29 March 2013

Bramble Patch: March 2013



A list of happy distractions from the month of March.
15 Assumptions you should make today.

Thoughts on tipping and tooting.

Marbleized eggs the easy way. The secret? Shaving cream. Why didn't I see this three weeks ago?

...I'll also be making these leopard beauties next year. 

A beautifully made reminder to live in the moment.

Have you heard about Gizgogle? It's a parody website that converts webpages into slang. Click here to read mine. I can't decide if it's funny or offensive, but it makes me feel like I'm reading an early 90's edition of MTV Jams. I'll take it.


Meet Edith Windsor, the hero of the Marriage Equality movement. 

Wholly Toledo, I love this gal's Pinterest page. Talk about a rabbit hole! 

Speaking of Pinterest, for anyone who has ever pinned some judgmental "weight loss = self-love + self-discipline" type of meme (you know who you are), this article was meant for you.

New wedding trend: Granny Flower Girls. 

Want to give $25 of someone else's money away to a person in need? Michelle has the hook up.

I have always felt hesitant about increasing my sponsored posts. After reading this post from Maegan yesterday, I am not going to let myself feel bad about it anymore. Period.

Speaking of promotions...Kindle readers, did you know you can get 18 works of Jane Austen for 99cents? Or what about Anne of Green Gables? Or 55 works of Charles Dickens? Or a host of other authors, all for just 99 cents. Woot!

Looking to expand your craft blog scope? Amy's got 50 you should see.

Most popular post this month: Duct Tape Easter Eggs. Not everyone wants to dye eggs, go figure?





Reading: Blink by Malcom Gladwell. Non-fiction, easy, fascinating read about how people think. Why are some people excellent decision makers while others are totally inept? It's not a self-help book but it's oddly helpful. If you have never read his book The Tipping Point, start there first.

Watching: Game of Thrones. I used to make fun of people obsessed with knights and dragons. Now I'm one of them. What?

Munching: Buttercrunch cashews. Don't even ask.

Listening: 1940/50's Novelty Jazz. Slim Gillard. Carmen McRae. Louis Prima. What's that? You don't like Italian supper club soundtracks? Fine. Check out the ten best bands of SXSW.

Wearing: Mardi Gras beads. Came back from vacation with 25 pounds of the stuff. Pictures to follow next week :)











27 March 2013

No Mess Easter Grass





So, I was talking to my friend Amy week about what she was putting in her kiddo's Easters baskets. She says this and that and a whiz-bang-whatsit...and then she drops a bomb: No Easter Grass.

Amy runs a no Easter grass household. Amy is a neatknick. Nobody gets to wear shoes in her house and her get kids get grassless baskets. She's practically Joseph Stalin. Did you hear me? NO GRASS.
So I says, I says, Why?

She says, It's messy.

I says, But it's Easter. How is the bunny going to roost in the basket with no grass?

She says, Bunnies don't roost. Besides, I don't give them bunnies. Too much chocolate. The kids get a few small toys and some snack bags with crackers and fruit chews.

Then I drifted off in a daydream about stealing Amy's kids and giving them cake and kittens and seeing PG13 movies without parental guidance. Amy was not amused. So then I told her how to make Easter grass at home without the mess;
Just fold it up a bunch of times and leave the middle inch open, then slice a bunch of fringes and stuff. The middle seam will keep it together so you just plop it in the basket.

Say what?

Oh, errrr, here, I'll just take pictures and write a blog post about it.


See, by leaving the middle seam in tact, all the grassy string bits will stay connected. No mess. Just one big octopus plop of tissue paper. Or newspaper. Or old wrapping paper. Or whatever. It will all stay together nice and neat. Your cat won't get a chance to eat it. Your kids won't get it caught in their hair. Your Easter bunny will have a nice and kooshy place to setup while waiting for the celebrations Easter morning.



And Amy, that bunny is totally roosting.



  

26 March 2013

Ruffled Easter Baskets



I have a thing for Easter baskets. Big ones, small ones, inbetween... Man, I love an Easter basket. At any given time you will find 20+ Easter baskets in my pantry filled with canned goods and dish towels and everything in between. Not a chocolate bunny in the bunch, sadly.

Seeing as I get my standard Easter basket fix all year-round, I like my actual Easter baskets to be extra special. Foofy. Ruffly...



Easter and ruffles go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are meant to be together!




These were crazy easy to make and totally free. Leftover party streamers + ice cream containers + hot glue = Shazam.


You may or may not want to trim the carton down a bit. Shallow baskets show off the goods a little more, and the trimming can be used for the handle. Personally, I like extra deep baskets as they allow for more chocolate. You can tell where my priorities lay.


For a small basket, you will want two to three yards of fringe. Making the fringe is easy, just snip up some old streamers.

Am I the only person who keeps streamers after the party is over?

Hashtag: Hoarder Alert.



Before hot gluing the streamers to the carton, I suggest adding the handle first. Or not. Who says  Easter Baskets must have handles anyway?

That's it. Easy peasy.

As you might have noticed, for emphasis, I dyed the edges of my streamers chartreuse. How'd that happen? Ten drops of food coloring + 1/4 Cup water in a shallow dish. Soak the streamers in the dish for a few seconds, then dry over night. Don't have overnight? Ten minutes in a 200 degree oven will do it.



I just know you always wanted two-tone streamers.

Happy Easter!
  

22 March 2013

Happy Weekend



I'm back from vacation, huzzah! It was a glorious, fun, family filled romp through Mississippi with a brief stop in New Orleans (see Jackson Square below). It was sunshine and warm weather aplenty. On the rare occasions the sun went away the fried food came out. Somewhere inbetween azalea bushes and shrimp po boys, I picked up an alligator head and some dirty cheap turquoise jewelry. Get excited, people!


I'll show some more pictures next week, but in the meantime I am planning to be at home this weekend, catching up on life and laundry. I don't know about you, but I always try to time vacations at the end of a busy season. The upside is that when things are most hectic, I have something to look forward to. The downside is that when I come back from vacation, all the other things I have been pushing off for six weeks will get condensed into one blitz-busting weekend. Taxes - Hayo!

We'll see how far I get...

Happy weekend! 



21 March 2013

Duct Tape Easter Eggs



I had grand plans to make leopard print Easter eggs this year, all gussied up and handpainted brown and black spots with badass brass studs around the circumference. Yeah! They were going to be sparkly. They were going to be Vegas. They were going to be amazing.


Yes, I had grand plans to do lots of things. Then life happened. Now I find myself waking up short on cat food and clean underwear. Now it's time to take it down a peg or two.


So I am taking to easy road on this one. I got my leopard eggs, but I'm skipping the fussy stuff and going right for the peanutnutter and jelly of DIY supplies: duct tape.



When I was a tatertot, duct tape came in two colors: silver and fugly.

Nowadays it comes in pink and green and gold and stripes and argyle and even bacon. Yes, there is such a thing as bacon tape.  I myself am rather fond of the leopard and the metallic gold. I keep them at an arm's length at all times. You just never know when you will need a lick of leopard.

Substitute Easter grass for Mardi gras beads. You know, because it's tasteful.
On the How Easy Is This? Scale, on a 1 through 10, this comes in at a negative 2. If you can mess this project up, there is something wrong with you. It's not the tape or the eggs, honey, it's you.

Let's get started.

20 March 2013

Know what I love? Rainbows.

Know what I love more than rainbows? Combative rainbows.

Ballsy, confrontational, resourceful and creative rainbows designed to balance hate with love and peace.

This house has it all. This house made my day. This house needs our help.



Six months ago, Planting Peace purchased this house in the suburbs of Topeka Kansas directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound. Note: from here on in I’m just saying Westboro because I think they give Baptists and Churches a bad name.

Westboro, a group best known for protesting the funerals of veterans and celebrities with hateful and homophobic signs while chanting promises of Hell, Damnation, and all the good stuff that comes with being rational and well-intended human beings (first amendment y’all!), woke up Monday morning to find a big surprise in the form of a new neighbor.

Planting Peace, a multi-pronged progressive group devoted to promoting compassion and sustainability, purchased the property with the intent of turning it into The Equality House, a drop-in center that will support a variety of LGBT and anti-bullying efforts.

Piggybacking on Westboro's own twisted-yet-highly-successful media strategy, Aron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace explains, “We’re going to take the negative attention and try to spin it into something positive.” Jackson says, “Instead of millions of children around the world getting this hate message, they're going to see this message of compassion and love."


Like any non-profit seeking to spread their message, they need to raise some starter money. This is where we come in. For starters, all of this week’s ad revenue from www.auntpeaches.com will be donated to Equality House in hopes of fostering new rainbows. In addition, I am making a personal donation and I want to double it.  I will match $10 for the first ten people who make a donation to Equality House’s Crowd Rise fund. All you have to do is make a donation and leave a comment below that says “I donated!” You don’t have to tell me your name or amount, just tell me you donated and I’ll take you at your word.
So come on y’all, when was the last time you got to fund a rainbow and combat bigotry in one foul swoop?

Let’s do this.

Click here to help fund Equality House.

Update: More than ten people already donated (woot!), so Ann Hendricks was kind enough to pledge another round if another ten people donated (double woot!)...Can we count you in?

Peep Show



After every holiday I sit down and make a quick list of all the things I meant to do but never got done. It can be a little depressing but it provides a road map for where to start the following year (my fellow bloggers will appreciate this). Well, for THREE YEARS now I have been wanting to make something with marshmallow Peeps, and yet again, this year I have fallen behind. It's like those peeps are hellbent on escaping my glue gun! Can you imagine?

So now the time has come. It's spring. It's Easter. It's Peep season.

Bring it on!
1. Beatles Peeps  2. Popcorn Peeps  3. Chair Peeps 4. Tuxedo Peeps 5. Marilyn Peeps 6. Bouquet O'Peeps Honorary mention: The PeepMopolitan. 

Have you ever made something fun with peeps? 


14 March 2013

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of hundreds of saints days but it's one of the very few observed outside the Catholic faith. To some, this day is devoted to the man who brought Catholicism to Ireland. To others, it’s a day to wear Irish sweaters and get sloppy drunk off green beer. To me, it’s a holiday entrenched in symbolism and mythology – two of my favorite subjects.

As someone with part Irish heritage, who is pathologically superstitious, and has a college degree in pictorial semiotics, Saint Patrick’s day is like my second birthday. But better. And spookier. But with less cake. And more snakes.

I don’t think it’s any secret that Irish folks are gifted storytellers – pair that gift with the passing of generations, a flair for embellishment, and an Old Country waft of nostalgia, it makes for some interesting tales of origin. It would be easy to write a book on all the crazy shit Irish people have stuffed into their immigrant-come-lately folklore, but for the sake of brevity and festiveness, let’s keep it to the surface level, shall we?

Let’s go on a quick-n-dirty adventure through Saint Patrick’s day symbolism. 


Shamrock
The legend: Saint Patrick, an Irish slave (although now historians think he was Scottish), escaped from imprisonment in France in the 4th centuryish and returned to Ireland and converted the masses by using a three leaf shamrock to explain the holy trinity. As it goes, as shamrocks grow everywhere in Ireland, so does faith – in the fields, in the earth, in the crack in the sidewalk. God is everywhere, the shamrock reminds us. Unfortunately, historians have never been able to link any mention of the shamrock to Patrick's own writings, or to anyone who wrote of his work at the time. The first written account of any affiliation between Saint Patrick and shamrocks came in the 1600's, a thousand years after his death. Still, it makes for a nice story.

Wearing Green
Oddly enough, blue is the national national color of Ireland. Blue is also the color most strongly associated with Saint Patrick (the man -- not the holiday), but green is, and always has been, what comes to mind when people think of Ireland. The land. The sky. The sea. Green. Green. Green. If it’s Irish and it doesn’t have armpits—it’s green. After all, it's the Emerald Isle for a reason. After massive waves of immigration in the 1800’s, Irish immigrants all over the world wore green as a point of pride and self-identification. Sort of like a gang without the meth or neck tattoos. Today, people wear green all the time, so when it comes to March 17th, the green goes big or goes home. Here in Chicago they dye the whole river green. Yes, for real. Know what color dye they put in to make it green? Orange. Weird, right? The tradition started in the 1960’s – some  city worked were trying to track pollution sources and used vegetable dye to trace illegal sewage discharges. Nowadays it’s a big procession and thousands of folks line up all over the river’s edge to watch a speedboat spew out the dye. It’s quite a sight!


Snakes
As in, Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland (or he killed them, or drove them out, or turned them to stone – depending on who you ask). Saint Patrick, in his fervent quest to spread his faith, may have done some not nice stuff to those who refused to convert.  The "banishing of the snakes" was really a metaphor for the eradication of Celtic/Pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Vatican style Christianity. Pagans and non-believers were either killed or forced to leave the country – their language, their traditions, their ancient ways leaving with them or burned/destroyed/forbidden. When you hear someone say Saint Patrick turned the snakes to stone, it is because Celtic stone carvings with their interweaving snake motifs, are one of the few pieces of evidence left behind. Just to be fair and contrary, it's worth mentioning that most historians downplay the fall of Paganism in Ireland, and even then, give very little of the credit to Saint Patrick. Also, recent academics have also gone so far as to painting Saint Patrick as a tax collecting, slave trading jerk. So that's fun.

12 March 2013



When I was a kid, Saint Patrick’s Day was symbolized by drunk white guys, purple cabbage, and multi-colored rice crispy treats made with off-brand Lucky Charms cereal. Maybe we would watch a parade on TV.  At some point a bagpipe album would come on.  Someone might wear a green polo shirt otherwise reserved for Saturdays cleaning gutters.  Or, if you were lucky, it would rain that day and we would spend school recess watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People (yes, again, drunk white guys and cabbage….the cycle begins again.)

These days, Saint Pat’s is a little different. It's classy stuff. A wholesome affair. It’s all about wearing heavy Irish wool. Eating chocolate Guinness stout cake. Celtic Woman live performance marathons on PBS. Leprechauns. Shamrocks. Shillelaghs.  Rainbows. And, as you know, rainbows are very On Trend.
Unicorn coming to town? Rainbows.

Surviving 40 days and 40 nights of flooding on an ark? Rainbows.

Skittles giving you gas? Rainbows. 
 They are everywhere. Including your windows...

This is the danger of keeping a rainbow in your kitchen. Unicorns could bust in at any moment!
These are about the easiest thing you will ever do and it will impress the pants off your neighbors. Want to see how to do it? Visit ElizabethBanks.com to get the scoop! 

Many thanks to Team Elizabeth for featuring this project, and special thanks my friends Brendan and Stephanie for allowing me to come over and use their house (and kiddos) for this project. Guys, not only did they let me install an elephant size rainbow in their window, they played TONY ORLANDO while it was happening. And provided tacos. Now that is what I call a Sunday!


11 March 2013

Eggs in the Air



A Poem:

I have eggs in a basket.
Eggs in a tree.

Eggs in a chandelier.
Rhyming is hard.


I decided I liked the ornaments hanging on Mrs. Snow for the holidays, so I followed suit with hollowed out eggs. Now I sit under it and worry the eggs will fall any second, but it's okay because it looks awfully pretty. I tell you , man, the sacrifices we make for beauty.


I need to get working on some leopard eggs. Anytime I see large quantities of pastels, all I can think is how much better they would look next to leopard. I don't think anyone besides myself and Peg Bundy have ever paired leopard and Easter together, but I like the idea.

Eggs...foof...bunnies...leopard...Jesus. Yeah. 






08 March 2013

Snitchbitters and Niceholes



I'm thinking about starting a sporadic series of blog posts titled STUFF THERE SHOULD BE WORDS FOR. I already have a sizable list, but one item comes up a lot; What do you call someone who is well intended in their words or actions but the end result causes injury or offense?

After extensive research I have identified not one but TWO distinctive species: Snitchbiters and Niceholes. If you are not familiar with these terms, allow me break it down for you:

Snitchbitter

A Snitchbitter is someone who likes you, truly likes you, but constantly says and/or does not nice things. If you are a woman, there is a 65.78% chance your mother might be one of them. Overall, snitchbitters are good, well intended people who are unintentionally hurtful.  Example: Someone who says "Wow, that sweater looks great. Nobody looks good in hospital green, but you can really pull it off!"

That hospital green comment really happened. It happened in my mouth, actually. It just fell out of my mouth before I could catch it and stuff it back in. Luckily the person on the receiving end knows me well enough to reply "Do you not even hear the words that fall out of your mouth?"

Yes folks, I am a snitchbitter.

I hang out with a lot of snitchbitters too. In fact, if you know me in person and you are reading this, there is a good chance you are a snitchbitter. It's probably why we get along so well. Sure, I could get all holier-than-thou and say I never gossip or deliver anything less than 100% genuine praise, and 99% of the people reading this would totally believe it, but lets be adults and accept who we are: I am a snitchbitter. And I am working on it.

Nicehole

A Nicehole is someone who behaves nicely, but is really an asshole. Someone who does not particularly care for anyone but would never have the balls to be upfront in their rudeness. They are too hung up on etiquette. If you made a typo at work, or left your shirt untucked, they would be the first person to tell you. Not because they want you to look good in front of others, but because it makes them feel superior to identify your flaws. Nicholes take every opportunity to remind others of their mistakes. Conversely, reminding a nicehole of their own mistake(s) can be a dangerous task and should only be undertaken in emergency situations while wearing protective clothing. 

Niceholes rarely say anything mean or malicious, but on the rare occasions they do, it comes accompanied by that beloved expression "I'm just calling it like I see it." The thing is, people who are calling it like they see it are usually seeing it like an asshole. Or shall we say, nicehole.


 This has been a public service announcement.

###

Now, tell the truth, do you know any snitchbitters or niceholes? Or perhaps there is a third classification of well-intended-yet-jerk-like behavior I have not identified yet. Feel free to share your findings.

07 March 2013

Got a question? Something on your mind? Send me an email. I will always do my best to answer, and once a month I’ll illustrate the answer in a post. 

Dear AP,
I am a middle school art teacher. Can you help me think of an interesting way to display Easter eggs that would not be abhorrent to pastel-hating 13 year-old students? Every year my class paints eggs and they always come out beautiful, but we don’t have a good way to display them. They sit in egg cartons for a week and then the kids wrap them in tissue and stick them in their backpacks where they get crushed on the way home. There must be a better way than this! I like your tree made from branches but I fear it will be too delicate for my classroom with 110 touchy feely grabby kids coming in and out each day. I would like something that each individual student can make to hold their egg while it is on display, and if it could help them carry it home, even better. I was thinking baskets of some sort. What do you think? Oh, and the materials need to be free. Can you think of anything?

Melisa
Let me get this straight: Something sturdy enough to house an egg that does not look Eastery AND would appeal to adolescents AND be made for zero money. Melisa, you don't make this easy do you?


Okay, LET'S DO THIS.




Materials
  • Some sort of food container -- everyone has one of these at home, right? (I am using an empty ice cream pint, but it could be anything with reasonably straight sides. Margarine, sour cream, yoghurt containers are all good. Large water bottles. Even paper cups would be fine just keep the side sloping to a minimum.)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper (I am using newspaper because it’s free, but I think this would look just swell with old sheet music or some colored construction paper, etc..)


1. Start by trimming the cup/container down to size. Or not. Deeper the cup, the more chocolate to hide.
2. Trim 2” fringe into the newspaper, leaving a ½” border in tact.smear glue along the inside of the cup and run fringe along the inside.



3. Attach a handle made of a 1” wide length of newspaper folded over 4 times, and attach to the outside of the container.
4. Smear the outside of the container with glue, then starting at the top, wind fringe around the outside of the container, leaving at least a ½ inch band exposed at the bottom.
5. Wind a second layer of fringe around the outside, covering the bottom edge.



6. Fold down each individual piece of fringe. Optional: Use pencil to curl paper. (I didn’t).


Well look at that.

That's it. A pastel-free, cheese-free, easy-to-make Easter basket that a 13-year-old won't be too embarrassed to seen carrying on the bus. It looks a little like a chicken. An exploding Newsie chicken. Or a hat. A big fat totally rad exploding Newsie chicken hat. Yeah.

Now let's take an artsy photo and make it fancy. 


I dare you to tell me that ain't fancy.

PS: Next week....Easter bonnets!






05 March 2013

Because Easter is on the early side this year...
Because I am out of town for a chunk of time mid-month...
Because Target is selling THE MOST AWESOME geometric metallic tone eggs...
Because I need something to do while watching too much television on Bravo this weekend....

...I put up some Easter decorations.

The pĂ„skris went up in all its feathered glory. Some of the eggs are over ten years old (this is the secret).  The joy of keeping a Swedish Easter tree is having a great place to hang them! I used the same feathered branches as last year, but my collection has grown enough to require an annex tree. More on that later.

I didn't do a very good job of explaining how I made the feathered branches last year, so I'll tell you what I know:

Gosh. That was hard.



I saved some of my favorite tissue paper dyed eggs to display in these twelve cent DIY hobnail egg cups, made from plastic eggs and hot glue.



And one of the flowering easter baskets made from coffee filters and filled with fake chocolate eggs. Emphasis on fake. Believe me, I tried.

That's all for now. More in the works. Stay tuned!

04 March 2013

Feathers, Sequins, and Secrets



Later this month I’m going to Mississippi to hang with family, soak in some sunshine, and partake of the tastiest food this fine country has to offer.

True, all three of those things can be done while eating tater tots in the Sonic parking lot, but we are expanding our itinerary to include some more seasonal rights of passage.

This time, in addition to Jackson’s legendary St. Patrick’s day parade  (now Sans Sweet Potato Queens scandal), we are hoping to make a quick trip down to New Orleans for some Irish music and Indian heritage. Yes, I said Indians...

Lookahere!


This year March 17th also coincides with St. Joseph's Day, one of the few days of the year the Mardi Gras Indians* return to New Orleans. It's a thing to see. It's not so much a formal parade with a set route and time, so much as it is a march. People get together and march in a procession. That's a very New Orleanian thing to do. I don't know any place in the world where people will drop anything for an impromptu, circuitous parade.

Saint day? Parade.
Someone dies? Parade.
Restaurant opening? Parade
Star Wars convention in town? Parade!
*Listen, don’t nobody email me some PC crap about Indian being a forbidden word – in this case it is a self-proclaimed title. I’m just following their lead.
"Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secret society as any other carnival organization. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans' inner city. They have paraded for well over a century, yet their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition."
– Larry Bannock, President, New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council.

Photos courtesy of the American Craft Council

Background

Most Mardi Gras organizations will form a krewe, often named Roman or Greek god. The ranking structure of a Mardi Gras krewe is a parody of royalty; king, queen, dukes, knights and captains, and so on. Many more established krewes allowed membership by invitation only.  Being part of a krewe, any krewe, is to belong to a club.

Back in the day, many New Orleans natives felt uncomfortable participating the typical parade hierarchy, so a handful of African-American neighborhoods developed their own style of celebration. Their krewes are named for imaginary Indian tribes according to the streets of their ward or gang. Naming themselves after native Indians was a way to pay respect, as, back in the day, it was often the local Indians who were first to accept slaves into their society.

So here we have a little slice of American history packing into a whirling flourish of sequins and feathers. 

Oh Hell Yes.



Read more about the Mardi Gras Indians and their secretive ways.

Go visit my favorite New Orleanian, my craftastic sister Suzonne.

 
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