My Garden Delivers Calm in a Mad, Mad world.

curled stamenMy garden has been a little haven this week. I planted this dianthus a couple of weeks ago and after a hard day at work this week I was brought back to a calm place in my mind by the incredible spicy clove scent of this little blossom. This one right here. These are commonly referred to as “Pinks”. It’s a small mounding plant with little blossoms. If you plant some, be sure to choose one with scent, not all dianthus have it.

mandarin blossomI love so many things about the Oregon climate. I miss the rain and the cold and the clouds. This little blossom reminded me that one of the things I missed about California was the ability to grow citrus. This one little blossom so full of rich balmy scent grounded me a few times this week. I park my Vespa right in front of it. I stop and smell anything that’s blooming every time I come home. I’m reminded what is good about the Mediterranean climate I live in. Plus, we did actually get rain last week and that was fantastic.

mushroom 4The rain we got is also the reason for this surprise – a cluster of mushrooms nestled in among the lemon balm in the fig tree barrel. I don’t know what it is but to see a mushroom in our dry climate is pretty exciting. Eventually I want to create an edible mushroom garden in our shady side-yard.

garlic bedI need to mulch the garlic beds. I’m afraid I didn’t plant the bulbs quite deep enough. They’ll do better with mulch, especially as the warm weather settles in.

garlic and foxgloveThis is my other garlic bed. I also have garlic planted around my roses and in between my herbs in the middle tier of my raised beds. These foxgloves were planted last year but remained small in the shadow of the summer squash that was in this bed at the time.

snow peasSnow peas! The snails ate the ones I planted a couple of months ago. Snails are proving to be a formidable pest in this garden. I have bought some Sluggo which I always found effective in the past.

sorrel 2My mom’s sorrel. I’m not a huge sorrel fan but isn’t this beautiful? It overwintered and is looking refreshed.

English DaisyEnglish daisies. I love daisies. All daisies. Such a simple joy. Even if you don’t have a garden you can have a pot of these in a sunny window.

My garden has been reminding me of the cyclical nature of things like time, seasons, feelings, trips, love, housework, jobs, opportunities, dreams. Things come around again and again. Sometimes it’s hard to see the cycle because it’s too small or too large for us to grasp. I don’t think we need to always see it. But it’s useful to be reminded that even things like death aren’t truly an end so much as a return to what we like to think of as the beginning.

The air this morning is mild and pretty. The mourning doves are cooing and it brings into focus other mornings from the distant past that are acutely pleasant to me. Summer mornings when I was 14 years old. My parents left me home alone for a week while the rest of the family traveled somewhere I can’t remember. They gave me grocery money and instructions to take care of the garden and animals. It was one of the best memories I have of being a teen.

I remember waking up early and watering the garden  before the heat set in. The mourning doves must have been cooing then too because that sound always brings me right back to this memory. I’d eat yogurt, fruit, and granola for breakfast. I’d drink tea. Then I’d watch soaps on tv while making paper dolls. Sometimes alone and sometimes with my two best friends. In the afternoon I would go down town and hang out with friends. Go to their houses, or to Lithia park. Then I’d be home again, picking vegetables from the garden using my mom’s shallow harvest basket.

Out there in my mom’s garden, in the late afternoon heat, the world was silent except for the occasional squabbling of our hens and the hum of the bees. The air was spicy with clove scent from my mom’s carnations. It was supreme happiness to me, to be all alone, tending a garden in peace and a quiet interrupted only by soft happy sounds. No family fighting, no discord, no unrest in my head, no fears, just blissful solitude standing in the garden my mother designed and grew.

Now I find that in my own garden whether it’s large or small or just a few pots on a ledge. I feel that same happy stillness when surrounded by plants and listening to mourning doves.

Talking to the Roses

 

nest arrangementThis is the first bunch of rosemary I was able to cut from my potted rosemary plant. It struggled all summer and fall and then, suddenly, it was strong, robust, reaching upward, and in need of its first trim. I used a good deal of it for rosemary roasted vegetables and then a little in some cabbage and white bean soup (which was a mistake) and I have just enough left for some more roasted vegetables.

Today I’m thinking about what we can plant as a shared hedge between our driveway and the neighbor’s. The hedge that’s there right now is dying. I want an edible hedge that’s also beautiful. But one I can get the neighbor to agree to. Pomegranates are naturally small trees that can be kept pruned to hedge size easily. I’m dreaming of making pomegranate jelly every year. Or just juicing them and drinking the juice. The spring flowers are gorgeous and they aren’t picky about soil. All I have to do is convince the neighbor to pay to have the dead hedges removed (roots and all) and offer to pay for and care for the new hedge.

I’m still toying with two other possibilities: espaliered apple and pear trees and a blueberry hedge, each posing their own unique challenges.

I get panicky on Friday mornings now that I work four days a week. I feel so much pressure to get shit done. Not only the usual stuff around the house but chores connected to my fledgling apothecary business. Today I drank coffee, chatted with online friends, my mother, made breakfast, yelled at Twitter for constantly clogging my feed with sexual content that I find so tiresome and annoying. This led to two fun non-sex-related chats with different writer friends. One was about pizza and one was about gardening. Within 20 minutes I forgot all about everyone’s irritating obsession with the sex they’re having or wish they were having and realized that what I really need is to prune some of my roses.

I have pruned 5 of them so far. Most of them are spindly little roses that have yet to become deeply rooted. They’re just settling in from being planted late last spring. I hate pruning the little ones because every little cut feels like murder. The roses with the lush thick healthy canes are so much easier to prune. You can hear them sighing with relief as the weak limbs are removed, the dead leaves sough off, and you tell them how wonderful and hearty they are.

I’m writing this as I take a quick break from the warmth outside. It’s too warm for me today but I need to get back out there a little bit more. Next I’m going to the back yard. We have three roses back there that have valiantly held onto life in the darkest oak shade  for years before they were transplanted last year. It’s time they got the prune they need to thrive.

School is just getting out. I can hear the messy hum of middle school kids a half a block away. Max is walking home from the high school right now, any moment he’ll walk in the door and dump his backpack at the base of the stairs. I’ll shout greetings at him which he’ll barely acknowledge. Then he’ll disappear upstairs for the rest of the afternoon. Unless things at school were bad, then he’ll lay down on the couch in the living room and make feeble noises at me.

Being in the garden often has the effect of heightening my sense of right now in a pleasant way. It’s calming. Why do I forget this for such long stretches of time, that being in the garden is like a tranquilizer for me? I wonder if it was the years in Oregon where I was fighting with my yard so often? Where being outside somehow made my isolation in my community feel greater. (Probably because of the eerie silence of the neighborhoods I lived in.) Here on Cherry street there are always people walking by, people chatting, dogs saying hello, children playing, the school kids yelling and laughing, and neighbors coming and going. It’s so alive here in a way that when I’m outside I feel more peace rather than less. I belong here. In this community. Being outside in my garden feels calm but also energizing.

There are also sometimes loud drunks that walk by, but that’s just part of the city flavor I love so much.

I used to long for bigger garden spaces, for sizable property. I had big yards in Oregon. The potential of it was exciting but the reality of it wasn’t right for me. I don’t have tons of space in my current garden but it feels like the right amount. Every inch counts. I can tackle it in small -

*LATER*

I never made it back outside. Max came home and wanted to hang out, so we did. I’ll get back outside to the roses tomorrow. This was a good day!

The New Kitchen Faucet

IMG_20141122_165638My friend Ann reminded me that I never did finish telling the Angelina Versus the Broken Faucet story. I suppose I was so deeply relieved to have it behind me that I didn’t consider that other people might be wondering how the story ended.

I really wanted to do this whole replacement by myself but it turned out to be a two person job. Philip and I ended up taking turns beating the crap out of the old broken faucet fittings. At one point our entire kitchen floor was covered in every tool we own. We got dirty, bruised, frustrated, and just when we were ready to learn bomb-making skills to blow that bastard out of our kitchen, we got the fucker completely off.

After that it was easy replacing the sink. As long as I don’t count the debacle of the silicone tube that wouldn’t pump and how it made me wish I was religious so I could renounce god in an epic gesture of hopeless rage. Whatever. At last we had our new faucet. I love it. It isn’t overly fancy (that would have looked weird with our decrepit sink and peeling Formica counter) but it works well, looks fresh, and isn’t broken.

When it was all over we concluded that diy plumbing is not something we’ll willingly take on in the future. Provided we can afford it, I’m happy to pay plumbers to do what they do so I don’t have to.

The End.

Don’t Let My Giant List Scare You: Household To-Do List 2015

tiniest lemonsI spent a couple of hours weeding yesterday and it felt great! I’ve got more to do out there but before I head out I want to make a list of all the house projects I need to do to really get and keep my house in shape. This is not a list to punish myself with later if I get none of it done. This is to start the organization process in my own head, where it all truly begins. Best way I know to organize my head is to take a bunch of stuff OUT of it and put it on paper. So room by room, here goes…

Office:

Make double curtains for all the windows. A light curtain in muslin or similar lightweight fabric that lets some light in and then a dark heavier curtain that does a good job shutting it out. GET RID OF STUPID-ASS UGLY PLASTIC SHADES.

Clean out sewing supplies and refold all the fabric on the shelves. Any fabric you haven’t used in the last 20 years is probably never going to get used. There’s a reason it’s sat there for so long.

Clean out apothecary shelves – label all jars and bottles that aren’t labeled and throw out anything unfresh like that dried kale from 3 years ago. Kale is the anti-Christ and I only dried it in the first place for my mom.

Create a space for all finished apothecary products and other Etsy shop products so they’re easy to find and store.

Hang all your weird religious souvenirs on the walls.

Paint what little wall space you have Granny Smith Apple Green.

Relocate journals into bedroom closet. I don’t need them and still undecided if I’m going to torch them or not.

Clean out desk.

Mop floor.

Clean all woodwork and sills.

Fix screen with the spider/fly hole in it.

Dining Room:

Find a cupboard or table to go under the window looking into my office and get rid of the wicker basket thingy.

Find a better place to store my accordion.

Clean out the little closet – put all the games up in Max’s room except for the Scrabble. Clean out the floor space (there’s a few funky purposeless things there). Add useful hangers. Store linens either in rolling cart of some kind or on the above shelf.

Clean out the china cabinets of anything we don’t use or want. Be ruthless.

Put a pretty display on dining room table and after using it for projects and such – put shit back where it belongs.

Mop floor.

Use long-ass duster to get cobwebs down.

Clean woodwork.

Vestibule:

Yes, we have a vestibule. It needs to be thoroughly dusted.

Clean woodwork.

Clean the deco cabinet inside and out.

Mop floor.

Carefully clean antique candlesticks.

Living Room:

Clean out bookshelves. No need to be ruthless, just go through and make sure everything is a real keeper. Movies included.

Perhaps give mom a few of the things off the top of the TV cabinet that are hers?

Dust like mad.

Clean the woodwork.

Rotate the carpet.

Clean out the pantry. It’s a big job but it must be done. Extra canning jars, growlers, or rarely used items should be put in the upstairs kitchen cabinets. Clean things out, label everything that needs it. Throw out old crap you know Max isn’t going to eat. Just admit it and move on.

Add emergency water to the pantry. Just one big one is fine.

Kitchen:

Shit. This is where it gets super hairy and challenging. This is the place that needs the most work I can’t do myself. Stop stalling. Just write it all down.

Finish cleaning the O’Keefe and Merritt stove.

Find out what stove hood will work best with the old stove and either buy it or save up for it.

Find out who can install it and the cost. Either set it up for them to do it or save up until you can afford to get someone to do it.

Remove the cabinets from above the stove that must be moved to accommodate the bigger stove.

Get rid of old stove. Hack it to bits if necessary and sell the scrap metal to traveling tinkers riding on donkeys.

Find a used cabinet to put between the sink and the fridge that can accommodate a dishwasher. Install cabinet and dishwasher.

Somewhere in the middle of all this mayhem – paint the walls a different more cheerful color. Dustpan alley blue or apple green. Anything but beige.

Make matching  curtains for the two windows.

Clean out that fridge. Scrub it down. Throw out old weird frozen stuff you know no one is going to eat like those dark brown frozen bananas. Don’t listen to anyone who suggests a banana-kale-freezer-burn smoothie is the path to great health.

Clean the woodwork.

Go through all the cabinets to get rid of the musty stuff. You know what I’m talking about. There may not be much of it but I’m sure it’s interfering with your road to success.

Bingo-presto! DONE! That’s all you have to do in there for it to be an awesome kitchen. Just a snap o’ the fingers and it’s all amazing.

Bathroom:

Make curtains, destroy the blinds.

Back the cabinet above the toilet with the orange gingham to look nicer.

Scrub all the way under the tub.

Replace the bath faucet because it super sucks like crazy.

Replace the shower  curtains.

Get new towels and washcloths. When you can afford them. Because I know you can’t afford them now. Doesn’t mean they don’t need replacing. It’s been 8 years and they are getting FUNKY.

Replace the asshole of a toilet.

Clean the motherfucking woodwork, you lazy whore.

Laundry Room:

Remove the creepy little carpets.

Install linoleum. This will obviously involve the temporary removal of the washer and dryer and freezer. Major pain the ass. I promise it will be worth it in the end.

Clean the fuck out of the woodwork and walls and corners and all the crevices into which muck and dust and lint has lodged itself. Make it nice in there!

Bedroom:

Hang a couple more pictures.

Clean off dresser to remember what it looks like.

Throw out any shoes I’m not able to wear any more.

Dust it.

Clean the woodwork.

I believe I can get a lot of this done by approaching it methodically. A few things here really depend on money, so we’ll see. I will NOT look back and flog myself with this list if much of it isn’t accomplished. It just feels good to write it all out.

However, there’s nothing like tackling a task right now, this minute. I’m going to go fold the fabric on my shelves.

Catch you later!

Lip Balm Production

lip balm 3I’ve been working on this lip balm project for a long time. I had a hard time deciding on the ingredients I wanted to use in my formula. I definitely wanted the consistency of Burt’s Bees but I wanted a calendula base. So I started off infusing sunflower oil with calendula.

lip balm 1Next I chose to use coconut oil (instead of cocoa butter) as a secondary oil. It adds a lot to the texture, making it creamier, because it’s solid at room temperature. (If you want to confuse people at Whole Foods, ask them for “denatured” coconut oil.)

Years ago I made lip balm with my sister and my friend Sharon and was super disappointed in the texture. It was super slick and came right off my lips. We only used oil (liquid at room temperature) and beeswax that time. This formula is much nicer. It’s richer, isn’t as slick, and feels great.

For this batch I used a peppermint oil for flavoring. It’s pretty light. I prefer it stronger generally. I re-melted this batch after my first try because the first time the peppermint disappeared completely. For the next batch I’m going to be using a cacao oil.

This week I sold 8 of my 3x strength wound salves (thanks to being included in this post on The Kitchn “15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck“) and so I’m already working on a new batch of salve. This is my happy place. Making these apothecary products. Selling them means I get to make MORE.

3x strength Wound Salve

Angelina Versus The Broken Faucet

broken faucetIt is a well known fact of the universe that things break when:

You can’t afford to fix them

In threes

When you are most emotionally crippled

When there is maximum chaos in your life

Several days ago this kitchen faucet broke. Philip tried to fix it. He discovered that one of the shut-off valves under the sink doesn’t work which complicates the process of fixing it. So we decided we would just buy a new faucet and pay a plumber to come fix it. The next day I had to do dishes in my bathtub. But before I could do that I had to clean up the massive trash evisceration I came home to. The trash was left out from under the sink and the dog got bored. But before I could clean up the trash I had to change out of my rain soaked clothes because it was pouring on my way home from work.

I changed out of my clothes and sat around for two hours trying to psyche myself up to face the trash which Chick thoughtfully dragged through the living room and bedroom. I finally picked that all up and realized that I couldn’t do anything else until I’d mopped the floor. But to mop the floor I really needed to clean the bathroom. Also – if you’re going to do your dishes in your bathtub you don’t want the toilet to be grimy because you’ll see it out of the corner of your eye and you’ll never trust that the dishes got really clean. So I had to clean the whole bathroom and then mop the floors and THEN do dishes in my tub. By the time I did that I was so tired I took Max out to eat even though by now we’d realized that after paying all our bills and the mortgage we were getting low-ish on funds. Facing Max’s birthday weekend meant other meals out so in the end it became clear that we could not afford a plumber. Just the faucet.

under the sink sitchSo yesterday was my first day off after a grueling week at work and I spent the whole day watching kitchen faucet replacement videos and going to Home Depot to get the replacement, a basin wrench, and silicone sealant.

First thing I discover is that Philip was right about one of the shut-off valves being  broken. This necessitated shutting off the water to the whole house which, because I wasn’t sure if we had one I could shut off myself, necessitated calling the water department and waiting for their guy to show up and show me how unnecessary it was for him to come out and turn my water off.

I unscrewed the nuts connecting the old faucet to the water supply. It was just as easy as all the videos suggested it would be. The next step was to unscrew the nut holding the faucet to the underside of the sink. But there was no nut on mine. It looks nothing like ANY of the videos I watched. This is the THING I had to grapple with:

Satan designed thisAfter 45 minutes trying to use the useless basin wrench to budge this motherfucker I had to give up. Max was starting to feel like the broken faucet and lack of water to the house was infringing on his birthday celebration. It was. So I headed out to Home Depot to ask them what the hell this THING is and how to remove it and then off to get Max his cupcakes and other treats. Home Depot guy doesn’t know what the hell this is. So I ask him to show me how to cap off the water supply line with the broken shut-off so I can turn the house water back on, celebrate my kid’s birthday, and come back to this mess later. 60 hundred hours later…

dirty broken faucetLet’s not discuss how two Safeways let my boy down by not having his favorite cupcakes, how I now have this hideous unbudging mess in my kitchen. Seriously, gross. And I realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Note to plumbing newbies like me:

NEVER ATTEMPT FIXING PLUMBING ISSUES ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

I managed to get Max his favorite cookie and frosting sandwiches from Sift which made him happy, hung out and watched him play one of his new video games, and opened presents and then I made him onion rings at 10pm. I was one exhausted human. I went to sleep with a leaky valve under my sink. I slept relatively well, for me.

I had secretly prayed that the broken faucet would be taken home to hell in Satan’s arms so that I could get on with installing the new faucet. No such luck.

the nut to bustOver coffee this morning I have come to believe that this nut (pictured above) is the one to crush. I actually attempted to loosen it for 30 minutes last night to no avail. But I think I was trying to do it the wrong direction. So when I’m done drinking my courage in a cup and after I get dressed in grimy clothes I’m going to try this one more time. Failing this?

I WILL SAW THIS MOTHERFUCKER OFF THE SINK WITH A HACKSAW

 

Tomato Fever

IMG_20140913_162610Canning season is in full flush. I have 12 quarts and 33 pints of peaches in the cupboard. I have 12 pints of salsa (14 total including the two that we’re just eating) and 7 quarts of plain tomato sauce done. (Plus about 4 quarts in the freezer)

IMG_20140919_141920I still have 2.5 boxes of tomatoes left and there are so many things I want to do with them it’s a little bit paralyzing. Having so much choice is a lucky situation to be in. After a week of being so broke I woke up in a money panic every morning I find myself mentally knocking on wood every few hours that payday came and I was able to pay my phone bill, buy 150lbs of tomatoes, and beer. Those two boxes of tomatoes are only 50lbs of the total. I had to make three trips to the farm to get my tomatoes home.

IMG_20140915_174253Side note: please don’t buy meat in big disrespectful bags like this. It looks like trash and that was once an animal, a living breathing being. I understand eating meat is the norm for many people including my own son and husband – but do it respectfully or don’t do it at all.  It’s much better to eat no meat than to buy it like this.

IMG_20140920_205501I dislike most salsa recipes in the canning books so I’m working on my own recipe now. It’s going to take a couple of years to perfect, I’m sure, but this first batch is pretty damn good. No bell peppers or cucumbers or carrots in my salsa, please! This batch is made with: tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos (because I need to use mine up, otherwise it would just be fresh ones), Mexican oregano, garlic, a ton of fresh cilantro, and some lime juice and salt.

IMG_20140920_213924Night canning results in me staying up several hours afterwards to wind back down. Last night I was up way too late and ended up falling asleep at my desk. I need to knock this off. I feel like a wreck today as a result. I have two and a half boxes of tomatoes left and here are the things I’m thinking of doing with them:

Summer vegetable soup to freeze (with corn, green beans, new potatoes, zucchini, and basil)

Ratatouille to freeze – I only have a few jars of it and it’s such a great thing to pull out of the freezer in cold(ish)* weather and serve over polenta.

Bruschetta topping – I’ve never canned this but I’m definitely going to try a recipe I have for this.

Black bean soup to freeze – with corn, lots of tomato, summer squash, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and lime juice.

I think I better get my ass dressed if I hope to get anything at all done with those toms today. Which should I do first? Bruschetta topping, probably. Followed by the ratatouille.

I miss writing and I need to get more things listed in my Etsy shop but tomato canning season is something I look forward to all year and I don’t feel right if I haven’t put a lot of good stuff in the pantry and freezer. I’m such a damn squirrel.

The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit: put together your own or BUY MINE

first aid kit 1Last summer was a calamitous one. You know how you can go a long time without getting any cuts or sprains and then suddenly every time you turn around the kitchen knife is lodged in your thumb, table corners conspire to trip you so you sprain your wrist in a fall, and steps suddenly disappear under your feet sending you sprawling on the cement walkway below scraping off a big hank of skin so thick it makes you sick to your stomach to cut it off?

We had one of those summers. That was the summer I finally understood the value of having a first aid kit in the house. We had various components of one. We own at least six pairs of scissors, all suitable for cutting bandaging to size, but when I needed a pair to cut off some skin from my mom’s injury (yes, for real) and cut bandages, I spent 5 precious minutes searching for a single pair while she bled. We had bandage tape but it was not in the same spot as the bandaging. That was the day I decided I needed to put together a first aid kit for our family.

first aid kit 6I could have bought one, of course, but there is no first aid kit out there that blends natural medicine with some modern manufactured supplies. I don’t use Neosporin for cuts and abrasions, I use a handmade comfrey wound salve, or did until I made my own formula with antibacterial herbs in a triple infusion that is much better and stronger than the one I used to buy*. I don’t use Calamine lotion or anti-itch ointment from the store for poison oak, I use natural powdered clay. My son is the one who gets the poison oak and this has worked very well for him.

first aid kit 3I was also inspired by my dystopian novel “Winter; Cricket and Grey” to make a first aid kit that included some natural bandaging in addition to the sterile manufactured gauze pads and band aids. In the spirit of being resourceful during tough times when manufactured goods may be hard to come by I have put cloth bandage rolls in the kit made from natural cotton muslin that’s been pre-washed to improve absorption.

first aid kit 2I put a lot of thought into what should be included in my first aid kits. I’m going to list each item I included  below:first aid kit 4What all first aid kits should include:

Scissors – they don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be able to cut through bandages and bandage tape. Hopefully you won’t ever need yours to cut hanging skin off a wound.

Tweezers – make certain they are sharp edged otherwise they are useless. The ones in this kit are small but have a really nice sharp edge for pulling out splinters. Dull ones make it more painful and frustrating and you will end up cussing so loud you’ll surprise yourself.

Triple Strength Wound Salve – this is in place of using antibacterial ointments. It’s natural, it’s effective, and it’s really good for your skin. The bonus is that it’s made from ingredients that would most likely still be available during an apocalyptic situation. It can be made at home if you take the time to learn how.

Sprain Bandage – I can’t stand Ace bandages. We have one or two lying around and have certainly had cause to use them but they look creepy with that flesh-like color and they’re always too long and after a few uses get stretched out in an unpleasant manner. I have made sprain bandages from cotton stretch satin. Each kit has two lengths of it so you can use either just one or use both if you need more of it. They are pretty and decorated with a felt heart.

Muslin Bandaging – 100 percent cotton washable bandaging. Two different widths for different needs. It is for making pads and for fixing them in place. It is also perfect for using with the poultice.

Band Aids – I’ve included 20 in each kit I’m selling but it’s not a bad idea to add more to your kit of different sizes. I’ll be honest, we have a lot of different band aid sizes and types at our house but the ones I find most useful are the ones I’ve put in the kits (1″ x 3″) and it’s frustrating having so many less useful sizes and shapes lying around when this is what I most often need. I’ve chosen latex-free because a lot of people have allergies to latex.

20 Sterile Gauze Pads – These were really useful with my mom’s arm injury and I will make sure I always have some on hand as long as they’re available. They’re very porous, though, and the muslin bandaging is better for particularly bloody situations. In either case, where bandages sticking to wounds is a worry, rub some salve on the wound or on the bandaging directly to keep it from sticking.

2 Rolls Bandage Cloth Bandage Tape – You can use muslin to tie wound pads in place but it’s good to have tape on hand as well.

1 Use Comfrey Poultice – If you use this poultice for a wound you can get 2 uses from it but for a sprain you’ll want to use the whole thing. I’ve seen a comfrey poultice in action (my mom used it on my cousin’s sprained ankle and it worked wonderfully well) and is truly be a great value to every first aid kit. It reduces inflammation which is the main thing you want to do with a sprain. The added benefit of using a poultice instead of an anti-inflammatory pill is that it has healing properties on skin. Comfrey speeds up cell regrowth and is known to be healing for bones as well.

Bentonite Clay – any pink or green clay powder will do just as well. I include this because it worked so well soothing my son’s poison oak that he’s a real believer and we always have some around. It helps dry up weepy rashes and reduces the itching. Plus – it’s full of minerals that are good for skin.

Alcohol for Sterilizing – I’ve included an empty bottle with atomizer top in my kits for sale. I can’t sell alcohol without a lot of trouble so you must fill it yourself. You can fill it with rubbing alcohol OR moonshine OR Everclear. The higher the proof the better. Use it to sterilize the scissors or tweezers before use. It can also be used to sterilize wounds, but only do this if you don’t have access to clean running water which is the best way to clean wounds.

There are a few other things that would be fantastic additions to your first aid kits but which I couldn’t include in the ones I’m selling:

Fever/Pain Reducer – We don’t treat fevers in our house until they reach 103 degrees OR unless they are causing terrible discomfort. So we don’t use fever reducers often but there have been times I’ve been really grateful to have it on hand. Pain reducers are also truly beneficial in my opinion and I have never been satisfied with natural pain relievers (except for beer – true story) so this is a case where I believe in modern medicine providing superior care to natural and why in my household we blend modern medicine with natural remedies.

Epi Pen – No one in my house has any life threatening injuries but many people do have them and while they usually have an epi-pen close at hand, having one in your first aid kit is wise.

Thermometer – Not a necessary item but very useful in determining if a fever should be treated or allowed to run its course.

As always, I have to hope you never have need of any of these things, but I also hope you’re prepared in case you and your loved ones are hit with a string of injuries as we were.  Either put your own kit together or buy mine:

Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit from Stitch and Boots

first aid kit 7*You can buy my triple strength wound salve separately from the first aid kit in my Etsy shop.

Pale Green Plaid Smock and My Cleaning Playlist

green plaid smock 5I made this cute smock from an XXL men’s shirt from the thrift store. I have a tutorial for a different version of recycling a men’s shirt into a smock. This time I did something more complicated and I’m really excited about the results.

green plaid smock 4Smocks are an essential part of a post apocalyptic wardrobe. They were also an essential part of most pre-80′s wardrobes. Back when clothes were more precious, they were made better, and people had this idea that they should be protected from the grime of creativity and work. Who wears smocks and aprons? Painters, cooks, welders, butchers, food preservers, gardeners, farmers (sometimes), woodworkers, fish mongers, housekeepers, and me.

green plaid smock 3Any person of action and/or creativity needs to protect their clothes and do it in the most stylish manner possible. I believe in putting on lipstick to clean the house. I believe in playing folk songs on my accordion to serenade bread dough (to make it rise higher). I believe in blasting opera while gardening or making jam. I believe in blasting Laibach’s cover of “I Me Mine” while scrubbing the floor. I believe in looking natty while foraging mushrooms near the misty forest floor.

When I was 17 years old I went to a standing room only opera dressed to the nines in a 1940′s inspired outfit, gloves and ALL, and ended up standing next to this really old man who was dressed in a pressed western shirt and slacks with his hair pomaded in place. This man was easily 90 years old and leaning on a cane. He told me he gave his seat to a young girl who was at the opera for the first time in standing room only. He said no one should see their first opera standing up. He told me he loved that I dressed up like people used to do. Watching the opera standing next to this old gent was the best opera experience I ever had.

I’m a casual person. I tend not to do what’s “proper” or expected unless it makes good sense to me. Tradition means very little to me as an institution. It’s only meaningful to me if it’s worthy in a modern setting to keep it alive. Dressing up for the opera is something I GET. You probably do too. Most modern people don’t get dressing up to do chores. Why wear a smock over a dress to cook in or clean house in?

green plaid smock 2Because cleaning can be dreary and dirty but if you play music that makes you happy and dance and you dress up – it’s a hell of a lot more fun! It goes faster too.

green plaid smock 6If you can’t blast music because you live in an apartment or a super stuffy neighborhood – you can stash an MP3 player in your smock pocket and listen on headphones. So I suggest if you don’t have a smock – make one or buy one of mine!

green plaid smock 7

You can buy this smock at my Etsy shop:

Light Green Plaid Smock

Wanna know what my cleaning playlist is these days? Here’s what’s on it right now:

Respect – Aretha Franklin

I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles

Help! – The Beatles

I Want You – Bob Dylan

The Quest – Bryn Christopher

Rie Y Llora – Celia Cruz

Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps – Doris Day

Rocket Man – Elton John

Like a Prayer – Madonna

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues

Bella Biao – from the album “Italia; A Festival of Music”

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

Dancing Queen – ABBA

Volare – Dean Martin

Mambo Italiano – Rosemary Clooney

And a new addition just for scrubbing the toilet to:

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi – Carl Orff

Post Apocalyptic Clothing Line Notes

IMG_20140827_120209[1]I’m designing a micro line of post apocalyptic style clothing inspired by my novel Cricket and Grey. I’m starting with smocks made from men’s shirts. As I’m making these I’m thinking about whole outfits to wear with them.

This started because I am faced with the reality that I need to make some money and I can either try to sell my own things in my Etsy shop or I can get a job at an office or retail store. I don’t want to have to work outside my home. So I made a push to label my salves which I was already working on because I wanted to make some apothecary items inspired by my book. Then I asked myself what else I could make that wouldn’t bore me or annoy me.

IMG_20140823_184433[1]That’s when I decided to turn my Stitch and Boots shop into a shop wholly inspired by Cricket and Grey. To create a shop that might exist in my own novel. I did the whole apron thing in the past and am tired of making retro style aprons. I want smocks! I want to recycle some things in the spirit of a post apocalyptic world. As I started cutting and pleating this first one I couldn’t help but imagine what I would wear with it.

IMG_20140825_140541[1]Especially because it looks like a cute sun dress. Designing and selling clothing is tricky if you don’t have a professional pattern grader or grading skills or a set of slopers in different sizes to work with. So in all the years I’ve been sewing professionally I have never attempted to make and sell my own clothing designs.

I had a revelation yesterday in a facebook conversation about selling hand made goods that being a fashion designer was my only design ambition and it’s the one thing I’ve never done. I’ve been the shipping manager for a fashion designer, I’ve been a costumer, I’ve designed aprons and pot holders, and I’ve been a design assistant at a men’s necktie company but not once have I attempted to design and sell my own line of clothing.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it on my terms and with pretty much no budget. No budget means a lot of limitations but this is perfect because anyone sewing clothes in a post apocalyptic world would have many limitations such as buying materials and lack of industrial machinery.

In talking with people out loud about this I have found that I’m very clear about a few things. I’m going to list them here:

  • I will do NO custom orders. People really take advantage of you when you offer custom. They don’t think that’s what they’re doing, but I’ve had a lot of experience with this and I’m not going to offer it.
  • I am going to price my line like a professional fashion line and that means I’m not catering to the bargain hunting crowd. If you want cheap, go to Target. My price range will be $45 – $300 per item. My sewing skills are professional and I went to school to learn this shit so my prices will reflect the quality and expertise I bring to my sewn things. No apologies. And anyone who says “I can make that myself for much cheaper” – good, go do it and stop being rude.
  • There will be pockets! There may even be one or two secret pockets.
  • Every garment will be designed with these activities in mind: gardening, bicycling, walking, running from zombies or angry mobs, going on road trips, foraging and hunting, and doing all kinds of urban homesteading activities. So no ball gowns or tight pencil skirts.
  • Sizing: I will be doing general size ranges rather than number sizes. S, M, L, and XL.
  • No wholesale orders. I can’t afford to do wholesale and am not interested. There will be no selling in other people’s shops.
  • I need to figure out a cheap way to make labels.

Alright – it’s time to get to work on my second smock!

Hope you have a great weekend!

xo

a