Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crazy easy Felt slippers

This winter, my trusty hand-knitted and felted wool slippers finally wore through (after four years of use).  So I've been thinking for a while that I should make myself a replacement pair.

Yesterday I finally got the motivation (thanks Mom!), and dug up some felted sweaters to use.

These couldn't be easier.

I used this pattern. Since the heel calls for elastic, (and felted sweaters are stretchy already), I cut the back of it at an angle -- One inch shorter at the top, slanting down to the pattern at the bottom.   I also made the toe much thicker (that is, the resulting hole for your foot is much smaller) because I wanted them to cover more of my foot.

I only cut one layer --  no lining.  I sewed up the back of the slipper, then the top to the bottom, turned them right side out and put them on.  I didn't even finish the foot opening, since felted sweaters don't really ravel. 

I love instant gratification.  And they're comfy!

(As a side note, these are not actually sewn, I needle felted them with my super cool needle felting machine -- even more fun!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The cure for a Bad Attitude

Today is a Mom day. That means that I don't work for money, but instead focus primarily on raising kids. And homeschooling, cleaning the house and such. Things were going swell until, oh, maybe 10:00 am. Most of the morning chores were done, and Bennet was done with his reading. Tommy was being a total pill, and I couldn't get the dishes finished because he was constantly needing attention. So I sat down on the couch to cuddle him and have Lisel start her reading.

Bennet took this as a cue to wind everyone up as much as possible, and the fighting began. "I'm playing with this, you get away", and "But I had it first", and "I got what you wan-ted" were abounding. My attitude was headed south fast too.

The mantra of Ann's book is "Eucharisteo always precedes a miracle". I, in my less-poetic life have translated it to "Gratitude precedes a miracle". And I needed a miracle if our attitudes this morning were to be salvaged.

So I got out my new notebook - the one bought on Valentine's day evening, so that I would actually write things down rather than wait to turn on the computer. And I called the kids together.  I told them that it was a list of some of the gifts that God has given me, and that I'm thankful for. I read to them "Children waking up singing", "Crunchy snow under my shoes", and "Birds returning for spring". Then I asked them what sorts of good gifts God had given them. We went around in circles, each saying one, around and around. "My toolbox", "my bed", "dollys for my birthday" started off the mix, then "kittens at Papa Deweys", "horses" and "designs of clouds in the sky".

Happier now, we took a walk. At the kids' request we took along the notebook, and a lunch, and continued. As we enjoyed the first picnic of spring the kids added "the pretty rocks in the park", "little baby pine trees", "shiny bikes" and a host of others. The kids alone added nearly eighty entries in that new notebook this morning.

And the miracle happened. From the time I showed them my notebook until we were just getting ready to pack up and head home, there wasn't a single unkind word uttered among the children (wish I could say so for myself). Matt offered to share his scooter on the walk, and they all took turns willingly. Bennet took extra time to help Josephine, Mattias and Thomas on the slides. Lisel quickly and happily obeyed when I asked her to change the laundry really quick before we left (that's her chore). It was almost surreal.

So, in thanksgiving for the power of gratitude, I'm going to copy here, the entries from this morning in new gratitude journal. These are God's gifts to us, and we are so grateful for them!

(Oh, and I tried to take pictures to accompany some of these, but the camera won't work for me today. Notice that's not on my list....)  

holy experience

One thousand gifts, numbers 131 - 203 (Child additions are in blue, with repeats among the kids omitted)

Children waking up happy, singing
Candy sweet oranges
Thomas entertained by a block and a crayon for many minutes
Tubes to toot through
Birds singing in spring
Snow crunching under my feet
Frosty grass crunching under my feet
Light sleeping, so that chickens calling for help at 1am wake me up
Ice pick weapons
Husbands that will use them (the ice pick, that is, as a weapon)
Live animal traps (so that perhaps the chickens will not again need to call for help at 1am)
BB guns (so that perhaps the ice pick will no longer need to serve as a weapon)
Kittens at Papa Deweys
Dolls as a birthday present
Enough nails to make a roof
Neighbor horses
Baby brothers
The sun
The bears on Tommy's blanket
The plants
The house 
Our bikes
The park behind the other house
The park in our neighborhood, here
Nice warm air outside
Our friends
Warm coats
The world
Our church
Drawing pictures
Playing outside
My friend Charlotte
Library books
Ice cream
Arlington Sale
Big brothers
Charlotte's hair
A hatchet to chop those trees
Warm fires
Our cousin's cabin
Singing songs
Kids learning to be grateful
Gratefulness mood improvement
The designs in the clouds "They look like fireworks"
That 58 degrees outside feels like summer
The bouncy horse in the back yards, a gift that Tommy loves right now!
Mulberry trees
Chopped down trees
Little pine trees growning
Birt nests
Shiny bikes (not ours)
The rocks inthe park
Nativity displays, still up in spring
The swish of the air in my ears when I swing
Bit walking sticks
First picnic lunch of Spring
Pine cones
Wind Chimes
Home-made Oreos

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saving money off the beaten path

Eventually, in the course of trying to save money, you're going to hit a wall.  You don't buy things unnecessarily, you don't allow yourself very many frivolities, and yet you need to cut down expenses more.  It's time to start re-thinking what's actually a necessity.

What helps me when we come to this is to think about what the "olden days" were like.  How did they survive before everything was instantly available, what sorts of things did they do?  What did they do without that we take for granted now?   And, consequently, what can I do toward living without whatever that is?

What started this journey for me was cloth diapers.  Of course paper diapers (as we now call them) are convenient (no washing them out, yeah!).  But, you pay $15 ish for a package, that lasts 2-3 weeks if you're lucky.  Over at least two years (in reality more like three for most kids), well, that's a lot of money.  Why just throw that away?  Just as my first kid was born, I was given loads of cloth diapers.  And so that journey began.  Paper diapers are a luxury, not a necessity.

What else do I use this way?  To buy and throw away, just because the alternate involves more work, and/or is icky?

Baby wipes, for sure.  Just buy a few wash cloths, rinse them out with your diapers, and toss them in the wash (with your diapers).  By the way, I wash my diapers with my clothes.  Not everyone is willing to do this, but it really doesn't bother me.

Next on this list for me was tampons and maxi pads.  If I don't mind putting cloth on my baby's butts, why should I mind putting it on mine? 

Here's where I need to introduce a second principal, which was difficult for me at first.  Sometimes you need to spend money to save it.  Take the cloth diapers example (never mind that mine were given to me).  They are expensive.  Really expensive.  If you don't have  a free source, or don't have free fabric to use in making your own (cut up old t-shirts and the like), they're gonna set you back a lot.  How long would they take to make up their price?  (In the case of cloth diapers, if you're creative, it'll be easily less than a year).  Things that pay themselves off somewhat quickly (as in, less than, say three years if they'll last fifteen, or something...), are worth that extra up-front expense.

So, back to tampons and maxi pads.  Both pretty recent inventions, both totally unnecessary!   How can we do without them?

I read Little Heathens a few months ago, and they just pinned rags in their underwear.  I have to admit, it gave me a feeling of validity, because that's essentially what I do too.  But there's some more "civilized" ways to essentially do the same.

It's easy and cheap to make your own maxi pads.  My two favorite articles and tutorials on it are here and here.  I don't need to re-say what they do.  It's really worth doing this.  If you cut up old clothes or towels, they're essentially free.  And much nicer to your system to boot.

If you like the security of tampons, get a Diva cup or a Keeper.  I have both, and think the keeper is more comfortable to wear (I have the latex keeper, not the silicon one).  The diva cup, though, is easier to get in correctly.  And the Keeper is only more comfortable to wear if you cut the stem nice and short.  You can get both locally where I live -- look for a "natural living" type store.  They cost about $30-$35 - definitely not cheap, but will pay for themselves in less than a year.  But I really prefer wearing one of these with my pad pinned-in-rag on a "heavy flow" day that I have to work.  It just feels safer.

To take this further: Cloth napkins.  Hand towels in a basket on the counter instead of paper towels.  Soft flannel hankies instead of Kleenex.  How close can we get to getting rid of everything disposable?

Even toilet paper can be done away with if you're adventurous.  In Little Heathens, they used junk mail (catalogs, actually), wadded it up real well, and straightened it back out, until it was soft, then wiped with it.  Of course, they had outhouses -- junk mail probably wouldn't be good for our plumbing! (Sad, I think I could really like using some of the junk mail this way..). But, we could cut up old t-shirts into wash-cloth sized squares and use them instead, couldn't we?  Just rinse them out, and wash them with the laundry?  (Note, I haven't convinced my husband that this is worth trying yet, so you'll still have toilet paper if you come visit us, Ha!)  This, by the way is not a new idea, and is called a family cloth, and is rather popular in the "green" crowd.  Here, here and here are my favorite articles on using them.  Just writing about it now, and refreshing my memory, makes me really want to try this, soon.  Perhaps we'll start slow...

And we'll keep the toilet paper around, so you'll have it if you visit.  But you'll have to look hard for paper towels or Kleenex.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giving in to the easy way

Sometimes my pride makes me stubborn.  I feel like that's been the case with a gratitude journal the past couple of weeks.  I've been reading "One Thousand Gifts" along with about a million other people (mostly women) on incourage, and this week's chapter was on starting the gift list.

I've already started mine, but haven't been super motivated to continue it.  I realized today that this is, in part, to wanting to be a bitter person.  I want to be miserable, and I want to blame it on other people.  How Christian of me.

I also realized that it's in part, due to my making it too difficult on myself by trying to keep the gratitude journal mainly online (as in, here, on this blog).  When I notice something that really ought to be here, I don't want to take the time to turn on the computer, wait for it to boot and internet to start, bring up this webpage and type it in (I'd have probably forgotten it by then, and assumed that I was turning on the computer to check my email, get distracted and totally derail my day).

I'm realizing that the more I work on computers, the less I really want my life on the computer.  So I bought a notebook.  As in, one with lined paper.  That notebook is now dedicated to keeping my gratitude list, which will from time to time be placed here too.  But it's main home is going to be in pencil or pen, on paper, in this notebook.

I had to do that with Bible reading too.  Instead of reading each day and blogging about it (like I wanted to do, really I did, and even started for a while).  It's much easier for me to read, with a pen and a notebook and just write down my observations.  It's so much more portable, and just easier in every way.  Technology is not always the way to make life easier.....

So that's that.  Just thought I'd write it on line since I was here anyway.

Oh, and I'm hoping it'll take care of the wanting to be a bitter person and blame it on others problem too.  I'm told that an appropriate sense of gratitude can allow God to work miracles like that.  Something about repentance and the like.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One Thousand Gifts and Hezekiah

I began reading One Thousand gifts this afternoon.  I like Ann's writing in book form even better (much better) than on her blog.  And it's good there, don't get me wrong.  But here, it's, well, almost perfect.

I'll warn you that I'm generally the intellectual, not the emotional (perhaps that's why I work well in computer programming for the Structural Steel world).  And so what sticks out to me in these chapters is likely to be something that makes me think, more than something that makes me feel. 

That said, there's nothing short-charged about feeling in this first chapter.  It's a heart-wrencher.  Is there anything worse than children dying?  Anything? (If so, no, I don't want to know!)

After I stopped crying, what sticks with me the most though, is the words of John (Ann's brother in law, who buried both of his very young sons within two years' time).  I hope you don't mind if I just quote them:
"'Well, even with our boys...I don't know why that all happened.'  He shrugs again. 'But do I have to?... Who knows?  I don't mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament.  Can't remember what book, but you know -- when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life?  Because he prayed for it?  But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born.  And what does the bible say about Manasseh?  Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel.  Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born.  I'm not saying anything, either way, about anything." ......  "Just that maybe...maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds.'
There's a  reason I am not writing the story and God is.  He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.  I don't.
...  "maybe ... I guess .. it's accepting there are things we simply don't understand.  But He does."

If there's nothing else brilliant in this book, (which I doubt), I'm satisfied.   This quote just might change my life.  I so look forward to reading more of your journey, Ann.

I suspect I'll re-read this chapter this week.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life in an Emergency

I was extra-blessed this past week to receive a free copy of One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  The copy was part of a give-away by Day Spring.  Thank you!

The book is accompanied by a series of interviews with the author, and yesterday I watched the trailer and the introduction interview.

The trailer blew me away.  It was exactly what I would expect from reading Ann's blog, full, rich, with beautiful pictures.  I didn't want to miss a bit of it.  And it hit me hard "Life is not an emergency".  Instead, it's made up of moments.  Gifts from God, these moments are, strung together into a love song, made so that I would notice them, realize that I'm loved by God Himself, and respond in thanksgiving and return love.  Yes, yes.  It's so true.  It's me that is hurried, rushed, and simply blind to these moments.  And it's because I live life as an emergency.

How can I change?  How can I stop being too busy to notice?  Or, at least, if I notice, too busy to take the time to stop, catalog these, and say the simplest and meagerest of "Thank You" to the Creator God.

That's where I am right now.  Living life in emergency.  I want that to change.

In the introduction interview with Ann, I was struck by how human she is.  She's nervous, almost flighty.   Not as put together as she is in writing (fancy that).  And thin (after six kids!).  I can relate to her (except the thin part).  I suspect she's even close to my age, though her kids are older than mine (I married quite a bit later than she did).  Thanks for being relate-able Ann!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

House rules

Lisel decided that we need some rules around here, so she wrote some.

They read:
"DONT FIT" (fight)
"DONT WIP WITH NECLISES" (whip with necklaces)

Not a bad list.