Super Sized World

Super Sized World by mikey and wendy
Super Sized World, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.

In a near emergency we found ourselves in a Kmart, first time in 10 years. Mikey and I stopped in our tracks before this candy display and remembered when these chocolates came in tiny boxes. The super sized world makes me wonder about what is precious. Money is the most abundant and least scarce thing on earth and yet we give it the greatest value (at least for now). The diamond industry spends millions securing the illusion that their cut carbon is scarce. A box of chocolates can hardly be experienced as a precious gift when it's the size of a Honda.


Soapberry Season - Foraging

Its been a skimpy soapberry year but we managed to find a bunch, enough to do laundry till the spring.


World Without Color

World Without Color by mikeysklar
World Without Color, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Mikey and I tested out a new costume at a Doomsday party last night. A costume party, each was asked to dress as their favorite end of days disaster. We went as greyscale, our disaster, a world without color. For it we had to cover all of our color: gloves over the hands, full make up to the shirt collar. I made grey blush for bringing our faces back to 3 dimensions by mixing white and black eyeshadow and stirring in flour.
The trick is most easily seen when we were around colors. In certain environments it appeared as if somehow we were cut into the world in black and white.
Luckily when we awoke this morning there was plenty of color in the world.

End of Color 2End of Color 3End of Color 4End of World 5


Baby IO R.I.P

Baby IO R.I.P by mikeysklar
Baby IO R.I.P, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Friends we have some sad news. Our cat buddy baby IO is no longer with us. He was hit by a vehicle in front of our home sometime on Tuesday, Dec. 19th.

I remember the day we adopted him from a snake vendor in the east village of NYC. The sales person said that he didn't want to part with this beautiful blue eyed cat and that he was going to keep him for himself. After we offered $50 for the cat he reconsidered his position and asked for $110. We took IO home in a cab to what would be two full weeks of nightmare integration into our apartment with our existing cat Scardy. The two never got along well, but did learn to tolerate each other.

This cat gave us 7 years of his life teaching us that the real pleasures come from everyday experiences of eating, sleeping and bathing. He was friend to all regularly approaching large and dangerous animals in attempt to cuddle. We will miss watching his large belly swing from to side to side as he waddled through the yard. So often we would come home to a cat blissfully rolling upside down with his massive belly exposed.

May you find warm baths, tasty snacks and a macbook to sleep on. We miss you.

CmZD1O on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

Missing Cat : Baby IO

Missing Cat : Baby IO by mikeysklar
Missing Cat : Baby IO, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our massive 25 lb white siamese snow shoe kitty didn't make it home last night. He goes outside in our yard each day and just hangs out. We are asking our TorC friends to keep a look out for him. He has a blue collar with his name, blue eyes and is a giant. He was last seen at 8:30pm Tuesday, Dec 19th. He missed dinner and breakfast which has never happened.


Droplifting as a Holiday Elf - Step Four

Have fun! And remember Elves are really cool!

Droplifting as a Holiday Elf - Step Three

(Mean it! Give your gifts. Trust your hunches. If you see someone and think of the playing cards in your pouch, go for it. You'll find that "Santa" really does know. Below Mikey hands out marshmallows, a great back up should your sack run out of gifts.

Droplifting as a Holiday Elf - Step Two

(The next step is to find the stuff in your home that is no longer useful to you and fill your gift sack with the goods. Study your goods so you'll remember what your carrying and be able to choose the right gift for the people you meet. If I ever feel that I don't have enough I just start making stuff. This year I found a bag of bells and strung them into bracelets with some suede strands. I gave them to kids and told them that if they ring the bell every day and wish for peace that Santa will give them better gifts.

Droplifting as a Holiday Elf Step One

(OK I admit, I am really into being a holiday elf and droplifting my unwanted goods as gifts. Heres how to do it in steps. Step one: make an elf suit. Our jumpers are made of heavy wool, the coat fleece. Everything is trimmed out in faux fur. My hat is hand knitted, fleece lined. By using the right materials you will always be warm when wearing it in December. My nose flute (for proving I am in fact a real elf) hangs from my neck. My gift sack is also fleece and faux fur. I wear a bell bracelet and carry two copies of books of snarky renditions of popular christmas songs. - Wendy


Have a Look Inside My Book

Though my book titled, The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands On Living, will not be available until June my publisher has posted a little holiday preview, have a look. 

Illustration © Kate Bingaman-Burt, excerpted
The Good Life Lab. All rights reserved.


Try Droplifting as a Holiday Elf

Next friday night, Dec 7th T or C's holds its annual Old Fashioned Christmas. Broadway will be lit with fire barrels, there will likely be a live nativity scene at the church, everyone comes out to walk around and take in the fires and wish each other happy holidays, OK actually they wish each other Merry Christmas. I live in a town where my tribe is too thin to form a minyan but lets not get hung there.

Mikey and I will be attending dressed as elves and doing what we call "droplifting." We stuff red fleece sacks with an assortment of stuff no longer useful to us (our free box) and make our way around town seeking recipients for the goods. Sometimes we also pass around marshmallows and sticks for roasting them, sometimes cookies. I carry a book of snarky xmas songs for the right occasions and a nose flute should I need to prove to a 7 year old that I am in fact a real elf. Last year I gave earmuffs to a shivering cop, a scarf to a cold mom, a car wash coupon to a dad wearing a ten gallon hat who I presumed drove a dual suspension pick up.  
2012 marks me and Mikey's 11th year droplifting as holiday elves. I admit, it is one of the things I most love doing. It transforms my junk into treasures, magic treasures because they have been given by a real magic elf, albeit a Jewish one. This post is our suggestion to you to join us and give being an elf a try. Perhaps your community hosts a holiday party. I'm sure you'll find an appropriate application. To participate you need only an elf costume (on any scale), some junk from your home, some courage and a bit of joy. If your experience is anything like ours, after about 15 minutes you may realize you are no longer pretending to be an elf. 

Pass it on and have fun.
(image: T or C's Old Fashioned Christmas Schedule)


EV Skateboard Distance Test

EV Skateboard Distance Test by mikeysklar
EV Skateboard Distance Test, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I'm still figuring out the capacity of the lithium battery pack I recovered for my electric skateboard. Today I rode up and down a smooth street that is mostly flat. I was able to do about 3.41 miles with a battery pack that was not completely charged.

Pomegranate Sauerkraut - Pom Kraut

When I showed Wendy the ingredients I was putting into a half gallon mason jar to make pom kraut she said "You have gone rogue". Well, maybe I have, but here is why I think this will work. Some countries often use fruit like blueberries and apples to make a sweet kraut. I tried some over our homesteading event and was impressed. I also like how the pomegranates and cabbage can be harvested at roughly the same time of year. While I've not found anyone using this specific blend I am confident that it will work. Here is the recipe.

- 1 napa cabbage chopped
- 1 T caraway seed (crushed)
- 1 C whey
- 3 T grey salt
- 1 lg pom (seeds only)
- crush and fill the rest with water

Pomegranate Sauerkraut - Pom Kraut #2Pomegranate Sauerkraut - Pom Kraut #3


New Mexico Fails by Forbes Standards - Keeps Out the Rif Raff

This week Forbes Magazine called New Mexico a "death spiral state." They based the comment on our  having a lot of retirees, government employees and people on welfare. I think Forbes may have missed something.

When Forbes labeled New Mexico a death spiral state I don't think they had any way to account for the abundance that is felt by many of the people who live here. For Mikey and I being outside the rise and fall of the national monetary system connected us with abundance. This wealth we found from a more intimate source than we knew in NY when we worked 70 hours a week. We found it in our local domestic economy, we found it in friends and neighbors, community.  The stats Forbes quotes about retirees, government employees and folks on welfare hardly say anything about our reciprocity with one another.

Money is different here. Many consider it the low road. Bounties are counted in gifts: food, drink, building supplies, scraps, and knowledge. New Mexicans know how to make things and how things work. But don't confuse our dusty, grease covered, stain spotted clothes with poverty. Many know how to live when there is no system to rely on.

Yes NM is a poor state and sure some suffer. But when the housing market crashed and many cities boasted a 14% foreclosure rate here in Truth or Consequences we had a modest 1%. Why? People live modestly. Fewer invest, fewer are tied to the system and tossed about by its fluctuations.

When Mikey and I pulled out of the market around 2007 we put the cash we had in a savings account earning 2% interest. We used most of our money to buy tools like cement mixers, land, and water. The bankers would say we did the dumbest possible thing. A year later the market crashed and we didnt think it was so dumb. We had nothing to loose. Instead of counting our wealth in money counted the tools we had to build a world with. And we did build a world.

Lately the most glamorous of magazines have been popularizing making things yourself. But I wonder of the people reading those mags, do they have the time? We all know what's coming and its not American's making a mint on the market, its learning how to live when systems we once relied on fail, like the systems that Forbes is known to report on.

I'd give a minute of thought to what it means to be hitched to the national economy and what it means to live outside of it before I let Forbes convince me that NM is a "death spiral state." Admittedly locals kinda like it when we get "bad press." They say things like, "it keeps out the rif raff."

Image: seasonal holiday store selling handmade goods, Monticello NM

Middle of the Road Discussion

A car drives by recognizes us and stops to chat. This is a surprisingly common event in our town. What is even more amazing is that these chats can go on for 20 minutes with traffic trying to make their way around the conversation.

The Pattern of Me

I've always wondered if making my own patterns would lead to perfectly fitting clothing. Imagine that? Today I made my first pattern. I can't exactly say that the fit has that oh so perfect feel of being just right. But that's not because it's not possible so much as that I just need to hone my skills. But I did make one darn cool sweater and it fits.

I began by making a pattern out of butcher paper. I simply traced a top I like. Having made this first item I can see what needs tweaking the next time that I use the pattern.  I'm on my way.

Leatherman Upgrade or Downgrade + Hack

I've carried various leatherman tools for the last 15 years. I love how innovative each new generation is. Only recently have I noticied that I'd been leaving my Skeletool at home due to it's weight. I recently ordered a $18 Style PS which has some nice features at comes in at 1/3rd the weight (45g vs 145g).

The big drawback on the little Leatherman Style PS model is that it doesn't have a knife which I really wanted. I put it on the bench grinder and made blade from the file. It only took a few minutes and now seems to be the perfect combo for a daily pocket knife. TSA will no longer approve it for flights, but at least it can be used for everything else.

The Style PS includes the following:
  • needlenose pliers
  • wire cutters
  • scissors
  • flat screwdriver
  • file
  • carabiner / bottle opener
Leatherman Upgrade or Downgrade + Hack #2

Favorite New Terrifying Breakfast Sandwich

Wendy went out of town the other night to visit her mother. This left me in charge of all the meals which led me to combine some bizarre ingredients. I was thinking about breakfast and BLTs and came up with the bacon kimchi egg (BKE). It was amazing. The spicy crunch of the kimchi, combined with the crunch of the bacon just write with the fried egg on buttery sourdough. I probably will not repeat this until she leaves town again.