Friday, October 31, 2008

What we own is not who we are.

I've never been big on designer labels. However, I have always wanted matching dishes, nice furniture, etc. I've been taught by what I see on tv that my house is not correctly furnished if everything doesn't match and look like nobody lives there.

OOOHHH BOY, is tv wrong. Magazines too. My sofa does not match my chair in anything but line. The shapes are similar. The fabric isn't even in the same color family. My dishes? They are not exactly Mikasa. More like me casa. Left over Corelle, along with whatever I could find on sale that I haven't broken yet. My silverwear? Not Oneida. Just whatever I could fine. BUT-they do the job. The sofa is super comfy. The chair and ottoman are my favorite place to sit and crochet. Food tastes the same, no matter what the plate looks like. A fork is a fork. Spaghetti tastes the same, if the fork cost $4 or $40.

My wardrobe is nothing like what you see a housewife wear on tv. I'm definitely not living life in the fab lane. Kimora Lee Simmons is NOT the average housewife. I live in hand me down jeans, scruffy sweat shirts and sneakers. Baby Phat jeans? Nope. Old Navy. The fit is amazing and I finally found a size I can buy off the rack and not have them tailored. My shoes? Not Manoloh Blahnik. New Balance sneakers. Expensive, but they last forever and my feet don't hurt. My boots? Not Jimmy Choo. Wolverines. Waterproof and durable and insulated. Expensive, but well worth it. My husband has a pair that is nearly 10 years old. They are on the second set of soles, but the uppers are nearly new and he wears them all winter.

My house is not full of all the latest electronic toys. No video game system litters my living room floor. No wide flat panel tv is mounted on my wall. Just a 32" color tv from the 80's. The edges are turning purple and it makes a funny, high-pitched noise alot of the time. But it works. It's not like I sit in front of the idiot box all day and couldn't survive without the latest technology. I did break down and buy an HD box for my antenna. I still want my local channels for news and such.

Don't get the wrong idea. These are not complaints. I am so happy when I look around my house. In the bathroom, my little camp stove is in storage for power outages. My coffee table is a chest full of extra blankets. My windows are covered with heavy drapes to keep heat in. My windowsill currently holds 8 sparkling jars of pear butter that I made with my own hands. From my own tree. (thanks to whomever planted it.) My cabinets are full, if slightly disorganized. My garden is put to bed. A friend is teaching me what is in my yard and how to care for it. My sewing machine is waiting for me to be ready to learn a new skill this winter. One that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. My crochet basket is full of projects in various stages of completion. Christmas gifts are started.

Love abounds in my house. My kids are all healthy and happy. My grandkids too. We're not loaded, but we're happy. Our home doesn't look like the ones you see on television. It looks like a home. There are toys on the floor, laundry in the hamper, and dishes in the sink. And Love. Always, Love.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hand-Made Christmas

Christmas has become more and more commercialized over the last decade. It has also become more and more expensive. And as my children add more grandchildren to the mix, it becomes harder to manage my gift list. This year, the plan was to do a 100 percent home-made Christmas season. I had a really good start on it, but the move put me way behind schedule. So, I am now having to rethink my list. It hasn't been that hard, though. I am still doing mostly home made. However, there are some things that must be purchased. I cannot make bath towels or dishes.

My focus has changed, though. This year, I am really thinking hard about what is an appropriate gift for each person. I am crocheting super thick slippers for my dearest friend. (her feet are always cold, even in July). I am making bread and jams for friends who do not bake and are always begging me to bake for them. I crocheted a dress for one granddaughter, and would love to finish one for her sister as well. I have hats and scarves going for most of the grandkids. I have purses for every woman on my list. I have crocheted wonderful kitchen accessories for one daughter. It's working out well.

I was worried about it. Alot. Mostly because my yarn stash has been stolen while we were moving, along with several items that I had already made for Christmas. I guess while I was packing, I had moved many of the things I'd already made; because I found some of them. I was so happy that I actually screamed! I was not looking forward to duplicating the expense to recreate those items. That totally negates the "frugal living" side of home made gift giving. (yarn is a lot more expensive than it used to be. the costs add up.)

One thing that I learned about a hand-made Christmas is that it will not necessarily be less expensive. Good quality yarn for a shawl or afghan is going to cost. However, the gift will last and wear well. The recipient will not have to ask for it to be repaired in a month. Since the people I am crafting for are all people who truly appreciate the work that goes in to these items, I do not worry about negative reactions. Rather, I worry about how to choose the right project for each gift!

I am really glad to have given so much thought to each project. I have to finish up a lot of smaller items over the next few weeks, but I have time. AND, a plan for next year. I am keeping a running list of what got made for whom this year. This way, I won't duplicate a gift next year. I am breaking my list down, month by month, so I can really spread out the work and be ready for next year. I'll be getting started in January, but I won't have to rush. I'll have an entire year to complete all these gifts.

Not all of them will be crocheted next year either. Some of them might not even be made by me. The rule is that they must be hand made. I never said whose hands had to do the making! I know many wahm's who make beautiful things. I'd love to shop with them all year long and stash beautiful gifts.

The absolute best part of hand made Christmas gifts (or any other time of year) is that they allow me the option to use what I have in a more creative fashion than I might have before. I save money, sometimes. I learn new skills, almost always. (hence the pear butter) I make time for myself, always. I've noticed that when I am creating a gift for someone else, I am more relaxed and at peace within myself than when I am doing almost anything else.

Case in point? Last week, I was working on putting the garden to bed. I was pulling grape vines out of my plum trees. I was having a BLAST!! I started to think of ways to use the excess vine after it is pruned back. I researched ways to use the plums after the frost had hit. I found several nice onions in my garden and decided to make onion soup as a gift for a friend. And noticed that I was calm and happy, after having been stressed out in the house. All it took was for me to focus on someone else, and I could calm myself and enjoy my life. Which makes me happy, cuz I like my life.

Amazing. I like my life. We're broke, our car is still out of order, the fridge is empty right now and I still have bread to start. BUT, I like my life. That's progress. That's the best Christmas gift ever!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Making Room

Part of living frugally is learning the difference between what you NEED and what you WANT. For years, I have wanted overstuffed living room furniture that matches. You know the stuff. Tan background fabric with blue and maroon and green southwestern pattern on it, oak trim on the arms. I finally got a set. It was used, which is great for me. No expense in getting it. Until you factor in the gas for the pickup to move it all, the energy expended in taking off the door and the feet from the furniture, the frustration in putting the sofa on the screenporch after finding out it would not all fit in my livingroom, and then discovering that it is highly uncomfortable to sit on.

So, I have now posted the furniture on freecycle, and have had over 100 responses. A family with NO furniture is coming to pick it up tonight. I am blessed to already have a very comfy couch and chair with ottoman. They are the same style, but have differing fabrics. Who cares. They are comfy and clean. I am blessing someone else with what I thought I needed. All I really needed was to remember that if I don't truly love and use something, it does not deserve to be in my house. I'll be glad to see it go to someone who is truly in need. I'll also be glad to free up the space it's using in my living room.

After all, there is something to be said for open space and an uncluttered sunporch!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crochet Bag Problem Driving Me Crazy

Haekelbeutel. The word is German for Crochet

I've learned how to make them. Now, I just want to get the durn thing lined well! I have several made as Christmas gifts and cannot begin to figure out how to line them and then attach the lining to the bag. I am running out of patience with this bag. I have googled the lining directions several times and I am just not finding what I need.

I really love this bag. It is all made of granny squares, and can be adjusted in size by adjusting the size and number of squares used. It's a fast project, easily worked on in front of a movie or at the doctor's office, etc. I am giving them as Christmas gifts to all the women on my list this year. My daughter's SIL even wants a huge one as a book bag for college. It's very frustrating. Grr.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Start

This blog is a place for me to hold myself accountable to my dreams. My plan is to simplify my life and get back to the basics. I want to grow a vegetable garden. Learn to pressure can. Raise and preserve as much of my own food as I can.

I want to learn how to make my life calm and serene and a place that I really want to be. I want to learn skills that will maintain that lifestyle and pass them along to my kids and grandkids. I want to love my life. I want to LIVE.

To that end, I am digging back in to the homesteading lifestyle in my new home. A second-floor apartment in town with a very small lot. The yard has 2 fruit trees and 2 grapevines, as well as an empty vegetable garden waiting to be put to bed for the winter. I am planning for next year's veggies already and cannot wait for the seed catalogs to come in. I am busily harvesting fruit and making preserves and butters right and left. I am really enjoying it so far.

The point of homesteading is to bring old skills back to the fore. To make my life a purposeful, deliberate action. To leave as small a footprint on the planet as possible, while leaving an indelible mark on the soul of the universe. To LIVE, as opposed to existing. To enjoy and celebrate my life every day that I am breathing. To make the dash between the dates on my gravestone count for something.

It's going to be interesting to try to make this work in an apartment. Things like organizational skills, financial savvy, etc.; these are a great place to start. But all in all, it's about starting with what you need now. So, my start is to work on food storage. Finding ways to stretch my budget to include doubles of items to build storage with. Finding inventive places and methods of storing dry and canned goods. To utilize the space in my home to it's best advantage. To make changes in our diet that will utilize the foods we can safely store. To learn to be a good steward of the planet I am borrowing. We'll see how it works out as we go.

This week's project will be to finish bringing all my kitchen supplies to the new house and set up my kitchen in a way that provides me with the most effective storage for everything and still looks neat and tidy. Today is Tuesday and I want to be finished with this on Friday evening. Here goes....................