Family Style

Our vacation plans got changed up a bit, for the better. My Man decided not to go to Alaska after all, instead he’s coming with us to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yea for family vacations!

We leave tomorrow morning, on the train. It’s a 12 hour trip to Atlanta, but we got a room (they’re cheap during the day) so I think the train trip with kids will be a blast. We spend the night in Atlanta, then rent a car and drive north to the Foxfire Museum and then on to Bryson City, North Carolina, at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We spend one night in town at a cute looking historic bed and breakfast (full breakfast and dinner included!!! Now that’s what I call a vacation!), visit a model train museum, then head up into the park for two nights of campground camping. We did briefly entertain the thought that maybe we could just hike in a little ways for some real camping, but fortunately thought better of it. A few more years. Just a few more years….

But get this– Clingman’s Dome, the highest peak on the Appalachian trail (6,000 and some feet) has a road going almost all the way up it, with just a half mile trail taking you all the way to the top! I’ve never been grateful for a road up a mountain before, but this means we can “hike” a part of the Appalachian trail, and get a view! Awesome. Hooray for progress.

The 4yo is looking forward to some fishing. She asked for a “princess fishing pole” for her birthday, and although she plays with it lots at home and has figured out how to cast pretty darn good, we’ve only been out real fishing once. The campground has a stream right there, and I suspect there will be other good spots to toss in a line. I’ve never been much for pole fishing myself, back home we use nets, but I can see the appeal for a little kid.

After our little national park adventure, we head back to Atlanta, then back home on the train.

6 days of action-packed family vacation. We’re really excited, we haven’t had a fun trip like this in I don’t even know how long. It’s going to be exhausting, but I think I’m ready for it. Sometimes you want a relaxing vacation, sometimes you want adventure. I’m ready for some (kid-friendly) adventure.

I’m dying to tell you about my new and improved hobo stick stove, but I feel it should be a seperate post. I’m going to hold off a few days, just to titillate you. Otherwise, I’ll catch up with y’all next week!

Big Whoopie

My Man finished finals yesterday. Whoopie! He’s taking the week off, before he starts summer work. In a rare moment of realism we decided that rather than taking a trip, we both wanted to just stay home and kick it. The plan is for him to sleep till 11 every day (he has been epically sleep deprived lately), then he’ll take over the parenting till dinner time. Double whoopie!

All this last week I mulled over in my mind what fun project I’d want to do in this blessed week. The house is of course a wreck, and I’ve still got a few boxes left to unpack. But I’m not about to let my week get eaten up by that! I have several little chores that need doing, and I want to put some good time into the garden, which has been neglected for weeks.

Here’s my hopeful list for the week:

  • Plant cover crops at the community garden. I have lots of summer crops going, but about half the beds are empty right now, I just pulled up the last of the spring crops. It’s getting pretty hot for planting most veggie crops. True summer here is a time to rest the garden. The bugs get crazy and really, how much okra can you eat?
  • Refill and plant my 3 homemade Self Irrigated Planters. I made these our first fall here, took photos and always intended to post about them. Maybe posting goes onto the list too…
  • Get screens for two of our windows so we can let in cool morning air without bugs. Our old house had window AC units, which means you can’t open your windows for any passive cooling, a sad irony. We are so excited that this house has opening windows!
  • Rig up a solar dehydrator so I can make fruit leather! This is in the very hopeful category, but might really happen. You just never do know about me.
  • Fix the broken bike trailer.
  • Fix the leaky toilet.

That’s all well and good, and a solar dehydrator is pretty exciting, but I like to have a big project. Big enough that it will suck up all my time, take so much longer than I thought, and prevent me from getting to the house cleaning… Ahem.

I had a pretty heavy duty affair with the idea of getting chickens. There’s a space between the house and the fence that’s about 8 feet wide by 30 feet long, completely overgrown and just begs to be turned into a chicken run. You could raise some happy hens in that much space! But of course, we only have one more year in this house, then it will be back to Alaska where I already have a nice coop, ready to go. I kept trying to convince myself that all I needed to do was fence the two ends, and throw together a couple of pallets for a coop. ‘It’ll be quick!’ my wicked side whispers, ‘an afternoon. Then you’ll have chickens! And eggs! You know you want to…’ In my other ear my good girl self reigns me in, reminding me just how many times I’ve thought projects would be so quick and easy, and been so very, very wrong. (Including, but not limited to, the aforementioned coop at our house in Alaska) Do I really want to spend my whole week building a chicken coop?

Plus, with all that initial cost for only a year of eggs, the numbers don’t work out very well. I can’t figure it down to much less than $4/dozen, which is the price of good eggs at the farmer’s market.

Of course it doesn’t make sense. Not a lick of sense.

Nevertheless.

As my friend put in this morning, “Last time I talked to you, you were definitely not getting chickens. Now you’re definitely probably maybe not getting chickens.”

Which about sums it up.

The other time eater idea is making a zine. A zine is like a little, personal homemade book. Usually just photocopied and hand-bound. I used to make a zine in my last life, called Subsist/Resist. You can view the last issue on flickr. But be warned, since the zine was handwritten (yes, you read that right. Somebody has to remember how to write with a pen, for after the revolution) what you will find there are scanned images of it’s pages. It really doesn’t make any sense unless you view as a slideshow. Click slideshow in the upper right hand corner. It’s a little surreal, but how backwards fun is reading real human script on a computer?

Blogs are great, I love the immediacy of them. I love that I write a post, and it’s done! An accomplishment I can point to. Mamas need that sort of thing. It’s efficient, a “quickie.”

But a girl can’t live on quickies alone. Zines are substantial, fun and satisfyingly tangible.

Of course what I’m doing here is talking myself out of the chicken idea and into the zine idea. Surely y’all can help me out on this one, since you have not much to gain from the former.

This will mean my writing energy will go into the zine for the next week (and doubtlessly I won’t be done in a week either…) This space might be purty sparce. But at the end of it y’all can order a real live, signed by Calamity, paper and staple zine. You can hold them in your hot little hands, and read them without plugs or batteries. Keep them forever and ever, until you get cancer and I’m famous and you sell them for $394,003 each to cover medical expenses.

Wow, consider that. What a great investment, right?

Reserve your copy now, while prices are still in the single digits!

Here, But Gone

As I suspected might happen, my vacation from the computer has left me wary. We got back Saturday night. Sunday I just luxuriated in being home, having a husband/papa, and not feeling edgy every time my kids fussed. It was bliss. By Monday morning I was all geared up for a splurgy computer blow out, I thought. Excited to read all of y’alls blog accumulation, and even get started on scribing down the Epic Saga that was our trip.

It didn’t take my little blogland fantasy long to get squashed. About 5 minutes in, when both kids started fussing, I remembered. Maybe I had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. But my whole day got a sour start, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault really but my own. And this damn screen.

It’s the way it makes me into a junkie. I’m always looking for a way to sneak off and get high, and when I don’t get my fix I’m bitchy.

It’s not okay.

Being away–clean for three weeks– then delving for a moment back into it was the clarity I needed. I was a pretty great mama for those three weeks, if I do say so myself. I had some breakdowns, don’t get me wrong, but considering the circumstances, I was remarkably patient and compassionate. When my MamaRage rushed back in, second day home, I had to stop and think.

Partly I had been holding it all in, because true emotional response was not really an option on our trip. Somebody had to keep their shit together, and since I was 29 years the senior, I figured it had better be me.

But at least as important was the fact that I had accepted and submitted. I knew what I had to do, I knew there wouldn’t be time for Me. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the task at hand. Once back home however, I went right back to thinking I ought to get something. It’s only fair.

We’ve been over this. It’s not that I don’t think mama’s should take time/energy for themselves. But I can tell you that this internet/blog world sucks my time up at an alarming rate. If I have an hour to myself, and I use to sniff blogs, my hour’s up in a blink and all I want is moremoremore.

The past few days I have instead read and tinkered in my precious morning time, and I feel so much more restored. 30 minutes of reading feels like a lot. 30 minutes of blogging feels like nothing.

Fear not. I am not swearing you off for all and always. I do truly enjoy writing and sharing with all you fabulous ladies (and winsome fellows), and I hope to keep it up. Maybe at a once every week or two rate. I think if I have a specific day that I am allowed to blog, I can keep myself in check.

We shall see.

The trip was great by the way, if ever so challenging. What a crazy bunch of work and stress, I’ll tell you about someday.

But for now– I need a vacation.

Day 4: Where Obsession Can Get You

Finished my first scarf on the new loom. Took me two days. And that’s with kiddlets. It’s great. I used a deep red/copper variegated yarn for the warp, and a heathery brownish-gray for the weft. But more than liking the scarf itself, the important thing is that yes, I still love my new loom. I’m already scheming future projects, especially ones I can do with the big bag of yarn the MIL already has!

It snowed here. A few inches, with a glassy, crispy crust on top. Took the toddler out this morning to frolic. Adorable. The weird flu bug I brought with me (first I had a killer headache, then sore throat so bad I thought maybe it was tonsilitis, then body aches like crazy) caught up to Grandma, so I’m back to solo kid duty. Got a batch of bread dough rising. Annoyed at the Babe for not staying asleep in his crib for any length of time so I can start a new project. Almost feels like home!

Sorry for the quickie posts. I had imagined having more time/desire for the computer while here, but not so much of either.

Happy Snow!

Day 2 and 3: Excuse Me While I Throw My Shuttle

That’s right dear readers, I’m a weaver! I can use words like “shuttle” with abandon. If you weave, you might even know what the hell I’m talking about!

Got me a gorgeous little 12 inch Ashford rigid heddle tabletop loom yesterday. Or rather my parents-in-law bought it for me for as an early x-mas present. I warped it this morning, and I’ve got a good 10 inches of red and gray scarf woven already. I am sooooo excited. Geez. Realized yesterday morning when I woke up, and couldn’t care less about glomming onto the computer first thing (like I’ve been doing for months) how much some new and interesting learning project like this has been lacking from my life. There is just nothing like learning, discovering, creating.

I haven’t figured out how to get pictures up yet. Luddite that I am, I don’t have my own laptop (gasp!), so I have to make do with the in-laws computer. Not that it’s inferior, it’s a perfectly fancy mac. But I’m just intimidated by all things electronic, and it’s not the exact system I’m familiar with, so it sets me back with dread. I’ll tackle it soon, so’s y’all can see the sexy new love of my life.

I have to say– okay, I’m only 10 inches in, but so far– it’s everything I’d hoped for! As I throw the shuttle back and forth, I’m trying to figure out why weaving is my fiber craft, not knitting, not crocheting, not spinning, not felting. ‘Cuz boy are the first two so much cheaper to get into, so much more portable and logistically simple. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. I’m a control freak. Yeah, I’ll admit it. When I think of spinning, and I did try my hand at it once, I get a panic attack. All those fibers. You just can’t tame them all. A good spinner has to just let those fibers flow through her fingers with a certain release. You can’t make every inch of yarn perfect. And in fact, the most beautiful yarns are not remotely perfect. It’s the irregularity that makes them so appealing. But though I can appreciate it, I can never let go for stuff like that. With knitting not as much, but still true. My first few years of knitting, the reason I didn’t like it was because I sat there with gritted teeth, trying to wrestle that yarn into obedience, with impossibly tight stitches (sometimes so tight I couldn’t fit the damn needle in, and had to pry open a space) and a searing neck ache. After giving it up for a few years, I was able to come back to it with a relaxed neck, and loose stitches. But I still find it kind of annoyingly unmasterable.

Not that my weaving rows are so pretty, whoo boy. But there seems the possibility for control with weaving that other fiber arts don’t offer. And that the control won’t ruin the beauty of the piece, or cause my neck permanent damage…

2. I like stuff I can do in recognizable chunks. Like do one big thing, then be done with that for awhile. With knitting (which I did try hard to like, over the course of more than ten years) you cast on, then it’s pretty much the same thing till you’re done. I mean, one stitch from another– not a big difference. Pretty much the same action. And it goes slow. I know there are speed knitters out there, I’ve watched in awe as whole socks popped out of those damn needles. But, you’re never gonna beat a weaver. Weaving starts with warping your loom, which takes a significant amount of time. Then you get to do the actual weaving, which goes fast. Then the cutting from the loom and finishing. Three significantly different activities. Which makes it seem not to drag on so much as knitting.

3. Though I can really appreciate the simplicity of being able to create clothing with two little sticks and a ball of yarn, I also do love a brilliantly designed non-electric tool. Looms, especially the small ones, are a beautiful balance of human engineering. Just complex enough to do a job gorgeously well, but not so complicated that it takes an expert to operate one.

4. Lastly, I love woven wool. Don’t know why, but the look and feel of it just does me in! I swoon.

So, that’s it. My new love affair revealed.

Now, excuse me while I go throw my shuttle.

Day 1: Settling In

(For this to make any sense whatever, you’ll have to refer to the original post DIY Crafting Vacation)

We arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s place day before yesterday, after a grueling 12 hours of travel– me, the Babe, and the Toddler (sans Papa, who is busily studying for finals). I must have done something right in a past life (maybe even this one) ‘cuz they were both angels. It was absolutely everything you could hope for traveling with two kiddos two and under. Of course, it could just as easily have gone the other way. You know kids. Everything’s peachy keen, until it’s not. Then it goes to hell in a handbasket.

We spent yesterday just hanging out, recovering from the travel day. Well, that’s not exactly true. The Cousin (also two) came over to play. Those two bitty girls ran all around raising Cane for a full 8 hours. Grandma was in a bit over her head, and it wasn’t like I got to bow out for personal time. But that’s to be expected. I knew this Crafting Vacation was bound to be not quite how I’d fantasized. What ever is?

First up on my list is to candy the kumquats I foraged near our house right before we left, and go buy a loom. I decided to bite the bullet. I just have an instinct about this one. I will keep you updated on both endeavors. Stay tuned!

Crafting Vacation Update

I’ve discovered yet another citrus forage in our neighborhood– kumquats! Picked a big bag this morning, on a walk to put to sleep the Toddler who woke up at 3 am (oh, yes). I’ll pack them to Spokane, and my first crafting fun will be turning kumquats into candy for xmas gifts. I’ve candied orange and grapefruit peel before. Takes a ton of sugar, but it’s not that hard, and ever so addictively delicious. I think the kumquats might be the best ever, since their peel is even good to eat fresh. I’d never eaten one before. !KAZOWZA! That is one big burst of flavorama-rama-ding-dong!

We leave tomorrow, bright and early, for my fabulous DIY Crafting Vacation! (or Christmas Visit with In-Laws, depending on how you look at it). I’ve got the aforementioned

  • Soap. Bar, liquid, and laundry.
  • Bees-waxed cloth kitchen bags, to replace all the stupid ziplocks I’ve had just about enough of.

for which I ordered lye, washing soda and beeswax. But to those I’m hoping to add something a little more exciting. Something I’ve wanted to learn for years. Weaving.

I’ve always felt I had a kinship with fiber, like– fiber is my thing, my spiritcraft. But despite a lot of knitting, I’ve never come around to it, and when I tried crocheting, it didn’t look any more promising. Spinning looks all wrong for me too. What has always whispered sweet wooly nothings in my ear is weaving. Plus, the weavers I’ve met look like my people. My ladies. (No offense to the other fiber workers, of whom I’ve adored many.)

I did learn how to use a backstrap loom in Guatemala. So I have had enough of a taste to think my instinct is right on. In fact, I have a backstrap loom at home in Cordova, which is not much more than a bundle of sticks. Brilliant little invention. But what I want is a small tabletop loom. Something I can easily sit down to for 5-50 minutes at a time, which are the kind of windows I have at this point in my life. Something I can work at when I’m chatting with a friend.

They’re not so cheap as one might hope. I’m thinking I can convince someone to make it their xmas present to me. If I could find a used on, that would be ideal. We’ll see.

I’m thinking I will do a post a day for the duration of my trip, to make sure you all feel like a part of the fun! Though, I will still have kids, one of which is a baby. So don’t expect anything mind-blowing to go on… ;)

DIY Crafting Vacation

We’re going to spend three weeks with Hubby’s folks for xmas, in Spokane WA. They have offered us a three week vacation from (a lot of the work of) parenting. Now, me and The Mother In Law get along shockingly well. But, three weeks in anyone else’s house is rough. She says, kindly, “You won’t have to clean or cook or anything. Just relax. Read. Nap. Or whatever.”

Too bad. That’s just not me. Reading is great, and I will doubtlessly enjoy a few days with some good book. But I ain’t gonna lay up with no three weeks worth of reading! Especially not when I’m finally getting my feet back under me (metaphorically) after pregnancy/birth.

Uh uh. Nope. I got me an Idear. I’m gonna make myself a Craft Vacation! All the dreamy things on my sidebar list, that I’d just never get the time/energy for with Toddler and Babe hangin’ off my person, I’m gonna do ’em!

So, here’s what I got so far:
-Soap. Bar, liquid, and laundry.
-Bees-waxed cloth kitchen bags, to replace all the stupid ziplocks I’ve had just about enough of.
-Next size up of terry cloth diapers for the Babe.

Any other ideas for fun, useful crafty projects? If you were taking a crafting vacation, what would you want to learn?

An All-American Weekend at the Beach

We took an impromptu road trip last weekend. Instead of having a quiet Thanksgiving at home, we took those four days and drove to the beach! It was fun, and a real eye opener into America.

I grew up in Alaska, with hippie parents, in an always-under-construction quanset hut. So, my view of America is skewed. Even this move has been to a bubble. A bubble of green-ness, where everyone shops at whole foods, and sets their recycling out once every other week. A quaint part of town with old quirky houses, little shops, a neighborhood feel.

It’s good, I guess, to have a wake up call.

Most of America is one big parking lot with box stores on all sides. Jesus. We drove for two days (300 miles, we have kids remember?) all through box store suburbia, lined beach side with a forced, tourist-cute clamor of hotels, condos, and “residences.” We didn’t mean to drive so far, but we were looking for a campground. Where people use, like, tents.

There was supposed to be one at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and the area was certainly cool enough to want to camp in. The high rise vacation-land had abruptly ended and it was just one long stretch of sandy beach and windblown dunes, with postcard quality, glinting blue water. But the gate was closed. The big National Park sign board next to it offered no indication of why they might be closed. We played in the sand for awhile, then drove on.

The next State Park campground informed us smugly that they were completely booked, often up to 11 months in advance. “We’re a very popular park.”

We had one more possibility before giving up and booking a room at one of the theme park hotels. We’d been driving for much too long already.

About 10 minutes before we got to Grayton Beach, the ambience abruptly changed. The buildings got smaller, with muted, stylishly earthy paint jobs. There were big SUVs with bicycles and kayaks everywhere. Trees lined the road. Suddenly the complete dearth of drinkable coffee ended with a chic little Starbucks (I’m ashamed to say I was ecsatic.)

We had just entered a different theme park. Yuppie Family Vacation at the Beach Park. Sorrowfully, we felt much more at home.

Well, it’s not my fault that yuppies co-opt everything groovy and good.

The town near our campground was called Seaside, but we called it Pleasantville. Everything had an eerily perfect, carefree yet endlessly chic, Real Simple* weekend at the beach feel. A pack of Airstreams parked around the very self conscious town square sold every kind of boutique food you might want. Including cupcakes. A whole Airstream selling just cupcakes.

The campground (and we should just be thankful we found one!) was in a small pocket of State Park. Quite gorgeous actually. A forest of tall pine trees skirted with some kind of tiny palm, and loads of prickery bushes. A lagoon with towering grasses. Sculpted scrub dunes. And of course, a long stretch of that white “sugar” sand beach washed by sparkling turquoise waves. A true paradise.

For $34 per night.

Yes, we payed almost $70 for two nights of camping.

Rather hard to swallow for Alaska folks, used to driving just half an hour from our home to an endless wilderness of free camping. But we payed, we stayed, and we enjoyed it even. The place really was beautiful, even with the high rises in the distance and the sound of the highway nearby.

And, as anticipated, the Toddler adored the beach. She played in the waves and the sand just as euphorically as we could have hoped for. It was quite satisfying. And Papa even got her a kite, which we flew with glee. How Hallmark. How America. How Family Vacation.

But, my favorite part of the weekend was (not coincidentally) the one thing that wouldn’t fit onto an American Greetings card.

My new tin can campstove!

*A word of apology to readers of this mag in our midst. I can’t stand the thing. No other magazine outrages me on such a profound level. But yes, part of why it outrages me is because I secretly love that very complexly achieved “simple” look.