, 2013

Service – Home church style


The above image is a photo of a stained glass window in Glasgow Cathedral. There was a whole series of windows based off this passage in Matthew 25. It was the most beautiful part of the cathedral, in my opinion.

We keep things pretty informal in our House Church, but one of our three values is service. As such, we try to dedicate at least one night every couple of months to a service project. We’ve cleaned out an inner city ministry space, served a meal at a men’s homeless shelter, done a food sort at Hunger Task Force, assembled backpacks full of Christmas gifts for foster kids, and I even enlisted everyone to help do some maintenance on the community garden last spring.

Because our group has grown over the past year to almost 20 people, we have decided to break off into smaller groups twice a month for more intimate discussion times. The other two weeks, we all meet together for service, a potluck, or Communion/prayer/worship. We re-did our schedule a little bit earlier this fall and decided to try doing service once a month instead of bi-monthly.  I love this about our house church, but we do have a little bit of difficulty finding projects on a Monday night that can accommodate up to 17 or 18 people.

One of our members had an awesome idea that was perfect for our group. She recently had an uncle that went to prison, and she suggested that we all write letters to him for her to send out one at a time so he would have something to look forward to for awhile. This felt like a very tactile way to live out some of the principles of Matthew 25. We decided to do that, and then write additional letters to friends or family that we’d been thinking of recently.

So we invited everyone up to the North side of the city, put the kettle on for tea, and set up stations all over our house for letter writing. It was a blast. It was really cool to walk through my house and in almost every room find a group of people writing letters to someone in prison. Having this community means so much to Jason and I, and we often feel like some of our favorite times together are when we serve as a group.

October 24, 2013

I’m digging, I’m searching right through that luggage…

I for sure just referenced a rap song in my title.

Anyway, gosh, where have we been? In Milwaukee, mostly. Playing disk golf and enjoying piling our friends into our cozy house on the weekends. Watching a couple from our house church get married and then getting our groove on at the reception. Because the church that dances together stays together, right?

I’ve also been feeling pretty inspired to write. Obviously, not blog posts. But I’ve parked myself on the couch or at Colecterra* pretty much any chance that I have some free time because, well, I’m writing a novel. That feels weird to say. I don’t really have any intent of submitting it for publishing, but for me to even undertake such a huge project is kind of empowering. I’ve written 12 chapters. And honestly, I could write 12 more. It’s gotten to be that engaging for me.

We have another HUGE project that’s taking up all of our free daylight hours:

That’s right, the vegetable garden is growing! Boo mapped out the dimensions of it and helped me create a final design. I’ll scan it and post it here at some point, but to give you some idea of what it will look like, we’re going to create a large rectangle at the ground level. It will expand from the eastern edge of the existing raised bed to the compost bin and have a circular feature in the center. I’d like it to be a multi-level thing, with strawberries on the bottom tier, pollinator-attracting flowers in the middle, and some sort of trellis or spire on the top. Or maybe a blueberry bush. For right now, I’m just going to work on cultivating the strawberries along the border of the circular garden, leaving the middle open for future building up. The remaining garden will have pathways laid out diagonally. Essentially, I’ll have four large triangles for vegetables.

I’m still debating about it, but I may use the existing raised bed exclusively as an herb garden. Again, I’d like it to have a few different levels and look like more than just a big box. Also, some herbs can spread too easily and will need to be contained in their own separate boxes anyway. We’ll see!

Eventually, we’re going to fence the whole thing in to keep out the hungry bunnies. This will also allow us to build in some garden benches and trellises.

In the meantime, we are quite busy DIGGING! It’s hard work! Boo’s been doing most of the sod-breaking because he wants to dig down deeper and move the sod to some bare spots we have near the house. We joke that he’s working at Jason’s Sod Farm. Anyway, digging that deep requires lifting heavier shovelfuls and I’m just too scrawny!

So, I’ve been keeping busy by cleaning out the old plants and then going through the whole thing with my trusty rototiller. After everything is cleared out, I’m going to seed most of the garden in winter cover crops.

It’s  big chore, and we very well don’t get everything done before the ground freezes. We still have to rake/mulch leaves, clean the gutters, and wash the windows before it gets too cold, and we only have so many hours of daylight. But I’m already so amazed at how big the garden has become. I can’t wait to see the whole thing in action!

*Our local coffee chain, Alterra, recently changed their name to Colectivo. While I respect their reasons for doing it, I’m not personally a big fan of the new name. So, to rebel a little bit, I often refer to it as Colecterra or Altivo.

October 4, 2013

The Quest for Clean – Paper Trail

Because I never really had settled into a “permanent” home, I always had some stuff that I stored at my parent’s house. Most of these things were boxes of notebooks from Jr. High and High School, or research papers from college. I brought a couple back with me over the summer and looked through them. What I found was a lot of really dramatic, poorly-written poetry from ages 15-18, taking up space in spiral-bound notebooks.

Now, I personally believe it’s important to keep some record of these things. They’re a reflection of who I was at that point in life. As awful and embarrassing as some of that stuff is, I wouldn’t want it to disappear from the planet forever.

So, I made a decision that I’m really pleased with: scan all of those pages, and then shred and compost the actual physical notebooks. No physical space taken up, and plus I get some carbon for my compost pile out of the deal! I’ll be doing the same with my college papers. Again, they’re something that I want to be able to access but not necessarily something I need to have taking up space in my home.

The one thing that I’m fine keeping “in the flesh” are my journals. I kept a journal all through high school, and still do at times. I often put thought into purchasing a journal, and I actually like to be able to hold them in my hands and re-read them. Those are sort of scattered all over at this point, and I’d really like to have them all together in one dedicated spot.

What about you? What do you do with your papers?

October 3, 2013

The Quest for Clean – Craftiness

I consider myself a textile artist – I use fabric and other textiles (yarn included) to create. Everything, even the practical things, should be creative and unique. But herein lies the problem with being an artist – you have to walk a fine balance between having enough creative components around you to function, and not being a scary hoarder. I’ve heard horror stories about kids cleaning out houses of women who did quilting or sewing and had piles and piles of fabric sitting all over the place. I desperately want to avoid that!

I’ve gotten better over the years. I’ve ceased taking trips to the fabric store “just because” and buying any type of pretty fabric that caught my eyes. Nowadays, I usually only buy new fabric if I have a need for it. I still run into trouble with used fabric (what! a whole bag of quilt squares for only $4?) but I’ve started to filter that as well.

Life might be easier if I chose just one specific type of sewing – garment construction, home decorating, or quilting. But alas, I don’t think I’ll ever be content limiting myself that way. So I end up with big panels of nicer fabric for clothes, vintage linens and canvases for home stuff, and lots of little bits and pieces for quilting-type projects. If I let things get out of hand, it can easily become nightmarish. And do you know what happens if I let a space get crowded and cluttered? I don’t want to work in it. So, nothing gets used.

Here is my plan to tackle the fabric stash:

  • So no to scraps. I keep scraps almost compulsively. But do you know how often I actually pull out the scrap bin and rifle through it? Almost never. I’m going to sit down one of these days and shred my scrap bin into smaller pieces, bag it, and use it for stuffing pillows and such. It would free up some space on my fabric shelves, and I’m all about that.
  • Say no…in general. When people find out that you’re a textile artist, they tend to want to give you fabric/yarn/crafty things in abundance. Some of it might be really nice wool yarn or vintage fabrics. And some of it might be crappy acrylic yarn or weird flannel from the 1980′s. Regardless, I just need to learn to say “no” to things that I honestly know I won’t use.
  • Be ruthless with the refab bin. I have a bin of clothes that either Jason or I discarded but I kept for the fabric. Again, I hardly ever touch the stuff, and I need to be honest about this.
  • Purge, purge, purge. I oftentimes buy fabric for a specific need (Christmas stocking for my in-laws, pajama pants for my nieces, etc) in patterns that I wouldn’t really use for anything else. I typically keep the leftovers. I need to go through and get rid of these things. Which brings me on to my next step…
  • There is no such things as “just in case”. Seriously. I need to stop keeping stuff that I’m not in love with “just in case”. Because the truth is, I’m almost always getting coupons or gift cards for the fabric store and if I really, really need something, I can go out and buy it. Or, I could be the creative artist I always say that I am and make something awesome with what I have.
  • Make more, make better. I made some bunting for a party we threw this summer. It was something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, it used up a ton of scraps, and I liked it so much that I left some up in the yard all year. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. Once a week this year, I want to commit to making one thing that either makes our home more beautiful, has a practical purpose, or can be worn by one of us on a semi-regular basis.
  • Start selling again. I talk myself out of selling my homemade wares all. the . time. And I just need to stop this. I can knit a really awesome hat. I can sew cool things. It doesn’t hurt me to throw this stuff up in my etsy shop here and there and maybe even make a couple of bucks.

My end goal is to have no extra piles of fabric or yarn on the floor or in boxes anywhere in the sewing room. Right now, I have some of that going on and it’s grossing me out. Ideally, I’d like to get things into tip-top shape before I start making stuff for Christmas. Which means I should really start plotting out what I’m going to make everyone for Christmas…(yes, I know it’s September).

October 2, 2013

The Quest for Clean – The Closet

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my closet space in this house. Basically, everything I wear is located here. I do have four dresser drawers for socks, undies, pajamas, and tank-tops, but it’s only a few feet away.

When I’m lying in bed, I face my closet. Having lived in this house now for over a year, I’ve spent enough mornings facing this closet for me to slowly start to understand that, in all it’s nice “togetherness” it isn’t the organized space I want it to be.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ve seen worse. And on most days, there is no “cramming” that has to happen in order for all of my clean clothes to fit. I have a pretty loose rule in effect that I won’t buy something new (this includes thrifted clothes) if I don’t get rid of something at home. It helps me to think of it this way – I only have so many hangers and if I am going to bring something home to hang up, I need to somehow free up a hanger. That’s not to say that I haven’t bought new hangers at all in the past year. Or that I haven’t occasionally raided Jason’s closet for a hanger when I was one short.

But the fact remains that I like clothes. My problem with them is three-fold:

  1. They’re fun. They’re sort of a form of art for me. Working in an office makes me want lots of unique, different things to wear every day instead of just a few boring basics. And that becomes part of my problem – I have lots of unique and different things, both for work and for home. And many of them are so unique that it’s hard to pair them up into an outfit.
  2. I love to visit the thrift store. I like it too much. It’s a thrill – you never know what you might find. And while I always go in with the intent to only buy something if I need it or if it’s really nice quality (a good wool sweater, a vintage dress, etc) I often walk away with a few handfuls of sub-par crap that I didn’t really need but looked good on me.
  3. I sew clothes. This in an of itself creates problems because they’re not just something I wear, they’re something I birth and I get attached. The only other articles of clothing I get attached to are ones that people I love buy me as gifts – it’s that bad. The problem is, my sewing levels are constantly improving and I have quite a few shirts that I made six years ago that don’t fit right or just aren’t holding together well. Those should go. But oftentimes they don’t.

I want to drastically scale my closet down, and I want it to be better organized. I know it may never be as clean and neat as I’m dreaming it will be, but I want to at least set some ground rules and begin to establish some lifelong habits. If we have kids, I want them to see me modeling good organizational habits. I don’t want them to see me buying things to make myself feel better, or keeping something that isn’t serving a purpose.

Here is the plan:

  • Pull everything out and go through each item, one by one. I will have three piles: Keep, maybe, and toss. All of the “toss” pile will either go to Goodwill or will get saved for the next clothing swap I attend.
  • The “keep” pile will go back into my closet with the hangers facing towards me. I’m actually hoping that there will be very few clothes that make this cut!
  • The “maybe” pile will also go back into the closet, but with the hangers facing away from me. Over the next six months (because I rotate clothes seasonally) I will make an intentional effort to wear these garments and decide if I like how they fit, how they look, if they’re my style, etc. There’s no better way to decide if you should keep something than actually wearing it. In fact, I wore a shirt on Monday that I was on the fence about and decided it needed to go.
  • After the six months have passed, I will hopefully not have any “maybe” clothes left. If any clothes on hangers are still facing away from me, they will go. Clearly, despite best intentions, I have not wanted to wear those items for whatever reason and they don’t belong in my closet.
  • After that, I will use the hanger system over six-month periods to maintain a sane level of clothes.

I do have a few piles of folded clothes – pants, t-shirts, workout clothes, some sweaters, etc. I think in my ideal closet, everything is on a hanger. But in the meantime, I will try to manage the piles differently – make a “keep” pile and a “maybe” pile and employ same strategy for my clothes on hangers.

So, there’s the plan for my closet. I’ll try to remember to check back in six months and let you know how things went!

October 1, 2013

The Quest for Clean

Friends, I have a confession: I struggle with clutter. I am, by nature, a bit of a packrat. I always have been. Typically, this happens for two reason:

  1. I get sentimentally attached to something – that shirt that someone bought me, that fabric that I got on a particularly memorably thrifting adventure, or that giant box of stuffed animals from my childhood. Oftentimes, even when I know I should get rid of something, it takes me a few years to let go of the attachment enough so that I can actually get rid of the thing.
  2. I hate waste. I hate paying money for something and then two months later thinking about the fact that I paid money for it and now don’t like it and really should get rid of it. I hate making something and investing my time in it, only to have it turn out sub-par and not do what it was intended to do. I hate tossing clothes that I know I could use for fabric scraps if I was just “ambitious” or “creative” enough. I feel weird just putting stuff in a bag for the thrift store when I wonder if my sister or my niece or a friend would maybe want to look at it first.

Now, having been through ten moves since turning 19 (that’s more than 1 move a year, on average!) I have at least been able to identify my packrat tendencies and attempt to keep them under control.  I’ve learned to identify certain types of clothing that I like wearing and always want in my closet. I’ve learned the basic types and colors of shoes that I like. I’ve learned what fabrics and yarns and other craft supplies I just don’t need to keep on hand. This has helped us maintain a fairly neat and uncluttered home. But I’ve always sort of been in “maintenance mode”, i.e. do a quick purge when things seem to be getting overwhelming. I’ve never taken a very pro-active stance on things – not buying what I don’t need in the first place, having regularly scheduled purges, etc.

Besides, clutter scares me after a certain point. It makes me really, really anxious. Something in my personality likes to be able to look at the space around me and evaluate what’s in it, why is it there, where did it come from, etc. And when there’s too much stuff for me to be able to do this, I get nervous and overwhelmed and want to start throwing things away.

As we are entering into the cooler months of the year, I am feeling a new desire to trim down the clutter. I mean, I will be mostly stuck inside for four months…why not use that time to make our indoor space more enjoyable and organized?

I’ve always been terrified by some of the more die-hard minimalists. They get sort of fanatical about it – kind of like people who suddenly get really into fitness. Or some new vein of theology. That being said, while I would like to share part of this resolve on the blog, I will do my best to be calm and gentle about it and not make you feel like a bad person if you choose to keep that one dress “just in case”.

So, here we go. The next few posts will be about tackling various areas around the house and how I intend to declutter or organize them. Feel free to follow along!

September 30, 2013

‘Tis the Season

For mums and cornstalks and gourds, naturally:

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Yesterday, I went over to Bayside Garden Center to pick up some tulip bulbs and seed garlic, and while I’m not usually one to spend money on flowers that are just for a short season, they had really good prices on mums, asters, and ornamental cabbage, so I loaded up. I’m waiting a little while longer to harvest my three Cinderalla pumpkins – I want to decorate with them, but I also want one or two to last long enough for making my own pumpkin puree. I’ve also been harvesting the corn bit by bit, and as after I take the ears off I cut down the stalk, so they’ll be more bundles in the upcoming weeks :).

We’ve had beautiful weather the past week – warm and sunny. As is normal in the fall, I find myself mimicing the squirrels and trying to get everything in order for winter. It’s mostly looked like a lot of cleaning – the poly house, the front porch, the gardens that are done producing…I’m also feeling the urge to go after my closet in a ruthless manner and have a serious decluttering session. More on that later.

Well, the only issue with all of this is that it’s also the season for colds. Neither Jason or I often get sick, but we were on vacation earlier this month and spent many, many hours on planes and buses and trains and I think the result of it was that we came into contact with a bad virus that’s kept us functioning at minimum efficiency for the past week. The fact that I felt good enough to go run errands AND clean the porch all in one day is progress :/. I’m not a fan at all of taking over-the-counter stuff; instead, I’ve been loading up on herbal teas, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, Vitamin C, and LOTS of rest. Even though it’s taking a long time to kick this cold, it’s nice to know that I’m building my body up while I heal instead of messing around with weird-colored syrups and pills. True story: I once cured myself of a 4-month cough that antibiotics, inhalers, and cough syrup hadn’t helped at all by drinking diluted ACV every night.

Anyway, autumn is going to be a season of planning for the garden and I’m excited to share some of those plans! As I start to feel better and have more energy, look for more posts.

September 15, 2013

Magical Melons

This year, for the first time, I attempted to grow two varieties of musk melons: Minnesota Midget and Collective Farm Woman. I would say both have been a success so far.

I ate the first Minnesota Midget variety over Labor Day weekend. The one that I harvested was ripe and a little on the small side – about the size of an apple. I wish I had taken a photo, but I was too anxious to cut it open and see what it tasted like! It had to be the cutest melon I’ve ever eaten.

The flavor was good – not amazing, but certainly good. Given how easy they were to grow, I think I would give them another go around. They would be especially fun if you have kids at home who want to grow a plant of their own. Maybe if I’m still involved in the community garden next year, I’ll start some of these for a kid’s plot.

September 14, 2013

Blooms in the yard – August Edition

I love having enough space to grow a few cut flowers around my yard. We always, always had them growing up and there’s nothing prettier than a vase of fresh cut flowers on the table.

My marigolds that I planted for companion purposes are also looking great. In fact, I think I may grow them in my windowboxes next year – they were so easy to start and filled in so well. And of course, the bees love them!

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