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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Anniversary

Today marks nine years since my husband and I said "I do."

In retrospect, December 30th is not a very good day for a wedding but then, we didn't really have a 'wedding' per se.

We were planning one but for some reason which I can't really recall right now, we decided to go ahead and get married at the court house before the end of the year, I think it was something about health insurance or something. So yes, we eloped, with the idea that we'd be having a full scale ceremony in September of 2005. We'd already scoped out sites and had a lot of it mentally planned.

So on the morning of December 30, 2004, we both got up and got dressed. I didn't even shower that day as I recall. I worked in a yoga studio at the time and Mike worked at a small, informal office so I think he was wearing jeans and a sweater. I was wearing yoga pants and my hair was in a pony tail. Why is this important to the story? Because we had no idea what we were walking into.

We got to the records office right when it opened, both of us had to go to work that day. We filled out the forms and then turned them in. The gal at the desk asked us when we wanted to do this. We said, as soon as possible. She said, "Across the street at nine a.m." So we went and got a cup of coffee and waited for the lawyer's office to open.

We shuffled down into his sub-basement office. There were old desks and chairs and "couches" from 1960 and stacks, literally stacks and stacks of books and papers EVERYWHERE. We sat down in what we assumed was the waiting area and other couples began to arrive. Most of them were dressed really nicely and all the women had actually washed their hair that day.

After a short wait, a man who looked remarkably like Santa Claus came out of the back office and called us in. The room was like a big conference room with a giant table and tons of chairs around it. We sat down and he said, "Oh no. Come up here, face each other and hold hands." We had NO idea we were actually going to be saying vows! I guess we just thought he'd be signing off on our paperwork or something but suddenly we are facing each other, holding hands and repeating after Santa.

I just remember "Holy COW, HOLY COW, HOLY COW!" going through my head.

At the conclusion of the vows he asked if we wanted a picture and we both yelled, "NO!" at the same time. Photos could come at the actually ceremony, where my hair would DEFINITELY be washed and I would not be wearing yoga pants.

As we walked out to the cars to head in opposite directions to our jobs, we said to each other, "Holy shit we are married!" It was surreal.

We celebrated with our roommates that night with a very expensive bottle of champagne. It was a great day.

We never did have that ceremony in the Adirondaks the following fall. Turns out I was pregnant with our first son just weeks after our elopement and I was due in early October. A September ceremony was not going to work. Instead, we had a reception a few months later, once the majority of my sickness passed, with family and friends, just prior to leaving for California.

It's hard to believe that was nine years ago! Next year will be our 10th. Maybe we can finally do some formal vows in front of family and friends. To celebrate what we have built together.

I love you my darling husband!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Words upon Words

I had some rather exciting news today. A few days ago I submitted a mini book proposal to a publishing company. I'm currently contributing a short chapter on the Goddess Ceres for their upcoming title Naming the Goddess.  I wasn't sure they would have an interest in it, although I think it's a grand idea and will find readers in both the Pagan AND fiber artist communities.

Today I heard back from them that they'd like me to take the next step and submit a more in depth proposal. I'm very much looking forward to this process. It's been a long time since I published anything. All my previous publications are from my life as an archaeologist. So this is different but the same really.

At least the material won't be dry.

So now I'm off to get started and see where this goes. I feel very passionate about this book so if this publisher decides it's not a good fit for them, that's okay. I'll still write the book and pursue publication. I also would like to create a few articles out of the material for various fiber art magazines. We'll see where it goes!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Being Thankful

Some folks who know me, know that I would love to move back East. But if I'm going to live out here in CA I feel super lucky to live in my little town of Millbrae.

Sure, like all towns, it has it's problems. But there is something to be said for being able to walk into town and go the grocery store, the post office, the coffee shop, the jeweler (for a free ring cleaning), the butcher (to order your Thanksgiving turkey), the eye doctor, and the dentist and run into people you know in each one of those places. Small towns offer that and while some may find it too invasive, I love it.

I love going to our local butcher and being treated like family. I love going to the coffee shop and they know me by name. I love that my children have been here since infancy and have a deep network of friends. I love that we can walk to our elementary school and when they are ready for middle school they can practically roll out of bed to it. I love that during soccer and baseball seasons, we see tons of friends we know who go to other schools in our town and get to catch up. I love that our little cub scout dens are full of sweet boys who have great parents I enjoy spending time with.

We have an added bonus here of being just outside San Francisco and practically across the street from the airport. Convenience doesn't begin to describe it.

So in a time where I complain a lot to my poor, long suffering husband about wanting to move back East. I am thankful for where we live because this little town is a gem.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wool Processing time

For the past few days I've been hip deep in wool. It has taken me all summer to get to this point, breathing room so I could process the raw fleeces I have in the studio.

I started with this beautiful Romney fleece. It's been scoured and is FINALLY dry. I do not have combs so I'm going to be using my hand cards on this one. It's a beautiful fleece with fluffy white locks and some lovely greys and browns mixed in. I can't wait to spin it!

The next big job is to scour and process two pounds of Navajo Churro fleece. The colors on these two fleeces are beautiful. A lovely red/tan and a pretty dark grey. The staples are really long and there's a TON of greece to clean so it should be a fun challenge. I'll post some photos here as the process moves along. I am so excited to see what kind of yarn I can spin from these raw fleeces.

I love taking something from ground zero to finished product. Maybe someday I can be lucky enough to help sheer some sheep and then process what I've sheered. Even better, I hope someday to have my own sheep to care for.

Do you process your own wool? Do you get to spin what you process or knit up something awesome from your results? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Destashing

Back from vacation and in full swing of major reorg of the shop. I'm creating all new and repeatable color ways and will offer yarns and fibers in those colorways.

So I'm having a destash sale. Use the code DESTASH13 to take 50% off all yarns and fibers in the shop.

Stay tuned for some awesome changes!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dyeing Fibers and Fabrics with Plants


Dyeing Fibers and Fabrics with Plants

Beautiful, natural dyes are all around us. Just take a walk in your back yard or local park and you’ll find lots of plants which you can use to safely dye fabrics and fibers.

A simple google search will give you a number of lists of familiar plants you can use for dyeing such as: Avocado pit, Bloodroot, Black Eyed Susan, California Poppy, Coreopsis, Calendula, Dahlia, Dandelion, Goldenrod, Heather, Hollyhock, Indigo, Lavender, Marigold, Purple Basil, Russian Sage, Safflower, Sunflower, Tansy, Walnut, Weld, Yarrow and Zinnia to name a few. Roots, seeds, flower, leaves, and/or stems are used depending on the plant.

The same plants can yield different colors depending on the type of material being dyed (whether the material is a cellulose fiber like cotton, or a protein fiber like wool), and the type of mordant used to prepare the material. A mordant is an inorganic substance, generally an oxide, that combines with a dye to fix it to the fabric or fiber. This is a pot of wool being mordanted with alum in my dye station in the back yard.

Why dye with natural dyes? The colors are more alive. They glow in ways that pictures cannot do justice. They have beautiful natural variations and are not flat but multidimensional. Dyeing with natural dyes is a great way to get back in touch with nature and for me, it feels wonderful doing something with so much deep history. I especially like when I can use plants native to my area.

The plants I have learned to use for dyeing are: Lavender, Geranium, Calendula, Madder, Weld, Alkanet and Indigo. The first three I get from my own garden and that list is expanding every time I dye. The other plants I purchase in powdered or root form. I am currently planning a dyer’s garden which will include Weld, Japanese Indigo, Coreopsis and Dahlia.

Plants do not always yield the color you might expect and ironically, green is the hardest color to get from plants.

As a dye, Lavender gives a light yellow to tan color. I cut lavender from my garden and snip it into pieces into the dye pot and put the fiber right in with the dye stuffs. I leave the fiber in the pot overnight with the dye stuffs to get as much color in the fiber as possible.


It dries a little bit lighter as with all plant dyes.

Calendula and Weld both yield a bright sunny yellow with an alum mordant.  I have also top dyed this beautiful color with indigo to get a fabulous yarn with greens, blues, and purples.
Madder and Geranium have given me very pretty reds and pink and orange hues.


Alkanet, a plant related to Borage, yields beautiful purples as you can see here.

Indigo dyeing can be a trying chemical process but I’ve discovered instant indigo crystals which are super easy to use and make dyeing with indigo fun. I’ve had success dyeing directly onto mordanted fibers and top dyeing, dipping pre-dyed fibers into the vat for a blend of color as shown in the multi-colored yarn previously.

To learn more about plant based dyes there are some fabulous resources out there. Check out Wild Color by Jenny Dean, Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess, The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr and A Weaver’s Garden by Rita Buchanan to name just a few.

I’d like to thank Sue so very much for allowing me to be here today! Come visit me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/TheMerrySpinster and at my shop www.etsy.com/shop/TheMerrySpinster. I’m also on Pinterest, http://pinterest.com/hlmarano/boards/


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Creating a Dyer's Garden

Now that my raised beds are a bit too shaded for tomatoes and peppers each summer I'm seriously considering converting them to a dyer's garden. There is still plenty of sun to support the plants I'm aiming to put there.

Here's a list of great plants for natural dyeing of fibers and fabrics:

Marigold, Calendula officinalis, is a well known garden plant which not only acts as a great companion for tomatoes and peppers, but gives beautiful yellow gold colors to fibers and fabrics. Alum mordanted fibers will be lighter and iron mordanted ones will be darker. The flowers and the leaves can be used but the strongest colors will come from the flowers.

Chamomile, Turmeric, Weld and Yarrow will also deliver pretty light to bright yellows to fibers and fabrics.

Bloodroot, Carrot, Orange Dahlia flowers, Onion skins and paprika will yield shades of orange depending on the mordants used.

Amaranth, raspberry, rose, fig leaves, avocado pit, and lavender flowers can give pinks to corals to peach colors.

Rosemary, sage, walnut (wear gloves) can all produce browns. You can also get browns from overheating certain other plants like marigold and weld.

Woad and Indigo can give you blues and purples. These are  my favorites!

I get my greens from top dyeing with indigo over yellow.

So late this summer, when I'm contemplating spring planting and fall cover crops, I'm going to consider a handful of these plants. I already have lavender, rose, rosemary, raspberry, chamomile and yarrow growing. But I'm very interested in getting hold of madder, weld, woad and indigo.




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Haystacks

This is Day Three of my Five Day Detox with my coach, Brien Shamp.  I find it amazing this incredibly yummy recipe is actually legal during this detox. I just made them and I'm in HEAVEN.

Chocolate Coconut Haystacks



1/2 cup Coconut Oil melted
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder (UNSWEETENED)
1/3-1/2 cup agave nectar (honestly these are so good you don't need this)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of ground flaxseeds
2 tbsp. of sunflower butter
dash of cayenne pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl and shape into balls. Place on a tray lined with parchment or waxed paper and pop in the fridge to harden. They will last 6-12 months in the freezer. You can add or reduce ingredients as you like or need. Try adding goji berries or cacao nibs. Try it with almond butter or cacao with chili pepper.

ENJOY!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Detox and Rest

I've been steadily changing my diet since January. I did the Whole Living three week detox and LOVED it. The food was great and I lost nearly 12 pounds! But of course, my lousy eating habits returned and I let things go, eating too many carbs and too much sugar for my personal needs.

Then three weeks ago I started going to boot camp four mornings a week at 6 am. I am seeing results in terms of toned arms and some lessening in inches but the scale still has not moved.

So yesterday I began a five day detox with my coach. It's a protein and veggie based detox really just designed to eliminate foods for a while that are known to cause inflammation.

No sugar, no grains of any kind and the only fruit allowed, apples and pears.

So far so good. I'm most of the way through day two. I was really hungry yesterday but today less so.

I was a little worried about still having enough energy for boot camp and that's been no problem so far, and I guess that's no surprise with all the protein I'm getting.

I've been thinking about what comes next, after day five. I think I'd like to keep everything the same (it's how I feel best honestly) but add back in banana and other fruits. I miss my banana in my morning protein shake.

Speaking of shakes and smoothies, check out this great article at All Things G & D for a great recipe and idea for green smoothies. I'm going to try it once I can have bananas again!

A friend asked if I could publish a meal I made the other night which is so easy and yummy.

So here it is.

Coconut Chicken and Veggies

1 cup cooked chicken (I use either chicken I shred from a rotisserie chicken or I quickly cook up a frozen chicken breast)
1 -2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup asparagus chopped
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 c chopped red, orange and or yellow bell pepper
1/2 c sliced zucchini
salt and pepper to taste.

If you have a rotisserie chicken just shred off about a cup. If you need to cook your chicken, use 1 tbsp of coconut oil to do so in a pan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and cut into bite sized pieces.

Add more coconut oil if needed to the pan then add your veggies. Salt a bit to sweat the veggies.

Stir frequently to prevent browning too much on the bottom. Towards the end of the cooking time, I like mine al dente, add the chicken back in to reheat.

Dish it up and enjoy!

I've also added 1/4 c of tomato sauce, or 1 can of canned tomatoes. You can also add crushed red pepper flakes if you like. Or change up your veggies. Or use garlic and or onion. It's all super easy to customize.

I make this for lunch sometimes as well and you can even add two or three eggs to make a scramble in the morning if you like. Just whisk the eggs in a bowl and then pour over the veggies in the pan. Cook till the eggs are done.

Have fun experimenting!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stagnation Nation

Well things have gotten slow around here. Not slow in terms of all the usual crap I have to do, but slow in terms of writing, promoting the shop and creating. I have so much fiber I want to spin. I have bags of alpaca I'm working on processing. I have new product ideas for the beauty line I need to work on testing.

But there's also baseball for both kids, homework, cub scouts, PTA end of the year to do's, and of course the usual grocery shopping every two days, loads and loads of laundry, cleaning and trying avoid avoiding bills.

I am finishing week three of boot camp where I've been going four mornings a week at 6 am. I'm really enjoying it but it's not really giving me more energy yet. In fact, by 3 pm I'm wiped. I'm hoping this will change as my body settles into this new calorie burning regime.

Summer is coming and that's a really good thing. It will be a change of pace. It will break me out of this stagnation I've been in recently. There will be a few summer camps where both kids are occupied nearly all day! That will mean long stretches which I can dedicate to dyeing yarn, product testing and marketing. There will also be lots of time where the kids are completely unoccupied and I'll need to arrange a lot of play dates.

What are your summer plans? Do you find the changing of the seasons brings a fresh start for you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rethinking Slick Tubs

So yesterday I made three sets of bath melts. It's the first time I've made them and they only had a few ingredients:
Coco butter
Sweet Almond Oil
Shea Butter
Essential Oil
Coloring

The color was the first problem. I forgot my colors are water based. What happens when you put drops of water in a pool of oils? Pretty little globules. So I put some oil and the color in a bottle and shook hard to make an emulsion. That worked so I poured it into my molds. I made Lavender, Sandalwood Vanilla and unscented and uncolored. I sprinkled little lavender buds on top of the lavender melts.

I put them in the fridge to chill faster. They popped out all pretty except the dye had settled to the bottom of the melts.

My kids didn't care. They wanted to test the product in the tub. The bathroom smelled heavenly and the boys loved watching them melt in hot water.

But this morning I nearly cracked open my skull as I stepped into an EXTREMELY slick tub. So considering the dye issue, my current product line and the fact that I don't want someone in my house to end up in the ER because they slipped in the tub, I think I'm going to turn that recipe with some tweaks, into solid lotion bars instead. SO much safer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in Fiber Processing

I'm about to embark and a crazy adventure in processing LOTS, and I mean LOTS of fiber.

My friend Santha was lucky enough to go help shear alpaca on a farm last week. In return they gave her five huge garbage bags full of fiber!


I volunteered to process it for her and she's going to give me a bunch so I'm super psyched. But WOW it's a lot of fiber. I'll be posting the process as I go along. This week I've just been turning it around while in the bag to ensure some of the moisture is released. I'll start the actually scouring this weekend probably.

I'm not yet sure where I'm going to set up these scouring stations and drying stations. I'm sure I'll sort it out.

In the meantime, I got my two sheep future samples in the mail. Both are unprocessed and will need a lot of scouring to remove the dirt and much of the lanolin. Here are some pics of the first sample from a lovely little sheep called Godiva, a sweet little Navajo Churro.



As you can see, the locks are really pretty and so far as I can tell, I'll only have to snip off the bottom ends a little. The colors are really pretty and I'll be looking forward to spinning these up if I buy more.

Here are the samples from Nestor, a cutie pie and a lovely Navajo Churro sheep.


My main problem at this point is deciding whether or not I should order actual poundage of these fibers. Not because they aren't great but because it will be quite a while before I will have time to process them. They'll probably be sitting unwashed for weeks! And I'm not sure that's such a good idea. So time to do some research. I have to let her know in a few days whether or not I want a pound of each because they go fast.

I'm happy to hear any comments or suggestions from you folks out there!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Line Dried

There's something about line dried clothes that makes me happy. I love the process of hanging them. I love the smell the fresh air gives them. I love watching laundry flapping in the breeze. I love the lower energy bills.

My mom line dried most of our laundry on a square set up in our backyard. It was a permanent pole in the ground with a large square frame above it, parallel to the ground, with a series of lines running in smaller and smaller squares to the center. I loved sitting under it while my mom hung the laundry and I loved playing in between the sheets as they flapped on the lines.

Don't get me wrong, I use my dryer, A LOT. And I really don't enjoy the scratchy stiff feel of line dried towels, BUT, I do like line drying and have been doing it more and more on warm days. I originally set up the line to dry my dyed yarn fibers. It's very makeshift, just a line tied between our saucer magnolia tree and the back fence. But it serves just fine.

When I worked in Belize we line dried everything. We hand washed most things as well. Yes they came off the line stiff but with a bit of hand fluffing they were just fine. The sun and the wind just imparted such a great natural scent. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Check out this article from Organic Gardening Magazine. More and more folks, celebrities included, are moving to line drying; at least some of the time.

It's a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and bring a little old fashioned homesteading manual labor back into your life. It makes laundry a little more fun for me. Maybe you'll find the same.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gifts from a Run

I consider myself a runner. But I'm a LAZY runner. I have run three half marathons and a handful of 5Ks and 10Ks. I like what running does for me but often my body doesn't like running. Like many runners I have a history of chronic and sometimes extreme injuries.

I have a hard time getting motivated to go out and I'm slow so it takes a long time to run a decent 6 or 7 miles. I took a VERY long break over the winter and now I'm slowly getting back out there. I have registered for the Diva 5K in May. It's a race I did last year in the midst of half marathon training and it was super easy. But since I've not run in months, now even a mile is hard. 

So this morning I went out for my second run since my time off. The first was on Tuesday and didn't leave me too sore so I was ready. I'm in the usual run/walk ramp up period which I hate. I like being able to sustain my runs without walk breaks but I'm not there yet.

In any case, I really enjoyed the non running parts of my run this morning. It rained all day yesterday and so the scent of the spring flowers this morning was very fresh. I could smell jasmine, orange blossom, cherry blossom and plenty of others I couldn't identify as I ran by. The trees have suddenly leafed out. I love how that happens. One day you see buds and then suddenly, BOOM the leaves have unfurled. This early in the process they are so bright green. Our streets are now shady again and it's lovely.

I saw a pair of raccoons make their way back into the sewer after an undoubtedly debaucherous night. You know those raccoons, such party animals.

Running through the park on the final leg I saw birds busy at work gathering building stuffs for their nests, squirrels running around crazy burying things here and there, and the odd neighborhood cat squeezing under a fence.

When I got to our driveway to stretch I put my hands on one of the sycamore trees out front for balance. Then I noticed the best gift ever. Ladybug larvae! Everywhere on the tree! They are so cute. To me they've always made me think of tiny lion dragons. They look nothing at all like ladybug. 


I saw this as a reminder from God, the Goddess, Mother Nature, whatever your beliefs may be, that life goes on. There are beautiful things happening around us all the time, we just need to open our eyes and our hearts to see them. 

So my physically challenging two miles this morning was very much worth it. I was given a lot of gifts on the way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sitting for the Common Good: Meditation Techniques for Kids

We've begun meditating with our children for five minutes every morning. Our boys are 5 and a 1/2 and 7 and a 1/2. Do they like this every morning. Not so much.

Does it benefit them? Incredibly so.

There are countless studies which show amazing benefits for children (as well as adults) ranging from increased focus and calm, to improved self esteem, improved eating and sleeping habits, stress reduction and more. There have been very impressive studies showing positive effects for kids in the autism/ADHD spectrum as well. More and more schools are finding ways to incorporate meditation into the classroom. Check out this article for more info on this.

I realized this morning, as my children sat mostly quietly but fidgety, that we have yet to really explain to them what meditation is and teach them some techniques. Even adults who've never sat (meditated) before in any formal way are apprehensive because they don't know any techniques. So I've decided to start a meditation technique series here. Hopefully, this will be helpful for folks and I love comments and ideas so feel free to participate.

When I taught meditation at a yoga studio many years ago, I noticed that people responded much better to guided meditations when they were just beginning to practice sitting. Listening to the sound of my voice and the picture I was painting for them helped to quiet their monkey mind. In Buddhist teaching "monkey mind" is the restless, distracting chatter that goes on in our brains so much of the time. When we learn to quiet monkey mind, calm settles over us and we experience the benefits of meditation.

So there are many techniques to quieting monkey mind and I now realize I need to teach a few of these to my children. I told them tonight I'd lead them through the rainbow meditation once they were tucked into bed and relaxing quietly. Feel free to try this meditation yourself or for your children or someone you love.

The Rainbow

Get comfortable, either in a seated position where the spine is nice and straight, or laying on your back, with limbs out and relaxed. Use a blanket if you need to. The point is to be physically comfortable so that you can focus more on the guided imagery.

Close your eyes and let your body relax as you begin to deepen your breathing. Take a slow, steady, deep breath and imagine it is filling your body from your feet all the way up to your head. Slowly release the breath, imagining that it is emptying from your head to your toes. Repeat this process two more times.

Open your mind's eye and see that you are sitting in very tall grass in a sunny field. You can see for miles over the grass and it sways in the light breeze, looking like waves on an ocean. The air is warm and comfortable, not too hot, not too cool. You can smell sweetgrass and the sun feels wonderful on your skin.

You stand up and notice the air ahead of you begin to shimmer. Before your eyes a complete rainbow appears. You can see the entire arc, from where it touches the grass near you to where it comes back to the earth farther afield.

You walk towards this amazing rainbow. Never have you seen one without rain nearby.

You step into the rainbow and magically you can see the colors! You stand in the red band of light. Everything is sparkling red and you feel warmth from this color. You let the color wash over you, breathing it in.

Next you step into the orange band of light. Everything you see is sparkly orange and it reminds you of fresh squeezed oranges. You take a moment to let this color wash over you and breathe it in.

The next color band is yellow. This bright glistening light draws you in with it's warmth and happiness.  Stand here and breathe in it's beautiful light and warmth.

Walking ahead now you enter a green band of light. Like brilliant emeralds, this light is crisp and energizing. You feel your heart beat with happiness and peace. Breathe in this healing light.

Move now to the next band of light, a brilliant blue, sparkling around you like the ocean on a sunny day. It's cool and comforting. Breathe it in, let the blue light fill your body.

A final color calls to you and you step forward into the vibrant indigo light. It's bright purple and just as sparkly as all the other light bands. You feel it's magical power, especially in your head. It sings to you and you feel comforted by it's vibrations.

You step out of the indigo light and now you are standing in brilliant white sparkling light. It's very bright but it doesn't hurt your eyes. You feel happy, peaceful, calm and like you never want to leave this place. You lay down under the white light feeling the warmth from the sun and hearing the breeze blow gently through the tall grass. Still smelling the sweetgrass on the wind you know you can come back to this calm and peaceful place whenever you want. All you need to do is close your eyes.

Take a nice deep breath, filling your body from your toes to the top of your head. Slowly let it out and feel it completely empty. Take two more deep cleansing breaths in this way.

Open your eyes. Remember now that you can return to this beautiful and healing rainbow whenever you need to.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tummy Trouble

I am very disturbed to have confirmed my suspicion that I now have a not so nice reaction to lentils. I love lentils. I've been eating them for YEARS. I love them hot. I love them cold. I love them solo or with lots of veggies.

But lately, lentils DO NOT love me back. The show this lack of love by giving me two days of painful cramps with all kinds of other things you can imagine.

I've done some research, as I always do when trying to figure out this kind of thing, and it seems that just like dry beans, legumes have some substances that can make digestion very difficult. I love beans too but generally buy canned beans so I don't have to go through the process of soaking prior to use. Lentils however, I've never had a problem with and they cook up so fast, 30 minutes or less. Apparently you should also soak lentils, and the green ones and black ones are the most difficult to digest. The addition of turmeric can potentially help offset gastric distress.

There is a great deal of debate between the paleo community and other raw food/whole food schools of thought on whether or not lentils have "anti-nutrients" and thus should not be consumed. In general I've found that it doesn't really matter what other's say, I have to go with what seems true for me. In this case, lentils currently don't like me. I'm not sure when I'll be willing to give them a try again, even with soaking and adding turmeric and ginger. Two days of misery following ingestion is really not worth it to me when there are other foods out there.

I just hope this "sensitivity" does not start to extend to other legumes because I depend on beans and nuts as a large part of my diet.

Do you have issues with legumes? Are they a big part of your diet? I'd love to hear your experience with them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring is Sproinging

Yes it's Spring is about to spring time but around here it feels more like a sproing. The pollen is thick and both my youngest son and I have a head cold. This one will definitely make me lose my voice. I can tell already because my throat is raw.

A doctor told me once, with a cold it's either 14 days or two weeks. So you can do things to try to lessen the symptoms but pretty much, it's around that long. So I'm doing what I always do, lots of chamomile and honey tea, homeopathics if I catch it in time, and aspirin when I need it. The chamomile helps with the loss of sleep a little too which is a bonus.

Baseball season has begun for my boys which means a packed week with two games, two practices and two Tae Kwan Do practices. It's a miracle we find time for homework.

And the house really needs a good cleaning. It needs a good cleaning in many ways. First, it needs an actual physical cleaning. Sure we do the usual every weekend, floors, kitchen, bathrooms, dusting etc. But I'm talking spring cleaning here. I'm talking baseboards washed. shelves purged, grout scrubbed, etc. If only I had the energy.

Second, the house needs a good airing out. We have been lucky to have a few days recently where we could open all the windows for a bit without making it too cold in here but the problem with that is an extra layer of pollen settles on things so that not only is the car now green instead of black, but all horizontal surfaces inside are coated as well.

Finally, the house needs a good energetic cleansing. After talking with some friends about this today, I'm thinking I'll mix up some water and salt, clip a bunch of rosemary from the garden and tie it together, then dip the rosemary springs into the salt water and anoint the corners and crevices, just to clear out any yuck energy lurking there.

Now the question is, when am I going to get around to all this?

What do you do for spring cleaning? What do you do around your home to bring in that feeling of renewal and rebirth?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Dog Hair Sweater?

I'm about to embark on an attempt to spin dog fur. Yes you read that right. A fellow Etsy merchant asked me if I'd give it a try. She sent me a bag of the undercoat. I haven't had a chance to really see what it's like, the staple length, etc. So I think I'm going to try spinning it solo and then carding it with some wool. In either case it's going to be very interesting. Here's what I'm starting with,


I'm not too hopeful I'll be able to spin it into something for her. We'll see. North American Natives spun dog hair into yarn for years before sheep were introduced by the Spanish. So I guess it all depends on the type of dog and the hair. This is an undercoat and even has some lanolin like feel but it's definitely not as soft as wool.

There are plenty of people out there still doing this so I'm going to give it a go. I'll post back with my after pictures. I am going to try two ways, one, just spinning it as is, although I'll need to card it to get the fibers aligned. Two, carded with regular wool to increase the staple length.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sneak Attack

The Merry Spinster was featured this week in a Sneak Attack sponsored by a wonderful Etsy Team and I was honored to be included with the other amazing shops.

http://blog.sandists.com/WordPress/2013/03/sneak-attacks-the-second-week-of-march-2013/

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Good Day to Dye

Today was dye day at The Merry Spinster. Last time I did a round of dyeing I used my kitchen which proceeded to stink up the house. So now, baby's got a new attitude. I set up a dye station outside and it worked much better.

Turns out we have a brand new Coleman stove we've never used so I went up to OSH and got some propane canisters and set her up.



I'd planned on dyeing one pound of merino wool in two half pound batches. The first was going to be a lovely bordeaux color by dyeing it in Lac at a 3% solution. Lac has a ton of sediment so you have to dissolve it and let it sit at least an hour, preferably overnight, to let the sediment settle to the bottom and then you must strain it into the dye pot, trying to avoid getting sediment into the pot. Well all was going well till I knocked over the cup of Lac ALL OVER THE KITCHEN FLOOR. It's rare I get that angry. I was furious. It was the last of that dye stuff I had AND it made a huge mess.

I was able to salvage some of it so instead of bordeaux I got strawberry.


I'm not super pleased with this but I already have some ideas on what to do with it.

The second batch, which I didn't photograph yet, was dyed with 3 tablespoons of Cutch and 1 teaspoon of Logwood Grey. It's supposed to give a deep chocolate brown color. I'd have to say it's not as dark chocolate as I'd like but I have some ideas for working with it as well. I think some of what made it not as dark as I'd like is that I mordanted the second half pound in the same mordant bath as the first. I mixed up the right amount of mordant for a full pound and then did one half of the wool in the first batch and the other half next. Maybe there wasn't enough alum left in the mordant bath to help get a really dark chocolate color. It's more the color of chocolate milk. I'm seeing a neopolitan yarn in my future.

So all in all, I'm happy with the new set up. I was able to do all I needed out there although two burners going simultaneously would have really rocked. But as you can see, I can't fit both pots on that stove at the same time. Okay can't wait to see how this stuff looks dried and how it's going to spin.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Organization Time

I was just over at On the Round reading about how she really needed to clean up her studio and it struck me for the second time today that I NEED a studio. Seriously folks I have stuff in the living room, stuff in the kitchen, stuff in the garage and stuff in my bedroom. It's not working for me.

I have a table set up in the garage with my ball winder clamped to it and all my fiber supplies, dyes, oils, etc for my products but I also have a knitting bag in the living room with yarn where I sit and work on crochet and knitting projects. Then there's the bookshelf in my bedroom where I keep my stock and paperwork binders and then the kitchen has a cupboard with all my bath and body products in it.

I'd like to get everything in one place and I'm thinking the garage makes the most sense. I have to craft my bath and body stuff in the kitchen and I have to dye outside, and the garage gives me easy access to both. But I have no storage options out there. I'm hoping I can find some inexpensive shelving to set something up and I DEFINITELY need a light source out there.

It's hard to run a business when you are scattered and unorganized. This weekend I'm hoping to remedy that to some extent.

I put some new items in the shop today, drawer sachets, tub tea sachets and these adorable little tooth fairy pouches. All these items I'll make to order.

Coming soon, more dyed fibers, more art yarns, and some fun crochet pieces, including a gorgeous lariat style necklace.

Cheers!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fiber Arts Frenzy

I'm just finishing up a beautiful openwork crochet shawl and I have designs on three other projects. I'll be making a great crochet headband in variegated yarns, an adorable little tooth fairy pouch in white with some embellishments, and testing out a new clutch design.

I just became the proud owner of some beautiful fingering weight yarns, variegated in blues and spring colors. I can't wait to try them out.

Are you in the SF Bay area and interested in learning to knit or to spin? Join us at Amelia's Antics in Millbrae beginning in April. Keep tabs on Amelia's web site to see when the first class will meet. Karen, the owner, is so wonderful at creating great community events and we are thrilled she is hosting us as we learn to knit and spin together. I'm one of the teachers at the meetups and I'm sure that as our group grows we'll be adding other fun skills to the lineup.

Finally, since today is about needle arts, I'm very interested in learning amigurumi. Do you know about this adorable needle art?  Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting tiny animals or anthropomorphic creatures. Check out Etsy among other places for some great examples. Sometimes they are cute, sometimes they are creepy and sometimes they are just plain weird. But I'm very interested in learning. Do you knit or crochet? Have you done some amigurumi projects? Post a comment and let me know. I'd love to learn from you!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Motivation Needed, Apply Within

So I'm really flagging these past few days. I am minimally motivated and need to be VERY motivated. I have great ideas for items for the shop and I am excited about some new developments, info to come soon. But I'm definitely in a funk.

Maybe it's the need for change of seasons. Maybe it's the stress over what's about to happen on my career front. Maybe it's just too much sugar back in my diet.

So I'm deciding right now to stop wallowing. Nothing changes by putting your head in a hole or crawling into the closet. Because those bills are still going to be there. The taxes you have yet to do are still going to be there. The people you need to call and the emails you need to answer are still going to be there. Therefore, it's time to take tiny steps and celebrate tiny victories.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stitches West Delivers!

I had an amazing time today at Stitches West. I was there for about two and a half hours and walked the whole show floor. I kept myself to a modest budget and got a LOT of stuff for very little.

I walked away with new hand carders, two new spindles, a bunch of dyed locks in various colors, huge amounts of shetland, merino, blended wools and more. I got home and started carding a batt and dying a new skein of sock yarn a beautiful purple.

Talk about a super fun day!

Take a look at the haul from the day.

And here's the first art batt in my Goddess series.



Now to get the yarn out of the dye vat. I tried lac and logwood grey. I think it's going to be a fabulous deep purple. We'll see once it dries!

If it wasn't for my wonderful husband I wouldn't have been able to go today and have such a fun day working on fibers. Thanks baby!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stitches West

Well it's almost here! Stitches West starts today for workshops and circles but the show floor will be visited by thousands this weekend. One of those thousands will be me! I'm super excited to just walk the floor and see all the goodies.

I'm hoping to try my hand at carding and making some art batts so I'll be on the lookout for fibers, carding paddles, spindles and actually some cotton yarns. I have a special project for those and want a much nicer variety than I can find in the local craft shop.

Then I'm going to PLAY. I am also awaiting the arrival of a natural dyes kit I ordered which will have madder and weld and other things I cannot find in my yard or at the grocery.

I have a lot of undyed merino fiber and undyed merino yarn to dye so I'm really excited to get moving on this as soon as the colors arrive.

I'm also going to be experimenting with some odd stuff from the yard.
Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel and for most people, WEED, is a nice light yellow dye. I will be testing this since we have an abundance of it in the yard right now.
(photo courtesy of the UC IPM website)

I've also heard stone pine pinecones impart a lovely pinkish color. I'm going to test that as well. Worst case scenario nothing happens.

If you are going to Stitches West, drop me an email at merryspinster@gmail.com or visit me on facebook. Maybe we can get some coffee and tour the floor together!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Of NDE's, Homesteading and Technology

I'm finishing a book called Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. He's a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience and has written about it in this book. It's an interesting read as it talks a great deal about science and how he relates that to his experience. The part that interested me more than the actual NDE he experienced as how he resolves his experience with quantum physics and other sciences.

He talks about how as a Western society we have become so enamored with technology and science that we have gotten further and further from the true nature of our existence, our human spirit.

"The shadow side of high technology--modern warfare and thoughtless homicide and suicide, urban blight, ecological mayhem, cataclysmic climate change, polarization of economic resources-- is bad enough. Much worse, our focus on exponential progress in science and technology has left many of us relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme of existence for all eternity." (Alexander, pg. 152)

Personally, I think this is the reason so many of us are turning to homesteading. This is the reason so many of us are interested in getting back to our roots as a species. Learning how to do crafts and trades that have almost disappeared from our culture. Did you know there's a big resurgence of apprenticing in skills like blacksmithing? It's making a comeback. Many people want to feel connected in a non-cyber way. They want to feel a connection to the earth, to actual subsistence other than working hard at a job they hate so they can buy food from a store that trucks it in from thousands of miles away.

Think of all the things that are becoming vogue again: gardening your own food, raising chickens in both rural AND urban settings, homesteading small farms, starting small business of handmade and not mass produced products, learning trades like blacksmithing.

We are truly all connected. The basic tenants of quantum physics show us this. We are connected to everything and everyone. There is no separation of objects, it's just how we perceive the world to be. The homesteading movement and others with similar ideals give me hope that we will not become a species that is completely controlled by the technology we've built.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Day of Spring Colors

Today was a day of beautiful spring colors. This morning I got up and took some photos of my bulb garden because the light was just right. In the fall I removed grass from a nice 2x8 strip in front of the brick planter in my front yard. I double dug the soil and then added compost and then placed bulbs according to height (tallest in the back, shortest in the front) and covered with about four inches of new soil. Then I prayed the squirrels wouldn't run off with all my bulbs over the long fall and winter months.

Only one bulb suffered destruction and a few weeks ago my tulips started to bloom.


I've also got iris and crocus coming up. I'm so happy to see all these lovely flowers every day and I look forward to the continuing evolution of the planting as the spring arrives. I hope I can get just as pretty a display next year.


Then the post arrived this afternoon with a very special package. I ordered two BEAUTIFUL art batts from my very talented fiber artist guru and dear, dear friend Drucilla at Petit Bones.

This is the first one I'm spinning.

And I'm spinning it on this AMAZING gift from Dru.
Her husband hand turns these lovely spindles. I had a blast using my new toy today spinning the first part of this gorgeous art batt. I can't wait to see how the final yarn turns out. It's going to be tough to part with! I might have to keep this yarn for myself and a new project.

Thank you Dru!

Friday, February 15, 2013

It's a Work in Progress

Tonight I went to a great local consignment shop for a free knitting 101 class.

I had so much fun. The women were so nice and it was just great and easy conversation. Each woman brought something interesting to the table and all had cool experiences to share.

Some of us know how to crochet and learning to cast on and knit took a lot of practice and repetition to feel comfortable. I purchased a nice set of bamboo number 8 knitting needles to start and of course my cast on stitches are too tight. It took me a LONG time to get my crochet stitches the right tension. So the instructor suggested I use two needles as one to cast on and it worked beautifully.

There are two more classes where we'll learn to purl and how to increase and decrease and read a pattern.

Two and a half hours there just FLEW by. I'm looking forward to our next class together. For me, knitting, crochet, dyeing fibers and yarn, spinning, it's all a work in progress. I love that I'm constantly learning something new. I love that I'm constantly experimenting and not freaking out about the results if they are not what I intended.

I'm already thinking ahead to the next projects and I'm excited about the prospects.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose is an herbaceous flowering plant, native to the Americas in the Oenothera Genus. It is aslo called suncup and sundrop.

(Photo courtesy of USDA)

Evening Primrose Oil contains a high concentration of Gamma-linoleic acid, aka GLA which in conjunction with the amino acid phenylalanine is said to be useful in treating a variety of conditions. Herbalists list it's benefits in: treating PMS, breast pain due to hormonal changes, joint pain and the reduction of swelling due to rheumatoid arthritis, the prevention of diabetes related nerve damage, the reduction of eczema symptoms, the treatment of rosacea, reducing Alzheimer induced memory deficiencies and for boosting the immune system. (http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-evening-primrose.html)

The NIH agrees there are some benefits but as is typical, suggests more studies are definitely needed to get a more accurate picture of it's values medicinally.

I started taking EPO a month ago in the hopes that it would help my truly awful PMS symptoms. Over the past few years I've spend at least two weeks out of every month with daily headaches, chronic nausea, heartburn and irritability, only to be relieved with the onset of menses.

So I tried EPO knowing it could take a few months to really notice a difference. I take one capsule with each meal daily. It can cause stomach upset if taken on an empty stomach. So I get 1500 mg a day.

This month I experienced far fewer and far less severe headaches. I experienced very little nausea, not the usual morning sickness like day long and sometimes night long misery I've been suffering.

Was it all related to the EPO? I'm not sure. I think at least half of it can be connected to that. I also changed my diet radically this month. I removed sugar (though I cheated a bit this past week), and I removed caffeine. I eliminated processed foods and have been eating only whole foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains (not even bread or pasta but truly whole grains like barley, oats and wheat berries), nuts (especially almonds), and legumes and beans. I add in chicken I cook myself and fish where possible.

Not only have I dropped ten pounds but it is definitely changing the way I feel. I'm sleeping better. And for a lifetime insomniac that's a very good thing. I'm waking less grumpy. Of course I still wish I could linger in bed longer but there's still an improvement.

I noticed this week in having a few Girl Scout Cookies and eating a little dark chocolate, none of it tasted as good as I remember. In fact fruit tastes WAY sweeter than it ever has before and a handful of chopped almonds and chopped dried apricots is a real treat for me now.

I am going to continue my use of EPO this month and see if there's an even further reduction in PMS symptoms. One more thing of MAJOR note.

My husband and both my sons have had two nasty upper respiratory infections this month, one after the other. I haven't caught either of them. I'm really, really surprised at this since there's been much sneezing, coughing and general germ spreading going on here for weeks. Now whether it's the EPO, the diet or a combo of both, I really think there's something to this.

EPO is also suggested by some herbalists as being a great immune booster and even offer child dosage recommendations. I'm tempted to try it for them and see what happens.

You can read more about Evening Primrose Oil at some of the links below.

http://www.naturalnews.com/036177_evening_primrose_oil_nutrition_healthy_oils.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/340538-evening-primrose-arthritis/
and of course via your web browser.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fingerless Mitts

I tried a really nice openwork crochet pattern for fingerless mittens, also known as fingerless gloves or wrist warmers.

The yarn is really lovely 100% merino, dyed in these beautiful purples and greens. As you can see, I'm clearly NOT a hand model.

But these worked up quickly and I have another yarn from the same company in blues and greens which I think would be lovely for these as well. They'll be great this spring when the weather is warmer but you still want a fun accessory and a little coziness on your hands.

The variegated yarn and the stitch style makes me think of flowers.

Okay off to find a hand model. I need to upgrade my photo process and get much better work in the shop.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Study in Yellows

Yesterday was dye day here at The Merry Spinster. It was a trial day with about 4.5 ounces of pure undyed Merino to test.

The first half was dyed in turmeric and came out a lovely goldenrod color. I'm spinning that today and it's coming out beautifully.


The second half I tried in red cabbage. The dye color was a beautiful blue green. I used salt as the mordant but it didn't set. As gorgeous as it was, the dye didn't take. So I tried a second option, red chard.


This dye color was beautifully red but on the wool it became a lovely butter color. Really soft and pretty.

Once I spun them both and plyed them together I got this lovely yarn I'm calling Hello Sunshine.


I have a bunch of merino coming and can't wait to try a bunch of new dyes and experiment with colors and combinations.

Happy Spinning Everyone!

Spinning with Spinners

Tonight I'm going to a brand new spinning group at a local yarn shop. This is the first meeting of the group and I'm very excited to join them. You would think that in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area there would be lots of guilds like this but sadly, I've yet to find them.

There seem to be plenty of knitters and crocheters and yarn lovers but this is the first I've really heard about spinners. There is some spinning community happening over in Oakland but if you live where I live, that's a long way to go.

So I'm bringing a lovely braid of Corriedale with me to spin tonight.

I'm really excited to see how this spins. The merino was a DREAM to spin the last few days and I'm really happy with the dye colors and how they came out plyed together.


So now I'm off to crochet some wrist warmers to add to the shop. They'll be light weight so they can be worn in spring.

Happy Spinning Everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013

GRAND OPENING

Well after much internal dialog and a lot of support from family and friends I've launched The Merry Spinster. It's an eclectic mix of products but what ties it all together is the guarantee that everything is handmade/homespun by me.

You'll find handspun yarns, naturally dyed yarns, all natural beauty products, hand made wearables and much more. Check out my shop at Etsy to see what's in store.

My dear friend, fiber artist and mentor Drucilla Petitbone, owner of Petitbones on Etsy, taught me to spin and thus enabled my obsession with fibers, yarns and dyes. It's a constantly evolving art and I'm loving everything I'm learning.

Owning my own business has been a dream for a very long time. I'm pleased the doors are now open.

Welcome! Come in and sit a while. Have a cup of tea and some cookies. I'm looking forward to chatting with you.

Heather