Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wrapping Cloth - No More Paper

I want to start a wrapping cloth movement, will you join me?

Wrapping Cloth examples

I loved wrapping with cloth this year. No cutting, no tape, just a quick fold and a knot, or maybe two. It was really lovely. I still have to figure out the best way to attach tags... ideas welcome.

And I've got all this wrapping cloth ready for next year and just a small bag of garbage (from Santa who couldn't figure out cloth this year but promises for next year, and from packaging and Amazon):

Used wrapping cloth and a small bag of garbage

The government in the UK is recommending that people use cloth, like the Japanese, to wrap their presents. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the total waste from wrapping paper just in the UK could reach to the moon if laid end to end (that's more than 200,000 miles of wrapping paper). Not only that, but some wrapping paper can't be recycled because it has foil, and when people do try to recycle it anyway, it contaminates the other paper that can be recycled.

According to Plenty, Americans throw out an extra 5 millions tons of waste during the holiday season, along with 10 billion brown paper bags of which only 10-15% get recycled.

When I went shopping at my favorite toy store, instead of paper, they offered to sell me a cloth bag. I thought it was a great idea and was pleased that they were taking such an active role.

If we can bring bags to the grocery, and decline bags whenever we don't need them, how about stopping using wrapping paper?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I wish my grandma was on Facebook

Sept 12/86

Dear Liz

Hello and hope you are in the very best of health as for us we are doing just great at present.

Liz, am sending you the negatives from the pictures you took. They came out very nice. Thanks. Sorry I forgot to send it back. But you were away and then we have been busy with the Golden Agers. We have some real nice trips for them.

In fact a week from this Saturday we are taking 30 people to Hawaii for nine days and eight nights for $875. Not bad. Grandpa goes for nothing but I pay $775. It's still not bad for the two of us with some dinners and shows plus breakfast and the tour plus the airline. Boy I am glad we took this group job. It fits Grandpa and I really love it.

And when we come back we are taking a busload to Reno on the 7th and 8th of Oct. When we come back we are taking 20 persons to Epcot for eight days.

How was your Spain trip? Your Dad told me you were home and got a job. That is beautiful. best of luck and God bless you darling. We love you. Adios my dear Liz.

Grandpa and Grandma Rose Castro

Am sending you a good recipe for a custard pie. Try it you will love it. And put some cream on top (WOW) (WOW). Let me know if you make it.

Oct 16 1986

Dear Elizabeth:

Hello and hope you are doing OK. As for us we are just great at present.

Liz, how is the teaching? Are you teaching young or over 16 years old kids? Have not heard since you went to Spain. So I gather you must be more than busy. We are busy ourselves these days. We love this job we got with the Golden Agers. As a matter of fact we are leaving for Orlando, Florida this Saturday 18th at 530am in the morning from in fromt of the City Hall. We are taking 18 persons. We are looking forward to this nice trip.

Liz, did you get the card from Hawaii? I can't go anywhere and don't send my darlings a card so you know that I am thinking of you. I love you too much to forget my darlings.

Hope to see you sometime again. Will close for now. Adios my darling, keep well.

Love you,

Grandpa said I write everything so I don't leave anything for him. Ha ha for him.

Grandma Rose and Grandpa John Castro

My Grandma Rose wrote me a letter almost every week of my life. I saved them all, even though practically every one focused on the most day-to-day details of her life: where they were going on a trip, who was visiting, who they were going to visit, if they were sick or healthy, what recipes she had tried. But it didn't matter that there was no (overt) philosophy or deeper discussions, what those letters offered was a portrait of my grandmother (and a glimpse of my grandpa). I loved getting them, and I cherish having them still.

I've been thinking about them today after an interesting conversation I had with some friends last night about Facebook and why anyone should bother with it. I've only been on Facebook a week, but I mentioned that I've really been enjoying reading about the absolutely mundane things my friends are posting about: impending visits, weather reports, illness--precisely the same things my grandma wrote about.

It makes me think, also, of The Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Martha Ballard was a midwife in New England at the turn of the 19th century who wrote in her journal every single day for 27 years. Sometimes her posts (!) were limited to weather reports, other times she detailed a difficult birth or a community gathering. But she was relentlessly steadfast, and the sheer regularity of her posts offer an almost complete description of herself and a thorough depiction of her life and of those who lived in her community. Had she lived in our time, she would have had a blog for sure.

Why did Martha Ballard write every day? Why did my Grandma or my friends on Facebook? Why do I write this blog? And perhaps more importantly, why do we all write about such trivial details? This ties in with so many other thoughts about my life... the fact that I spend such a huge amount of time creating things that are much more easily bought (pork chops and pajamas come to mind). Or plowing the driveway, or planting a garden. Why spend time on these little things? I think because they are the essence of life. They are life. So, I think that's why it makes sense that I am interested in hearing about these things when my friends do them. It gives me a fuller picture of who they are to know that today they slept in but yesterday they took their daughter to see The Tale of Despereaux.

I only wish my grandma were still around so I could teach her how to update her status on Facebook.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wrapping Cloth Redux

It turns out the Japanese are way ahead on this front, they even have a word for using wrapping cloth: furoshiki.

And all sorts of cool ways to fold it:


Copied from the Government of Japan's Ministry of the Environment's How to use Furoshiki page. I love a government with such a ministry that has such a page!!!

Don't miss the videos that teach you how to wrap with cloth. So cool!

Wrapping Cloth and Ribbon

My sister inspired me a few years ago to give up wrapping paper. I was an easy sell since I hate those big piles of spent wrapping paper that you can't even recycle (or burn!) And since I love to sew, I have lots and lots of fabric. (OK, too much fabric, I confess freely.) So instead of paper, I wrap things up with scraps of cloth. Or sometimes big, huge, folded-over pieces of cloth that I can't bear to cut :) After the presents are open, I gather up my fabric and squirrel it back to my stash.

I was just at Joann's Fabric and they were having a clearance sale on their Christmas-oriented cloth... so I got a bit more variety and seasonality in my wrapping cloth supplies. They also had some lovely, extemely cheap, fabric ribbon. I'm ready. Now if I could just finish my sewing projects.

Wrapping Cloth and Ribbon

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Electricity returns

There's so much more to write, but no time to write it in. Life is going by so quickly. It seems like I move from one more huge thing that I have to focus on, to the next.

This week, it's Christmas.

But last week, it was ice storm city. The electricity was out for four days... if it hadn't been for the generator, I don't know how we would have watered the animals (and ourselves) since our well has an electric pump. We also wouldn't have had heat, since despite a wood furnace, we have forced hot water that distributes the heat around the house, that is, if there actually is water. Kind of makes you think how precarious the whole system is. Today, almost a week after the storm hit, there are still 100 families with no electricity in our town, and almost 4000 families without electricity in Western Massachusetts.

Collecting fallen branches after ice storm

The damage was extraordinary. There are trees down everywhere. For several days there were dangling electric lines crossing the road. The schools are still closed.

Fallen tree after ice storm in Ashfield

Analog telephones collected and distributed by the hardware storeAs with any disaster, community spirit and helpfulness was abundant. When I walked into the Hardware Store, I found a box of emergency analog telephones for those folks who didn't have or couldn't find their own.

It probably doesn't help that we got several inches of snow last night and are supposed to get a foot tomorrow...

Another broken tree from the ice storm

More ice storm pictures here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Storm

Ice Storm

We had an incredible ice storm last night. I can't remember it ever having been so bad. All through the night we heard creaks and cracks and booms as branches fell from trees all around us. I was sure we'd have a tree through the house, and a few times it came really close.

In the morning, the damage was everywhere... trees down all around us, in the middle of the road, and no electricity. A call to the electric company revealed that power would be restored by, uh, midnight Sunday. Course I can't go without internet that long, not to mention heat, running water, and freezers for all the meat we raised. Thankfully, we've got the generator going, but even getting gas for it was a little tricky since the gas pumps in town run on electricity, of which they had exactly none.

I can't remember the last time we had this much ice... there was practically an inch of accumulation. I think the only reason we didn't lose the apple tree was because it had already lost so many branches from the weight of the apples. All the electric fence is down (weighted with too much ice) so the animals are snug in the barn. It's sort of exciting, but I'll be happy when we've got electricity again.

More pictures on Flickr.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crafted in the Village

I'm almost ready for the "Crafted in the Village" fair that Elmer's is hosting this weekend here in Ashfield. Well, as ready as I can be in two days. I keep thinking of more things I could make out of gourds. It's kind of crazy, but as long as I'm wanting to do more, I guess it's a good thing. (When I'm just cramming to make more to have enough and am ready to go to bed, that's a bad sign.)

Gourds for Crafted in the Village

If you click this photo, the individual gourds are labeled in Flickr.

Yesterday, I received a shipment of "giant" gourds... the biggest one is 47" in diameter and about two feet high. They are fun to paint but not so fun to scrape out.

Part of the deal was that they would send me a bunch of tiny jewelry gourds. The smallest of these is only about 3/4" of in diameter and maybe an inch high. Very cute. I had to negotiate with my youngest to maintain ownership...

Meanwhile, I have been making bowls with velvet and sometimes decoupage interiors, and also quite a few egg shaped ornaments.

Gourds for Crafted in the Village

If you click this photo, the individual gourds are labeled in Flickr.

Today, my latest inspiration was to use the cutout piece from the giant gourd to make barrettes with. They're not ready to photograph but I have high hopes.

Please come to the fair. I should be on the second floor of Town Hall.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Genius Playlists

The best way I know to chase sadness away is to work on something while singing really loud to music.

In one of the more recent reincarnations of iTunes, Apple added what is now my favorite feature: the Genius button. While it can be used to find out what other music you can buy, I mostly use it to generate playlists that revolve around a certain theme.

Ever since I got my first (5gb) iPod, I've used the Shuffle feature to play random selections from my library of music. But as even Apple noticed, it's too random. So, I created subsections of my library and then used Shuffle on that. That works pretty well. Apple tried to make it better by letting you control the randomness, essentially making the shuffling less random and more like the first song you chose. That feature was confusing and didn't really seem to make a significant difference.

The Genius button does what the "less randomness" feature was aimed at: creating a playlist of songs that go together well. You choose a single song and then Genius looks through your library and chooses other songs of roughly the same genre and type. How does it know? According to a blog posting in Computerworld, Apple analyzes the songs in your library, and compares them with the data in its own database of music to figure out compatible tunes.

For example, suppose I choose "Things We Said Today" by The Beatles:

Genius, choose song

Then I click the Genius icon in the lower right corner of iTunes:

Genius button

And voilĂ , iTunes generates a playlist for someone in the mood to listen to "Things We Said Today":

new Genius list

If you don't like the songs that were chosen, click the Refresh button to generate a new list.

Genius Refresh

If you love the list it creates, you can save it as a regular playlist. (This way, it won't be erased the next time you use Genius.) Simply click the Save Playlist button. The playlist will have the Genius icon and the name of the song from which it was generated.

Genius playlist

You can also copy Genius playlists to your iPod and iPhone, or indeed, create them there in the first place.

Then all that's left is to play it loud, and sing.

More of my books