2017 Resolution Review

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Taken January 2, 2017

In January of 2017, I committed to the intention of using what I have.  Almost 2 months in, here is what I’ve accomplished so far with my commitment.

I resolved to use more of the food that I have before I go and procure more.  This has been relatively easy because I have a lot of good ingredients at my disposal in both my freezer and my pantry.  I think the stand out freezer concoction thus far was a wild turkey posole.  (Posole is a southwestern stew with hominy.) We had some leftover frozen turkey from Thanksgiving, a batch of hominy left over from previous soups and some frozen red chile paste.  I added some fresh onion and spices and let this simmer in the crock pot for a few hours.  It was a great meal and came entirely out of my freezer.  We strive to never waste food so my resolution hasn’t been too revolutionary, but it is a great way to challenge yourself.  We call these meals “Iron Chef”  challenges because you take the random ingredients you’ve got and you can come up with some pretty awesome things — often a one-time meal that can never again be replicated.

As much as I love and patronize my local library, I have really enjoyed grabbing books off of my shelves that I’ve collected over time.  The majority of the books are ones that I have picked up at the thrift store for less than a dollar and they have provided me with hours of enjoyment.  I now have these books in a read stack that I am either going to donate back or pass along to friends for reading.  It has been great, especially during this winter, to be able to peruse my own library, grab a book in my PJs and cuddle up on the couch under a quilt.  I used to keep all of my books carting all of them around proudly for years, but now I am happy to let many of them move on to another house and be used instead of just stagnant on an overcrowded shelf.  A couple of years back, I started a book journal where I write down every book I read.  I do some commentary, or I jot down poignant passages, but this journal has in a sense been able to replace my big stack of books.   I’ve also opened up my cd binder and pulled out some real gems to listen to instead of just defaulting to online radio.  It’s amazing how music can make one so nostalgic and also how it can create a certain mood.  I’ve been experimenting with quilting to different music to see if it impacts the way in which I quilt.  So far I do not have any definitive proof that music effects my stitching, but this has been a less than rigorous examination of this correlation.

 

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A back-up baby blanket

I have been very diligent with the use of materials I already have.  I found 4 skeins of yarn that were given to me as a gift that I am making into a very simple blocked baby blanket.  I made so many baby blankets last year that it seems pragmatic to have an extra one lying around for a future gift.  This hasn’t challenged my knitting skill set in the least, but it is a project that uses materials I already own.

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Free motion on ikat

I have been more successful with trying new skills and using up materials in my quilting.  Part of this education has been through my monthly art quilting group.  This group challenges me to think outside of the traditional and to try all sorts of new techniques.  (All of the skills I’m learning is an entirely different blog post/posts.)  One project I made is a baby quilt for my cousin out of ikat fabric in my stash wherein I quilted two identical yards together without any piecing or blocks.  This is the same idea as the quilt in a day, but this time, I free motioned around the ikat pattern in the blanket and it took me more than a day.  Because this fabric was so dynamic, it is hard to tell the level of detail that was involved from afar but it was a great practice project for me to get more comfortable with free motion quilting.  I have also made 2 very different log cabins out of scraps.  The smaller of the two is made entirely out of scraps that I had lying around and did not cut — I simply laid them out and let the design be very organic.  This quilt got sent to a friend living in the Baltics who longs to build her own tiny log cabin out of reclaimed materials when she gets back to the States.  Her dream was my inspiration for the quilt.  My second log cabin is very measured and based off of a pattern that uses 1-inch scrap pieces.  I’ve made several of these and always enjoy how the randomness of scraps creates an entirely different quilt each time.  This quilt will be heading north to Alaska where a couple of dear friends are moving for work (and adventure!).  I could easily make dozens more of these projects and still have remaining scraps of fabric.  Also, because of the size of these quilts, I’ve been able to use leftover batting scraps stitched together.  All three of these projects were made without spending any money.

We have been ever grateful for all of the time we are able to spend enjoying our nearby public lands.  Lately it has been mostly nordic skiing, but we have also enjoyed some crisp late winter hikes as well.  We are both stewards of our public lands and hope that the access to these precious resources never changes.  However, in this uncertain time, we have realized just how important and necessary this land is to us and we are taking full advantage of it while land still remains public.

So far, this intention/resolution/commitment has been a good challenge and a relatively easy mindset for me to adopt.  I am still buying fresh groceries, and I still spend money at the local quilt shop and thrift store, but it is very comforting to know that everything I need, I already have.  I do not feel limited by my intention in any way and the more I practice this habit, the more I have ingrained this practice into my everyday mindset.

A Goal for 2017 and for Life

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Looking Ahead and Beyond

We are in the midst of the constant barrage of New Year’s resolutions — to be thinner, wealthier, more youthful appearing.  Everywhere you look or listen, you can be promised that 2017 is the year that you become a better self.  And while I think that self improvement is very important, I do not believe that we all have to strive for the aforementioned ideals.  I am all for bettering my health and boosting my savings account but I think that the New Year’s resolution as such sets many people up for not succeeding.  In my first yoga class of 2017, my teacher brought this up:  the difference between a resolution and a goal (or intention).  With a resolution, it is as if you feel that you must absolutely fulfill this one thing, without any room for being human.  With a goal, you set up for something that you work toward over time.  With this difference in mind, I have chosen to work toward a goal for not only 2017, but for the rest of my life.  It is simply to use what I have.

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A Creative Closet Door

This goal may sound simplistic but it is actually quite expansive.  For starters, as a creative person always striving to learn more and try more, I have decided that instead of taking on new hobbies I am going to use the skills that I have and build upon them.  This means learning more complicated knitting techniques including sweaters, socks and lace.  It means learning new quilting techniques and retaining them, especially all of the different things I’m learning in my art quilting group. (Side note:  the above picture is of our new “closet door” made from blocks I’ve had sitting around since a defunct block of the month club 3 years ago.  These were just sitting in a box until I decided to unearth them and use them.  Now every day we no longer have to look at our clothes, but instead this nice piece.)  This includes utilizing my newly remodeled sewing room as my own creative space, a luxury that not many people have.  I am going to keep on taking pictures and learning from experience and library books.  I know that in delving deeper into the skills I have instead of getting involved in another hobby that I only know and don’t excel at, I can still learn and experiment with the solid foundation I already possess.

Using what I have also extends to the kitchen.  Before I make a grocery list based upon we’re craving and what’s on sale, I will first visit our pantry and our freezer.  I will shop from home before I shop from the store.  Fortunately for me, this is pretty easy because we have a freezer full of Hatch green chiles and Olathe corn and a pantry full of basmati rice, Anasazi beans and home canned tomatoes and pickles.  We are fortunate to have food security and we can easily supplement what we have and make nourishing meals.  Chances are that some of our recipe experiments will be flops and that is okay.  It will allow us to use our creativity in the kitchen instead of simply relying upon the grocery store.

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The Household Library/Staircase/Rock Collection

My goal includes using all of the possessions I currently have.  I will wear that nicer dress to work more just because I can.  I will wear the jewelry that I have, wear the (old but functional) cashmere sweater on the weekends and read all of the books I own.  I have books on my shelf (well, stair landing) that I have been carting along for years.  It is time to grab those and curl up under a quilt!   I’ve also been listening to some of my old cds (remember those?) and it has been really fun.  It is amazing how many lyrics I remember from things I’ve had for 10 or 15 years.  I will burn the candles at a Wednesday night meal because what I have is meant to be used.  I will grind up the fancy coffee on a weekday morning.  It is easy to see our stuff as precious and forget about the original utility of our things.  As a continually striving minimalist, I don’t want to have things that just sit around, I want everything in my house and my life to have a purpose.  If I find something that no longer serves a need (I believe Marie Kondo calls this “sparks joy”), then it needs to go someplace else.  I want our home to be full of only the things that are used and that add to our lives, nothing that has long since served it purpose.

So, my seemingly simple goal to use what I have is actually a very large and overarching lifetime enhancer.  It will be something that I work towards in 2017 and probably for the rest of my life.  It is a goal that can be added on to and one that also allows for me to be the human that I am.

Working From the Center Out

Start in the center.  Go from there.

Start in the center. Go from there.

 

As I sit here hand-quilting another project, I realize that starting at the center and working out is analogous to life just as it is essential to quilting.  In life, we should look to our centers and work from there; if we quilt from the outside in, we get a bumpy quilt.  Our hearts, and our gut, can tell us a lot about life and how it should be lived.  You know that feeling in your heart, that sinking feeling when things are not right?  That feeling comes from deep within, it is your center communicating to you.

I’ve had these moments in life where I just know things are not right — heck, I’m going through this right now.  It is easy to get overwhelmed when your heart and your mind are in disagreement, but there are ways to realign yourself.  It is important to always work on yourself, to learn more about what you need, and want, in life.  For example, yesterday I needed a House of Cards episode and a glass of wine on the couch for an hour to shut off my brain from the tedious job search.  Today, my day and needs will be different, a walk to the library and an hour spent on some projects as a reward for continuing to push along.  Moving forward, I’m going to continually listen to my heart in addition to my rational mind.  Working on my quilt reminded me that it is important to never forget your center while forging ahead in life.

 

A Reflection on Imperfection

Looking good corners!

Looking good corners!

As I finished up this month’s block for our Saturday Sampler, I looked at the center of my pinwheels and noticed that they did not match up (nest) perfectly.  Bummer.  Then I looked over at my  corners and realized that all of the points lined up correctly.  Okay, so I have one center that isn’t exact versus four corners (with contrasting fabric) that do.  I’m going to choose to focus on those near perfect corners instead of the slightly off, barely noticeable, center.

Making anything by hand is going to inherently have some sort of imperfection, an obvious stamp that a person and not a machine created it.  When I peruse antique shops, what I appreciate is all of the things made by people that have withstood the test of time.  The quilts made out of patches of clothing with slightly unmatched corners, the dovetails on drawers that have small gaps are all proof that someone took their time to craft something useful.

We as a culture are obsessed with perfection, and being anything less than perfect is seen as a deficiency.   But I can’t be perfect, I never have been and I never want to be.  Perfection seems like a hell of a lot of effort to me, effort that could be better spent on other more productive endeavors.  I don’t expect anything I create to be perfect either.  My seam ripper sits right next to my scissors on my sewing table, and believe me, both are used often.  There is a limit to how much I am willing to take out, how much I want perfection over authenticity.  When I look at all of my work, I see those little gaps as proof that I made them and I’m more proud of what I’ve accomplished, than bothered by a slight imperfection.  The reality is that I’m probably the only person who notices the mistake anyhow.