It Was Still a Bad Idea (and how to make an apron)

I finally watched Jaws last night.

So this is a movie that has -haunted- me since early childhood, like, under the age of 10. I had an absolutely ROARING shark phobia stemming straight from this movie until about…five? six? Years ago where I realized I could handle blatantly fake sharks- shark printed flannel and gummi sharks ok, Shark Week absolutely not ok.

Eventually I got to where I could handle realistic sharks and in a fit of a mood last night I decided to see if I could find Jaws on a streaming site somewhere. Tubi has it, so it has ads. This is actually a good thing because between the fact I was still on shift and therefore ‘watch’ is a strong term, I sort of phase in and out of attention of whatever media is on in the background to mimic office noise and the ads it wouldn’t just be two hours of the shark that broke me.

It still scares me. That movie still bothers me.

I could get through it and if this were last night you would have gotten a very developed argument about how ‘good’ horror picks up new themes over time and therefore stays relevant and how the movie could be read as a pandemic allegory (‘We can’t close the beaches! I have a bar! I want a summer!’) but today I just…don’t have the kind of mental energy to sit down and think that argument through enough to write about it. Maybe later.

Big take away: this is is still one of maybe, maybe five? Horror/thriller films that bother me. There aren’t many, Bruce* is still a horror king in my head.

Satan, thy name is fish

In non oceanic news, I have been working on my hand sewing. I am capable of making garments, they don’t fall apart in the wash. I can’t sew a straight line yet (even with drawing a guideline though I think that’s partly how I decided to draw the last set, I have actual tailor’s chalk coming today) and apparently I don’t do my back stitch ‘right’? But again- stuff doesn’t implode in the wash.

People are REALLY trying to get me to jump to a machine and there’s definitely projects I want to eventually do where one will be more appropriate. I am NOT placing a zipper by hand thank you. But for basic half aprons and sack/slip skirts I don’t need a machine and as a person who hand spins/hand knits, trust me, a week on a project in small chunks isn’t the massive time investment people keep telling me it is.

The aprons are the project people are getting really interested in, and I’ve been asked for the basic recipe (I don’t use a pattern per se I have a series of ratio type measurements I use). It’s a lot of words for a project that amounts to ‘sew rectangles, sew those rectangles together’

Note on seam allowances:

I rarely follow a set level of seam allowances for these, cutting a block as wide as below will give lots of room for whatever you prefer. If you’re going to French the seams the first seam should have a very, very low seam allowance with the rest of the allowance worked into the second seam. For example if you wanted to use a 3/4 inch seam allowance the first seam should be no more than 1/4 inch and the other 1/2 inch will be the second seam. I would use at least a 3/8 inch seam allowance on any seam you’re not Frenching.

For the body block

If you’re feeling partly impatient, or have access to one that you like, a pillow case works fine for a body block. Otherwise, I use

waist measurement x .25, subtract that from your waist measurement, add 1

So, using a random number, for a 40 inch waist:

40 x .25 = 10

40-10=30

30+1=31

(This is also the basic ratio I use for my slip/sack skirts, I don’t like a lot of constriction on my hips and it gives more than enough ease to use a slip under it if the fabric is sheer. I had a broadcloth incident this summer…anyway). This does give you a very wide panel for the body block of the apron but I like that much coverage, you can play with the ratio if you want less coverage- or add more ease/use the full width of your fabric if you’re using average sewing yardage for a cafe style apron.

I add pockets to my aprons-at least a patch pocket. I don’t necessarily ‘measure’ my patch pockets for these, I just use a chunk of my fabric to my whims on that day. I aim for bigger than I think that I would use and kind of just place it? I know that’s vague but I really don’t have a set plan for the patch pockets, each apron I make ends up different in that regard. I do at least two layers of fabric on the patch pockets for strength and stability but that’s probably a personal preference.

In seam pockets have a more defined pattern. I measure my hand against a piece of fabric, drawing around it with at least half an inch of ease around my hand. It should look like the rounded top of a mitten or half a heart. Cut out two of those, then place about five inches down from where your top seam will be. Place right sides together and stitch one half of the pocket to each of the front and back panels, then flip and sew the side seam as normal including the seam for the pocket (once you do it, it makes more sense, basically the pocket becomes an extension of the panel fabric and is treated that way).

For straps I cut (or find) fabric that runs the width of the fabric. Nothing bothers me more than too short apron strings so I aim for way longer than I think I need. This is very much up to the individual, and you can play until you find your preferred length. I use strips at least 5 inches wide, but I wouldn’t go much wider than 9 inches or they get harder to tie. I have found placing them in at least two inches from the outer seam edge of the panel and then stitching in a block around the edge of the string gives me a stable enough patch without tearing out the edges when I tie. I do tie fairly tight.

I do French seams for the pockets and seams that I haven’t placed a pocket onto including the patch pockets. You can skip this step, I just feel like it stabilizes the fabric slightly more against fraying. I don’t French the strings but I will top stitch them if I worry about the stability of the fabric. It adds a lot more time to the overall project but it avoids having to trim frays later. I will top stitch around the edges of the body panel-this is why if you really wanted to, you could skip the seam finishing inside the panel because you’re stabilizing them that way and the seams are all hidden.

I’m just that determined to make these things last as long as I can without seam failure or needing to mend.

For fabric and thread choices- I like quilters cotton for fabric if I can get it but run wild. It’s not a garment and it won’t be next to the skin necessarily but if you want an actual apron heavy cotton or linen is probably your best choice. If you’re just going for accessary/extra pockets/appearance you can go with a lighter or more fashion style blend. It should probably be easy care though. I prefer quilter’s thread or glaced cotton for my thread choice here, but you have very few high stress seams on a project like this so choose your preferred thread on this one. My preferred/default stitch is back stitch with the exception of the strings on this project, so glaced works best for me.

*If you have never come across this piece of trivia the shark model/puppet is called Bruce.

Of Course That’s Not the Reason: Sustainability, Impossible Tasks and the Concept of Excuses

I’ve started edging back into sustainability culture now that we’re getting past ‘life or death, face your mortality to buy an orange’.

I’ve been watching some youtube channels for ideas on things like box services, swap outs, what products look like/handle in reality/are actually worth the money. I love the idea of the type of swaps that don’t actually cause an impact on the individual.

I found a channel I really like and one of the videos that got me was one talking about grocery shopping swaps, not so much what to buy but how to buy it. She had a point about bulk buying and the sheer insanity of telling everyone to drag glass jars to the stores for every purchase. Not every one can bring a full flat of canning jars to the grocery store with them, she said. Nor should they have to. Decant into a bag, even your favorite reusable bag, at the store and then rejar into the mason jar at home. This shouldn’t need to be said, she said. And yet here we are.

The thing is, this really did need to be said. This is actually a massive sustainability pet peeve of mine-I love glass. Over 90% of my kitchen is stored in glass and that other 10% is gifted storage like Tupperware. This isn’t a glass rant, it’s an unawareness of the realities of actual mundane existence rant. Glass is heavy, it’s clunky, it’s loud, it breaks. There is a finite amount of storage space to get to the grocery store even if you have your own transportation, you have to drag it around the actual store. You better know the tare of every jar you have. They just get heavier when decanted into. It’s just a horribly awkward set up if you need more than a jar or two.

There are places where glass or at least reusable plastic makes sense-don’t put the chicken into a cloth bag please (I have flashbacks to the ‘meat bag’ when I was a cashier- we had a customer with a dedicated cloth bag for meat transportation. Which is fine. Except it was obviously never washed. Ever.) There is no reason that you can’t put your oatmeal in a bag and deal with jars when you get home.

Except.

This comes to the concept of sustainability, excuses and the idea of the impossible task. The idea of the impossible task comes from the neurodivergent community- it’s the task that’s one thing too far and it will just not get done. It doesn’t matter that for anyone else, the task looks simplistic to the point where you’re just ‘lazy’. The thing will not get done, period, and you need an adaptation at best to work around it.

For some people it’s dishes. Some people it’s brushing their teeth. Some people it’s taking the garbage out. It changes from person to person and in some cases from day to day. It’s a complex balance of forces like exhaustion, executive dysfunction, overstimulation, and burn out.

If sustainability intends on being an inclusive enough movement to actually be useful to a range of people it needs to come to terms with neurodivergent needs like the impossible task. If a person literally cannot get the oatmeal out of the bag into a jar before it attracts pests, we need to figure out a work around to that impossible task. What does that look like? Is it oats in reusable packaging? Is it shopping bags that close tightly enough with a tight enough weave to go straight into a storage piece? Is it working on the carbon foot print of non bulk oat packaging? Honestly the answer is probably all of the above.

We need to stop framing these discussions around the idea of excuse. One of the videos on this channel was talking about paper plates and felt the need to point out that buying paper plates has a higher budget hit than using a regular ceramic plate (no shit). It also implied you just need to get over your ‘excuses’ around stuff like dishwashing. This video made me realize that movement access has to include the concept of mental health and neurodifference/neurodiversity if it’s going to actually be impactful-and it means we need to drop words like excuse from the language. The community does not use paper thinking it’s cheaper. And it’s not a matter of not wanting to bother washing a plate. Or rather, the neuronormative end of the community needs to shut up and listen to why depression, mental health advocates, and the ND community are saying that it’s not just a matter of ‘why can’t you wash a single dish’ (who the hell is only generating a single dish a day anyway. Especially when you’re pushing scratch cooking in tandem with the rest of the movement).

It’s the straw argument all over again- we are telling you what the barriers to access are, and you’re basically going, um no, you just can’t be bothered. I mean I’m busy and I work and I still manage to get this done. Good for you I guess? It was narrow minded pre pandemic and I think the issues and awareness around access and need that Covid has created has just intensified that divide, not weakened it. If you want to make the movement work for as many people as possible we need to drop the mentality that it’s walking into a co op with a fleet of mason jars, never touching plastic ever again with your sanctified hands.

Whole Use Cooking In Small Spaces

Whole use cooking is the idea that you are are extracting as much value out of the food you have in your possession as you can. You are using every part of the product to its farthest point before discarding it as a waste product.

Whole use cooking is often linked into meat products where there is such a heavy need to make sure we are getting as much out of the animal to make sure we’re making as much use out of the carbon footprint as possible. In terms of meat it’s things like sausage making (the fact that a hot dog is made out of like facial meat is sort of the point and ignores a lot of things like food history worldwide), bone broth, marrow dishes, jerky, rolling meat dishes forward, etc.

However this is a function that works best when you have the space to do this. Bone cooking requires the space to store bones. It sounds almost insultingly obvious but it needs to be said, whole use requires the ability to store the tools necessary as well as store product until you can run through an item to its natural end.

So what can you do in a small footprint situation? These are just examples, you can think through this as you will.

One of the easiest places to do this with in a small footprint spaces is with vegetables.

Take your veg scraps and throw them in the freezer.

When you have a decent stockpile or you need to access the space for other storage needs pull them out and throw them into a pot with water and various herbs and spices.

Cook that down into veg stock, use in your stock needs like soups and braises. You could also cook down and dehydrate for long term small footprint storage.

Assuming you didn’t do a long run cook you can then take the sort of spent veg and throw it onto the dehydrator. Powder once dry and use in sauces, stews, soups etc to up nutrients and flavor a little.

For things like fruit, if you buy organic citrus throw the peels into a different bag in the freezer. If you find yourself with a small batch that needs to go onto the dryer, throw those peels on and then pack whole into a bag or a jar. They can be powdered for citrus peels or you can simmer for a room deodorizer (as far as I’m concerned any use is a good use, even if it’s not food, and I’d rather use it at all then toss it and use a new orange for this purpose).

Not veg, but when you hit the ends of bread or have a batch that fails when you do home baked bread, throw that into the freezer (or do this on the fly, whichever) and make bread crumbs.

Whole use is a mentality that can sound a little terrifying and a little huge when you first start. Frankly, it can feel clunky even when you have been using it as a process, and I definitely don’t do it for everything-if I’m exhausted at the end of season the last thing I want to try to do is deal with tomato skins left over from canning (you can dry them for powders). Sometimes you have to say enough is enough.

Shopping the Stash, and 6 Months to Thanksgiving

(Unless you’re Canadian and then it’s like, 5)

I got to stash shop today and that was very exciting.

I have a back pantry set up right now (technically two but I’m trying to turn that space back into a normal closet). I have a space in a coat closet that I dedicated for long term foods that I want in the house but don’t need in the kitchen. Things like, I like having three or four containers of peanut butter in the house at all times but they don’t need to be in the kitchen.

This morning I noticed we didn’t have a peanut butter back up in the kitchen, we were out of wax paper bags for lunches, and I’m going to need to grind more coffee tomorrow. Just wander into the hallway and shop.

Maybe there’s something psychological about having stash outside of the main kitchen that makes this exciting but that’s like $25 I don’t need to fit into food budget right now. And I have close to 2 months to replace those bags at the rate of usage we have.

I got an email this week telling me that it’s six months to Thanksgiving. Fiveish if you factor in Canadian Thanksgiving.

That sounds like a lot of time but if you’re prepping to ‘inflation proof’ your food supply (I guess that’s the trendy phrasing for ‘rising food costs’ and ‘economic instability’) now is the time to start.

I had a much angrier post on that subject a few days ago, but the gist is that there is a specific skill set for prepping for monetary concerns, this is nothing new, people know how to do this because this is a central concern in the movement whether it be for social shifts, job loss, or illness. The grid going down is such lower concern for most people who have a kitchen stock that it’s normally not even mentioned.

So how do you do situational prepping like for Thanksgiving?

  1. List out what you think you need. If you’ve been hosting/cooking for awhile you have a good idea of what you need. If you make pumpkin pie and not apple you know you don’t need to prep apple pie filling. That sort of thing
  2. Figure out how much space you have to give to this. Do you want to give it a shelf? Are you one of those people with a massive walk in basement that they use for prep? Just don’t go out and drag home 97 cans of veg if you have no idea where you’re going to store it (I said last summer one of my personal limits is I will not sleep on my food. I had food in the bedroom last year but I will not use under my bed, my head says that’s about where my ‘this is extreme’ line kicks in. You may have different sensitivities.
  3. What’s the baseline number of people you are cooking for/feeding for a meal like Thanksgiving? I’m not saying you don’t need 97 cans of veg, maybe you’re one of those people who are used to hosting 30 people for this holiday (or whatever holiday you’re prepping for). But if you feel like being able to comfortably feed your core family is your baseline, then you know you’re aiming for enough dry goods/shelf stable food for four people (or however many).
  4. Now that you have an idea of what you eat, how many people you need to feed, and how much space you have to give to this you can work up a mock budget, or think about how much you roughly spend per year. Then split that budget against how many active weeks of shopping you want to do/actually do. If you shop once a month you want to split that by six knowing that at some point you’ll need to factor in any perishables. I don’t have the freezer space for a turkey and you will honestly get much better prices on them in the fall anyway, for example. That has to factor into this. Let’s say your budget as a completely made up number is $100 (I have spent that much on a Thanksgiving for multiple people at a conventional grocery store, but it’s just pulled out of the air. Adjust accordingly.) I shop weekly with filler orders to places like Shipt and my boxes. So let’s just go with weekly. Six months at four weeks a month is 24 weeks. Rounding it up for ease, that gives me about $4 a week I should be mentally earmarking for this prep (25 x 4 is $100).
  5. You don’t need to shop for this prep every week, but be looking for good sales or looking for things that fit your budget weekly. Shop seasonally, it’ll help you save money (unless cranberries are in season where you are in May, either buy pre canned sauce or wait on that one over spending the inflated frozen prices, for example). Canned corn though is pretty consistent year round, and if you know there’s a point between now and then when your favored store does a canned good sale, hit that.
  6. Don’t panic if you don’t/can’t do a full prep ahead of time. Anything is better than nothing.
  7. Similarly don’t worry if you have to get into that prep for normal food needs. It’s a prep, it can be replaced.

Box Life

Y’all I can hear some of you rolling your eyes from here but just a reminder about what my ‘production space’ looks like: I’m urban homesteading in an apartment that falls somewhere between a condo and a normal apartment. I have a decent amount (though not huge) of storage space but I have no green space to plant in. The entire city has a rat problem, and this is Love Canal country. I also work in a traditional corporate job and while I have been home full time since March 13th 2020 I do still work a full time position. I don’t have the space, the sense of safety, or the time to garden full time and even if I put in a container garden I’m not convinced the rats wouldn’t eat it.

My normal work around for getting produce and such for food preservation and just general eating has been co ops, farmer’s markets and services like shipt and instacart. I like Shipt, I hate Instacart and only use it sparingly now (I used to have the monthly plan and ditched it when I realized how much better, and cheaper, Shipt is). However at some point I’m aware I will probably NOT be full work from home and the last few times I tried to do full grocery runs on foot my back informed me that we’re aging out of the time of life where this is really comfortable. I can do it, it’s not pleasant.

At some point this spring I decided to try those delivery boxes that send groceries via last mile delivery services, along with a couple online co ops for dry goods and cleaning supplies. I don’t intend to never step foot in a store ever again but whatever can speed up my trips I’m going to take at this phase of my life.

Very Short Overviews

Misfits Markets– I do really like this service, just be aware that some of their communication patterns a little weird especially if you’re neurodivergent. Like, as a person who works in the business world I have no idea why they do what they do. It’s not so bad now that I know what to expect but they do things like take upcoming orders off your account between when you set your order for the week and when you get charged for it (not the same day). I honestly panicked a little on Friday looking for a box that looked like it was cancelled on accident. They also never seem to ship on time. I have yet to have a box ship for delivery on the date that they said it would so if you absolutely have to have a box on a certain day this is not the service to use, at least at this current moment. BUT the food is gorgeous and is full organic (at least the produce is, I haven’t verified it for the dry goods). Nothing they sell is conventional and other than a couple battered oranges nothing has been problematic in quality. They do sell more than just produce, my last order had very cheap Muscle Milk on it. *I’ve heard that some people have issues with their quality but they’re out of NJ and I’m in NY. It could be a distance thing.

Imperfect Food– This site lets you choose all organic, all conventional, or a mix of both when you set up your account. Mine on this one is set to a mix, I prefer organic but I’ll buy conventional if the price difference is too high or on products where it legit doesn’t matter (some foods matter more than others for organic). They also have a ‘full’ dry goods and other grocery section. Some stuff is better priced than others and you sort of need to know what your local markets price things at-the Tillamook they carry is well above my local average pricing so I just don’t buy it. Unlike Misfits you start with a base box and you have to customize from there, and I have found I have to go in and see if any of the things they’re sending is cheaper via another option (they like to do things like default to organic potatoes for $1.50 a pound when there’s conventional on the site for $.80 a pound and that’s too much of a price difference for me to keep the higher item). I did have a completely inedible/rotten broccoli on my last box but they just comped the valu back onto my next box. Not a huge deal, but I’ve heard from other people to expect to be emailing them like all the time. I’ve also heard to avoid their meat, fish, and poultry but I can’t speak to that. *This is an inverse to Misfits, they’re in IL and I’m in NY, and the people who have the least amount of issues with them also ship out of the IL hub

Worthy Flavors-I will admit that I don’t actually have the box yet. This however is NOT a salvage box and you can buy single boxes at a time. I like that option because I don’t need three boxes a week. Even doing food preservation I don’t need three boxes a week lol. *I sort of bought this one on accident but the reviews for this box are great on youtube. One of the things to keep in mind with this one is that it’s conventional unless you buy the organic box for a higher price. However it’s also the cheapest box for produce I’ve tried and has free shipping.

Grove– I use Grove for stuff like cleaning products and personal care items. They sell natural and natural leaning products like Mrs. Meyers and Cora. They love to throw extras onto the orders, I easily doubled my value on my first order just in freebies. They will try to set up auto orders for basically everything you buy so make sure to go in and turn that off or adjust timing (I love produce bags, I don’t need an order of cloth produce bags once a month, thanks). Pricing is about average for around here so this is definitely a matter of they have scents I can’t get at Target/this is much more a matter of convenience than money.

Thrive-I do like Thrive. You do pay a membership fee but it works out to be like $5 a month which is not terrible, as far as I’m concerned, especially if you do order at least once a month. They carry cleaner groceries and household items. Their pricing is on the low end of average for around here and they also want to attempt auto ordering but speed and packaging have been great, and I use them for products that are bulky enough or heavy enough I don’t want to try to carry home.

*All services use low impact packing materials like paper and compostable clam shells when they can.

*I don’t do meat services by mail. I have found that even with their push that it’s ‘better quality meat’ than what you can get in stores, that’s not actually true for me and my local pricing is way better. The co op carries local grass fed, etc meat for dollars less a pound than what something like Seven Sons or Butcher Box carry. So I just don’t order them.

Links

Misfits (currently at $20 off first box at time of writing)

Imperfect Foods (currently at $20 off a handful of boxes but not for the life of the account)

Grove (apparently a free gift set)

Thrive (25% percent off first order)

If You Were to Be Truly Concerned With Food Prices and Shortages

(As Opposed to Looking for Youtube Hits or Political Talking Points)

*One heavy profanity at end of entry

Look.

I feel like I’ve been open in the past that I’m not a liberal but I’m not a conservative. I’m a moderate Independent (*not the same thing as a centrist, don’t try it).

What that means is I end up sitting in a sea of conflicting opinions swimming around sometimes not really agreeing with anyone.

In this particular case, it led me to wanting to do a live stream but both not really getting around to it as well as never really synthesizing whatever it was I wanted to say.

I’ve been meaning to do a video on negotiating food pricing. Like, yes, the world reality being what is right now there’s going to be an impact. You’d have to be naive to think we’re going to ride this out with no hits at all.

BUT. But. One of the central rules of information gathering needs to apply here-who is talking to you and why. If a monetized Youtube channel is screaming at you that we’re going to be priced out of beef by July, you need to be able to take a step back and ask yourself stuff like ‘did I just fall for a clickbait title’, ‘where is this information coming from’, ‘what feelings does this bring up in me and what do I think these feelings are intended to do to my next set of behaviors.’

If you were to be legitimately concerned about food pricing-or one of the groups that will be hardest hit because they’ve always been historically the hardest hit, there are actual things you can do. This isn’t necessarily just an entry on ‘please stop scaring the shit out of people until they create an artificial fuel shortage because you’re trying to get ad revenue on a social media platform.’

Keep in mind people have prepped for decades for basic economic instability and acting like food instability only occurs when the price of steak goes up relies on so much tunnel business it’s not comical, it’s actually scary. As in, acting like there’s no pre developed, tested sets of skills for this is where there is actual comedy- I think of that meme of the scaffold asking if it’s your first time.

Must be nice to be the first time you’ve been priced out of meat

Actual Tips From a Person Who Traditionally Preps For Economic Instability

  1. Learn more than one food preservation technique- yes. Really. Sorry. It’s going to take some work. Learn to can, and learn to freeze, and learn to dry. I’m not even going to ask you to take up gardening because that requires a decent footprint, access to supplies, access to skills, and access to funding. Also it’s mid May. It’s a little late to start that particular project.
  2. Actually use those skills-again, that’s gonna sound almost ridiculous but if you’re not actually throwing left over veg on your dryer or into the freezer it’s not necessarily going to help you at all.
  3. Give up massive batch mentality- if you’re trying to hold produce you need to stop framing your preservation around the idea of waiting until you have full harvest or access to mass quantity. There’s a couple of ways to do this-my freezer is full of jars of one or two tomatoes that will be processed in a batch when I get enough to warrant it but I’m also micro canning jams as I get fruit at a good price.
  4. Learn what meat stretching actually looks like- you want to overload meals with produce, grains, beans, whatever you can. If you do this successfully you’re naturally cutting the amount of meat consumed in a sitting and you don’t necessarily miss it. The point is to make it go longer not slide into deprivation
  5. Explore different forms of proteins as a main food-fish, beans, tofu, heavier grains like wheatberries, different poultries other than chicken
  6. Actually practice whole use cooking-get as mainly calories as you can out of what you have
  7. Absolutely do not forget fat-part of where low cost cooking fails for people is the fat. In one of two places. Either they absolutely lose it at the fat content of a lot of dishes or they go too far in the other direction and end up with incredibly boring, utterly not satisfying dishes (your kids may not be eating the rice and beans because you make #$&%^$&#* boring rice and beans. It’s not supposed to just be rice and beans and nothing else.) Your body needs fat, you still need to pull calories, and you will be ultimately happier if you replace the mouth feel of missing hamburger in a taco with something like sour cream.
  8. Learn how to work with cheaper cuts-we all love the good $#@%. We may need to be flexible and work with what we can-in a lot of cases ‘scratch cooking’ here is not nearly as labor intensive as they’re making it sound. Marinate and then cook low and slow
  9. Look into unconventional food sources-I’ve been going online for a lot of food right now, for reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with shortages but if you can’t get your beans (or whatever) locally but you can get them online for a decent price just do it. I feel like this is something that’s not necessarily as big of an issue in terms of introduction/lack of awareness as it was prior to the start of the pandemic, but I mean, I got beans off of Vitacost recently for a decent price for organic and was making an order anyway.
  10. This is not our first rodeo-For real, you need to ask the people who have done this before and look into the sources for stuff like ‘what did we actually eat in the depressions/recessions’. I’m not saying live off of ketchup soup, and I know some of y’all go exactly there when I say that. But we KNOW what food insecurity in true scarcity looks like, how did we navigate this before. Knowledge is a hell of a weapon and pride will do you in faster than true lack of access in a lot of situations.
  11. What is actual interfering with ability and what’s an excuse-look. I am not unaware of things like ‘people work an incredible amount of hours’ and ‘people live in apartments the size of a shoe box’. (I think) I’ve talked about this on this blog before but there are certain arguments/talking points that will come up in relation to stuff like food security that while not being bad or inappropriate points also have nothing to do with every situation across the board. There are plenty of families that are/may be, at some point, facing food access issues where yes one person is working 80 hours but someone in that household can scratch cook. There are a lot of canners who work within the scope of New York apartments (Food in Jars has entire posts about this). What adaptations can you make to make this work, what can you do to make this even marginally more workable. There will be some people for whom we will need to have much more serious conversations about food access, and that is incredibly important and will need to include things like ‘Americans, will you stop fucking hoarding everything you can get your hands on’, but we need to make sure we’re being honest with ourselves that we’re just not interested in making an effort to pivot when we have to when we start attempting to derail conversations on how to increase stability by bringing up hypothetical underserved communities at every junction.

The Healing Reclamation of Knitting Sweaters-and the Red Head Curse

Ok, to get it out of the way-curse is a strong word but ‘the weirdly coincidental lining up of random homesteading clothing brands’ doesn’t have the same rhythm to it as curse.

Mid has been wearing the same lined flannel jacket for so long that neither of us remember where I bought it. I’m even honestly just running off the assumption that I’m even the one that bought it, it’s entirely possible that’s not even true. He tore it at the rail yard earlier this week and I said well, it certainly lived a long and happy life if right now I can’t tell you who paid for it, where it came from, or when it showed up.

We can get you another coat.

He really had issues with this. He felt…something like guilt, like he was taking food from my mouth or some such. The man is a trucker working out of a rail yard. He needs a coat. He’s not asking for a new full wardrobe of elder goth wear for when the bars open again.

Then he asked me for something that DID surprise me-he wanted to go down to Cabela’s to buy said coat.

Ok I said. We can do that. I like the candy selection, there’s bear related household goods (there’s a whole weird, weird story about me and bears that I haven’t talked about yet, ironically that also relates to boots), and Cabela’s/Tractor Supply/Bass Pro/homesteading and hunting stores are the only place left I can easily find jeans off the rack that fit me and actually last longer than three months.

Have I mentioned that I’m deep into glamsteading*? I’m wandering around this store in faux suede and faux fur and heavy makeup getting all sorts of looks, happily buying my jeans and orange flannel and Black Rifle coffee not really paying attention to the -brands- he’s picking up.

Then he says it…’I really like this Red Head stuff’.

Yes. My husband filled our cart with the brand I pulled out of the air for yesterday’s post. But yes, we did well with both price and quality and I very slightly fear we will become Cabela’s people because he just realized he likes their clothes and they’re actually cheaper than Target at this point.

*Glamsteading = homesteading without compromising on aesthetics and beauty rituals. It’s a word that comes from Instagram or TikTok or some such and is basically a push back against the idea that you can’t have a beauty routine and ‘be a good homesteader’.

That photo isn’t a sweater but right now I can’t actually find a photo of said sweaters.

I went a five to six month period where I just couldn’t knit. It wasn’t even just that it was canning season or that I lost access to the central air conditioning I’ve gotten used to working in a building (I am almost completely work from home at this point). I just…couldn’t. The concept of a complete mental and physical block comes to mind.

We actually have had more than a few sessions about this in therapy and while I was slowly able to start knitting again I am so far behind on commissions it’s almost comical and it is actually sad, it was still an almost painful process. Who lays awake at night feeling guilty about mittens? Me. I do. I’m that person.

Then I woke up one day and wanted to knit a sweater. Specifically I wanted to knit what’s called a yarn bra-a sweater that’s very tight, very cropped. It’s actually sort of tongue in cheek Fat Squirrel’s fault- I’m toing into perimenopause and she suggests high negative ease, cropped short sleeve or sleeveless sweaters on fat bodies dealing with hot flashes. Nothing says you have to wear them alone, they can go over garments, but when you can’t control your body temperature you don’t want a heavy sweater to your knees and to your wrists.

So I knit the damn sweater. And then I cast on another sweater. And then another sweater. Then I ordered more yarn. Then we went to Michaels. I dug out some handspun that’s been sitting around like a fluffy table ornament.

I finally asked my therapist about this-why am I suddenly knitting sweaters when I couldn’t knit a sweater for a decade? Why am I finally knitting commissions when I couldn’t knit them without knitting sweaters? Why am I knitting yarn bras, the style of sweaters I knit for myself when I was 20 and a lot more…body confident…than I am now?

She said the act of knitting a sweater is an act of dedication to self. It’s such a time and material requirement that even at my speed and even with the smallness of the garments that I’m making it’s still telling yourself you’re worth the investment to your self. You have to be willing to say you’re worth it to yourself to do it.

You have to be able to tell yourself you’re worth it.

And it is actually helping me finish commissions. Still much too slowly. Still painfully slowly. But it’s not taking me five months to finish a pair of mittens anymore.

You Don’t Win By Losing the Most-My Big Lesson from 2020

Let’s talk about the myth of the noble sacrifice for a minute shall we?

I know I’m going to piss off at least a few people with this one and you know what? I’m not sure I care anymore.

I had the dubious (because it came via inheritance and therefore you know, death) blessing to come into some money this winter and having to deal with ‘money’ and thinking about my debt reduction strategy and whatnot has made me have very long, uncomfortable conversations with myself around how I view material goods, homesteading, and that baddest bad word of all-money.

Combined with 2020 I have come to one of my fundamental life values: no one cares how much comfort you sacrifice in your drive for self sufficiency and homesteading, no one cares how uncomfortable you are and what you deny yourself, you don’t get a medal for being the most barebones hardened prepper at the end of the race.

whatever I’m just into the Bernie memes right now and he needed to be in the Utica train station.

I will say this-I understand that this is a balance and what priorities you need change by year, season, and life season. I am also willing to say this: what ruined my relationship with material goods and money as much as free spending and financial illiteracy was buying into the deprivation mindset that surrounds homesteading and self support.

For a direct example: don’t tell people that they need to completely cut out good coffee from their life if that’s what keeps them happy. I am so, so tired of hearing the ‘lattes are $10 a pop just buy coffee from the dollar store’ argument. You aren’t a better person drinking your dollar store coffee, they aren’t lost or foolish or dare I say unintelligent for spending it. Could there be skills development there? Yes. Could that be the conversation we actually have instead of this sneering self righteousness that frankly is a well earned stereotype in the movement? Also yes.

skills not sacrifice SKILLS NOT SACRIFICE

So this is how I actually teach this-learn to make the latte. No one is saying that you need to give up lattes. Get a good drip machine or a cheap espresso press. Get good beans, the best you can afford and whatever fits your flavor preference. Get a frother. Play your cards right and this will all be under $100 (new) and boom, unlimited lattes that will pay for the rig in a much shorter period of time than you think. A drip coffee isn’t a, ahem, fucking latte and I’m tired of people confusing their personal preference with other people’s value items.

oh look at least semi related memes

Ask someone about their boots and you’ll rapidly discover they understand this point perfectly, it just makes them feel better to play the high ground when it’s an item that doesn’t add ‘value’ as far as they’re concerned.

Walmart boots aren’t Red Head. The fact you’re fine with $1 Macdonald’s coffee won’t keep you out of the grave any longer than anyone else.

It’s not just the coffee. If you can afford to not live on rice and beans then why are you? If you can upgrade your cookware to heritage pieces, what are you actually losing by not doing so? When exactly are you planning on this mythical ‘later date’ kicking in that you can actually add comfort into your prepping and homesteading plans? I don’t have the answers here. I will say I know full well that there are times in all our lives we really need to buckle down and I do understand that at least a little thought should go into purchases, and I do believe in utilizing ways to extend resources like cast iron outlets, buying used, trading, mending, etc. This isn’t advocating a free for all of a complete swap out.

Just stop moralizing the sacrifices you make as anything other than the choices you’ve had to navigate.

Krampus and a Pandemic Reality

I might have said this before on here? But the therapist I see is as much a Worker as much as I am.

There is no concern about the ‘scientific method’ in the sense that don’t overthink this, she actually is a completely sound therapist in the medical sense. She just also practices something like Paganism and reiki. For a shadow working Pagan with multiple diagnosis and two sociology degrees it’s a working balance for both of us.

I have telehealth sessions about once every two weeks, which in 2020 timing means we often have about a years’ worth of ground to cover between check ins. Last session we were talking about our feelings about Christmas and by extension Yule in a world that looks like what we’re riding out right now. And she said something that has stuck with me for awhile-she said that ‘now we know why our ancestors created Yule in the first place, and we’re being forced to remember that Yule, at its core, is a death holiday, not necessarily a celebration of life.’

I’ll get around to figuring out how to edit images on this site again. Not right now though.

Yeah ok even for a woman who’s been a firm shadow worker for well over five years, it was a bit of a…sobering reminder. It’s not wrong. Yule isn’t so much a celebration of getting through so far, it’s -thanks- for being allowed to get through and a hope to hell (and Odin) that we manage to make it to the spring solstice with all our bits and our families intact. It’s the knowledge that this could be the last really good meal for multiple months. And a deep seated awareness of how dark ‘dark’ can really get (this is a different post but while there is a Santa/Odin connection it’s not what a lot of neopagans and social media want it to be, Odin didn’t randomly stop being a death and war deity to suddenly take a strong interest in children one night of the year-this was the middle of the damn Wild Hunt and any gifts He was giving were a boon).

And as we developed indoor plumbing and Maytag fridges and everything else we forgot that fairly important bit. We turned it into a children’s holiday, and our concepts of hope and redemption were in relation to a completely different form of success and survival.

Until we suddenly have to face down well over 200k pandemic deaths in the US alone and a hospital system taken to the brink. Don’t bother leaving comments on that. I won’t approve them. It’s not the point of the post (though it would be refreshing to see that people actually read this long of a blog entry anymore).

I ended up renting Krampus (2015) on Redbox this morning. I’m slowly regaining my taste for horror-it’s been coming and going over the past 9 months. Sort of depends on how much national news I’ve been consuming at the time. I wanted something sort of dark and sort of seasonal. If I have reviewed this movie before, I can’t get it to come up on a search. It does deserve its own review, just, not maybe today.

What I actually can’t shake this time around though, is actually a review I heard on a podcast either last year or the year before. They all liked the movie well enough but one of the reviewers said something to the effect that they didn’t like the ending because ‘redemption is supposed to leave you in a better place’. Redemption at Christmas especially should leave you in a better place.

Is it? Is that how this is supposed to play out? If you haven’t seen the movie, there is some controversy around the ending. Some people think it’s too bleak, other people think it’s not bleak enough, a lot of people actually think the movie isn’t nearly dark enough to be honest. And a lot of Krampus specialists are really annoyed by the whole thing, frankly. That’s a whole other post and I honestly don’t feel like grabbing the sources (look up Al Ridenour over at Bone and Sickle). The thing is, 2020 me is looking at this movie and thinking ‘my gods I hope you’re doing ok this year if this is what you have framed as ‘so dark you are emotionally uncomfortable”.

Also maybe there is some conversation to be had that if you take an image that’s decidedly not Christian (maybe not full Pagan, this isn’t the Odin show-though I want that movie, thanks- but definitely not Christian), and make a full movie around it, you need to understand that we’re not really playing by Christmas rules either. Actually no I don’t want an Odin/Wild Hunt movie unless it’s by a very select number of directors and writers. Hollywood wouldn’t know what to do with that particular mess and it would just be cheesy and painful and our heroes would do something silly like slaughter all the Hunters and ‘win’ in the end. You…you don’t win against death, in the end. I’ve read the spoilers for the end of Supernatural. Even those writers figured it out.

Not to make it look like I’m avoiding the point-there are consequences to our actions and sometimes those consequences lead us to better places but it can be something close to dishonesty in saying that those better places are pleasant or comforting. I feel like I’m coming close to starting to slide into DBT fundamentals, but we don’t like saying it out loud-the myths of Christmas imply that we all are owed perfection and someone telling us we did good and apologizing and/or love is enough to heal all wounds.

It’s not. And we all know it. We can ‘start over’ but we can’t go back to where we were before, that place doesn’t exist anymore if it ever existed at all. And maybe the problem with this film in 2020 is that feels a little like they got away too easy.

Monsterland-Or, Yeah, We’re All Sort of Monsters Really

*Contains spoilers, discussion of abortion in relation to plot points, and conversations around neurodiversity and mental health

**I prefer identity first language and that is not a matter of debate.

I’m watching Monsterland and the first episode has me REALLY conflicted.

(Plot: In a Southern American town a waitress is raising a daughter as a single parent. The child has intense behavioral concerns. A parallel plotline indicates there is a serial killer in the area. The two cross paths and she is introduced to a world much darker than what she is aware, and her current reality is already pretty stark. At the end of the show she ends up abandoning her daughter in a bid to start over completely without any influence from her past life or what she experienced in her last night in the town)

Which I mean is what horror ‘should’ do so if nothing else it’s effective. An argument about whether or not the show is ‘good’ is something else entirely; it drags a little and feels a little …self important in places like it knows that it’s trying to make you feel a certain way and that it doesn’t necessarily want to do that but you know you could have just owned up to this yourself and wouldn’t we all just feel better if you could come to terms with yourself without outside intervention? It reminds me a little of those people you run into in the store sometimes who can’t admit they’re annoyed so they make any comment on their behavior a ‘projection’.

Anyway.

A large chunk of this premise is about how the mother character doesn’t want to be a mother and ostensibly never wanted to be since they were pretty blunt about a botched back alley abortion. So when she ditches the kid, yes, she make a nasty choice after being forced into a shit hand by life as a whole. All the reviews I read aren’t wrong, you’re supposed to feel conflicted about this decision because it’s a shitty act in a string of shitty acts but there’s part of our shadow that says, we have all at least considered acts this dark in the past. We probably DID NOT act on them but I mean.

This is hardly new territory in horror/fantasy television-Serling touches on in it in a Twilight Zone episode where the character says we all think about robbing the bank, we just don’t DO it. What no one talks about in any of these reviews is that the kid is blatantly neurodiverse. The kid isn’t wired like other people and they’re making that pretty damn clear. So what exactly is the cause of our discomfort? Is it just the casting off of another human, or is it that nasty aspect of ourselves where we have to question what we would do with a kid that’s not ‘right’ if we thought we wouldn’t get caught?

This isn’t just a parent who doesn’t want a kid, it’s a parent who doesn’t want to deal with a kid that’s going to require true work to bring her to ‘normal’ (whatever normal even is, but at least not ‘biting the mailman randomly’). That’s a hell of a shadow moment from either side-trust me, as a person who actually is neurodiverse the reality that there are people out there who would rather just ‘get rid’ of me has been drilled into me for decades and is plenty terrifying, let alone any feelings of ‘disappointment’ we’re supposed to ‘allow’ parents to have for not birthing some sort of perfect child.

Ultimately whatever arguments we have with ourselves in the mean time (as in until or if we change the system) it’s neither the kid’s nor the parent’s fault any of this is happening but what they both need is some form of intervention where ‘dumping the kid on another random human and running’ wouldn’t even be an option. In a ‘perfect’ structure biting the mailman would just result in a call for a recommendation to a behavioral specialist and some sort of direct social support. There could be a structure in place where the child gets something like DBT and works through this disregulation and the mother feels safe admitting this is both hard and uncomfortable. I suppose thought that means having actual conversations around mental health, parental expectation, stigmatization, and neuronormativity.

(This is where I have to remind people about self advocacy. Yes parenting us is probably not a walk in the park, but plenty of us are fully capable of telling you what trying to actually LIVE like us is like and trust me, whatever you get from the outside is a pale echo. It’s not the point of this post but it’s why so many of us run hot when you enter into conversation about ‘autism moms’; our lived experience isn’t some sort of identity marker for people who aren’t actually, you know, autistic.)

As in, that’s part of the shadow this one pulls forward for me, that whatever this mother is feeling-her kid’s going to get it 1000x worse going forward and I don’t know how much empathy I can actually place on this decision. I don’t think I can say that the point of the episode is to feel some thing like true open sympathy for this woman but I do feel comfortable saying that part of the implication here is ‘I probably would do the same, or at least understand the motivation’. And no. Frankly. I don’t.

Is the show, or at least this episode, good? No. Not really. It’s sort of boring, and as I said prior top heavy and too self aware to not feel slightly patronizing. It doesn’t even try for that whole ‘comedy to make the darkness that much darker’ angle. It’s actually almost too dark to be compelling. But is it effective? Oh yeah it makes you sit in some shit. It’s not Serling come back to haunt us with ourselves and I don’t think that it’s going to stand up against time. But I will say it’s rare for television based horror to actually manage to hit emotional/psychological horror this readily.