Friday, October 27, 2006

More swapping

I found this great website for swapping books. It works like this: you list the books you no longer need on the website and for each book listed you get 1/10th of a point. Then if someone wants one of your books, you send it to them and that gives you more points (2 for sending within your own country, 3 for sending abroad). With these points, you can in turn 'buy' books from the website. Basically, for the price of postage and a book you no longer need, you get a book that you really really want. How cool is that!

The ironic hair-pulling tragedy here is that just over a year ago, I cleared all unwanted books from this house by bringing three large boxes of paperbacks to the local second-hand store. I got a couple of tenners for them. Now they would have been worth a goldmine... Still, I'm sure I can unearth some more unwanteds.

Now, do you know of any more websites like this one? For instance a website for swapping small hourglasses?

What are the odds?

I wanted to post a picture earlier, but Marc has been using his camera a lot lately (I wonder why, it's not like it's his or anything, and it's not like he needs it for his studies, right?), so this morning, as soon as the sun came up, I made a mad dash for it (he was in the shower), et voilà! The lovely fabric I got from Elianne, at Zus. My very first swap. I love it. In addition to the fabric, the package also contained a beautiful envelope filled with wonderful goodies, which are not on the picture because by then Marc was out of the shower, and clamouring for his Nikon.

Did I recently mention the universe and its peculiar manners? Well, imagine this: the package Elianne sent me actually contains one of my favourite fabrics. I thrifted it a couple of months ago, and have been lovingly gazing at it ever since (yes, that's what I do with favourite fabrics, which explains why you get so few crafting photographs on this blog: if I love the fabric, I just can't bring myself to cut; if I don't love the fabric, I am not inspired to cut...). But to come back to the universe, what are the odds? Zilch.

And that has made me think some deep thoughts about the whole swapping thing, and how it's all about the giving and the receiving, about the process of it rather than the actual goods exchanged. How it's somehow the opposite of buying something with money (even though money spending is not always about the goods either), because there is no love in money, and there is much love in sending out something beautiful of your own to someone out there, and how the love you send always comes back to you (sometimes in remarkably recognizable forms...).

(Alternatively, I could give you a flippant explanation based on the size of this country that Elianne and I live in...).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The F-word

You will laugh at me, and you will be oh-so-right.

I have been spending much time this past week lecturing various poor souls on the wonders of Your Money or Your Life and on how it was actually going to change theirs as well as mine (lives that is), and how the great thing about it is that it's not one of those starvation diets where you deny yourself everything, and then the whole thing bounces back into your face, because the pressure is too much and you go on a binge, and feel horrible, and have to start all over again, except you have even less money now, because of the binge, etc.

NO, I said to them (... to you...) this approach is different, you need not consciously change anything, only observe your own behaviour with kindness, become aware of your patterns, and let your subconscious slowly but surely, without you ever noticing it, readjust your spending reflexes.

But, as every good minister will tell you, there is the preaching, and then there is the practice. In a rather too well known case of neural disconnection, my ears were having trouble hearing what my mouth was saying. It got so bad I didn't want to buy the stamp to send off my very first swap package (which is why poor Elianne had to wait for days, I'm sorry Elianne, I was insane, it wasn't me, they made me do it!). I actually spent a whole morning thinking of ways of getting out of BUYING A STAMP! I kid you not.

So the backlash came, as expected, today, and I bought:

- a ticket to the Rubens & Brueghel exhibit (with museumjaarkaart discount);
- a subscription to Craft Magazine (only the digital version, half the price; you see there was some attempt at control);
- a (small) bag of expensive yummy dried pineapple rings from the organic store around the corner;

Admittedly, the grand total didn't exceed 25 euros, and it's all I've spent on myself so far this month, and these are things that will give me pleasure for sure, but the mood I was in when making these purchases seriously worries me. You should have seen me, tongue lolling out (well, not really), mad red-rimmed eyes (that really, but more to do with no sleep and reading Your money or your life into the dead of night), trembling hands... a starved out wolf accidentally coming upon the yearly voluptuous piglet convention, that was me. It was not pretty. Now I have a hang-over.

So, whence from here? Back to the F-word. Essentially, back to square one for attempt two. Except I've now set myself that challenge for November (me and my big mouth). The no spending thing. And imagine the shame of retracting. Publically. The humiliation.

Ok, I'm just kidding. Sort of. And being in a whacky mood. What I wanted to say is that the November challenge will only work if there is pleasure in it. Only if I can make it fun (rather than torture). And that is in fact the real challenge.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two for the price of one

So, anyway, to come back to this frugality thing... I've been thinking about it a lot, and here's what I discovered so far (Alice and I were wondering the other day whether it is possible to discover something that is not new. We decided it is, as long as it's new to the discoverer):

- I can double my wardrobe at no cost at all by wearing my summer shirts over my winter shirts. In fact, doing so exponentially increases the number of possible outfits. What's more, as illustrated above, I can now even sport never-worn-yet-because-too-skimpy-too-hot-too-cold-too-something summer shirts.

- The author of Happy Things had a blog on frugality for a while (it's on a break now), and she gave herself this challenge, a whole month of spending NOTHING (well, apart from groceries that is). It's such a fantastic idea, I've decided to do it too. November 2006 will be a NoSpeMo as well as a NoWriMo. A perfect combination: since I'll be writing all day I won't have time to go to any stores, and last year during NaNoWriMo I lived exclusively on dried mango strips anyway, and if I do need to buy something I'll have to be creative instead, and obviously my creative juices will be overflowing all month long (well, maybe not ALL month long, I seem to remember there was an unpleasant second week dip...). What a way to reset all systems before the end-of-year craze!

Anyone want to join me in a 31-day-writing-and-keeping-the-purse-strings-tight marathon?

- On the theme of 'ask and you shall be given', it has occured to me that I often buy something only to find out someone I know had one all along that they didn't need anymore, but of course they didn't know I wanted it, etc... . What I figured is, this here blog is as good a place as any to post such general queries (of course, if there is anything that YOU might need and that I might have, you need only ask...).

For instance, right now, we really need a small hourglass.

(Maybe a word of explanation: Isabelle has been brushing her teeth (and having them brushed) for a while now, but she doesn't manage to keep it up for the two full minutes required by her teeth-doctor. Marc had the idea that if we attach an hourglass routine to the teeth-brushing routine, she might end up brushing long enough AND learning about time AND learning about sand AND learning about glass AND... ).

So, if any of you have one that you are not using at present, let me know.

So much for frugality. I'm off to watch Foyle's War. And eat Taai-Taai.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

The falling leaves...


If I haven't been posting much crafting of late, it's because I've been knitting. I am a slow knitter. A very very very very slow knitter. In fact, I'm so slow it's a miracle I ever finish anything. With knitting at that speed, WIP becomes WIR (Work in Regress). Also, I really like to watch TV when I knit, but I'm not the kind of knitter who can actually take her eyes off the knit for more than a split second at a time, which means I can only watch TV I've seen before.

For this sweater for instance, the choice fell on an old favourite, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Did I mention the slowness of my knitting? I had to watch it three times in a row. This makes me (albeit temporarily) the world's greatest expert on all that has passed between Margaret Hale and John Thornton.

At last, it's almost done (just as well, I don't think I could stomach anouther round of Milton romance). Now I just have to attach the wee buttons, stick the apple on (it is to be part of a series, known as the seasons sweaters, the original idea was more ambitious but at this point, I'm thinking an apple will do just fine...), and it's all ready to be worn and torn. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I can post the final 'on the child' picture.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Frugal thrift

Three days ago, I read Your Money or Your Life, and frugality is quickly becoming my favourite word. It's a fruity word, a cheeky wise word. A word with wings and feet. With big eyes and an attitude. I could live inside that word. In fact, I just moved in.

I only got the book on Monday though, which means on Saturday I didn't even know about frugality. So I went to the thrift store (as of usual) and found this beautiful 70's wooden weaving frame for children.

Now to be frugal is to only spend money on that which gives great pleasure. And so far, I have to confess that only the idea of the weaving frame is giving me pleasure. The frame itself is a tad more problematic. My personal weaving experience being exactly zilch, I'm rather dependent on instruction. Luckily, the box does include instructions, in fact the instructions come in 6 languages, of which I am completely fluent in three (I know, I know, the great polyglot, that's me). You can imagine my relief at not having to learn Finnish before getting to play with my new toy! But the relief was rather short-lived. The instruction sheet consists of one small A4 (per language that is), half of which is taken up by a picture of the weaving frame (presumably in case you forget what it looks like, since the picture looks exactly like the weaving-frame). Here's an excerpt:

"For this purpose turn the sley once alternately forwards and backwards. Push the shuttle through the raised threads so as to make the loosely lying wool-thread form a slight bow (see picture)".

Right... If you are like me, you don't know what a sley is, or a shuttle... you have trouble locating the warp, and your first impression is that the wool-thread is not lying loose anywhere. As for bows, slight or otherwise... Turns out, it is a bit like Finnish after all. The French and Dutch versions are similarly nightmarish. Help!

Incidentally, I have changed the comment settings on my blog so that anyone can now comment without registering. So if you have been itching to leave a comment but have found the prospective of a log-in rather daunting, itch no more! Instead, tell me all you know about weaving frames...

Monday, October 16, 2006


Ask and you shall receive. That’s how the universe works. Since posting about my flu thoughts, the friends I was thinking about when writing the word ‘friendship’ have all in some way contacted me. It’s weird beyond words, although I am no longer spooked out by it the way I would have been a couple of years ago. It’s just the way the universe works.

My friend Marjo sent me some tea, made by this company, which is apparently run by a friend of hers. It’s gorgeous. The smell was so strong that in the few hours it was dangling in our mail box, the tea managed to rid the downstairs hall of the pervading smell of wet socks (whose?). Anyway, I LOVE getting things in the mail. So I think I’m going to have to start some kind of network, sending people ‘stuff’ and hoping to get ‘stuff’ in return. Wouldn’t that be nice? (there is a word for it, but it escapes me at present, ah, yes, swapping...). That’s it, I want to start swapping. Anybody in for some swapping? And if yes, what would you like to swap?

Me personally, I’m a sucker for:

- fabric
- buttons
- buttons
- more buttons
- ribbons
- poetry
- vintage china

In exchange, I can offer you:

- fabric
- buttons
- more buttons
- ribbons

Any takers?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Isabelle and the bears II

(continued from previous)

First, Isabelle decided to give me back everything I had ever made for her which didn't make her heart go pittipat.

Then we put together a bag to give away to other children (in order to maintain good relations with our friends and relatives, we have decided to keep this pile anonymous, so you only get to see the size of the bag).

Now for those of you who worry that I cruelly took away all my child's possessions, here is a glimpse of what we do end up keeping.

You can see that the ideal of the ONE bear is far far off, but still, we've made some progress!

(there is a hidden moral in this story which some of you clever cloggs might have picked up on already, but let me spell it out for you, just in case: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, DON'T GIVE ISABELLE ANYMORE DOLLS OR SOFT TOYS ! NEVER AGAIN. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE.)

Isabelle and the bears

Unsurprisingly, my very first venture outside the house took me to the library and to the thriftstore (in that order). From the library, we got another book about Balotje (we already have the one where she borrows her uncle's horse in order to show the poor beastie more of the world).

This one has a fantastic message. It's about the many many bears that Balotje owns: the one she got for her birthday, the one she got when she fell down the stairs, the one that's an old hand-me down from her uncle (the horse-owner), the one she got 'just-like-that-for-no-reason'.

Balotje is finding it increasingly difficult to take care of all these bears; travelling is difficult, and she is often forced to sleep on the floor...

Finally, she has this great idea, she starts giving all the bears away, one by one, to people she knows (often the very people who gave the bears to her in the first place). At the end of the day, Balotje falls asleep in her own bed, completely happy and carefree, with just one bear, a one-eyed wonder that her aunt the stewardess found in a dusty corner of a far-away country.

As coincidences go, I read an essay last week, in Rebecca Walker's volume, about how the care for large numbers of dolls and soft toys trains young girls from an early age to disregard their own needs in favour of those of others (even when stuffed and inanimate). So this morning, Isabelle and I set to work, inspired by Balotje's example...

(continued in the next post)

Friday, October 13, 2006


This is day 8 of lying in bed most of the time. I think (one dare not presume) rock bottom has been hit and it’s all the way up from here. Illness is an odd thing, it does things to one’s mind, turns out Virginia Woolf wrote about this too; unfortunately by the time I get my grubby hands on her essay, I’ll be well again. And the well mind has trouble understanding or even remembering the ill mind, so I’ll have to wait until the next flu (next year, the year after that, or who knows, maybe never, hope, hope, oh bird of many wings) to let her insights and images do their healing formulating work.

Before Isabelle, I only ever thought of illness as an inconvenience, a train running late, a souflé collapsing on the way from the oven to the table, a cat who persists in wiping her butt on the long-hair, whiter than white, 100% wool living-room carpet, etc.

But watching my daughter, I noticed that her illnesses coincide with growth spurts, physical, social, mental, emotional (often all four). And Virginia Woolf moved into new phases of thinking and writing as a result of a bout of illness. So nowadays, when ill, I observe myself. Is this constant itch under my nose a sign that I’m growing a second proboscus? Does the fact that my head is spinning each time I get up indicate that the theory of Relativity is finally settling down in my brain?

Seriously, I do believe that in the weird, disconnected dream state of illness, much can be found to answer the question: ‘whence from here?’.

So here, in its original random disorder, is the harvest of this flu:

On frienships, old and new.

On midwifery.

On babies, and how many I want.

On NaNoWriMo, just around the corner.

On silence.

On music.

On colour.

On how to get the musty smell out of our towels (Vinegar, Vinegar, Vinegar!!!!!).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Autumn (by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann)

My beautiful beautiful beautiful bird whistle


Olijfje and Archie (his vowel was rectified recently) were thrilled with their new backpacks. They didn't turn out quite as planned, since Archie really wanted the 'Acorn Model' and Olijfje wouldn't hear of a boring square item, so I had to be inventive. They are tough customers, these two. Once packed (some dry leaves for Archie and a wooden apple for Olijfje), they started on their first hike. Unfortunately, due to nasty meteorological conditions and the twins' propensity for drowning in puddles, it was decided they would hike indoors. You can see them nervously glancing over the edge of the sheer drop cliff at the back of the armchair. (The dust, they are thinking, the dust!!!)

Rainy Day (we came prepared!)

Fruit and Veggie Art

Fresh broth brewing


That's my arm down there, posing for Marc's series on the dangers of ball-play. While it posed, the rest of me lay in the wet grass, admiring the view...

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I just had to share this. Sorry I haven't been blogging of late, I'm working on an autumn banner (or rather frustratingly NOT working on an autumn banner YET), Erchie and Olijfje are tapping their impatient little feet waiting for their backpacks to materialize, we have visitors, visitors and more visitors, the course of course, all the hand-made christmas gifts one should have started on a long time ago, much thrifting to report on and difficulties choosing, and, and, and, knitting, unravelling, knitting (one day, I swear, I will learn how to adapt the patterns to the yarn so that the size I want is the size I make).

In the meantime, I stumbled on this treasure (on Heather Bailey's blog). Enjoy.