Saturday, November 26, 2011

   This day has gotten off to an unusually good start. I had tidied the kitchen counters and set the icky pans to soak.  I was on my way to the livingroom to stitch on a project when I caught my skirt on something and ripped six inches of the hem out of it.  So my first stitching task was to sit myself down and mend the hem of the dress I had on. This required a sufficiently immodest sitting position to make me glad there were not "people" here. 

    It is two days past the official calendar Thanksgiving and one day until our family come to feast here in the forest valley. The Manimal is off to town to get the 'last minute' things and I am here in my ivory tower, cleaning the kitchen (again), sharing a banana with Fearless Puppy, and bemoaning my lack of bloggery skills.  I have received a nice welcoming comment from my first and only reader, and I've tried fifteen times to reply but to no avail. I have not yet figured out whether the problem is blogger, moi or the laptop computer I'm working with. Le sigh, le big french sigh....

     On a more positive note I've been making postcards so that I can support our beloved USPO by sending pretty snail mail to my Far and Dear Ones.  There's something romantic about real handwritten mail arriving in the box.  I can hike up our half-mile of steep hill to the paved road  (accompanied by Fearless Puppy and Silly Dog) and put postcards or letters in my artfully decorated rural mailbox and in a few days my Far and Dear ones can toddle out to their porches in their various far off cities and find a surprise note to make them smile.
      Being an artful family they will likely smile anyway, and feel "Yay-Art and Love from Mum" rather than "Oh. Why didn't she text, it's faster."  A text is a quick and lovely thing, and I text like a house afire, but no one ever reaches for a magnet to display a text on the door of the fridge. Postcards have a nice semi-permanence about them.
    Upon receiving her first handmade postcard Middle Child announced "You've spent too much on stamps" and promptly wrote back sending me some lovely postcard stamps. Henceforth I will properly stamp my postcards 29c rather than 44c.  In my own defense I must point out that those 44c postcard stampings were an act of circumstantial thrift on my part. I had plenty of 44c stamps in my desk, and it would have taken an hour of time and $10 worth of gas to get in the truck, drive all the way to town and buy a 29c stamp. It profiteth not a woman to handmake a postcard from thrifty items she has around the house it it costeth her $9.71 to send the thing.

     My most fun task today is stitching. Actually I like stitching so much it hardly qualifies as a task.  I'm embroidering jeans for Big S. He's quite tall, so there is a lot of leg to cover.  Embroidering denim is tres hard on the fingers, particularly the middle left one that the thimble keeps falling off of. I've got thimbles in several sizes, but no matter how good a thimble seems to fit when I put it on, after I've been sewing awhile it comes off.  Either that or I take it off to get a better grip on the needle and forget to put it back on again.

     My solution for this ongoing dilemma is to work on the jeans until my finger hurts, then switch to easier sewing. The last couple of days I've been working on little projects for my future Etsy shop.  I've been studying Etsy, and it looks like a great "job" for someone who lives in an ivory tower in a forest, as most of the doing can be done here at home whilst keeping the fire in the hearth and watching over the flocks and critters.
      I've seen a lot of little online shops, Etsy and elsewhere, that have nothing in them most of the time which is disheartening.  I do understand that online selling is an occasional thing for most sellers. I also understand it can take three hours, fifty hours, two hundred hours, to make a thing and fifteen seconds for someone to clickety-click and purchase that thing. Which makes it hard if not impossible for the artisan to keep up.

   Against all logic I'm hoping to be able to "always" have something available in my shop, which means I need to get a good running head start. Toward that end  I'm trying to stitch up a nice assortment of things before the shop "opens". Creating inventory.  I'm thinking if I don't open the shop until after the New Year it will be easier to calculate my business taxes when the time comes.  That gives me a bit more than a month to get my cupboard up in the loft filled with quirky handmade things for selling and to get flattering photos of them taken and descriptions written to post in my shop " window".

   Snow is expected soon, or so I am told. "They" who tell the weather here are most often wrongish. Just the same I think I'll be a happier girl next spring if I sweep away the two feet of fallen leaves on the porches before the snow comes and covers everything. Dry leaves are easier to sweep than leaves that have been rotting in situ all winter long.  Best to do the composting in the compost bins.

   Off now to whisk my broom around for a bit, then back to stitching...
   Looking forward to tomorrow, and an ivory tower full of family



Thursday, November 24, 2011


     Long ago when Middle Child and I lived far apart and were both in the Slough of Despond we concluded that a large part of our emotional landscape was determined by the way we were using our minds.  Badly we thought.  Too much time spent reviewing the low points of our lives. Other people's lives too for that matter. To change that we began a practice of emailing each other lists of Ten Thankfuls.  These items for which we expressed thankfulness did not have to be profound, they did not have to be expressed poetically or even spell-checked. There just had to be ten of them.  It cheered us up mightily to realize how many darn things there are to be thankful for even in a fairly mundane life.
    Even longer ago, when I was practicing a rigorous single-mom-no-money lifestyle three offspring still at home and I began on Thanksgiving week to write down a list of things we were thankful for. In those long ago days computer paper came in one piece, extremely long and perforated at 11 inch intervals. We used colorful markers and wrote in one inch letters, adding items as they occurred to us. Between Sunday night and Thanksgiving morning we had filled 27 pages.
   There is always something to be thankful for.
    To help myself remember this I'm going to put down ten things I'm thankful for here, and then by dedication, coercion or brute force I'm going to make another list of ten ever Thursday.
    Here Goes:
1-I'm thankful for a warm cozy house. This house is not of my doing. The Manimal built it twenty-some years ago, raised his family here.  I'm a newcomer, having been here only three years or so. It wasn't my imagination that dreamed up this place, or my money that bought the beams and boards, the tiles and nails. It wasn't my hard work that put them together. The Manimal and his family and friends did all that. When I fell unexpectedly in love with him this safe home was already an existing thing, all I had to do was pack my little bags and carry them in.  That is an amazing blessing.

2-I am thankful for firewood. We heat with wood here in the forest.  There are stacks and stacks of it on the porch, and more yet at the end of the driveway. Stacks of firewood are not a pre-existing thing. We work hard. The Manimal is a deft hand with a chainsaw and a splitter.  I am reasonably good at carrying and stacking once the logs are made into stove-sized (and therefore Rapunzel-sized) pieces. We have friends and family who sometimes volunteer to "help get wood".  When I sit by the fire to stitch I think of all the work that brings us warmth, and of the 17 acres of trees here that allow us to not worry much about what the gas company or the coal people get up to.

3- I am thankful for Everything But Money. OK, I'm not thankful for everything in the world except money. There are things in the world I'm not actually thankful for. And I AM thankful for money when I have some, and thankful that other people have it and that it is a useful means of exchanging work ands so on.  What I am referring to here is the overall richness of life.  When I was a child I asked my father if we were rich, and he said Yes we were very rich. We had everything but money.  Now, fifty years hence, I've had times of being flat broke, and times of having enough cash to literally buy anything I wanted, but it's always been the things other than money that have made my life rich.

4-I am thankful for Orphan Thanksgiving.  Somewhere in New Orleans my Tiniest Child and her dashing husband are celebrating this day with friends who also have no family nearby. They call it Orphan Thanksgiving. I love knowing my far-away children have the wits and the good hearts to create a family of their own design and celebrate life and love and goodness without me having to personally be there to orchestrate it all for them.
Particularly since my four offspring are in four separate cities nowhere near each other. I rest assured my happy orphans are enjoying plenty of Food, Glorious Food. Probably singing about it, too.

5-I am thankful for Carrots and Celery.  As a kid I attended a lot of church suppers, family reunions, and holiday feasts of various descriptions.  There is never any telling what kind of strange dishes, pots and casseroles of heaven-only-knows-what will appear on such occasions. Invariably however there would be a pretty glass dish of carrot and celery sticks.  Even if everything else had nasty sauce on it, even if I was personally loathe to consume the carcass of some deceased creature, even if things were unrecognizable to my non-gourmet palate I could always ward off starvation with carrots and celery sticks.  I still like them. They taste good, they have a satisfying crunch (without the billion calories of other crunchy things like potato chips) and they contribute to my happiness.

6-I am thankful for Sugar and Milk.  They turn cocoa into Hot Chocolate.  Theyn turn coffee into something you can actually drink that tastes almost like Hot Chocolate.     

7-I am thankful for Needles.  I like to stitch. I started at an early age. I can recall sitting underneath the quilt frame at my Mamaw's house,with my doll baby for company, surrounded by women's legs.  I would thread a needle and poke it into the edge of the quilt where the ladies could reach it. Then I'd thread another needle and put it with the first, then a third needle...I had "young eyes" and was a good needle threader. I was not permitted to tie the knot in the end of the thread. Child-tied knots tend to be grubby.
    When I was a bit older Mamaw would park me and my Copper-haired cousin on her wide front porch which was all windows on three sides. She would give us her scrap bag, thread and needles, and we'd occupy ourselves all afternoon making clothes for our Barbies and our trolls. Trolls are better looking, but Barbies were easier to make clothes for. I don't remember how old we were when we were first introduced to the needle and thread, but I do remember that we were young enough that we weren't allowed to use scissors yet. If we needed something cut we'd trot into the house to find Mamaw or Mama and show them what needed cutting and how far down to cut, and they'd do it for us.
8-I am thankful for Pie. The pies of my childhood were all homemade, mostly by my maternal grandmother Mama, and my paternal grandmother Mom. In both homes they were kept in the "icebox" to keep them from spoiling. consequently I knew nothing of the supposed virtues of the proper flaky pie crust so touted in Crisco commercials. Pie crust to me was cold and soggy. Yum.

9- I am thankful for Men's Shirts. My first source of fabric was the rag bags of my Mama and Mamaw, and in both of these worn out men's shirts featured heavily.  Daddy worked in a glass factory and burned holes in his clothes a lot. Papaw was a coal miner, and whatever they do down there it is very hard on collars and cuffs. Mending was the first solution for this, but eventually a shirt would be too far gone to be worth mending, and then it was carefully taken apart.  The buttons would be added to the button jar, which doubled as a source of buttons for reuse and a children's entertainment center. We didn't have PlayStation in my day, we played with buttons that weren't attached to anything and that didn't 'do' anything. The shirt pieces were put in the rag bag. Ratty bits would be used to scrub things with. Nicer bits would be used for patching other shirts, making quilt patches, making clothes for dolls or small people and making smallish household things like pincushions, pot holders and so on. the back of a man's shirt is big enough to cut into a square and hem for a nice cloth napkin. Two pockets sewn together back to back make a nice little treasure bag, and what child doesn't need a place to keep treasures.

10-I am thankful for Sodden Gosh-Awful Misery.  This is something I haven't really had much of in life, and when I've had it I haven't liked it one little bit. Hated it really.  Still, it makes a nice change from being son damn happy all the time, and they say it helps one develop character.

There you have it, Ten Thankfuls from moi with love.
and I've got seven whole days to think up another ten.


PS-Spellchecker wants me to change Barbies to Arbors. I refuse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Because I'm Thankful

     I have decided to enter the blog world, because I'm thankful for a lot of things, and I need a way to remind myself of that on a regular basis.

     We are now well into something they've started calling The Great Recession. This means there's not a lot of spare money floating around for 99% of us. It means a lot of us, myself included, have been without a "real job" for quite some time with no sign of one on the horizon.

     I've called myself Rapunzel here, reclaiming the nickname of my long-gone long-haired childhood.
    Although I'm not locked in a tower like the fairytale Rapunzel, and my life is hardly a fairy talem, I do live in the aproximate middle of nowhere, in a forest, and I seldom get to town where there are people. Although jobless, or "currently self-unemployed" I have a home and warm food in my belly thanks to The Manimal, for whom I'm Very Thankful.  Although mostly short of human contact I have the dear and peculiar internet (thanks to The Satellite) and also two dogs, two cats, two bad rabbits and two flocks of chickens.

   My Grand Plan for myself, in starting this blog, is to document my creative and thrifty doings, and my random and possibly ill-advised thoughts.(I'm happiest when I'm making things, and a talking to a blog is cheaper than talking to a psychiatrist.)

   Being without a job leaves me without a regular income, but I am decidedly not without resources. I'm half a century old and although I wish for the life of a minimalist and regularly declutter, the fact is I still have lots and lots of stuff.
    I also come from a longstanding family tradition of pack-rattery and reinvention. My parents were brought up in The Great Depression, a time of Great Creativity. They always told me "We were poor but we didn't know we were poor, because everyone was."

   It is time for me to use the skills handed down to me from my family.  If I can't find a paying job I can at least find some ways to make a better life right where I am. Somehow.
 My intention is to put my mind to what I can make or remake from what I've got on hand, and to record here whatever successes or failures result from my efforts.

   As I've recently downsized around my middle, my first project here is to make-over some clothes to fit me, thereby keeping the chill off and keeping myself decent Without Cash Outlay.
   Somebody out there wish me luck?

   --- <3  Rapunzel