A few days ago was Ash Wednesday, which signifies the beginning of Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. It's 40 days, not counting the Sundays during that time. And, it seems to coincide with those last grey days of winter, when you still snuggle in on cold, dark nights to transition into the joys of spring, budding flowers and Easter.

I think that Lent means many different things to different people - a time for sacrifice (like giving up chocolate), a time to be solemn, a time of weird rituals and eating habits. But, I think there's something to be learned from it regardless of your beliefs. To my way of thinking, it's a time each year when I try to re-focus and take time to reflect, meditate and read. I think it's good to set aside some time for this no matter your beliefs - we all lead such busy lives that it's easy to get caught up in rushing through our days and lose perspective on the values, ideas and philosophies we want to base ourselves on.

Ash Wednesday services usually involve an aspect of community - coming together to share a meal. And then, during the service, each person can receive the sign of the cross on their forehead in ashes while the pastor says: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. I mean, does it get more powerful than that?! We're just specs of dust passing through this earth. And, the things that we think are important - our careers, what we own, how we're perceived - don't matter at all. So, what is it about our lives that does matter, that actually makes a difference? Well, the next 40 days are a good time to think about that. (Hint: I think it has something to do with LOVE. See also: Inaugural Poem.)

My church distributed a set of materials about focusing on sustainability during Lent - pretty cool. Some people have committed to eating locally for the next 40 days, others to reducing their carbon footprint.

So, I'm trying to cut back on TV and spend some time enjoying quiet evenings and afternoons. I've also become interested in checking out a number of books. (Although, I'm sure this list is way too ambitious):

Any other suggestions for meditations on faith, life and the environment? Maybe some poetry?

I've given up on Dorothy Day's autobiography. It's just too dry! Sorry Dorothy!

(The only problem is that I need to finish The Subtle Knife first! I'm completely sucked into the book right now.)


    I've made a few exciting discoveries on the subject of surviving and making the best of these depressing economic times, and focusing on getting back to basics and making the most of what you already have.

    First of all, there's Depression Cooking with Clara. She is AWESOME! She's a 93-year-old Sicilian woman from Chicago, and she has a YouTube Channel, a Web site and a blog. I hope I'm making YouTube videos and blogging when I'm her age! (Although, those things will probably be old-fashioned and outdated by that time.) She mixes in cooking lessons with memories of the depression and her childhood.I haven't watched all her videos, but I'm working on it. Here's episode one:

    I'm also addicted to the Pioneer Woman's Web site. She's basically living my dream life (although I wouldn't want to live in Kansas - I think I'd take WA, OR, WY or MT). I can't move out to a ranch right now, but I did at least make her beans and corn bread. They were really good. So, I guess that's the closest I'll come to the open range and herding cattle right now. And, right now she's been posting a lot of pictures of puppies!

    All this reminded me of "How To Cook a Wolf" by MFK Fischer, and a story I heard on NPR a while ago. She wrote about about how to make fresh, creative food during the time of World War II rations. I need to check out her book! She sound very forward and feisty.

    This last link doesn't actually have as much to do with the others, but I just happened upon anti-factory. They make cool, unique, beautiful pieces from vintage and recycled clothes. I love it! And, of course, now I really want one.


    Things I Made . . . For Christmas

    This post may be past its expiration date, but I want to show off what I made! I decided to do all handmade gifts for my family this year, and I think they turned out really well. (Luckily, I had a lot of time to finish them when I was snowed in for a week.)

    I adapted the "kittyville hat" pattern from the Stitch n' Bitch book. I used the a light, thin, soft 100% wool (maybe merino?) yarn. I made them in Washington State University colors for my sister (who goes to school there) and my mom (who went to graduate school there). For my mom's, I stitched a flower pattern. I just kind of made it up, so I'm sure there's a better way to do this. And, for my sister's I ordered some vintage maroon buttons from Etsy. She picked the one that ended up on her hat.

    They fit perfect, and they're thin but warm. I really like them. Maybe I'll make one for myself . . .

    My other sister is living in chilly Austria this year, so I decided to make her a scarf. Scarves take FOREVER to make, so I usually use thick yarn or double up on the yarn so that I can actually finish them before I die. I used a thick cream yarn that's part synthetic and part wool, along with a pretty blue yarn that was kind of like synthetic mohair.

    I thought it was pretty but wanted to add a little flair (specifically a little pink, since she loves pink). So, I came up with the idea for the buttons. I had a lot of trouble figuring out the buttons holes. I endedup created a hole use Yarn Over, because it was the easiest solution I could think of, but I'm sure there are other ways too.

    I love it! I think it's my favorite thing I've ever knit. I, of course, had to try it on before I handed it off.

    I think I mentioned that I'm knitting a baby blanket - it's the "big bad baby blanket" from Stitch n' Bitch. I'll let you know how it's going.


    Things I'm Into

    Gosh, I've been so busy lately. Between working crazy hours and starting a new relationship, I haven't had a lot of down time. AND, now I've decided to knit a baby blanket for my friend Maggie. Why do I do this to myself? But, I do have a few things that I've really been digging in the new year.

    • Fleet Foxes - I thought they'd be too hip for me, but they've become my Sunday morning soundtrack. And, they're from Seattle!
    • Allison Lickley - I heard her song "Mountain" on the Vinyl Cafe. I had just arrived at my destination, but I had to sit in my car to hear the end.

    • Dutch oven - I bought one as a late Christmas present to myself. I'm excited to make paella, whole roast chicken, and who knows what else?
    • Gold shoes - Specifically these and these

    Reading - I'm going through a Young Adult phase.

    • Bundt cakes with alcohol - Specifically this one, which involved chocolate and whiskey, and was pretty good. And this one, which involved Guinness and chocolate, and was DELICIOUS.
    • Citrus - grapefruit, oranges, blood oranges. Yummm. Maybe I should make a Clementine Cake?

    • Boundary Bay Dry-Hopped Amber
    • Aveda Comforting Tea

    I've become interested in paper cutting - based on some examples on angry chicken. So, I just bought her beginner's kit for paper cutting. I'll post the results!

    • Strength - I'm working toward doing three sets of 20 push ups and perfecting my yoga head stands. I'm having trouble finding a good yoga mat though!
    • Cardio - I still can't really run, but I've been really enjoying swimming and biking. I think I'm going to get some biking shoes and clipless pedals. (But, my hair does not respond well to chlorine and or those darm helmets! I'm hoping this and this help.)