Hooray, it's officially Fall -- my favorite season! We received some long-awaited rain a couple of weeks ago, which turned Texan grasses green again and ushered in some properly autumnal temperatures... for a few days, anyway. Although the thermometer's climbed slightly since, the scorching summer heat appears to have abated, and we've been enjoying these pleasantly warm afternoons outdoors, observing nature's subtle signs that the season is, indeed, changing. 
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Kaspar wants to wear his water shoes year-round.
We've been sending up some signals ourselves, as well, to encourage the weather gods along: purchasing pumpkins for our front porch, steeping chai all day in order to fill our home with spice-smells, hanging a fall wreath on our door, and creating a seasonal centerpiece for our table (the centerpiece was all Kaspar -- an entire afternoon's search and assembly went into this activity, by the way; totally recommend). 
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Thanks for the lovely wreath, Erin M!
Maybe it's my New Hampshire upbringing talking, but, for my part, I'm all about the leaves at this time of year. In the absence of sweeping hillsides drenched in oranges and reds, my new fall philosophy is 'put a leaf on it' (pretty much just like this Portlandia skit, but with leaves). I impulse-bought leaf-shaped soaps for our bathrooms, enthusiastically encouraged Kaspar's votive-holder choice for our table, and, today, busted out a bottle of bleach for a Put A Leaf On It Pillowcase Project.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the Before. Observe, Kaspar's perfectly fine pillowcase, already improved upon from its white-with-blue-stripes beginnings during a day of hand-dyeing action way back when. But what better way to further improve upon a job well done than to put a leaf on it, right? (Exactly.) So I gathered my materials. 
Materials: An old towel, an old rag or washcloth, bleach, a sheet of sticky-back vinyl (available at any craft store) and said pillowcase. (You can use anything made of cotton -- t-shirts, kitchen hand towels, backpacks... go crazy... Put a Leaf On It!)

Next, I drew, and cut out, some oversized leaf shapes from the vinyl. You could certainly collect leaves with your kids and trace them onto the vinyl for a more true-to-life Put a Leaf On It project, but bear in mind that super-precise shapes (lots of little points and indents) won't necessarily translate through the bleaching process. (This is why I supersized... but experiment! See what works.)

I then removed the paper backing from the vinyl shapes and stuck them where I wanted them on the pillowcase. I also put the towel, folded, inside the pillowcase, so as to prevent soaking-through when it came time to bleach. You'll notice some stars among my leaves. Because Put a Star on It needs no season, or reason... hence my various star tattoos, general bias toward anything sporting stars and perhaps even our current state of residence. (Stars are EVERYWHERE in Texas. Woot! ... Then again, so are republicans. Whoops.)

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The vinyl cutouts on the pillowcase.
(Be sure to press your vinyl shapes down pretty thoroughly. They won't stick as stubbornly as, say, duct tape, but you at least want to give any pointy areas some extra love so the bleach can't creep underneath.) Finally, I wet a corner of my washcloth/rag with bleach and dabbed around each shape. The color started lifting pretty quickly, so I could easily see what I was doing. I also worked efficiently to keep the color from lifting more than I wanted it to, or from getting under the vinyl and blurring my lines.
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The bleaching begins.
After a good (immediate) rinse -- during which the vinyl shapes fell off of their own accord -- and a few minutes in the dryer, the pillowcase was finished! I'll wash it before he actually sleeps on it, but here it is (below) on Kaspar's bed. He loves it! 
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The After!
How do you spruce things up for the season? What are some fun projects you recommend? Let the Put a Leaf On It rampages commence!
 
 
I took Kaspar to Austin's very own weekly Sunday morning Ecstatic Dance event today. It was exactly what you might imagine. I made this video about five minutes into the get-down; every time I watch it, I notice something different in the background that completely cracks me up. Only in Austin, y'all. (Kaspar's take? "When in Rome...") We had fun! Enjoy. 
 
 
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(Mr. Rabbit's whispering face.)
 
 
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Image credit: Kevin Sherry
As I’ve written before, I don’t have a problem with meat-eating in principle. (Animal suffering, however, is another story.) Kaspar, for his part, wouldn’t be half the healthy kiddo he is today were it not for his happy-meat habit.  But I noticed, a couple of months ago, that our family was eating a lot of meat. Like, more dinners than not featured animals (or their eggs), front and center, and Aaron and I  -- or maybe it was just me, but I’m the primary cook around these parts, so my vote counts for more -- weren’t feeling the meat consumption at quite the level we were living it. 

It wasn’t that we were eating meat in lieu of fruits and vegetables; our family eats (and drinks) lots of produce on the daily. And it wasn’t that we were getting fat or anything like that – Aaron and I are both naturally slender people who probably couldn't get fat if we tried. It wasn’t even that I think eating meat is unhealthy; Aaron and I both qualify, in Ayurvedic terms anyway, as people who can eat some meat here and there (though Ayruveda doesn’t recommend really regular meat-eating for any constitution), and Traditional Chinese Medicine similarly recommends small amounts of meat in one's diet, for keeping the blood balanced and strong.  I’m not sure what it was, actually, that caused me to initially re-adjust our meat habits, but whatever it was, it led to my arriving home from a library trip one day with a bag full of vegan cookbooks slung over my shoulder.

Aaron laughed semi-uproariously when he saw this; I was a strict, bumper-sticker-sportin’ vegan in high school and college. Although Aaron hadn’t met me yet, he knows this about me because I sometimes refer back to that time with a touch of self-directed snark and condescension in my tone. “I know so much more about nutrition and food politics now. Eating meat is not the problem. And soy is not the solution.” But I’ve also spoken fondly of those early forays into conscious food choices; I learned to cook when I was a vegan. I became attuned to what food feels like in my body. And I developed an appetite for food as a source of health, happiness, world peace and prosperity. Nothing less.

I still think it can get us there. And I still believe in my somewhat-later discovery of the local food movement – encompassing meat and produce alike –as paving (or, you know, tilling or some such) the way. (That organic ground beef you bought that was shipped in from the former-rainforest in Uruguay? Not so much.) But I also know now that our oceans are over-fished, our planet is getting warmer way too quickly and the resources that are fundamental to human survival  -- like fresh water -- are in short supply. These problems are all interrelated, too; beef production, for example, plays a major role in methane and nitrous oxide emissions planet-wide, and climate change – which is very real – is definitely worsened by this kind of pollution. Climate change, in turn, affects crop and cattle production; the local Texas cattle industry suffered pretty seriously as a result of last summer’s draught, and it hasn't rained down here, this summer, in well over a month. I'm really, actually troubled by, and worried about, this global warming thing, and feeling like there's nothing I can do about it puts me in an immobilized, inner panic. I certainly can't single-handedly stop the planet-destruction bus, but I can choose, three times a day, to do something about its momentum. So although my son must, for now, eat meat almost daily – and I will continue to source his meat from Earth and animal-friendly local purveyors – I’ve felt a recent desire to reduce our family’s collective footprint on the food front. How to go about doing so was not a mystery to me. It takes a lot more grain (or grass or whatever) to feed a cow than it does to feed a person. And two out of the three people in this family really don’t need to eat the cow to stay alive. 

Also, cows are cute. There, I said it. 

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I finally created a chocolate chip cookie Kaspar can eat. (In *almost* a single mouthful. Wow.)

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We've been back from our trip for over a week; we had a fantastic time. It was a bit of a working vacation for me, and I've been similarly crankin' it out since (paid work comes first, you know? Breaks from blogs are also worth embracing from time to time...), but I've received a few emails asking if we're alive, so I thought I'd pop in and let you know we are, indeed, still kicking. I have plenty of photos and lots to tell -- I'll update properly this week -- but in the meantime, here's an important reminder to keep makin' it amazing. Ridiculously so.
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Then do it again tomorrow.