Jana Says

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Crafting

Pioneer Project progress update #1

It's been awhile since I reported my pioneer project progress. So let's do that today.

Three or so months into the project and pretty much I can say this: I haven't done much. I do notice a difference in my determination and some internal traits but as far as accomplishing things, there's not much tangible proof, save for making butter, a mending basket, and using my crockpot (which is like my version of a pioneer stove).

Let's break it down.

Gardening

This is my husband's area. He busts his ass weekly, maintaining the garden. He's constantly thinking about how to improve it and maximize the results by weeding and rotating the plants and getting rid of the ones that aren't growing so the good ones have more space (we even have some volunteers from the previous owners but that just makes me think of The Hunger Games so I call those our Katniss plants). He even used grass clippings for mulch, which is both frugal and environmentally friendly. So pioneer win on that one. The plants we started indoors are kicking ass and now it's just a matter of watering and pruning and waiting for things to grow. Then I can start working on some pioneer food things like canning.

This our insane cat hanging out in the garden. Because why not.

Sewing/crocheting

One word–nothing. I have done nothing to improve my sewing. I even set a goal this month to sew a pillowcase and thankfully the month isn't over yet so I can get working on this. If I can get some pillowcases, napkins, and curtains done by summer's end, we'll call that a victory. And as far as crocheting, I am trying so, so hard on this one. I practice, watch YouTube tutorials, and it's just not getting better. I think I might just need to accept the fact that maybe I am not meant to do it. But not yet. I'm not giving up yet.

Homemaking stuff

In the early days if this project, I set a weekly schedule a la Ma Ingalls. I haven't been perfect with it but I'm definitely keeping to a stricter schedule than I had prior to the project, and I am getting more done. There have even been a couple of times I washed, dried, folded, and put away laundry all in the same day. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps. I have been getting better about having a weekly food prep and baking day, running errands on one day, and staying home more. That last part isn't a problem because home > public.

I still have a few home decorating projects I need to start/work on/finish but some of those involve going to a craft store and those places intimidate the shit out of me. I also don't have a tablecloth which is really more a reflection of my laziness than an inability to do things because how hard is it to order from Amazon? I want a tablecloth for various reasons but the pioneer reason is I love that Ma used hers to differentiate between an all purpose table and the dinner table. That's a fun, practical idea.

Miscellaneous

This past weekend we went to a strawberry festival. That's pioneer like, right? We're also trying to do a better job of heating/cooling the house with windows, fans, blankets, layers, curtains, and other non-electric sources. (Except the ceiling fans. Wow, do those make a big difference.) Composting is still in full effect yet I have still not bought supplies to make candles, soap, or beer.

If I had to grade our efforts thus far, I'd give us somewhere between needs improvement and satisfactory. I suppose it's better than we haven't done shit but as far as proving to myself that I could survive life as a pioneer, I'm not making good progress at all. On the bright side, at least I know how to fix it.

I should probably do that.

 

April goals (and a book club giveaway!)

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I’m starting something new. I’ve seen it on other blogs and even tried it once before on a previous site. For some reason, it’s never stuck, but you know what? It’s worth a shot again.

What the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about sharing my monthly goals.

While I’m usually not one to put that kind of information out there, I think that it’s a good way to keep myself and my project on track. I have a tendency to self-sabotage when things are going well and I want to break that cycle. I’m hoping that by sharing my goals with you guys, it’ll keep me focused and also, because I did share my goals, I don’t want to seem like a huge slacker and I’ll actually be productive.

So here we go. For the month of April, I plan to:

  1. Make homemade butter. This was the first pin I put in my pioneer project Pinterest board. I don’t know that it’s necessarily cheaper than buying store made butter but it’s one of the hallmarks of pioneer living. It’s time.
  2. Crochet one dish cloth. After trying and practicing on a crochet hook and the knitting loom, I think crocheting is the way to go right now. It’ll be nice to put something homemade in my kitchen, too (you know, that’s not edible). I also have a goal to make it look nice, not like something my dog made.
  3. Work on my business. Many pioneers were entrepreneurial, and that’s actually something I had going for me before I started this project. I own and operate a blogger mentoring program and this month, I need to finish the site redesign and update the menu of services.
  4. Start our garden. This is more of my husband’s project than mine because he loves gardening. I do not. However, I need to be more involved and this means actually having an opinion on what we grow, how big the garden should be, and assisting in planting. It’s unpleasant but I’ll do it. Pioneers had to do shit they didn’t like all the time.
  5. Participate in the Watch Your Wallet Challenge. I adore the concept of this challenge, hosted by Steph at Life According to Steph and Marla at Luck Fupus, particularly as you get to make your own rules. My rules for the challenge are: no stupid tax (late fees, library fines, etc), only make frivolous purchases using gift cards, stick to my grocery budget, use coupons more often, refrain from buying more craft supplies, and keep up with our 52 week savings challenge.
Life According to Steph
 

There are a few more goals on my list but there’s no need to share them. But what I can share is this nifty button I made for anyone who’s joining the Little House bookclub (it starts tomorrow!) and, below the button, is a giveaway for a complete set of the Little House books! That’s right, one lucky reader will get a chance to win all 9 books! Thanks to Steph, Jenniemarie, and Athena for assisting with the giveaway. Good luck!

P.S. Please excuse the horrible formatting of what you’re about to see. WP is being an asshole or I’m doing something wrong and can’t get it to do what I want. But I think you get the point.

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Bucket list: Pioneer style

Bucket lists have never been my thing. I don’t like to think about death and dying and creating a bucket list makes me confront that. I don’t want to dwell on all the shit I’d like to do before I die and also, if I don’t accomplish them, how will that make me feel? Probably pretty crappy and if I’m on my deathbed, is that really something I need hanging over me? No. So I opt to leave bucket lists alone. 
someecards.com - There's a hole in my bucket list.

However, when it comes to this project, it has a shelf life. While the skills acquired and lessons learned will stick with me, and I don’t intend on leetting them go once I’m done with the project, the project itself will end. Die, if you will. And there are some items I’d like to accomplish before that happens. A pioneer project bucket list.  

This is what it looks like:

  1. Sew a complete set of cloth napkins along with a matching tablecloth. I love the idea of having a tablecloth on my dining table for so many reasons, the least of which is that my table has tile and grout that are a pain the ass to clean. It’ll also make the room like so much nicer and cleaner. Plus, the cloth napkins are less wasteful.

    Found this on Amazon. If sewing one doesn't work, this is my backup plan.

    Found this on Amazon. If sewing one doesn’t work, this is my backup plan.

  2.  Open an Etsy store. Pioneer women tended to the home but at times, they also had to help contribute financially to the family. I’m no different. I have a few ways in mind to do this and one of them is to open an Etsy store. I have the idea, the name, and the list of products to sell. Now I just have to get to work.
  3. Fill my freezer and shelves in my garage with food I canned. Not going to lie. Canning intimidates the hell out of me. I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m terrified that I’m going to ruin the food. This is even more daunting because I plan on canning what we grow (following in true pioneer fashion) and if I mess up, it’s gone. I can’t just instantly regrow more. Scary stuff.

    For more than just crafts.

    For more than just crafts.

  4. Quilt a lap blanket. I have no problem taking a shortcut and making no sew blankets (in fact, I think I prefer this. Quicker, and I can actually do it). But the pioneers used quilts. Which means I need to try to sew one. I am almost as awful with a sewing machine as I am with knitting needles which is why I’m opting for a lap quilt instead of a bed-sized one. I figure it’ll be decidedly less stressful (and more doable) if I’m focused on a smaller quilt.

Items you will not see on my list: shoot a gun. Ride a horse. Milk a cow. Raise chickens. Use an outhouse.

It’s not that I’m opposed to the concept of those things. (Well, that’s a lie. I’m opposed to outhouses and their modern brethern, the port-a-potty. Because ew. And majorly unsanitary.) It’s that I have aversions to all of them and this is honestly why I realize I’d most likely be a terrible pioneer. Then again, if I were a real pioneer, I’d have no choice but to do all of them and I’d probably get over myself. I also wouldn’t know any different. So, really, I’m thankful that I’m not living 150 years ago.

As for my bucket list, I wanted to make it projects that are achievable yet complicated enough that I’ll feel like I did something truly pioneer-esque. Because those guys did not have it easy. I want to pay homage to them as best I can without making myself uncomfortable.

Do you have a bucket list? What items are on it?

 

About that time I tried to knit

One of my most vivid childhood memories is watching my mom knit and crochet. She was forever in the middle of some yarn-based project and would weave and spin (or whatever it is you do) those needles in a way I found fascinating. Her fingers flew and in what seemed like 47 seconds, she would make a scarf or hat or blanket. It was pretty freaking impressive.

I honestly don’t know where most of them went because I don’t remember ever wearing or using any of what she crafted. I do have 2 blankets and my husband, daughter, and I all have a scarf now but as a kid? Nothing. Maybe I remember a sweater but I could be making that up. (Except the itching part. I know I’m not making that up. Whoever made that sweater used the itchiest material known to man.)

She never taught me how to do it because I  never asked. I’m not exactly what you call crafty. In fact, I’m whatever the opposite of crafty is. Always have been. So I would watch in awe, be completely mesmerized/impressed and then I would move on, probably to a book. Then, about 5 years ago, I found out that my sisters and my cousins were learning to knit and crochet. I was pissed because I could not be left out. I needed to join the yarn party.

Except there was a problem. Remember how I said I’m not crafty? I neglected to mention that I am also completely lacking in the hand-eye coordination department. It’s quite sad, actually. And to knit, you need hand-eye coordination. So when I asked my mom to teach me, she looked at me skeptically, knowing my deficiency, but being the great mom she is, said yes.
someecards.com - Since I've lost the ability to knit this month, I've turned to one of my more socially acceptable hobbies.

Hooray for me! I was so excited for all the scarves I was going to make. And blankets (I am a blanket hoarder. We’ll talk about this another day). And I’d be so busy knitting and crocheting while I watched TV, I wouldn’t even think about snacking! I’d lose so much weight! How could I not win in this scenario?

The next time we visited, my mom brought me some yarn, a crochet hook, and some knitting needles. We won’t discuss the crocheting because that was a horrendous experiment that ended with my mother telling me that she didn’t understand how my left-handed sisters (both of my sisters are left-handed) could follow her right-handed directions and I couldn’t (I’m a righty). That conversation ended with me throwing down the crochet hook in disgust and swearing I would never try again. Maybe I almost cried, too.

After I calmed down, she said we would try knitting. I said okay. I picked up the needles. Then this happened:

Mom gives some directions about getting the yarn on the needles

Me: Look! I did it! (yarn promptly unravels) I guess not.

Mom instructs me to try again. Talks to me slower, like I’m a kindergartner.

Me: I did it again! (yarn comes off the needles again) Wait, no I didn’t.

This happens approximately 3 more times. My mom takes yarn and needles from me and does the first few stitches because even my preschool teacher mother has limits on her patience.

Me: Can you show me how you did that? I really want to learn.

Mom obliges, using second set of needles.

Me: I still don’t understand.

My mother is now visibly frustrated. Mutters something along the lines of “what is the matter with you?” and tells me to just practice doing stitches with what she started.

Me: Um…what do I do again? I don’t remember.

Mom gives side eye look to my father and my husband, both of whom are looking on with amusement and just a hint of fear given the proximity of needles to my face. She tries for what proves to be the final time to explain how to do a stitch.

I do what I think is right. I am very proud and it only took 5 minutes to do the one stitch. I say: I think I got it! I did a stitch! And I didn’t poke myself in the eye!

Mom inspects the fruits of my labor. I, in fact, did not do anything resembling a correct knitting stitch. My mother can’t take it anymore, I’m pissed at my lack of ability to do something I’ve seen 6 year olds do, and swear off knitting for the rest of my life.  My mother (and husband and father) agree this is best for everyone.

Up until the beginning of this project, not knowing how to knit sat just fine with me. The danger, frustration, and mockery involved isn’t worth it. But pioneers knew how to do that stuff so I’m going to force myself to learn (because authenticity). My mom did buy me some sort of knitting loom thing and I’m actually getting the hang of that so all is not lost. I’m hoping by next winter I’ll be able to make scarves, hats, and maybe pot holders using the loom (I still agree that maybe needles aren’t for me. Too large and pointy).

This is said knitting loom. Just as effective but without the danger.

This is said knitting loom. Just as effective but without the danger.

I won’t push my luck on the hats and pot holders. Or even multiple scarves. One is success enough.  

Bring on spring! 9 ways to eliminate the winter blues

My favorite book in the Little House series is The Long Winter. I love the determined and resilient spirit, as well as the resourcefulness they demonstrate throughout the story. It’s also, for me, the most realistic book in the series. Reading this one, it’s as if she forgot to make everything polished and shiny and idealistic. It showed some of the realness of their life as settlers, and I connected with that.

Living on the East Coast, this winter has certainly given me a new appreciation for everything Laura and her family went through during that long winter. Because this one feels just like that. I swear, it’s been winter since October and if I never see snow again, that’s really fine with me. I’m tired of being cold, I’m tired of wearing 97 layers when I go outside, I’m tired of gray, drab, and dreary everything, and I’m seriously tired of not knowing whether my child has to go to school or not. I would also like to be able to open my windows to air out all the sick germs that have taken up residence in my house because really, enough is enough with this sickness bullshit. Also, it’s March. Let’s move on already.

someecards.com - It's so cold I can barely stand the four minutes I'm outdoors every day.

Now that that’s off my chest, I can say that I’m officially protesting winter from here on out. Well, protesting it as much as I can. I won’t put on flip flops because I enjoy having all my toes and really, who has time for frostbite. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start bringing a little bit of spring into my life even though it’s about 20 degrees outside. Here’s how I’m doing it:

  1. Planning my garden. From what I understand, it’s best to start some of your plants inside so I’m doing that. My family and I sat down, drafted what we’re planting, and we’ve started getting to work. We’ve been working on the compost pile all winter and now it’s time to put it into action.
  2. Following spring training. Baseball starting up again is to spring what Memorial Day is to summer–the unofficial start. Knowing that it’s there makes everthing feel more spring-like. And getting the score updates on my phone reminds me that spring is just around the corner. (Note: this probably won’t work for you if you don’t like baseball.)
  3. Getting rid of winter smells. That means putting away winter scented candles and bringing out the spring scented ones. Just having the different smells in the house makes a difference.
  4. Putting away the winter decor. See you later, snowmen and winter colors. I don’t want to look at you anymore. I’m bringing out the spring colored placemats, napkins, flowers, and all the other springtime decorations. It might be cold outside but it looks like spring in my house.
  5. Changing my nail polish. I typically wear seasonally colored nail polish. However, if I look at another dark brown or red, I might scream. Instead, I’m using my springy, pastely colors on my hands. Just changing the look is an instant mood lifter.
  6. Creating spring menus. I love a hearty soup or a casserole as much as the next person. But adding a salad or something from the grill to my weekly menu makes it feel a little less…heavy and a lot more springy.
  7. Analyzing winter and spring wardrobes. Working from home, I wear approximately 9 items of clothing every week. At this point, I’m getting ready to put the rest of my winter clothes away and start focusing on the spring ones. Putting away the bulky, warm clothes is a relief and makes it feel like winter is almost gone.
  8. Looking at outdoor activities. Many places near my home are starting to put out their spring schedules. This means outdoor activities, day trips to the beach, and afternoons at the park. Starting to factor those into our weekends is taking one step towards getting rid of our severe cabin fever.
  9. Making spring crafts. It’s fine to paint winter scenes and bake cookies for Santa. But I’m so over that. Instead, I’m starting to do spring crafts with my daughter like popsicle stick bird feeders and writing stories about going to the beach. Total mindset shift and it works to alleviate the misery of winter.

I can’t say that this winter has been completely terrible. My outdoor cat has learned to come inside, we figured out just how bad our gas and electric bills will be in our new house, and we became way more creative with our time indoors. And this is the first time in years I didn’t put on winter weight. HUGE victory there.

Those small wins aside, I’m ready for spring. Because winter can suck it. 

someecards.com - May your devastating winter blues finally give way to your debilitating spring allergies
How about you? Are you starting to get ready for spring despite the still way too freezing weather?