Fresh Thyme And A Pile Of Books

Cotoneaster

Happy New Year, you all!

2015 ended with family gatherings and picking fresh thyme in the French alps, long walks in a city filled with good memories and a pile of books I had never read before.

The alarm went off in the wee hours on the first day of 2016, for we had a plane home to catch (well, technically, two).

Blame it on the lack of sleep, I still haven’t realized that a new year is there. One of these days I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee, looking back into 2015, dreaming about 2016 and I’ll write down a thing or two. Things for myself to remember, and things I’m looking forward to. I’ll make resolutions I will stick to, and crazy ones I probably won’t, but who knows?

But so far, I’ve been cozying up next to the wood burning stove, sipping a warm cup of ginger, thyme and honey tea and devouring another good book. Catching up on sleep and waking up to fresh snow. It’s been such a nice, peaceful start of the year.

And for now, thank you, thank you so much for your visits and comments here! I’m sending you warm wishes, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the words and images you’ll be sharing this year. May 2016 be a good one!

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Click, Click, Click

Winter light in my desk nookFor a few precious minutes, rays of winter light came into the house. Into my desk nook,

Winter light in the kitchen into the kitchen,

Winter light in the hallway into the hallway. I walked around with my camera. Click, click, click.

Here is a similar post from last year.

Winter light on the wall


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Now

a bowlful of dandelion flowers

in the field

by the old mill

lying in the grass

No matter how long the days have gotten, time seems to fly way too fast. Here I am digging garden beds and turning the compost pile, while golden dandelion jelly is bubbling on the stove. Nature doesn’t wait.

So, business has to wait. Oh, sure, it’s frustrating at times, and yes, my laptop charger died on me as I was editing this goddamn business website.

But my life is so, so much better this way than the other way around. For nature doesn’t wait and dandelions are blooming now.

after sunset


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Green And Gray

wild cherry blossoms

rainbow

flower

rainbow

field

Before I know it, it’s past midnight. I’ll be up until the wee hours, these June nights are so bright.

It’s such a luxury — probably the biggest of all — to freely dispose of one’s time.

Sometimes as I gaze at the birds through the window I get to witness the birth of a cloud above the fields, or see a fox running by, or the couple of hedgehogs that takes a walk on the lawn every night.

Sometimes the wind carries smells of manure from the nearby farms. But the garden smells of wet earth and wild cherry flowers. Cycling around the other night, I paused several times to take deep breaths. There were so many different smells. Spring flowers, wet forest, freshly cut fir trees.

I’m not writing as much as I wish I would. There are garden beds to dig, seedlings to start, compost piles to turn, grass to cut — nothing to complain about, really.

And then there are these creative endeavours, slowly taking shape. Notebooks being scribbled into, orders sent, ideas becoming clearer, hands becoming more agile. Scalpels cutting paper and paintbrushes dipped in watercolors.

IMG_8683


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Colors And Patterns

cut paper characters, by marionOn my desk, bookworms. I made these from recycled cardboard packaging. A special thanks to Riri and to Basse, for saving their cereal boxes for me!

trees and their shadowsThrough the window, the view has changed quite a bit since January.

Brown-haired bookworm, cut paper and watercolors, by marion After a lot of practice, it was time to switch to proper watercolor paper. The colors are brighter, for sure. I’m quite happy with the patterns on this one, too.

in the forest In the forest, the very last patches of snow.

Red-haired bookworm,  cut paper and watercolors, by marion Another one, with freckles.

in the forest And fresh air, lots of fresh air.


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Fir Trees And Birch Trees

climbing

wood

birch trees and fir trees

fallen birch tree

These days I’m spending long hours painting and cutting paper. I’m taking a lot of notes, learning new techniques, listening to podcasts. I’m feeling so inspired, but oh, so stiff from too much sitting! So, everyday, I’m taking long walks in the forest. Birch trees, fir trees, blue skies and sunlight. The sound of silence and the sound of the wind.

walking in the forest

undergrowth


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Frugal Wintertime Habits: This Year’s Progress

wintertime-bymarion-text

With spring coming next week, I thought it would be nice to recap all the frugal wintertime habits we put into practice this year. Most of them were inspired by other bloggers I have been reading these past few years, for example here, here, here or here. Even though I don’t believe that individual actions alone can change the world (I think we need some serious thinking, political debate and action too), I have found it very useful and inspiring to read about other people’s progress toward a greener and simpler life. It has helped me realize there were many changes I could make in my everyday life that would benefit both planet and people. Last year, inspired by zero waste ideas, I stopped buying tea bags and started using handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues. It wasn’t difficult, it was a change of perspective. And it saved me some money, too. For me personally, every new penny-saving habit is precious because it gives me time I can spend away from a job that made me unhappy, building something I find more meaningful instead. Here’s the progress we made this winter to save even more energy, labor, and money:

We’ve stopped buying canned beans and peas. We cook dried ones instead. We found that it’s not so time-consuming if you’re well organized: we make a big batch every two weeks or so. We soak them overnight, cook them on the wood stove (which is also our main heating source), and freeze then in small glass jars. It’s very quick to thaw them as we need them by filling the jar with boiling water. This way we have plenty of balanced, delicious and quickly prepared vegetarian meals. Whenever we run out of homemade houmous, for example, we grab a jar of chickpeas in the freezer and make some more. We also save the broth when cooking kidney beans. It makes delicious minestrone soup.

Last fall I wrote about being a vegetable freak and learning to love winter vegetables. I’m happy to say that the love affair has gone quite well all winter long, and we’ve almost completely replaced arugula and lettuce by carrots, parsnip, cabbage and celery.

There’s nothing like a good cup of tea to keep warm or fight a cold (in the event of which I use the handkerchiefs I sewed last year!). We’ve stopped buying tea bags when we realized that using a infuser was just as good and generated less waste. Last year’s harvest of peppermint and nettles made delicious tea for several months. I hope to harvest enough plants and herbs this year again to make tea all winter long.

Whenever we use the oven, we try to bake several things in a row. We often bake a cake after we’ve made a loaf of bread. If we don’t eat it straight away, we slice it and freeze it so that we always have something ready in case someone turns out for fika.

Our fridge/freezer is old and it’s noisy when it goes off. But since it works ok, we’re reluctant to throw it away and get a newer one. Luckily, we live in a cold climate. Everything we need to freeze cools down (often even freezes) outside before going into the freezer. Whenever it’s below zero, we also rotate a couple of water bottles or ice packs so that there’s always one freezing outside and one in the fridge to help it a little. We might be over-optimistic, but we’re pretty sure it goes off less often when we’re doing this.

Before we finished installing the wood stove, hot water bottles were a must. We simply repurposed empty glass bottles. We still use them whenever it’s really cold. We sleep much better in a cool room, but we’re not (that) crazy either!

As our neighbors recommended, after the big snowfall in January, we piled the snow against the walls of the house. We really noticed a difference in terms of insulation, especially on windy days.

We don’t have a tumble drier. But in the cold season, we don’t miss it at all. When it’s below zero, the air is very dry, and laundry dries quickly. We hang it outside in the sun, or next to the wood stove (keeping fire safety in mind, of course!). Our drying rack is a repurposed metal bed frame.

repurposed headboard drying rack

I’ve learned a lot more about knitting this winter. Thanks to very helpful YouTube videos and my grandma’s detailed explanations, I learned how to make hats, cowls, mittens, and socks. I’m really happy to be able to make these myself.

And, last but not least:pillows-bymarion-text

Making pillow cases from old shirts is really fun. Spring or not spring, I’m looking for more fabric to practice. If you have old shirts you don’t use, email me! I’ll be happy to make you a pillow case.

Finally, I must say that everything on this list felt much more like a satisfying change of perspective than like a painful sacrifice.

Now for frugal spring plans: we will take advantage of sunnier and warmer days to complete our pallet furniture projects, and prepare our first vegetable garden around our tiny red house.

How about you? What new frugal habits did you form this winter? What frugal plans do you have for spring?


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Wind And Numbers

winter sky

hand knitted socks

trees

bread

winter

firewood

It’s gray and windy and I feel like staying inside all day. Still, it’s good to get some fresh air. I walk slowly because of all the ice. The snow is melting and the colors in the woods are changing from day to day. I’m thinking about numbers. The new numbers I have learned this winter. How much firewood to keep us warm for a month. How many yarn balls to knit a pair of socks. And the old ones, that have formed the pattern of my life for a few years. How fast the days get longer after the turn of the year. How many days before he’ll have to bake another loaf of bread.

funny tree

understory

Shovelling snow and making pillows

shovelling02

shovelling03

shovelling01

There was a sunny day last week, and then it started snowing. It didn’t stop until yesterday. Now the pile has reached the bottom of the living room windows.

***

I haven’t drawn in a while. Soon I’ll start making new bookworms to keep this one company. But these days, I’m shovelling snow and making pillows.

What’s better that turning old checked shirts into pillowcases on a snowy day? Often I think: I could do that for a living. I want to practice a little more, but now I’m running out of old shirts. How about a swap: you send me a bunch of old shirts, I send you a pillowcase back, and we’re quits. Yes?

***

And now? More snow shovelling.

shovelling04

shovelling05

shovelling07

shovelling06


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Days Alone And Shades Of Blue

snow on a tree

wintry landscape

branches on blue sky

I drove home from the airport on Sunday morning. The sky was clear, for the first time in days. The rising sun greated me on the road. A traffic alert on the radio interrupted the music. “Reindeer. Be careful.” But I didn’t see them. They must have been further up North.

It had been snowing a lot during the night. I was grateful to find that my helpful neighbor had cleared the snow in front of the house. I lit a fire and reheated some leftovers for lunch. The wood pile was running low. Resisting the temptation to take a nap by the fire, I went for a walk with my camera. Sunny days are so scarce.

It snowed again the next day while household chores kept me busy. As I shoveled the snow around the car in the evening, more wood was delivered by another helpful neighbor. I stacked the whole pile safely on the veranda. It was a big pile, but I did it.

Today I feel stiff and sleepy. But I know it’s good old exercise-induced fatigue. It’s another sunny day. I’m writing by the fire. I’m driving back to the airport tomorrow.

snowy landscape

snowy tree

sunset fog

nightfall


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