Friday, July 25, 2014

So, there's been something brewing...


Apparently, it's been over a year since you last heard from me.  What's that all about, you ask?  I can explain.  First of all, I have no idea where the time has gone.  I really don't.  It has been a bit of a blur.

What I do know is that I quit my job. 

Yup, it's gone.  And to answer the question you're probably asking: yes, I am kind of poor.  But no, I don't really mind.  Why?  Because I am enjoying my life again.

Allow me to elaborate:

I was working as a project manager/office manager/interior designer for a small office/large company here on the Island.  It wasn't as stressful as, say, a full-time designer position in a fancy firm in Toronto, but it wasn't all fun and games, either.  I had a lot of responsibility and pressure and not a lot of authority, which is a very tricky place to be.  And it was lucrative, but not excessively so.

I was also commuting in to work 7-1/2 hours per week.  So, basically, for every 5 days of work, I was spending an extra one driving.  Forty-five hours spent sitting on my arse every week.  My back was killing me, my digestive system was killing me (I have a health condition), I was having trouble sleeping and I was miserable.

So, I walked into the boss's office last spring and told them that I wanted to shift down to part-time for the summer so that I could work part-time somewhere else (Belfast Mini-Mills, which is probably my favourite place on Planet Earth, dontcha know) and spend more time moving around outside.  They said yes (though I didn't really give them a chance to refuse) and then, at the end of the summer, I decided that I wasn't going to come back.  My job at the Mills is seasonal so when that ended, I simply stayed home and started up my new business:

Tall Pines

It's been a long transition and I did a lot of soul-searching/worrying/kvetching/bemoaning/researching/freaking out/networking/working/rejoicing/developing and otherwise scrambling to figure out what the hell I'm doing.  It's still a work in progress, but I think I'm finally getting somewhere.  My new website just went live this morning, so I'm here to tell you that this blog is officially closed and I'm moving over to the blog on that site.  If you're still here, I'm really hoping you'll make the move with me.  Pretty please?

I'm so so so thankful for all of you, your presence here, and your kind words over the past few years.  You've all become like "real" friends to me and I really hope you'll join me on this new adventure.  I would never have had the courage to do this if you guys hadn't given me the confidence to be myself on these here interwebs.  So thank you from the bottom of my happy little heart!!

Kisses and hugs! (Live Long And Prosper.)


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Like Knows Like

When I moved to my current home (6-1/2 years ago), it was the first time I had ever a) owned a computer and b) had home internet access.

Aaaaaaand I went a little crazy, surfing blogs, Flickr and Ravelry.  It was nothing for me to spend 3+ hours per day online.  Ahem. *cough lazyass cough* (What?  I know you did, too.  Don't even try to deny it.)

Anyway, one of my favourite blogs at the time was one written by Lisa Congdon.  I was her biggest fan lurker (let's be honest, here) and was just obsessed about her art and watching her develop as an artist.  I read about her departure from the corporate world and her immersion in the art world.  I read about her fabulous apartment, her freaking adorable dogs and her new partner.  I felt like I knew her.

I just found this:

Lisa Congdon - Like Knows Like from Like Knows Like on Vimeo.

I've gotten out of the habit of following her blogs, but I hear about her from time to time (and it's becoming more common, in fact) online and I'm so happy to find her thriving and producing such amazing work.

I watched this video and felt as though I was visiting with an old college friend I hadn't seen in years.

And if you like Lisa, you should maybe also watch this:

Sigh, she's so wonderful.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I was having work lunch with a friend (she's actually a sales rep for a very cool carpet company that is near and dear to my heart) this week and telling her about some of the new goings on in my world and she insisted that I update this here blog.

(If you're new to these parts, let me fill you in: I'm really inconsistent vis-a-vis posting regularly and there is no rhyme or reason for what I do.  Hope that's ok with you.)

So, my news is this:
  1. My mom, who is now living in BC, is having some trouble getting settled and, while I was hoping to make a trip down there in May (and drift over to Victoria and then Portland, OR afterwards to see Marita and Miranda), it is not certain that she will even still be there in May.  She is considering moving back home (to Manitoba) which actually makes me very happy - I think she will be happier there than on the west coast.  (Note: I love the west coast - I just don't think she is happy, living so far from her family.) So, no trip to BC for me this spring.  We'll have to wait and see...
  2. I have decided to take a bit of a break from my day job this summer.  I will only be working 3 days a week at the design/drafting firm I manage and 2 days a week at Belfast Mini Mills.  I start there on May long weekend (May 18th).  I know, right?  It is seriously fabulous.  I can't even think about it too much or I will pee my pants.
  3.  The ladies at Belfast have been unofficially organizing a "Fibre Trail" tour for visitors interested in the industry here on the Island.  Many of the current bus tour operators bring their tourists to BMM and it is always a hit, so they have been working together to expand on the theme.  I can't wait to take part.
  4. I have started painting again - and not just little watercolour sketches.  Canvas painting with acrylic, which I haven't done seriously in at least 8 or 9 years.  I have really been loving it.  This winter was tough for my family and me and painting has, in the past, been therapeutic for me.  I had been missing it, but just hadn't realized it fully.  This was a great way to get back to my artistic "roots", so to speak.  The pictures below are quite horrible quality, but here's a sampling:

This one and the one below are older - at least 8 years old -  but I was photographing, so I thought I'd just keep going...

And that, as they say, is that.  I'm just plugging away at some small projects, dreaming up some bigger ones, looking forward to this summer and keeping my head down, wishing this winter doesn't let the door hit it in the arse on the way out.

And you?  What are you up to?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Born and Raised

My dad sent me an email this week with a link to an amazing video.  It's a little long, but totally worth it (I think at one point, my jaw actually dropped open).  Even if you aren't a John Mayer fan, you should see this:

The Making of John Mayer's 'Born & Raised' Artwork from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bowl Turner

I regularly check a blog called "Those Who Make" - it's a fascinating curated collection of  well-crafted short videos from Vimeo of different independent makers (potters, weavers, bike builders, foodies, fashion designers, jewellers, etc).  I found one a little while ago that kind of blew my mind (more than usual, I mean).  Here, check it out:

The Wood Turner from Elliott Forge on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Mane Story: A Hairy Tale (get it?)

I'm sure I've told you that my husband is an environmental activist, yes?  Well, technically, he's a high school math and science teacher, but he's also what I like to (affectionately, most of the time) call an Enviro-Nazi.  One day, he told me about the chemicals in cosmetics and it disturbed me, though, as an educated and discerning consumer, I really should have known better.

On top of that, I have been steadily (and, for the most part, quietly) mounting a rebellion against the commercialization of our society (I won't say that I outright boycotted Christmas this year, but dang, I came close)(I have no problem with the *spirit* of Christmas, but to my disgust, the stupid displays were up in the store windows A WEEK BEFORE HALLOWEEN, this year).  At the risk of sounding like a complete hippy/mountain-top-hermit/recluse/grinch/scrooge, I don't just don't like the fact that I have to pay for so much "stuff" just because everyone else thinks I should.  Cosmetics have always topped my list of "Awww man, do I really have to pay for that?"

So sometime last fall, I decided to phase out the use of shampoo and conditioner here at our house.  My husband shaves his head (so he obviously doesn't need much beyond a gentle soap for his noggin) and I've been growing out my hair for about 18 months, which has changed some of its characteristics and needs.

When it was shorter, I straightened it on a regular basis, because it's a little wild and crazy.  Now that it's longer, it behaves much better and I realize that I miss having long hair (it was down past my waist for most of the first 17 years of my life, until I chopped it all off).

So, how's the no-shampoo campaign going?  Pretty well.  You wanna know how I went about it?  Ok, I'll tell you:

First of all, it's important to know that my hair is very healthy.  I was blessed in that department and I've made it a point to take care of it.  I've never treated it or scorched it.  As a result, it always responds well to change.  Your mileage may vary.

The first step was to start weaning my hair off washings.  When it was short, I had to wash it once a day.  As it started growing out, I was able to bring it down to every two days almost immediately and then slowly worked my way down to once every 4 or 5 days.  At this point, I was still using shampoo and conditioner, but the idea was to see if I could reduce my scalp's dependence on chemicals and make the process more seamless.

In October, I ran out of conditioner so one evening, I looked online and found out that you can use apple cider vinegar as conditioner.  So I tried it and wow, it really works.  The smell can be strong if you're sensitive to fragrances (which I am), but I personally don't find it unpleasant.  I was a little concerned about smelling like fermenting apples at work, though.  That's when I figured I would try something my yoga teacher uses on yoga mats to freshen them up: a spray bottle with a water and essential oil mixture.  Ruth uses red thyme, lemon balm and lavender but they're a little overpowering, so I stuck with lavender and then found a really fabulous cinnamon/cassia oil at my health food store and I've been using that, in combination with ylang ylang and tea tree oils.  Sometimes I use sweet orange oil instead, to jazz things up.  I make up a very small batch at a time (single use, really) so that the oils don't do weird things in the bottle while I have my back turned (I have no proof that they do, but I'm not taking any chances that I'll spray my hair one day and find out the hard way an hour later that something went rancid on me).  Just about 1/4 cup of water with 10 drops of oil or so.  I spray any excess on my sheets and pillow (makes for sweet dreams).

At this point, I hadn't shampooed my hair in a couple of weeks.  And no conditioner for 6 or 8 weeks.

Once I had the shampoo/apple cider vinegar routine down to once per week (beginning of November-ish), I started adding in "shampooings" of baking soda.  This was all trial-and-error, you understand: there were a couple of mornings when it looked downright awful and I just had to cave in and shampoo it.  I realize now that you have to pay more attention to the span between washings than I did.  And I also had to play with the concentrations of ingredients.  But there are no hair-washing police and no-one cares what happens in my shower (I hope).  There are a lot of variables in a person's life that might affect how their skin/hair/teeth respond to the elements and it's ok if things need a helping hand.

Now, I'm at one baking soda/apple cider vinegar washing per week (Saturday morning), with a water rinse every couple of days and a water/oil spray when I feel that it needs a freshening.  But the odd thing is that it doesn't smell.  Of course, I can't smell my own scalp, but my husband is honest to the point of being aggravating, so I trust him to tell me if I start to get gross.  So far, so good.  I haven't so much as touched the shampoo bottle in 6 weeks or so.

And the biggest surprise?  The texture.  I am not sure how to explain it.  It's not greasy, even when I suspect that it is.  I would say that it's more waxy than oily.  It is smooth and heavy and thick, but not limp.  I haven't gotten a trim since sometime last winter, yet I have no split ends.  It is less frizzy than before (oh, I just love that - it feels like I'm sticking it to the conditioner manufacturers of the world).  It has always been open to the suggestion of curl, but now it has reached a whole 'nother level:

I took this photo this morning.  I tip my hat to those who take nice mirror self-portraits.  That shit is HARD.
Those ringlets?  I created those about 3 minutes before I took the photo - just by twirling them around my finger.  Those waves last all day.  I've had a couple of crazy frizzy/dry/wild days, but when they come up (and they come up because it's wintertime and I'm still working out my routine/technique/concentrations of ingredients), I use a teeny little bit of Burt's Bees Hand Salve that we have on hand.  I rub it on my hands and then carefully run my fingers through my hair.  It works like a charm.

Here's the rub: one thing I've had to adapt to is the need to carefully comb/brush my hair and fasten it before bed.  I did that for most of my childhood, so it's not a hardship, but I haven't done it in 16 years (EGADS, has it really been that long?), so I was out of practice.  My hair doesn't have that same slick texture it once had (which is probably why it retains curl so much better) and it tangles a bit more easily.  I want to prevent bed head so that I can avoid washing/rinsing it in the morning.  I don't like going to work with wet hair (and I've never been big on blow drying), so washing it in the morning is not my favourite.  I tie it up, either in french braids or in little buns (the buns have a nicer effect on my waves) and then hit the sheets:

{I haven't figured out a great way to keep this stuff handy in the bathroom.  I use a glass mason jar for the baking soda mix (this is a disaster waiting to happen, I know... when I drop it and cut myself on the shards, you can smugly call me an idiot and I won't protest) and large plastic jug for the vinegar mix.  But that's a little unwieldy and I'm on the lookout for more convenient tools.  If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears.}

Anyway, it's been a really interesting experiment and now that this particular ball is rolling, I'm looking at other ways to phase out chemicals in my life.  I still take guilty pleasure in washing my tub with Comet (baking soda wasn't cutting it, sorry), but I have just about every other cleaning product in my sights.  Mwahahahahaha!