30 March 2012

You have to feel a little sorry for flowers in my neighborhood. Last week they were blooming their hearts out, basking in the sunshine and getting a tan. If someone was serving umbrella drinks, they'd be all in. Then, unfortunately, this week happened. Yesterday was cold enough to drag out the winter coat. Again. Now all the brave little tulips who came out to play last week now find themselves frozen and soggy, their limpid heads pointed toward the ground. Like the tulips lining our street, my neighbor's beautiful white peonies have also peeked, wilted, and faded away with the bitter cold.

This is what the peonies looked like last week.
Since we won't be seeing them again until the fall (fingers crossed) I thought I would try making some peonies on my own. These peonies are far more tolerant of the cold!
I first heard of customizing bows from this Martha Stewart tutorial. They look super cute on a package, but I was thinking about using these as place settings or on a wreath. I can't decide just yet, but I'll keep you posted!

Do you have a suggestion for a Friday Flower? Chime in on Facebook.

Did you know, in the middle ages, peonies were "recommended to cure gall stones, control epileptic seizures, soothe teething pain and cure jaundice" or that it is the unofficial national flower of China? Click here to learn more about Peonies.  


29 March 2012

Swedish Easter

As if ABBA wasn’t terrific enough, the Swedes lay claim to the coolest Easter tradition of all: Påskris, better known as Easter feather trees. The custom goes back hundreds of years and involves tying colorful feathers to the ends of birch twigs as a way to encourage the branches to sprout green leaves.

When you consider a country like Sweden, where the winter is long and days are short, you can’t blame people for getting anxious with their attempts to hurry Spring. I don’t know if some crazy old Swedish dude genuinely thought the trees would bud faster if they dressed them up like Vegas showgirls, but I can say, if I were a tree, I would make the effort. Accessories are everything.

Swedes also have — and I’m not making this up — an Easter Witch. 

Little girls dress up as witches in rags and old clothes and go door to door with a copper kettle looking for treats. Apparently they get a crapton of chocolate too. The tradition comes from the old belief that witches would fly to Blåkulla, a German mountain, the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. 

Why someone thought it would be fun to dress their kids up to go to Germany to play with the devil is a little confusing to me, but I don’t doubt there is a good reason. And it probably involves chocolate. Or something they sell at Ikea. The Swedes are smart that way. 

Anyone want to read more about Easter Witches? Click here.

Anyone want to learn more about the oodles of cool Swedish Easter traditions? Check it.

Who is making a Paskris feather tree this weekend? ME!


28 March 2012

Edwardian Easter Eggs

Inspired by the Fred Astaire and Judy Garland movie, Easter Parade, I decided it was high time I made some eggs with old fashioned flair. 
If you have never seen the movie, you should. It takes place in 1912 New York and the Edwardian era costumes are superb. The hats alone are worth the price of a movie rental. And, seriously, people, it's Judy Garland. And not the coked out and bloated Judy Garland, I mean the doe-eyed and vulnerable, gorgeous with a butter voice Judy Garland. You need to see this movie

These eggs were super easy thanks to some previously tie dyed eggs, some Mod Podge, and some German paper scraps.
(der Osterhase is German for Easter Rabbit)

The bunnies required some crinkling and snips in order to get them to adhere to the curved surface, but they found their way in good time. After all was dried I added some gold ink, a few sequins and a ribbon. Tada!

27 March 2012

My latest art acquisition is a tribute to The Golden Girls.

I can't even talk about it. It's that amazing.

Granted, I like any art that elevates favorite characters to mythological demigod status (Hello Inigo Montoya.).  I like it even better when I can buy a whole set of linoleum block prints for $7.50, courtesy of Rachel Wallis.

I acquired these as a set of greeting cards, but paired with $1.50 frames from Target they make a lovely little composition. It makes me sad to think that three of the four Golden Girls have passed, but it makes me happy to look at my little quadrant here and know that these ladies are popular as ever.

If you ask me, the best 15 seconds of television can be found on The Golden Girls. Actually, it can be found on every episode of The Golden Girls: it's the 15 second overture music following the theme song leading into the start of every show. Most people miss it, but observant types will recognize the classic late 1970's theme music with a string orchestra, flutes and a harp playing to the image of the house in Miami, lush with palm trees and green grass. Like buttered bosaa nova, but better. I could listen to a loop all day long.

Here, watch the first couple minutes and listen for yourself:

Anyone live in LA? Go drive by  the real Golden Girls' house for me!

Did you know Sophia was actually younger than her "daughter" Dorothy Zbornac? Click here to read more fun facts.

Interested in reading more about real-life fabulous ladies of a certain age? Order an advance copy of Ari Seth Cohen's new book, Advanced Style (powerHouse Books, 2012)

26 March 2012

A couple years ago a friend told me about dyeing eggs with silk ties – an idea she picked up from Martha Stewart Show staff member, Jackie Manzolillo, who picked it up from her Great Aunt Helen, who picked it up from her grandmother. It's a family tradition. And if there is one thing I can't resist, it's a craft project with lineage. Of course I had to try it, and of course the eggs came out great. If you haven’t seen the original video, you should, ‘cause there be some serious granny cuteness going on. And yes, the results are mucho mucho impressive.

Since I like to try a new egg dye technique each year, and that one came out so well, as did my tissue paper eggs from last year as well, I thought; why not cross the two? 

The end result is a swirling dervish of sparkly pastel Easter goodness. This is an easy project that relies on little more than bundling and soaking -- both are very kid friendly, especially if you use hard boiled eggs instead of fragile, hollow eggs. Of course, I would avoid eating eggs that have been boiled in garment dye but I wouldn't think twice about setting them out on the coffee table.

  • Eggs with their guts blown out (see this video)
  • Silk neckties (can also use scarves or fabric scraps – must be 100% silk)
  • Tissue paper cut into long strips (dark colors work best)
  • Non-metal pot (I used my slow cooker, but you can find ceramic and glass pots at the thrift store – no metal)
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee filters
  • Dental floss or strong white thread/twine
  • Mod Podge
  • Gold Paint Pen 
Again: watch the original video. That way you can skip most of these directions. Or piece it together from the pictures. I love craft tutorials with more pictures than words, don't you? Brevity is a virtue. I ramble too much but I'm good with sequins – that's my virtue.

The number of eggs will determine how many neckties you need, but I would estimate 4-6 eggs per tie (I found these ties at the thrift store for 50cents each. Not all neckties have obvious fabric indication tags, but if a tie is 100% silk, there is a decent chance the manufacturer will brag about it with a big ol’ tag). 

Cut the tie apart into pieces large enough to surround each egg, roughly 5" square or larger.

The dying process is based on a simple bundling technique.

Egg > Tissue Strip > Silk Piece > Coffee Filter > Tied Together with Floss

Use tongs to submerge the egg bundles in hot water (not boiling) with a splash of vinegar. Leave them there to soak. Be sure to use a non-metallic pot, as it will react with the acidity of the vinegar and effect the dye process. I don't know about you, but I don't have any non-metallic pots sitting around so I resorted to using my slow cooker with a ceramic insert. The slow cooker also allowed for a clamp-on lid, which was helpful in keeping the eggs wet, even if they insisted on floating (fully submerging eggs in a crowded pot isn't easy).

You will have to experiment to see how long they stay in there. Some dyes will release in a few minutes, some will take a few hours.

As you can see, the paisley print was a direct transfer in some spots, while the strip of green tissue created reverse-print stripes in other spots. The overall effect is very muted and pretty. And abstract. Which is a nice way of saying no one will notice if you make a mistake. Don't you love that?

It's important to coat the outside AND the inside with diluted Mod Podge (we went over this last week). I also added a dash of glitter paint to the mix. Because, you know, I'm tasteful.

Now for the fun! Use the 'stripe' created by the tissue paper as a guide on where to use your gold paint pen. I chose to draw staggered vertical stripes along the outer borders of the stripe. I was trying to give the visual impression of "music" but it came out looking more like an "earthquake." Hence the name of this project, Golden Seismograph Eggs.    

I almost gave them the name Earthquake Eggs but I like the word seismograph. I also like the words mercurial and besmirch. Last week I was on the phone with a guy who used troglodyte in a sentence without even trying. Man, some people are so cool! 

Interested seeing some other folks dye eggs with neckties? Check out Dabbled and Parents Magazine.

23 March 2012

Sad fact: I have never seen real cherry blossoms.

You don’t find them so much here in the Midwest and I have never been out east mid-spring when they are blossoming.

But one day we will time it right.

One day.

Actually, years ago, I dragged a friend into lunch at the famous Pool Room at the Four Seasons just so I could brag about eating a meal underneath a spectacular canopy of cherry blossoms. How grand would that be?  It was to be a highlight of trip, but, lo, apparently they don’t have cherry blossoms in July. Apparently they store them somewhere in Yonkers for ten months a year and make you eat hot buttered shrimp under indoor palm trees.


So when I was taking suggestions for Friday Flowers, and Ann mentioned cherry blossoms, I thought the timing would be perfect. Next week would normally be the start of cherry blossom season, although, little did I know there would be a heat wave and the cherry blossoms would come early this year. I'm already behind the curve! So let’s not delay any further – let’s get started...

I’m not going to do a full tutorial on this one because I took 90% of my directions from this amazing paper dogwood tutorial from the team at Martha Stewart. I highly recommend you take a gander at the video.

As much as I like the dogwood shapes made from construction paper, I wanted something a little more delicate and colorful. So I swapped the construction paper for coffee filters (as if you didn’t already know how much I love me some coffee filters).

I dyed the filters by dipping the bottoms into a dye solution of one cup water + 20 drops red food coloring. If you don’t have food coloring you can use red water color paint. Your pick. I purposely used little liquid and LOTS of coffee filters so the tops of the filters would remain white, giving a more realistic, ombre pink and white appearance. There are probably 200 coffee filters here, but I only used ten to cover the whole cherry blossom tree. The rest will be used to make some other flowers down the road.

After the coffee filters dry overnight, cut them in half and then into simple four-leaf clover shapes.

Just for kicks, I dotted the outer edges with a red magic marker, but that looked a little harsh, so I blended them out with water.

Martha's tutorial attaches the flowers to the tree with hot glue, but that seemed too clunky for the coffee filters, so I chose to cut 1cm slits in  each blossom and slipped them onto the tips of a barren branch. The branch is held in an old ice bucket anchored by sand. Please forgive the tarnished silver -- if you had seen that bucket when I found it at the thrift store, black as a skillet, you would appreciate the recent improvement!

Speaking of thrift stores -- did I ever show you the treasure Kelly found at a thrift store last fall?

Behold, it is Miss Piggy! Isn't she wonderful?

Original art. And the framing is so nice, too. It warms my heart to think of someone treating Miss Piggy's picture the same as a formal portrait. How she ended up in a thrift store, I will never know, but thank goodness she came my way. Thanks again, Kelly!

I like the idea of having a couple of these cherry blossom trees on a formal dining table. Maybe for a Seder. Or Easter. With eggs. Or not. Oh, I don't know, but if you try it, send pictures, por favor!
Are you anywhere near Washington DC in the next month? It's the 100th annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.
If you have two minutes today, watch this short documentary, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. It is truly remarkable to think what beauty can survive the most horrific of disasters. Makes me that much more anxious to see a real cherry blossom one day :)

22 March 2012

Every year I blow a new batch of colorful Easter eggs, and every year people tell me I am crazy for spending all that time on something that "will never last."

But here is the thing: they do last. 

Or, I should say, they can last if you take a couple extra steps. Last year I skipped a critical step and they didn't last. They done busted. I opened up my egg basket (and yes, I keep all my eggs in one basket) and this is an example of what I found:

The egg on the left came from a batch that I sealed with polyurethane spray, while the one on the right was sealed with two coats of Mod Podge on the outside and on the inside. That is the important part -- the inside. Egg shells are very porous  and they become more and more brittle as they dry out. If you seal the shell from the outside AND the inside, the Mod Podge will soak into the shell and create a web-like bond, strengthening the surface. The end result is almost like plastic. Delicate, but strong. Those eggs will last for years. The egg on the above right has survived eleven years and four house moves, and I can still drop it on the coffee table from 10" up without a crack. Not that I suggest you try dropping your eggs, but you get the point -- who knows how long it will last?!

I know what you are saying... OK fine, I get it, but how do I seal the egg shell from the inside?

Boom. Here it is:

Bear with me, this is going to sound more complicated than it actually is:
First create a sealant coat out of equal parts Mod Podge and water. You can brush it on the outside easy enough, but getting it on the inside takes some finesse. If you have access to an eye dropper, go for it, but if you have straws around that will work too --just insert one end of the straw in the liquid and hold your finger over the opening on the opposite end of the straw, creating a temporary vacuum that will allow you to carry the liquid to the egg. Then lift your finger off the straw to drop the liquid inside the egg through the top hole (this is very scientific). Put your fingers over both egg holes and shake away! Let the excess liquid fall out as it dries. As long as the shell is dry from the start, it will absorb plenty.

Cliff Notes Recap: 
Insert watered down Mod Podge in the egg by any means necessary, shake it around, then let it fall out and dry. Whoop, there it is.

Treat your eggs nice and they will last you, well, a long time. Long enough to survive a thrashing from Lola, anyhow.

Never tried blowing hollow eggs before? Here is a great video.
Never worked with Mod Podge before? Let Amy break it down for you. This is good stuff!

21 March 2012

On Art and Cats

George Washington takes a lot of credit for leading troops across the Delaware river. Too bad he never credited his secret weapon: Lola.

I have found that most cat people are art people.

And likewise, art people are cat people.

I have also found that dog people are movie buffs.

And ferret people are unusually fond of tattoos.

But I digress.

If you like cats and art, you have to check out Great Artists' Mews, a website featuring a Russian cat named Русский, who is described as "Ten kilograms of pure undisturbed joy."

I can't help asking, why didn't someone think of this sooner? 

Many thanks to Hillary for introducing me to weird and wonderful world of Русский.

20 March 2012

Today is what would have been Mister Rogers 84th birthday.

If you are one of the millions of children who grew up watching Mister Rogers, you know what a special person he was (and is).

Someone please tell me; Why is Mister Rogers' Neighborhood labeled as a kid's program? Do adults not see how beneficial these lessons can be?

Sometimes, when I am having a rough day, I pop over and watch an old episode. Mister Rogers always puts things in perspective. Somehow #snookiproblems don't seem so important inside The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

And sometimes, when I see or hear someone being nasty or acting like a meanie head (yes that's a technical term) I try to think of what Mister Rogers would say or do in the same situation. Usually I think he would try to demonstrate some deeply profound act of kindness, then *take off his sweater and get the hellouttadodge.
*Did you ever notice that? Every episode started with him coming home and donning a sweater, but every episode ended with him taking the sweater off and leaving and singing It's Such a Good Feeling. But why? It was his house. Where did he need to go? He was already home, no? This never made sense to me. I always wondered if there was a Mrs. Rogers. Did they have a dog. What did they eat? Why did Mr. McFeely bring letters but no electric bills? The world will never know :(

Familiar as he is to all of us, there was a lot more to him than what we saw on the show. For instance;

1. He saved public television. In 1969 Mister Rogers went to Washington to protest the slashing of funds to public television, and his testimony was so persuasive that funding was not only secured but increased to $22 million per year.

2. He was colorblind. Not just metaphorically, literally. He could not make out the colors in a box of crayons, which is rather sad when you consider that ridiculously awesome trip to the Crayola factory.

3. He was a song writer. Nearly all of the songs on Mister Rogers Neighborhood were composed by Mister Rogers on his famous piano, along with hundreds of others that were never heard on the show.

4. He was a Preacher Man. Mister Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1963.

5. He employed Batman. Michael Keaton, famous for playing Batman got his start in showbiz as a puppeteer and trolley operator on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

6. He instilled honor among thieves. Mister Rogers drove an old Impala for years until the car was stolen and the police report was picked up by the local news...48 hours later the car was returned with a note that read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

7. He learned to golf with Arnold Palmer. Both natives of Latrobe, PA, Mister Rogers grew up taking lessons from professional golfer and country club grounds keeper, Deacon Palmer, along side Deacon's son of the same age, Arnold.

8. He named his characters after family members. Lady Elaine ("the mischief maker") was named for his younger sister Elaine, Mr. McFeeley the postman was named for his paternal grandfather Fred McFeeley, Queen Sara Saturday was named for his wife Sara Rogers, among others.

9. He was a Vegetarian. He told people “I don’t want to eat anything that has a mother.”

10. His Mama was crafty. Nearly all of Mister Rogers zip front cardigans were knitted by his mother, a "talented and resourceful" woman who took up knitting sweaters for injured soldiers in WWII.

Cool dude, huh?

Look, I'm not going to go on some big preachy binge here and say we should all be kinder to our neighbors, but I can tell you that I will be making a point to honor Mister Rogers by being the very best neighbor I can be. Today. I'm going to do something nice for someone who is least expecting it. I am going to show appreciation toward someone is usually overlooked. I am going put on a zippered cardigan, change into my tennis shoes and take a look around.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Happy Birthday Mister Rogers!

I was so psyched to make something fun to wear to The Hunger Games on Friday. I thought I was sooooooooo clever making a pin out of puff paint. Ha! Because, not only am I nerdy enough to puff paint my own movie themed jewelry, I am nerdy enough to wear it when it.

Even when it looks like this.

It was supposed to look like Katniss' golden mocking jay pin but it came out looking like someone stepped on a glittered tater tot. 


19 March 2012

Top Five Pinterest Peeps

Half of everyone I know has joined Pinterest in the last 60 days. I guess that makes it a big deal, right?

Everyone likes to pin different stuff (some more than others), but when I ask my Pinterest newbie friends how they like it, most of them tell me they don't really get it, “It’s a good idea for storing stuff, but I don’t see how people are getting lost in all these ‘great pins’ or whatever. What's that about? Is there a secret club I don’t know about?”

And then I tell them “Yes. There is a secret club. We all got together and decided to swap ideas and count you out. No one thought you would catch on this fast. Whoops.”

And then I tell them the real secret: You need to follow good people. 

And not just random friends you found through facebook. No. You need some serious Pin Pals.

‘Cause here is the thing: 90% of the people using Pinterest are using it in passing, and that’s fine, but your feed will never fill with great stuff if you have to seek out new pin content every time. Instead, be lazy: follow good people and they will find all the good stuff for you.

If you can find ten good Pin Pals Pinterest will become like an an amazing new magazine every time you log in AND YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE.
So, for anyone who needs a kick start, I'm going to let you in on my Top Five Must Follow Pinners:

Mind you, I picked these five pinners based on the things that draw me too Pinterest (read: where I spend the most time). If you are on Pinterest seeking low cal recipes or coupons or tax advice, well, you might need to look elsewhere (read: I am the last person to make a qualified recommendation).  

PS: Reminder: You are not expected to know someone in person in order to follow them. All you do is click the big red button at the top that reads "Follow." You can follow fashion editors, product manufacturers, designers, celebrities... get a glimpse at what is inspiring them.

PPS: If anyone needs a Pinterest invite, send me an email: emailauntpeaches (at) gmail.com

PSPS: Who are your favorite Pin Pals? Feel free to make recommendations comments. 


16 March 2012

Did I mention I am bringing back the Friday Flowers? 

Rewind: the first few months I started blogging I posted a series of paper flower projects every Friday. Then I ran out of room and my friends got tired of me pushing them, so I stopped. Then recently Emma wrote me an email and asked if I would do some more because she had already attempted every one of the projects from the first round of Friday Flowers "...and I could use some more."

Emma is eleven.

If an eleven-year-old can get it together enough to make paper flowers, so can I.

So here we are, Emma. I'll be keeping you busy every Friday until you are, well, you are, ummm.... well, old enough to get bored of it. And let's leave it at that.

Heads up: some of the Friday Flowers will be dimensional flowers, some will be items simply improved with the help of flowers, some will be flowers made by other people....Who knows? All I can tell you is I will plan on publishing a post every Friday. So if you like Flowers, you will know where to get your weekly fix. And you can thank Emma for it.

With that in mind, I asked the folks on Facebook what sort of flowers they wanted to see, and the first person to reply was Tracy, who said "Daffodils." Actually, Tracy said "Daffodils, Hydrangeas, and Daises" but y'all will have to give me some time to make my way down the list. We will get there eventually, I promise.

So, without further adieu: let's get started on Tracy's daffodils.

14 March 2012

Easter Highlights

A lot of new folks have come by Ye Olde Blog in the last two weeks looking for Easter projects, and since my site isn't always the easiest to search, I thought I would compile some of my favorite posts from last Spring in one spot (just click on the photo caption and it will take you to the full tutorial).

I would post new Easter projects this week but  it's bad juju to break out the Easter hoopla before St. Patrick's day has past.  Yes I said bad juju. Well Established Fact: I am freakishly superstitious. And leprechauns --being dwarfed and drunken symbols of luck and all that-- freak me out. Don't even ask. It's just best for all parties if I keep the bunnies and the Irish business separate. Easter fun to come next week. Pinky swear.

Blooming Easter Baskets (made from coffee filters and plastic bowls)

The World's Foofiest Easter Wreath (made from coffee filters, staples and cupcake liners)

Cupcake Flower Easter Basket (made from cupcake flowers below)

Cupcake Flowers V1 (you will want these for making the basket above)
Cupcake Flowers V2 (made from cupcake liners or coffee filters and a silk flower stem)
Paper Mache Bunny Vase (made from a jar of animal crackers)

Ruffled Chicken (made from a cereal box and kid's hand prints)

Wallpaper Eggs (made from onion skins and pantyhose)

Spangled Up Eggs (made from tissue paper and parsley)
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