Green Day in the FLX

I woke at 6:38 in the morning, just 22 minutes before my alarm would go off. I’ve been waking before my alarm most days this spring, but lie there hoping I can get just a little more sleep.

After driving my daughter to school and eating breakfast with Alan, I decided to dedicate my day to working on making un-paper towels. One of the many ways we need to change our habits is to stop using, or at least drastically cut down on our use of, paper towels.

I’ve been scrutinizing the family’s paper towel use and notice most of the time we are using them to wipe up a minor spill, dry hands, or dry a cup or dish. It’s true that I use them to clean, but I have microfiber cloths, rags, and sponges, so I just need to stop reaching for paper towels.

With fabric I had, I sewed up a dozen towels that are flannel on one side and muslin on the other, and another half dozen with linen on one side and muslin on the other.

The pattern was a 13″ x 12″ rectangle, that, when sewn with a 1/2″ seam on each side, made 12″ x 11″ un-paper towels, which is the same size as the brand of paper towels I’ve been buying. I drew a pencil line across at the 6″ mark, and then sewed along the line, so they easily fold in half. And then I folded them in thirds, Kon-Mari style. Since I have a vertical paper towel holder, I couldn’t roll my new towels, so I removed the roller and stacked them in the space.

Now that I’ve successfully made my first un-paper towels, we have to form the habit of using them. Keeping a fresh supply next to the sink will help. Of course, I’ll keep a couple rolls of paper towels in the house for really dirty jobs, but if they’re out-of-sight, I hope they’ll be out-of-mind too.

This was a tiny step toward a more planet-friendly daily life, but it felt like a positive one. Alan and I have been increasingly saddened by the continuous photos of plastic waste in the oceans, on beaches, and harming and killing sea birds and animals. We are examining our habits and purchases and asking ourselves: Is this necessary? Is there another way? What can we do right now?

And, in fact, there are so many practical actions each one of us can take right now to honor and protect the planet we call home. Because, as the slogan I’ve seen on Instagram a lot lately says, “There is no Planet B.”

I’d love to be inspired by how you are finding ways to live in a planet-healthy fashion. Here are a few places where you can go to learn about plastic waste in the oceans and to explore ways you can reduce your plastic usage.

My Plastic Free Life

How to Reduce Plastic Use in Your Home

Green Education Foundation

Oceanic Society

Just the Flax, Ma’am

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On Saturday, I was a vendor at a holiday craft bazaar at Ithaca First Assembly of God Church. Over forty vendors set up tables and displayed their handmade items in the sanctuary, the entryway, hallway, main fellowship hall and a smaller side room, which is where I was located.

This was my fifth craft fair since I began this tiny business in September and I’ve attended a couple of humdingers, let me tell you. I won’t mention names, but some were very far out in the country and all, except this one, were not advertised well.

Thankfully, First Assembly is on the ball. There was a Facebook event, an email went out to the participants to share the event with friends on their social media pages, and an email went out to local churches to advertise as well. The women in charge were super organized and knew what Square and Apple Pay were which meant we would definitely have WiFi. The place was clean, brightly lit, upbeat Christmas music played and the people came in droves to shop.

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My table had ornaments, small felt dolls, natural body care products, decorative pillows, and nine flax warming pillows. Honestly, I hoped to sell my ornaments and dolls and pillows along with the rest of my things. And I thought I would because they’re cute and seasonally appropriate. Alas, not an ornament or doll sold. My winter balm, made of coconut oil, shea butter, and lavender sold out. Lots of lip balm and several lotion bars sold as well. But my continual bestseller are these flax warming pillows. Some have lavender flowers added and some are flax alone, but they all come folded and tied with ribbon. I display them in a small treasure chest I found at Mimi’s Attic with a blackboard sign.

When I wracked my brain, I could not remember how I ever decided to make these pillows to begin with. Maybe someone mentioned them to me? Maybe I just bumped into the idea on Pinterest? Anyway, I made four pillows for the first craft sale back in September and I sold out. Every place since–even the very worst sales–I sold a few of these. Well, this Saturday, I sold out of all nine of them. It is interesting what people want. You really never know. Part of me thinks these flax pillows will continue to be a “bread-and-butter” item for my business. Part of me is worried I’ll make up a bunch of these and they’ll sit unwanted on the shelf and people will want something else. I’m going to go with the former leaning and purchase flax seed in bulk from the Amish tomorrow. If I’m wrong, all my friends and family will be getting these pillows as gifts for the next year.

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The greatest part of Saturday, though, even more encouraging than having very good sales, was all the friends and family who came. They hugged me, chatted about kids and work, asked me about myself, took photos, laughed and commented on my items for sale. Many of them purchased things as well. It felt wonderful to have made things for people I love to use or give as gifts. My mother came with my niece–she’s the one that bought my last two flax pillows. Alan was an angel and came twice: once to replenish my ones and fives and again to bring me lunch. When I packed up at 3, my heart was happy. If only every craft fair could be as full of success and a sense of community. Today, as I cut out fabrics for another dozen flax pillows, I felt carried along by the lightness and merry atmosphere of that event. If only I could package that feeling…it would be a bestseller too.

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Crafting a Business

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This week I am at the sewing machine stitching up little dreams that pop into my head: things I’ve seen on Pinterest or in magazines, with my own twist. Also, I’m filling special orders and replenishing stock. On Monday, I sewed up ten flax and lavender pillows for a friend’s order. On Tuesday, I sewed and filled four more so I’ll have enough to bring with me to the next craft fair. I also spent time ordering supplies and figuring out what boxes I needed to order for products I will sell on Etsy.

Today I finished two pillows with felt lettering on them and cut out lots of muslin triangles and letters in reds and greens to make Christmas buntings. Tomorrow, I hope to add a few more pillows to my stock, and make a few felt mitten garlands.

I’m waiting on one ingredient to arrive so I can make beeswax food wraps. They are a practical, beautiful and fun alternative to plastic wrap. I also have a recipe for a winter balm, a whipped body butter, and more lotion bars that I want to try.  Plus I should finish at least two more paper art canvases to take with me.

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This weekend is a craft bazaar in Ithaca at 1st Assembly of God church on Bostwick Road. I’m looking forward to a busy day, meeting people, answering questions, and hopefully, selling a lot of things I’ve made. At the same time, I’m chomping at the bit to open my Etsy store. This will require several hours devoted to photographing the items, writing up descriptions, measuring and weighing everything.

Tonight, after going to a local craft supply store and shelling out more money for thread, ribbon, and fabric, I started to panic. Suppose nothing comes of this? What if I can’t connect my products with the right people? What if…

As I sat in the car with tears dripping off the end of my nose, Alan spoke words of courage into me. “You’re creative and smart, have lots of good ideas, you have plenty of spunk. You’re figuring it out. I know it’s scary, but you don’t need to get all emotional–it takes time, but you’ll get there.”

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And then he looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you want it to be successful?” I nodded, “Of course, I do.” “Then it will. Don’t give up and you’ll get there.” All this could sound like cliche, except I knew he meant what he said and it worked.

“Thanks for talking me down off the ledge,” I said. Then I dried my eyes and we went into Greenstar to get my coffee, kale and oats. Local musician Tenzin Chopak was at the register, which was a definite perk.

Right now, so many little pieces of this business have to be worked out, but I’m determined to do all I need to. Truly, I love a challenge and a year from now I’ll be glad I did everything that seems so difficult right now.

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Day 23: Crafting a Journey

Today I ran errands. OMG, it took five hours. I tried to get everything done, including all the craft supplies and the grocery shopping at three different places. Driving from Interlaken to Ithaca, I drove behind a pickup truck the entire way.

At the local fabric store, a very sweet woman cut my fabric for me, but took twenty-five minutes doing it. She talked about her own craft business and her divorce and how happy she is now. After the initial hello, I settled in for a good long listen. Maybe I have that kind of face? People want to tell me things. It was ok, but my progress was slow.

After all the stops, including Wegmans where I saw my parents, and two Trumansburg stores, I crawled home following a huge, red, belching dump truck going ten miles under the speed limit.

What I listened to the whole time in the car was this On Being podcastKrista Tippett had a conversation with Mary Catherine Bateson, who wrote Composing a Life, which I’ve never read but want to. She is also Margaret Mead’s daughter. I first really looked into Margaret Mead’s life in the fictional book Euphoria that I read last year. She talked about how our life can be an art form.

These deep and rich conversations help me evaluate my own way of living and give me tools to explore the questions about whether or not my life is going in the direction I’d like it to. Am I composing or arranging my moments, these fleeting days and nights, in a manner that I can be proud of? Am I generous and kind? Do I take time for the important relationships? Am I developing my character and not giving into selfishness and being blindsided by my natural tendencies and biases? Am I growing and enriching my soul with nourishing practices? Music, instruments, books, art all come to mind for me.

It’s late and there are fifteen teenagers partying outside this room, so my thoughts are jumbled and I might not be making much sense. But, check out that podcast, if you haven’t, and OnBeing in general. And please share what you think about it.

Day 21: Doing All the Things

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I woke up at 6:40 yesterday morning, ready to say hello to the day. That’s rare. Especially since I went to bed close to 1AM. The sun sparkled over the lake and hillside as I put all my craft stuff into the car, kissed Alan goodbye, entered the address in my phone GPS and headed toward Searsburg.

(FYI: The night before, Alan had offered to help me, but since I had nothing heavy, I didn’t bother to wake him. When he came downstairs right before I left, he asked, “Why didn’t you wake me? I said I would help you.” I assured him he could help me unload the car when I returned home. And of course, he did.)

I arrived at the Grange first and asked if I was setting up there. They said they were full and I must have a table at the church. So I drove around the corner, parked and descended a short flight of stairs to the basement.

If you’ve been in church as often I have, you know the familiar church basement smell. Damp, but not unpleasant, with the cozy memory of many potlucks lingering in the air. The ladies had soup and sandwiches available for sale, so the smell of several delicious soups filled the room, as did sound of pleasant and comfortable conversations as women and a few men set up their table displays and chatted.

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I had a whole table and a half for myself, which provided ample room for my pillows and wreaths, as well as the natural body care products, felt dolls and ornaments I displayed. The people were very friendly and helpful and I felt immediately at home. My cousin, Erica, and her daughter were there, selling floral arrangements and jewelry. It was great having family there!

The day passed by fairly quickly. It wasn’t very busy, but people came steadily, two or three at a time, and walked around the tables. My friends, Laurie and Grace and Kathy and Dawn came, as well as my Aunt Judy and cousins, Jayna and Kaylee. Seeing them was the high points of my time at the sale.

At 2pm, I packed up and was just about to go, when Erica’s daughter came over and held out flowers in a cute Halloween vase. They were for me, she said. Isn’t so humbling and wonderful when someone does something so sweet and unexpected? I thanked them both and drove home feeling grateful for the generous-hearted people in my life.

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After lunch and a nap, Alan and I finished getting the kitchen set up, prepared food and started applying our makeup. It took an hour and a half! Oh my goodness, I was so ready to be done. Alan’s makeup came out looking better than mine because he was more patient and careful, (story of my life), but we finished, cleaned up and threw on our costumes just as our first guests arrived.

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Lights were on, decorations lit, Alan’s Halloween playlist going and we talked, danced, ate and drank until 2AM. Each guest raved about the spooky and fun atmosphere and our costumes and had a great time being here. We went to bed happy and satisfied we took the time to make this party happen.

 

 

Play, fun and celebration are important to the human experience and make us healthier and happier. Our days may be full, but we need to make time for the kid in us.

What are you planning in your life that is purely for enjoyment? I’d love you to share in the comments.

Day 20: Showing Up

It’s officially day 21, but whatever. I just finished packing up my craft things for the sale in Searsburg tomorrow morning. Today was just full. I made two Pierre dolls, finished three ornaments, made four pillows, two wreaths and I took photos of five of Alan’s mini canvases so he could list them on eBay and can post on social media about them tomorrow. Oh, and I went to the gym and made dinner too: quinoa, roasted vegetables and Gado-Gado Sauce.

So I’m posting no pictures and I’m going straight to bed. But tomorrow, I’ll take plenty at the craft fair and at our Halloween party tomorrow night and post them so that will make up for the lack of visuals tonight.

Goodnight!

Day 19: Flow and NaNoWriMo

 

1CBABC93-BDCF-4020-B2F9-85382DB7E6CEAccording to Wikipedia, “In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” ( Read more at wikipedia about Flow. )

And that’s what I got into today. Four or five solid, uninterrupted hours of totally absorbing, fulfilling and satisfying work throughout the afternoon gave me such a sense of accomplishment. Mostly because I haven’t had this lately and have felt frustrated about it, it felt particularly great. I sewed continuously and everything worked. or once, no stitches to pick out, no epic fails. I just made lots of cute things and cut out shapes for more.

Although I haven’t read his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World yet, I’ve heard Cal Newport interviewed on Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast and know I struggle with focus and steering clear of distractions. This book is on my Kindle and I need to read it ASAP.

Here is a blog post by Srini Rao about Flow and Deep Work and ways he has oriented his own life toward this way of working.

Speaking of Flow and Deep Work, I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I need to announce my novel on their site soon and am petrified. Has anyone ever participated in this or attempted it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on flow and deep work experiences and anything you know about NaNoWriMo.

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Day 18: Things I Love

Here is a list of things that either foster a creative environment, help me do my work or are a great source of recreation when I step away from making.

  1. Fairy Lights. I have them in the bedroom, library, kitchen, side room I just cleaned out and solar powered ones in the gazebo. They give a magical glow to any room.

2. Canasta Card Game. I learned how to play in early September when Alan’s parents came to visit. The past few weeks we’ve been teaching my son to play and he’s caught on so fast he’s beating me already!

3. My sewing machine. This one was a piece of cake to thread up and start using right out of the box.

4. OnBeing.org has conversations the like of which you won’t hear anywhere else. As I was sewing this afternoon, I listened to part of Krista’s interview with Ruby Sales. Deeply spiritual, intellectual without ever being stuffy, and so human you will find commonality with just about every person she converses with. This is a website and podcast for everyone, but I like to listen while I’m working.

5. Jen Hatmaker’s podcast For the Love was shared with me recently by my friend who told me about the episode with Dr. Brené Brown. I think Jen is fantastic and she earned even more respect for this episode. Go to jenhatmaker.com to find all things Jen and to subscribe to her podcast.

6. Eau Thermale Avène Thermal Spring Water is what I use on my sensitive face instead of toner. It’s refreshing and gentle and the large spray bottle lasts me nearly a year.

7. Do you ever get restless legs or just have trouble settling down at night? Magnesium lotion might work for you like it does for me. It calms me down and takes away that jumpy crawly feeling in my legs. Check it out!

8. If you bullet journal, this is the journal I recommend. It’s a part of my everyday life.

9. My diffuser. When I’ve had trouble with anxiety the past year and a half, the diffuser helped. Just add some distilled water and few drops of essential oils or a blend. It changes the atmosphere and can help relieve tension. I put it on for a pleasant vibe while I work.

10. My hammock swing. I have one in the corner of the library. I just climb in and chill whenever I want to. Sometimes I practice ukulele or write in it. Yesterday I climbed in, stretched out and took a nap while Judah was practicing his bass.

Day 16: Pierre and Co.

 

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This Saturday I’ll be have a vendor table at the Searsburg Community Church and Grange Fall Craft Sale. It’s from 9-2pm. As usual, I feel like I’m not ready and have so many things I want to make if I can find the time.

Today I cut out and sewed little felt dolls. The original is named Pierre. He’s cute and a little creepy and he likes to hide.

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It’s fun to hide him and let someone discover him in a cupboard, their dresser drawer, the refrigerator, the shower, etc. Alan and I hide him on each other and it’s just a little way to say, ” I was thinking about you today”.

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Anyway, I’m making more of these little people and they’ll be available on Saturday at the craft sale or through Facebook and eventually Etsy.

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If you craft, what are you making this time of year?