Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Art of Thrifiting and Some Fun Ways to Waste Time Today

I'm feeling a bit hazy.
Still in a funk after coming back from the Great Up North. 
Transitioning back into "civilization" is hard, sometimes.

This week is the end of my paper crafting.
Spring means it's time to pull out the sewing machine!
I'll be deconstructing a half-dozen t-shirts this weekend.
Then I'll take my machine for a real spin.
I'm going to make a dress.
Did you know that I am a Master Thrifter
My mom taught me the art of thrifting in high school, 
and I took to it like a duck to water. 

The trick is to approach it like treasure hunting.
It lacks the awkwardness of garage sale trolling.
Also, it's easy to justify a silly purchase when 
the money goes to a good cause. 
True, those classic Ralph Lauren hiking boots
from the 80s don't exactly fit me.
Maybe I'll lose a little toe one day...

Russ and I have a grand plan for thrifting in Lansing this summer.
I'll be showing him the Mega Mall for the first time, 
and we're going to check out the
much-talked-about World Mission Thrift in South Lansing.

 If you're in the area, you're welcome to join us.

Are you feeling wiggly? 
Calm yourself with these articles and websites 
that have caught my fancy this week:

 (1) Robert Hardman compiled this beautiful photo collection of children at play in the mid-20th century.

When I was a kid I played outside. My sister and I had an impressive amount of property (well, some pretty cool forts) in the field behind our house, in Texas. We spent so many days in the sun with our friends, The Tate Boys, without the fear of getting a scrape or being abducted. We didn't roam so far that we lost sight of the house. Not often, at least. We knew Mom was there if we needed her, as were any other adults within shouting distance. We just some kids playing around out there, looking for adventures.

I can imagine what person I might be if I had not grown up with a big field behind my house. We traded in our Texas prairie for Lake St. Clair when I was 10. That was a change. Rather than a limitless expanse of sun-drenched land to inspect and claim, we found ourselves hemmed in by water on all sides. The streets (no sidewalks!), our driveways and the neighbor's bushes were our playground. We still had fun, but it was different.

 (2) I came across Entertainment Weekly's list of the "30 Greatest Music Artists Right Now" whilst wasting time on What do you think?

The list is... okay. Lady Gaga is overrated, but Beyonce is amazing. There's simply no way to make everyone happy, as is evidenced in the comments on EW and Fark. I'm glad that Fun. and Mumford & Sons made the list, but would have liked to see Imogen Heap on there, and little ol' Frontier Ruckus.

This week I've been listening to Jon Watts, the insightful and creative Quaker musician I'm sure I've mentioned before. His music is haunting, enlightening, and safe for work (mostly). I've also been treating my ears to the sweet sounds of Meghan Tonjes, Swirl 360, Los Campesinos and musical god Paolo Nutini.

Just listen. This beautiful live performance by Paolo Nutini is from 2006, so imagine this guy six years older. I'm hoping he comes to the US for a tour sometime in the next few years.

This 2009 performance by the same guy is even better.  
Let him get warmed up. So good it makes me melt.

I've been slugging through the music on my old Dell, the computer that got me through college. It needs to be reformatted, and without an external hard drive I am left burning countless CDs in an attempt to salvage my music collection. So much Disney. Is Hinder worth saving? When did I get all of this Adam Pascal? I'll be losing a lot of Broadway, it seems. I'll purge plenty of music I never listened to, too.

 (3) And for the gardeners out there, here is what will be one of your most valuable resources. Their recipe database is stellar, too! If you've planted a salad garden this week, I suggest that you take a look at these Mother Earth News links about how to help your garden grow into your private, verdant escape this summer:
All About Growing Lettuce
Grow Great Lettuce
All About Growing Swiss Chard
Down on the Farm with Phyllis (May/June 1976)
A recipe very similar to Sean's Radish Relish

 (4) Do you like to peep into other people's bedrooms?
I sure do. What, is that weird?

Truman Capote's Bedroom
Really, it is not nearly as weird if the bedroom belongs to a writer. Those fools will spill everything just to get some attention. Here's a look at the bedrooms of 15 very different writers, courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

 (5) I got a huge hula hoop as an early birthday present from Sean. The jury is still out when it comes to whether it's a very effective form of exercise, compared to the other things you can do at home. I've been lifting my wimpy weights I got for Christmas and doing some informal yoga. Hula hooping is a fun way to change it up! This girl and this song by Goldfish are great motivators, don't you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not Exactly the Gardening Post You Were Hoping For...

Birthday Week has been a whirlwind of 
delicious cakes, wonderful gifts and a not enough
free time to sit down and write. 

Tonight I'm headed north for a few days in the woods.
 Without electricity I won't get much bloggin' done. 
I had hoped to make an easy, informative post
about how to get down and dirty with what you have
in your own back yard... but am running out of time! 
This quick post will help you get started with gardening.
You have to be self-motivated to be successful.
I'm including two books that I think everyone should 
flip through, or sit down and read if you're serious 
about figuring out this food-growing thing for yourself.

You do NOT need to have a back yard in order to grow food.
You do, however, need sunlight. Even if you're in a basement
apartment, I bet your landlord would let you have a few
well-tended pots beside your door, or even near the
parking lot, if that's where the sunlight is.
If you do live in an apartment, I specifically
recommend that you read The Urban Homestead,
which I talk more about below. It'll change the way
you view your living situation and ability to be independent.

If you don't want to bother with books (why not?!)
then here's what you can do today, or this weekend:

Till up a small, sunny area in your back yard,
or fill a few pots/planters with dirt. Mix in some good
mulch/compost, available from a friendly neighbor
or at various garden supply stores.
Make sure to get something organic. 
You don't want those chemicals
all over your food, do you? 

Buy some spinach, lettuce and radish seeds.
Now's the time of year to put them into the ground.
My favorites are America Spinach and loose-leaf lettuces.
I suggest you avoid he head variety of lettuce. It takes too long.
Feeling adventurous?  Get some Rainbow Swiss Chard, too!
Salad greens grow quickly and will continue to produce
until the end of June, if the weather holds out. 

Just follow the directions on the seed packets. 
They'll tell you how deep each seed should be planted, 
how much sun it needs and how long it'll take 
to germinate, or grow. Save any seeds you don't 
plant now, as they have a second growing 
season in early fall, when the weather cools off a bit.

Things like tomatoes, peppers and most flowers are
almost ready to be planted, but not yet! 
One cold night will set you back weeks if you 
plant too soon. It's frustrating. Trust me.

The most common way of "messing up" your garden
is to forget to water it. It happens to the best of us,
and you'll feel like a jerk-face when you see
your little plants all wilted and thirsty.

Think of your garden as a pet that needs attention.
Spend 5 - 15 minutes a day tending to it. 
Water it, weed it, and maybe sing to it a little.
It's therapeutic, cheap and easy.

If you're only willing to look at one book... I recommend
that you get over yourself and take a look at both of the

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
is where you should start if your goal is to grow enough
food to eat and enjoy all summer and into the fall.

If you read the book and do what Mel says  you  
can't screw this up. The square-foot method is
the simplest way to for a beginner to grow a small,
beautiful, super-productive and varied garden.
It does require a small investment of money, and a
larger investment of time. But then again, all forms of
gardening take time and (some) money. In the long
run you'll save money, as you'll be eating the food you grow!
Plus, you'll be a healthy eater, grazing in your back yard.

 My dad recommended Square Foot Gardening to Sean 
a few years ago. That summer my generous Aunt Sue lent us some 
space in her back yard, since we had zero yard space of our own. 

Since then, we've convinced two of our friends to try it, 
and they've also been very successful. We still use the 
square-foot method today, and have been eating delicious 
home-grown salads of spinach, chard and lettuce 
for WEEKS, even though it's mid-April!

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
is the book that  Sean refers to as his Bible, and for good reason. 
It is, as the subtitle suggests, a guide to "Self-Sufficient Living in
 the Heart of the City." This attractive little book was the 
first thing I brought home from Curious. It is chock-full of
various ways you can live more sustainably
and happily without becoming a hermit in the woods. It covers all 
sorts of topics, like raising chickens and rabbits,
soap making, cooking, rain barrels, efficient home upgrades,
gardening, and how to fight the system. We haven't used
every idea they offer, but have taken much of it to heart.

If you would like to purchase any of these titles, 
I would consider it a personal favor if you used a local, 
independent book shop to do so.

Amazon is not a good option. Not at all.
I won't rant about the evils of the book world today, though.

Don't want to buy them?
Get them FOR FREE from a library, instead!
If your local library does not have an available copy,
ask your (fabulous) librarian about the free
 MEL and Inter-Library Loan programs.
They can order the book from another library and
it will arrive within the next week or two. 

 Most of the information in these books is also
available for free online! Try searching "square foot gardening"
on YouTube. Another fantastic, invaluable resource we
couldn't do without is Mother Earth News Magazine.
Their entire archive (over 40 years worth of amazing articles)
is available for free on their website. 
Check it out!

Posts like this lead me consider signing up for Google AdSense.
It  would give me a few pennies for every person who clicks the link 
to the books and other items I mention in this blog. 
So tempting...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gardening in Pearls... and a CAT APRON.

It's my day off!
First one in quite some time, 
thanks to the big book show
The morning has been a whirlwind of 
drinking yesterday's coffee, fresh bread, 
 bit of paper crafting and lots of laundry.
And cleaning.
So much spring cleaning.
Cookies are up next, and I'll top them with
the delicious Maple Syrup Creme we found at the
Fenner Nature Center's Maple Syrup Festival!
 When you spend a large portion of your time in an apron,
it is important to own an apron that makes you smile.

(Am I crazy? Maybe. Or are you just jealous?)

Sean gets off earlier than usual this afternoon, 
so we'll be headed to the Garden for some sun and seed planting.

Here are some before and after shots of our little backyard garden.
Radishes, about a week and a half ago.
Radishes this morning.

Salad greens growing in the coldframe, about a week and a half ago.
Our salad supply, today.
The peas are coming up!

Tulips, P. Allen Smith style.
I'm excited to watch what happens with these two pots.
Last fall I filled them with fancy purple tulip bulbs... 
20 to 30 bulbs in each one!
Should be somewhat spectacular.

((Looking at all of these gardening photos, 
I find myself wondering what I'll do once we have children. :P))

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Survived another book show!

The 55th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show
was a great success!Part of my job is to help organize
and run this, the Midwest's largest show.

I don't have official confirmation,
but I believe it to be the second largest
show in the country, just behind the big show in NYC.
We're more than double the size of the antiquarian show
in Chicago. We're nearing our thirtieth anniversary,
and do two shows a year here in Lansing. Thankfully,
we have show preparations down to a science, now.

Once again, I came down with a nasty chest cold
two days before the show. When this happened last
autumn I had to stay in bed while the show went on
without me. It must, you know.

This time, I managed to make it out of bed and into
a nice enough outfit. The medicine I took kept me
slightly loopy, giggly and wiggly, but I strutted around
in my lovely "book show heels" well enough to fool
the guests and vendors. My favorite part, by far,
was taking photos of some of the book sellers during
the afternoon lull. If you're not a fan of books or paper,
you'd still get your money's worth if you came to the
show to people watch. They come from as far away
as Quebec and Texas (though not California,
as the LSJ suggested in their show write-up).

Sean and I splurged a bit, and bought a truly jaw-dropping
collection of four "propaganda" prints from 1931.

This one's my favorite!

 They were printed in Lansing and distributed by the
Michigan Tuberculosis Association.
They feature the most gorgeous nature illustrations
by wildlife artist Charles Livingston Bull. They compliment
the WWI and WWII propaganda posters we've bought
at past shows. Now, I need to put my framing tools
to good use and build some quarter-sawn oak fames!

It seemed to be a pretty good show.
We had about a dozen new dealers exhibiting,
and our porter team was stellar. Many thanks
to Leighanna, Alicia, Russ and Sean. And Keith.
We're not quite done unpacking at Curious,
but we're off to a good start. Mark suspects that
we've come back with more sports and movie stuff
than we took with us, but that isn't much of a surprise.
I'm pretty sure Ray sneaks things into the shop
we're not looking. The trick is finding a place to keep it all.

I used the book show as my Grand Unveiling.
Ray, Susan and Ruth approved my paper flowers,
and I bedecked the Archvies booth with them.

Those who noticed were impressed, and I may even
wind up selling a few of them in my Etsy shop.
We'll see.
I have about a dozen Phalaenopsis stems left, and a
few dozen little button flowers.

I've already moved on to other crafting projects,
so those will be the only flowers for a while.

I met some very nice girls at the show, and I think we might
start a blasphemous book club, where instead of reading
we rip books apart and turn them into art.

The few photos that were taken of me at the show are
hilariously embarrassing 
and can be found on the Curious Facebook page.

There is so much more to say about my chaotic, exhausting
weekend. I'll be cleaning up the wreckage-strewn house
for the rest of the evening. I must also try to beat this
cold before we head down to Harrison Township this weekend.
Must. Get. Well.