Dharma Beer and Ranch Dressing

I am getting super excited as the end of the end of the very very end of LOST approaches.  Instead of turning this post into a super geeky lit analysis (just wait...it's coming), I am going to post links for LOST party DIY.  Anyone who's ever been into any kind of fandom knows that sharing one's geeky fixation with others multiplies the energy exponentially.  Since we are going to catch the finale at Circle Cinema, I am thinking about doing a mini-LOST party for our own lostie friends the week before.

Dharma logos to print
More Lost labels for all a family's household goods
Last minute LOST party from DIY Newlyweds
Bake some fish biscuits from Kung Foodie
LOST party ideas on craftsterPublish Post
More ideas from DIY Life and a pretty thorough part 2 with tons of links
Font with all your favorite Losties' heads from dafont
More LOST logos font from dafont complete with Mega Jackpot and Drive Shaft among many others
Dafont's dharma logos
This party wrap-up from Craisin is by far my favorite.  She's got a "Namaste New Recruits" banner and Oceanic boarding passes for her guest.


On Simple Living

When I talk about voluntary simplicity, this is a concept that can be interpreted broadly.  The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to do it, and that it's a challenge and a goal to work towards.  The basics include living frugally (below or at the very least never above one's economic means if at all possible), "conscious consumerism" (living with and doing one's best to adhere to a heightened awareness of the social implications of one's purchases), sharing, sustainability and stewardship.  Some people in the VS movement live completely off the grid; others, like us, try to find a middle path, shopping our conscience whenever possible, using less as much as possible, cutting down on non-essential luxuries, and growing or making our own whenever possible.

When we first moved in together in 1997, this way of living evolved out of financial necessity and a strong desire to be unencumbered by material things.  This desire was spurred by our economic situation and further ignited for me personally after meeting people in the hippie community who lived very meager lives in order to be able to travel with their families and live the lives they loved.  While this ascetic life was definitely not for me, I just as definitely understood why someone would choose it.  A formative moment in my life happened when I was traveling with my parents around the age of 12, right when my dreams of becoming a writer were swelling from childhood fantasy to Ultimate Life Goal: We were dining at Akershus in Fake Norway when we struck up a conversation with a woman who was traveling alone.  She told of all the places she'd gone by herself, and at that moment in my mind, various neurons and synapses began dosido-ing at the possibility of such a fantastic life.  From then on and throughout my adolescence, I called the numbers at the backs of travel mags and ordered dozens upon dozens of travel brochures, plastering my walls with images of India, Europe, Japan, Australia.  I would write and travel, taking it all in, meeting the various, interesting personalities that make the world such a brilliant, amazing place.

But who'd have known I'd be one of the lucky people who fall in love very young to a handsome Prince Charming?  Plans changed a bit.  Our travels together tended toward the domestic, our excursions outside of the US limited to Germany, the Netherlands and Mexico.  But we still traveled, and often.  Within our first year together, Justin and I had set in place a life of habitual travel, leaving Tulsa frequently to visit concerts in other cities or to camp out in the woods.  Each year, we have always taken at least one major vacation, something that would never have been possible without simple living.  We quickly realized we would rather be dancing under the stars than paying off new furniture.

Thus began our gradual and continuing journey into simplicity.  Some of the steps we've taken:

*When we've purchased cars, we've opted for practical models in good condition, doing extensive research into which vehicles would last the longest.
*We bought a home in a cool little midtown neighborhood for well below what we could afford, something we've been grateful for in this climate of layoffs
*We've favored meals cooked at home over meals taken out, cutting down on our personal economic impact as well as on products consumed from mass conglomerates.  As a couple that met while working in the restaurant industry (and one of us having worked as a restaurant manager), we realize that due to the high expense of running a restaurant and the difficulty of preserving food, the vast majority of restaurants order their products from distributors whose food in turn comes from mass producers or agricultural producers, for example, Conagra and Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland.    Not dining out was a challenge for us, both because we love to dine out and because we love supporting local, small restaurants, but when we did eat out, we would enjoy our food thoroughly, making evenings out into events, complete with wine, hors d' ouvres, and loads of conversation.  Part of our implementation of this aspect of simplicity also includes dining out almost exclusively at local restaurants and avoiding chains (except for extreme situations: e.g. 3 A.M. in Rotterdam and no food around but a McDonald's...we skulked shamefully through the golden arches like dutiful American cliches; 3 PM on Music Highway in Tennessee and no time to hunt around for the local diner; 8:37 PM and our child hasn't had dinner because we've spent three hours hunting for the perfect wedding gift; etc.).
*We've avoided credit card debt as much as possible (for us...we absolutely support living entirely without credit card debt but we do use them occasionally), only using a card when purchasing emergency expenses or those that would be paid back immediately (e.g. tickets for an entire group of us to see a concert).
*We replaced most of our light bulbs with energy-conserving fluorescents
*Stopped using paper towels and napkins about 13 years ago, instead using only reusable cloth options
*Stopped purchasing individually-packaged products and began buying items in bulk packages if possible
*Began using our own grocery bags a few years ago, or if we've for some reason left them at home, avoided taking double bags or bags for large items/items with handles/items on hangers/anything we can easily carry or chuck from the cart to car to house
*Began to prefer alternate giving, the giving and receiving gifts that are handmade, vintage, or non-material (movie tickets, etc.)
*Began an epic effort to "go paperless"
*Began gradually moving toward making our own or purchasing second-hand products
*Began practicing Buy Nothing Day
*Began shopping at a co-op, a practice that we've come away from due to economic constraints, but plan to adhere to again when it becomes an implementable option for us.
*Began purchasing organic products along a hierarchy of necessity; e.g. we purchase what we can when we can according to what foods are most impacted by chemicals, hormones, etc.  For example, when an abdominal infection left me unable to feed our son without the aid of a complex support system including a team of lactation consultants, a medieval torture device, loads of Fenugreek and a pharmaceutical prolactin stimulator, we were grateful for Earth's Best organic formula, which eased the emotional transition when my doctors finally convinced me that the stressful situation was overshadowing the benefits around our son's four month birthday.  We also used only organic foods for our son's first year and a half or so of life, cutting into our own organic budget to give him what he needed.  Organic milk and eggs are our first priority now, followed by other dairy products or anything Arthur might consume; lowest on the hierarchy are fruits that can be washed thoroughly.  We also buy locally some of the time.
*Early in our relationship, we began a restriction on high fructose corn syrup and other refined products, including refined sugar, grains and produce.  Do we enjoy soda from time to time?  Yes.  But we do not ingest it regularly, and when we do purchase it, often pick it up at one of the Mexican stores in our neighborhood, where it's made from cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.  Label-reading is a major component of our lifestyle; the less ingredients a product has, (typically) the better.  At two years old, our son now occasionally gets to enjoy a refined food product, but we do not make it a habit (although we do abide by the rule "What happens at Grandma's [or Grammy's] stays at Grandma's").  Soda is viewed as an adult beverage, and we set an example by not consuming soda with meals.
*Boycotted Wal-Mart, many-times violator of human rights and safety standards, with similar general exceptions as our fast food ban (in this case travel, middle-of-the-night emergencies Walgreens can't solve, etc.) .

One of the biggest challenges for us, especially me, has always been our clothing; although I am proud to say that we are doing better than most people, it's been a long process.  There are some things that are easy: our wedding is one example.  My wedding dress was sewn by a friend and is absolutely gorgeous.  Here I made a minor mistake: we used artificial flower arrangements (thinking of the lower cost and the pesticides/fungicides in the flower industry) that could be given as gifts to our bridesmaids and made the arrangement for my hair (a flower circlet).  The circlet was made from paper flowers and is thus a sustainable option; the flower arrangements, on the other hand, were likely produced in a developing country by workers exposed to various toxins for little pay.  I didn't know this at the time, but all in all, I could have done worse.  I do not believe it's fair to blame people for practicing consumer habits that they don't realize are harmful, which is why it's important to educate others.

Back to clothing...when I first met Justin, I loved shopping at GAP, Old Navy, and their ilk  As I was growing up, my family hadn't had lots of money for nice clothes, and when I had my own money, I loved the feeling of popping into the Utica store and emerging with some super cute khakis (it was the 90s, after all) and a darling embroidered top to wear over my black patent leather Skechers (made in China), white K-Swiss sneakers (made mostly in China) or brown Doc Martens (at the time made in England, now produced in China and Thailand [although the "vintage" line is said to be made to original "specs]).  But after watching a documentary on Saipan (a US province where terrible labor practices are allowed and a "MADE IN USA" label can still be slapped on the products), I became aware that GAP products (and those of its sister companies) were manufactured in socially irresponsible conditions.  However, the supercompany insisted they'd changed their ways, so I took them back like a boyfriend I just couldn't give up.  Unfortunately, the years have shown numerous indictments to the company, and I finally had to say enough was enough.  They tend to approach problems on an individual basis while continuing to pay people pennies on the dollar to create products that sell for as much as 100 American dollars.

Does that mean I've not set foot in a GAP or Old Navy in the past ten years?  No.  When my son needed socks and onesies as an infant, these were some of the most convenient places to pick up inexpensive, fashionable products.  Does this make me a hypocrite?  Totally.  But for our family, voluntary simplicity isn't about extreme living all the time; it's about practicing conscionable living most of the time.

We also continue to shop at Target, which has been in trouble for low wages and other such issues on a much lesser scale than Walmart.  But when I look in the labels of the company's clothes, I see this:


Even the little Paul Frank monkeys were stitched together in Peru and China.

So why should I continue shopping there?  My working excuse is that it's just about impossible to avoid these kinds of products--even many of the boutique brands manufacture at least some of their products dubiously--and all in all, sometimes we just need two more pairs of shorts and three t-shirts on the fly; if I have to buy sweatshop-crafted clothes, I'd rather take less money out of my family's grocery or travel fund to do it with.  It's a matter of striving for balance...we  buy as many of our clothing vintage, handmade and secondhand as possible (especially from Ebay).  We also repurpose old clothing into other household linens or fabric (i.e. the cute little rattle we took Baby Miles recently).  The key to our household practice is to do what we can and lessen our impact as a whole.

Here is a list of where other brands are manufactured, according to http://theprotagonist5.wordpress.com:

Ann Taylor Loft: China, Hong Kong, Indonesia (2), Siapan (usa), Vietnam
Anthropologie: Taiwan, USA, India
GAP: Hong Kong (3), Phillipines
H&M: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, India, Turkey
J Crew: USA, China, Hong Kong (2), Hungary, Malaysia, Turkey
Kohl’s: USA, India
Marshall Fields (now Macy’s):England, Honduras
Nordstrom: India, China, USA, Hong Kong, Mexico (all these items were $50-100 dollars)
Old Navy: Cambodia (2), China (3), Colombia, El Salvador (3), Indonesia, Mexico, Moldova, Peru, Phillippines (2), Turkey, Vietnam (everything from Old Navy was under $30, hello $8 T-Shirts)
Target Cherokee: Bahrain
Target Merona: China (2), Guatemala, UK
Target Mossimo: Guatemala (3), Vietnam
Victoria’s Secret: Mexico

Other simple living links:

Oprah on Voluntary Simplicity
Center for a New American Dream

What other simple practices can you suggest we add to our lifestyle? Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to Target? Where are your clothes made?


Arthur in Wonderland...A Mad Tea Party Pictorial

Roo turned 2..happy happy boy, happy happy day!

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat...

'Twas brilling and the slithy toves
Did Gyre and Gimble in the Wabe
All mimsy were the Borogoves
(and the mome raths outgrabe)


Just some music we like, for no reason at all

The Flaming Lips
My all time favorite Oklahoma band. It's really one of my favorite bads total. No they aren't the most incredible musicians, and Wayne doesn't exactly sing on key, but their music is full of hope and fun and their show is a total experience rather than just a performance. All Oklahomans should see them at least once. Recorded at their 2nd Tulsa appearance playing what would later become The State of Oklahoma's official rock song, you can either l
ove it or hate it. However, It's law and it's official, so jut love it. We were at this show and Arthur was also there, but he could only feel the music at the time.

The Mars Volta
All 3 of us saw them in 2009 at Bonnaroo, and was a highlight of the weekend. Of course, little Monkey had hearing protection on because these guys are LOUD! And full of energy. This particular video is from Bonnaroo, but it's their earlier 2005 performance which K and I saw. They had technical troubles and didn't start playing 'til 12:30 AM, and didn't stop 'til nearly 3. And this was probably the loudest concert I've ever heard. It was intense.

This is Radiohead performing their own music at Bonnaroo 2006. One of us wasn't around yet. Amazing performance. Maybe my favorite ever. Actually, yes, my favorite concert experience to date.

Ghostland Observatory
Discovered these guys at Dfest with our whole trio complete with bottles, stroller, and diapers in tow. Fell in love with their quirky electronic jam and spectacular laser setup immediately.

Gnarls Barkley
Actually a 2fer, because they are performing a Radiohead song
at the Roskilde music festival in Denmark. No, we were not at this festival. Yes, we will go there one day.

These are all a bit more cutting edge. Far from the mainstream, which is where I usually travel, but I do have a sensible side. I'll post some more familiar tunes later. But for now, maybe you'll hear something new you just may like.

On Blogging With Integrity

There's just so much yucky stuff in the world to put each other down.  Why waste our energy on that?  Love, love, love. How will we ever evolve as a society if catty sisters are putting each other down?  Let's all just let go of that silly business and live in the essence of now.


Faux Dreads and Messy Buns

Many people have asked about my little twisties, AKA "faux dreads."

I am posting a link to the original tutorial from adorable Love Maegan as well as my pics.  These pictures are from about four days in, a miraculous feat for me since I am a daily hair washer.  I only took them out when I went to my amazing stylist Corie Butler.

People also ask me often about how I create the messy bun ponies I so often wear (two low ponies are a good solution for those of you with thick, heavy hair like mine).  Basically, I pull my hair into two low (or high, depending on how funky my mood is...low seems more appropriate for working at the school) ponies, banding them tightly.  I take a second elastic on each one in turn and pull the hair up to the elastic in a kind of loop, putting a second band around each pony and leaving just a little hair out so it's nice and messy.  So that it will be a nice, solid, hold and still very messy, I then grab the hair close to the original pony band, the underneath part, and pull it as if I am tightening a ponytail.  Then I have this:

Or if you do just a single messy pony it looks like this:

Here is another adorable tute with some added detail from The Wright Hair.  Enjoy!

(Did anyone notice I am holding a different baby in one of those pics?  The boy in the hospital pic is my little precious nephew Nono, as the bot calls him. He is lovely and his bright blue eyes will make all the girls cry someday!).


Lovely leggies!

Bebaroque has lovely wonderful things that want to be on my legs!


DIY Wish List: Chandelier Necklace

Being a full time writing diva by day and domestic goddess by night leaves me little time for the delights of crafting, but my to-do list is a mile long.  Here's some of what I'm in love with/daydreaming about cooking up if I ever get a day off free of laundry and precious, sticky, stubby hands grasping so desperately and incessantly at my knees:

DIY do-it-yourself bridesmaid gift necklace satin vintage crystal Anthropologie necklaceI am so super crazy about darling artisan Amanda Pearl's goodies.  She's taken grosgrain and vintage chandelier pieces and turned them into the most adorable necklaces.

I found a chandelier necklace tutorial on Ruffled Blog, but it's a little different.  Both are gorgeous!


Coolest (mostly boys') Toddler Undies Roundup

This roundup is for those of us who still love our little angels despite their growing obsession with Cars, Curious George and Jay-Jay the Jet Plane (or Spider-Man, or Barbie, or Tinkerbell, etc.) and have failed miserably in our attempts to protect our children from the indoctrination into Consumer Culture, hypocritically bedecking them in just as Consumery items (Arthur is adorable in his much-abused Paul Frank shirt this afternoon and is très désolait without his Converse sneakers and Target fedora)--for those of us who have realized that our angst about seeing our kids decked out in dorky cartoon characters makes us just a little selfish and absolutely made peace with it, letting Little Man run around at home in his Lightning McQueen slippers but genuinely, desperately guiding him toward more fashionable choices (hopefully with socially conscious companies not cranking out their duds in some horrible Sai Pan textile mill, but we live in the real world, after all, and so we just do the best we can when we can, and if we shop our consciences [and second hand] most of the time, we don't beat ourselves up over it)--for those of us who love WALL-E but cringe at the mere thought of buying him a 3-pack Fruit-of-the-Looms tribute to the little AI ecologist and/or his Disney-Pixar cronies, and only because deep down inside, we're just a wee bit snobby.

Disney Wall-E 3-pk. Briefs

First, let's meditate on how much we all loved our WonderWoman and Daisy Duke Underoos back in the late 70s to early 80s (or Ewoks or Ghostbusters, depending on your age).


We all have to admit, the were the sh-bomb.  

But those were way cooler, right?  I mean, because everything was cooler back in the 70s and 80s, right?


I vaguely remember the previous generation's retro nostalgia...as much as I might appreciate it now, my mom's insistence that I was super adorable in saddle oxfords made me want to sink into the ground as I longingly fashion-stalked anyone rocking an oversized Guess sharpei sweatshirt over tight leggings with legwarmers and canvas kicks, eventually landing a solid compromise with the inexpensive but ubiquitous jellies (seen below).

Point being, maybe get the kid a couple of Buzz Lightyear Underoos and then we have a compromise suited to all parties.

That said, onto the cuteness.

These are just a touch spendy, but oh-so-cute.  Butterflies for girls, Guitars for rock star boys like the Botster.   By the Dutch Claesen's (I love Holland!), manufactured in India.  More by Claesen's, with the sweet (I mean, cool, Arthur, sorry) matching undershirts :

stamp print boys boxer short (2) (10255-401)stamp print boys singlet (10150-401)navy-white stripe boys t-shirt ss (105006-406)

navy checks boys boxer short (2) (10255-400)navy checks woven boxer (10310-701)red checks woven boxer (10310-703)white  boys t-shirt ss (105006-409)
sea world boys singlet (10150-502)sea world boys boxer (2) (10255-502)
newspaper boys singlet (10150-500)newspaper boys boxer (2) (10255-500)
camo boys singlet (10150-900)camo boys rib boxer (2) (10244-900)

Claesen also makes very cute everything else, including swimwear

sea world boys tight swim boxer (10151-706)purple girls wrinkle bikini (10145-713)

And baby clothes...

navy-white dots baby romper (103005-405) baby girl multi

Many of which are available via Olliebollen, incidentally one of my favorite spots to get fun kiddo freebie printables, and the place to pick up these, some A-bot's favorite snuggly PJ bottoms:

Dobutsu Baby Leggings from Japan - Little OwlDobutsu Baby Leggings from Japan - Little Owl

But let's focus.  Back to that other thing we put on the kids' bums, undies.
Swedish boutique Hanna Andersson has always been one of my favorite brands for cool unisex kiddo clothes, and oddly they are one of the few designers that defy the "girls' clothes are cuter than boys' clothes" norm; often, actually, the reverse seems to be true.  I've seen some goofy HA girls' stuff and some super cute boys' threads, causing me to wonder if the designer raised boys and not girls.  I don't know enough about the company to speculate.  Alls I know is that their boy undies definitely pass the cool test.

Click to zoomClick to zoom
The company also offers matching training pants for little brothers or in-betweens.

I also love the Canadian typically-outdoorsy Hatley's shorts, and they are less than what we pay for the boy's Daddo, which is pleasing to my dollar-savvy hubs:

Later Alligator Boxers in Light Blue ~ toddler & child
Hands down, though, for crafty mamas, Ditto Daddy patterns are the cutest on the web.  If you are a wee bit shaky with a needle and thread, get someone like Michelle from A Lovely Start to do it for you!  Look what she's made!  Go over there and buy some.  She even offers custom orders, and many of her products are repurposed fabric.