Thursday, February 12, 2015

The World's Easiest Candle Holder

Yesterday felt a bit dreary and stuffy in my office. It was a grey and tired day, and I was sleepy, but determined to slog through my tasks with a bit of cheer. In a burst of inspiration, I reached for my favorite candle, one with a rich, sweet, rosy scent and a colorful, funky jar. Soon I was feeling so luxuriously comfortable and ready to get to work.

I picked the candle up on clearance, with a gift card, so it was a great buy. However, I wasn't crazy about its stock image of roses, or the neon yellow CLEARANCE sticker irremovably plastered onto the jar. I decided to get the candle anyway, and fix it up to a more attractive state.

Fixing it up was one of the easiest craft projects I've done. Here's how to do it!

First, do a little hunting to find the most visually striking pieces of ready-to-be-recycled paper you have. I chose a wide strip of newsprint and a page from a knitting catalog. It's important to choose a page of newspaper that was mostly text, and all black and white, so that it will appear as a subtle pattern; a graphic, not distracting text. (I find that the Catholic Worker is best for newspaper craft projects.) For the strip of magazine, I was attracted the colorful swatches of yarn in the knitting catalog, and the simple, geometric way they were presented. In other words, what started as an article or a product display worked, for the purposes of my candle, as straightforward patterns. 

Cut the newspaper to be as wide as the thickest part of my candle was high, and cut all the way along the page, so you can be sure the strip will be long enough to wrap around the candle. Since the second piece of paper will cover the bottom edge of the newsprint, it doesn't matter if you cut awkwardly through a column on the bottom edge. Place the neat edge of the paper at the top, affix the first end of the paper to the candle, and wrap the paper around.  Trim the excess length, being sure to leave half an inch of overlap, and attach the second end to the paper. I used Zots Glue Dots, but you could also use rubber cement, a very tidily-applied loop of Scotch tape, or a judicious dab of craft glue. 

Next, cut the magazine paper to fit around the candle. This time, instead of half an inch overlap, you'll want about two inches. Fold the top and bottom edges under so that you have two clean edges, and so that the final width of the magazine paper is half the width of the news print. 

Place the magazine paper over the newsprint. Use a glue dot, tape, or dab of glue to affix the first end to the newsprint before you wrap it around the candle. Finally, twist the end of the paper about two inches back from the end. You can twist it once or twice to get the look you want. Then affix the end with another glue dot, loop of tape, or dab of glue.

Now light your candle and enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thrifted Scarf Braid

Some of my all-time favorite thrift store finds are scarves. There's the floaty ombré grey scarf that looks like smoke or mist. There's the square silk with abstract splotches, like a Calder mobile came to rest in two dimensions. And this black scarf shot with gold thread and tiny, jewel-tone flowers, like cloisonné. I like scarves because they're an inexpensive, easy way to add flair and interest to an outfit, and can be used in so many ways. 

For Christmas this year, my best friend gave me Fifty Ways to Wear a Scarf, by Lauren Friedman. I really enjoyed the whimsical illustrations and fresh ideas for scarves. I tried the scarf braid, giving it the unique twist of pulling my braid to one side. 

To begin, part your hair one side, then gather your hair and pull it to the opposite side.

Next, take your scarf and place it about two inches back from your hairline, and place it so the ends rest along your ears. The end that is on the same side as your part should be about two inches longer than the end that is on the same side as your gathered hair.

Pull the end that was on the same side as your part across the nape of your neck and under your gathered hair. Let it rest a sec.

Bring the front section of your hair, the chunk that is in front of the scarf (and your ear), forward and out of the way. You can clip it or hold it with your mouth if you need to. 
Make sure both ends of the scarf are about even and tie them together once - in other words, into the first half of a square knot. 

Now put the front section of hair back with the rest. Separate your hair into three sections, and put the scarf into the front section.  Braid away! 

When you reach the end, put an elastic around the whole thing, scarf included.

Now tie the scarf in a square knot over the elastic and let the ends dangle!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots

Another snow day! All day, the scene outside my window was shades of white and grey, and as evening fell and the shadows lengthened across the snow, I was in the mood for something bright. I was glad to remember the bag of baby carrots I'd stashed in the back of the fridge to have as a snack someday. When I decided to repurpose them for dinner, glazed carrots came to mind, but the brown sugar and butter seemed too heavy for a day I'd spent barely moving! Instead I put together a glaze with orange-mango juice and put the carrots in the oven to roast. The bright color, fresh taste, and satisfaction of creating a masterpiece from what was already on hand cheered me right up!

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 C 100% juice orange-mango juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 t cinnamon
dash or two of nutmeg
1 lb. bag baby carrots

Preheat oven to 425°.
Mix the glaze ingredients together in a 1.5 quart baking dish.
Toss the carrots in the glaze to coat evenly.
Cook for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Here they are with sweet-potato-tortilla crusted fish and paper-maché candle lanterns - projects coming soon! 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunny Snowstorm

On Wednesday, I headed back for a long day of work after a cozy snow day the day before.  My outfit, therefore, needed to meet several challenges: the first consideration was keeping me warm and dry on a slushy, icy, gloomy day. While being winter-appropriate, however, it needed to provide a burst of cheer to make up for the clouded sun. It needed to be comfortable enough to get me through the long day (and, let's face it, soften the blow of returning to work), but it also needed to be professional enough to remind me that the mid-week vacation was over. Fortunately, I couldn't sleep the night before, so I had plenty of time to come up with the ideal outfit, one that met all these needs while still being almost completely thrifted. 

The earth tones of this patchwork skirt keep it from court jester territory, I think. Pairing it with a solid color is non-negotiable, but since the sweater is bright, I definitely needed neutral accessories. Because both the skirt and sweater are boxy, I added a belt to define my waist. I liked the almost-peplum effect it created. 

Sweater, skirt, and belt: Thrifted
Tights: Target
Boots: Teva

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Banana Ice Cream Dream

You may have heard of the dream-come-true that is frozen banana "ice cream." The idea is simple: You freeze a banana and blend it, without anything else, to create a delightful treat with the consistency of ice cream.  There's just no negative any way you look at it: Using up a banana about to turn? Check. Healthy? Check. Delicious? Check!

 But that's not all! You can make an even richer dessert by including a slice of frozen avocado to the mix. Once you've got the base, you can use other fixin's - whatever you have available - to create all manner of delectable flavor explosions.  One of my favorites is cinnamon-honey-almond. 

Have you tried this recipe? What are your favorite flavors?

Banana Ice Cream Stockpile

4-6 bananas
1 avocado
Optional toppings

Peel and slice the bananas. Place the slices in a gallon freezer bag, and spread the slices out so they form a single layer inside the bag. Lay flat to freeze to keep the slices from sticking. 
Peel and cube the avocado. Place the pieces in a quart-size freezer bag, and spread the pieces out in a single layer inside the bag. Lay flat to freeze to keep the slices from sticking.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, place a generous serving of banana slices and a few cubes of avocado in a blender or food processor. If you would like chocolate ice cream, add a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. I use the food chopper attachment of my stick blender.  Give it a few generous pulses until it is well blended.  If your banana is very firmly frozen, you may need to stir it with a spoon to get a creamier texture.

Topping suggestions

Shredded coconut and frozen cherries
Cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup
Honey, cinnamon, and optional nuts
Granola or any crispy cereal
A dollop of peanut butter and a spoonful of jam or preserves
Kahlua or creme de cacao for a grown-up treat
Chia seeds

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Volunteering for hurricane recovery in the Rockaways was so surreal. After I moved from Shrimp Country, I just didn't think I'd be experiencing devastation like this again. The day filled me with sadness, admiration for the families who were rebuilding, and nostalgia for Shrimp Country. It was and remains an honor to be present to families who have lost so much and accompany them as they begin to rebuild.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yeast Rolls

We call rolls "yeast rolls" in my family. As opposed to? Baking powder biscuits? But those are biscuits, not rolls. Are all rolls yeast rolls?

What are the things that are unique to your family that you've always taken for granted? Have you ever found yourself in the disconcerting position of being caught in an oddity that you thought was common to every family or region? I'll never forget how flustered I got having to explain Philadelphia-style "wooder ice" to confused New Englanders. Then there was the time I told a friend with the flu, "It's too bad you're not at home, where your mom could make you Jello," only to find out he had never heard of eating Jello when sick - a treasured ritual in our family. Puzzling!