25 October 2013

DIY: Simple Embroidery Patterns.

The holiday season is approaching at full speed, and as the number of people on my gift list increases, I've vowed to give myself enough time to make presents for everybody this year. After all, gifts are all the more personal when they are handmade, right?

I am excited about this month's theme here at Kanelstrand (Work with Your Hands) and I thought it would be fitting to share something that will help you get a little handmade project started. You can always turn the finished piece into a present to give away during the holidays!

I have always found embroidering to be very soothing. I love contemplating a perfectly smooth piece of cloth stretched between embroidery hoops, the tiny boom of the needle when it pierces the tense fabric… I love cuddling up with a small embroidery project and letting the rhythm of the task take me away.

You can download the patterns here. They are about 4.5" high and print on a standard 8.5x11 sheet (just reduce or enlarge them to suit your project).

They can be interpreted in many ways. Here are some of my own ideas, so far:

The Hut

• Use orange & black to turn it into a folkish, spooky house. I was a bit inspired by Baba Yaga's hut, so you can run with that—pardon my pun!
• Complete it using Fall colors: gradations of orange, brown, burgundy...
• Use cool grays for a wintery, snowy variation.
• Approach it as an appliqué. Layer the scalloped skirt with little pieces of fabric to make it three-dimensional, for example.

The Flower

• Embroider along the lines, without filling in the spaces.
• Fill it up, crewel style.
• Use gradations of green throughout, to emphasize foliage.
• Differentiate stem, leaves, and blossom by assigning each its own color.
• Add embellishments, like tiny beads.

They can be hung as wall decorations (keep that in mind when choosing the hoop if you'll be using it as a frame)
Use them to beautify a plain fabric case, scented sachets, or a tote bag.
Don't forget to play with the background as well! These will probably look great on black fabric. 

Just spend some time with these little patterns and tons of ideas will pop up in your mind. It's such a fun process!

I confess that even though I enjoy embroidering, I don't know a whole lot of stitches & techniques, so share your pictures! We're dying to see what you—master embroiderers of the world—come up with.

Have fun!

23 October 2013

A Simplifier on the Road: More Street Art in Oslo

It seems like I see the streets of Oslo with new eyes, enhanced and re-focused by Bulgaria. I am excited that while we are finishing up with our tasks here and finishing decluttering our belongings we still have time to marvel at the world outside.

Beauty can be found not only in Nature. even though cities are considered the root source of most modern vices I know that if you want to you can stand in awe like a little child in front of details that never existed for other people. 

That is why I would like to share with you some more street art in Oslo, as part of our Trans-European Expedition. 

More Street Art in Oslo

More Street Art in Oslo

More Street Art in Oslo

More Street Art in Oslo

More Street Art in Oslo

21 October 2013

A Simplifier on the Road: Street Art in Oslo

The mysterious beauty of Bulgaria unlocked my attraction to street art and here I am back to Norway, noticing for the first time ever the incredible street art along the streets of Oslo. The grey walls seem to have changed dress just like the trees, living through an eternal autumn thanks to unknown artists.


Street Art in Oslo

Street Art in Oslo

Street Art in Oslo

Street Art in Oslo

Street Art in Oslo

18 October 2013

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

We didn't plan it but our Trans-European Expedition started in the heat of autumn, our favorite season. From a mild young autumn in Bulgaria we landed to a Scandinavian autumn at its best - bright blue sky, fresh air and trees with burning colors.
A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

I must remind you that this expedition is not about sightseeing or noticing nature. On the contrary, we have a lot to settle, stuff to organize and get rid of because well, you know that we like to keep our life uncluttered. Plus, we cannot move everything we own to each country we decide to spend a simple living year in, right? 

But we're dreamers, the Doctor and I, and true to ourselves we always sneak some delightful moments into the whole organizing, selecting, and going-crazy-with-documents procedure. 

In other words, I feel the urge to tell you: Don't forget that however busy you think you are, you always have time to notice nature and to recharge. You can choose to be positive and in control of your inner peace. Just go outside and surrender to the magic of Nature.

The walks we take in-between our tasks are so uplifting and inspiring and help us glide through the supposedly stressful days excited and full with energy. 

Do you want to see the colors of autumn in Norway through our delighted eyes (that are going to burst with color any time soon)? I promise, you will be stunned, just as we are every time we step outside. The trees are screaming with color and yet they remain gracefully mysterious, wearing their autumn dresses with dignity and poise. 

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

I wish I can have a whole year of quiet autumn.

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

A Simplifier on the Road: Noticing Nature

No post-processing has been done on these photos, they come straight from the camera.

12 October 2013

Simple Living Rabbit: Halloween

Muffin Rabbit has been adapting pretty well to his new life in Bulgaria. Although Halloween is not celebrated here he enjoys the seasonal pumpkin.

You can buy this Halloween print here.

Tune in again next Saturday to read more about the adventures of Muffin, the simple living rabbit.

11 October 2013

Eliminate Fruit Flies from the Home Simply, Safely and Effectively

Drosophila residua by Karl Magnacca Creative Commons

During college and for a few years afterwards I worked in a fruit fly lab where we studied the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In the lab they lived in jars with a yeast based food at the bottom and cotton or foam stoppers at the top. There were always stray flies flitting around though.  We caught the stray flies by leaving one of their narrow necked food jars open on a pounding block. When the jar was full we pounded it down quickly and turned it over onto a funnel above a jar full of mineral oil.  That was an ugly mess!  I also had carnivorous plants in the lab such as Venus fly trap and Sundew, but those were there more for fun. The little plants I had couldn't keep up with all of our escapers.

Fruit flies often seem to appear out of nowhere in the home, but the tiny pupae often make it into the home on market fruits and vegetables.  After a recent batch of flies made it into our home, I decided to try a modified version of a fly trap recipe that I found on Pinterest. It worked! It is much cleaner and not unattractive like fly tape.  Here is our modified method:

Vinegar Fruit Fly Trap

Fill a wide mouth jar about half way with Apple Cider Vinegar.  Then add a small amount of soap scraps mixed to make soapy water and stir well. The soap helps break the surface tension of the water so that the flies immediately sink to their death. The original recipe had called for big frothy bubbles from detergent, but it wasn't needed as our pure handmade soap from Aquarian Bath did the trick.

This completely eliminated the fruit flies we had within a day or two. I had special concern about eliminating them quickly, because a friend had just told me that she stopped sprouting seeds in her home due to fruit fly problems. That just happened to be the next project on my list! We are on our 5 batch of sprouts here now and still no fruit flies! I wish I had known about this recipe when I worked in the lab!

07 October 2013

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

As you already know, people in Bulgaria live close to the land. One has to look beyond general labels and classifications and will quickly realize that although the country is among the poorest in the European Union, working your own garden and actually owning your home (true for more than 80% of Bulgarians) provides you with fresh, healthy and non-GMO food, and rids you of countless sleepless nights and decisions based on paying the mortgage. These factors lie in the core of happiness.

Bulgaria is a gardening nation. It is considered that Bulgarian master-gardeners are the ones who developed gardening in most of Europe and all the way to Australia when they started migrating and emigrating in the 19th Century.

Actually, I was excited to learn that permaculture is the normal way gardening has been practice for ages. The term permaculture is only used by younger, English speaking Bulgarians so if you ask a 50-something seasoned gardener what it meant he wouldn't understand you but look at the way he works his garden and you will know. He and the land are one.

How to collect and store heirloom seeds via @kanelstrand

So, let's look at garden work and how Bulgarians ensure the high quality of their heirloom seeds. I highly doubt they use anything different than heirloom seeds. They simply store the seeds for the next two years and share or exchange them with neighbors.

Collecting heirloom seeds Bulgarian style

As with all fruit and vegetables whose seeds you want to collect, make sure the peppers are fully ripe. Cut the top of the pepper and carefully remove the core with the seeds on it.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

Spread out to dry. If you have different sorts or colors of peppers you'd better divide them while you still have some visible proof of color. Leave them to dry completely in the sun. This should take a couple of days.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

When the pepper seeds are dry enough they will fall off the core very easily when you touch them.

Pick your best ripe tomatoes and let them sit in the sun until they get soft. Then squash them in a container with your bare hands.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Clean the skin and rinse with water. Then use a strainer to separate the seeds from the water. Let them dry in the sun.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

Don't harvest a couple of leeks and let them form blossoms. Before cutting the blossoms off make sure there are seeds inside. Let them dry in the sun and store them in a textile bag.

Storing heirloom seeds Bulgarian style

When your seeds are dry enough (you can tell they are by touching them) transfer them to mason jars with holes on the lids. The holes are made so the seeds can breathe. They shouldn't be too large to prevent insects from coming in.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

Alternatively, you can store your seeds in paper envelopes or bags.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

Keep your seeds in a cool and dry place.

To prevent mold on all types of bean seeds you collect, add a couple of tablespoons of clean wood ashes that will absorb any eventual moisture.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Bean Seeds
Pictured here are: broad beans (top image) and black beans (bottom image) harvested in 2013
Be sure to label your saved seeds with the sort name, variety, and the date you collected them. Seeds generally last for 2 years.

The result

The note says: [planted] September 10th., seeds from 2012.
Here you can see the result of planting 2012 lettuce seeds. I took the picture on September 26th and the seeds were planted 16 days earlier. Hurray, Muffin Rabbit will have fresh green produce in the first months of winter!

How do you collect and store heirloom seeds? Share your experience in the comments!

If you haven't heard, we just moved from Norway to Bulgaria for a year. Follow our adventure in simple living here.

05 October 2013

Simple Living Rabbit: Chilling With Friends

Muffin is a shy rabbit. Every day he gets out of his cage and takes a few timid steps only to turn round and settle somewhere close. For a few days his preferred spot to chill is right next to his cage in the cool shade of a large evergreen bush.

And so he lies there calmly. This time with company.

Tune in again next Saturday to read more about the adventures of Muffin, the simple living rabbit.

03 October 2013

Street Art in Bulgaria: The Knight

The Year of Simple Living in Bulgaria has started. We have immersed into new traditions, and a totally different outlook on life but one thing is sure, the people in this country are creative.

I have never felt fascinated by street art. But as I go along the cobbled streets of historical towns I cannot fail to notice and to document so many beautiful paintings that blend perfectly with their surroundings.

How about I share some of them with you? Let me start today.

Look at this red-bearded knight, it seems that his beard is stuck under the door, maybe that's why there is sadness in his eyes.