52 Projects is an adventure in discovery. Every week, for 52 weeks, do something. Something you’ve never done before. Something you’ve always wanted to do. Something that scares you. Something that inspires you. Something that inspires others. Something that tickles your fancy. Something that caught your eye. Something that just popped into your head. It can be big. It can be small. It can be whatever you want it to be. Find out how doing something can lead you to discover things about yourself, your world, your God. Then, come here on Sundays and share it with others. I'll write about mine here, you write about yours on your blog, then use the tool in my post to link to your something. Please feel free to jump in and participate anytime throughout the year!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week 23: A gardening project

For as long as I can remember, I've always claimed that I had no green thumb. I hated gardening and never gave it much of a thought. I always loved the look of gardens but couldn't fathom the time that went in to it. But lately something changed. I've been spending a lot of time out on our front porch during this hot weather. When I look out at our little front yard I see trees that need shaping and weeds that need to be pulled. I see a blank canvas with so many possibilities. It all started in the beginning of the this week by simply pulling weeds out of cracks between the paving stones. Next, I decided that a little splash of yellow might be nice to catch me my eye. So off I went to the little plant tent in our town to purchase two Coreopsis plants.

A few days later I walked by a neighbor's garden and complimented her black-eyed susans. The next thing I know she's got a shovel and I'm walking home with a huge clump of them to plant in my own yard.

By Friday I decided to pull out all the stops. I called my parents, home gardeners extraordinaire. Yesterday morning they arrived around 11am with flowers, rakes, a string trimmer, an electric hedge cutter and a leather carrying case filled with pruning sheers and garden tools. My son mowed the lawn and helped trim back trees and bushes with my father while my mother and I tackled the weeds in the flower beds. I rearranged my potted herbs and tomato plant.

We worked hard together out in the sun for nearly five hours. It was fabulous. We hauled away 5 full bags of lawn debris, which Breen helped to fill up for us. The front yard looks so loved and happy.

I am so proud of the work yesterday and I am so glad that a new found interest in gardening has found me.

Working outside with my hands making something beautiful really gave me a sense of pride and purpose. Although we're renting this house, I think it gives me great practice for when we have our own home. I imagine working outside on our yard for hours with such satisfaction. I also believe that whether you rent or own, live in the city or the country, or have a tiny yard or sprawling acreage, there is always an opportunity to make your space beautiful. And the best part? It doesn't cost a whole lot of money; just a few plants and an investment of your hands and time.

What did you do this week?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 22: Investigating a food co-op

I've been in love with farmers markets and road side produce stands for quite some time now. I've also been yearning for some type of close knit community to be a part of. In addition, I've felt the strongest desire to grow our own vegetables. This week while I was at the doctor's office I found a magazine on food co-ops and I knew immediately that I had to make it my project this week to find out more. It turns out that there is at least one food co-op in Philadelphia named Weaver's Way Co-op with three locations and I decided to go investigate their Mt. Airy store yesterday.

Food co-ops are, in theory, owned and operated by its members. The success of the co-op relies on the members commitment to put in their working hours. Members make a yearly investment to the co-op. In the case of Weaver's Way, you can invest as little as $30 a year to become a member. Once you're a member, you become a "household" and every member in the household over the age of 18 has to put in a certain number of hours at the co-op per year. The store is able to offer good prices because of the non-paid member work. Weaver's Way is a little more liberal than most of the co-ops I've read about. Here, you can be a member without having to put in working hours or you can be a working member who puts in 6 hours per year per adult in the household and you get a 5% discount on your purchases. You can also be a "friend or neighbor" who does not become a member but gets the same shelf prices as the member without some of the co-op benefits. In other words, the store is open to the public. Some of the produce in the store is local and some is not.

I arrived at Weaver's Way in Mt. Airy yesterday afternoon. Immediately I fell in love with the neighborhood. It feels like one of those throw back neighborhoods from the 60's where the shops are all funky and residents seem to know each other well.

The store itself is a small two story corner store. When I first entered I thought it was a little tight for space and a lot of the specialty items where anything but reasonably priced. But then I turned a little corner and found the section with fresh produce, artisan breads and meats and I was blown away by the incredible prices. I purchased the most amazing pie cherries for $2 per pound:

Blueberries and blackberries too at amazing prices:

Interesting chicken sausage with artichokes and calamata olives for the grill:

Upstairs I found the housewares department which was home to gift cards, fair trade teas and coffees and a zillion other fun things. I came down from the second floor with organic raspberry leaf tea, incense and a tea strainer.

I am definitely going back to Weaver's Way again. In fact, I want to check out all three locations plus their local farm if I can get the chance. I'm seriously considering membership but I think I want to continue going as a "friend and neighbor" a few more times to see how I feel. If I lived in the city I'd probably jump on the bandwagon right away. Come to think of it, if we lived in the city I'd join a community garden as well. Ultimately, I would love to be growing my own vegetables with people in my community on that little 3 acre farmette I keep fantasizing about. I love the idea of several families pulling together to help seed, plant and weed together and then share the fruits of the labor. It won't happen in my current neighborhood though because of a variety of reasons:

1. People in this neck of the woods tend to stay to themselves

2. People in this neck of the woods don't like to get their hands dirty. That's why God created landscaping crews and big flatbed trucks

3. People in this neck of the woods would rather hop in their Range Rovers and drive the 5 minutes up the road to the Hollywood-esque farmers market to stuff their baskets with overpriced produce.

One day I hope to have enough yard to grow all sorts of produce. For now though, I'm going to keep visiting all the farmers markets and co-ops and do my part in supporting local farmers.

What did you do this week?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 21: Wood burning

If you've been following along on Breen's blog, you know that my husband loves to play with his wood. So I got very excited the other week when I came across a pristine, unopened wood burning kit at a local thrift store for just one dollar! The kit claims to be age appropriate for children 13 and up. Frankly, the manufacturer may as well have put a magnifying glass in the kit in lieu of the wood burning tool with instructions to sit out in the sun for a few hours in order to make any marks. I thought Breen might get a kick using the kit for a project but I ended up stealing it. The kit came with several pieces of soft, flimsy balsa wood. If I actually wanted to insult my creative genius and use such inferior material, I probably could have burned my design in no time at all. Of course, I chose a strong, hard piece of tree branch to play with. I'm sure Breen was proud of my choice.

I made a simple design on a slice of my wood using a permanent marker.

I turned on the wood burning device, which by the way looks just like a soldering iron from my projects a few weeks back, and started to leave my mark. It took a long time because of the hardness of my wood but it did eventually start to do something.

Most likely I'll pick this slice of wood up from time to time and keep working in to it for the maximum wood burning effect. This project brought back a fond memory of wood working. When I was a teenager, my dad and his brother rented cabins in North Carolina and the families would go for a week to vacation. My dad, my uncle and I used to go hiking in the mountains near the cabin and my uncle was, and still is, an avid wood worker. We all chose big solid branches to bring back and transform in to hiking sticks. One year I sat out on the front porch of our cabin with my uncle and we sat for hours while he taught me the art of whittling. I had a gorgeous walking stick by the end of that trip. Recently my aunt and uncle celebrated 50 years of marriage. He has always wanted me to make him "a Jane original" and send it to him. I'm hoping to find a solid branch, whittle it and burn a nice message in to it. I know it would be a nice addition to his wood collection and I'm sure he would smile just knowing that I remembered that time spent on the front porch of a cabin in North Carolina so long ago.

What did you do this week?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Week 20: joining group paddles

Kayaking is nothing new to me; I’ve been paddling for a few years now. The good side of kayaking is that it’s a solitary recreational sport. The downside to kayaking is that it’s a solitary recreational sport. I’ve always pretty much paddled alone out on the water which is nice but sometimes it gets a little lonely. I always thought it would be nice to have a group to connect with from time to time. When I bought my kayak a few years ago, I was interested in joining the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Unfortunately the timing never seemed right. As a single mom it was hard to find coverage for the kids and I felt guilty indulging myself for hours at a time away from them. I feel so blessed to be in this new season of my life. The kids are getting older and I’m remarried. I see how much Breen loves his triathlon life and I knew it was time for me to indulge in a few hours here and there doing something that I love to do. As a woman, I’ve spent so much time taking care of everyone else for such a long time. I love doing that but I also have to honor my needs. So this week, after 3 years on the fence, I contacted the canoe club and found out that they were having a local paddle on Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30.

I arrived at the canoe club yesterday morning at around 9:15. Breen followed me over to help me with my kayak (it’s 50 pounds of dead weight). Thank God he agreed to follow me there because when I pulled out my camera to document my first real group paddle experience the batteries died. Breen pulled out his cell phone and snapped a few shots for the posting here today. Our group consisted of about 10 kayakers. At least half of us were there at the club for the first time. We had a great time out there talking and getting to know one another. It was a leisurely paddle on the Schuylkill River. The club house is situated in a 400 year old mill on the banks of the river. I have kayaked on this river before while Breen did open swims. Alone or with a group, I am always in awe of the juxtaposition of sitting in serene water while the trucks and cars and trains go by all around the city.

It’s a little bit of a process to become a member. You have to get the recommendation of three members. It usually takes about a year of paddling with them on their trips, attending meetings and helping with their cleaning up days. Every Thursday night the club meets for a 6pm paddle after work followed by a potluck dinner on the deck. I was invited to attend this coming week but I’ve got my son’s middle school graduation to attend. I’m going to go the next Thursday available. I’m so glad I took the time to treat myself to such a fun Saturday morning adventure. The good news is that you don’t have to be a member to paddle with them but it does have a few perks if you join. I’m going to continue to kayak with this club as often as I can and I’m excited to become part of a community of kayakers.

What did you do this week?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Update for Week 19: decorated bird house

Yesterday afternoon around 4pm I finally got to finish my project. Breen drilled all the scrabble tiles for me and I strung them on to copper wire with faux pearls between each letter. The bottom portion of the cage has four sides so I selected four words carefully.
Freedom: Breen suggested that I string Freedom across the front of the cage above the little door that stays permanently open. I loved this idea. This is also the side of the cage that faces our porch. When I sit outside and look over to the bird cage it reminds me that I have freedom to make better choices about how to deal with my neighbor. It reminds me of the freedom I have to fly outside of my little self-imposed cage and experience the wonder of adventure.

Karma: this word is strung across the side of the cage that faces my neighbor. It serves as a reminder that karma has something to do with this living situation and the lessons to be learned from it. If I don't pay closer attention, we'll just keep being presented with other neighbors like her wherever we go.

Peace: this word faces the street. I like to think of peace spreading out to all of our neighbors and people who pass by.

Love: this word faces our front door and I think it's obvious that love lives inside.

I also tried a new cloth bird when I had a little more time and patience. While Breen drilled the tiles, I whipped up another little cloth bird and this time I think he turned out well. I've got him sitting on a branch half way up the cage. I found the bird project here and I'm sure you'll fall in love with these sweet little creatures too. You can download the free pattern.

I only wish that bird cages were easier to photograph because the shots here hardly do mine any justice. I think the cage looks better in person but maybe you'd have to come visit us to see :) Trust me though when I say that it's a nice sight to see on my front porch.