Book Review – Mini Habits

Stephen Guise has written a very powerful little book.  Mini Habits is a quick read about how to get big results from small life changes.

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Mr. Guise details how habits are formed.  There is a chapter on motivation vs. willpower, and then a lot of information on how to implement mini habits.

My favorite recommendation from this book is “make your habits stupid small”.  Even I can do something difficult for one minute.  The hardest part is getting started, right?  Once I have a minute in, it’s easier to add another.

Other good advice includes “if you feel strong resistance, back off and go smaller”.  And “be happy with all progress”.  These both ease pressure when making changes, and that’s clearly a positive thing.

The principles in this book have helped me create a habit of flossing daily.  I was terribly lazy about this before, and I noticed a big change at my last dental appointment.  It was quick and easy to get my teeth cleaned, instead of the usual rather torturous experience.  It worked!

To build my new habit I used brushing my teeth in the morning as a cue.  Immediately after brushing I got out the floss.  I told myself I only had to floss two teeth, but of course, it was simple to just do them all.  It’s become routine and easy now.  It takes less than 90 seconds and makes me feel great.  I am doing something good for myself, and ensuring I’ll hold on to my teeth for a long time!  No one ever said “I wish I hadn’t taken care of my teeth”, right?

Stephen also has a blog that’s worth following, he is an interesting and intelligent guy.  He recently published a post entitled “Why Mini Habits Is the Greatest Personal Development Strategy Ever”.  Read it.

Reading this book can help you improve in any area.  Habits can be created around your health, work and even parenting.  Do yourself a favor and give this book a few hours of your time.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

And here’s a fiber picture for the addicts.

Production For The Indiana State Fair Is Ramping Up
Production for the Indiana State Fair is ramping up.  These are worsted weight superwash merino yarns that will not be in the Etsy store.  You can purchase by emailing me at http://www.indigokittyknits.com.  $20 includes shipping in the continental US.

 

A Better Way To Grow Vegetables

A few months ago my Costco member’s magazine contained an article about a Minnesota horticulturist who has developed a whole new way of gardening.

Joel Karsten spent 22 years in his own garden experimenting with growing vegetables and flowers in straw bales.

Does that sound crazy?  It did to me at first.  After learning more about it, I’ve decided to give it a try in my own garden this year.

Mr. Karsen has written several books about straw bale gardening.  He says the advantages include:

  • High yields
  • No weeding and less overall labor
  • Easier for older or disabled gardeners
  • Poor soil is no problem
  • Extends the growing season by weeks
  • Can be conventional or organic
  • Can go anywhere, even on balconies or driveway
  • Cats enjoy them too – this is my own personal advantage
MoonshadowTent
From The Dirt I Occupy blog.  A beautiful kitty in an elaborate tunnel.  My row covers are much simpler than this.

Mr. Karsten advises starting small, and states that four bales per person is a good idea.  I purchased twelve bales at my local home and garden store, at $4.98 each, the best price I could find.  That is an investment of $59.76.

After placing the bales in your desired location you condition them for 12 days.  This consists of sprinkling fertilizer and water on the bales.  The specific amount of fertilizer used depends on whether you are using organic or conventional.  I went conventional this first year.

Bales are ready for planting on day 12.  I goofed up my conditioning, so I planted around day 15.  Schedule interruptions are no problem, you just pick up where you left off.

I planted purchased tomato plants on April 17, very early for central Indiana, but we’ve had a very warm spring.

The book describes how to create a little greenhouse in the event of cold weather.  It’s easy and inexpensive, and requires no tools except perhaps clothespins.  I did this when my temps went below 50F at night.  They’ve gone as low as 27F with no problem.  The decomposing bales generate enough heat to keep things above freezing inside the covering.

I’m writing this on April 27, and three of my four tomato plants have flower buds.  None had buds when I purchased.  This is quite robust growth.  My plants are almost as tall the the first line of the trellis I made according to instructions in the book.  This is all remarkable for tomatoes in central Indiana in April.

I also planted twelve lettuce and one parsley plant.  They’ve grown quickly and are in excellent condition.  This is a romaine type.

The nicest lettuce I've ever grown.
The nicest lettuce I’ve ever grown.

There have been a few wheat seedlings on my straw bales, it’s no problem to just pull them out.  I’ve also seen some cool mushrooms, which are completely normal.

You can also plant seeds, be sure to use the type of planting medium he recommends.  I used seed starting medium on some bales and had problems keeping them moist enough.  Seedlings are finally sprouting.

All in all, this seems like a spectacular method of producing vegetables in the home garden.

I don’t think it’s much more expensive than traditional gardening. After factoring in the time saved weeding, watering (he instructs us use soaker hoses on times across the bales, which I’ve done) and the extended growing season I think it’s money well spent.

The book I bought is Straw Bale Gardens Complete, the latest in the series.  It’s available everywhere.  Here’s a link to Amazon for your convenience.  I don’t get anything for sending you to Amazon.

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There is a Facebook group for straw bale gardeners too.  Join me there.

There is a closed group too.  If you’d like to be added contact me via the comments below and I’ll add you.

Watch for more reporting on how my garden fares over the summer.  Happy gardening to you, no matter what method you use this year.

 

Spinning And Dyeing Yarn – A Book Review

I ran across this wonderful book by Ashley Martineau at my local library.

spinning and dyeing yarn

I love it and think it’s a must for all beginning spinners. My five top reasons are:

  1. Great instruction on building your own fiber equipment, including a spinning wheel, drying rack, kick spindle (must try!),  and a niddy noddy. She even shows how to build a sturdy lightbox that will store things waiting to be photographed. Lots of fun for the do it yourself crowd, and you won’t need to invest much money until you know you really enjoy spinning.
  2. Directions on spinning fabric.  I want to try that, I have lots of fat quarters and bits of quilting fabric piled up with no particular plan for their use.
  3. Information on core spinning, including on a hand spindle!  I highly recommend starting to spin on a hand spindle.  The portability is wonderful and its so inexpensive to get going.
  4. Clear directions on washing wool.  I want to buy a fleece (or two) this year and process it myself, just for the fun of it.  I’ve been hesitating because I was intimidated about washing it.  Will I felt it?  Will I get it clean enough? How do I even begin?  These clear instructions make it look pretty straight forward.
  5. The inspiration factor – there are dozens of pictures of gorgeous fibers.  Yarns, roving, batts, it’s all here.  If these colors and textures don’t make you want to immediately begin nuzzling your fiber, maybe you aren’t quite as crazy in love with fiber as I am.

Five stars for this book.  Its perfect for beginners and a great resource for those looking to up their game and try new techniques.  Clear instructions, excellent pictures and even a section on going pro make this a winner.  This one deserves a spot in your fiber library.

This post’s fiber picture is something new.  We’ve recently begun making spinning batts.  Here’s a lovely one, its now available in my Etsy shop.

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Friday Finds December 18, 2015

Calvin and Hobbes might be my favorite comic of all time.  Love the relationship between them, the exasperation of the parents (I can really relate), and his imaginary adventures.  This absolutely charming image of them in a “real life” quiet moment just makes me smile.  The artist, Isaiah Stephens, is a genius!  Check out a few of his other drawings here.

cat_naps__calvin_and_hobbes__by_isaiahks-d4vtkej

How about downloading your next new pair of jeans?  I find the idea of downloadable clothes rather mind bending.  Listen to this TED talk for a glimpse of the possible future of fashion retailing.

 

Hey, knitters who love tea.  Have you been looking at all the amazing tea cozies people have made?  Here’s a fairly simple free pattern to get you started.  This is from Loani Prior, the author of four books on tea cozies, including her new book.  I want!

Pretty Funny Tea Cosies - High res cover

This is the last Friday Finds post of 2015.  Wishing all my readers a very happy holiday season.  Celebrate!

 

How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big – Book Review

how to fail

Scott Adams is the very successful creator of Dilbert.  He is also a very intelligent guy and sincerely interested in making the world a better place. In this book he gives advice on optimizing your chances for luck and success.  I found this book fascinating because I love learning from smart people who have figured out something I haven’t.

My top five most important take aways from this book were:

  1. Personal energy is your most important resource and the most important metric to track.  Ways to maximize your energy include diet, exercise, sleep, and having a flexible schedule.
  2. Goals Vs. Systems – Adams says goals are for losers.  Harsh words, but he goes on to say that you spend every moment before you reach your goal (if you reach it at all) feeling as if you are short of your goal.  In other words you exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that you hope will be temporary.  The smarter choice is to have a system for continuous improvement.  You succeed every time you apply your system, and this maintains your personal energy in the right direction.  There is a lot of discussion on how to create systems.
  3. Simplifing vs. Optimizing.  An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems.  A simplifier looks for the simplest solution with the least chance of complexity complicating things.  Optimizers make elaborate plans that can collapse if one variable is not perfect – think traffic, road construction, an unexpected wait somewhere.  Simplifiers look for simple solutions that might take a bit of extra effort but have a good chance of working out.  Think of a dinner and movie night with friends.  You allow plenty of travel time, make a reservation at the restaurant, meet friends there rather than make elaborate plans to meet somewhere else and travel together.  You don’t tack on other errands or stops on the way.  Chances are you’ll be on time for your movie.  If you optimize the trip you might drop off the dry cleaning on the way, but find a big line waiting to pick up and have your time table go straight to hell.  Sometimes optimizing works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I tend to optimize – I combine all my errands in one big trip with an elaborate itinerary.  Somtimes this is great, sometimes not so much.  Nothing causes me stress like being late, and optimizing can cause the whole house of cards to collapse if one little thing goes wrong.  Simplifying sometimes makes more sense, especially when timing is critical or others are involved.
  4. Knowing when to quit.  No one wants to be a quitter, right? Persistence is a virtue and all.  He posits that things that will work out start out well.  So, if you have a great idea that you just can’t any traction with, maybe it isn’t such a wonderful idea after all, or the timing just isn’t right.  He cites examples like cell phones, the first clunky ones were eagerly purchased even though they were terribly flawed.
  5. Every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success.  Some skills, like business writing and a working understanding of psychology are more important than others.  I agree!  He gives a list of skills he recommends.

Adams invites us to think of ourselves as moist robots, rather than “skin bags of magic and mystery”.  Robots are programmable and we can program ourselves for success and happiness.   I do think we are also magical and mysterious, but I don’t find these two ideas so incompatible that I can’t accept both.

I found this book easy to read and did so quickly, since it was full of good ideas and well written to keep the reader interested in moving forward.

A big thumbs up to How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, it’s definitely worth a read.

I’m going to create a morning system designed to get me off to a good start every day.  Right now my morning consists of lying around sipping coffee and goofing around on my Ipad for a couple of hours.  I can probably improve that!

 

 

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You – Book Review

Decidopobia – The Fear Of Making Decisions – yeah, I’ve got that.

Last night at a local hamburger place I had to choose from an overwhelming menu.  I did make a choice, but it took me a few minutes.  I noticed many of my friends had to look at every page numerous times and had trouble choosing.  It seems the more choices a menu has, the more difficult choice becomes.

Why?  For me, it’s the fear of missing out on something “better”, or making the “wrong” choice.  This is obviously ridiculous.  How can there be a “wrong” hamburger?  Is this going to be my last one?  Unlikely.

While vacationing in Rhode Island recently, our little tourist group visited a tiny independent bookstore where this small book grabbed my attention.  I bought it, partially as a souvenir, but mostly because I am working on transforming many areas of my life.

A Very Cool Book
A Very Cool Book

This journal is all about making scary decisions.  The quotations help defuse the fear of coming to a verdict about some possible action. There is a section on each page to record details of your choice.  You can skip around in it using any page that catches your fancy, or take the pages in order – that’s the way I use it as I’m a pretty orderly type of person, especially when it comes to books.

For me this isn’t a daily thing.  I keep it on my desk, and when I’m turning a decision over in my mind I pull it out and read the next quote.  Today’s was the Decidophobia quote above. Another favorite of mine was “Behold the turtle.  He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”

It will be useful to look back over the book later to see choices that frightened me at the time I made them.

We all have things in our lives we want to transform.  Maybe you want to lose weight, find a better job, or grow a business.  It’s going to take a lot of new choices, and a lot of discomfort to get there.  This book is both a tool to help making it easier and a record of the choosing.  How cool is that?

Today’s pretty fiber picture –

Soccer Mom Mitts - Pattern Coming Soon!
Soccer Mom Mitts – Pattern Coming Soon!

 

 

Friday Finds Oct 30, 2015

This week’s interesting finds are focused on creativity, selfishness and forgiveness.  I am a bit obsessed with personal development and recovery, can you tell?

40 Books To Unlock Your Creativity

Here is one of them.

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Here’s an interesting post about selfishness from Raptitude.com

Are You Good Enough?

And this beautiful post from the Daily Love (with lovely prayer included, be sure to read or just scroll all the way down to the bottom) on forgiveness.

That’s it for this week.  Hope you enjoy.

 

 

The Book That Changed The Way I Think About Fear

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.

Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective.  I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it.  I just could not connect with it.  So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.

big magic

One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way.  She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose.  Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce.  Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers.  The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life.    Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.

Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all?  But fear doesn’t understand that.  And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.

Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.

She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times.  It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south.  But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous.  So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.

She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.

Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.

Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past.  I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me.  Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.

I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.

I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.

If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.

Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn

Book Review – Pinterest Power

I randomly picked up a book from the New Books shelf at the library last week. It was a lucky find – I think it’s going to teach me a lot!

Pinterest Power by Jason Miles and Karen Lacey outlines the reasons businesses should be using Pinterest to market their business, build their brand, and increase sales.  Then they give you specific, detailed information on how to do it.

Pinterest Power

Jason Miles and his wife, Cinnamon, own Liberty Jane Clothing, a wildly sucessful business which creates clothes and patterns for clothing for American Girl Dolls.  Cinnamon has gorgeous Pinterest boards and they are clearly experts at using social media to grow their business.  Jason also wears some other hats, including teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwest University’s School of Business Management in Seattle.

Karen Lacey is a writer and a guru on entrepreneurship.  She’s written several books and screenplays.  Her newest book is  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance (which I have not yet read, but it’s on my list!).

Pinterest Power is well written and easy to read.  As I read, I find I’m very motivated to apply the information I’m gathering.  I’ve created well thought out pinboards, each with it’s own theme, and done some brainstorming to better understand who my customers are – both things the book recommends.

Maybe none of this is advanced business knowledge, but I am finding it very helpful in creating a coherent plan to fully utilize Pinterest (and other social networks).  My copy of the book is heavily marked up, full of stickies, and I’ve started a little journal for notetaking.

I also am finding this book is helping me to think like a business owner.   That’s a big benefit to reading it.

Jason has written several other books, Price It Like Picasso and Craft Business Power, both of which are on my short list to read in the near future (I bought them both).

Some of my favorite take-aways from this book so far:

1.  Not all social media is for every business.  My business is very visual, so Twitter isn’t a very useful venue for me, and I’ve decided not to spend a terribly large amount of time on it.

2.  How to decide if my Pinterest personality should be personal or corporate, the pitfalls and advantages of each, and how to create the personality I chose.

3.  How to build relationships with other pinners and encourage them to repin my pins, thus increasing my product’s exposure.

I recommend this book to everyone who has a business (for profit or nonprofit) who is looking for free and time efficient ways to grow their sales.

Jason has a blog called Marketing on Pinterest.  Check it out!

My Very Favorite Vegan Cookbook of 2012

Someone asked me recently which new cookbook of 2012 I liked best.  I’m afraid I will show my greedy little sweet tooth here, but the winner is 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

150 best vegan muffin recipes

I use this cookbook three or four times a week (I have a lot of teenagers who eat endlessly).  The things I like best about it is that almost all the recipes use easily available ingredients and the recipes are very easily customized to your family’s tastes.    I have switched her recommended soy yogurt for coconut when that was all I had, with great results, which makes it very useful when cooking for someone with a soy allergy.

The author includes a tip with almost every recipe and some of them are quite useful, for example, how to choose a good mango, or how to store wheat germ.  She also suggests substitutions that can change things up a little bit.

So far, I’ve only found one stinker – Mashed Potato Muffins – and, to be fair, she states to mash the potatoes with a fork, which I think must mean they should be chunky.  Mine were very very smooth, potato puree really, and the muffins just weren’t anything special.

But, the others I’ve tried are fantastic!

My favorites (in no particular order)

  • Gingerbread Muffins
  • Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins (I see my copy has a note in it in my handwriting which says  “add walnuts” and another that says “add ginger for pumpkin gingerbread”.  I’ve tried it both of these ways and they were smashing.
  • Chai Latte Muffins (favorite of the teens)
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  I add a tiny sprinkle of sugar to the top of each of these before baking to get a crunchy top.

Tonight’s menu is potato and kale soup, toasted french bread and to finish, the lemon poppy seed muffins.  Can’t wait!