April 2010

I’m not quite back into my pre-pregnancy jeans (ok, I am but, I’ve got some serious muffin top IYKWIM) but I’m already hot on the trail of the perfect pair of denim. My requirements:

  • NOT low-rise “see my undies” jeans
  • quality, thick denim
  • great fit
  • not made in a sweat shop (fair trade)

Here’s how I’m conducting my search:

  • finding the right jeans for my shape – oh, ick. I can’t seem to figure out exactly which jeans are right for me, so I’m going to stick with flares. I’ve always loved the Gap long & lean jeans (flare), but I don’t like the whole “made in a sweat shop” thing. I always thought I liked bootcut, but in the last couple of years I realized that this style really doesn’t go with the casual shoes and flip-flops that I usually wear (at least at the length I’m wearing them).
  • which companies encourage good ethics (ever hear of nanotechnology in the jeans industry?) – The following companies get good reviews from this site: Bishopston, Ascension, Greenfibres, Hug, and Kuyichi. The top name brand is Calvin Klein, FYI. This article was from 2006, so I’m sure many new ethical brands have entered the market.

A cursory google search on “Fair Trade Jeans” brings up this April 2009 post on companies that offer jeans meeting this caveat. Now after an hour of research, I’ve narrowed it down to three choices. Help please?

Fair Indigo Organic Denim Authentic fit Jeans

At only $40 these are a steal for organic fair trade jeans (supposedly they are 50% off, but I’m guessing this is one of those perpetual sales, kinda like at Baileys furniture *wink*). My only concern is that in the reviews, oodles of “pear shaped” women in their 50’s and 60’s loved this jean. I know that should totally scare me away, but I’m still willing to take a risk and try out these for myself.

Rica Lewis FairTrade bootleg jeans

I found these jeans from UK’s Hug site. During my research Hug was consistently rated as a great company. As far as I can tell, these are only available shipped from the UK (for about $76 after shipping).

Harmony by Loomstate

And finally, in the way-too-expensive-but-they-might-be-worth-it-if-they-fit-perfectly-and-last-a-million-years category, here is the Harmony jean by Loomstate ($138). Loomstate jeans are also abundant on Ebay for a lot less (about half of the above price), so that’s an option to consider.

Here’s my plan:

  • scour the local thrift stores for a pair of jeans my size (doubtful), including The Mouse House consignment store (which has lots of good women’s jeans, but I don’t expect to find any longs)
  • Order a pair from Fair Indigo. This company is pretty impressive, and I’d like to vote for them with some bucks 😉
  • Download a free pattern from http://www.e-sewingpatterns.com for kid boy jeans and try out my hand at sewing denim. If these puppies turn out all right, I’ll be tempted to get a women’s pattern.
  • hunt for the perfect pair of shoes. All this research is making me realize that shoes and jeans go hand in hand and a great look can easily be achieved just by stumbling on the perfect match.

Right now I have a gazillion tabs open on several windows in my web browser. Many of these tabs need to be saved, but I don’t want to take the time to save them as book marks and organize them properly. So I’m going to kill two birds with one stone and save them here. That’s really more work than just saving them, but somehow it works out as easier in my distorted mind.

29 ways to reduce waste in your home – this post from keeper of the home is a good list of ways to simplify life. For us it’s not about “Saving the Earth” (isn’t it people who need saving?!), but more about striving to get rid of junk in our lives, and being good stewards of the resources that God has given us.

whole chickens – why whole chickens are a good idea, and how to cook them in such a way as to use every last bit of chicken. This is a “want to” for me, so it’s posted here as inspiration. Someday…

Crockpot soap making – I’ve had some lye sitting in my closet for over a year now. This idea of making soap in the crock pot might be just what I need to push me over the edge to finally try soapmaking.

Apron – a cute apron that I’m half-way through making. Hopefully this will be one of the projects that I actually finish 😉 It’s a simple pattern with a single pocket.

Canning Jalapeno peppers – Hubby eats these all the time, and I’d like to see what he thinks of the home-canned variety. He’s a bit of a jalapeno tasting expert.

This next emergency preparedness topic deals with storing and obtaining water during a catastrophe. How are we doing? Not too well. We did buy some iodine (and neutralizer) tablets. That’s a start, but I’d still like to begin storing more water. That’s a hard thing to remember when we’re surrounded by fluffy white drifts of frozen water all winter!

Today we’ll explore how to obtain/maintain water for emergencies.

The first step is to consider how you currently get your drinking water. Are you on a city water/septic system? Or, do you get your water from a well? If you’re on a city system there may or may not be water flowing during an emergency. Additionally, the water supply may become contaminated. You’ll want to consider storing your emergency water, rather than depending on the water system to supply it for you.

If you currently get your water from a private well, it is possible to install a hand pump that works along side your current submersible electric pump. For a top of the line deep well hand pump, Bison Hand Water Pumps offers a kit for around $1500. Ouch. There are cheaper hand pumps out there, such as this one for $75, but it’s only rated for a depth of 22 feet. If your well’s static depth (height from the ground to the top of the water table) is under 30 feet, you can get away with a shallow well pump like the cheaper one above. However, most wells would need a more expensive deeper pump, which is going to be costly. From my research it looks like some hand pumps can be operated along side an electric pump, and some can’t, so make sure to do your research before purchasing.

If there are alternate sources of water nearby, they’ll need to be purified either through filtering, treating, or boiling. From the American Red Cross:

  • Boiling: Boil water for 3-5 minutes (rolling boil)
  • Disinfection: 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water. Stir and let stand for 30 min. Repeat if there’s no slight bleach smell

A cursory look at water filters at REI.com shows a starting price of $65 for the typical filter, with replacement filters costing $10-30. A filtering water bottle ($40-$50) might be a good purchase to have around for emergencies, but replacement filters for it are costly at $25.

The bottom line:

  1. Know your need – at the Maxwell House we’re looking at 3+ gallons per day
  2. Know your sources – we aren’t storing much water (1 case of bottled), but Kevin is savvy about alternate sources in the house (hot water heater). We have a well, but it’s too deep for a cheap-o pump. There is a small lake 1/4 mile from our house.
  3. Know what’s required of you next – Water is $1 gallon at WalMart. I think we’ll stock a couple of days worth of these. I need to find our bleach and make sure I have a small container for our portable emergency kit (backpack). I’m going to keep an eye out for a sale on filters/filtering water bottles. It’d be nice to have one someday for all of those family backpacking trips I have planned in my head ;)

Have you ever seen this music video? Kevin introduced us to this awesome video on YouTube. “This Too Shall Pass” is by the group OK Go. I love the business behind this group. They are very intelligently making some innovative music videos which get a lot of YouTube airtime. This, coupled with decent music, equals success for this band. Smart, smart, smart.

This video does contain the word H-E-double hockey sticks (I looked up the lyrics), but we’ve never noticed it before. Like many songs nowadays, much of the wording is unintelligible. Still worth a look-see:

For behind the scenes video of the making of this video, check out OK Go’s website here.

Now everyday Jimmy is begging me “can we make a Rube Goldberg machine?” If we ever get a decent machine made, I’ll be sure to post it here. Now to think of what the machine should do…

Some un-dealy, un-politicky, un-financy stuff 🙂

Here’s a photo of a game the big boys created. This obviously Easter inspired game involves one child hiding two miniature school buses, and the other child finding them. I use the term ‘finding’ loosely.

In other news, I recently discovered that I have been using quotation marks wrongly. If you haven’t noticed, I love using quotation marks. For example, I would have formerly written “finding” instead of ‘finding’. Perhaps both are wrong. Come to think of it, the possibility of both being incorrect is entirely probable. Can someone please inform me on proper usage?

Newest dude’s smile. It’s a funky angle because it’s hard to make a baby smile and take a picture at the same time. Props to professional photographers who do this all the time. Joseph is so sweet. I’ve heard that third babies are always sweet, because they have to be. Whatever the reason, I love how seamlessly he fits into our family. I can’t wait to see what his personality will be like, and to pick his blogger nickname 🙂

I am slowly reading through Mere Christianity, a book I’ve always wanted to read. It’s one of those books that I was embarrassed to say I hadn’t read. I just began the chapter on pride and I have been boldly reminded of this tendency in my own heart. It’s really icky, peeps. I know every human struggles with pride, but it’s a major blemish for me. Just ask my mom 🙂 In fact, it’s such an issue that I had better end this paragraph here before I am tempted to pridefully (competitively) prove that I am more subject to this issue than the next person. See what I mean?

And finally, a pic from our March visit to the Star Wars exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. We’re standing in front of a model of Luke’s landspeeder from Tatooine. This was a great exhibit, just not long enough. It made me want to go home and dig out my Star Wars roleplaying book 😉

Since I last posted about Wolf Lake Wellness, much has changed with this local business. They’ve reorganized their website, spruced up the ordering process, added new local vendors (Lunachick goat milk and cheese, Matanuska Creamery, and 3 local bakeries), and added a local delivery option. Woohoo for delivery! Curious about Wolf Lake? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Order from Azure Standard. We use Azure for general grocery items. You can get shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen items.
  • Order organic produce (from Organically Grown). This makes up the bulk of WLW’s ordering. Fantastic quality and great prices. Here in Alaska we tend to forget what “good” produce tastes, looks, and stores like.
  • Order from Frontier Wholesale. We use Frontier for tea and coffee, bathroom items, and spices.
  • Order from other local vendors (milk, cheese, bakery items)

Check out the Wolf Lake Wellness website for a sample produce price sheet and more info.

In March of last year I did a short series on Emergency Preparedness. It was fun. I’ll be revisiting this series over the next couple of months, with some updates on how we’re doing on our own preparedness. First up is food storage. Right now we’re doing great on sheer bulk (oodles of rice, beans, and grains) but we’re not doing well on variety. Note to self: buy varietal food storage items.

Today we’ll tackle food storage.

First, you’ll want to identify your goals for your family with regards to food storage. Would you simply like to have enough food to last for a week without replenishment? One month? Three months? A year? Our general goal is to have three months worth of food storage, with an additional three months of “all-we-have-is-rice-and-beans-but-our-bellies-are-full” kind of storage.  We already have plenty of beans, rice, and wheat, but we’d like to plan out our additional storage a bit better: canned goods, dried food, etc. One of my favorite food storage sites is Safely Gathered In. This site has ongoing Long-term storage ideas (beans, rice, oats, etc.) with recipes, as well as ongoing projects such as an emergency car kit and a mobile 72-hour emergency kit. Right now they’re focusing on gathering beans for the month of March, and putting together car kits (each tuesday you add something new to the kit). I like how this site has broken food storage and emergency preparedness down into specific baby steps.

Secondly, identify what items you’d like to stock up on and purchase them. You can either follow Safely Gathered In’s method, or use your own. Purchase your food all at once, or add to your stash month by month (the most popular choice). Shopping at Costco or Sam’s is a good way to gather large amounts of canned goods, rice, beans, and powdered milk. Another choice is to ask about purchasing in bulk from one of the local grocery stores, or to order from a food coop. If you’re interested in the food coop option (ordering from either Azure or UNFI), check out Wolf Lake WellnessWholy Living, or Organic Alaska.

Thirdly, you’ve got to work your food storage into your meal planning. The easiest way to do this is to learn to cook from scratch. I’m betting most of you reading this already have taken that route 🙂 The fewer items (variety of items, not quantity) you have in your food storage, the easier it is to rotate them in to your meals. Our goal is to primarily stock grains, legumes and canned tomatoes. We also keep a giant box of powdered milk around, but I’m terrible about rotating it in, so we might just end up tossing it and buying a new one occasionally. I’m ok with a small amount of waste, given that we’ll have a box if we ever need one. Rice, beans, wheat, and tomatoes are easy to incorporate into our meals, and we don’t have to worry about any food storage going bad.

Some more helpful links:

  • The Food Storage FAQ – Different popular food storage items, how to store them, and their shelf life
  • Sprout People – Many food storage items can easily be sprouted, and there are some big claims out there as to their healthfulness. In the event living off of your storage becomes necessary for a bit, it’d sure be nice to know how to sprout even if it’s not an every day occurrence.
  • Every Day Food Storage – Another popular food storage blog that walks their readership through the necessary steps to food storage. This blog has a really hip layout, which is why I prefer the simplicity of Safely Gathered In. Kind of like that whole “all the cool kids are wearing flip-flops, so I’m gonna wear boots” kind of thing. I’m wierd.
  • Wholy Living’s Sixth Month Food Storage – It’s a whopping $1480, but you can knock out a whole 6 months of going to the store all at once. Sweet.

*Janeen’s Note: There are a lot of well-meaning folks out there who have let their fervor about storing up food turn into a religion in itself. They feel confident in the future by amassing large quantities of physical sustenance. We are NOT called to this type of confidence. Our confidence is to be in Christ alone, and it’s he whom we trust for the future, not our buckets of beans in the garage. I have to remind myself of this whenever I start getting a little crazy with my food storage planning 🙂