Cheering up with chickens

DSC_1167

Wherever we are, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until we find some chickens. It turns out we have a neighbor who has a whole yard full of poultry (we found him through the crowing of his roosters), including all my favorite chicken breeds such as Silkies, Brahmas, Polish, Wyandotte, Sussex… And it turns out we have some poultry aficionados as common acquaintance. So now hopefully, once I am able to nudge my husband (*smile*) in the direction of building a coop and giving the incubator a test run, we can get fresh eggs for hatching. Really, in moving here, there is nothing I miss like my chickens. For the time being, we go to visit and feed our neighbor’s birds whenever we can.

DSC_1174

Speaking of going somewhere… There hasn’t been much of that lately because the rains have been SO intense for the season. We even missed our regular afternoon in the library today! I’m surprised at the strength of my craving for sunshine, warmth and all that comes with it – hammocks, picnics, wading pools, bare feet, and working in the garden.

In the meantime, we have been trying to make the best of these days of being cooped up inside (as you can judge by Shira’s modeling clay art), drawing, reading, and taking out all our favorite board games. We have actually finished the fifth Harry Potter book, which has been our ongoing read for months.

DSC_1178

I have also been putting the closets in order and discovered another stash of yarn scraps that will be just perfect for a doll-making project. Once, of course, I put Pesach (and all the cleaning it entails) behind me.

I hope spring is on its way to all my friends in the northern hemisphere!

When winter refuses to give up

Last night, we were awake multiple times due to one of the most epic thunderstorms I have witnessed this year. In the morning, we got up to a quiet, moisture-filled world, with water dropping down from the tree branches and puddles everywhere.

DSC_1160

There’s even a little stream of sorts that flows after heavy rains, and guess who loves to put on his rubber boots and wade through it?

DSC_1152

The spring flowers, however, won’t take no for an answer. They know it’s their time to bloom.

DSC_1156

I, too, am gearing up for warm weather projects and making a little dress for Hadassah. I hope to finish it soon and post the tutorial as well.

Have a wonderful early spring, everyone!

Spring flowers

Have I mentioned that I’m not a winter person? I’m sure I have, a time or twenty. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking – that we have no real winter here. However, short days, lack of sunshine, and rain make me want to crawl under a blanket and sleep until it’s spring again.

So you can imagine how happy I am when it’s sunny and warm and all my favorite flowers are out.

´┐╝DSC_1148

Beautiful white cyclamens – we need to decide where to plant them so that they can bloom again next year.

DSC_1149

More cyclamens, of a smaller, wild variety. They smell delightful.

Forget-me-nots.

DSC_1146

Pink geranium, growing by the day and quite happy in its new home.

DSC_1145

Look at that big stalk growing out of our aloe plant. You can also see a tomato bush or two in the background. And yes, the weeds are winning the race against us, because they, unlike us, didn’t mind being out in the rain these past few days!

I’m wishing happy spring to you all. My mind already transports me to the season beyond Pesach cleaning, to the joys of long afternoons, iced lemonade, hammocks and crickets.

Crochet Tutorial: The Puff Stitch

Like its name implies, the puff stitch is puffy and can add tons of texture to any crochet project. I personally love it, but it’s a bit tricky to master and goes a little beyond basic crochet skills. It works best with yarn that is relatively thick and fluffy (not thin cotton/bamboo) and doesn’t have a tendency to separate into strands.

The basic principle of the puff stitch is casting on a loop of yarn as you would for a double stitch, but rather than binding it off at the top, you cast another stitch, and then another, as shown in the diagram here:

Step 1:

3-hdc-puff-st-1

Step 2:

3-hdc-puff-st-2

You can see a video of me crocheting the puff stitch here:

I’m working with lovely natural merino wool such as this one. It has a delightful texture and is a joy to work with.

A pattern sample incorporating the puff stitch:

DSC_1142.JPG

Note: the puff stitch, like other textured crochet stitches, does take up substantially more yarn, so if you aren’t sure how much you need for a project, it’s better to stash up!

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

Cloud in a jar science experiment

DSC_1134

I’m always on the lookout for interesting, educational stuff I can do with my kids, preferably something that doesn’t involve a lot of mess. This cloud in a jar experiment is easy peasy and pretty cool!

You will need:

A jar

A balloon

Very hot water

A match

A flashlight

Cut off the narrow part of the balloon and make sure it can fit over the mouth of the jar.

Pour about 1/2 an inch of hot water into the jar. Light the match and, tilting the jar, capture some of the smoke. Discard the match and quickly cover the jar by stretching the balloon over the top.

Put pressure on the balloon with your fingers (make sure to secure it in place so it doesn’t slip off). Release. Do it several times to watch the cloud form and condense!

For a more impressive display, dim the lights and shine through the jar with a flashlight to see the swirling mist inside.

Explanation: putting pressure on the balloon increases pressure inside the jar, which in turn increases heat. Releasing the pressure makes the vapor from the hot water cool down and condense on the smoke particles – that’s how real clouds form, by condensing over particles floating in the air.

When you are done playing, take the balloon off and watch your cloud gently float upward out of the jar.

Softie Crochet Doll: how-to

DSC_1124

A couple of weeks ago, I found a bag of yarn scraps someone had thrown away. You know I couldn’t just pass! Implementing my own advice on using scraps of yarn, I washed the whole stash and set about making this little doll.

I didn’t follow precise instructions, though there are many patterns you can draw upon. This is an intermediate level project that does require some thorough familiarity with the basics and intuitive knowledge on when to add or reduce stitches.

Most of the work on this project was done with single stitch. I used crochet hook number 3 and acrylic yarn similar to this one.

Step 1: Head and body

DSC_1110

Head: start working a round shape as you would when making a hat, but reduce stitches towards the bottom to make a curved ball-like shape. Leave off a narrow brim – later you’ll slip stitch around it to attach it to the body.

Body: start from the bottom – make a ring and work your way up, gradually reducing stitches. Reduce rather more dramatically towards the top, creating a curvature and leaving off a narrow opening.

Cross stitch, embroider or otherwise make eyes and mouth on head and slip stitch it to the body.

Fill with stuffing and close body off at the bottom.

Step 2: Arms and legs – make rather narrow ring and crochet round and round, making a sort of hollow tube of desired length. Slip stitch arms to the sides of the body and legs to the bottom. Fill with stuffing and stitch up.

Hair: Make a large, rather floppy pompom, attach to head by slip stitching and trim off as desired.

Clothes: This dollie is dressed in a basic little frock I whipped up, and has a miniature version of Bev’s Very Easy Booties on her feet.

End result: soft, lightweight cuddly doll my kids love to snuggle. They were delighted with the process, too! It was very rewarding, as it worked up so quickly and the little ones were so gratified.

5 Strategies For Surviving Extreme Poverty

Related image

Extreme poverty looks different in Western countries, but it does exist. If someone is Googling articles like this one, it means they have electricity and internet connection, and probably aren’t starving outright. Nevertheless, they may not know where they are going to live next month, how to pay for the weekly trip to the supermarket, or where to get shoes for their kids to replace those that are falling apart.

Our family has been through financial highs and lows, with extremely long periods of no regular income, but thankfully we have been able to cope by thinking out of the box and implementing some extreme measures. Hopefully, these will help other people who are struggling right now.

Housing – for many people, this is the biggest monthly expense. If you are renting, you may want to consider moving to a cheaper area and down-scaling. If you own your house, you might create a stream of passive income by renting out a room or a unit for Air B&B. Selling and purchasing a smaller house in a less expensive area is also an option. However, if at all possible, do not sell your house just to fund living expenses. I guarantee your money will get frittered away and you’ll be much worse off when all is said and done. We made this mistake once, and I still deeply regret it. Looking back, I’d rather have had us tighten our belts further for a few months.

If you are lucky enough to have supportive family, sometimes your best choice would be to move in with them. I would only recommend this as a last resort, however, because I believe in remaining independent unless there is absolutely no other choice; and, if you do move in with family, I’d constantly work towards having my own place again and, of course, make sure you are pulling your weight as much as you can by helping with chores, bills, groceries, etc.

Utilities – There are many creative ways to save on electricity, water and other bills. Make sure you make your home as energy efficient as you possibly can. This can mean drawing blinds in the summer or painting the roof white to deflect sunlight, or adding extra insulation in both summer and winter to keep cold or heat out. Check your doors and window frames; if you can feel a draft of air, it means your insulation has room for improvement.

Many people labor under the assumption that they are entitled to be toasty warm in winter while wearing nothing but a T-shirt inside, and comfortably cool in the summer up to the point of wearing a light jacket indoors. I invite you to challenge these assumptions. Wear layers in the winter, and cool off in the summer by hanging wet curtains over open windows. Save money by taking shorter showers and bathing two (or several) kids together.

Transportation – What with gas, insurance, repair and maintenance, cars are huge money guzzlers. If you live in an area with good public transportation, consider doing without a car entirely. At the very least, consolidate your errands and, for recreation, explore your area rather than drive far. Rediscover walking and bicycling as alternative healthy local transportation means.

Food – Do not feel tempted to cut your grocery bill by opting for cheap, high-calorie foods full of sugar, white flour and refined vegetable oils. Rather, learn to make the cheapest nutritious foods you can get, and reduce some more by clipping coupons and shopping wisely. You can often find real treasures in your supermarket discount bin – foodstuffs that go for an extremely low price because their expiration date is near or because their packaging is slightly damaged. Bread and baked goods are often sold extremely cheaply at the end of the day, and vegetables and fruits at the end of the week. Swapping with neighbors and foraging help out a lot, too.

Necessities┬á– Thrift stores often carry gently used clothes, shoes, toys, books , household items, and so on, at the fraction of the regular price. Also keep a lookout for great finds people in your area are giving away. Don’t look down upon dumpster diving, either – we have salvaged some real treasures from the curb, from books and games to clothes and furniture.

Whatever you do, do not apply for direct government assistance, the kind that would get social services across your threshold. I don’t know about where you live, but here it comes with the price of being constantly monitored and probed for “parenting capability”. Children have been taken from perfectly adequate parents whose only crime was being poor. Because of budgeting allotment, this corrupt system would rather pay a monthly allowance to foster families than give the struggling parents financial aid.

Keep looking for ways out! Don’t let the present suck you in like a permanent sluggish murky bog with no prospects. This has been my mistake for a long time, just looking at nothing beyond daily survival – no matter how good you get at saving, pinching pennies and doing without, sometimes you just have to stop and think of ways to make a radical change and take a different turn. Always look forward with hope for change, and see your present strait as something that will pass.