Thursday, May 30, 2013

The headboard replacement

Our bed doesn't have a headboard. The prospect of hanging something like a picture or a painting above our heads gives me chills up and down my spine (it's ok, my friends know I'm paranoid and extra safe). I imagine waking up in the middle of the night with a large frame collar around my neck in the manner of Ottavio Leoni's Portrait of a Young Lady Wearing a High Collar.

I see people on Pinterest hanging shutters, paddles or a hardwood door (a door!) above their heads and I shiver.

So in order to fill the blank space on the wall above our bed I made a banner. I was inspired by a picture in an Apartment Therapy home tour. Theirs was all about sleeping in, but I thought I don't need any incentive to do that. Sleeping well, on the other hand, is something I should do more of (especially when Trevor mumbles in his sleep in the middle of the night, "I need to gather the trombones!")

I used ribbon, a few beads, scotch tape to secure the pieces on the back and, obviously, colored paper. Here, the colored paper is called construction paper, probably because construction workers use it to make paper cranes during their lunch breaks.

[Imagined construction workers conversation:

Construction worker 1: Bill, where did you put the demolition rotary hammer, man?

Construction worker 2: I dunno man, but look at this awesome papier-mache rooster.

Construction worker 3: That's nothing man. Yesterday, Butch made some paper daffodils you wouldn't believe! ]

 Without further rambling, here's the banner.

 I kept calling it a banner until Trevor corrected me and said it was a pennant (because if it's triangular it must have a different name). I then googled pennant and Wikipedia said it is "a narrow, tapering flag commonly flown by ships at sea". I raised my eyebrow in a pennant-fashion, since this thing is going above our bed.

Worth mentioning:

- I used Open Office to make the sign. The s-e-e-l-l-l letters are Brush Script MT font, size 150.
 The p-w-e letters are Black Chancery font, size 150.

- We don't have No headboard? No problem! written on our wall, but I think we SHOULD.

-  Our wall was painfully white; long live photo editing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America

It was Memorial Day in America yesterday. 

Memorial Day is celebrated every year on the last Monday in May, as a day of remembrance of men and women who served in the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard). Observed since 1861, Memorial day is traditionally a day of parades and it marks the beginning of summer.

My day started with a clown on a Segway crossing the street in front of me.  

Pff, (I can hear you saying) whose day didn't?!

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - clown on a segway

Please try not to be too jealous of our state-of-the-art roller coaster main street. It's been under construction for over a year to replace the water pipes. Remember, we'll be the ones laughing when we have clean water with no lead residue. 

So, back to the clown on the Segway. As much as I dislike clowns, I have to admit that this one was rather personable as he was honking his little horn left and right when cars were passing by. I had to walk behind the motorized vehicle to get to the place where the ceremony was held.

Trevor was playing in the town band, on the lawn of a Catholic school (same Catholic school that hosts the weekly bingo night).

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - town band playing

 Here they are, playing Americans We. Why they were tucked between two trees still remains a mystery to me. I bet those trees got a great concert

After the band played and the usual speeches and honors were given the parade went on its way. There were members of the armed forces, town officials, high school marching bands, firefighters, river rescue crews and little league baseball teams.

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - collage

 Nothing says celebration better than a balloon flag float. America loves balloons, they're everywhere.

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - the navy handing out candy

 Here's my favorite part of the parade - members of the Navy giving out candy.

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - parades

Now we all know that serious reporting (like the one that I'm doing right here, ahem!) requires the reporter to surreptitiously blend in, in order to better observe the customs and habits of the subjects. This is exactly what I was doing here, next to the fire hydrant. Notice that I was also waving not one, but two American flags and joining in the celebrations. If that's not convincing, I don't know what is.

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America

Just when I thought the parade couldn't get any cooler, here they were:

How to celebrate Memorial day in small town America - clowns collage

Oh America, you just sweep me off my feet with your handsome men everywhere!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to fold like a pro

One thing I like about American store bought food is that it all comes with instructions and recipes. The King Arthur Flour has instructions on how to bake bread and a recipe for oatmeal sandwich bread, the Quaker Oatmeal has a recipe for vanishing oatmeal raisin cookies and even the tortilla chips have instructions for how to make cheesy nachos.

But, by far, the most innovative set of instructions I have found on a bag of food is the one printed on the pita that we bought to make fajitas.

Are you ready? It will blow.your.mind. Seriously, your mind will explode with the power of the knowledge you are about to gain.

There you go:

taco and fajita folding instructions

You're welcome! By the way, if you were dipping it all this time you were doing it wrong.

Oh, and if you're feeling like a daredevil and want to take on a more serious cooking task, you could also try folding a wrap. What? You don't know how to do that? After all those years of eating Turkish and Greek specialties ... Nts, nts, nts (shakes head disapprovingly).

Fine, I'll teach you. It wasn't so easy for me either but luckily I still had the pita bag to guide me through. 

wrap folding instructions

 Now take that knowledge and open a restaurant.

Friday, May 17, 2013

How to overanalyze a puzzle

Yesterday evening, if you were happening to eavesdrop on our conversation, you would've heard this:

Mickey: I need half a kid.

Trevor: If I see it floating around my sky I'll let you know.

Mickey: How about a dog's butt?

Trevor: White or brown?

Mickey: Never mind! Where's the woman selling popcorn?

Trevor: Again, she's not on my sky.

Mickey: I need balloons and a guy queing for cotton candy.

Trevor: What is the hot dog doing on the floor?

Before you call us weird and random you should know that we were working on a brand new puzzle. Well, brand new to us since we bought it from the library sale for 1$ (take that, Amazon, with your 34$ puzzles).

puzzle art persis clayton weirs summer fair - frame a puzzle

While I was volunteering for the library this week I managed to find two beautiful puzzles that were donated for their next book sale. Since I just happened to have money in my pocket (you know, not that I was planning to buy more puzzles or anything) I paid and took them home with me. You see, in Europe we would call them second hand but Americans are so good at marketing that everything that is resold is called pre-loved. Gotta love a good euphemism.

The first puzzle that we did was a summer fair scene from small town America, painted by New England wildlife artist Persis Clayton Weirs. You have your charming merry-go-round, the Ferris wheel, cotton candy and lemonade stands and even a band playing in the background. A tea room, a bookstore and the town hall complete the picture. 

puzzle art persis clayton weirs summer fair - frame a puzzle

As we were putting the pieces together we started making up stories about the tiny people populating the town.

puzzle art persis clayton weirs summer fair - frame a puzzle

Take, for example, the couple standing on the brick bridge, next to the lemonade stand. Blondie's name is Julia and she went to school for Architecture but now she's working as a productivity expert. Her husband plays the mandolin in a heavy metal band. His name is James but friends call him Yogi. He secretly envies Morgan Freeman (for reasons undisclosed). 

Obviously we had to limit ourselves to a few character descriptions, otherwise we wouldn't have finished the puzzle. When we were done we noticed that the previous owners pre-loved it so much that they kept/lost a piece of the sky. 

But look, hayrides and fireworks! That seems very very safe.

puzzle art persis clayton weirs summer fair - frame a puzzle

The 3$ puzzle is a Christmas vignette from a general store (from a print by Lee Stroncek). There is a woman inspecting fabric while a child is waiting patiently on a crate and another child is looking at an awesome sled hanging from the ceiling. You know it's an old store because a) it's spelled olde, b) the apples cost 5 cents a pound and c) nobody is questioning the liability of the store owner hanging ice skates and various heavy merchandise from the ceiling (in other words, no bump in insurance payments allows him to sell the 5c apples). 

frame puzzle art general store

 We haven't started on this one yet, but when we're done with both of them we're planning to frame them and hang them on the wall. We're suckers for puzzle art, we even have a tutorial for how to frame puzzles here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The weekenders (or How to judge a city by its cover)

Last weekend we decided to take an impromptu trip to New York City. It was fun and interesting and Trevor and I had some insightful conversations, like so:

[in the subway station]

Trevor: Wanna sit down?

Mickey: Sure, I'm burning my jeans when we get back anyway.

[or on the subway]

Mickey: That guy is talking to himself, that woman is chewing her own hair and this chick is putting on makeup. I feel so homesick!

[or in Times Square]

Trevor: Look, there's Mario! And Mickey Mouse!

Mickey: And Spiderman! And Batman!

Trevor: And the cowboy from Toy Story!

Mickey: And Hello Kitty, I never knew she had such big boobs.

super mario in times square

But seriously, this trip was great and I'm happy I got to see two of my friends while I was there. We drove to New York via Allentown through pouring rain. We had sushi and rubbed against strangers in Times Square and Fifth Avenue. We got chased out of Central Park by a thunderstorm and I was looked down upon by the Empire State Building (and pigeons).

paramount hard rock view in New york

New York will always be the city where we saw kids on a leash and dogs in a stroller.

cbs, flowers and fashion district new york collage

The sign on the cab next to the Disney billboard seems almost as weird as the giant button and needle in the Fashion District. 

fashion district disney new york

I can't wait to go back in the fall and do a tour of the art museums and galleries.

New Yorkers are apparently fearless in regards to Mother Nature. We had checked the weather before going to the city, and knew that it would rain later in the afternoon. As we walked about Central Perk Park, the clouds rolled in and the thunder began to rumble. I was raised that when you hear thunder, you go immediately inside. You definitely don't stand in a park next to trees. Now I realize that New York is full of tall buildings that will absorb most of the lightning, but I'm no fan of torrential downpours either. So as we were making our way (quickly) out of the park, the New Yorkers were laughing at the thunder (literally) and walking INTO the park. We found cover by the subway station the moment the skies opened up. Then we spent the next 10 minutes watching the the brave locals come bolting out of the park, through traffic, to get to the subway.  The subway was full of wet people for rest of the day (and I thought it smelled bad on a sunny day).

We then drove back to the most beautiful sunset that America has treated me to so far.

beautiful sunset from the highway

sunset on the highway

Friday, May 10, 2013

How to celebrate Mother's Day

I really like Americans. God bless them, they're festive!

When I came here in February they were getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day (March 17th), even though the majority of people in our town is neither Irish nor Catholic. We were driving by the local Irish restaurant and we saw a girl ready to praise the saint. She was wearing shorts and fishnet tights ... in February. She was that pious.

Then came Cinco de Mayo, but the frenzy started in mid-April. It's a good reason to go out and get drunk even if you're not ... you guessed it ... of Mexican descent.

But do you know who likes celebrating even more than people who get wasted every chance they get? Retail. It amazes me what we get in the mail and what we see in stores around all of these days. Take, for example, the Mother's Day catalog that we got from Sears the other day.

sears catalog for mother's day 2013

This made me think of my mom and of how much I miss her. So I wanted to buy her a present for Mother's Day. The first thing that caught my eye on the front page was this beauty:

craftsman lawn tractor

Wow, a Craftsman 21-HP lawn tractor with 46-in deck for my mom! She'll love it! But then I thought my mom's lawn is not that big and the dogs chew most of it anyway.

So I turned the page and there it was - THE PERFECT PRESENT.

diamond jewelry 10k gold

Diamond jewelry for only 1999.99. Not bad! On the other hand, who buys diamond jewelry encased in 10k gold?! Pff, that's absurd, my mom deserved better than 10k gold.

I was beginning to get disheartened, but I kept browsing the brochure and found this bad boy:

Craftsman rear wheel propelled mower

I was almost reconsidering buying this amazing Craftsman rear wheel propelled mower when I realized "what if mom wants a front wheel propelled mower?". So I put this idea on the back burner in case nothing better came along.

But Good Lord something did!

kenmore fridge

I could buy her a 2999.99 Kenmore fridge. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before. Then Trevor pointed out that we'd have to ship it about 4000 miles and that would cost me more than the fridge itself. Luckily at the same time I realized that we celebrate Mother's Day on March 8th in Europe and my mom doesn't need anything from the Sears catalog to know how much I love her.

But one of these days I will get myself a gas-guzzling lawn mower to go with my organic garden and lawn. It just makes so much sense.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to become an artist in 2 minutes or less

This past weekend our town celebrated Community Day. Small town Pennsylvania community day is all about fun, food and music - a real slice of Americana. All the local churches serve free food and organize activities on the lawn. Small businesses reach out to the community and showcase what they've got to offer. So the pie shop, coffee house, flowers shop, art studio, art galleries, ballet school and yoga studios all came together on what seemed to be an episode of Gilmore Girls (minus the fast talking).

While Trevor sang with the band, I got recruited into helping with children's spin art. I was the worst possible kind of volunteer since I had no idea what spin art was. So before manning the booth I had to learn what I was supposed to be showing others.

The spin art machine looks much like a metal box the size of a microwave. It has a plastic lid with a hole through which children can squeeze paint on a paper the size of a postcard. The machine spins the paper very fast and the blotches get dispersed into whimsical patterns. If it sounds messy it's because it is. It didn't take long for me to destroy a pair of jeans and turn myself into a watercolor monster.
spin art machine  
Spin art machine

My primary job was to label paper bags with the kids' names, so they could pick up their spin art after it dried. Let me tell you, kids today have unusually cool names with even weirder spellings. My unfamiliarity with nuveaux American names, coupled with loud music, kids' inability to spell, and their lack of teeth and/or mouths full of food made for some embarrassing blunders. I guess little  Sequioa and Ailleanna will have to get used to having their names misspelled. It builds character and it's a great ice breaker. Been there, done that, that's why I go by Mickey.

beautiful spin art by children at community day
Some of the spin art left out to dry

At the end of the day when we were wrapping up the booth, both Trevor and I did some spin art. We're thinking all our walls are bare but our hearts are full of good intentions so the squishing and peeking through a plastic hole commenced. These amazingly intricate designs will be framed and one day, when we're old and famous, our grandchildren will have permission to sell them on Ebay.

The art on the bottom row is all mine and probably the closest I'll ever get to being an artist. The top orangey design is Trevor's. Should I be scared at the intensity of the colors? Quick, I need some pop psychology to analyze that and find out who I really married! 

spin art to frame

This is a very well-executed design by a little girl named Grace. I accidentally took it home at the end of the day because Grace apparently forgot to pick it up. It is, by far, our best piece.

children's spin art to frame

Another one of the churches was running an activity called "plant the seed and watch it grow" so I planted wildflowers and Trevor planted a gourd.

Friday, May 3, 2013

How to connect with nature in your back yard

1. Take a city girl (born and bred).

2. Transplant her to charming small town America. Add in a dimpled musician for really good incentive.

3. Have her peek out the window one morning while drinking her coffee.

4. Throw in a squirrel prancing around on the fence.

5. Girl jumps up and down like a maniac, screaming: "It's my first squirrel here!".

6. The name Sir Walnut McFluffyButt is coined (for the squirrel, not the girl).

7. Girl patrols around the yard with a camera in her pocket for the next 2 months.

Thus was the story of how Mickey and American wildlife got acquainted.

This morning Trevor was having a staring contest with Walnut (or one of his relatives) without realizing that the dear Sir was happily munching on my freshly planted gladiola bulbs. Fierce beasts!

funny squirrel picture, american wildlife, small town living

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