Frugal February

It's almost February, and I'm challenging myself to a month of frugality!

Here are the rules of engagement:

No eating out.
No drinking out, including coffee.
No shopping for non-necessities.

Here are the pre-set exceptions:
My bridesmaid's dress for my lovely sister's wedding (kind of a necessity, actually)
Anything amazing and affordable that I find at bargainhuntingpdx (if I go)
Buying material for a gift that I desperately want to make but know I don't have the material for

How to curb shopping jitters/anxiety:
Pot-lucks with friends
Big delicious dinners with lots of left-overs for when I'm feeling lazy
Using Christmas time gift certificate for Powells books
Sewing, crafting, and gifting with materials I already have
Preparing French press/mocha pot the night before so that I make coffee every morning
Having granola bars/bagels/fruit at hand so that I don't buy breakfast

If anyone wants to join in Frugal February, let me know! What's your savings goal and how are you going to reach it? My goal is really just to observe the difference that doing the above things makes. I will update along the way.


Friday Fantastic

This book is one that I would probably turn my crooked nose up at. Look at that title! I can't even say it! The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! What? But my mom recommended it and offered to mail it my way, and I trust my mom's taste in books, and here's why: she loved The Glass Castle and hated Eat, Love, Pray. Two excellent examples of my mom's taste.

So, I read this book, and the best adjective I can think of for it is "darling." Yes, I'll say it again, this book is absolutely darling. The characters are enchantingly real, which is what makes this book so charming. Told through a series of letters written back and forth amongst friends and strangers, this book is set immediately after WWII in London, primarily in Guernsey, and is about building community through a shared need to support one another in a difficult time and a shared love of literature and eventually, a shared love of neighbor. Not overly saccharine nor dark and often funny, I'd recommend this read to anyone who needs a darling, darling story to carry them into another place and time.



(Thanks, Emily, for the title to this post!)

I am blograstinating right now, in the midst of finals week, with 100 some junior essays and freshmen lit. papers to have graded and entered by Monday, and reminded of my trek to the Andes via stifled bus and long hike at lung-clenching altitudes with my girl Avery. We chanted mantras to ourselves to get us through the physical discomfort of both that long day and some of the difficult, yet exhilarating hikes on the days that followed. Our mantras went something like this: vistas! saunas! brownies! Not really mantras at all, they were little wish lists: items or aspects of the trip that we were really looking forward to relaxing into and enjoying.

Here are some of the little things that I'm putting on my mantra-list right now:

happy hour
Last Thursday art opening
yoga class
a run
starting seeds
sewing more gifts for lovely people
playing with the camera I got for my birthday
a Valentines' making tea party at Danielle's
christening the snowshoes I got for my birthday
sitting around and reading

On a professional note, put on the list being done with grading and planning some exciting new lessons and units. I'm thinking of doing a black studies unit called--working title--"From Blues to Hip-Hop: Black Resistance through Art, Literature, and Music." If anyone has any suggestions that would be 11th grade appropriate, please let me know! Here's the short list so far:

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansbury
Poetry and essays from the Harlem Renaissance, including, of course, Langston Hughes
Billie Holiday
Miles Davis
"President" by Wyclef
"Buffalo Soldier" by Marley
"The Revolution will not be Televised" by Nikki Giovanni
Richard Wright
Rita Dove
Maya Angelou

What's stressing you out right now, and what's your mantra? How are you getting through?


raindrop tea

A variation on my favorite sleepy time tea: the recipe has the combined benefits of being a stronger sedative for us humans while (after giving kitty a nibble) causing laughs as Elijah runs around the house, scratching and sliding and chasing and rolling.

Perfect after grading and drinking coffee until 6 p.m. to use to mellow out and sleep well.

Elijah's Tea

2 T. chamomile
1 pinch of lavender
1/2 t. catnip
1/2 t. rosehips

I drank this last night, fell asleep in a cocoon of blankets, and didn't budge until my alarm sounded this morning (and then reset my alarm for an hour later because I didn't have students until 10:30 today!).


friday fantastic

Hulu this: Portlandia, with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, airs tonight on IFC, but many have already scoped it out on Hulu, including me, last night, with a living room full of friends. Some of the favored scenes:

When a special male guest uses the bathroom at a feminist bookstore and catches hell for it from the two sandal wearing, kombucha drinking proprietors. The bookstore was a spoof of In Other Words, a mere hop and skip from my house. While I've sadly still not made it to the bookstore, I did attend a raging fundraiser that my next door neighbors threw for the place when I lived over in the Alberta Arts District. Yes, the girls wore sandals and long skirts (like in the skit); they also knew how to throw a killer party, had great senses of humor, and their shelves were full of wonderful wonderful books. (The store has community yoga classes that I should really go check out.)

When a couple asks a million questions about a chicken before ordering lunch at a Portland and then decides to drive out to the farm to scope the place in person (when the chicken's file with a picture is not acceptable proof of the chicken's peaceful and happy life before the hatchet) before committing to ordering.

When a local group plays hide-and-seek at the PCC library, also near my house. This was funny in that Brian has spent countless hours studying in that library. That and the team's name was the "Sherlock Holmies."

The major question we had to ask after watching: Is this as funny to non-Portlanders as it is to us?


raindrop tea

Here's a new, random column for my blog, which I will hopefully update once a week and that will celebrate the title of my blog, Raindrop Tea.

Here's today's sip of herbal tea or tisane with memories of the summer harvest, the energy of the sunshine, the fall of the rain, the colors of my garden.

2 t. chamomile, hand picked and dried from my garden.
a pinch of dried lavender from a local lavender farm.
dried organic peaches, hand picked from Sauvy Island
dried blueberries, also hand  picked from the island

This is tonight's tea, designed to be a naturally sweet sedative that will send us off into dreamland after a day of long hours and hard, good work.


friday fantastic

Clever Nettle had this posted on her blog the other day, and I thought it worth copying and sharing. It's from another blog called sighs and whispers, where vintage photographs are published. The lady is “Forest Piece at Schnaitsee,” 1972. Photo by Holger TrĆ¼lzsch of Veruschka (Vera Lehndorff) from Trans-Figurations. She looks like a forest sprite, somehow eerie and whimsical at the same time.

I'm off to coast for the three-day weekend to sleep, read, grade, walk, fly kites, take pictures, eat, laugh, drink wine, sleep, soak in the hot-tub, listen to/dance in the waves, rain, and wind, and perhaps practice knitting or crocheting. What are your three-day weekend doings?


trying on new clothes

So, as you might see, I am playing around with how this little old blog looks, so don't be surprised if she's a horse of another color and then another color for the next little while. Until I get satisfied or bored (or no longer have grading to procrastinate). Ho, hum. I'm a long way from where I want to be, but now at least I have my own picture up and a simpler, cleaner look, which is what I want.


Minnes-OH! OO! Ah!-ta

Here are some photos that I took while in snowy December Minnesota, wandering along the frozen Mississippi River.

Here's the red-tailed fox who sunned himself in the snowy back yard. Photos by Brian. We were able to watch him for quite a while while he ate at a dead goose, cleaned ice from his paws, scratched his ears, and rolled around in the snow. Finally, he saw something shiny and scampered away.

handmade holiday pt. 1

Here, finally posted, is my first handmade tote bag. I selected materials that I thought my mother would like. The sage material especially looked like a print she would love, and the pink complimented it really well. I appliqued a little bird on the bag, because in Portlandia, "you can put a bird on something and call it art."
Here's my second tote bag that I gave to Brian's mom for Christmas. I really like how these two fabrics go together. This one turned out slightly better since it was my second round at the same pattern, but I must say, whether it's a yoga bag or a tote, I hate handles! They are a pain in the arse!


Save the bees!

Sign the petition to block chemical companies from continuing to profit of off toxic chemicals that are threatening the honey bee population! Read more and sign here.



Portlanders are bending over with laughter over the music video preview for "Portlandia," a new IFC show that airs January 21st. This counter-culture satire busting on Portland hipsters, burners, and unemployed artists is so hilarious that I had to share it. After all, Portland is the city where "young people go to retire." Check out the video here.


2010 restrospective

New Year's Day seems to be a rather quiet day. Perhaps because so many of us are fighting hangovers from the debauchery of the night before. But there's also a reflective quality in the day. I looked up my resolutions and goals for last year, and it's interesting to reflect on how far I've come in the past year.
For arts and crafts, I wanted to continue knitting and crocheting, which I didn't do. But I did sew: curtains, pillows, tote bags, stuffed animals, yoga mat bags. I had fun with it and I'm still enjoying it, and I'm confident that I will keep it going. I have a long list of projects, including curtains for my bedroom, new turntable curtains, tote bags for friends, and more stuffed animals. Plus, I do want to learn to knit, still, and make hats, scarves, and fingerless gloves. Plus, I became a better photographer this year. And looking back at my photos, I realized that I'm quite hard on myself, but I've done some good work this year.
I went further with my garden/homestead than I'd originally planned, but in many respects I also fell short. I have dried tomatoes, figs, and chanterelles, but nothing canned from my garden. I do have frozen kale and berries, peach jam, apple butter, and green tomato chutney. I have garlic bulbs wintering in stockings in the basement. We have drunk most of my own chamomile, and we haven't bought eggs since June or July. This year, I want to grow even more teas and herbs, more lettuce, peas, carrots, beats, leeks, tomatoes, garlic, etc. My bees need more management, so I will need to take some classes and do some work with them this year that may involve collecting wax and making some candles and finally harvesting some honey. Fingers crossed! My hens are fat and happy, and my garden sleeps under blankets of straw from their coop. My compost is lush and wonderful.
As for career goals, I got my full-time teaching job! At the school that I most wanted to be working at! That's been everything, really, having a job that I can put my heart into and apply my creativity and love of reading and writing and education. I can be organized and analytical and creative and weird. I can sing songs to my freshmen about conjunctions, and I can ask my juniors to create their own class agenda. Time to rev up. Back to work on Monday!
If I were to set some goals for myself for 2011, they would be to grow as an educator and continue my work with rewriting the way we grade and measure our students' progress, to create a book club with a few fellow book-loving friends, to learn to knit, to keep on sewing, and to grow another wonderful garden with happy honey bees and plump egg-laying chickens. Plus, I want to backpack and camp, including biking around the base of Mt. Adams and then summit in a two to three day adventure!

Happy new year!