Monday, April 30, 2007

Knit Nano Necklace II

A follow-up to my last post.

I used this pattern and some leftover sock yarn, as Kristi suggests.

My execution of her pattern was not perfect, but the product is serviceable.

The fun new technique, which I haven't quite mastered, was i-cord all around the pouch--picking up and knitting while i-cording, which makes a very strong pouch and a very well-attached cord.

If I made another, I'd make a flap and a button hole. (But it is hard to imagine one would need more than one Nano Necklace.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Knit Nano Necklace

I like to listen to unabridged audio books (downloaded from while I dust and scrub the tile floors every Sunday morning.

The problem is that my iPod Nano gets in the way if stuck in my jeans pocket. It pokes me in the hip bone or falls out onto hard, wet surfaces as I bend and reach while cleaning.

So I stick it in my bra while doing housework or any other active, solitary activity.

But this looks very odd (and it feels a bit strange, too), so I have been looking for some kind of a Nano holder pattern.

I found this one and will give it a go tonight.

Staff of Life

I should not eat bread.

My body does not like carbs, and so when I avoid bread and other starchy and sugary things, I am a nicer, healthier person.*

My husband, however, could survive on bread and jam and cake and still be a thin, wiry and emotionally balanced person.

Clearly, we have very different body chemistries.

So Alan makes and eats a lot of bread. He has done this for the past few years with a bread machine, which produces convenient and adequate bread.

But today he made bread in a new way, following a recipe given to us by a neighbor. It is a slow-food, no-knead kind of bread. I was very skeptical: no-knead bread sounds like fake bread.

But look at how beautifully it turned out!

What we got was a beautiful French peasant loaf.

And I ate three pieces, slathered with butter, even though I knew I shouldn't. It was worth it.

The recipe takes about 24 hours. You need a 6-8 quart heavy oven-proof pot with a lid. We didn't have this, but our neighbor let us use her heavy Creuset casserole.

Combine 3 cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1 cup plus 5/8 of a cup of water and stir until blended. It is a very sticky dough. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 12-18 hours at warm room temperature.

Dough is ready when bubbles are all over the surface. Put dough on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and fold the dough over on itself once or twice. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes.

Flour your hands and shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel (or flour sack) with flour or cornmeal; put dough seam-side down on the towel. Dust with flour or corn meal. Cover with another towel and let rise for two hours.

Put the heavy 6-8 quart covered pot into the oven and then pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Let oven (and the empty pot) sit at that temperature for 30 minutes.

Slide dough into hot pot, seam side up. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes; remove lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is brown and crusty.

Et viola! Amazing bread.

* The book that changed my entire way of eating was Life Without Bread.

Seven Things, Week 9

It's Seven Things SUNDAY this week because I missed Saturday because I was obsessed.

Not sure if this week's seven things is sort of cheating on the project, but it did involve clearing out an entire kitchen cupboard, so I think it is ok.

This week I have seven plastic food containers that were purchased (with original food), used, and then reused and reused and reused.

The trouble is that I keep buying yogurt and frozen green chile, and so my stash of plastic containers to use and re-use continues to grow.

My kitchen cabinet was BURSTING with them, and so I took the seven largest and decided they needed to go to the recycling center rather then remain in the cabinet. I still have at least seven others with which to store leftovers.

Most of my plastic containers are yogurt containers, and I am wondering if I should be making yogurt instead of buying it. Making it myself would be more in line with my food philosophy, and I would not accumulate unneeded the plastic yogurt containers.

I used to make yogurt when I lived in Tokyo--but it was so easy to do in that climate: you just mixed milk with a little yogurt and left it on the kitchen counter in a glass jar over night. In the morning, there was an entire jar of yogurt, which you ate, saving a little bit to start the next day's batch.

Here in arid, high-desert New Mexico, it just doesn't work.

So, recommendations, please:

Does anyone have a no-fail yogurt recipe tested in high altitude and dry climate? Or does anyone have a great yogurt machine that s/he would recommend?

Or, for those who regularly purchase yogurt (like me), do you do anything innovative with those pesky plastic containers?

Total this week: 7
Total so far: 74


I have not blogged since Wednesday because I have been blind-sided by a few totally consuming obsessions.

No, not WebKinz this time.

One is that I applied for an exciting job in an exciting place. They may be reading this blog at this moment, so it made me a little paranoid about what I blog about.

So I didn't blog much.

It is also a HUGE long shot (since the job is in a place far away with a highly talented labor force and thus no reason to recruit from New Mexico). So I have decided to stop obsessing about that and just blog as normal.

The second is puppy adoption. In the very likely event that I do not get the far-away new job, we are soon going to get a puppy. We have been talking seriously about it for a year. I read books, surfed, talked to people who have wonderful, well-trained dogs, and now I feel ready.

But the puppy is not yet ready. In fact, it is not yet born.

So I'll just have to wait and try to obsess less, which is hard because I just read Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs and I REALLY would like a puppy NOW. And I think I need to read all of Katz's books. He's sensible and honest and good.

The third--and probably largest receiver of my energy these last few days--is the fantasizing about a Place of My Own, spurred by another great-sounding property I found. The pictures and description on the Internet made it look and sound very desirable:

This home was built in 2003. Has an open floor plan with lots of windows to let the sunshine in. It has one large bedroom and bath with a claw tub down stairs and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The flooring downstairs is a combo of brick tile and pine. Upstairs is pine and laminate flooring. Large workshop and a single wide in the back [which doesn't look that ugly in the one picture I found of it] could be a rental or guest house. Lots of pinon & cedar trees cover the ten acres. Only minutes from town. This home is constructed of straw bale and is 2250sqft.

Straw bale! Ten acres! Pueblo style! And easy commuting distance to work.

The photos on the site ARE beautiful.

But we made an appointment to look at it Saturday morning, and it was disappointing. It is a good effort from amateur, do-it-yourselfers, but it is unfinished, lacks closets, and the kitchen is not for people who actually cook.

But at least now we are looking. It's a start.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Creative Clustering

I am about to set off on my first Artist Date, but first I feel compelled to ask you all once more: would you like to join a creative cluster?

A few days ago, I blogged an invitation to mine for gold; Ms. Theologian also posted an invitation on her blog.

We also emailed invitations, but we have not had many bites.

We are not sure why--this could be truly wonderful!

Today, Ms T has written more about what we are doing and why you might like it.

Don't be shy--if you don't have a blog of your own, this is a chance to participate in a creative, self-directed project as well as a blog as much or as little as you wish. You'll have a "home" in the blogosphere and you'll make some new friends.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beauty in a Blender?

More catch-up.

In January, I posted about wanting to have less toxicity around the home--both in personal care products and in household cleaners.

I now routinely make lots of my own stuff--shampoo (a herbal infusion with a base of Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Peppermint Soap ), hair rinse (1/3 cup cider vinegar to 1 cup water), laundry soap, and floor cleaner (white vinegar and water).

My source of recipes for shampoos, rinses, toners and moisturizers is Secrets of the Spas: Pamper and Vitalize Yourself at Home (Life's Little Luxuries), a fun recipe book that uses ingredients that are accessible and wholesome.

I have wanted to make a facial moisturizer for some time, and today my Jason 100% Shea Butter ran out, so I had to get to work.

The hardest part was to grate beeswax. I could find it only in the form of a candle, so I bought one and grated it up in order to melt it for the moisturizer.

Here it is on our ugly faux-wood computer desk: I grated it while I waited for pages to l-o-a-d on my dial-up connection.

Then I melted the grated beeswax with lanolin, added olive oil and aloe vera, and finally blended it all with some rose water.

Et voila.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Catching Up On UFOs: CD Coasters

Back in January, I made a coaster out of some old yarn and one of those junk-mail CDs that used to arrive without invitation in my mailbox. (They don't anymore, and I'm thanking GreenDimes.)

I had been wondering what kind of sustainable craft-type thing I could do with old CDs, and I found the CD coaster idea on the Frugalhaus knitting website.

The picture above shows my first attempt at a CD coaster—a bit too thick and fuzzy (more like a trivet than a coaster!), so I thought I'd have another go with lighter-weight yarn.

Three months later, I found the half-started attempt, pushed WAY back in a cupboard. It took me half an hour to finish, and below is the new one (right) next to the old one (left--which we have indeed been using as a coaster, not as a trivet).

There is a slight size difference, as well as the fact that one is clearly a re-used CD and the other is a bit more covert. I think I like the fuzzy, trivet-coaster (left) better than the lacy, "I'm Recycled!" coaster (right).

Which would you go with? I have at least six more old CDs to recycle....

Help Rural Communities Gain Access to Wireless Service!

Just got this action alert, and it hits close to home.

First, some guilt about that:

This is not a question of human rights abuse or scary environmental degradation--and there are plenty of such problems that I deem far worthier of your attention than this. This is something that affects me as a 21st-century, middle-class, rural American, and I KNOW that my life is pretty darn good compared to millions of others on this planet.

Still, when my country spends billions of dollars on bombs and bullets and doesn't invest in things that could help people (including me) grow and prosper, I get pissed.

I am one of a shrinking minority on this planet who doesn't know how to text message. Why not? In my part of the world, cell-phone coverage is still fairly sketchy. Service exists--if you stand in the right place, preferably on top of a nearby cliff.

You can't rely on cell phone service--and so I don't. I hardly use a cell phone, and when I have, I haven't always been able to actually reach anyone out there in the wireless universe. I also live in a part of the world where I can drive 150 miles and see just one other car the whole time. Not good news for breakdowns or safety.

The lack of wireless coverage is surprising, considering that I live in one of the world's richest countries as well as its only Superpower. And I pay the same federal taxes as those living in New York, Seattle, LA, and other well-wired (or, more likely, wireless) places.

In The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded], Thomas Friedman notes the problem with access and connectivity in the USA, citing it as an inhibitor to economic growth and ultimate global prosperity.

He reports that investment in and subsidies of this arena of communications have occurred to a great degree in other countries. The most "plugged-in" country on the planet (according to Friedman)? South Korea, where a stunning percentage (was it over 90%?) have wireless access.

So, for US readers (who are, I hope, also US voters), here is a little domestic activism opportunity, via

Right now, Congress and the FCC are considering telecom policy changes that would jeopardize much-needed funding for wireless access. This would be especially bad for rural areas that need wireless access for economic growth and the safety of residents.

Reliable wireless access is essential for businesspeople that spend time away from the office and on the road, and it will increase the likelihood that new businesses will open up in rural communities. This funding would also eliminate "dead spots" in rural areas.

Tell Congress and the FCC that Americans everywhere should have the same choice of services. Sign the petition today!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Haiku for Earth Day

A frog in water
Doesn't feel it boil in time.
Dude, we are that frog.

(Heard on Living on Earth; reportedly the official Grist haiku.)

An Invitation to Mine Gold

What Julia Cameron calls my Skeptic is feeling a wee bit icky about that upon which I am about to embark.

It is just a bit too self-helpy, too new-agey, too arty-farty, too flakey.

All of which cause serious revulsion in me.


Women I trust and love have followed Julia Cameron's Artist's Way and found the journey very meaningful. Ms. Theologian has just finished the Artist's Way and seems to have learned much.

A next step, once one has reconnected with one's creativity, is healing and reconciliation. Cameron guides one through this process through experiential tasks that she puts forth in The Vein of Gold.

My mother worked through The Vein of Gold with a group of women several years ago. She was so touched by the experience that she sent me two copies of the book so that one day I might make the journey with a friend.

These books were collecting dust on my shelf, and I almost added them to the Seven Things Project. Reading Ms. T’s occasional blog posts about her discoveries made on the Artist's Way made me re-think the whole idea, and I wondered whether a team blog might be a perfect way to form a supportive, interested group for such a journey.

I pitched the idea to Ms. T, sent her my extra copy of The Vein of Gold, and we have now formed a new blog:

It is a team blog for those who wish to follow The Vein of Gold.

It is a space to ask questions, share discoveries, write out tasks, report progress.

It is a work-at-your-own-pace space.

You are welcome to join.

Blanket for Erin's Baby

The baby shower is in 45 minutes, and I have spent the last three hours finishing the blanket I am going to give the expectant mom.

Sunday morning chores were delayed.

The blanket is not as large as it ought to be--clearly, I ran out of time (or, more truthfully, did not work hard enough on it these past few weeks)--but it will work for a changing pad or a comfort blankie.

It is all cotton and some linen--a mixture of fibers from stash, including some cream Crystal Palace cotton chenille to make it soft. So it is machine washable, pretty strong and should get softer with repeated washing.

The design is based on Barbara Walker's seamless square concentric-strips in mosaics (found in A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns), and I used Elizabeth Zimmermann's garter stitch-border bind-off (from Knitter's Almanac) in fuchsia--which doesn't look as abrupt in real life as it does in the picture but which sounds like it will be quicker to execute than it actually is...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Being Cheesy

Is anyone out there a cheese whiz?

What is a good substitute for Fontina?

I'm looking at Gourmet's May 2007 recipe for Roasted-Vegetable Lasagne.

Cook-from-Gourmet Day

Today, Alan is running an all-day chess tournament for 127 people. He's down the road, and one of my jobs for the day is to be here and feed him delightful things when he pops in for a break.

In addition to making about a thousand cups of tea, I have been inspired by the May issue of Gourmet magazine which arrived a few days ago.

I subscribed because I was offered the "professional rate" of $12/year. (Pretty cheap for twelve issues.) And I'm a fan of its editor, Ruth Reichl. But I have been disappointed in my first few issues--a lot of eye candy but not much I actually wanted to make.

Until this issue. Today is Cook-from-Gourmet Day.

I made Tunisian Briks for lunch--very easy and very tasty. They made me remember that whole scene in one of Reichl's books (was it Tender at the Bone or Comfort Me with Apples?), in which she tastes her first brik.

For dinner we are having the Moqueca Capixaba (a Brazilian fish stew from Espirito Santo) with Pirao (a kind of polenta cooked in a fish and vegetable stock).

I had also planned on making Chuchu e Palmito (chayote and hearts-of-palm salad). Yes, you can buy fresh chayote at Wal-Mart. But you can't make the salad if you forget to buy the hearts-of-palm.

I also admit, with no small guilt, to being influenced by Haagen-Daz's advertisements in Gourmet for their new sticky toffee pudding ice cream. Wal-Mart just got it in, so it appears on today's menu, along with Ben and Jerry's new Creme Brulee flavor (which I just sampled--a bit disappointing, like slightly crunchy, very cold marshmallow fluff).

But what I really, really want to make is Gourmet's Fig and Sesame Tart with Cardamom Orange Cream.

Alas, no figs in Wal-Mart today.

Seven Things Saturday, Week 8

Week Eight of the project: more linens go this week, plus a few random casualties.

A set of FOUR maroon and blue cotton placements and a set of TWO red and green cotton placements.

They are nice place mats, but we use tablecloths daily, since our table is too ugly for place mats only.

I have a minor anxiety about shedding these mats, since if I ever get around to painting the table (as I had planned to do last summer), I am going to want these place mats back. Hmmm.

In addition to not using placements regularly, another reason to get rid of these place mats is that I have matching fabric napkins (which we do use daily) that my husband has difficulty distinguishing from the place mats.

Did you know that British place mats are fundamentally different from American place mats? It's true. British place mats are hard, cardboardy things; American place mats are like mini-tablecloths.

Alan is British, and he sets the table. This explains is why I sometimes wind up with an American place mat in my napkin ring or on my lap.

So the place mats definitely go.

There is also ONE small runner with a Picasso-like print on it, given by my lovely surrogate grandparents in Japan. I think it was a gift or freebie that they didn’t want. I got some mighty nice stuff that way, but I have not used this pink runner for years (I now try to avoid decorating in cotton-candy pink) and have kept it because I was being sentimental.

There is ONE random fabric napkin (burgundy) which is much smaller than our other napkins and simply waits in the closet to be selected. It never is.

I also shed ONE large-ish length (a few yards?) of tartan/plaid material (poly/cotton broadcloth), which I have used as a Christmas tree skirt. But we no longer ever get a Christmas tree—we have no kids and usually travel at Christmas--and Alan doesn’t like chopping down a living tree for our seasonal amusement.

Then there is ONE rusty spatula which Alan has begged me to throw out. He doesn't like rusty kitchen implements, whereas I get attached to my favorites. But this one is actually cracked and about to break, so it goes in the garbage.

Lastly, I sold ONE music CD on Amazon: Africa: The Music of a Continent.

All except the cd and the spatula go to Salvy Army.

Total this week: 11

Total so far: 67

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Weighing Cho's Heritage and Identity

Robert Siegel gave a brilliant radio commentary this evening about the international media coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre: how the rest of the world just doesn't get our country and how Seung Hui Cho was a screwed-up, homicidal AMERICAN kid: "Despite being a South Korean national living in America, his upbringing, and his problems, were distinctly American."

I wish the transcript of his commentary were available, but it is still pending, so, for the moment, I encourage you to listen here.

One Goal Exceeded; One to Meet

For the Walk for Breast Cancer, Beth has met and exceeded her goal already--in less than 24 hours. Wow.

Sue still needs sponsors. Please support her if you can.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More Positive Action for a Better World

Just heard that my sister-in-law Sue has also signed up to walk for Breast Cancer with her sister, Beth, whom I blogged about below.


Beth is my sister-in-law's sister. And she blogs.

Sue is my sister-in-law. I've blogged about her here. She lives with my blog-reading-never-commenting brother and their seriously cute four boys.

The image is Sue at age eight, running a race with her mom (also Beth's mom).

Our moms had breast cancer. Beth and Sue's mom very sadly passed away in 1999.

We are angry about this disease.

Both Beth and Sue need sponsors.

To donate to Beth, click HERE
To donate to Sue, click HERE

(Sue, I sort of shot my wad with my donation to Beth, so I may need to get you next month....)

Positive Action for a Better World

When facing sadness and devastation, I just want to ACT. Do something meaningful in the face of what seems, at times, such a senseless world.

An email today from Beth in NYC provided an opportunity.

Both of our moms got breast cancer at the same time, and Beth's mom very sadly passed away after a hard fight. My mom was very lucky to have responded well to treatment. My mom's mom died of breast cancer at age 53.

I have less than 20 years to contribute in some way to finding a cure before it's my turn.

Beth is contributing to finding a cure by committing to spending a weekend next October walking, along with thousands of other people, in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. She'll walk the distance of a marathon and a half - a total of 39 miles.

I am contributing by helping to sponsor Beth.

The money raised goes to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to provide access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. They provide funding to organizations all over the country for medical research, education and early detection programs, and clinical care and support services, all with a focus on the medically underserved.

Beth needs to raise at least $1,800 to participate in the walk, but she's set her goal even higher--she's going to raise as much money as she can.

If you want to support Beth or check her progress in funds raised, click here to view her Personal Page.

According to Beth's email, every three minutes, another woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. This is unacceptable.

Avon also has a global effort (39 countries across six continents) for those of you outside New York that might want to take action: a Walk Around the World for Breast Cancer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Poor, Sick Country

Gunman kills 30 at US university.

Feeling very sad. So senseless and so wrong.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Catch and Release Books

Reading the amazing Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, I find in the chapter about global culture.

BookCrossing's goal "is to make the whole world a library."

It's the upside of globalization: sharing something inherently good and watching how others have taken pleasure in it (or not).

The "3 Rs" of BookCrossing are:

(1) Read a good book .

(2) Register it here.

(3) Release it (for free!) for someone else to read and get notified by email each time someone records a journal entry for that book.

So you share your book and then are able to track what happens to it: where it travels, who reads it, what others think of it, etc.

And then there's bookhunting--the optional, interactive, task-oriented element:
After registering and releasing a book, members have the option of making Release Notes, specifying where exactly (or approximately) they left a book. You can browse through these active releases here, by Country, State, City, and Crossing Zone. When someone finds a book listed here, and makes a journal entry, it will come off this list.

I think I'll have to add this to my Seven Things Project routine.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Casa Femminista?

Still thinking about a home of my own. On a whim I stopped in at an open house of a Victorian that has caught my eye every time I have driven past it for over ten years.

Definitely not the sustainable vision I had been entertaining. It is about 4,400 square feet, with six bedrooms, an office, a study, a dining room, a three-car garage, a basement. WAY more house than we need. And it costs about a half a million dollars. ("Is that all?" my brother in CT asks.)

It has been remarkably restored. New stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, new gas boiler, new fireplace insert. The photos on the realtor's web page do not do it justice--all you can see are the chotchkies and the heavy drapes. What you can't see are the maple floors, oak moldings, high ceilings, very beautiful porch.

But we'd be crazy to want a place so big and, for us, so expensive.

Unless we ran it as a bed and breakfast.

Imagine Craft Mafia weekends (or weeks!) where crafters from all over the blogosphere unite in my home for several days of great food, good wine, crafting workshops, field trips.

Or birding weekends with expeditions led by my own excellent birding mentor, Al.

Or a secrets of the spas weekend, where we make (and use) our own spa products.

Or historic tours (Billy the Kid, anyone?) of our own corner of the world.

And then there is my family.

When my family wants to visit, we now actually have to rent a house to accommodate all of us. But with this house we could easily accommodate everyone. And if Mom and Dad wanted a winter retirement location, they could just move in. As long as we established rules about the kitchen. I can see Mom and Dad really enjoying being B&B hosts.

So it could become

a) a bed and breakfast business

b) a Femminista della Casa Social Center (guest lectures? a variety of lessons and demonstrations? book signings? )

c) the family's Southwest compound, of which Al and I are caretakers.

d) a combo of all (if the family decided to become investors in the B&B--which is probably the only way we'd be able to afford it, although I might be able to swing some special funding/loans for a new small business owned by a woman...)

Seven Things Saturday, Week 7

For Week Seven of the project, I tackled the linen closet.

I still have old sheets given to me when I was first living on my own--cast-offs from my mom's linen closet. But they still have years of life left in them.

Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House advises that "It does not pay to overstock bed linens, for they will simply age on the shelf. An overstocked linen closet also makes more work for you. It is prey to odors and dust" (p. 672).

So I took her advice--somewhat. She advises stocking three sets of bed linens per bed. I kept some extra pillow cases and a few extra top sheets that I really love--but the rest--especially the polyestery sheets and pillow cases--go to Salvy Army:

TWO cotton flannel sheets (a fitted sheet and a flat sheet)
FIVE top sheets (white)
THREE pillow cases

Total this week: 10
Total so far: 56

Friday, April 13, 2007

Help, please: writing and photography

I would like to encourage a retired writer/photographer that I know to start a blog. I think he would be very, very good at it, but I do not think he is very familiar with the blogosphere.

I would like to show him some good photography and writing blogs to get him motivated. Can anyone recommend any such blogs that would make his juices flow? I want high, high quality--nothing as frivolous as this blog. (Showing him this would kill the idea completely.)

Also, which blog platform works best for Macs? My potential blogger is a Mac user. I use a PC and quite like Blogger--but would Wordpress, for example, be a better option for a Mac user?

Going Zero

I am a fan of buying by the case--more bang for my buck and I'm always well stocked.

I like to use earth friendly cleaners, and I recently bought a case of Seventh Generation dish soap from

Gaiam looks very, very fancy and thus too upmarket for me. But they had a pretty good price on a case of dish soap, so I placed my order.

At checkout, I was given the option to Go Zero--cancel out the carbon footprint that the shipping of my item makes by inviting me to pay/donate two bucks to plant trees. The trees offset the carbon dioxide emissions that result from shipping the order, helping to make a difference in the race against global climate change.

It is, apparently, the nation’s first carbon-zero order shipping program.

I live in a rural location and buy MUCH online: wine, cleaners, books, clothing. I hope other online retailers (Amazon,, Sierra Trading Post) will also offer such carbon-neutral programs.

My case of soap arrived today, nicely packaged (no leaks) along with a certificate informing me that I am an official Hero of Zero. Which makes me feel good. And nudges me to shop with Gaiam again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Roomba Rumba

I don’t think of myself as a gadget person. Among the reasons I so love knitting is that it is low-tech and time-honored.

But when the Roomba first came out, I was one of the first customers. The NPR Gadget-Guy's review coincided with Al throwing his back out so that he could not vacuum. And I wasn’t keen on adding vacuuming to my lists of chores.

The solution? A robot vacuum cleaner, of course.

The original Roomba worked ok for a few months but then rapidly declined, losing charge and effectiveness until it became sluggish and downright annoying. Then it sat in my house for a long time while I tried to figure out how to responsibly dispose of it or trade it in. Having failed on both counts, I sent it to a landfill somewhere in New Mexico and racked up many bad environmental karma points.

Several years have gone by—and in the last few months I have noticed the accumulation of dust bunnies under the couch and bed (I can see them when I do my floor exercises). That didn’t happen when we Roomba’d, because the pizza-shaped robot went under the furniture. Too cool.

So I wanted to have routine removal of dust bunnies again. And pet hair. Daily. We do not have a pet yet, but we are very close to getting a puppy—a long-haired, shedding breed of puppy.

And then I saw that Amazon sells factory refurbs of newer models of Roombas.

New ones can costs $300+, but my factory refurb of a recent (but not newest) model was $84. This one has several improvements over my first early model.

One is that it the new one charges in a docking station (Home Base) and returns itself to the docking station when it is finished vacuuming. (It knows when it is finished when it stops sucking up dirt.) The newer models recharge faster. And they come in fashion colors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Craft Mafia

I just learned, through the BUSTline, about the Craft Mafia:

The first Craft Mafia was founded in 2003 by nine crafty buisness women in Austin, TX. The group originally came together through a shared love for craft, DIY ethics and mutual respect. As the Craft Mafia developed it became a forum for networking, promotion and shared ideas.
Other Mafias have popped up accross the continent and beyond:

Austin DC Houston Detroit Round Rock Lafayette, IN Philadelphia St. Paul Omaha Anchorage Boston Grand Rapids Toronto Baltimore Sacramento Chicago Denton Louisville Richmond Fort Lauderdale Vancouver Pittsburgh San Antonio Kansas City, MO Seattle Albuquerque Charlottesville, VA Pleasanton Leeds, UK Tulsa Lubbock, TX Cincinnati New Orleans San Francisco Atlanta St. Louis Dallas San Diego Minneapolis Nashville New York City Wilmington San Jose Charlotte, NC Burlington Hollywood, FL

Is anyone out there a member of one of these clubs? If so, do tell something about what happens, how it's organized, etc. Is there more to it than just a great name?

The Richmond (VA) Craft Mafia is holding its Spring Bada-Bing on April 22: According to the BUSTline, this is
not your mother's craft show! Modern and edgy are the keywords here as the RCM continue to offer local consumers a new and socially conscious way to shop. Spring Bada-Bing (SBB) will be hosting an array of artists and crafters from all over Virginia and the east coast!
If anyone goes, please, please, please tell us all about it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Thinking Blogger

I think this post is haunted. I have tried to write it three times and have lost it three times when I have hit "save." My third try was the best, and I am afraid this attempt will not be as eloquent, since I am now pissed off.

What I have attempted to write is that Bridget of The Ravell'd Sleave has nominated this blog for a Thinking Blogger Award.

Thanks, Bridget!

Blogging certainly has made me think. It forces me to live an examined life. Documenting what I do and why I do it, shaping text into themes and messages, rants and raves--this exercise has taught me much.

Now I get to nominate five blogs that make me think. This is hard.

I now read many blogs, but I read them for different reasons. I go to some blogs to laugh, to others to view beautiful things, to others to be silly. They do not all make me THINK, but a few do.

Here they are:

1. Surviving the Workday: Spirituality at Work: this was the first blog I ever read, having discovered that its author was a long-lost college friend. Ms T writes about important things--social, spiritual, personal things. She is my social conscience alarm clock. It was she who inspired me to try blogging.

2. Taoknitter: this is a window onto a very busy and hugely creative life. Ann has a very, very different life from my own, and yet there are moments of complete commonality and recognition. This is what is magical about friendships made through blogging: you discover treasure.

3. Ruth's Place: I came to Ruth's blog because she seemed to knit a ton of very nice things for South African orphans, and I thought she must be a very good human being. Hers is a craft blog interspersed with nuggets of living in a new country; negotiating culture, race, history; and now, happily, emerging motherhood.

4. Feministing: this is one that I should read more regularly but I forget to--or sometimes I wimp out. It is a blog of serious and important issues that are sometimes painful. Usually Ms. T steers me to posts that I should read.

5. Unsure. I don't want to force it, so I am open to suggestions and recommendations. Clearly, I need to think MORE.

Now each of the nominees gets to nominate, if they are so inclined. Here are the rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think

2. Link to the thinking blogger post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote

Geeked about Fels-Naptha

More birthday goodies!

So does my brother know me or what?

He sent a whole CASE of Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap as well as some lovely Olivella Face and Body Soap from Italy.

Yep, I love good, old fashioned cleaning supplies. Like chocolate but without the calories. And not edible.

Fels-Naptha is a product of yesteryear which boasts, according to Soaps Gone Buy, "100 years of stain fighting power...."

Their listing of specialty uses and recipes includes details on using Fels-Naptha for

  • Poison ivy prevention and treatment
  • Cleaning the shower
  • Reducing the itching and discomfort from bug bites
  • Removing ink, grease, or a variety of other nasty stains
  • Cleaning paint brushes
  • A spring and fall lawn tonic
  • An aphid spray and other insect control
  • Treating black-spot fungus on roses
  • Cleaning black powder guns
  • Tanning hides
  • Ridding pets of fleas and ticks
  • Washing your face

I might also grate it for my homemade laundry soap.

My brother and I remember Fels-Naptha, along with Lava Hand Soap, as the soap used for personal hygiene in my grandparents' home. You had to be tough to shower there.

Monday, April 9, 2007


I haven't been blogging the last few days.

And why not?

Because I am totally consumed by Webkinz.

I spent hours this weekend playing the Tile game (online Mahjong), Candy Bash ( in which a sombrero-wearing chihuahua throws beans at pinatas), both Cash Cow and Cash Cow 2, and DiceKinz. I have dressed my monkey, decorated its room, gone mining for jewels, played a kind of slot machine...HOURS of my life that I will never get back.

But oh what fun I had. I played until my hand fell asleep from holding the mouse.

I was just about to renounce this whole deal--after all, I am an adult with Important Things To Do.

But then my four nephews all received Webkinz from the Easter Bunny.

Which means that I now might actually have friends to play with...

Before you heap too much scorn upon me, let me explain:

My nephews have two aunts. The Super Aunt lives but an hour's train ride away and spends mucho time with the nephews. She even blogs about them.

I am the Bad Aunt. Not only do I live 2016.05 miles away (according to MapQuest), but I forget their birthdays and do not call or write very often.

But I really, really like my guys.

So how cool would it be if I could play with them once a week--or even every day--online?

Tonight I played (virtually) with their mother: she visited my room, I visited hers; we played DiceKinz; she won.

With Webkinz, I can send their animal counterparts virtual presents; we can play games, chat, eat, exercise--until we're exhausted.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Birds of Spring

It is disturbingly frigid this morning. We’ve gone from warm, sunny, flowery spring to another weekend of snow--not light, wet spring snow but rather hard, icy November snow. What happened to global warming?

It being the coldest April 7 in living memory, we naturally got up this morning at 6am for some bird watching at the local National Wildlife Refuge.

The sensible hawks and larks and kestrels did not make much of an appearance. But the ducks seemed happy enough; we saw hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, ring-necks, mallards, blue-winged teals and a canvasback.

After a seriously large breakfast of carne adovada, fresh tortillas and hot coffee at the local greasy-spoon, we came home and heard...the first grosbeaks of the year!

Al set up the spotting scope in the warm living room and aimed it at a tree some way down the hill. There they were, a whole flock of evening grosbeaks, the first of the season to arrive. The black-headed should not be far behind, and the hummingbirds should be on their way.

By putting my camera lens in the spotting scope's eyepiece and zooming, I managed to get this shot: