Friday, July 3, 2015

simple food - sugar, sugar

Sugar. It may be sweet... but it packs a real punch to the Earth!

As I become more aware of all the food products I use and their environmental impact, I'm looking for ways to bring as much as I can down to a local level. We grow a lot of things in Washington state, but sugar cane isn't one of them! So what's an environmentally conscious baker to do? Look for a better alternative, of course!

I'm not naive enough to think that I can source every item I use or consume locally. There will be a some things I can't find (or find suitable replacements for) locally and for those items, I'll be attempting to find those with the least impact possible. Reading about the clearing of forests to accommodate sugar crops eliminating wildlife habitat, the extreme water consumption from growing the crops as well as from the refining process and the pollution again from the growing and processing, I knew I needed to find an alternative to cane sugar.

One thing we don't have a shortage of here in the Pacific Northwest is honey bees. With so many farms and orchards in need of pollination, hives are abundantly located among the same farms where I'm gathering my produce. Unlike cane sugar, raw honey requires only straining out the wax and no further processing, keeping all the nutritional value intact. Some say the pollen present in raw honey helps with allergies, but for me it's the local, minimally processed nature that draws me. I'm using less sweetener overall these days, but when I do reach for a sweetener, I'll be reaching for a honey jar. =)

If you're looking to switch from cane sugar to honey, try to find a local source of raw honey. Most honey available in stores is pasteurized and filtered and can be a combination of honey from all over the world so the product may have been shipped overseas, often comes packaged in plastic bottles (we all know the cute little honey bear), then must be shipped to the stores. The local honey I purchased came packaged in glass jars (something easily reused later) and can be purchased from the farms where the hives are kept. A few local stores carry this raw honey as well so read labels if you don't have access to the farms or a farmers' market.

Check out this article on the environmental impact of sugar cane for more information. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

simple craft - no-sew catnip toys!

Ready for an super simple craft to make your cat(s) this happy??

And you don't have to sew a single stitch! =)

All you need is some fabric, a pair of scissors and a little dried catnip.

I used some fleece* from my fabric stash but a piece of cotton flannel would also work. The flannel (or any woven fabric) will fray, but I'm guessing it would hold up at least as long as the catnip stays potent!

Cotton fabric would work too, but likely won't hold up as well if you have rough players. Mine love a larger toy that they can wrestle with and kick! I won't say the canines in the house don't play with these too. ;-)
Cut a rectangle roughly 12" by 5".

The size isn't too important. You just need a piece big enough to fold into thirds and tie into a knot so a smaller piece will work if that's what you have in scraps.

Add some catnip - again, amount doesn't need to be specific here. I used about 2 teaspoons per knot.
 Fold lengthwise over the catnip.
Then fold again from the other side so the catnip is fully contained inside.
 Simply tie into an overhand knot.
And pull tight. Done! Wasn't that easy?

The added bonus is, these are easily refreshed by undoing the knot and replacing the catnip.
Your kitty (or kitties) will thank you! =)

If you have more than one kitty, make a few. Mine tend to hog new toys. LOL

* If you don't have fleece scraps already in your fabric stash and want to use a fleece, look for organic cotton fleece (not polyester fleece). Polyester fleece sheds tiny plastic particles (not good for anyone). Better yet, look through your closet and see if there's a piece of clothing you no longer wear that you can repurpose the fabric into kitty toys! So many possibilities!

Find more information here on how unfriendly polyester fleece is to the environment.

Monday, June 29, 2015

simple life - simple satisfaction

We so often tend to get caught up in the next big thing. We get something new (or new to us) and then find something bigger or better or just... newer. I'm no stranger to this feeling! Last year, I bought a tiny weaving loom. I enjoyed it immensely. Then what did I do? Did I keep weaving away on my tiny loom? No... I bought a floor loom! I wasn't satisfied with just the tiny loom and wanted something bigger and better. I'd never even used a floor loom before... and it wasn't cheap, even though it was secondhand. I used it a bit but quickly discovered I didn't enjoy the process of setting it up all that much so it just sat, collecting dust and making me feel guilty that it wasn't being used.

These days, I'm learning to be more content with what I have and have been letting go of what I don't need (like that floor loom). Some people though, they have it figured out from the beginning! 

Talk about a simple life and living below your means. I don't even watch baseball, but this guy is awesome! We may not all want to simplify quite to this level, but I think we could all learn a thing or two from Daniel Norris.

What do you think? Does he inspire you?

Friday, June 26, 2015

simple food - a whole new appreciation

rainier cherries!
Something funny happens when you start harvesting your food yourself. At least it has for me. I have a whole new appreciation for my food! While I may not be doing all the work necessary to grow my own food - at least not what I've harvested so far this season - I am putting in the time and labor necessary to collect it from the fields and orchards and that effort has positively changed the way I look at my food.

When things come easy to us, we tend to take them for granted. We appreciate what we have to work hard for! 

Sure, it's easier (and quicker) to drive to the local grocery and pick up strawberries, chilled and neatly nestled in cute little plastic baskets, all ready to be taken home without breaking a sweat. But getting up early and spending hours harvesting those berries in the heat, doing that shuffling crouch as you work your way down the long, low rows of plants looking for the ripest berries? That makes the berries so much more precious! I find myself savoring these berries in a way I never did the storebought ones. I will never look at strawberries in the store in quite the same way...

Getting close to filling my second box of berries Wednesday morning, my back was telling me I had enough for the day. LOL We have a crazy heat wave coming through so this might be it for strawberries for me. Rhubarb too probably. As I dehydrate and freeze berries, I'm realizing very quickly, I don't have nearly as many strawberries as I'd like. I'll definitely be planning my strawberry consumption very, very carefully!

This week's haul. =)
This summer is sort of an experiment for me. I'm learning to get up earlier and arrive at the farms as close to opening as possible to get my share! This week I hit the strawberry farm at 7:15am and the lot was already pretty full! I'm also figuring out just how much I need of each food to last me until next summer. I greatly underestimated this one! Okay, honestly? I knew I didn't have enough but guys, have you ever picked strawberries? It's work! I can only do so much at a time. I don't know how the pros do it all day... and especially for so little pay. 

I've set aside 2 pounds each of strawberries and rhubarb to make fruit leather this afternoon and have dehydrated the rest of both. There will be cobbler to be had in the middle of winter!

Some neighbors I'd rather not meet again!
After the fruit leather, I'll be drying a batch of cherries. From my bit of research (I looked it up but also tossed some pitted, halved cherries on a half full tray of strawberries just to see), cherries take a loooong time to dehydrate so those are going in last. I'm certainly getting my money's worth from that secondhand dehydrator! This time around, I only picked Rainier cherries, but I plan to get a few varieties before cherry season ends. I do live in Washington... didn't I have to start with Rainiers? ;-) They did originate here after all! More of these are getting eaten fresh though. Rainiers are my favorites and after trying them dried, I much prefer fresh. I'll likely dehydrate a bunch of Bings and Vans and possibly can some Pie cherries too. There are quite a few varieties available locally. I plan to try them all!

While at the farms, I also picked up a couple of jars of local raw honey. More on that later. =)

On a completely different note... I met some new neighbors. Not neighbors I want to hang around with! Tuesday evening, the boys and I met this little gang of stinkers near the end of the alley behind my house as we were coming home from our evening walk. Thankfully, we had good timing and enough distance to avoid any threat. Shocking though! I've never seen more than one or two skunks together before! This was the whole darn family out for a stroll. The next evening, the boys and I headed out again and guess what?! We met this stinking herd again!! Thankfully, we had stopped in the park to watch a deer so again, we lucked out and had perfect timing, though this encounter was a bit too close for comfort for me! They were at the top of the hill crossing the narrow path we take from the park back to my neighborhood. Had we been a couple minutes earlier... *shudder* Let's just say, the boys and I have changed our evening route. I have no interest in pressing my luck a 3rd time!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

simple food - meet the farmers!

strawberry rhubarb leather, strawberries and rhubarb
If you're reading this on Wednesday morning when it goes live, I'm likely in a field picking berries or rhubarb or possibly in a cherry tree stuffing myself. =)

I've been making more effort to simplify my life. This summer, I'm really focusing on simplifying my food. What could be simpler than harvesting it myself? I'm blessed to have a wonderful farming community just half an hour from my home and my plan is to spend my mid-week day off each week harvesting some of whatever is available! If you aren't into the fun of picking the food yourself (or are short on time), check out your local Farmers' Markets!

dehydrated rhubarb
I was lucky to find a great deal on a secondhand box-style dehydrator a couple weeks ago. Last week, I picked five pounds of strawberries and four pounds of rhubarb then proceeded to chop and slice and blend and let my new-to-me dehydrator earn its keep! I now have dried strawberries and rhubarb along with strawberry rhubarb fruit leather - seriously good stuff! I also froze strawberries for smoothies, made a batch of strawberry rhubarb cobbler (yum!) and of course left some to eat fresh. Hopefully, this week's harvest is even more fruitful! Cherries, anyone?!

strawberry rhubarb cobbler - yum!
Buying local and eating foods in season (or harvesting in season and preserving for later) greatly decreases our negative environmental impact. Our food won't need to be picked before it has had a chance to ripen and then be shipped across the country or in some cases, across the world. This saves a ton of energy, not to mention the increased quality/flavor and decreased waste of the food itself! And should we discuss the underpaid workers doing the harvesting?? As a teen, I once went with a friend's family and picked tomatoes. I remember being horrified at the piddly amount I earned for such hard work!

The money we spend at local farms will go directly to the farmers without large portions being taken by the grocery chain, the shippers, the packers, etc. and the money stays in our own communities, supporting our friends and neighbors. =)

You won't even necessarily have to give up buying organic produce when you shop locally! In a perfect world, all farms would all use organic practices, but we don't live in a perfect world. Darn it. There are many smaller farms that use organic processes but aren't certified organic however so their produce won't be labeled as organic. Don't be afraid to ask! You might be very pleasantly surprised.

We vote with our dollars every time we make a purchase. How are you voting?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Name changes!

Hi all! In an effort to streamline my social media accounts, 
I have changed everything to the same username. Finally.

You can now find me on Instagram, Ravelry, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest as
There are links to all of these on the right side of the blog to make it simple.

The following address will also bring you directly to this blog:

The old blog address will still work if you are subscribed via a feed catcher.

For those following the podcast on YouTube,
have no fear. Nothing will change there either. =)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

stashless podcast episode 53 – let it go… KonMari style

Out of the Stash (FOs):
  • Spun up about 4 oz each of Shetland and Dorper for a planned colorwork project, Meta Mittens.
  • Weaving! After my big stash sorting experience (more on that later), I swiped a few skeins from the “go away” pile and wove a few simple scarves suing some worsted weight stash. Teal/Red scarves & Tropical Waters Scarf
  • Poo Bag – The temps are rising and I no longer have a jacket pocket for used doggie poo bags. Problem solved. =) FibraNatura Exquisite Bamboo in Coral
  • NostalgiaShawl – roughly 700 yds combined, Black Sheep Cottage Merino/Silk in tonal purples and Araucania Ranco Solid in Wisteria
  • I finished the kitchen curtains too but didn't show them. I love them! Just in time to help save me from roasting this summer too. =)

On their way out (WIPs):
  • Still plugging away on the cabled border of my Aquamarine shawl. Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in Tourmaline
  • Large Mitered Square Blanket – Jo-Ann Sensations Caribbean in met white, lime and turquoise. Each square will be about 66g

  • This section should be de-stashed this episode! I have a huge yarny destash in progress. Not sure how long things will be up for sale. I’m looking around at local places to donate leftovers to and I’m fully enjoying my new, much smaller stash!
  • I did hit Jo-Ann’s Memorial Day sale last month and picked up patterns ($1 each!) and found organic cotton! and linen to make some summer clothing. =) Check out Cloud 9 Fabric at Jo-Ann’s if you’re looking for organic cotton! So excited to have a local source of organic cotton, even if it is limited.

Future plans:
  • Getting rid of more stuff I don’t need! And sticking to the simple projects. =)

It’s Easy Being Green…

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris
Have you heard of the KonMari Method? It’s all about keeping what you love… and letting the rest go. =) While I don’t believe inanimate objects have feelings (as Marie Kondo does), I do believe we should respect our things and not be wasteful. It’s also good for us to be surrounded with things we truly love.

I’ve been working through all of my possessions the past few weeks and have already dropped off 5 loads at various charities and sold my spinning wheel to a nice young couple and my floor loom to a very happy weaver. The best part is that letting these items go eliminates the need for another new item to be manufactured. Better to send my unused/unloved items into the world and save the energy and wear to our Earth. =)

New to me podcast:

Last but not least, we have winners in the Handspun-along and the April Shrink My Stash thread!

Handspun-along winners:
  1. ElisabethGrace (Angela)
  2. Angeiship (Andrea)

  1. Crouchingcheese (Angie)