Friday, February 29, 2008

Rag Rugs

My favourite use for old sheets.Cut in strips about 2 - 2 1/2 inches wide, sew ends together to make long strips and then turn in and iron. (turning the edges in makes for a tidier looking, longer-wearing rug) You'll need lots.Still more. (the prep work is the part that takes the longest)Chain about 13 - 15 stitches, and then just start crocheting around...and around...and around. These are heavy, long-lasting, hard wearing rugs.
This one isn't finished yet, but it gives you an idea of how they look.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No more plastic bags.

It drives my husband batty when he is at the veg. store with me and I won't use any plastic bags to hold my stuff. I don't know if he worries that the cashier will think I'm mad because I put out all my fruit and veg. on the counter with no bags or if he is worried that I will drop my basket and have apples and beets rolling around the store or what. At any rate, this is a solution that will make us both happy.
I've been meaning to get to this for ages, and as I know that my sewing time will be playing second fiddle to gardening soon, I thought I better get at it. So yesterday I broke my self-imposed thrifting ban and went and bought some of these. They are old sheer curtains, the kind that I think most every house used to have.Just now, I cut them up, sewed a seam, and added a piece of yarn as a tie, in order to make these.With these particular particular panels, each end has a folded over edge which is easily turned in to a casing for the yarn tie, without any extra sewing. So quick and easy...or should that be sew quick and easy? Guess what everyone in my family will be getting with their gifts this year?

Ah, seeds

Well, do I ever feel like a kid at Christmas. Just look at the goodly goodness of these goodies. Just look!!! So excited!! Last night, at a community discussion of the globalized food system, two lovely ladies brought me all these seeds. (Thanks A, thanks M) How wonderful to be given seeds saved by a fellow gardener as well as seeds from a place that is committed to providing heirloom and organic seeds. Let me tell you that I was excited and very much inspired. I normally only save what I consider to be the "easy" savers - pumpkin, squash, peas, beans, and all my flower seeds. Well, these two women have inspired me to start saving even more. For me, plants and seeds are the best kind of gift, and I appreciate these very much. When I got home I excitedly showed my husband all these treasures, and I may have mentioned how with all these seeds a greenhouse would be a very good thing. :-)

Now to organize where to get all these good things growing while I wait 'til they can go outdoors. :-)
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. ~Gertrude Jekyll
The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Whole Lotta Yum

I grew up eating home-made perogies. My brother and I used to have contests to see who could eat the most. When my oldest was little, I used to make them quite often, but now they seem to have become a "treat", something we make only occasionally. Seems silly, really, because we all love them, and they are actually quite simple to make.Especially when you have such willing helpers on hand. My boys are motivated by good food!And, were it possible to make "extra", then they could easily be tucked in the freezer so that the effort that was put in would make for two dinners. (looks like we would have to triple the recipe to get any extra around here)


Monday, February 25, 2008

Bits and pieces

Still using up my fabric bits. I was sorting through a bag and found a small part of a sheet. It was in with a bag of scraps that my mom had given me. I normally make rag rugs out of old sheets, but thought I would try something a little different with this small piece.
I cut a strip from the edge of another sheet for the tie, and it was pretty quick and easy to turn these bits into an apron.
Now, what to do with the ruffled pillow case that was in the same bag. It has a strip cut off the back and a circle cut out of the front!?!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

21 Days

This is my wrist.This is my wrist on a mission.To reach 21 consecutive days with not a single complaint. It says in the book that the average time it takes is 4 to 8 months. I'm game. The habit of not complaining sounds to me like a very good habit to develop.

You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where you thoughts take you.
-James Allen

Friday, February 22, 2008

Eating seasonally.

There's nothing better than an easy dinner that you can just pop in the oven (while you go out and play in the garden), except maybe an easy dinner made with mostly local seasonal ingredients. Yesterday I made a lazy cabbage roll casserole. Why is it lazy? Well, because you don't bother actually making the roll part of the cabbage rolls, you just toss everything in a pot. In this case, everything, is cabbage, onions, mushrooms (all local), uncooked brown rice and my frozen stewed tomatoes. Cover and bake for an hour.And since the oven is on, and you are making 'lazy' things, you might as well make a lazy apple pie. That is my new name for this dish. It might more aptly be called apple pie without the pie because I was too lazy to even get a store-bought crust, let alone make a homemade one. I just sliced local apples into a pie plate, added some RV raisins and a grate of cinnamon and nutmeg. And since it was so easy to make...might as well make two.

Slow is Beautiful

This is a wonderful book that I have enjoyed reading. It is so good that I think I will read it again...slowly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cold Begone

This is one of the main things we use to ease us through a cold or sore throat. Now, don't say Eeew when you hear what it is, just like your mama told you, you don't know if you'll like it until you try it. It is garlic tea, and we love it. It really does taste good, anyone I know who has tried it, always tells me that they like it. You boil some water, add a chopped clove of garlic, let it steep (with a lid on to keep all the good stuff in), then add some honey and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice(fresh is best, but this'll do in a pinch). Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Multiple Uses

I like things that can be used in more than one way. Each summer I make a supply of calendula salve. (I posted here how to do it) This cream comes in handy for scrapes, bug bites, and all kinds of other things. In the winter it gets put to use in a different way.
A scoop of salve mixed with either a drop or two of eucalyptus or oregano oil makes for a good chest rub when your child has congestion in his chest. It's an earth-friendly substitute for certain petroleum-based products.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Got Wants?

Many years ago, I read a quote that went something like this - a man is as rich as his wants are few. The way it was worded made a lot of sense to me. I guess it is similar to this one from Thoreau.

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
Henry David Thoreau

Anyway, it really stuck with me, at the time I was looking to get by on a way smaller income, but it also just seemed like a good lesson for life. Since then, I have found that indeed my wants are quite few. Generally material things don't excite me too much (well, besides my thrifting finds) and I find that there really aren't many things that I want to own, but in the past week, I have discovered that in fact I do have wants. I want me this kitchen. Imagine how many people you could have for dinner with that huge table.(it looks better in colour on the show)Isn't it simply fantastic? Recognise it? It is the kitchen of the Waltons. Remember them? My sons and I have been sooo enjoying watching the old shows on a DVD set we got from the library. We've had a lot of talks about times in the depression and what it may have been like. I do not try to romanticize that time to them, but I do think that there were many things that were abundant in that time that are seriously lacking in ours. The strong family connections. The dependence on and strong sense of community. A habit of enjoyment of simple pleasures. And knowledge. Knowledge to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Knowledge to be able to do almost everything for yourself. It takes a lot knowledge to live that sort of life and to thrive doing it.
And while I am admitting my wants, I find that I also want the wooden clothes drying rack that they keep in their kitchen, it would come in handy here in the winter. (I will be on the lookout the next time I go thrifting.) Actually, I would kind of like the whole house, I mean, just look at that front porch. And just imagine the garden that I could have with all that space. Eeep, those are a lot of wants.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Letter 2

Well, my goal was to write one letter per week, but I couldn't wait 'til next week for this one.

To the editor:
As the parent of a 12-year-old child, the title of Rick Thorpe's article (on page C6 of Sunday's Capital News) immediately caught my eye and I read the article with interest. Rick Thorpe states that the Foundation Skills Assessment is a valuable tool. He claims that the ministry of Education uses the results data, along with other information, to "help build a better education system." He reports that "the results give parents, teachers and schools a snapshot of how students are doing in reading, writing and math and help them make plans for improving student achievement." That may or may not be true, I believe it is not, but shouldn't teachers and schools, already know how students are doing in these subjects? Shouldn't it be utterly obvious from spending six hours a day, five days a week with a child, how well they are doing? Do we really need to spend the vast amounts of money these test cost to find out this information? Would the money not be better spent directly on improving learning in the schools, instead of on administering more tests?

There are so many points in his article that make me shake my head, but none bother me as much as this one where, in my opinion, he tries to make it sound like the government is doing parents a favour with the FSA. He says, " the FSA is a part of the government's accountability and responsibility to parents. Parents want to know how their children are doing in school and how they can help their child improve." I wonder if parents were aware that they needed the government's FSA to tell them how their children are doing in school. I've heard this line a few times as a defence or reasoning for the FSA, and I can't quite believe anyone would dare to say such a thing. I should think that most parents figure they know quite well how their children are doing, even without the report cards and parent-teacher interviews, let alone the FSA information - which, until this year, the results of which parents were not usually made aware until the next year, at which point they are only told whether their child is meeting, non-meeting, or exceeding expectations. If my child was in public school and it was implied to me that I needed the results of the FSA to tell me how my child was doing, I would be outraged.

Thankfully, my children are not in public school, and after our experience with the FSA this past week, I am more pleased than ever before that they are not. The only disadvantage that my children have by learning at home (with a DL independent school) is one that I have just realized this week, and it is that we do not have the arena in which to make our objections regarding the FSA public. Unlike public schools, independent schools risk losing their ministry funding if they do not comply with the government's policy that all students write this test. Were my children in public school I would have been very happy to refuse permission to have my 12-year-old write the FSA. I would have made it very clear that I did not agree with this kind of testing, and that I would not be a part of wasted tax payers' dollars by having him write it. I believe that there is no value in any child writing this particular exam. After hearing about and reading some details of the marking procedures for these tests, I now believe it is, not only an utter waste of time that could be better spent on actual learning but, an absolute disgrace to the ministry.

I would like to urge parents of public school students to find out more about FSA, and to decide if they believe that their children benefit from them. I would encourage parents to look further into this matter and find out about marking techniques. I believe that if public school parents took a stand against this kind of testing, if they refused to let their children write these tests, that the government would have to accept that decision. The FSA really has become little more than a power struggle, a political hot potato between the Ministry of Education and the BCTF. They have become about everything except the children, and I think that we parents need to stand up for and put our children's education first, because if we don't, who will?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sweets for my sweets...all three of 'em

If you know me, even a little, then you likely know that I love chocolate. And that if I am willing to part with some of it by giving it to someone, then I probably love them too. :-)This afternoon I made these treats for the three sweethearts in my life. They are melted fair-trade, organic dark chocolate mixed with organic raisins and usprayed almonds, all purchased from this wonderful place.

I've only just realized now that it should have occured to me to make one for myself because...well...they look so yummy!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Milk alternative

My family doesn't drink cow's milk or use it for our breakfast, we use soymilk. For sometime I have wanted to try making our own nutmilks but have been putting it off. Recently a mom in the online homelearning community we are a part of, posted her recipe for millet/cashew milk. It sounded easy and, more importantly, it was kid-approved. So, as a part of my get-to-it-ness goal this year, I tried it. It was easy and it is quite good. We will do a bit more tweaking to get it just the way we want it, Ithink I diluted the first batch a bit too much. I can see this quite easily replacing the cartons of soymilk we have been buying.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

To go with the Diva

You know how sometimes you put things off because you tell yourself it will take time, you don't have the right materials, etc., etc.? And then when you finally do it, it doesn't take long at all? Well I have been putting off making cloth menstrual pads for ages. Once I month I remember that I meant to get to it...and then I promptly forget about it again. Last week I decided that I really needed to replace my Keeper that I have had for about 11 years. I decided to try a Diva cup this time and really wanted to have some cloth pads as well. Yesterday I found some flannel and some terry cloth in my stash, and this afternoon I made these. They are actually very simple to make. And my kind of sewing too one but me is going to see them, so no need to worry if my stitches are wonky or my sewing is sloppy. :-)An aside - when I went to our health food store to pick up the Diva cup they did not have them at that location. I knew they had them at the one in town and so I asked my husband to pick one up for me. He did. Here is my tip to anyone not yet married: if you want to know if your man is a keeper, see if he has any problem with buying feminine hygiene products. If so, you might want to rethink the relationship.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Daily bread

Another goal for this year is to make even more of our food from scratch. One thing I have been looking for is an easy everyday bread recipe. On Saturday we stocked up on library books and I brought home Dec/Jan Mother Earth News magazine. In it I saw an article titled Easy, No Knead Crusty Bread, that article spoke to me, I tell you. That was exactly the kind of bread that I wanted to make on a regular basis. I especially liked the easy, no knead part. So I tried it. Last night around 10 pm S came into the kitchen and asked, "You're making bread?" in a dis-believing voice. Ah, but he did not know that I was making Easy, No Knead (not to mention crusty) bread, did he? Anyway, as I was setting off the smoke detector during baking this afternoon I have to say that I wasn't that impressed. I lifted the lid of the dutch oven that I was baking it in (which was supposed to make it chewy and crusty) and, considering that it was afternoon and this bread had been on the go since 10pm the night before, it looked pretty flat and uninspiring. But now I've had some nibbles of it and I think it is very much my kind of bread. It is chewy on the inside and crusty on the outside.'s no knead. What more could I ask for?So I won't say that I have accomplished this goal and found the definitive answer to my search for our daily bread, but it's a pretty good one...for now.

This week's letter

One of the goals that I have for this year is to write a letter - a letter to work to enact change - once a week. That will be 52 chances to make a difference this year. I have a feeling that next week's letter will be to the Ministry of Education. Ahem.

Dear Nature's Fare,

For sometime I have been meaning to write to you regarding a matter that is very important to me and, I believe, to the well-being of our Earth. For a few years now, my family and my friends' families have been working to reduce our use of plastic. One of the ways that we do this is by refilling our own containers with bulk products in order to avoid using new containers. We would love to see a few more bulk products in your store. Some things that I specifically would like to see are:

-Maple syrup and local honey
-Dr.Bronner's liquid castile soap (I have seen big refill jugs in the Kootenay Co-op in Nelson)
-An earth-friendly dish soap (such as Ecover which has big refill jugs available in other countries)
-Earth friendly/human health friendly shampoo
-Olive and/or grapeseed oil
-Bulk organic peanut butter (in other cities I have seen machines that actually grind the fresh peanuts right into your own jar, I've seen them for almonds too)
I have seen many of these products available in the bulk section of health food stores in other cities, and in those stores customers can bring in their own container, pre-weigh it, and then fill it with the product. I really do hope that you will consider these suggestions and I will hope to see these choices in your store one day soon.
On another note, I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am that you are opening a store in Westbank. On Friday I was in your new store in the Mission and I thought to myself how nice it would be if you opened a store on the Westside too, imagine how pleased I was to see your new store sign up on my way to the library the next day. Looking forward to shopping with you even more often, now that you will be closer to my home.

Thanks for your time,

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Sooo, today I learned a very important lesson about getting things done. To get things done quickly you just have to find what really motivates you. For example, for ages I have been meaning to make more cloth gift bags. Every time I get out my thrifted fabrics pieces and am about to cut, I hesitate. I wonder if I couldn't make something more creative and interesting with the fabric, and so I put it aside to think about. This morning I thought to myself that I really shouldn't go to the thrift store anymore until I use up the thrifted fabric that I already have. Well...snip, snip, sew, sew. Done the first batch. You can bet that there will be a lot more where these came from by tomorrow.