On the making of goodness.

It sounds rather grandiose, now that I write it down, but I’ve been trying lately to imagine how it is that we make space for making goodness.

For making good things, for allowing basic goodness to creep into whatever it is we are making anyway.

Specific examples include the lamb-leek-barley soup I made last week and cannot get over; the upcycled wool scarf I made Len for Christmas that both of us quite adore; the hour spent in the kitchen with both boys this morning as we explored  spontaneously the acoustic properties of an old vacuum pipe and a cardboard wrapping-paper tube.  In every case, there was the magic of serendipity (one can never properly estimate the right amount of leek, am I right?); the hard work of preparation (finding the best way to set the tension for the walking foot and cleaning out all the felted wool lint repeatedly); the challenge of setting down expectations and just showing up to what’s present (a two-year-old’s insistence on toting around a long ShopVac tube and helpfully “vacuuming” freshly painted walls while hollering seemed like a good opportunity for redirection).

It strikes me now that this post would do well to include the soup recipe (inspired by this), the scarf tutorial, and the fun description of sound games to play with toddlers…and perhaps it shall.  Another night.  For now, let it be enough for me to share my gratitude for delicious local foods, for friends with a superior grasp of sewing machine workings, for fun and interesting kids who are malleable enough to move with me sometimes.  Let it be enough to remember that making things is often better than not making things; that flailing wildly is really just a natural part of the creative process; that resilience in the face of failure is a whole lot better than being so safe you never get to fail.  And once in a while, you get to feel the good in the product, even, and not just the process.  Those are good days.  And the rest just keep you humble, right?

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On upcycling, or whathaveyou

I’m one of those people who has a hard time getting rid of things most of the time, because I’m inclined to imagine other uses for it.  T-shirts, for example, are CERTAIN to become t-shirt yarn and then fabulous folksy rugs, except that they are all different weights and textures and none of them is a color I’m crazy about.  But I have to store them for a couple of years before I can arrive at this conclusion and give them away.  It’s an imperfect system, but I really excel at it.

So imagine my husband’s surprise when he entered the kitchen yesterday afternoon to find me packing Bonne Maman jars into a big cardboard box.  It’s our preferred jam, and we eat a lot of jam, and when we realized a few years ago that the jars were useful for everything from packing kids’ lunches to serving gin and tonic, well, we kept a few.  Ah-hem.  They overflowed the glass-cabinet, and then we started storing them on the windowsill by the food-prep area, because it was so convenient for lunch-packing.  At first it was one row, then a second on top, and then a third, in a truly precarious and often artistic display.  A few weeks ago, our boys decided to stop eating our packed lunches on the two days a week they go to daycare, preferring to eat what everyone else eats (daycare makes fresh lunches for the kids every day).  And here we are with seven thousand jars and no concrete use for them.  But then I remembered some friends who may want to borrow them for glasses at their August wedding on the coast, and then I got to thinking about everything else you can do with them.  So here’s my list.  Pinterest style.  Be inspired.  Or entirely turned off this blog.  It’s up to you.

A whole bunch of things you can do with Bonne Maman jam jars:

  1. Drink out of them (preferably clear, icy drinks with lemon twists or olives).
  2. Store smoothies in them (remove cap; drink).
  3. Put frozen veg or fruit in them to thaw for kid-sized snacks at home or on the go.
  4. Pack lunches in them (pesto-pasta in one; cut-up chicken in another; peas in another).
  5. Use as votive-holders with glass beads, pebbles, or sand in the bottom.
  6. Use for terrarium: add moss, sticks, wee ferns.  Occasional plastic animals may find their way in as well.
  7. Use for aquarium: add rocks, water, and a small plastic sea-turtle.
  8. Catch spiders or fireflies or other cool creatures.  Examine at leisure and then release.
  9. Fill partway with soapy water and use as receptacle for Japanese Beetles, Tomato Hornworms, or other interesting-to-look-at but utterly unwanted garden guests.
  10. Use for vases, especially for simple, short, matching arrangements of daisies, for example.
  11. Use as centerpieces filled with small fruits.
  12. Fill partway with glass beads and water; rest an avocado seed halfway in the water.  Wait a few months and it’ll sprout.
  13. Use to organize office supplies; craft materials; small children’s toys; crayons; hair clips; coins.
  14. Wire them around the edges and hang them as vases or candle-holders.
  15. Use to store dried herbs or other non-perishable household items.
  16. Use to freeze pesto, if you make it in large batches; one jar, 2/3 full, is just right for our standard box of pasta.
  17. Use to freeze breastmilk.  I kid you not.  Those Medela bottles are pricey and this works just as well.
  18. Use in place of Tupperware for storing leftovers, making more room in your fridge.
  19. Make a sewing kit for a gift or for your own house.
  20. Make cocoa-mix gifts.  Or small Halloween candy jars.  Or layered soup mixes.

Or, as my husband points out, you could conceivably just recycle them.  If you were cold of heart and dead of spirit.