House Arrest

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I had my last trail race of the summer series yesterday morning. It was a bit miserable for the first half, with a nasty case of runners’ trots followed by a cantankerous left calf and then wrenching my right big toe (that last happens relatively frequently, and usually comes good after a while). After the halfway point, though, at 5K or so, I overcame most of the unpleasantness, and with just the left calf twinging at me I picked up the pace and had a lot of fun.

Yesterday afternoon I discovered I couldn’t walk. The cantankerous calf had upgraded to belligerent. Of course, I began prodding at the spot and when I found that the slightest pressure caused alarming pain, I figured I might get myself looked at. The sawbones prodded it, I squealed, he mumbled something about having torn some muscle I’d never heard of, and then he gave me three days off after I told him I typically walk 7-10km in the course of a workday. A ultrasound today revealed that the aforementioned muscle (the plantaris) isn’t the issue, but rather the “proximal aspect of the medial gastrocnemius”. There’s a wee tear. I’ve torn a f@&$ing muscle.

So now I’m under house arrest, and while one part of me (the homebody part) is quite gleeful, most of me is struggling.

I’ll get sooo much knitting done!!: I’ve done one measly round today.
I can bake some more biscuits!!: I’ve done no such thing and suspect that doing so might be detrimental to my health – my habit of EATING ALL OF THE THINGS is fine when I’m running lots, but baked goods being available non-stop when I’m sedentary will set my training back even further than it will be already.
I don’t have to drag my arse out to run!: I can’t run! (Cue inconsolable sobbing)
It’s my left leg, which means I can still spin!!: the wheel’s just too hard to move from its hidey-hole when I’m crippled.
I know! Soup will make me better! Perfect excuse for impromptu soup!!: I spilled the soup. On myself. Seriously – you just can’t take me anywhere.

The current verdict is two to six weeks off running, which will suck especially at the far end of that. I’m confident that it won’t be that long but in the meantime, I’m trying to do everything right.

And stay the bloody hell out of the kitchen.

Frugal Friday – Mindset Edition – Ask For Help

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One of the latest books I’m reading, Not Buying It! by Judith Levine, gave me pause for thought the other day. It’s one in a long line of publications that feed my inner stinge frugal, and I’ve enjoyed reading it a lot. It’s a diary-style piece, that gives the impression that her actual diary was used to riff off as she develops ideas and themes that confronted her throughout her year of Not Buying It.

The particular passage I want to touch on today occurred on February 26 (or page 43 of the edition I’m reading). On this particular day, Levine heads up into the mountains to go skiing, but realises when she reaches her destination that she has forgotten ski wax. She wrestles with her innate unwillingness to beg wax from the ski shop at the sports centre, familiar as she is with the staff there.

“May I have…’ ‘You see, Paul drove away with…’ ‘I’m doing this project and…’ I devise various strategies, compose and rehearse appropriate lines. I don’t want to sound too demanding, but I don’t want to be too nonchalant, either. A note of apology might be appropriate, but abjectness is over the top. Basically, I want to ask for help in such a way as to prevent anyone from noticing I’m asking.

Levine’s bald honesty in relating this stream of consciousness process hit me right in the feels. She goes on to conclude that walking-around money, disposable income, the ability to spend to get ourselves out of a spot of bother, is nothing more or less than independence. What follows from that is that while asking for help is not exactly socially unacceptable, the asker is prevailed upon by social mores to feel that others, the askee/s and or witnesses to the asking, will judge the asker for their inability to provide for themselves.

Let’s leave Judith there for the moment, though, and put ourselves in a similar situation…on the side of the askee. If I think of my own workplace, if someone came into the store asking for a few cable ties to secure their load I’d hand them over without a thought. In fact, I did so the other day. It gave me a warm sense of satisfaction to go above and beyond to help this person, not as a customer service representative, but as a fellow person. He needed someone to help him out of a difficult situation and I’m glad he felt able to stop me and ask me for what he needed. I’m even more glad I had the power to help.

Turn back around now, and consider asking the people around you for help. Does the thought make you uncomfortable? If so, think about how you’d feel if they came to you, asking for help. Doesn’t it feel good to help someone in some small way? And if you need help, why not use that as an opportunity to give someone else that good feeling?

Helping each other builds relationships, and there’s nothing that tumbles quicker in the face of financial independence than relationships. The economies of need and of giving are inextricably entwined, and while we think we can remove ourselves from them, perhaps independence is a less secure place to be. So next time you’ve got an opportunity to give or to receive help, spend a bit of time thinking about how you’re changing your little corner of the world.

Birthday Cake

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Once upon a time, I bought myself a belated birthday present.

Photo from Etsy listing by hobbledehoy.

It’s lovely, isn’t it? I kept it for two years, petting it now and then. And then, on my 32nd birthday, I spun it.

My precious…

And then I kept that for a year and a bit, petting it now and then. It was a beautiful skein of yarn, I’m telling you.

And then last year, in late November, I knit it. It was always going to be cabled legwarmers – I knew that from the moment I laid eyes on the listing. Lee Meredith’s (Leethal Knits – I love her work) adorable Twisted Ankles ended up being the lucky pattern, and while I had to augment the handspun with some grey millspun to get a chunkier fabric, I’m in love with the result. They’re simply gorgeous. When’s winter going to get here?

Spunky cables at the front

Spunky cables at the front

Cheeky straps at the back, complete with cute buttons

Cheeky straps at the back, complete with cute buttons

Look What Dragged the Kat In


We interrupt your regularly scheduled postings for a runbrag. Tune out if you don’t care about running.

I hate running in the rain. I hate water, that’s why. Being wet is the pits, and running with wet toes (squelching, sopping, dripping) and with water dripping off your eyelashes and running down your nose so when you breathe in hard you inhale little drops of water, and with water trickling tickling down your fingers…ugh. The worst.

So when I woke up this morning and heard the rain dribbling suggestively down the gutter outside our window, I groaned inwardly. Don’t get me wrong – I love rain, just as long as I’m not in it. Having to go out there was nasty.

But I did anyway.

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At 2km my monkey mind was screaming at the rest of me, “Abort mission! Abort! Turn around and call it good at 5km!” but the rest of me was too dozy to take any notice. We all (that is, all the separate entities that make up Me) continued on, and suddenly there was the 5km beep from my watch, signaling the allowable 200m walking break. 160m into that, I’d recovered and lurched into a run again, resisting the temptation to duck off the cycle path and cut the run short. Finally my exit came up and I turned for home. Unfortunately that meant turning into the weather, rain and headwind both. That put the brakes on. But I kept it up and racked up 10km at an average pace of 5:44, which is a fair bit quicker than my mental benchmark of 6min/k over that distance.

I think I’m improving.

Superballs

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I’ve been agonising about what to post next for you guys. I’m so busy all the time, and despite some work woes that are bringing me down something ferocious I still am the kind of person to bounce out of bed each day, enthusiastic and excited for nothing more or less than the everyday. I’m so grateful for the turnaround in my outlook from years ago when I was sunk in the pit of a decade-long, and very private (and lonely) battle with depression. These days, life is exciting for it’s own sake and I love that.

One of the things I love the most about life, and look forward to every single day, is food. It’s fundamental to me that food is a source of endless diversion, fascination and anticipation. Experimenting with food, playing with flavours and freeing myself from the kinds of things that make food preparation and eating a chore mean that it’s always an adventure.

One of the first things I learnt when I was transitioning to vegan was that the world is very suddenly a snack food desert. I thrive on snacks and quickly came around to the idea that I’d best be getting used to baking my own and prepping some interesting savouries or else things were gonna get dire.

Don't let their unassuming appearance fool you. These babies are tasty little powerhouses.

Don’t let their unassuming appearance fool you. These babies are tasty little powerhouses.

Enter the superball. Some people call them truffles but I can’t get used to the idea of a truffle innocent of a chocolate coating, and since chocolate coating just isn’t going to happen in my kitchen, they became superballs. Sometimes, superbars. I’m going to share how I go about making them, but be warned! I’m not one for exactitude in the kitchen. This is not a recipe.

Applying the lessons learnt. It’s the only way forward.

Step 1.

Start with some dried fruit. Doesn’t matter what, really. Use whatever floats your boat, whatever’s handy. I usually use goji berries and dates – dates because they’re cheap and a good source of concentrated sugars for when I’m running, and goji berries because I know they’re meant to be good for me but they taste so damn vile on their own that I need to hide them from myself.

I use about two handfuls of dates and half a handful of devilberries I mean, goji berries. Toss them into a bowl, maybe even the bowl of your blender/food processor/magick-whizzerizer-thingy coz that’s where they’ll need to go next. Then pour over some fruit juice. Doesn’t matter what kind. Whatever floats your boat. Last night it was apple, cherry and grape because that’s all we had. I’d have used kombucha if the night wasn’t going to be so warm, but I didn’t want to come out to a whole new kombucha SCOBY frothing fiercely out of the Thermomix bowl so I’ll wait till the weather cools down before I try that.

Anyway. You want just enough to have most of the fruit touching liquid, but not so much that it’s fully submerged. If you want to use chia seeds in your superballs (and really, who doesn’t?) I’d recommend putting them in now and adding a little extra juice. Those babies absorb at least 3 times their own weight in water so you don’t want to go eating them without hydrating them first, as they can just slurp all the juices out of your abdominal cavity and make you real crook. Toss ‘em in now. I also threw in a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds here because I’m coming around to this whole soaked nut/seed thing. Leave that whole mess to sit overnight.

(There’s no photo of this step because who wants to see wrinkled little brown and pinkish things and what looks like frog eggs floating in lurid-coloured liquid?)

Step 2.

In the morning, check to see that the mix hasn’t dried out. If it’s crusty, add a little more moisture, but it probably won’t be. As long as everything looks glossy, it’s fine. If it’s fine, whizzerize now. How fine you blend it is entirely up to you. Sometimes I want a nice smooth texture; other times I like the chunks that come with all the different bits I toss in here.

(There’s no photo of this step because it’s a suspiciously slimy pinkish-brown paste and who wants to see that?)

Step 3.

Now you’ve got your base, you can add the other bits you want here. Go crazy. Whatever nuts, seeds, nuggety goodness you want, toss it in. I used almond meal and puffed amaranth in these ones, to get the paste as thick as I could make it without breaking the TM, and then flavoured with carob, matcha and turmeric. All those things are super good for you, especially if you’re doing some kind of sport or heavy physical work. They’ve got lots of mineral goodness to keep your electrolytes balanced, and the matcha and turmeric, in particular, are great antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. But don’t stop there – coconut oil (I almost always use this but I had run out so today’s don’t have any), cocoa butter, sesame seeds, all manner of nuts, dried blueberries, cacao nibs, acai berries and maca powder would all be great here. Bee pollen, if that’s your game, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, puffed rice or barley or wheat…mix it up, bulk it out.

Step 4.

Shape your portions. Mostly I make balls, as pictured, but sometimes I like to press the whole ball of dough out between two sheets of baking paper and cut the slab into little bars. Either way, it’s not like it matters. Make them itty-bitty or bigger. I tend towards itty-bitty because I can always have more than one, but once you’ve carried these around for a while the sugars might ferment so I wouldn’t recommend “saving” half of one.

Step 5. 

Freeze. Pack.

I’ve made this lots of times, and sometimes I’ll get to the dough stage and run out of time and just shove the whole bowl into the fridge (usually with the spatula sticking out because I’m all class) and that might sit there for a few days – even a week. They haven’t killed me yet.

If you try these, please let me know how you like them! Also what magick you put in them – I’m always up for trying new, funky ingredients. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Frugal Friday – Strategy Edition: No ‘Poo!

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It would be three years ago or more, now, since Frog and I went no ‘poo.

That is, since we stopped using shampoo and conditioner to wash our hair in. Instead, you “shampoo” with a solution of bicarb soda dissolved in water, and “condition” with a solution of diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) (see the blog post I found it on here). I can’t recommend it highly enough, as without the considerable expense of shampoo and conditioner we have saved probably hundreds of dollars between us. Additionally, now when I go to the hairdresser (which is woefully infrequently) I don’t let them wash my hair for fear that I’ll have to go through that first month all over again.

You see, this is a change you can make – yes, you, even you with the freakishly curly/frizzy/oily/superthick/superthin hair. In fact, you’re probably going to benefit from it more than I did. However, it’s not a change that you can make without some determination. After a few days of not using your usual shampoo and conditioner, your hair gets a bit flat and oily. That continues for a couple of weeks, and scarves and hats are your friends here. Your scalp might begin to itch, but another wash with the bicarb/ACV routine takes care of that. Just as you begin to think, around the four week mark, that it’s never getting better…suddenly, you wake up one day and it’s just fine. Everything’s fine. And you never look back.

It’s been a great journey for me. Firstly, as I noted – the dollar savings are fantastic. Secondly, I’m not contributing pollution to the waterways by using cheap, petroleum-byproduct-based hair products. Thirdly, it’s such an empowering thing to do, declaring your independence from the beauty “industry”. And lastly, as if all that wasn’t enough…my hair looks better than ever.

Undercover

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While most of my knitting time the last week or two has been devoted to a shawl of Epic Lace nature, a mystery knit-a-long, I’ve also got other projects on the needles. I know. What a surprise!

One of the loveliest is a moody tent-like pullover with the merest hit of lace, almost utilitarian. I needed to get this fantastic yarn in the works.

Camouflage - a 3-ply yarn of superwash merino, BFL and a merino-possum blend.

Camouflage – a 3-ply yarn of superwash merino, BFL and a merino-possum blend.

It’s a raglan construction with truncated sleeves to keep the arms free, and plenty of room for stylish, relaxed layering. The pattern is called Climb Every Mountain, another iconic design from Heidi Kirrmaier.

I'm loving the sleek, dense fabric this yarn is working into.

I’m loving the sleek, dense fabric this yarn is working into.

It’s a more complicated pattern to work than it looks to be, but is working up relatively quickly. The best thing is, I’m going to make it to the bottom of the body and then there’s no sleeves to drag my mojo down! This puppy’s going to be a staple in my wardrobe this winter.

Retrospective: A Study in Pink

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It appears I love pink. What am I saying – I do, I really love pink. Thankfully I can wear it without looking too pink or red myself.

I love knitting and spinning with it, too, and over the years I’ve been spinning I’ve amassed quite a collection of pink handspun yarn. Some has been pressed into service, some awaits its ultimate fate. For those of you who are here for the running, or the veganity, or the frugality…well, I’m sorry. What can I say? I’m a multi-dimensional person with many interests.

Tailspun corespun threadplied art yarn. One of my best yarns ever.

Tailspun corespun threadplied art yarn, using a BohoKnitterChic batt and locks. One of my best yarns ever.

Woollen-spun 2x2 cable, from a carded Jazzturtle batt of superwash merino, firestar and cashmere

Woollen-spun 2×2 cable, carded superwash merino, firestar and cashmere

A soft-spun, bulky single, from another BohoKnitterChic batt

A soft-spun, bulky single

Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale, soft-spun heavy laceweight 2-ply. One of the few yarns I've spun with a specific project in mind

Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale, soft-spun heavy laceweight 2-ply. One of the few yarns I’ve spun with a specific project in mind

Woollen-spun cobweb-weight 2-ply I spun for a scarf exchange. I knit a pretty beaded lace shawlette with it.

Woollen-spun cobweb-weight 2-ply I spun for a scarf exchange. I knit a pretty beaded lace shawlette with it.

This is the bulky 4-ply worsted-spun BFL (Corgi Hill Farm was the dyer) I'm knitting into a blanket. It's like iron.

This is the bulky 4-ply worsted-spun BFL (Corgi Hill Farm was the dyer) I’m knitting into a blanket. It’s like iron.

Frugal Fridays – Strategy Edition: Getting More

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Attributed to the Amish people, we can all benefit from this quote

Attributed to the Amish people, we can all benefit from this quote

Twee as it might sound, I’ve always really appreciated this rhyme. It really is quite like something our nannas would have said, isn’t it? But when you think about it, it really does help to think about everything we use or consume or spend money on in terms of how far we can make it go.

Use it up

The endy bits of the toothpaste, the last dregs of the tomato sauce, the droopy half-bunch of celery. Do you use them, or do you throw them out? How about bread crusts? I have a legendary collection of bread crusts in the freezer, and from time to time I make bread pudding (we’re adults, you see, so we’re allowed to eat bread pudding for dinner if we want!). Dehydrating or sundrying sad bits of veggies means you’ve got them on hand to toss into a last-minute stew or soup when you’re caught short. There are all sorts of ways to minimise waste – think outside the square!

Wear it out

A couple of weeks ago, I spent an hour mending socks. In that time, I sewed up little annoying holes in the toes of ten work socks. One hour. Each one of those pairs of socks costs in the region of $15, and I tell you what, that hour is an hour well spent to me if it means not spending $75 on new socks! They’re not worn out yet!

Make it do

The cat, bless her soul, is not on board with this whole ethos. Years ago she decided that her litter box was just Not Good Enough, and acted out until I bought her another one. Rather than throwing the old one out, though, I let it sit in the sun for a couple of weeks to really irradiate it and get rid of any nasties, then put it to work as a repotting trough and seed raising tray.

Or do without

As creatures of the social media age, we are bombarded during all our waking moments by subliminal messages shaming and terrorising us into buying ever more stuff. We’re preyed upon by the advertising industry and their clients and kept in a state of twanging self-doubt – the cure for which, we are subtly convinced, is consumption. They push the definition of “need” to breaking point until no one is satisfied unless their wardrobe is filled with near-new garments, their cars are the latest model, and their houses redecorated wholesale on a yearly (or even seasonal!) basis.

And speaking of seasonality – the rampaging juggernaut that is the Hallmark Holiday phenomenon is a crucial tool in the war on our psyches, always making sure there’s another “high day” coming up for which we must scramble to prepare our homes, pantries, wardrobes and party schedule.

Bandwagoneering.

Why do we need so much stuff? Of course, we don’t! The moment you realise that, you begin to feel a thrill of liberation and it’s in that moment that once again you seize control of your life and your finances.

What are your definitions of “need”? Do you “need” a new tube of mascara when the old one runs out? What about when it dries out? What do you consider a “luxury” item, and how often would you buy that item?

Brain Food This Week

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There was ages there where I wasn’t reading. It was a strange place for me to find myself, because growing up I was surgically attached to books, the more the better. We used to get book parcels in the mail, from some lending library off somewhere in the great big world that it seemed I’d never get to see. Reading was my refuge and my hope in a cruel teenage world where I was never going to fit in, and fed my insatiable curiosity about the world as I careened through my University degree. For years there, I found myself in this lovely nexus of synchronicity, where I’d find the most unlikely, random, strange books in op shops and clearance tables and garage sales. Fabulous books that opened my mind and gave my world depth and colour and shine.

I’ve started reading again, the last year or so, and there have been some moments like that again. Nowadays I find it hard to browse for books like I used to; I seem to lack the patience and openness, and there’s always something else to do, somewhere I have to be, something I have to say that money for. But some get through that net of denial, and come to me through strange and wondrous channels.

The star of the show right now is Burial Rites. This pearl of a debut novel turned up when I visited my sister and my new nephew back in January; my mother, it turned out, had read it and left it at The Sister’s house for me to read. Mum and I share a love of reading but our taste in reading material doesn’t always mesh; that said, whenever she sends, lends or gives me a book I at least give it a chance, as I hope she does with those I send, lend or give her.

Reading and knitting

Burial Rites is set in medieval Iceland, and is based on the true story of a woman who is found guilty of murder and is sent to a remote farm to await her execution. The synopsis is enough to set the pulse racing; the reality of the book exceeds the wildest expectations. Kent’s prose is tense, sparse, raw. The honesty and unflinching courage in her wordsmithing makes this a riveting read, one full of conflict. I want to devour the story without a moment’s pause because it’s so engrossing; on the other hand, I want to eke it out in tiny moments, partly because I want it to last and partly because it’s so hard to cope with its enormity. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The other book worth mentioning here is one I got last week when Frog and I went on a library date. A little aimless browsing turned up a few potential gems and I proceeded to check them out. (Self checkout at the library is a winner! Not like those awful things at the supermarkets…but I digress.) One of those was Homegrown Honeybees and I started reading it as soon as we got home and had had dinner. I was immediately engrossed! Of all the books on backyard beekeeping I could have picked up there, I’m so glad it was this one. It’s friendly, up-front and full of fetching photos. The layout is engaging and visually attractive and the content is utterly fascinating. Of course, in our shoebox home we can’t keep bees, but once we move to a bigger place…who knows!?

What are you reading? Leave me a comment if you’re reading something awesome and want to get the word out. I’d love to hear about your gems!

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