Setting the Stage for 2019

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We have just a few days left in January and a mere seven weeks to go before we welcome baby #2 into our family. After all we’ve accomplished this month, it feels like we’re right on track with getting everything sorted and ready to meet our newest little one. I did my best to restrain my nesting instincts until after the holidays were over, but once January rolled around, there was no stopping me. I’ve been waddling my way through every room, closet, drawer and cupboard of our house, reorganizing the things we want to keep, donating or throwing away as much as possible, mending or replacing the old and tattered, and shopping for for added storage and organization. When you live in a small house, you have to get creative with your use of space. Especially if clutter makes you feel blocked and claustrophobic like it does us.

In addition to all the preparation for the baby, I find myself freshly inspired by the New Year and my 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, which are primarily to:

  1. Begin the process of curating my personal wardrobe

  2. Eat well

It’s a simple list, really, but there’s so much more to it than meets the eye. If you’re curious about the details, read on.

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For my first goal, curating my personal wardrobe, I plan to finally begin the process of laying down the foundation for the clothes I want to wear for the rest of my life. I’ve been heading towards this goal for years, which is why I initially started knitting in the first place, and why I bought myself a sewing machine back in 2010, but I held myself back from following through with this goal for several reasons:

First, I had no grasp on my own personal style. I felt like I was being pulled toward several different directions, and it wasn’t until the past few years that my mind began to settle and I began to notice recurring trends in my preferences, such as understated patterns, muted colors, rich textures, a balance of masculine and feminine elements, and natural materials. I find I can’t resist pieces that combine structure with comfort, and I’m always drawn to old, well-worn items of clothing that are of high enough quality to bother mending.

So now that I have some ideas in mind, I’ve decided to buckle down and focus all my knitting time on myself. I still plan to knit for my husband and our children, but I’m taking a break from gift knitting this year for those who aren’t in my immediate family. Especially after taking a peek at my Ravelry page and realizing that 2/3rds of my knitting time over the past few years has been spent on gift knits for other people.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy gift knitting very much, but it really is time for me to put this skill into action for myself lest I spent the rest of my 30’s living in yoga pants and hoodies.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In addition to focusing on personal knitting, I’m going to finally teach myself how to sew. I purchased a Brother sewing machine for myself years ago for this purpose, and taught myself how to thread the machine and stitch with it. Heck, I’ve even used it to make party decorations with both paper and fabric scraps, but I’ve never actually taken the plunge to sew my own garments or learn how to decipher sewing patterns.

But this is the year that changes.

For one, it’s impossible to find ready-to-wear clothing I like in stores. The more I hone in on my wardrobe preferences, the more picky I am about finding the right shade of color or the perfect fabric + silhouette. When it comes to aesthetics, I’m very particular. It’s part of my creative process, and it makes decorating my house or designing my garden fun for me. It is also part of the reason it has taken me so long to begin curating my wardrobe. I knew once I started this process, there would be no turning back. Everything would have to be just so.

So learning to sew is non-negotiable. I need to be able to have full control over what I wear. This doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally purchase items from the store, but my standards have now gone from just buying what fits to only buying if it’s absolutely perfect for my wardrobe in every possible way.

So that’s goal number one for 2019. Don’t worry, I’m not being unrealistic. I know I’m having a baby in just seven short weeks and that my time and energy will be limited, and right now, while pregnant, I really am just throwing on anything and everything I possibly can that will fit over this ever-growing baby bump. That said, this is the year I begin this process. I’ve got plenty of time to work on it, and I intend to have fun with it.

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My second goal, eat well, is equally as complex as my wardrobe goals because it, too, has been a decade in the making. It has taken me years to understand what eating well means for me, though I didn’t start really trying to observe my reaction to different foods until 2010, which is coincidentally when I started my first blog focusing on, among other things, gardening and garden-based recipes (I’ve never been able to keep it to one subject).

For me, made-from-scratch whole foods that are natural, GMO-free, pesticide-free and unprocessed are the maintenance plan, but there are times (especially, say, after having a baby) when I need to get specific with my food and rebalance myself with a low-carb diet full of good fats, clean meats (from animals that are hormone-free and fed what they’re meant to eat), and lots and lots of vegetables.

And above all else, my body reacts best when I make my meals myself rather than eating out. It’s the main reason Matt and I have grown a vegetable garden every summer for the past 10 years, so I can eat garden-based food I’ve grown and prepared myself. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a single year since we began gardening that we haven’t gone through stages where we have relied heavily on prepared freezer meals or takeout while letting all the garden food we have so carefully preserved sit on the sidelines. Sometimes we’re able to turn things around and get through our stores before the next garden season, and sometimes a lot of that food ends up going to the chickens.

But this is the year that will change.

I know, I know. But I’m having a baby, I’ll be too exhausted to cook. Except those times of pure exhaustion and stress are exactly when I need to be focusing the most on eating well, so to prepare for the baby, I’ll be making a month’s worth of food in advance and freezing it for quick meals on the days and weeks we’re feeling pinched for time and desperate for something warm and comforting.

I’ll be making bone broths, soups, sauces from our frozen garden tomatoes from last year’s harvest, burritos, lactation cookies, sourdough breads and so much more. And hey, if for some reason we get so desperate that we feel we need to order takeout, then fine. I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I know I’ll feel so much better (and clear up so much freezer space) if we stick to home cooking. I think we can do it, and I know we’ll be happier and feel better for it if we follow through.

As for foods we are unable to provide for ourselves, such as raw milk, grass-fed beef and free-range, organic chicken, I’ll be sourcing those from local farms that I can trust.

That, to me, is eating well. I know not everyone agrees on what is healthy or ethical, but we all have different needs when it comes to the food that nourishes our bodies. I’ve spent years paying attention to what does and doesn’t work for me, and this is the year I take the time and effort to prioritize food for myself and my family rather than letting the stress of life dictate what we eat.

Right now, we’re only 27 days into 2019, and already I’m feeling more comfortable and focused just having these goals in front of me. My crafting time feels more structured as I watch videos on learning to sew while knitting on a cardigan (currently the Albini) that will someday be finished and part of my forever wardrobe. And now that I no longer see meal preparation as optional, I’m finding ways to make it fit well into the rhythm of my life so it’s sustainable rather than overwhelming.

I have a good feeling about this.

Breaking the "Rules"

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Over the course of participating in social media for the past 10 years, I’ve always known that if I want to be “successful” I need to zoom in on one topic. This means making one account for gardening, one for knitting, one for fermenting (maybe a sub-account for kombucha), another for general recipes, and so on.
 

But I will just never do that.
 

For me, it would suck the joy out of posting if I had to narrow my focus and disconnect those topics from one another. So, fine, maybe I’m a bad blogger, instagrammer, YouTuber, etc. It’s a conscious choice I’m making because, when it comes down to it, my primary motivation in doing all of this is to collect memories for me and for my family: snapshots of our adventures together, project notes, favorite recipes to refer to later, small and special moments in our everyday lives...

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I’ve never much cared for how many followers I have. I just want to continue learning and growing at my own pace, and to connect with like-minded folks. I want to take up space in my own way. Rebel against forces, external and internal, that try to convince me I should stay silent and hidden. I want to continually seek out inspiration because feeling inspired is, for me, the opposite of depression, and my tendency toward those lows is something I have to contend with on a daily basis (some days more than others).
 

So, for my own sake, I’ll continue posting about a mish-mash of topics. The things I write about, take photos of and share with the world are simply the things that excite me. If you were to look for a common thread, I suppose you could call it “simple living,” or  “seasonal inspiration,” but I wouldn’t bother trying to categorize things around here because the winds may change, and I never want to box myself in. All I know is that I want to try and encapsulate as much of life’s special moments as I can. It helps me focus on the positives, it helps me get out of bed in the morning, and it helps me feel a little less alone (although, like a proper introvert, I do very much enjoy my alone time).

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Personally, I’m drawn to folks who share more than just one part of themselves online. Maybe our interests don’t always overlap, and maybe we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I would almost always prefer to know the person behind the project/product/garden/etc. Perhaps I’m alone in this thinking, or at least not in the majority, and that’s perfectly ok.


If you need me, I’ll just be puttering along over here, content in my stubborn ways.

Early Spring Cleaning (A Quick Update)

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Hello friends. It has been quiet here in this space for a long time, but it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and settle myself in with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket. It’s still winter here, but you wouldn’t know it with all the beautiful, almost-warm sunshine and spring blooms outside. Seasons arrive when they want to, regardless of the date on the calendar.

In the past several months, natural dyeing has taken over my life in the best possible way. Actually, I shouldn’t say it has taken over. Rather, it has nestled its way in like a long lost friend or a missing puzzle piece, and has brought color into my neutral-loving life in a way I could never have imagined. Suddenly something I initially thought of as supplementary to my other seasonal occupations - my gardening, knitting and kitchen experiments - has become an obsession in its own right. It’s part of our lives now, and it fits right in.

Last year in October, I made a giant, break-out-of-my-introverted-shell decision and started a video podcast on YouTube to share about my growing interest in fiber-related work. It’s something I had been mulling over for a long time, and it required a lot of emotional preparation before, during and after my first couple episodes (I had to occasionally hide from my phone and computer), but I finally feel comfortable and confident in my decision to put myself out there through the podcast, and I’ve never felt more connected to the fiber community than I do now.

So while the blog has been mostly quiet until now, I have been very busy. The cogs in my mind have been steadily turning, especially over the past six months. I have so many ideas and plans to document and share with you here, and now that spring has arrived, my fingers are itching to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, experiment with plant colors + fibers, and knit (always).

So, for the next few months, you can expect posts about many of the things that have already happened but never saw the reflections they deserved interspersed with some of the newer projects I’m working on now. And for those of you who used to follow me on blogspot, I just want to let you know that I’ve made that blog and all its content private, but I will occasionally re-publish some of the projects or recipes from its archives over to this space whenever it seems relevant. If there was a recipe on that site that you miss, just send me an e-mail or fill out the contact form here and I'll respond as soon as I can. 

Lastly, I started a new group on Ravelry! Please join us if you'd like to chat about anything fiber-related, kitchen experiments, natural dye, or even if you just want to come say hi. 

A Few Thoughts on the Holidays

Thinking back a bit, I really sank my teeth into the holidays this season. Not in a frenzied, super rushed way, but a kick-up-your-feet-and-relax kind of way. It’s so easy to get stressed out this time of year, but for some reason all I wanted to do was knit things and smell the Christmas tree.

I know my daughter has a lot to do with my relaxed mentality. Not just because she keeps me living in the moment, but because I get to witness her first moments with twinkle lights and wrapping paper. There's something undeniably magical about a child’s reaction to all this Christmas stuff when they experience it for the very first time.

When I was a kid, I thought our Christmas traditions were set in stone. I thought all families celebrated the holidays like we did, and that we would continue those patterns for the rest of our lives. Granted, I didn’t think much about death, but I guess I assumed the younger generations would continue to carry out the family's traditions once the older generations had passed on.

I was wrong, of course. At least as far as my family goes, the holidays look different now than they did when I was a child, and it feels a little displacing. Similar to how it feels when the home you grew up in is demolished and the land is turned into a housing development for 20-something new cookie-cutter homes (true story). To cope, you create your own home base, your own traditions, your own sense of family and magic.

A lot of things are fluid right now, and I’m just going with it as best I can, but I think I’d eventually like to settle down into a solid yearly routine. It’s comforting to have these things to rely on, these people you know you’ll make the time to see, these activities surrounding the holidays that make it fun and special.

I went through a phase where holidays didn’t mean much to me. They were just a day or series of days where people made a meager attempt to be kind to one another and give each other things, and I thought why shouldn’t we be like that with each other all the time? And that’s true in some ways, but I think the frustration I was feeling was compounded by the fact that certain things were expected of us. I felt I was supposed to spend a certain amount of time and money, of which I had neither, and it made me feel like a failure, which made me feel resentful, which made me feel ashamed, which made me feel…

Regarding the money, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations on both myself and others about what's involved in our gift exchange, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude. Regarding time, I think that’s what it’s really all about. You take this time every year to focus on your relationships with others, and to invest something of yourself toward them. That’s the part of it that’s special, and the part I willingly partake in.

Time doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive gifts (though if that’s your jam, go for it). For me, it comes in the form of helping my mom and her partner decorate their home for their Christmas party, knitting a hot water bottle cozy for my friends and family, baking the cookies, making a long drive out to my dad and step-mom’s house, waking up extra early to be with the in-laws for breakfast Christmas morning. Time given is what I wanted to focus on this holiday season, and for every season hereafter.

Hopefully the traditions we want to solidify and revisit each year will naturally follow.

A Slow and Simple Life

This has been a hard post to write. I’ve been wrestling around with how to approach it for the past two weeks because, on one hand, I think it’s important to talk about the reasons why I choose this lifestyle because slow and simple living is the foundation for everything else I write and share here. On the other hand, it’s impossible to discuss my reasons without getting personal, and while I’ve never had a problem opening up about myself in the past, I have, over time, realized the value of discretion. So I’m hoping I can strike a good balance that remains authentic and succinct without compromising my boundaries.

To start, here is some relevant information about me: I suffer from depression and anxiety. I am an HSP and an introvert. I have difficulty with things like making eye contact or articulating thoughts in large groups and new spaces, not because I’m shy, but because I’m trying to cope with and filter through a barrage of invisible stimuli. And although I do a pretty good job with managing my depression and anxiety on a day-to-day basis, I find myself dipping low sometimes. Whenever that happens, I have to drop what I’m doing and prioritize me-time to get myself back to a healthier state of mind.

This list of issues so easily summarized in one single paragraph has taken me 32 years to grasp, and along the path toward understanding has been a lot of confusion, pain, damaged or broken relationships, a shattered sense of self, and days and weeks and months of feeling out of place. It has been a long journey toward self-acceptance, which is why I feel compelled to write about it. Because even though my disabilities have often led to feelings of isolation, I know I’m not the only one who suffers from them. Not by a long shot. And once I began to understand that these things were part of me and weren’t just going to disappear, I was able to finally take measures to heal and explore new ways of living that were and are more in tune with my nature.

So, in 2010 I started a blog (with blogspot) to document my learning process with gardening, cooking and making things by hand, all of which was completely new to me at the time, yet so compelling that it felt like a calling. I didn’t have the words “simple living” in mind back when I started all of this, but the concept of it formed for me over time.

And it’s not original or new. Over the past six years, I’ve connected with a whole community of folks through social media who live simple lives for one reason or another. Some of them struggle with the same issues I do and some of them don’t, but for whatever reason, we are united in our calling, and silly as it may sound, it helps to know that we aren’t alone

Nowadays, living a slow and simple life is much more than just an experiment or a trend. I live this way and keep coming back to it because it keeps me healthy and allows me to thrive. And although I sometimes get swept up in the way life is “supposed” to look, or don’t pay attention to the red flags telling me that it’s time to slow down, I always know that my path toward balance and health is through a focus on the fundamentals. Making my living spaces calm and inspiring, eating good, whole foods that nourish me, spending time outdoors or with good friends, interacting with my daughter, working with my hands and investing time in myself. 

Simple.

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But when you're out in daily life, among the pressures and people who are caught up in the 9-5, Keeping Up with the Joneses culture, it can be very difficult to go against the grain. It can be especially hard to protect yourself from cynicism and negativity without sticking out like a sore thumb and making yourself a target. And it can be hard to take the time for yourself to heal without pissing off your boss or offending the people you care about who don't understand your need for alone time.

In my experience, depression and introvertedness are not very well understood issues, and most people have never even heard of HSPs (highly sensitive people). The resources for those of us who suffer with such things are out there, but they are difficult to find, especially if you're afraid to admit that you are suffering with something that carries so much stigma.

I can only hope that discussing this openly, without shame and despite fear of judgment, will help someone who was in the same position I was in before I got the help I needed. That if you are feeling hopeless, there are options for you. You can be happy, you can thrive, and you can find a way of being that works for you and helps you manage your stress. Slow and simple living is the answer for me. What's the answer for you?

Psst. Hi.

So hey…

I don’t really want to do the thing where I apologize for being gone for nearly a year. Life happens, motherhood happens, employment happens (and then un-happens), and if I had to feel guilty every time life got in the way of blogging, I’d probably give it up. 

Which would be a huge bummer! Because being creative and working on projects and sharing favorite recipes and connecting with like-minded folks are some of the very things that make me feel most balanced as a human being seeking a slower, more simple life. So instead of apologizing (to both myself and you), I’m just going to dive right on in and give you a general overview of what’s been going on and what I’ve been working on lately.

Back in March, I quit my job as the blog editor for a small company in Portland to do the stay-at-home-mom thing. I enjoyed my job, but it took all my creative energy and left me with very little motivation to work on projects at home. Plus, the last thing I wanted to do after sitting at a computer screen all day in the office was to go home and sit at another computer screen.

It took a few months to get into the rhythm of life as a stay-at-home-mom, but over the past few months I've found myself feeling creative and inspired again. And now that we're back to a primarily one-income household, I'm feeling even more motivated to simplify our lifestyle. Which, for me, means spending less money on junk food, junk clothing, junk toys and junk things in general, and more resources on quality items and experiences. 

It also means digging deep and somehow finding a way to reinvigorate my long lost passion for baking, fermenting, preserving, sourdough bread and seasonal cooking. I’m not sure why I lost my love for making good food (actually, I think I do know why, but that’s a whole separate post), but I’m definitely feeling the pull to cook and bake and experiment in the kitchen again.

And because it’s #slowfashionoctober, I’ve been feeling inspired to elevate my wardrobe by spending more thoughtfully on quality pieces, making things by hand, and mending clothes that are damaged or in need of repair rather than throwing them out. And I've been talking about teaching myself to sew for years, but now is the time to follow through with it.

Truthfully, if you've been here before (or to my previous blogspot address, I should say), you know that none of this is new for me. It's just that this time it feels like less of an experiment and more of a way of life that continues to compel me toward it. A way of being that feels more harmonious and healthy. I knew I'd get back to this place in my life eventually, and I'm so glad to be here, sharing my projects, favorite recipes, experiments and experiences with you again.

Autumn Vibes

Autumn, I can't believe you're finally here. I've waited so, so long.

The weather is still warm where I live, but the sun feels different in the sky, even when it's hot. We harvested the last of our tomatoes and peppers from the garden boxes last weekend, and Matt went out to the family plot and brought home tons of pumpkins and acorn squash of all shapes and sizes. I've been roasting, pureeing, and freezing the pumpkin puree to keep as baby food for Ella because, out of all the foods we've given her, pumpkin has been her favorite so far.

Ella and I even managed to curl up together in bed to read a good Gaiman book about graveyards and ghosts, which put me in the mood for Halloween, Harry Potter (especially Prisoners of Azkaban), crunchy leaves and pumpkin-flavored anything. This really is my favorite time of year, and I'm trying to slow down my crazy life so I can take a few moments to enjoy it.

This time last year, I was nearly three months pregnant, and saw my future a little differently than the way my life is now. I had always fully intended on quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home mom, so it took me by surprise that I would actually want to keep working part time after Ella was born. It was a nice surprise, really, but it never occurred to me to prepare for the fact that I wouldn't have as much time to spend on my favorite hobbies.

My hobbies are really important to me. Knitting, gardening, reading, writing... They help keep me centered and balanced, and make me feel rejuvenated, so you can imagine that it has been hard having enough time to devote to all (or any) of those things. In fact, my anxiety levels have been through the roof this past week, and I suspect that it has to do with how out of balance my life has become lately.

But somehow, with all the crisp autumn vibes surrounding us,  there's a part of me that's saying Slow down! Read a book. Don't go out tonight.

So I'm going to try to listen and embrace my homebody nature for awhile. We'll see what happens.