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A holiday package arrived by post in the days before Christmas. The gifter, my dear old friend, has a knack for making parcels filled with magic, so we we were giddy to open it. And oh my, I bawled my eyes out when one bit of the contents fell into my lap – a Diana camera. A real, analog, 120mm film camera, and already loaded with film. The reasons for the outpouring of sentiment (mine) are too numerous to explain, but I shall say only my friend and the universe could have intuited the perfect gift for this time of life. Each frame of film is a tiny mysterious world waiting to be revealed through light and silver. Thank you friend, thank you sun, confluence, thank you happenstance.

anniversary sweater

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The traditional gift for a 7th year wedding anniversary is wool. You can imagine my happiness at discovering this.

My inspiration for this sweater came from the film Jules et JimI loved the imagery and atmosphere of this wonderfully curious movie, and the knitwear was perfect. I searched for a plain, shawl-collar sweater, to not much avail. If you know of a different pattern you’d recommend, I’d greatly appreciate it. Especially if it is a top-down shawl collar cardigan. This pattern is Smokin‘ by Jared Flood, from Son of Stitch ‘N Bitch. I remember reading the old Brooklyn Tweed blog back when blogs were new, and being so excited by Jared’s photographs and designs. It was when I was getting back into knitting, mostly privately, in my little apartment with books and slow internet. It was the beginning of a knitting revolution, which we were part of whether we knew it or not.

My sweater, his sweater, fits! and is so thick and cozy. Luckily the recipient is the best, most appreciative human to knit for, and I am eternally grateful for that and every last one of his other wonderful qualities. Happiest anniversary 💙.

You can read more knitterly details on this sweater here.

Fall is here. Winter is sort of here in Denver. We got a thrillingly chilly walk in before the snow flew. I’m away at a work conference, enjoying the weirdness of staying in a strange hotel, hiding away and knitting like a crazy hermit.

Reading :: Knitlandia by Clara Parkes
Listening :: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (perfect, perfect October book)
Watching :: knitting video podcasts, Mandarine’s and Fiber Tales. I had no idea these things existed. I’m obsessed. Any suggestions on others would be appreciated.

Happy October everyone.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism, or how to be happy with what you got

IMG_9059.jpgSeveral years ago a friend of mine recommended that I watch a film called The Clean Bin Project. It is about a couple who decide to live for one year as waste-free as they possibly can. I was pregnant, and recall watching it alone in our attic apartment, disgusted about the excessive, compulsive consumption in our society, and amazed at disastrous side effects of unnecessary use of plastic. Never do I cease to be amazed at how incredibly difficult it is to refuse plastic in our society, especially single use plastic, and how much resistance we get from others, even family and friends. And I still use plastic! Like, everyday. My dedication to the cause waxes and wanes, but it is something I always take into consideration when consuming or buying things.

This same friend and I jumped on the minimalism bandwagon with everyone else. We went to see The Minimalists speak. I am part of the Marie Kondo cult, folding my underwear and shirts into perfect little nuggets. This summer my friend and I have been playing a game that he and his daughter created and deemed “the minimalist challenge.” It’s easy – my friend rolls one dice each day, and we get rid of that number of things. We’d been playing for about a month and we both mused at how, even though we’d both discarded over 100 things, it still didn’t really seem to make a huge dent in the stuff we have. It helps that my friend and I are both a little bit type-a. My favorite part about this whole subject though isn’t solely about getting rid of stuff – it’s the bit about only having the stuff you use and need and, most importantly, really love. This leaves room for wanting things, desiring things, and even acquiring things. This mindset helps give me pause before pursuing and consuming things.

It is freeing, and confrontational, to be faced with choices about money and consumerism. I’m insanely privileged to have these choices. I live in the US, shop at box stores, order things off Amazon, and sometimes still order a takeaway coffee even if I’ve forgotten to bring my reusable cup. Living life with awareness of the choices always in front of us isn’t all or nothing; it’s a spectrum, and I still believe that little things make a difference. Some days it’s hard to believe that, but I try.

There are so many books out now about minimalism, zero-waste, discarding, slow/simple living, etc. etc. And I love reading books that talk about the best ways to live life. Often I wonder why this is exactly, but I know I’m not alone. Anyone who has spent time working in a library or book shop knows the self help and lifestyles sections get a lot of traffic. And if you too like reading these types of books, you’ll know that there are a few good ones, and lots more not so great ones.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More is one of the very good ones. It’s all the good things (funny, quippy, practical, friendly, human, attainable) and none of the bad things (preachy, dry, soulless, staid, overly stylized). The authors, Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb, focus their energies toward cultivating appreciation of the everyday little things, the free things that we’ve been programmed to ignore in our pursuit of more more more stuff. Mainstream media is expertly designed to make us forget these wonderful acts of noticing. This book gives so many fun, interesting ideas on how to view the world through a lens that is not focused on consumer pleasures. As a kid that spent her spare time lurking about malls, this continues to be revolutionary to me. All the typical frugal pastimes are accounted for in the book, as are other more unique, but all of them are so simple and easily done by anyone.

There’s an appendix at the end of The Art of Frugal Hedonism with some other great resources. Especially the Tales From the Green Valley series. Even if you are not interested in any of the things I’ve mentioned in this blog, Tales From the Green Valley is outstanding. It is a British tv series, in which a bunch of historians live on a farm on the Welsh border, restoring it and living life as if it were the year 1620. They cook, farm, build, everything as they would have if they really lived in that era. There are subsequent seasons set in different centuries. Search youtube for it, and you will not be disappointed.

Annie Raser-Rowland is absolutely charming, by the way. I’ve listened to her speak in a couple of podcasts, especially this one on the Slow Home Podcast. She’s so well spoken about all things frugal. Her lust for squeezing out the most enjoyment from life is infectious.

Here are some of my other favorite professional-life-liver-type books, especially focused on doing more with less, and focusing on relationships and epicurean delights rather than consumerism. I love having these on my shelf to look back on whenever I need a boost or a reminder about the life I’d like to live.

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease by Julie Pointer Adams

How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson

Happy August everyone.