Archive | April, 2012

Earth Day

23 Apr
Sundays are perhaps my favorite day of the week. And despite the rain, today was a particularly good one for me. Every Sunday I wake up to two buttery voices gently lulling me awake on “Being With,” a spirituality program on NPR. I put on something vaguely nicer than usual and cycle on down Flushing. There’s hardly any traffic at all so early on a Sunday, and my route takes me past the Navy Yard. Most importantly that row of abandoned homes; former navy officials homes, I’m told. I went there a couple times with my first boyfriend to explore the beautiful ruins. I make my way to my spiritual home at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Brooklyn. I rehearse with the choir at 9AM. And at 9AM our choir director (a brilliant multi-instrumentalist) picked up a banjo and plucked an incredibly beautiful melody. I’d never heard it before, yet it felt heartrendingly familiar.
I’m not sure what it was precisely. Was it just that song? Or the banjo? Or was it the rain poised to descend? The new moon? A lonely weekend? Nostalgia? Hope for the future? Whatever it was, I had a very emotional day in the best possible way, and it started with that song. “The Cool of the Day” by Jean Ritchie. 
Perfect for Earth Day, this folk revival tune recalls an Appalachian tradition with lyrics that warn mankind of the dangers in failing to keep our planet healthy.
After a particularly moving sermon about integrity and a particularly pleasant coffee hour, I biked home, particularly happy to get drenched in the rain.
And after I was warm and dry and cozy in my bed with a PBS Nature special about whales, I revisited “The Cool of the Day” all by myself. Just me and my mandolin in my room. It’s no church choir and it’s no 30-foot-vaulted-ceiling, but here’s my own humble version I recorded for you:

The Cool of the Day
Jean Ritchie
My Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so fair
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the grasses green
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

My Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so pure
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the waters clean
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

   Now is the cool of the day
   Now is the cool of the day
   This earth is a garden, the garden of my Lord
   And he walks in his garden
   In the cool of the day

Then my Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my pastures so green
You may live in this garden if you will feed my sheep
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

Then my Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so free
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the people free
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

“Hello world!” — Baby Beet

Librarian Paraphernalia: Taking it Back!

22 Apr
Summer. A season for two-eyed folks to join ranks with four-eyed folks. A season when the ocularly-blessed among us no longer have to envy the less fortunate because of the radical accessories they are prescribed to indulge in. I’m talking eyeglass chains. They are fabulously useful for keeping your glasses (whether prescription, sun, or ironic vanity) ever-handy. They adorn your glasses while you wear them, and transform them into the best kind of neckwear when you’re not. And they are super easy to make!
Style options are infinite. If you need some inspiration, check out what Etsy sellers are offering. I went for kind of a steam punk vibe because I just happened to have brass chain and fish vertebrae hanging around.

 Most of the supplies you’ll need will depend on your design, but the one thing you’ll definitely need are adjustable rubber eyeglass chain ends.
These are available at most bead-crafting shops, online, or at the ends of those horrible neon eyeglass chains they sell at the drug store for next to nothing.
For instructions regarding basic beading techniques, visit my post from last June, To Bead or Not to Bead… (perhaps my corniest post title yet).
If you’re using chain, you will need jump rings to connect the chain to the rubber ends. This is a simple task with just a pair of pliers or two. Just remember, always open and close jump rings laterally so as not to weaken or disrupt the circle.
 Now, go forth… be irrepressibly hip in a reminiscently secretarial fashion!

Spring Harvest

15 Apr
Flower pressing. Who even does that anymore? Old frilly spinsters? Star-crossed lovers? Laura Ingalls Wilder?
There’s something really lovely about flower pressing, I think. Who can help but sigh when opening up an old book and rediscovering last spring’s violets? What is not to love about preserving one of nature’s most beautiful, fleeting gifts in a piece of artwork to be enjoyed for years to come? Spring is upon us, the dogwoods and lilacs are in bloom, and this is your chance to steal a little everlasting springtime for your home.
What You’ll Need:
Freshly picked flowers and/or foliage
White vinegar
Flower press or heavy books and two sheets of paper
Paper for backing
Acid-free glue
Sealer (I used Modge Podge)
1. Help yourself to some of the beautiful spring bounty. Keep in mind that the denser and bulkier the flower, the more difficult it is to press.
2. Dip your pickings in a bit of white vinegar and allow them to dry completely before pressing. This step is optional, but helps your flowers and leaves to keep their vibrant colors.
3. If you don’t have a flower press, you are in good company. A healthy book collection is just as effective. Open up a book, place a sheet of paper on top of the page you open to and lay your flowers on that paper. This is the most critical step to the quality of your pressings. Carefully arrange your flowers so that they will flatten in an attractive manner and avoid overlap. Any flowers that overlap here will be forever stuck together just as you leave them, so this will limit your possibilities when it comes time to mount them. Place a second sheet of paper on top of your flowers. Sandwiching your flowers between two sheets of paper will protect the pages of your book from stains that flowers could leave behind. Gently close the book and weigh it down, placing it at the bottom of a pile of books.
4. I would leave your flowers to press for a few days at the very least, longer if the flowers are dense, roses for example. But you can also leave them in this stage for years if you want to.
5. When you are ready to mount them, they may stick to them paper you pressed them in between, so be very careful when uncovering them. 
6. Arrange your pressings on a backing paper until you are satisfied with your composition.
7. Dab tiny spots of acid-free craft glue (such as Sobo) on the paper where you want to mount your flowers, and gently press them onto the glue. For small pieces you may even want to use tweezers.
8. Using a small flat or filbert-tip paintbrush, gently seal your pressings by painting a thin, even coat of sealer (like Modge Podge) over the entire page.
9. Let dry. If the glue causes your paper to warp and roll, you may want to return your finished piece to the book for a final pressing. 
10. Frame, hang and marvel!
All the best,

The Hunt

10 Apr
I’ve been thinking a lot about affecting an aesthetic shift towards the rustic lately. When I moved into my first apartment I was really excited about a sort of 1950’s/mod aesthetic and a lot of that is still clearly visible in my home’s common space, despite the evolution of my taste in home decor. My terrarium and mossy accessories were among my first steps towards bringing a little bit of forest into my home. 
Between my work with sculptor Petah Coyne, my time as a farmhand, and my general love for animals I have developed a fascination with all things dead and decaying. Every time I see a mounted piece of taxidermy at the flea market or in a curiosities shop or hanging on the wall of a bar or restaurant, I always linger thinking, “I want that…” But it never seemed fit to splurge on a deer head given my tight finances.
Then, a couple weeks ago I was browsing through a couple catalogs that showed up in my mailbox, and in West Elm I spotted some mounted animal head papier-mache sculptures and I thought, “Hey, maybe I could make one!”
Of course, while I was thinking about this and not acting upon it, I stumbled upon some good fortune at my family Seder last weekend. We were at my aunt and uncle’s home in Madison, NJ. My Aunt Lynn often finds deer antlers in the woods and has incorporated them into the chandelier in the dining room and we all got to talking about the antlers. At that moment I looked past my cousin across the table and out the door to the patio and noticed an incredible stag skull sitting on the step. I asked Aunt Lynn if she had plans for it and she told me about how she watched the vultures, waited for them to clean the carcass, and followed them through the woods to find it. So she (understandably) didn’t want to part with her prize.
But then she offered me a pair of antlers given to her by a friend and hunter which I was thrilled to accept in place of the skull.
So my new antlers and I headed back to the big city. In lieu of a fancy wooden plaque to mount them on, I whipped up a simple little something to act as a plaque visually with just some cardboard, fabric and glue.
Aren’t they wonderful?!
Happy hunting!


Obsession: Moss

2 Apr
If you thought I was going to make one little terrarium and stop there, you’re kidding yourself.
I mean, there I was, me and all my glass bottles and my new-found friend, preserved reindeer moss (a.k.a. the coolest shit ever). Seriously, it makes everything magical. Like candlesticks. Magical enchanted forest candlesticks.
Preserved reindeer moss
Enchanted forest candlestick
What You’ll Need:
Taper candles
Clear glass bottles
Stuff to put inside them, for example:
Reserved reindeer moss, of course
Dried beans
Dried flowers

Okay, so, this isn’t brain surgery. Put cool stuff in a bottle, then put a candle in it and you have a totally rad candlestick.
My candlesticks!
Root mass inside my flip-top candlestick
Dried beans, soil, and moss in a salad dressing shaker
Moss holds the candle in place
But why stop there? What about votives in jars?

Move aside, Tinkerbell. There’s a new fairy in town.

Terrarium Fever!

2 Apr
Things I love: plants, dioramas, miniatures, glass jars. Given this information, I ask you: how am I to resist this terrarium fad?!
I simply cannot.
I was in Sprout Home the other day because Google told me it was the closest garden nursery to my home. What I didn’t know is that they host massively popular terrarium-building classes, and the majority of their interior space panders to terrarium builders. I came for some pretty flowers to put in a pot on my patio table and I left with an overwhelming need to build a whole slew of irresistibly adorable living dioramas.
And it just so happens that I have a (perhaps excessive) collection of glass jars and bottles just begging me to be transformed into tiny enchanted forests.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to be a terrarium expert, so I will just give you some of the basics and show you what I did. There are plenty of great resources out there to guide you through all your terrarium adventures and misadventures. I would recommend starting with an online image search and/or a visit to Sprout Home to see some terrariums and get inspired. There are a lot of different styles and options; your terrarium is your very own mini world and as long as the plants inside it require approximately the same amount of moisture, you can do pretty much whatever you want.
The primary distinction is open or closed.
An open terrarium is left open to the air; a closed terrarium is sealed. A closed terrarium is only appropriate for a rainforest-variety climate and creates a self-sustaining environment as the moisture in the soil evaporates into the air, condenses on the walls on the container and returns to the soil, so these guys don’t actually need to be watered. Rainforest flora can be kept in an open terrarium, too, but they will require watering. Succulents and cacti should always be kept in an open terrarium.
For my terrarium, I wanted a lush forest with a miniature animal or two to call it home. I wasn’t satisfied with Sprout Home’s figurine collection, but there is a lovely shop down the block, Moon River Chattel, that has (among so many other beautiful things) a nice collection of high quality animal figurines. I came home with a particularly handsome black bear whom I absolutely adore.
Isn’t she precious?
Things You’ll Need:
Glass container
Moss (for lush scapes)
Small plants
Figurines, sticks, shells, small objects, etc.

For my forest I chose miniature ferns and hypoestes, baby tears, and a fern moss. Explore the options and your local nursery and ask the attendants there if you are unsure. For moss I used a combination of live moss and preserved reindeer moss.
1. Cover the bottom of your container with a layer of rocks to keep your soil away from any sitting water that might accumulate.

2. Cover your rocks with a layer of charcoal. This filters the air and prevents mold; it is especially important if you’re building a closed terrarium.

3. Cover your charcoal with a layer of sand for better drainage.

4. Cover your sand with soil.
Keep in mind while you’re putting down these layers how they look at the edges, 
where you can see them through the glass.

5. Plant your plants in the soil, surrounding the base of the plants with moss (this helps keep your plants moist in all the right places).
Think about how you lay out your terrarium, varying texture and color for a more interesting display.  A well-laid terrarium is truly a work of art.
Come! Join me and all the other hipsters in the greatest craze in home decor since the mounted deer head.