3.31.2010

Unfolding

For a while now, I've been missing my yoga routine. I just couldn't seem to keep it up over the winter. Couldn't motivate myself to push aside the furniture, sweep the floor, and unroll the mat. Lately, as I've been thinking about getting back on the mat, I've found myself instead lacing up my shoes and heading outside for a long walk. Those walks helped me get moving again, each step connecting me with the earth beneath my feet. And while I was grounded by the firmness and support of the earth, my spirit was buoyed by the emergence of Spring all around me. I gathered energy.

The other night, I was keeping Ryan company in the kitchen while he fixed dinner. As we chatted, I pulled myself into tree pose and stretched towards the ceiling. I left the kitchen, and tried standing bow pulling pose. Clearly, the time for yoga has come. Today, I moved the furniture, swept the floor, and unrolled the mat. These actions that seemed like obstacles all winter now seemed like a welcome ritual.

I felt like a flower bulb who had laid dormant under the soil through the winter. With all of that energy I'd been storing, I unfolded and stretched. As a half hour drew to a close, I lay on my mat and listened to my breath, felt the energy now pulsing through my limbs, and inhaled the scent of the cinnamon in my oatmeal which waited for me in the kitchen. I'm ready for this new/old morning ritual.

3.26.2010

My Arsenal

We like earth, pet, and conscience friendly products at our house. I always felt there was something wrong with cleaning chemicals that made me feel like I needed to wear a gas mask when I used them. How could that be clean? Some of my favorite cleaners are made by Mrs. Meyer's, Method, Caldrea, and Biokleen. Not pictured in the line-up above, baking soda, and distilled and white vinegars - true cleaning champs.


Of course, to be really earth friendly, I could make my own cleaners. I recently came home with this book, which is full of recipes for doing just that. It also has recipes for homemade first aid and body care products, as well as tips and instructions on organic gardening - all in a hand lettered and beautifully illustrated little book. Get your copy here or here. You need very few supplies to make your own cleaning products, and doing so really saves a ton of money. I plan to gradually start switching over, though I'm sure there will be some store-bought products I just won't want to give up.

I was just checking out the cleaning tools at Caldrea, which are 25% off 'til March 28, by the way. They are gorgeous. This is their French Door Cleaning Brush. I think there is something to be said for using high-quality tools, or just plain fun tools. They really make doing a job more pleasant. Caldrea's products are really a luxury. Their fragrances are so wonderful, and their tools are made to go the distance.

Speaking of fantastic fragrances, I really love Mrs. Meyer's. Right now we're using a couple of products in Basil, which is just lovely. However, I think her Lemon Verbena is my very favorite. I should really pick up some of this hand soap refill. It really bothers me that more makers of earth-friendly hand soaps don't offer refill packs. I'm glad Mrs. Meyer's does.


While I'm giving shout-outs, I can't say enough good things about Biokleen. We LOVE them, and they are located in Vancouver, WA, which means they don't have to travel very far to get to us. We use several of their products, but my favorite-ist is the Soy Cream Cleaner. This stuff is amazing. I use it to keep my pots and pans shiny, to get gooey labels off jars, to soften the baked-on crap that clings to the sides of my glass baking dishes, to clean the oven... It's the best.

Anyone out there have go-to cleaning tips/tricks/products? What are your cleaning rituals? What do you most hate to clean? What bothers you most when left undone?

edit: Check out these tips for safer Spring Cleaning at Environmental Working Group's site. You'll also find lots of great articles here.

3.25.2010

Delightful


Yesterday I washed several lengths of fabric in preparation for some spring and summer sewing. It was such a gorgeous day that instead of putting them through the dryer, I hung them over the drying rack and let them catch the breezes coming through the open screen door. (Oh, and yes, they are all blue. What can I say? I'm consistent.)


But then look what I found! Emerson playing with the bits of string that frayed in the wash - the rascal!


"Oh, that was fun! Now I'll just settle in and enjoy this awesome fabric fort that Mum made for me!"

And since I'm already talking about the cats, here's Little Miss Holly, keeping me company the other night while I knit. My constant companion. (Hey! I'm knitting so fast my hands are blurry!)

P.S. Please ignore the dirty floor in the earlier photos. It's on the list...

3.24.2010

Spring Cleaning...

...has begun.

I have a new addition to my cleaning arsenal this year, my Swifty. The pattern is from Ann and Kay's second book, Mason Dixon Knitting Oustide the Lines. I think I squealed when I fist saw this pattern. It has been several years since I've used my Swiffer. I just couldn't get over the wastefulness of throwing away all of those disposable cloths. It goes completely against all of our efforts to reduce waste, and frankly I was never really satisfied with the results. Mysteriously, I also couldn't bring myself to dispose of the damned Swiffer itself. It has been languishing in the dark corners of our closet for no real reason. Until Swifty came along. Now, I can make a pile of these reusable cloths, and just toss them in the wash after each use. Hooray! The yarn is Lily Sugar and Cream, given to me by my sister. I love the bright colors - they really perk things up!

Usually I "Spring Clean" three times a year:
  • Once in the Spring, of course, to freshen the apartment after being closed for so many months. I throw the windows wide and sweep, vacuum, mop, wash and scrub everything. I pull the furniture from the walls and route out all of the "treasures" the kitties have so carefully hidden, along with enough cat-hair tumbleweed to make a whole other cat!
  • Once in the Autumn, to prepare for the cool days ahead which will be spent snugged up indoors. I don't know about you, but our summers are anything but lazy. While we're keeping busy, the housework tends to languish. By autumn, everything needs a thorough once-over.
  • Once at the New Year, because it's such a good time to reorganize. My New Year's clean is a pared down version of the Spring and Fall routine. Everything gets cleaned, but the main focus is on fine-tuning the current systems of organization. In a small apartment, you can never be too organized! This year, I missed my New Year's clean, so I have extra on my list.
The last several days have seen endless loads of laundry. The winter curtains, pillows and slip covers have all been washed and stored and their summer counterparts pressed and put out/up. This weekend we'll switch the clothes, so there has been lots of laundry in preparation for that, too, as well as a closet-purge for each of us.



Luckily, we took the time over the weekend to hang the screen door. Now, I can enjoy fresh breezes as I sort and scrub. We got two screen doors last year, one for the front door, and one for the kitchen door. Before hanging the front door screen, I prettied it up a bit. It makes me smile every time I come home.

3.19.2010

Weekend Plans


Though we have already been seeing signs, the official first day of Spring is this Saturday, March 20. Probably not coincidentally, the Portland Farmer's Market opens their season at PSU this weekend. I cannot begin to tell you how very, very excited I am. SO excited. I-get-all-wiggly-in-my-seat-as-I-think-about-it excited.


In preparation of our first trip to the Farmer's Market this year, I have washed our shopping bags. I sewed these bags last year and love them. They were based loosely on the ones that every store now offers for a buck. I wanted something more durable, and something which didn't make me a walking advertisement. My bags are made entirely from upcycled fabrics and are sturdy and very roomy, so they get lots of compliments from the baggers at New Seasons.

These are some of the produce bags I made to go with the shopping bags. There are two sizes. The larger is great for big heads of leafy lettuce. The smaller is perfect for just about everything else. These are made from cotton kitchen towels purchased at Ikea. They make me SO happy, because using them means that we don't come home with a pile of plastic bags every week. These have also drawn praise from the lovely people at New Seasons, and from vendors at the market. It makes me so proud, and I can't help but blush...


I love to wear aprons down to the Farmer's Market. Not only do they make me feel a bit like a farm-girl, but they have pockets for keeping my change. (Don't you hate fumbling for change when there's a line? And there's always a line.) It's been on my mind to make this smock for trips to the Market this year. I think I'll make it from this happy fabric, picked up at Fabric Depot this winter. The pattern can be found in A is for Apron. It will be a while before the weather warms enough to go without a jacket to the Market, so I have some time to pull this together.

In addition to our trip to the Market, I've been trying to think of other ways to celebrate the start of Spring. Maybe we'll go outside and blow bubbles, using the mixture from this recipe. It might also be fun to find a windy hill and fly our kites. I know that Ryan would like to hang our screen door... What are your plans?

3.18.2010

Temptation & Tess


I've been working my way through the above pattern, Temptation, by Sublime Yarns, using their Extra Fine Merino DK. I think that when I purchased the yarn, I had intended to make it in size 32". For some reason, instead I made the 34" size, perhaps because that is my actual bust measurement. This left me with less yarn than the pattern required. To compensate, I shortened the overall length a couple of inches to a more flattering length and planned to also shorten the sleeves.


The other night I blocked the pieces which form the body of the cardigan, and then sewed them together. Upon trying it on, I felt it was a little larger than I'd prefer, but squared away all of the loose ends, thinking I could live with the size. It's not like the sweater is too big, just that I'd like a closer fit. Stupid, stupid! I should've left the ends alone and packed everything up for the evening. After trying it on again today, I realize I will be much happier frogging it all and reknitting it in the next size down. You know, the size I'd originally planned to make...


I've also started swatching for this pretty cardi, called Tess, in RYC Soft Lux. The pattern and yarn have been waiting for my attention for a couple of years now. I'm really looking forward to finally undertake this project. I think the lace stitch will yield a cardi which can be suited through 3 seasons, and therefore I'll be able to wear it a time or two before the warm weather is with us in earnest. Wish me luck!

3.17.2010

Treats and Treasures


Happy St. Patrick's Day, Folks! I can hardly believe that it is Wednesday already. We had an action-packed weekend, including a bonus day together on Monday.

Some of the weekend's highlights included:
  • Drinks with a lovely bunch of ladies at my sister's apartment.
  • Ryan's firm's St. Patty's Day party, which offered more food than even our huge group could possibly hope to eat.
  • A birthday party for a delightful friend, the theme of which was "Star Trek." The hosts outdid themselves and decorated the apartment to look like a far-away galaxy and provided edibles and imbibables with creative Trekkie names. Oh, and the costumes were fabulous!
  • A stop at Target for the Liberty release.
  • A visit to a nearby charity shop for some excellent thrifting.
  • Tasty treats at New Cascadia Bakery.
  • A walk under the cherry trees along the waterfront.
Here's a small sampling of pictures:



New threads for Ryan. The shirt is new Liberty, the jacket thrifted vintage.


Dreamy thrifted spring skirt. Has a small spot and the waist needs a slight adjustment...


but just look at that sweet lace trim and those delicate pleats! At only $5, who could resist?

Very tasty Pizza Margherita. Until now, I didn't believe a tasty GF pizza was possible!


Cherry Blossoms on the waterfront.

Wearing my new Prairie Girl Dress...

3.12.2010

Sweet Liberty


Have you heard about the collaboration between Liberty of London and Target, to be released on Sunday? I am crazy excited about this. Crazy, I tell you. Ever since Chelsea gave the head's up over here, it's been about all I can think about. I skipped last weekend's yarn crawl so that I could spend my pennies on as many of these lovlies as I can carry.

They're going to have items in just about every department. There's even a bicycle - Holy crap! I will be at the doors when Target opens on Sunday morning, possibly earlier, 'cause I doubt I'll be able to sleep! SO EXCITED!!!

*Image from Refinery 29.

3.11.2010

Spring Dresses

I recently completed a couple of Spring dresses. The fabrics were purchased a couple of years ago, but it took a little while to find what I deemed just-the-right-pattern for each. The first dress is from Laura Ashley/McCall's 5039 (now out of print), made in a very sweet pale pink calico


and trimmed with cream-colored lace.


My only modification to the pattern was to add ties in the back. (I always seem to need them.)


The second dress is the Prairie Girl Dress by My Favorite Things. Several of their patterns are on my "To-Sew" list, including a couple of super-cute jackets. This dress features a faux slip, a detail I love, love, love.


Here's a back-view. The cotton I used for this doesn't drape as much as I'd like, which makes my butt look a little more ample than it really is, but I love the fabric nonetheless. Hopefully, the drape will improve with washing.

Here you can see the print on the fabric a bit better. It's kind of a filigree, with little hearts. Also, you can see the lace and rick-rack I used to trim the slip & dress. (Please excuse the blinding whiteness of my legs...)

I don't think I'll be able to wait for warm weather to show these off. Fortunately, I think they'll be great with my tall brown boots - a favorite weekend look for me recently, as we've had more and more sun but not very much warmth. I layer a spring dress over knee socks or leggings and tall boots, and top it all off with a cardi and perhaps a beret & scarf. What are you wearing this spring?

3.10.2010

Baking Day

Yesterday was baking day. I truly love to bake - sometimes. What I mean is, there are times when I feel compelled to bake. I turn out muffins, cookies, breads and pies until I'm exhausted... Other times, I really could care less. Curiously, you can often find me baking up a storm during a heat wave, though that certainly wasn't the case yesterday.

Baking has become a little more challenging in the last year, as I've been on a (mostly) gluten-free diet. Wheat flour is preferred by bakers the world over because the gluten it contains has magical properties. Ok, maybe not magical, but it makes pastries flaky, bread chewy & pizza crust crisp. It has been with some trepidation that I've begun experimenting with gluten-free (GF) baking.


Since I cannot live without toast, and the occasional sandwich, I bake bread every week. When I say I bake bread every week, I mean that I buy a bag of Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix and toss it in the bread maker. (Thank you, Lex, for the permanent loan of your bread machine!) I'm convinced that the result is far, far better than buying the brick-like pre-wrapped GF loaves available at the store.

We/I have discovered that some of our favorite recipes work just fine, with no modifications other than the straight substitution of GF flours for all-purpose wheat flour and some xanthan gum to help hold things together. Waffles, to a lesser extent pancakes, oatmeal cookies and quick breads seem to be in this catagory. The texture is slightly different than before, but often pleasantly so. Pie dough is challenging, which sucks because I make a damn good pie dough. Almost as good as Mom's. Almost. Now, I am usually reduced to picking up a pre-made gluten & soy free pie crust from the freezer section. It's ok, definitely not the same.


I have quite a collection of cookbooks, most dedicated to baking or desserts, and so I'm determined to learn to just translate or modify their recipes rather than starting a new collection devoted to GF baking. Yesterday, I made two recipes which were originally written without the gluten-intolerant in mind. The first was a plain, buttermilk coffee cake and it turned out beautifully. This is the most basic coffee cake you can make, with a simple topping of cinnamon & brown sugar, but it can be dressed up with additions of fruit or jam or nuts to the batter. The recipe is from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe. I love this book so much, and I clearly remember the day I bought it - 7 years ago. It's chock full of fantastic recipes, and most aren't even bad for you. On the contrary, Ms. Katzen is well known for her healthy cooking.


The second recipe I made was from Big Fat Cookies, and certainly can't be construed as health food. (How could I not fall in love with a book called Big Fat Cookies - seriously?) These are adapted from the Lemon Whoopie Pies recipe. While Lemon Whoopie Pies sound awesome, I was wanting to recreate a favorite cookie from my youth, Archway's Frosty Lemon Cookie. Do you remember those? I loved them. We also had their molasses cookies pretty regularly - yum! I hated the Dutch Windmills. But, I digress. I think that my cookies are a fresher, tastier version of the ones I remember. Plus, mine have sprinkles. So there.

p.s. How do you like my new Spring Banner?

3.09.2010

A Walk in the Park

On Saturday, we went for a walk in Laurelhurst Park, which was dressed in all of it's spring finery. The trees were bursting with flowers. The wide open grassy spaces were filled with people on blankets soaking up the sun's warmth while catching a nap enjoying a picnic or book. The dog park was packed with joyous dogs of all sizes playing tag and fetch.


Here are some lovely hellebores, which were dancing in the sun.


A view of the pond, which was filled with ducks & Canadian geese.


Camellias, which made me think if frothy tutus.

And more Camellias, which reminded me of peppermint candy.

3.08.2010

Daffodils & Doughnuts


This morning, I was greeted by this lovely site on the kitchen table. They're from Trader Joes. I wait eagerly each spring for the arrival of TJ's Daffodils. They're sold dry, in bunches of 10 tightly closed stems, for less than $1.50/bunch. Once home, you trim the ends and place them in warm water. They practically burst open into buttery-yellow happiness. If I remember correctly from past years, they usually last about a week. I pick some up each week for as long as I can.

Further happiness this weekend came in the form of food, as it so often does. First, we sat outside in the beautiful spring sun and shared a delicious lunch of pulled pork, Texas-style pinto beans, potato salad, and an iceburg wedge with blue cheese dressing at Podah's Pit. (Sorry, I was too busy shoveling it in to take pictures.) Then, we headed to Staccato Gelato...


for doughnuts. The gelato there is really quite good (try the Honey Lavender) but we LOVE the doughnuts. I'll bet you can't tell which ones I picked out! Oh wait, you can? The girly-looking ones? Am I that obvious? Ok, you're right, you win. I selected the Myrtle (my favorite, the one with the polka-dot sprinkles) and the Fairy Princess. Ryan chose the Guinness and the Prince of Darkness.


Even though Myrtle is my favorite, I started with the Fairy Princess. Washed it down with a glass of milk while doing a little light reading. What a happy, happy weekend.

A couple of notes:
  • Check out today's post by Sally at Already Pretty. I really enjoyed what she had to say.
  • Today is International Women's Day, which you can read a bit more about over here and here. It's a great time to reflect on the women who have been important in your life, the women who have inspired and encouraged you. It is also a good time to consider women all over the world - their accomplishments and their struggles. Check out what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had to say about the day here.

3.03.2010

Meet My New Apron

Remember when I mentioned over here that I planned to sew an apron to Tie-One-On for the Black & White theme? Well, here's my submission. I know, it's a little sparse on the black and white, but after staring and staring at the fabric, looking for a little inspiration, I was getting a little dizzy. I decided to use the b&w as an accent, rather than as the focus. Amazingly, I found this adorable Honeybee & Hexagon fabric almost immediately after arriving at Fabric Depot. Usually I wander around that place for hours trying to find just the right thing.


Here's a closer shot of the bee fabric. It's a new print by Michael Miller. Don't you just love it?

Spring green and aqua have become one of my go-to color combinations recently. Not sure why. Maybe because it always feels hopeful and serene. Actually, I don't even usually realize that I've picked it out. Weird, huh? Anyway, back to the apron. The pattern I used is from Amy Butler's In Stitches, and it was really easy to do. I whipped out the whole thing in just a couple of hours.

The next apron theme is Alice In Wonderland, in honor of the upcoming movie, with the idea being that everyone would submit their version of Alice's classic white pinafore. I think there's real possibility for a beautiful apron there, but I prefer to make aprons I would actually wear either in the kitchen or out & about. Maybe I'll just sit this next one out.

3.01.2010

Olympic Dreams


Four more years until the next Winter Olympics. We watched a bit here and there. I can't lie, I really like the opening & closing ceremonies the best. I get all teary-eyed at the pageantry, especially during the Parade of Nations. (Goodness, I'm a big ol' dork! You should see me at parades...) For me the competitions are just extras. We watched several skiing events, some speed skating, and some luge. Oh, and we saw some curling, which I don't understand but think is awesome. I couldn't seam to handle figure skating this year.


I'm quite proud of achieving my personal Olympic goals this year, or more accurately, my Ravelympic goals. I competed as part of Team SKC. (SKC stands for Sexy Knitter Club, a Ravelry group to which I belong.) You already saw my first submission, Arran, over here. I entered it in several events: Cable Cross Country, Stash Dance, and Sweaterboard Cross.


My next submission was Dark Cloud, my version of Ysolda Teague's Cloud Bolero, knit using some discontinued Rowan Romance, which was purchased on sale at Close Knit a few years ago. It was entered in Lace Luge, Stash Dance, and Sweaterboard Cross.

My final submissions were the Mary Jane Beret, from Theresa Belville's Mary Jane's Pithy Hat, and my own Impulse Scarf. The beret and scarf were made of one skein each of GGH Samoa, which I snapped up at Lint's going out of business sale a few years back. I had planned to use it in making a spring beret last spring, but never settled on a pattern. After finishing Dark Cloud, I was feeling the need to make a couple of quick projects and, well, you know the rest. Of course, since I live in Matchy-Matchy land, I needed a scarf to go with the beret, and improvised the scarf. Both items were entered in the Lace Luge, Single Skein Speed Skate, and Stash Dance. They were also entered in the Hat Halfpipe and Scarf Super G, respectively.

So, to recap, I completed 4 projects in 14 days, all knit with yarns in my stash. I'm pretty damned proud of myself. I think I need a cake.