Monday, December 31, 2018


Pop your top, and flip your lid!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

If You're Happy and You Know it

A few months ago, I came across this quote:

Happiness is a great side effect but it makes a lousy goal.
-Mike Rowe 

Followed by a jaunty quip about how it's a good thing to have it, but not to make it your main focus, because you'll fail.

Does it make a lousy goal?  And will you fail, though?  What if it doesn't?  And what if you didn't (respectively)?  I happen to think happiness is a wonderful goal.  To achieve happiness in our lives in spite of our challenges, and the unpleasantness we can all face, to me, is great success.  What better goal is there, then, if not to live a life in happiness inviting others to experience it with you, holding space for their sorrows, and lifting them when they're down?  What better goal than to be of service to one another?  I honestly don't think there is one, but I understand how this notion of happiness as the end goal can seem problematic. 

In every area of life, we run into trouble when we over-complicate things.  

Look at what we do to love!  We over-complicate our relationships to an absurd degree, and then conflate that with love, because we (most of us, I think) haven't figured out that something can be both simple, and awesome at the same time.  No, we must make it a HUGELY deep, and sophisticated concept to the point where it does seem fictional, and legendary, and perpetually out of reach for the masses, because something that feels as good as joy, and love can feel incredibly intimidating if you're not ready to receive it, become it, or pay it forward. 
By perpetuating the myth that happiness is this colossal concept of perfect contentment, we end up pushing it away, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where it remains comfortably out of grasp.
We've been conditioned to treat happiness like some fleeting, unattainable outcome.  First of all, happiness does not equal a problem-free existence.  Happiness does not mean a life free from sorrows.

Happy literally means: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.  

Nowhere in that definition does it say, "All of your problems have magically disappeared!" or, "You must experience happiness 100% of the time, all day long, everyday, for the entire year, and every single year thereafter for the rest of your life in order to qualify as having lived a happy life."  If that's closer to the definition people are using to measure their happiness against, of course we are going to buckle under that pressure, and gloriously fail at reaching the end-goal of happiness.  I've already failed it today, myself, and some of you probably have too!  Do I believe we're not going to live happy lives because of it?  Nope, and it certainly doesn't mean any of us should stop making moves in order to exist in pleasure, contentment, and dare I say it ... actual joy.
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.  
-John Lennon 

Friday, December 21, 2018

In the Bleak Midwinter...

Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Merry & Bright

As the year winds down, it seems we are bombarded with pumpkin or peppermint everything, and the hotter the better!  So, for anyone (like me) needing a recipe for something bright, crisp tasting, and a little bit different...

Here's what you need:
(All fruit is frozen) 
  • Bananas 3
  • Cranberries 2 cups
  • Mango Chunks 3 cups
  • Raspberries 2 cups
  • Ginger Root 1" knob, grated
  • Shredded Coconut 1 Tbsp (+ extra for garnish)
  • Full-Fat Organic Canned Coconut Milk 2/3 cups
  • Pure Organic Maple Syrup 1/4 cup
  • Water 1 cup

Here's what you do:
Throw everything in a large blender, and blend the hell out of it.  Pour, sprinkle with a pinch of extra coconut shreds, serve & enjoy!

When using all frozen fruit like I am, you may need to give your blender intermittent rests, and add a little more water.  If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more water, or use fresh bananas rather than frozen.

This recipe makes about 64 ounces.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

So Long, Farewell ...

If you missed your chance to geek out with Worldbuilders over the last two weeks, you can always support their charitable efforts through the Worldbuilders Market, or support Heifer International directly all year long.  If you like to get a little something in return for your giving, I suggest swinging through Heifer's virtual gift shop where money from sales go straight to the makers (I recommend the Confetti Farm Animal Ornaments because turquoise cows, and hot pink pigs speak to my soul on a truly profound level).

Another charity worth checking out, if you haven't already, is new kid on the block: BStrong.  Polarizing Real New York Housewife, Bethenny Frankel, has always known how to leverage her exposure, and popularity for maximum benefit, but she really hit her stride when she expanded into disaster relief after watching the chaos that followed Hurricane Maria (2017), and the lackluster response the region received.  Love her, or hater her she is dedicated to getting cash into the hands of people who need it most, and uses her voice to educate donors on how to spot a less than charitable organization, and how some of the ones we've been led to believe are the most reputable only deliver pennies on the dollar to those in need.  I really think this is one to watch.  I personally feel completely comfortable donating money to her disaster relief initiative, with the boots on the ground belonging to volunteers, and the transportation covered by generous vehicle and space donations, I believe any money received is going exactly where it needs to be going.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

It's a Wrap! -- Winter Craft Project

I thought with schools about to press pause for winter break, that's a lot of days with a lot of hands with nothing to do until Christmas morning in some households (you can only bake, and decorate so many batches of cookies).  Also, with a lot of families looking for ways to minimize screen time, it can be fun to sit down together, and make some ornaments for your tree, or tabletop decorations.  I first learned about yarn wrapped sheep from The Inadvertent Farmer, during my search for a craft my niece could tackle ... Leave it to little folks to ask, "What else could we make?"

This is my answer to that.  

So, if you've got your supplies ready, we can jump right in!  All templates, and knitting instructions can be found at the bottom of this post.

Before we begin, you'll need your templates.  You can save, and print the sheets below, and transfer the animal shapes onto a sturdy card stock (some of you hardcore crafters out there print directly onto your card stock, so I know you're already ahead of the curve!) ... Cereal, and snack boxes work for this, also think of the unused back covers of spiral notebooks, they have a nice weight to them, and you won't have to worry about applying extra coats of paint to obscure any advertising.  If you're doing this craft with a table full of children, I recommend pre-cutting several thick templates so no one has to fuss with flimsy printer paper that one slipped pencil, or rogue cut can ruin. 
Step One: Choose yarn, and paint colors.
Clip your clothespins to an empty, and cleaned out tuna can (disposable cup, whatever) and give them each a good coat of acrylic craft pain.  Get a good cover on the springs, just in case you like your animals a little thinner (I like mine fat, and fluffy, so the springs rarely show on mine).  Set aside to dry while you cut out your animal bodies.
Step Two: Paint.
Get a nice coat of paint on both the head, and the rump area of your animals' bodies (both sides).  The heads will be exposed, of course, but I like some color on the back end as well, just in case the yarn gets a little thin, or if it spaces funny after you've finished, there won't be any glaring "bald" spots.  If your paint is a little thin, this might take a couple of coats, which is not a setback.  Heavy paint layers are likely to make your card stock warp, and buckle, so go easy.  If your legs are already dry, clip them onto the bodies to hold them steady while it's their turn to dry.

If you want to make any of your animals into Christmas tree ornaments (I think they'd be adorable on wildlife, woodland, or children's themed trees), this is when to use a small hole punch, and run some floral wire through the hole before wrapping your critter with yarn.  Leave a long enough tail of wire, so it doesn't get swallowed up by your yarn!
Step Three: The wrap.
Once your paint is no longer tacky, and you're ready to wrap find a permanent, and balanced place for your legs, and dab a dot of glue under the clamps of your clothespins.  Slip your strand of yarn between one of your pins and the card stock for a little "insurance" that it won't unravel.

Begin wrapping, by getting good coverage on the bum first.  You want to anchor the yarn around the legs, up near the body to keep your yarn taught, and discourage it from sliding off the curve.  Later on, the parts of the legs you need to help you do this part will no longer be exposed, plus, as you keep wrapping and bulking up your animal, the more the new layers of yarn keep the rump's yarn in place, so it's best to get this out of the way now.  Once you're satisfied with the plumpness of your animal it's time to tie it off.

Step Four: Knotting, and securing.
First, find a nice fluffy spot that looks like it has room under it to tuck a knot.  Pull your yarn taught, and wrap it toward the back side of your animal, and snip it just longer than the spot you've found to hide your loose strand.  Tie a knot at the end of your yarn, and trim off any unwanted fuzz.  In your hiding spot, put a little more than just a dot of glue, and with your bamboo skewer (or in my case, my trusty Dollar Store chopstick) tuck your knotted end into the glue.
Keep poking until there is no sign of slack in your yarn.  Before the glue is completely dry, zhush the top layer of yarn to obscure the opening you created.  To finish off, if you've selected a llama, or camel, cut 3-4 pieces of 2" long yarn, gather, and tie securely in a tight knot to form the fringe (or bangs).  Untwist, and fray the yarn to create a nice bit of fluff.  Place a dot of glue under the knot you created, and place on the top of the animal head.
If you've chosen to make a bison, you will wrap its body, the same way you wrap all of the other animals, except you'll be adding a big, cozy mane on top of the yarn you've already wrapped.  For my bison, I use a combination of Lion Brand Yarn: Homespun + Lion Brand Yarn: Quick & Cozy.  There's no real mystery to it, once you finish with one yarn, and knot, glue & tuck like you do for all of the other animals, you just start wrapping right on top with a new yarn - that's it!  This is also how I add extra "frizz" to the highland cattle.  I wrap Homespun first, and then add a top layer or two of Fun Fur (or "eyelash" yarn).  To add the bison's fuzzy little hood, measure out a piece of yarn so that when you double it a couple of times you end up with 4 strands of yarn at about 4" long, and knot one end together.  With your finger, bamboo skewer, or chopstick, gently pull back the yarn from the bison's face, and tuck the knotted end securely under the wrapped yarn.  Before releasing the yarn you're holding back, squeeze a little glue in there to hold everything in place.  Release the yarn, and zhush into place.  Do the same with the other side.  For me it's easier to start by tucking the end with the not, first, and it gives the slightest anchor, so when you're tucking the other side in you're less likely to end up yanking out the piece you've already tucked.

Step Five: Finishing touches.
Once the gang's all wrapped up, and the glue has set up, you can decide how you want to decorate your herd.  With a fine paint brush you can add facial features, and expressions, or you can leave them more minimal looking.  I'm typically a "more is more" kind of girl, but I also have a soft spot for leaving them with blank faces. 
I had some heart shaped confetti lying around, so I decided to use it, and give my animals some rosy cheeks.  It could also be very cute to mist the tops, and backs of the animals, and lightly dust with clear, or white glitter (or a mixture of the two!) for a snowy appearance.  If you knit up any of the accessories below, a little craft glue on the tips of hats or scarves, and some glitter could give it a playful look as well.  The point is, be creative, and let your imagination go where it wants to.  This is a great project to do with someone you want to slow down with, and just enjoy each other's company, so grab a snack, and if you don't knit, don't worry!  You can easily use fabric or felt scraps to make any of the accessories below, and to come up with your own wardrobe.  I mean ... A tiny pair of mittens hanging from a string, and draped over the llama's neck, anyone?

What I love about this project is that it's a great way to use up materials that there just isn't enough of to do anything else with.  If you knit or sew, you know what it's like to have those random left overs that aren't big enough to be a project in their own right, but are way too big to feel comfortable just throwing away.  Craft ideas like these, turn something almost useless into something sweet, and it keeps one more thing out of our landfills.  Also, if you're on social media, and you make any of these, please hashtag it with #LSDitsawrap so we can all find your wonderful creations!

Click on each sheet of templates to make them larger, right click, and save image as, and you're ready to print them at home!

Knitting Instructions (Needles: 3.25mm, Size: US・3, UK・10)
(Yarn: Vanna's Glamour weight = 2, fine)
Blanket: Cast on 13 stitches, work in garter stitch until length = 4".  Bind off, weave in ends.
Saddle: Cast on 7 stitches, work in garter stitch until length = 3".  Bind off, weave in ends, stitch onto blanket with contrasting yarn, and knot.

(I used a discontinued yarn, but two strands of a fine weight yarn used together will work)
Hat: Cast on 20 stitches, work in stockinette stitch until piece measures 3/4", and begin decreasing k,k,k,k2tog,k repeat across row, purl, k,k,k2tog,k repeat across row, purl, k,k2tog,k repeat across row, purl, on the final knit row bind off.  Thread tail through bind off row, and cinch.  Stitch the two sides of the hat together to form a seam, and securely knot at the rim of the hat.

(Yarn: Vanna's Glamour weight = 2, fine)
Carpet: Cast on 10 stitches, work in garter stitch until length = 5".  Bind off, weave in ends. Feel free, with a contrasting yarn, to embellish your carpet, and stitch designs into it.

(Yarn: Vanna's Glamour weight = 2, fine)
Scarf: Cast on 7 stitches, work in garter stitch until length = 8".  Bind off, weave in ends.
*Optional: Cut twenty 2" lengths of yarn and secure them two by two on each end of the scarf to create 5 sections of fringe.  You may also wish to embellish the scarf with contrasting stitching.
Hat: Same as Llama.

Highland Cattle
(Yarn: Vanna's Glamour weight = 2, fine)
Lariat Scarf: Using 2-3 strands of yarn, begin with a simple slip knot, and work in a single chain / finger braid until length = 15.5" + 1.5" tails on either end.

(Yarn: Vanna's Glamour weight = 2, fine)
Collar: Cast on 4 stitches, work in garter stitch until length = 5".  Bind off, weave in ends.  Cut a separate, small collection of yarns to connect to the ends of the collar, and use to tie it off.  Attach bells, or ghungroo bells.
Fringe Scarf: Gather a selection of 9 strands of novelty yarns, cut at 22" lengths, and tie a secure knot in the center of the bunch.

Mini Tassels 
Cut 2 two inch pieces of yarn, hold out your index + middle fingers horizontally, and place one of the yarns near the top of your index finger (this will be what connects the tassel to your knitted piece).  Wrap the yarn you've chosen for your tassel 5 times around your two fingers, and cut it free from the skein.  Pinch the two inch piece, and use it to help remove the loops from your fingers.  With another length of yarn, securely tie the "neck" of your tassel (a dot of glue helps here), cut off loose ends, snip your loops, and trim them evenly.  Using a yarn needle, connect it to your scarf, blanket, carpet, etc., securely knot, and dot with glue.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Bookworm's Favorite Holiday Tradition + Gift Guide

Every year around this time, ye olde Jólabókaflóðið (Jolabokaflod: Christmas book flood) posts get passed around social media, telling tales about cold Icelandic nights, and cozy Christmas Eves spent snuggled up with chocolate, and books ... As idyllic a way to spend the holiday as it sounds, I wanted to know more.  Is this really a tradition?  How did it get started?  
A lot of people point to WWII era rationing for the reason Jolabokaflod exists, since there were few restrictions placed on paper, and really, what's a lovelier paper gift to give, or receive than a book?  But I wasn't so sure it was quite as simple, or as new as all that, and while you can certainly read about its rise to current popularity, here, I kept digging.  

Thanks to Alda Sigmundsdóttir, I learned about a little something called kvöldvaka, or evening wakeIn her post she tells us of a rich history in Iceland where people gathered together for work, worship, entertainment, and education through story telling, the sharing of folklore, traditions, and more (I'm particularly enchanted by rökkurstund / twilight hour).  If spending time through the winter months looked anything like this, it's little wonder that a culture based on that would lead the scoreboard of most books per capita until recently being edged out of first place by Britain.

With that in mind, I know there are a lot of Americans who would be delighted to begin their own Jolabokaflod, and kvöldvaka family customs, so I've put together a little list of a few personal friends of mine.  With this gift guide we are supporting up and coming authors, independent artists, and self-publishers who are all just trying to make their dreams come true, which, to me, makes the purchase of these books a lovely gift to both the recipients, and the authors.
(alphabetically by first name).

Allison DeBoer Criswell

This book is quite literally, everything you need to know about college writing, and a crucial tool for any student (or regular folks) out there looking to brush up their skills, especially in academic writing.

Autumn Toennis
Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing (Pre-order)

The above anthology includes work from multifaceted talent, Autumn Toennis, who, as far as her readers are concerned, is quite possibly made of magic. 

Gerri Ravyn Stanfield
Revolution of the Spirit: Awaken the Healer: An Invitation to Radical Healing

On the smörgåsbord of the self-help, and healing genre, Holistic Medical Practitioner, Gerri Ravyn Stanfield serves us soul food with this book.

Jen Brady
To Write of Hope (40 page debut collection of poetry + photography)

Path of the Brave (Second poetry + photography collection)

Jen Brady's poetry is also featured on track #4 of Hannah Busse's debut album: Underneath Our Surface.

José Rafael Prieto
Soul (Debut novel)
     Kindle Edition

A true Renaissance man, as a novelist, and poet, José Rafael Prieto, offers a rich, enveloping, and lyrical experience to the reader.

Philip Kramer
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California: Section Hiking from Tuolumne Meadows to Donomore Pass 

Adventure and travel photographer, Philip Kramer, stumbled into writing quite by accident, but judging by his debut publication wherein he shares his wealth of knowledge on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, in a laid back, friendly, yet experienced manner, he's definitely hit his stride!  You can read more of my hype, here.

Trish Nichol
The Mechanics of Dreaming 
     Cover art by: Autumn Toennis

In her own words, "I am a rambler, a roamer, an anywhere I lay my head is homer."  Daydreamer extraordinaire, Trish Nichol, has compiled her debut collection of poetry to whet the imagination of her readers, while she works out the details of what is practical and absurd.  

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Wondrous Wrath

Glittering sunlight
Crone Beira's deluge