Month: March 2015

Manufacturing Desire


How do you feel about advertising?

I’m having a hard time articulating why certain businesses (and individuals) are simply telling me about interesting things they offer, and others make me feel like they are trying to manufacture a want in me. But, I now know it when I see it.

I recently bought a dress and opted in to the email communications of the company. What followed was atrocious. Emails every. single. day. about new items for sale. I felt exhausted by this relentless push to get me interested in more clothing. Every trick was used — new! limited quantity! only 5 left in you size! Emails saying we noticed you viewed XYZ (creepy!). I quickly unsubscribed from the emails, but the damage was done — and not in the way the advertisers would like.

I started questioning everything that enters my inbox, Pinterest feed, and twitter. I am currently in the middle of unsubscribing from all of the communications, feeds, businesses, and individuals that feel mercenary in their approach. It’s incredible how I could have ignored this for so long — to think, *I* signed up to be abused in this fashion!

Yet another reason this challenge is so great (and how deeply imbedded in one’s psyche advertising is). It took me over a year of actively pursuing non-consumerism to have this breakthrough.


Clothing: 47 out of 66
Soap: 10 out of 12
Tea: 28 out of 30

(image: funny cartoon from!)

Pie In The Sky


Although I don’t ration food, I do try to make efforts toward food-related sustainability. I cook at home, bring food and drinks with me when possible, try to use very little plastic, try to buy food as lightly packaged as possible, etc. One major way of keeping the faith in this manner is my weekly pizza night! 

When you make your own pizza, the first obvious thing is — no giant not recyclable pizza box! You also get to control your ingredients. I’m not sure about where you live, but I know for a fact that my local pizza joints do not use organic veggies and sauce, high quality cheese, and the like. Making your own pizza will also save you money. I usually use the ends of various cheeses, a bit of sauce I saved from another dinner, a quarter of a pepper or half an onion from other meals, which not only eliminates food waste, but makes your pizzas cost pennies. The most important part? It’s SO DELICIOUS. Better than anything I can order (except maybe that pizza I had in Rome — but!).

So first — the dough. I use one of two recipes depending on what I’d like my final result to be. We love thin crust pizza the most, so I often use Frugal Girl’s Thin Crust Pizza recipe. I’m at the point where I have it memorized and can put it together in a snap! I use olive oil in it, and made it for years with AP flour, but now that I’ve really gotten into breadmaking, I use a cup of Italian 00 flour, 3/4 cup AP flour, and 1/4 c semolina. But — if you’re just getting started, use the AP flour and don’t worry! 

I also have to praise SAF instant yeast. It’s wonderful and reliable. I buy a big bag, put it in a container in my freezer, and use over a year or two! Easy and less wasteful than all those little packets. If you decide you are going to take over the bread baking for your household, it’s the best you can get in my opinion. I do have a pizza stone and a peel, but you don’t need them right away if you use a cookie sheet. I do think the pizza stone makes a great difference and is a good investment, especially if you’d like to make other crusty breads.

If we want Sicilian style or even Chicago style or “regular” pizza, I use King Arthur’s recipe. Also, this one is great if you are short on time (that is, if you decide you would like pizza 3 hours before dinner rather than the night before!).

As far as toppings go — get creative! I usually make one red and one white. I save left over tomato sauce in little half cup containers (that’s all you need for one pizza) and freeze it for when I make pizza. Any bit or bob of cheese is good. Last night I used the last bit of some Gouda on a mushroom and onion pizza — divine. I rarely use mozzarella unless I have it around. Home made ricotta on a pizza, especially if you have greens on it, is eyes roll back in your head delicious. If you try to avoid fast food but still crave the taste of the Golden Arches sometimes, make this cheeseburger pizza from King Arthur. It is one of our favorite treats (with grass fed beef, good cheddar, lettuce from our garden, etc).

One of my most fun dinner party ideas is to make a ball of dough for each guest and provide drinks, appetizers, and dessert. Ask each guest to bring topings for their ideal pizza. Then, you put them to work! Show them how to roll out the dough and top the pizza. I put the pizzas in the oven and take them out, one by one. If you have 8  guests or under, you’ll all get to enjoy a piece of each person’s creation. So much chatting and laughter! I’ve also found most guests ask for the dough recipe, so you may create budding pizza makers at your party.

Perhaps the nicest thing is that home made pizza goes beautifully with a bottle of wine. I feel good about spending more on a special, small vinyard bottle when I’m making my own pizza. Buon Appetito!


A Coupon Begrudgingly Spent

I usually don’t mind spending my coupons when I need something, except for:


I just can’t seem to get a DIY deodorant to work for me. I’ve tried two recipes so far, and they just don’t work well enough with the amount of baking soda I can tolerate (I break out in itchy angry welty areas under my arms if I use the amount of baking soda recommended in most recipes, so I cut it in half).

The good thing is a tiny bit of this does. The last time I bought this product was in July 2014, so at least I can stretch it out so that I use only one or at the most two coupons a year on it. Still — a plastic container that can’t be used for anything else, and a product from a big corporation (I’ve tried the health food store products and they are even more ineffective than the DIY stuff). Double Grr!

At least growling makes me feel a little better about it. Grr!


Clothing: 54 out of 66
Soap: 10 out of 12
Tea: 28 out of 30

Take Care

I set aside yesterday for taking care of some items that needed TLC. I put leather balm on all of my shoes and boots, fixed a hem on a dress, handwashed two wool sweaters, and did my sock mending.

You’ll see all of the years of different mends in the different colors 🙂

It had me musing about how as a society, we don’t take care. It seems silly to complain about how no one polishes their shoes anymore when I see what happens with abandoned children and animals. How people approach their work (including the work they do in the home and for themselves). You might say these things have always been a problem, but do they not seem worse these days to you? Taking care has been replaced with the fast, the effortless, the easy. Am I the only person who feels complete astonishment on seeing that there is a television show called Semi-Homemade Cooking that uses things like refrigerated cookie dough to have a “semi-homemade bake sale.” (!!!) Can we have a world full of beauty, depth, and integrity this way? I don’t think so.

I then realized that yes, I can rail against people not polishing their shoes anymore. Putting effort into things such as mending your socks instead of throwing them away for new ones is not only an attempt at saving resources, but a metaphor for a way of life. One that includes lavishing your time and attention on what you’ve chosen to bring into your world. It’s another way of thinking about responsibility. I’ve been mulling over this issue lots lately, as I continue to explore the effortful, the difficult, and the slow. I’m so disheartened that these are not positive attributes in our culture.

They next time someone backward-complements a hand knit or loaf of homemade bread with, “Didn’t that take forEVER?” I am going to say, “Yes, it did. And I enjoyed every minute of it.”

A Great, Dark, Soft Thing, Broken Across With Slashes of Light

When I went to Chicago, I knew going to my husband’s work holiday party was on our agenda. I love getting fancied up and putting together dressy outfits for special occasions. I got out my prettiest shoes from their box to pack, my pearls, some handmade vintage inspired jewelry … fun! I also made this shawl to dress up my coat for the evening and have on hand in case it was chilly inside the party:

Alas, remember, my suitcase had holes in it so I decided to pack as light as I could manage — I unpacked my extra shoes, and wore a practical shawl that was appropriate for daytime (plus — I didn’t want to pack the shawl and have it get all mushed up!) It was a good move, because I sometimes forget that the world is a much more casual place these days; even wearing boots and a more subdued shawl, I was still the most dressed up person at the party. Eeep. I guess there are worse problems to have!

Anyway, I still wanted to show you guys the shawl. I used Karie Westermann’s Alva pattern for the body and little lace bit, but did a picot bind off with midnight blue fingering wool I had in my stash, left over from a lace scarf.

I chose this pattern because I had a skein of fancy, shot with metallic thread mohair yarn in my stash, and this shawl used mohair so beautifully. I remember the day I got the yarn perfectly — we had just moved to Collingswood a few months before, and went to visit Walt Whitman’s grave. We were driving home afterward, and I noticed a yarn store that was sadly going out of business. We stopped in, and I saw this glittering fuzzy skein for $3 — regularly $25. I love the gossamer effect of mohair so I decided to get it, even though I wasn’t so sure about the metallic bits. Now, I like the metallic bits 🙂

They remind me of the Carl Sandburg poem, Window: 

NIGHT from a railroad car window 
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light. 

 …from his Chicago poems, 1916.

Can you see it, too? Although I never got to wear it in Chicago, it will always remind me of my trip — the anticipation, the desire to make something special for it, the experience of spending a night racing across half of America, foretold in my knitting, foretold by a poet.

Sympathetic Magic

We are now in March, and I’ve finally added some coupon-using clothing to my wardrobe. I have to go to a conference on Friday, so I ordered a spring/summer black dress from L.L. Bean (7 coupons), and a cheerful pink cotton and cashmere cardigan  (5 coupons), also from L.L.Bean. I had it all planned — I was going to wear them together with my multicolored silk flowery scarf that used to be a skirt and through sympathetic magic, bring spring to America!

Alas, we’re getting another 8 inches of snow on Thursday and the temperature is going to be below freezing on Friday, so I will most likely be in my winter black dress (with boots!), and not this new one. I can still wear this happy cardigan over it, but with my winter coat, too. I do have a large woven wool floral scarf that I got years ago from a local thrift. It’s a little chancy to wear this, though, as it may scream “Russian winter!” rather than “American spring!”

We’ll see — I may still be able to invoke spring whilst keeping warm in winter’s last gasp. If next week is sunny and in the 50’s, you’ll know it worked and I did it 😉

image: Spring, Vanessa Bell ❤