Saturday, June 30, 2012

Not Quite Working Magic

I think my sewing machine weighs about 50 pounds. Really. Maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but this baby is solid metal. 

The instructions make me chuckle and I’m reminded that this is the image I’m meant to aspire to. That’s why I’ve taken to wearing high heels anytime I sit down to sew.  Kidding, kidding. 

But I say all of this in the most affectionate way possible. I inherited this sewing machine from my mom. It’s the sewing machine she bought herself when she went off to college (and for those of you who are glancing back at the picture of the instruction booklet, no my mom did not go off to college in 1941).

When I open up the sewing machine and inhale the distinctive thread-y smell, the one that makes me think of the miles and miles of thread that have flown through the inner workings of this machine, I picture my mom. I remember dresses she made me when I was little, dresses she made my doll, and various other garments that have flowed out of the machine as if by magic.

“Magic” is not the word I would use to describe what happens when I sit down at the machine. Couple that with the fact that I have to lug this 50 pound monster across the house and onto the dining room table every time I want to use it, and you can probably understand why I don’t get it out often.

I had the idea a few weeks ago to permanently settle the sewing machine on the desk where I used to sit and do my devotions in the morning. Since Mark rarely if ever sits at the desk, he didn’t mind, and it’s only me that has to muddle around bewildered with my coffee cup in the morning, trying to find a place to set it down.

I have done some more sewing, since I haven’t had to move the machine whenever I want to use it. With the help of a friend, my renewed enthusiasm for sewing has given birth to a cover for my new e-reader:

If you’re impressed, it’s only because the pictures were taken so far away. It’s really not that impressive.

Here's the inside:

Here's the inside after I wiped off all the finger smudges. I was just going to include this cleaned-up picture, but the contrast was too funny. I had to swallow my pride and share:

But I have high hopes. I’m planning to try to make another cover now that I’ve gotten the hang of all the tricky steps in making this one. Maybe, just maybe, I can become proficient enough with this little craft to turn it into an adoption fund raiser.

Yes, adoption fund raiser. More to come on that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I just might get out my cutting board and some scraps and see whether I can force my sewing machine to produce some magic for me.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mission Trip

'Weeping and gnashing of teeth' would, in my husband's opinion, not be too strong a description to describe the patience with which I waited to be able to share this news with certainty with everyone:

Mark and I are going on a mission trip this fall! Head over to our new blog here to find out more about the trip.

Because of this upcoming trip, my posts on this and my book blog, 'Over a Steaming Cup of Tea,' might be a little sparse. We're praying hard and wanting to put as much energy as possible into preparing for our trip this fall!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Some Art I've Just Fallen in Love With

I've just recently fallen in love with Susan Swan's artwork.

The western United States has a very large place in my heart, so I especially like this one:

And this one:

But this one reminds me of Mark's parents' house, so it makes me happy:

And this one is just magical:

Ahhh. Lovely.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Freezer Chocolate

Husband and I have been trying to add more fruits and vegetables in our diet and cut out a few more animal products. We don’t want to become vegans (no offense meant to any vegan readers) but we believe there are health benefits to be gained from eating more fruits and vegetables than animal products and we like living cheaper and closer to the bottom of the food chain.

As you may remember, I’m also trying to cut the amount of sugar I consume down to, well, less. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve had to resort to incentives to cut down on sugar (I just love it too much, I guess), but Husband has been supportive and smilingly compliant with my ideas for combating low willpower.

A friend of mine shared with me a recipe that she came up with to help combat chocolate cravings and appease the sweet tooth without eating too much sugar.

Freezer Chocolate

Mix equal parts of:

Peanut butter
Butter, melted
Coconut oil, melted
Cocoa powder

Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. After about one minute in the freezer, pull out and add toothpicks.

I won’t pretend that these are healthy in any sense of the word, other than that they don’t have much sugar. They are, however, rich enough that one is enough. And since I know all of the fats that go into these, I’m usually not inclined to eat more than one anyway!

Freezer chocolates are nice for when you’re at home, but you really do have to eat them right out of the freezer. Because of the peanut butter and coconut oil, they start to go soft pretty quickly after coming out of the freezer.

Mmm. I think I’m going to go have one right now.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Break in the Busy

Run, run, run, run. Busybusybusybusy.

No matter how busy I really am, I tend to live my life as though the two above sentiments were needed. I don’t always like to see this in myself, but I do more often than not.

And I know that’s exactly why, on Friday night, when I found myself sitting on a blanket in the park, I felt so very refreshed. Not to mention that random family members from my mom’s family had convened in my little Iowa town for the evening. I love family. Have I mentioned that before? I do.

So, there we sat, in the park, listening to a string of singers belt out tunes in a white band shell. My aunt, uncle, other uncle, cousin, husband and I were sitting in the very back of the audience. Most of the heads in front of me were covered in either white or gray hair.

I don’t know if it was the gentle breeze blowing through the trees, the fact that I was just being instead of doing, or the man in front of me scratching through his hair with a plastic fork, but I was so happy.

So restful, so happy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tampons and Some Possible Next Steps

*WARNING: This post may not be suitable for a male audience.*


If that's not enough to get every male reader scurrying away with his tail between his legs, then I'm a monkey's uncle.

I want to talk about menstruation today, or, more specifically, what we as women do with our menstruation every month.

Mark and I try to look for ways to cut back on the amount of waste we produce as a couple. We're not stellar. We still have paper towels at home. We do buy paper plates once in a while to use when we have Bible study at our house. (Sometimes we get out the real stuff for Bible study, but sometimes I just can't bear the thought of that mound of dishes staring at me late in the evening after everyone has left for home.)

When I was studying abroad, in Belize, through the Creation Care Studies Program, one of my classmates mentioned the fact that every month we as women use a lot of disposable materials. Between light day panty liners, maxi pads, and tampons, our bathroom wastebaskets are filled every month. And it's not just one woman who fills a garbage bag with paper and plastic waste every month. Most women in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 45 fill a bag every month!

I had never really given a thought to cutting back on that kind of waste before. We're women, right? It's unavoidable. But that classmate of mine planted a little seed in my mind that has continued to grow slowly over the last couple of years.

I first discovered these:

These o.b. tampons don't have any extra packaging other than a thin plastic film over the tampon itself, which made me happy. Less waste! True, you have to be willing to get a little comfortable with yourself to insert them, but they're really not hard to get used to. I like these a lot. I'm planning on taking these on the mission trip Mark and I are going on (which I will be posting about soon).

Then, a good friend and pen-pal of mine mentioned these:

Lunapads are washable, reusable menstrual pads. She said she'd been using them for quite a while and loved them. I was entranced. A way to cut the amount of pad waste every month to zero! I explored the website a little bit and was excited but also skeptical that a cotton pad could keep me feeling dry and comfortable (and not embarrassed) during my period. 

My dear friend gave me my first Lunapad for Christmas. What a good friend! I enjoyed using my one Lunapad so much that I purchased a few more. I'm still not brave enough to try them on their own, but I do use them regularly. The only thing I don't like about them is that they don't stay in place as well as sticky-backed disposable pads.

Because I seemed so excited about the Lunapads, my friend decided to share with me that she also has been using this:
What, in the world, you might be asking, is that

That, my friends, is a Diva Cup. It is, in essence, a reusable tampon. 

I can see you shuddering and moving your mouse to hover over the big X in the top right corner of your screen. Stay with me. 

My friend told me that she has been using this little device for over a year and loves it. She explained to me that you only need to empty this baby about every 12 hours. Empty it, wash it with a mild soap, reinsert, and you're good to go for another twelve hours. She said that at the end of her period each month she plunks her Diva Cup into boiling water for about two minutes to zap any germs, dries it off, and stores it in its handy little pouch (pictured above) until it's needed again.

I was, to say the least, intimidated. But I trust my friend's judgement, and the allure of a waste-free tampon was strong. I ordered one of my own.

My Diva Cup finally just got its trial run (stupid infertility, stupid irregularity), and I was cautiously thrilled with its performance. 

The Diva Cup, as you can probably see, is much wider than a tampon, so insertion follows a different process. I won't go into details here (I can tell you're relieved). But, as you may imagine, I was really nervous the first time I used my Diva Cup. 

I still remember the horrible stress of trying to use a tampon for the first time in college. I was in Belize, and our class was heading to a river. The plan was to work first, swim later. I was in the middle of my period and had never used a tampon before. My roommates encouraged me: "You can do it, Hillary! It's easy!" "Here, take one of my tampons! I know you'll love it." I did not love it. I could not figure it out. I did not go swimming. Ugh.

I eventually did figure out how to use tampons, thankfully, but the memory of those stressful moments was pretty strong as I read through my Diva Cup directions for the first time. Surprisingly, learning to use the Diva Cup was actually less stressful for me than learning to use a tampon. Who would have guessed?

It worked like a charm, and it wasn't uncomfortable in the least. I like it so much, I'm thinking about getting one for my little sister for Christmas this year. (Isn't that what every 16-year-old wants?)

I'm not sharing this to try to guilt you into purchasing a Diva Cup or your own or Lunapads or even o.b. tampons. And even though all of these options are cheaper financially than traditional American menstrual protection, I know they aren't for everyone. 

But for me, all it took was a solid recommendation from a friend to take the plunge and try reusable pads and the Diva Cup. I love them all, and except for international travel, I'm not planning on going back. 

If you're interested enough to take a leap of faith a try a Lunapad or a Diva Cup, I'd love to hear about it!