17 February 2015

music soothes...

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where something captures your imagination, draws you in, and you can't explain why, particularly when it doesn't have the same effect on others?

This happens to me more often than not--something reaches my spirit when I am discouraged, and bolsters me, despite the way it does not elicit the same response in others who are close to me.

I made J. watch Rent last week because when I watched it the weekend before, the music found a sore spot in me and somehow soothed it. He didn't get it. At all. I suspected that might be the case. My emotional ups and downs are mysterious to him, and while he sympathizes when the darkness seeps back in around the edges, he doesn't really understand it.

And I'm not entirely sure why a story like Rent seems to help hold the despair at bay. Something about the "No Day But Today" numbers speaks to me ("there's only now, there's only here, give in to love, or live in fear"). I think the sense that love offers hope in the midst of despair is what my mind is latching onto. And I'll take it.

I've felt more fragile lately, more likely to shatter when something overwhelms. Oh, part of it is definitely circumstantial--my grandmother's health is slowly deteriorating, and I am slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that, despite our next visit south being only a few months away, she may not be there then--but I don't think I can attribute it all to that. My fears pile up more swiftly than they usually do, and little triggers have suddenly transformed into larger ones.

I experience high levels of anxiety about driving, particularly at night or in the rain; my reaction to my grandmother's news about how she's doing sends me into a spiral of grief, often followed by nausea (a typical reaction to stress for me); and I'm beginning to find groups of people overwhelming again. None of these are good signs.

My response is, at least, healthier than last time. My first couple years of grad school were fraught, in part because I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what it was (lesson learned: depression does not always look like the symptom list, and being able to function with it does not mean that there isn't a problem). I avoided people and would "forget" to bring lunch with me to school. I'd escape home to hide as soon as classes and my shift at the library were over. I had a couple social get-togethers that seemed safe, and those were the only ones I went to. I was keeping up with my coursework and my grades were fine, so I had to be fine, right?

This time around, I'm deliberately seeking people out. I even joined a mum's group, and that's a little atypical for me. I screwed up my courage and drove in the dark to knit night last night. I'm participating in the Lenten book study at church (of course, it's a Richard Rohr book, so I'm excited about that). I've started doing yoga. I make sure E. and I get out for a good long walk every day. I listen to music that encourages.

It helps. I don't know if it'll be enough, but it helps for now.

14 February 2015


If you're into canning, you'll probably run across the term "lacto-fermentation" at some point, particularly if you read a lot on the subject. I read a bit about the fermenting foods thing, then said, rather determinedly, to J., that I was not interested in trying that.

Two weeks later I was making salt-preserved Key limes.

A couple months later, right after getting home from Christmas with my new canning book in tow, I was chopping cabbage for sauerkraut.

Then I tried homemade ginger beer. Followed by a second batch. Now we're on batch three of the ginger beer, and batch one of a strawberry soda, both mixed up this evening and popped into a cupboard to mature and develop fizz for a couple of days.

What we're discovering with homemade soda is that we like the not-too-sweet taste of it. And once I figure out what I'm doing with it, I can experiment and make bubbly drinks that we can't find elsewhere. I have a number of ingredients to track down before I can make homemade root beer (and one glance at the ingredients list for "root beer extract" convinced me that it would be worth the extra effort to actually use roots to make the concentrate), but I think if the strawberry soda works out, lime soda is next on the list.

What about the alcohol content? Well, there's not much. Enough to make it fizzy, but not enough to even notice that zing that most alcoholic drinks have.* Right now I'm using instant yeast to start the fermenting process, which is easy and reliable. A lot of recipes out there use whey or one of those clumps of bacteria known as bugs (not unlike what's used in kombucha). I often have an absurd amount of whey leftover from making yogurt, so I will probably try using whey for fermenting soda at some point.

It's actually more fun and less exacting than I thought it would be, and I like the results. The next big fermenting project will probably be lacto-fermented dill pickles. Like sauerkraut, that's a longer commitment than soda, and it requires more frequent checking than soda does, too. We'll see how it goes.

*A note: As we don't have the equipment to test the alcohol content of the homemade sodas, but we do know there is at least a little there, we don't share the stuff with our toddler. Better safe than sorry.

05 February 2015

Kid's Clothes Week: February 2015, Days 1-3

Tiny Tunic
It's Kid's Clothes Week again and we're already at Day 4. I did manage to get my hours in for the first three days but didn't manage to do the pictures until today. The above top is one that I sewed up over Tuesday and Wednesday. The pattern is Tiny Tunic Take 2 from iCandy Handmade. Easy to put together, but I think if I make it again, I'll shorten the neck band a little for a closer fit. The top half is from an old t-shirt of mine and the skirt is part of a fat quarter. I lengthened the skirt a bit since E. is apparently skinnier than the 3-6 month old the designer was thinking of but she is starting to get taller. The picture is not spectacular because she is a blur of motion and the light in our entryway wasn't great.

Blackbird Tunic, back view
I made a Blackbird Tunic (from Schwin & Schwin) over Monday and Tuesday. Apparently my inner 70s girl decided it was time to pop out for a visit, and this was the result. The red fabric is something that was in a bag of leftovers from an older woman we know. No idea what she used it for originally. The blue pocket fabric is from the same source, and again, no idea what it was originally for.

Blackbird Tunic, front view
E. was delighted with her brightly coloured top. I trimmed it with rick-rack, being lazy and not wanting to make my own piping, and used a big black button to finish it off. The armholes are bound with white bias binding. It fits her fairly well now and will definitely work over summer. I might make another one in different colours if I feel like it. Since it's still cold, E. was wearing it over a t-shirt and leggings, but I keep feeling like it really needs a pair of bell-bottoms to set it off.

Princess Leia in doll form
And I also finished this off. This was one of E.'s Christmas presents and she's been dragging the poor thing around the house while she was still missing a skirt. So I finally sat down on Monday morning and finished that. J. thinks it's sort of creepy looking, but E. is very happy with the "doh" (she hasn't really figured out codas yet). So we do have a princess doll, but it's Princess Leia, the wonky homemade version. I used this pattern from Simple Simon and Co.

The doll came together okay, but I think next time I might need to adjust my seams or make the body wider at the base, since flipping the doll right-side out through the recommended gap was a exercise in frustration and patience. I'm sure part of it was the fabric I used, which kept stretching out of shape (random thrift store fabric passed on from another friend who was destashing).

I've discovered, when sewing, that I can cut out fabric and patterns while E. is around, since the dresser I do that on is much too tall for her to grab anything off of, but the actual sewing has to wait until she's asleep or when J. is able to watch her. Today the plan is to do some of the cutting work before her nap, and then sew up a couple skirts while she's sleeping. We'll see how it turns out (best-laid plans and all).