Saturday, April 26, 2008

my first table

this is my first. very basic. the leg closest is wood found on the beach. we found the two pieces that form the table top in a dumpster and sanded them off. the fact that it is rough & unfinished suits adam fine--he doesn't have to worry about paint drips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

expenses, food, and the global hunger crisis

In the past few years, I began to make decisions to radically decrease my living expenses. My ability to now live on about half of what I used to make has given me considerable freedom, and the luxury to slow my life down to a contemplative pace.

One big thing was to move into a two-bedroom apartment and share with a roommate. But there have been other things as well. I don't really shop for clothes except when i need a specific item. I cut my own hair. I get movies at the library instead of the video store. I curbed my addiction to buying books. I stopped going out to eat, except very rarely. And lately, Adam & I stop each other from buying things because we can lend or give each other things we already own (well, mostly he stops me).

I also found ways to reduce my grocery costs. I started to think about all foods in terms of their cost per pound, and quickly saw that meat and cheese are much higher than vegetables, grains, and legumes.
-eat less meat (I now eat no meat, and barely miss it.)
-eat foods made from basic ingredients
-eat more vegetables and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
-make my own bread (often just biscuits because they're easier)
-cut out fruit juice, boxed cereals, and insta-meals because they're expensive
-cut out processed foods (also because they are full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients)
-buy rice in bulk (I can get a 20 lb bag of whole grain rice for $11)

In case this sounds like I am living in a state of deprivation, I should emphasize that the meals prepared with these foods are so much more delicious than I have ever made. I've learned to use good oils (peanut, olive, sesame), and a variety of seasonings. Simple eating can be the best kind of eating.

There are items that i now spend more on than i used to. Cage free eggs (some of the time), organic milk, and some organic produce. When the farmers' market comes back to town, I'll be happy to spend a little more to support local agriculture. I think I still end up spending less than I used to.

But our recession (whether it's official or not) isn't really the biggest news on the planet. Other parts of the world are suffering from severe food shortages. I don't know enough to say what the causes are, but I clicked here to urge our government to send aid. You can read more about the crisis here.

i can't remember being hungry and not having the resources to get food to fill my stomach. maybe i've come home late to an empty fridge and been too tired to cook, but i always have something that i could eat.

I seem to always have those Pachacutec slums in my mind. Maybe one day I'll learn something useful to help them to live better, healthier lives on the dunes outside of Lima, Peru.

This interview on NPR today inspired me. I want to know more. "Paul Polak, Tackling Global Poverty His Own Way" Maybe I'll read his book.

This man is trying to find low-tech solutions to help small farmers (less than 5 acres) to improve their yields. This speaks to me, on so many levels. Maybe I'll write more after I read the book.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

people who've inspired me

these are people who've had a significant impact on my outlook.

+madeleine l'engle. she is a writer of children's fiction as well as reflective memoir style non-fiction (and poetry). in her books i found an idealized world of intellectuals who had faith and who thought about the world, science, nature, and responsibility. i think she helped me to start seeing my belief in God from a different angle, which was helpful for that critical time in high school.

+mark strand. for this one poem, which touched me when i needed to hear it.

+robin lee graham. he sailed around the world alone as a teenager. this book opened up to me the world of adventure, travel & exploration, which i read a great deal about for some time. it always seemed like a world that wasn't really available to me. even though i grew up in bolivia, my life wasn't one of rock climbing, sailing, or exploring the wilderness, like i wanted to. as an adult, however, i've taken some amazing road trips, snorkeled in the bahamas, climbed on rocks, camped in the back country, had a bear encounter (more than one actually), and taken sailing lessons. of course, it is never enough.

+dan price. the author of a little book called radical simplicity, he tells with wonderful sketches about all the ways he's lived a non-traditional life, breaking free of the mortgage trap and living in a series of huts, tents, yurts and hobbit dwellings. reading this book started me truly knowing that i could and had to live in a weird house i built with my own hands. (this one's for you, bethany).

+mom and dad. even though we have our struggles, my parents are heroes to me. they have chosen to live meaningful lives, helping others and doing things that matter. i have started to see ways in which my choices mirror theirs. mom's legacy is amazing--painting, playing the piano, speaking 7 languages, being a nurse & midwife, living in the jungle in a bamboo hut on stilts in malaysia when she was 23, marrying late and having 4 children by c-section in bolivia starting at age 39. she is my heroic wild woman. now she gardens and talks to the cats, the flowers, the bees, the birds. she composes music and revels in scripture and travels and continues to inspire me.

dad is generous, always opening his heart to those in need, in prison, immigrants, outsiders. he loves to read, he is an idealist, he believes in Truth and that it will not fail us. he invented popcorn & games and the rowdy hide and seek game that thrilled and scared us to death and made mom nervous. now he's travelling more than ever, racking up millions (literally) of miles on airlines and driving all over the place.

+m. scott peck. The Road Less Travelled changed my life. I guess it's corny, since it's a self-help book, but I took it seriously. When I moved out here to NJ it came into my life from a friend's bookshelf. Over the course of months I read it and it shaped my thinking about my life habits, taking responsibility and being more disciplined. It also was a turning point because it opened me to the wisdom of eastern thought as supplementing, rather than threatening, my Christian faith.

+c. s. lewis. His writing took everything I knew about my faith and made me see it in a different light, from a different perspective. "This is a myth that is true." I feel like I still have much to discover and learn from him. I want to think and read more about world myths, the story of the Christ, Jungian archetypes, Lord of the Rings (written by his friend Tolkien). It's all connected.

+adam, my boyfriend. i respect his art, which is an embodiment of his sensitivity and honesty. having adam in my life has challenged me to be more honest. i look forward to more adventures and discoveries and to making things together.

there are so many more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


“There is usually one small step we can take in the direction of a dream. When we do the universe often takes several more.”
-Julia Cameron


from a book review here:

"Emotion follows action, not the other way around. Act, then feel good. Do not wait to feel good before acting."

My life doesn't have an externally imposed structure right now, outside of appointments I set with tutoring clients. So I have to motivate myself to get out to the workshop, and create. Later, I feel good.

Friday, April 11, 2008

here is my new bench/table. it's dimensions were dictated by the (salvaged) wood i had available, but it works nicely in my room as a place to stack blankets and stuff that otherwise would get piled on a chair somewhere. the top is 18 by 40 inches, and it's about 26 inches high.

i'm pretty happy with the look overall. i found pictures in various interior design books at barnes & noble and made sketches in my journal of antique style country furniture that appealed to me. (sometimes the lines and dimensions of a particular table would resonate so strongly with me that i would just stare at the picture and feel an intense pleasure, as if some part of me were being fed.) that is how i came up with the general design of this table, and it's one that i'm likely to repeat.

the image above shows how i notched out the leg to support the cross-piece. This strengthens the piece structurally, and is a step up from the very simple joinery on adam's painting table (which i'd like to post pictures of soon).


yesterday and today i've been working on organizing my workshop to make it more livable. the idea is to be as productive as possible with the idyllic life that i currently am blessed with.

ideas for the next project:

a longish bench for seating or even a coffee table
a long shaker-inspired pegboard
various kinds of stools
re-finishing some salvaged furniture (i've been procrastinating that)
fixing some chairs i found

i think my passion for now is tables and benches.
kind of like when i was doing ceramics i only wanted to make bowls and mugs.
super functional, very basic, handmade, imperfect

Friday, April 04, 2008

i made this planner/notebook/address book recently, and i love how it turned out.

here's what i did. i decided on a 4 1/2 by 5 3/4 inch size for the covers (cardboard), and made the pages slightly smaller (about 4 by 5 1/2). i went through my paper collection, old envelopes, graph paper, old yellowed paper, magazine pages and made a big pile of pages ripped to size.

i also drew up the calendar pages by hand, which resulted in a nice looking imperfect grid of days. there are tabbed dividers made from a blue 2 pocket folder from a conference a while ago.

with a little help from adam, i held the pile of pages tightly together in their desired arrangement, and he drilled through the pile three times with my drill. then, three hinged metal rings (that open and close) completed the binding. for some reason i decided on tomatoes for the front cover, which is a little odd, but maybe it is a portent of gardening in my future.

some other images of this little project are here.

adam's art work--an update

adam has been painting and posting photos of his latest work here.

he has a set of watercolors that i love, including this one and this one.

i also love the large canvas he started recently. (in this picture, you catch a glimpse of the table we put together for him.)

my camera is either dead or uncooperative, so i don't have any new pictures to share, but hopefully that will change soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

i've spent a lot of time being annoyed at irrational behavior.

just recently, a new thought came to me. (i think it was while i was sitting at the kitchen table, watching out the window as people walked by two stories below.)

it's precisely our irrational behaviors that make us human. does any other animal behave irrationally?

well, actually...i know this cat...

but really, i think that choosing illogically, having weird quirks of behavior, liking things for no particular reason...this is our prerogative as humans, isn't it?
free will?

this is not a complete thought, just a new one, for me.