Are you prepared for shifts in economy?

DSC_0068

For the past few weeks, butter has been increasingly hard to obtain in major chain stores around here, up until the point when, last week, my husband failed to find butter in any of the grocery stores near us. Our kids, who are butter lovers, grumbled and complained until I made pancakes for breakfast.

While the butter deficit is a comparative blip among the heavily laden grocery store shelves, I still remember times, during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the communist block when I was a child, that grocery stores virtually emptied out within an hour of being open. People weren’t actually starving, but no basic staple was taken for granted.

It is disconcerting to realize how much we are all really at the mercy of import, global food production, government policies – in short, the economy, which can be capricious. We buy what we can find at the local store, at prices we have no way to change.

Honing one’s preparedness skills is a great investment that doesn’t cost much and may really pay off in the long run, whether in a real emergency or just to save money in the face of rising prices. Here are some questions for starters:

1. Can you grow at least a part of your own food? Do you have space for a vegetable garden, a chicken coop, perhaps a couple of goats?

2. Can you identify wild edibles? Do you know of any untended orchards in your area?

3. Do you know how to preserve food by canning and drying? Freezing is good, but you can’t always count on having electricity.

4. Do you know how to make and/or mend clothes? Can you attach a button, sew up a ripped seam, unravel an old unused afghan to knit or crochet warm clothes for your family from the yarn? Do you know how to weave a simple storage basket from material you can find lying around in the nature?

5. Are you up for doing basic repairs? Can you unclog a drain, drive a nail into wall, install a lightbulb?

6. Do you know how to make your own soap and cleaning products, use herbs and natural remedies to treat minor ailments, recycle wax to make candles?

7. Can you devise a simple plan for developing a network of mutual help and reliance among your neighbors, rather than be wholly dependent on what you can buy or obtain from outsiders/the government? Do you have any useful skills you are prepared to barter (I’ll bet you do)?

All of these aren’t just fun hobbies; today’s quirky hobby is tomorrow’s survival skill! I would suggest it’s never too soon (nor too late) to begin practising.

Wholesome entertainment for toddlers and tots

DSC_0124

The long, hot days of summer leave us with many hours – virtually most of the day – when being outside is uncomfortable and even dangerous. During those hours, children will get bored, and the lure of computers, TV, and any screen imaginable calls out to them like a siren song.

I admit it calls out to me as well. It’s so, so easy to sit kids in front of a movie or a computer game and have some blissful peace and quiet. And so much of the content out there is educational and cute and does have its place.

Yet overindulgence in passive entertainment comes with a heavy price – restless, cranky, dissatisfied kids who are always bored; have lost their taste for the outdoors, books, and simple games; can never get enough screen time and are always whining and negotiating for more, becoming insufferable, insolent and aggressive if their parents won’t allow it.

So how would you entertain children on a hot (or rainy) day when being out of doors isn’t an option? Board games and Legos are fantastic, but all kids inevitably get bored with their toys and games, no matter how many they have. This doesn’t mean you have to buy more stuff! Here are some tips on getting through a long day of being cooped up indoors:

1. Try to go out anyway. If your kids are bouncing off walls, check the option of a short trip to the library or a play center, or get together with a friend. I don’t recommend malls, because the lure of buy, buy, buy is just too strong.

2. Crafts. I stock up on craft supplies whenever I can! Paper, paint, scissors, glue, modeling clay, glitter, beads, fabric and yarn, as well as natural materials you might want to collect beforehand, can provide the whole family with several happy hours. I’m teaching the girls to crochet, and all the kids love to draw and paint.

3. Science. If you have the option of keeping an aquarium, it can be great for kids who love to observe (and maybe even take notes!). You can set up a worm farm, sprout seeds, or transform your kitchen into a lab with some fun and simple experiments.

4. Reading. It’s kind of an obvious choice… For those who read! That’s why it’s only number 4 on my list, though I could read all day. Younger children will enjoy being read to, but you will need to commit your full attention and have reasonable expectations as to attention span.

5. Cooking. Though sometimes it’s too hot for cooking or baking, there are always many fun things to do in the kitchen. Salads, vegetable or fruit platters with dips, no-bake cookies and bars, smoothies, lemonade, iced tea and popsicles can all make a kitchen-centered activity.

6. Water play. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a full-blown swimming pool, either. A cool or tepid bath or a wading pool are refreshing and fun for younger children. A baby bath with toys placed on the front porch, balcony, or even in the bathtub can entertain toddlers for hours. ALWAYS supervise water play of any kind!

7. Dress-up. In our house, we have a dress-up container that only comes out when all else has failed. The children love it, which is why I insist on keeping it a special treat, and they are responsible for putting all the things back in when they’re done.

Ultimately, each family has their own strategies on dealing with a time of being housebound. I’d love to know what works for you.

Little crochet tote bag

DSC_0130

A little lacy crochet tote bag for summer, for odds and ends that I might take with me if I’m just going for a short walk to the playground – a pack of tissues, an apple, a small bottle of water, sunglasses.

The simplest bag imaginable, made of two lacy squares, a triangular flap, and a strap that is basically a super long rectangle.

DSC_0131

A large, elongated bead attached to the tip of the flap serves as a button that goes into the middle hole (the center of the square).

Square pattern from a vintage Russian magazine:

DSC_0081

The flap and strap are more or less freestyle – just make sure the tip of your triangle reaches the center of the bag.

Worked in thin, sturdy cotton thread with crochet hook number 2.5.

Summer simplicity

DSC_0106

Softie the crochet doll gets new hair from upcycled yarn. It’s naturally curly from former use, and isn’t it perfect for hair?

dsc_0107.jpg

Wee feet. She has just started walking recently, and already I can’t keep up with her.

DSC_0109

Current favorite read from the library. We usually go once a week, and we really should do it more often because we get through all the books in about two days.

DSC_0108

Sprouting lemon seeds in a pot for a fun little project.

DSC_0105

Pomegranates already ripening on the tree, reminding me that as much as I love summer, it will be over eventually, followed by another cycle of the High Holy Days.

When you’re buried in housework

DSC_0102

I have come across a truly eye-opening post about why we are really overwhelmed by housework. It’s kind of oldish, but trust me, it’s a real gem!

‘Sometimes in my life I have not been overwhelmed by housework so much as just overwhelmed. Sometimes life sends stuff at us that is just hard. Sometimes we might not even want to acknowledge that stuff, even to ourselves, so we look around at the mess we are in, at the housework that is not getting done because we are so consumed by other hard stuff, and think, ‘If I can just get the house sorted and clean and pretty like every single other person in the world seems to be able to do, then maybe all this other misery will go away and we can be the Brady Bunch, and every area of my life will be Pinterest worthy, and then I will be happy.’

I have never stopped to think about any aspect of this except having babies and small children in the house, which obviously makes one slower. However, I did not often stop to consider that many of the times I was overwhelmed and frustrated supposedly with housework were not really about the housework at all.

Lately, I’ve felt I’m really struggling, chasing my tail and not really getting much done. I was too busy and tired to stop and think that it’s not really about the number of loads of laundry I have to do each week, but about some adjustments I’ve failed to make.

One is having my husband at home full time. He freelances, which means he often strolls into the kitchen for a drink or snacks or just hangs around. Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who absolutely hates doing any sort of housework beyond bare maintenance when there are people around. I need space and quiet and can’t handle having to shoo people away while I’m cleaning. So I often find myself waiting for my husband to get out of the house to really get into gear, and it just doesn’t happen all that often. Now I tell myself, don’t wait for the perfect time to do whatever it is I should be doing, just jump in with both feet and get it done!

Another factor is living, for the first time in my life, in a house with stairs. Our previous house had a compact shoebox shape, and getting from one room to another took about half a second. Now I find myself wasting a lot of time running up and down the stairs whenever I need something or forget something. I’m slowly teaching myself to group my tasks so that I spend a chunk of time upstairs working on things that need to be done there, and then go downstairs for other tasks. I also keep some things I need on hand, like diapers, both upstairs and downstairs.

Finally, I’ve taken an extra commitment at the beginning of this year when I started working from home as a copyeditor. I love the financial perk and am grateful for the fact that I work with one company rather than having to hunt for new freelance gigs each month, but work is work and nothing gets done by magic. So some things just had to go, like ironing. It’s a delicate balance, and we all just have to keep at it, doing the best we can with what we have.