Whimsy Scribble

Podcasts To Listen To (Part 2)

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

If you're like me, holiday seasons come with added things on the to-do list: more cleaning, cooking, projects, driving, etc. It seems for many around this time that the default nostalgic soundtrack is Christmas music. I hate Christmas music. Sure there are a handful of good songs (I rarely object to Trans Siberian Orchestra this time of year), but I don't have the nostalgic attachment I think you have to have to appreciate the Christmas classics. 

I've been using this as a good time to make my own "holiday ambiance" and catch up on my growing list of podcasts. I've recently been really enjoying a few newer podcasts that are definitely worth checking out if you feel like taking a break from "Frosty the Snowman".

MODERN LOVE

I was very surprised to end up enjoying this podcast as much as I do. It was recommended to me by a friend, who generally has pretty different interests than I, but I think this podcast is diverse enough to be appealing to a wide range. I was hesitant at first from the podcast description: essays from the New York Times column, read by notable personalities with updates after from the essayist. Having never read the column in the Times, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of topicsand am familiar with and enjoy a surprising number of the readers. It's one of my go-to storytelling podcast now, especially that most episodes are a very convenient length, right around 20 minutes.

HOW I BUILT THIS

This is one of those podcasts I fell into because it was recommended on several other NPR programs I listen to. It features interviews with entrepreneurs. My personal favorites so far include the episodes with creators of Spanx, Airbnb, and Southwest Airlines. Each episode is a nice length: right around 30 minutes. 

HEAVYWEIGHT

I haven't quite decided how I feel about this podcast yet. It's an odd premise - people revisiting old memories, mostly ones they feel regretful/unfavorably towards and revisiting old relationships etc. Often the storytelling falls a little flat, but there are not very many episodes, so it's worth giving a try if you enjoy interview based story telling. The first episode, Buzz, and fourth, Tony are probably my favorites and recommend starting with those.

DIY Paper Crane Curtain

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

In every house I've ever lived, I've always had a running list of projects I want to do. I finally had a chance to complete a project that's been on my checklist since I moved in: some sort of window treatment for the back door. I wanted something that provided privacy while still letting plenty of light in and would add some much needed  beauty in the kitchen. I settled on making a hanging curtain of paper cranes.

This was a great project to do - very mindless, methodical and easy to multitask while binge watching a favorite show. After selecting an assortment of scrapbook paper from my seemingly endless supply I cut squares of varying sizes (ranging from about 6x6 -2x2). If this is the first time you've folded cranes, stick to the larger sizes.

With a stack of paper squares in front of me, I recruited my roommate's help to watch movies and overflow a box with a mountain of folded cranes (I'm not sure on the exact number I ended up using - this depends on how large your window is and how densely you want to hang the cranes).

 

 

 

I measured the window and then lay out my cranes. I found it was easier to place them/visualize their spacing if I left their wings folded. In order to hang the cranes, I used small command hooks (they may actually be designed for hanging mugs) and a small dowel over the window. I used different color thread and a needle to string up the cranes, knotting a small bead at the bottom of each to prevent them from sliding down the thread. 

 

 

I'm really happy with how this project turned out. I love doing origami, so I'm always super excited when I have an excuse to do it. I love every morning as I make coffee looking out into the yard through what appears to be a flock of flying cranes.

A Moment To Breathe

LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

For those few have begun reading here, sorry for the short hiatus. Unfortunately, I recently suffered the very unexpected, sudden death of my best ferret friend, Xylophone. It was something that I did not think would happen anytime in my near future and I had imagined my life in a very different place when I would have to adjust to life without him lovingly under my feet. It's left me in more than a little shock and far from having any creative energy. 

xylo belly.JPG

Over the weeks, the sense of his loss has not lessened any, but life has begun to roll along yet again. I'm starting to feel like I can pretend to be a mildly productive member of society and will hopefully soon have some more fun projects and the like to be posted up here.

To help with my personal reboot, I was able to have a great birthday celebration with my close friends (I had my golden birthday this year - 30 on the 30th, yikes!). My friends pulled off a killer party, complete with plenty of dinosaur decorations, temporary tattoos, personal cup decorating, and a massive crock pot full of hot spiced whiskey cider. It was far from a rave, but sitting around with all my local friends playing hilarious rounds of Cards Against Humanity is exactly what I wanted and I had a wonderful time. Plus, my friends came through with incredible birthday gifts including some delicious drinks, books of clever crafts and tricks to do with household objects, a dinosaur onesie, and a promised trip to go tubing this winter!

So even though these weeks have been difficult to trudge through, there have been some nice breaks with friends and watching the season start to change once again is encouraging me to gear up for some fun indoor projects to do to distract me from the soon coming winter gloom. So stay tuned, I'm back and will have more fun things to read soon!!

A Word About The Cursed Child

Lifestyle, Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-Schottman1 Comment

Yes, I'm an adult and yes, I want to take a moment to briefly reflect on the newest Harry Potter book. I'm a true Harry Potter fan. While I've never dressed up for a book release and I have little interest in the world of Harry Potter fandom, I was 11 years old when the first book came out: the perfect age to get hooked. Since then, I have read the entire series multiple times (as well as listened to the audiobooks all through more than once), and within the last few years have had a full Harry Potter movie marathon with a friend. 

I don't want to get too much into my feelings about Harry Potter in general as I know that people have some very strong feelings related to the books vs the movies. All I will say is that regardless of how you feel about Harry Potter, the book series provided something very important to a huge number of children and young adults. While I was always a big reader and had a few series I loved and related to, I don't know how common that is for all kids and I think it is really valuable to learn how to read a book with such intensity that you are absorbed in the world and can extrapolate personality traits of the characters and can easily imagine yourself transported into their world. The Harry Potter series provided that to a generation in need of something a little more updated than the Redwall series. I imagine too that there must be a benefit to a child being able to conquer reading a 700 page book on their own.  I hoped that Harry Potter would continue to be that door into the literary world for kids, but unfortunately I'm not sure how true that is. More and more I hear of people younger than I that have never actually read a Harry Potter book and have only seen the movies. I enjoy the movies, sure, but they are not particularly great as stand alone movies - they are much better in my opinion to be viewed as supplements to the book series. A movie is a great option when you need a fix of that magical world without the time commitment of reading a book, but it is certainly no substitute.

And so here is where my opinion on the most recent book comes in (or should I say script?). For those who are unfamiliar, the newest book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually a script for a play (yes, a play not a movie, which I will get to...). It is in the same Harry Potter world, but it picks up where the final book leaves off: 19 years later with adult versions of Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione along with their now Hogwarts aged children. 

A major concern for me and other Harry Potter fans I've talked with was how the newest book would fit into the already well established magical world of the series. Well, it certainly fit in, but I will argue that it is simply because nothing new was created. I feel like the story fell back on magic we had already been introduced to as a way of not only avoiding thinking of an equally incredible NEW magical phenomenon but also as a way of not needing to actually explain anything. The script largely focuses on past events we are familiar with from the series (the Triwizard Tournament for example) and chooses to make a time-turner the magical focus, something all Harry Potter fans became very familiar with during the third book. In this way, much of the Cursed Child felt like it was just pulling bits and pieces from different books and somehow poorly summarizing the entire series into this one odd stage show. 

So about this stage show....I don't really get it. The script is written for the stage. In fact, there are even credits listed in the back of the book for what I assume is the cast and crew of the London play. I briefly looked at the play's website and it's even stranger than I thought - it is actually split into 2 plays intended to be seen on the same day or consecutive evenings. I had originally thought that perhaps a Harry Potter play would start to become a staple in elementary schools, but there is no way that this play was ever intended to actually be accessible for people to preform. They must have an extraordinary budget to be able to follow the absurd stage directions in the script. There is an entire scene which consists of nothing but stage directions of multiple moving staircases, and many times magic is written into the stage directions, such as a green beam shooting out of a wand and someone flying backwards.

Not only is it an impractical play, but while reading the script, all I could think about was how it did not read like a play at all, but rather a movie. The more I thought about it, the more I noticed how many of the scenes mimicked scenes from the Harry Potter movies. At first this annoyed me as I felt like I was reading scenes I had already seen in the movies, but then I started to think of that as a benefit of the book. Maybe this is the bridge that kids need between the movies that they love and the magical book series. While I dislike that the script format doesn't allow for too much elaborate description, I imagine that many people have never read a script. Perhaps reading this script, which pulls so much on visual discriptives we all have from the movie series, will prompt kids to try out the book series next and let their imaginations do a little more work. 

So overall, the book is nothing special. There is a mildly interesting Harry Potter type adventure that pulls the story together, but it is far less exciting or developed than the missions I've come to expect from Harry Potter. While this is technically being referred to as the 8th book in the series, I think true Harry Potter fans might be better off thinking of this book fitting in more with the other books related to the series, such as The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Certainly Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is worth reading as it won't take you much more than a lazy afternoon to get through it. While I was definitely a little disappointed with the story itself, I still have high hopes that it might help bring a little love back to the original book series.

DIY Pallet Planter Fence

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-Schottman1 Comment

A backyard was a must for me when most recently looking for a home. We lucked out in finding a place with a sizable yard, but unfortunately a few projects needed to get done to make it actually feel like home. While we have a fence between our yard and the adjoining yard of our shared duplex and decent coverage between the yards of our neighbors behind us, our next door neighbors and our yard have no barrier whatsoever, having a few yards run together. I really wanted to have at least some sort of visual barrier between the yards, but was also working with the challenge of being on a rental property, so there were limited options as far as fence installation goes. Luckily, I had a stack of 3 pallets just waiting to be converted into something awesome.

Because of the openness of the yards, I also wanted to be conscious of the fact that the barrier needed to be aesthetically pleasing from our neighbors side view as well. I took a trip to home depot and found a large sheet of plastic trellis. There are LOTS of trellis-type options that can be used for this project. I chose the trellis that I did primarily because of it's affordability, but it was also extremely easy to work with - easy to cut to size with my jigsaw and screw on to the pallet. Out of the one sheet of trellis, I was able to cover the entire back of two vertical pallets, and then decided to use the remainder decoratively with my third pallet. 

After coming up with a game plan, I began dismantling the pallets. I was able to accomplish this with a crowbar and hammer, which didn't leave me too many intact pieces of pallet wood, but it was easy and fun. Some people may prefer using something like a jigsaw to dismantle pallets. I decided to make the planter portion of the pallet 3 slats high, leaving the more open side of the pallet towards our yard so we could see the decorative planter, but also provided a more finished side facing our neighbors. After pulling off any unnecessary pieces, I used my jigsaw to cut down the middle support to the height of the planter, leaving the two side pieces as supports for the trellis back. 

The next step was by far the trickiest: the chicken wire. I got 1/2" wire to insert into the pallet and form the structure of the planter. You could use a different type of wire, but be conscious of what size stones you use then to fill in the bottom of the planter. Alternatively, if you cringe at the idea of having to wrestle sharp metal into a small space, you could skip this step completely and use garden cloth or burlap for the whole interior and forgo the aesthetic of seeing the rocks. If you choose to tackle the wire, I would suggest gloves for sure. I did not do this and still see evidence of that decision.... I used my staple gun to attach the wire, and it was far from graceful - the way my staple gun fit allowed me to primarily attach the wire to the inside of the side pieces and then to awkwardly hammer down misfired staples. I'm sure there are much better, safer, more effective ways to do this. But it worked out for me just fine.

For the third pallet, I decided to make it more decorative rather than a functional planter, so I cut it down horizontally to form a small fence barrier, leaving two longer side pieces on the back to attach the remaining trellis to as a decorative back (in the future I may add wire to the inside of this and fill with decorative rocks). Once all three pallets were modified, I lined them up close to the border of our yard and secured them in place with wooden stakes. For the vertical planters I simply drove stakes into the inside corners of the pallet so the entire thing sits on top of them, securely wedged in and upright. Once the planters are filled they are securely weighed down. I used longer stakes for the horizontal planter and secured the stakes to the back of the pallet with screws. Because we wanted to be able to enclose our yard for convenience with the pets, I spaced the pallets out at distances that allowed me to use panels of a small animal pen to attach between pallets. 

Now the fun part - filling the planter! I decided that rocks were the best option because they helped weigh down the planters and make them sturdy, but also acted as drainage for my plants. Rocks are great- you can buy them cheap in giant bags at home depot, or if you're lucky like me and live on the coast....take a couple trips down the street to the shore and pick your own! I used plain rocks to start filling in the planters, up until I reached the top of the first piece of wood, where you started to be able to see the rocks.

I decided I needed the rocks to be a little prettier, so I washed a bunch, spread them out on a tarp, and got out the spray paint. I added a layer of mixed colored rocks to the planter, up to where I felt left enough room to fill with dirt and plants. I draped burlap into the top half of the planters and filled with potting soil and planted myself a nice little garden including tomatos, basil, parsely, french sorrell, and rosemary! To add something a little visually nicer to my third, horizontal pallet, I used the same spray paint as the stones to make small flower planters out of coffee cans .

DSC_0669.JPG

I re purposed part of a cat tree to place at another spot in the yard and act as an anchor for the pet fence. We are able to completely enclose the yard when we are outside, but then can easily fold up part of it. My plants are all growing really well, though in retrospect I would have made the planters double wide to give them a little extra growing room. So that's on my project for next year!

As the summer has gone on, my plants have thrived. We've been able to enjoy handfuls of delicious cherry tomatoes and I'm constantly grazing on the herbs. I've already started brainstorming ideas for moving my herb garden indoors in the fall!

Watch it Wednesday: 3 Documentaries to Watch this Week (Part 3)

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

My list of documentaries to recommend keeps growing, so I'm just going to keep this list going. Check out parts 1 and 2 of the Watch it Wednesday series for more suggestions!

Children of the Trains

This is a great documentary about the widespread issue of childhood homelessness, focusing on children near Bangkok. The responsibility for these children fall to the local law enforcement, and I must say that it is encouraging to see the police behaving morally and doing their best to help feed, clothe, and educate the children. One of the most interesting ways they have approached the problem is through the creation of a "library train" where children are free to seek refuge and have access to educational material. Unfortunately this is not a long term solution as it's run through volunteering police and there are far too many children in need with not many resources, but it is heartwarming to see the local steps being made to at least try and improve the lives of an overwhelming number of homeless children.

The Final Member

So let me start off by saying that this is maybe one of the strangest documentaries I've ever seen. Be forewarned, there are some graphic scenes, so this is likely not the best family movie night choice. It profiles a man in Iceland with the only penis museum in the world and his "hunt" for a human penis to complete his collection. The weird thing is that he has not one, but two offers. The first comes from an elderly Icelandic man, a well known womanizer, who agrees to donate after death, but begins to have second thoughts as his time approaches. And the second offer comes from a shockingly odd American who wishes to be the FIRST in the museum, even if it means cutting his specimen off before death. He actually seems excited about the idea of seeing his own penis gain fame independent of him. Although I think its notable that even the guy who owns a PENIS MUSEUM thinks this dude is a "funny guy". I won't say that this is a good documentary, but worth watching if you enjoy things like reality shows that have no plot other than the following of eccentric people. These people are certainly eccentric and watching them is hilarious, awe-inspiring, and slightly nauseating. 

Resistance

I know I have much more interest in science based documentaries than most, but I really enjoyed this one. It provides a good examination of why our overuse of antibiotics is such a detriment to the medical field. It gives a nice history of penicillin (given to sex workers to protect soldiers) which resulted in a penicillin resistant strain of gonorrhea. I was also pleased with information discussed about the use of antibiotics in agriculture. There's a mix of interviews with experts in a variety of fields and profiles individuals affected by antibiotic resistance (such as a woman who lost an infant to a mysterious contraction of antibiotic resistant mersa staff). I was glad that there was also a discussion about some of the regulations (or lack there of) on antibiotic use. If you're not a science nerd who enjoys learning more about the many ways our system is failing, this one may not be for you.

DIY Stenciled T-Shirts

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I love making t-shirts. They are an easy to customize gift that almost everyone can utilize. If you haven't already, you might like to check out my post on some of the t-shirts I made last year for a wedding. Several important people in my life have summertime birthdays, including my best friend and her step-daughter who have birthdays 1 day apart. I decided on making some quick shirts as gifts, as I had several cute designs in mind.

There are LOTS of ways to decorate a shirt. I decided for these gifts to fall back on one of my favorite techniques: freezer paper stenciling. To begin, I spent an afternoon doodling and editing on my computer to come up with the graphics I wanted on the shirts. For my best friend I drew a very cute "love robot" (an bit of an inside joke between us) which I then scanned into my computer in order to print on freezer paper. I could have just as easily drawn directly on the freezer paper, but I like that this extra step gives me some more room for error. My friend's 12 year old loves spending time with my cat and ferret, so I wanted to make sure that they had some input on her gift. I settled with 2 designs, one cat and one ferret themed. I had seen several cute products available on Etsy and other sources with the phrase "you've cat to be kitten me right meow". It made me laugh out loud, and she's a hilarious kid with a great sense of humor, so I knew she'd love it. I've also seen several cute designs on the market with animal or object outlines integrated into a heart beat. While I have seen a ferret design of these, I was unimpressed by the ferret silhouette used, so instead I just made my own. 

After editing the designs, I printed them to size on freezer paper, carefully cut out, and then used a dry iron on low heat to lightly press the stencils into place on the shirts, wax side of the freezer paper down. I had a variety of left over fabric paints from other projects that I was able to mix up to get a few different colors that I wanted to use. I like to use sponge brushes for applying paint to stencils. 

I let the shirts dry for a full 24 hours before removing the stencils. Everything turned out great! The only minor issue I ran into was that because I chose to make the robot lines so thin, and put the paint on so thick as to make sure the outline really popped, in a few spots the thin, thick painted lines got lifted away from the shirt along with the stencil. This is something that I could have fixed by taking a paint brush or paint pen to the few areas that needed touch-ups, but I actually sort of like the more sketched look of the robot and knew my friend would love it either way, so I decided to leave it as is and will touch it up for her in the future if needed. It's also a good idea to check the instructions on whatever fabric paint you are using. Many paints will recommend after the paint dries, quickly running an iron over the backside to help set the paint. In my experience, this is an unnecessary step, but may ultimately make your design more permanent.

I absolutely love how all these shirts came out and intend to make myself and another friend copies of the ferret heartbeat shirt. Freezer paper stenciling is absolutely still my go-to for quick, easy and GREAT results. If you have a blank shirt laying around, grab some freezer paper at the grocery store and give it a try!

 

A Golden 28th

DIY & Projects, LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I didn't grow up knowing the term "golden birthday" referring to the year in which turn the age of your birthdate. I heard about this excuse for a celebration through a friend in college, luckily in plenty of time for me to help her celebrate her 23rd on the 23rd. I just recently helped my roommate celebrate her 28th on the 28th, and I absolutely expect these friends to reciprocate the fun for me this year when I have my 30th on the 30th. 

It's obvious to most at this point I think that I love any and all opportunities to come up with an excuse to create something - birthdays fall high on that list. I had been mulling over ideas for my roommate's golden birthday for a while. When I pulled together a 23rd golden birthday, I had fun finding 23 different gifts each with 23 items (I believe there were 23 bags each with 23 pieces of candy or paper clips etc). 28 presented a slightly new challenge however. I had a few small gifts I wanted to give my roommate that I knew she needed, but I did not have the budget to buy 28 small gifts. Solution? A SCAVENGER HUNT OF COURSE!

I love scavenger hunts. SO MUCH. So I decided to make 28 item tags, all of which were either tagging small gifts or were coupons for redeemable [free] gifts.

I totally nailed the planning process of the golden birthday party. It did not take me long at all to do all the prep work, and then I was SUPER lucky to have my best friend (a mutual friend of my roommate's and helped me a lot with all of the party planning) able to join me for most of the day to pull everything together. My friend brought along her stepdaughter, so between the 3 of us, we were able to quickly buy balloons and decorations and rush back to the house where we made delicious golden cupcakes and golden sangria and I delegated decorating item tags to a creative child.

Our timing worked out perfectly - we had everything wrapped in golden tissue paper and golden ribbon and tucked away in my bedroom when she got home. Later in the day, at the start of the party, we had everything prepared enough that we simply had my roommate socialize with other guests in her room for 28 minutes while we quickly got all the gifts and tags hidden throughout the house (which is not easy in a small space) complete with  a wall of 28 balloons outside her bedroom door with a "28 Balloons!" tag hanging at eye level to kick off the scavenger hunt. 

Well to say the least, it went well. I knew my roommate would be excited to hunt out all the tags and to discover all of her gifts. And, as expected, a few of the prime gift coupons were promptly redeemed, so we had a 28 minute dance party along with a fun 28-photo photo shoot. I'm so happy with how it all turned out. It was a great gift and party with very little time and money needed - just some creativity!

DIY Ladder Plant Stand

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I've made a lot of fun additions to our backyard recently. The most impressive is by far the fence I constructed out of pallet planters, but that post is soon to come! Right now I just thought I'd take a second to show off a very simple ladder plant stand to display some flowers. 

I jumped at the opportunity to grab an old wood ladder when I saw it at the dump, as I have a long list of projects in which I could use a ladder. I'm sure in the future I will repurpose it, but for now I threw together bits and pieces I had laying around to make this ladder plant stand! It turns out that on this ladder there are not parallel slats on each side, so I had to cut a piece of scrap wood and wedge it in to support the middle shelf. 

I re-purposed some containers, and rather than drilling drainage holes I opted for layering the bottom with pebbles. In retrospect, I think the plants may have been happier if I drilled a few holes in the bottoms of the planters. Since constructing this, I have removed the middle shelf and relocated that plant. The shelf wasn't as sturdy as I wanted, and while I could have easily screwed in the added support slat rather than just wedging it in, I also felt like the plant wasn't getting an ideal amount of light where it was. I'm thinking I may replace the middle shelf with a more narrow shelf and add some non-flowering decorations. Either way, my cat fully approves of his new favorite sun bathing spot.

 

Songs Of My Adolescence

LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

Erik Peterson just died recently. I doubt he's known to many who may read this, but he was a great musician, most well known for Mischief Brew, and died earlier this month at age 38. I very rarely feel any personal loss with the knowledge of a performers death, but Erik Peterson and his music played such a role in my teen years, that as I've been non-stop listening to Mischief Brew for the past week, I'm reminded of how important it was to me at that time.

I'm not sure if I've ever related to music as much as I did as a teenager - maybe that's true for everyone? I used to listen to what can be loosely described as the folk-punk genre (a lot of Mischief Brew). But once I started working and cohabitation with people with different music preferences and started primarily using mainstream streaming programs for music, I realized that I never listen to what I used to love so much. Sure, I still blast World Inferno Friendship Society into my ears as I run and can't help but smile when an Against Me! song pops it's way into a shuffled lineup, but those aren't the tunes that I'm listening to regularly, they're saved for nostalgic purposes.

Since hearing the news of Erik Peterson's death I haven't been able to stop listening to those old lyrics that still so often seem to read my mind. I'm instantly brought back to a summer night in Boston, in a local folk-activist musician's backyard. Surrounded by people holding hands and smiling, we watched Erik Peterson play his guitar and sing, sitting on an old picnic table. I remember sitting on the ground playing with his pugs as a tin went around collecting what money we could offer him to help get him back to Philadelphia.

I can't say for sure if I would relate to this style of music so strongly if I hadn't connected with it at such a formative time in my life, but it is nice to go back to it now and still get the same sense of comfort in knowing that I am not alone in a lot of my frustration. It's a nice reminder of why every once in a while I come across a silk-screened "folk the system" patch that I just can't get myself to part with.

DIY Wedding Table Activity

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

A good friend of mine just recently got married and requested that I come up with some sort of table activity to use as place setters. It was a very fun, laid back wedding held in a somewhat rustic-industrial resaurant/bar. It was a small wedding, but there were a good number of children attending, so in addition to the mad libs suggested by my friend, I also created some coloring pages. 

I spent a lot of time on pinterest looking at a variety of wedding activity pages to give me ideas. If you are not interested in doing your own formatting work, there are some great pages out there available to purchase/download from the creators.  I wanted to do some more customization to mine, but had limited time, so I downloaded some free clipart and spent a little time on my computer editing images and formatting my own activity and coloring pages.

I also utilized a few of the wedding mad libs available for download at Something Turquoise. Another friend previously used those mad libs at her wedding and everyone enjoyed them.

ui

The wedding's colors were shades of grey, blue, and purple, so I printed the pages on 8.5x5.5 sheets of cardstock in coordinating shades. I made sure to have enough so that each place could have two pages: an activity page with a coloring page on the back as well as a mad lib with a "fill in the jar" coloring page on the back.

I was happy to find a use for some gray and blue cotton string I had. I tied up packs of two for each place setting.  I had agreed to arrive early at the wedding venue to help set up the space, so I had a fun time arranging the different packs at tables and displaying crayons and rustic wooden twig colored pencils my friend bought for the wedding. 

Not only did the final product turn out great, but the colors matched the other decorations perfectly and provided cheerful place settings. I had fun filling in all the pages with the others at my table as we waited for our delicious dinner, and I think my friend will appreciate some of the drawings her wedding guests drew her for many years to come.

Podcasts To Listen To

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I've somehow become an unintential podcast spokesperson. I LOVE them. At my previous job, I started getting in the habit of escaping the unbearable monotony of the work  by pumping podcasts into my ears throughout the whole day. Quickly I became addicted. I listen to podcasts in bed, in the bath, while I walk, or do dishes...I have an endless list of activites made better by multitasking listening to podcasts. 

As I am clearly all about podcasts, I frequently have people asking me for recommendations, and I almost always have to make a substantial list of ones I know they will enjoy. I thought it would be nice to start slowly compiling some of my favorite recommendations.

To start, I have to recommend some very well known ones, so if you are already on the podcast bandwagon, you probably already know about these. 

1)  Fresh Air - NPR program hosted by Terry Gross. It's been on forever. Terry has hosted it forever. It's great. This is a daily program, generally about an hour long, with interviews ranging from authors and musicians to discussions on current politics. Every episode may not be a winner for you, but there are so many incredible ones you are sure to stumble upon a lot you'll love.

2)  TED Radio Hour - Most people are familiar with TED talks. If not, there are hundreds of individual TED talks available as podcasts or on YouTube (also possibly Netflix?). I'm particularly fond of the TED Radio Hour however because it is a well curated hour long podcast with thoughtful selections from TED talks related to the topic. 

3) The Moth - The Moth has a lot of similarities to This American Life (another excellent and super well-known NPR program with Ira Glass). The Moth is a live storytelling event and the podcast curates 3 stories from different stages all related to a theme.

So if you're thinking you may want to see if podcasts can enrich your daily monotonous tasks, check out some of these and make sure to scroll through the archives too! These are sure to give you a taste for some of the podcasts that are out there, but I will continue to post some more of my favorites!

3 Documentaries to Watch this Week (Part 2)

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I'm just going to jump right into a few more suggested documentaries to watch. If you haven't already, be sure to check out my first list of suggestions.

BORN TO FLY

I LOVE this documentary. I stumbled upon it accidentally and I'm so happy I did. It is very accurately described on the movie website: 'Propelled by Elizabeth Streb's edict that "anything too safe is not action," the STREB Extreme Action company challenges the assumptions of art, aging, injury, gender, and human possibility.'  I might describe it more as dance troupe meets cirque du soleil meets gymnastics. I have always loved acrobatic performances. This group reminds me a bit of a Canadian dance company, The 7 Fingers. Or, for people who have maybe been watching this season's America's Got Talent, The Russian Bar Trio (which I saw perform many years ago in Boston and they are fantastic). The Streb company does all sorts of incredible extreme pieces that remind me a little of zip lines. It frequently plays with the line of  "Is it dance, is it not dance", but I really like that. I also loved seeing bits of Elizabeth Streb's process - her organized chaos and use of notebooks reminds me of my own scattered combination of list making/sketching in notebooks. I would say even if you doubt your interest in a documentary about a dance company - this is certainly still worth giving a try.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE

You may have noticed that Netflix and other streaming services have been flooded with documentaries about the food industry and the obesity epidemic and all seem to have mostly identical information, even often utilizing clips from identical footage. A Place At the Table definitely fits in with this genre, but I think it's one of the better ones on the topic of hunger experienced by Americans. It keeps many of the key issues at the forefront - fruits and vegetables are more expensive than junk food because they are largely produced by smaller places that don't get government subsidies. Additionally, in rural areas, mom and pop shops often don't carry fruits and vegetables because it is not worth it for truckers to bring produce out there. Often people in those locations don't have transportation to large grocery stores, so they have no access to produce. 

The documentary does a nice job touching briefly on how widespread the hunger issue is and how intertwined it is with factors such as salaries below living wage, obesity and health issues, and government policy (especially in the influence of the USDA). It profiles a few individuals heavily and what sorts of assistance programs are out there on a local level. It also identifies ways in which those programs are lacking and are not widespread and not sustainable (such as food banks). There are LOTS of documentaries in this genre, but this is definitely one worth watching.

THE PAW PROJECT

This is a great documentary for any animal lover. I was a little hesitant to watch this documentary at first, as I've spent many years in the animal care field and have very strong personal feelings against declawing cats, and wanted to avoid becoming angry if there were conflicting views portrayed in the movie. However, I'm really glad I watched it! I was expecting it to be focused on domestic pet cats and the practice of declawing, which certainly they touched on, but the focus was much more on the practice of declawing captive wild cats and the medical issues surrounding that. Yes, it's a little bit heartbreaking, but has a lot of great new information I had never heard before and plus, you get to see lots of cute kitties!

DIY Curtains

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I've slowly been working through writing about some of the many projects I did after the move. One of the many projects I was quick to get done to pull my room together was making curtains and rods for my bedroom windows. I spent some time looking for fabric and immediately fell in love when I found this geometery fabric. A lot of people I think prefer to use thicker drapery fabric for curtains, or use a liner, but I actually really like how much light these cotton curtains let in. 

I've been sewing since childhood (and frequently it's clear I'm completely self-taught), but I recommend trying out sewing curtains as a beginner. It's a great way to practice sewing straight hems and there's a lot of forgiveness for wobbly stitches. I always like to use a double-fold hem with a zig-zag stitch. For the top edge I simply leave a casing wide enough to easily slide the rod through. I like the look of curtains hanging this way and it's extremely simple to sew, but some people may prefer to add grommets to the top edge after hemming and use curtain rings. 

I decided to make curtain rods out of pvc parts I had to reuse from an old ferret jungle gym. I really like the look of galvanized pipe used in furniture, so I bought a metal finish spray paint for the pvc and hardware. The curtain rods are completely functional, but not nearly as sturdy as if they were real pipes, so I suggest spending the money for real metal piping or other curtain rods if you have pets or kids who are likely to hang off curtains. 

 

My curtains are slightly more narrow than I would have wanted due to limitations in the amount of fabric I had. But still they suit me just fine and I think add a lot to the room while keeping it light and open feeling. I have since added bits of burlap ribbon as tie backs and love opening up my curtains every morning to watch the birds!

To Squat Or Not: The Female Urination Device

LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

 

I just got back from a super fun camping trip, and it reminded me how much I love peeing outside. I’m the opposite of pee shy. I will pee anywhere (within socially acceptable limits) - on the side of  the road next to the car, next to a trail while on skis, I will most definitely opt to jump behind a building rather than wait in a long restroom line, and yes….I’ve even successfully peed in a bottle WHILE DRIVING. Peeing without a nearby restroom has never been an issue for me. I spent my childhood taking long hiking trips and have spent periods of my life living in a tent. I’ve traveled in many different areas of the world, where the expectations for restrooms vary greatly - often nothing more than a whole in the ground. I think my favorite bathroom I ever frequented was while doing fieldwork in Madagascar and our camp had a path leading to a very large hole in the ground covered by logs with approximately a 12” gap open in the middle. This was only intimidating during rain when the logs would be especially slick.

Because none of these options for relieving myself have ever seemed unacceptable to me, I sort of scoffed at the idea of female urination devices. Then I remembered one horrible day many years ago when I was spending the day rock climbing, several hours into a full day’s climb and suddenly while dangling off a cliff, all harnessed up - I had to pee. I eventually reached a spot safe enough to relieve myself, but in that moment, a FUD would certainly have been a welcomed friend.

 

I listened to a great episode on FUDs on the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast. They brought up some great topics of situations in which I had never considered an FUD to be beneficial. Such as women working in construction or farm work, where I’m sure many already feel targeted in a largely male workplace. Most people are not as pee-confident as I am, so I see huge benefits of a device in those settings. They also discussed that there is an entirely separate large market of more realistic FUDs for trans men.

 

There are a LOT of different designs out there, but essentially, they are all variations on a funnel. I checked out a Backpacker review of several devices. There is a big range of malleability and size to choose from. As an expert urinator, I think it primarily comes down to knowing your anatomy well. For any viewers of Orange Is The New Black, we know that unfortunately, not everyone is aware that there is “a whole other hole”. This is a pretty necessary bit of knowledge I think to be a successful, tidy, alternative pee-er. However, I don’t think we can expect FUDs making an appearance in modern western restrooms anytime soon. I think our culture has made a pretty big impact on how we view our bodily functions. Check out this BuzzFeed video of woman trying to pee standing up for the first time.

 

In a way I think it’s great that this device is available as an option for women, but I wish we instead could just be living in a world where it is safe and acceptable for a woman to pop a squat in any situation in which a man could turn his back and relieve himself.

DIY Storage Bed

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

If you've read some of my past posts, you may have seen in my DIY Crate & Pallet Desk post that I moved into a smaller space and I LOVE using crates for functional storage. As part of downsizing my space, I needed to ditch my box spring and my dresser (neither would fit in the moving truck and both were originally aquired from the trash). Once moved into the new place, one of my first projects to complete was to build a bed that could also store all of my clothes (and more).

Oh yeah, and there was one more weird thing I needed my bed to accommodate: my free-roaming ferret. I share my bedroom with my best weasel friend, Xylophone. He is pretty much the greatest thing ever, but there are a few things that need to be customized in a room in order for us to happily share a space. Xylophone has the hilarious habit of hiding shoes. If there is a shoe in the room, he will drag it behind a couch, into a corner, or his favorite: under a bed. Because of this, it was important to me in designing a bed that a ferret could not get underneath to hide things in an unreachable zone. Another "ferret friendly frame" adaptation I decided was important was to make it high enough that Xylo can't climb into bed with me. As much as I love when he crawls into bed to snuggle, I've grown to learn that not everyone appreciates a ferret in the bed....And the final requirement I had for my bed frame was a strange one: a ferret eating station. Among the challenges of having a free roaming ferret is how to keep my fat cat away from the tasty ferret food. Easy solution: a ferret feeding station under the bed with a ferret sized opening!

Building something this big can be very intimidating, but it's actually really straight forward, and I am lucky enough to have access to a wood shop and some professional help with cutting and assembling large pieces of wood. I have a queen sized futon mattress, so I based the size off the matress size, hugging it close in order to minimize the footprint of the bed. As always, crates are my go-to furniture storage option, so I decided to base the bed frame off of 3 basic low cubes, with the bottom shelf sized to perfectly fit wood crates. I decided to make a top shelf to provide additional storage as well as my desired height of the bed. The cubes are all out of 1/2" plywood. Even though my bed is in a corner, the structure of the frame is identical on each side so that in future homes I have the flexibility to position my bed to access storage on all sides.

I made the two side support "cubes" a bit deeper than the depth of a crate. This allows for there to be more support towards the middle of the bed, as well as some additional storage behind the crates (it is also a fun play space for small pets). The end cube is significantly less deep, and I chose to store crates going in width wise. At the end of the foot cube, I cut out a window and inserted a piece of perforated metal leftover from a past project (any sort of wire mesh or material with openings smaller than a kitty paw would work for this) in order to prevent Xylophone from feeling like he was eating in an actual cave, and to give a little airflow to the area. On the open side of the end cube on that corner, I added a small covered corner with a ferret sized hole that allows me to hide a bowl of food in the back corner before sliding in the neighboring crate.

I added a back piece of plywood to add stability at the head end between the side cubes. In order to support the mattress on top of the cube frame, I added two pieces of 3/4" plywood attached to 1x4's to form an edge that slightly overhangs the cubes and hugs the mattress. The two pieces of plywood forming the bed platform are joined in the middle (underneath) for maximum stability. I finished off the frame by adding a final piece of 1x4 to edge the foot cube. 

 

Before assembling, I painted all visible areas of the frame with a nice grey/teal color (I believe the formal name is "sophisticated teal") and I stained the crates with a variety of leftover stains, even making a teal stain by watering down the paint I used for the frame. I took a little time to find some storage containers that I liked for the top shelf, and I have plans to make a headboard in the future, but for now my DIY storage bed is working perfectly in my space!

Magic of Contact Paper

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I'm in the process of writing up some great DIY posts about some fun home projects I recently finished, but for now I thought I'd write a quick post about one of my favorite home crafting materials: contact paper (or adhesive vinyl if you're looking to be more accurate).

I like to use this magic material for everything possible. You can now buy a huge variety of patterns and even textures, especially if you begin to explore the world of adhesive wall papers. I love how easy to clean the smooth finish is and it is so affordable and easy to use, with fantastic results. 

I generally choose to work with adhesive rolls, but have also made use of some nice patterned non-adhesive types for things like placemats, an easy to clean mat under litterboxes, or as floor coverings in reptile tanks. 

Most recently, I've used some nice patterned contact paper for covering an old steamer trunk, constructing a small pet gate, and covering a piece of plywood to be used as a desk. I have plans to soon utilize a few rolls of adhesive cork to finish off a couch I made.

 

 

Let me know if you've used contact paper to create anything, or pick up a roll and give it a try! 

No Shame: I'm a Binge-Watcher

LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I am a binge-watcher and I am not alone. One day recently, hard at work on a crafting project, I noticed that over 4 hours had passed. I had steadily been enjoying the background entertainment of one of my go-to binging while working shows (you know, the shows you have seen 4 times through and can recite every line of). I realized that I had been completely unaware of the theme song or credits ever playing and that’s when I realized that they hadn’t played at all. In fact, Netflix has changed it’s playback model (at least through my Ps3) to play each episode back to back, conveniently starting each episode after the openings and recaps, so my 22 minute episode, 9 season TV series was essentially becoming one epic movie. It was at this point that I realized binge-watching has become a completely acceptable way to consume TV.  

 

I started looking at all the other features out there facilitating us binge-watchers. Hulu has a new “obsession” playback feature, and my YouTube Playstation app continually plays videos in a playlist. Even when Netflix pauses occasionally to prompt whether you would like to continue watching, it places the prompt several minutes into an episode, rather than a convenient place to stop watching. Netflix seems to be especially capitalizing on this new viewing style as it releases full seasons and has even gone so far as to make the browsing category “binge worthy TV shows”.

 

My binge media-consumption comes in lots of forms, I think part of it is just the way our culture is changing in terms of media consumption, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing. At my past job, I binged on podcasts, but I bet there are people who spend a huge amount of their day binging on media on tumblr or facebook, and I’ve certainly had days where I have “binged” on candy crush. Is it really at all surprising that we consume our television entertainment in the same way? I realize that TV is a much bigger time commitment usually than other media consumption, but I have yet to come across a study that says people are on a whole watching more TV programming than before, just that the style in which we consume it has changed.

 

A Huffington post article I read a while ago stated that binge watching requires a person to be able to sit down and watch a program for a long period of time, and thus binge watchers were most likely to be adolescents or younger adults with fewer life commitments. Not only do I think it’s a little bit absurd to think that younger people have more time to sit in front of a TV, as most young people I know are insanely busy, however, they are also multi-tasking pros. I have a feeling that this is much more likely to have an impact on the demographic of binge-watchers. Netflix is definitely one of the top places people do their binge watching. I know a large number of people my age who opt not to have any cable TV service and instead simply pay for a Netflix and/or Hulu account.  I know that there have been big changes happening in the way cable companies “bundle” channels in response to these new streaming options and people’s preference in how they view and pay for their TV. The younger demographic I would imagine is much more likely to already own a gaming system, making it very cost efficient to simply stream your online viewing to your television.

 

Additionally, I think the younger generations are generally better at (or at least do more) multitasking. I know that I am frequently working on multiple things while I binge watch TV, and at least among my group of friends, I am not alone. People are binge watching on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. To me, this indicates that there is very likely some multi-tasking happening during these marathon TV sessions.

 

This new style of media consumption also has implications to how companies advertise. If there is indeed a shift in younger audiences to not watch broadcast television, there are lots of companies targeting that market that now need to advertise in different ways. I find YouTube particularly interesting as a model for advertising. So many YouTube personalities and channels have an audience of millions, many of which are young. Plus, YouTube has the unique setup in that they are completely self-selected groups, so advertisers can target specific channels to reach out to endorse their products directly to an enormous group of target audience. Obviously this is very similar to what google already does with all of its targeted advertising, but I feel like much of that feels a little sneaky and very much in the background. YouTube advertising at least feels much more real, direct, and somewhat shameless (in the best way...why lie about advertising?). Yes, YouTube is a different thing entirely than Netflix and Hulu versus
TV broadcasting, but it’s interesting to watch advertising changing to adapt to the new media habits of their consumers. It makes no sense for companies marketing products for younger consumers to advertise on TV if no one is watching there. 

 

There are a lot of pop culture articles out there about how binge watching is linked to depression, but I have not found anything that actually substantiates that claim. If binge-watching culture interests you, I’ve added a few links below to some good articles I found. And if you have any thoughts on binge-watching, I’d love to hear them!

Binge Viewing Behaviour

Networks Are Trying to Deal With Your Love for Binge-Watching

Binge-Watching TV Shows

 

 

 

DIY Crate & Pallet Desk

DIY & ProjectsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment
diy crate pallet desk.jpg

Over the past decade, I have moved a LOT. In the process of moving, you quickly learn that furniture is mostly more trouble than its worth and cardboard boxes are seriously lacking in their ability to handle moving large numbers of books. Solution? Crates! Much of my furniture is created primarily of crates - they are cheap, sturdy, easy to paint or stain, and when it's time to move again, most of my packing is already done!

During the process of my most recent move (NC to ME), I knew I needed to rethink much of my furniture and storage as I was prepping to move into a much more compact space. I was lucky to have my future roommate able to measure my room before I moved, so I knew that my previous crate & door desk would not fit the space. I love using crates for the front supports of a desk. It provides plenty of storage for notebooks and other office supplies. One of my favorite crates has three small drawers in it. I'm pretty sure I found it many years ago at a craft store, but it would not be too difficult to make something similar to this for yourself, maybe using small baskets for drawers. I also like that stacked crates provide a relatively tall desk, which is my preference. I also already had two 4x4 posts cut to the same height as the stacked crates being used as back supports for the desk. Because I wanted to reuse as much as possible, I simply started a hunt for something to use as a top to my desk that would fit my new space.

DSC_0262.JPG

Soon after reliezing I needed something to replace the large door top of my desk, I stumbled upon a pallet in relatively good condition with a thin piece of plywood the same size. Several weeks later, I passed by a desk discarded by a dumpster. It wasn't a particularly nice desk - but it did have two large wooden drawers that looked to be pretty close in width to the openings in a pallet. I grabbed them both and brought them home to try out with my pallet and they fit almost perfectly!

After a successful move, all I had to do was re-purpose some of those crates into my new desk! I attached the back posts to the pallet with brackets, but I let the front end rest unattached to the crates. I ended up attaching some cardboard to the bottom of the pallet, just to provide a flat surface to rest on the crate supports, and to prevent the drawers from falling through the pallet. A thin piece of plywood is probably a better solution, but I didn't have that available, and cardboard is working perfectly. 

DSC_0586.JPG

I bought a roll of a wood pattered adhesive to cover the top piece of plywood. There are a huge number of patterned contact papers and adhesive wall paper available which I love utilizing in different projects. It's a great finish for very little work and money. I ended up deciding to finish off the exposed edge of the pallet with a thin piece of poplar. This was unnecessary, but that edge of the desk faces my bed and I did not like the aesthetics of looking into the open pallet and drawers. 

The height of the pallet added on top of the crates make the desk quite high, but I use my desk mostly for crafting so appreciate having a standing desk or something that is comfortable to sit at with a stool. The giant drawers provide plenty of room to organize (or throw into a big pile) all of my scrap paper. I originally thought about placing a small bar inside the pallet at the back of the drawer to prevent it from being pushed in too far, but I have not had any issues with that. I couldn't be happier with my trash desk!

DSC_0578.JPG

3 Documentaries to Watch this Week

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I readily admit that I have a documentary addiction. A documentary is always my go-to for a night in front of the TV. I find myself constantly recommending documentaries to friends as information I learned comes up in conversation. I have an endless list of documentaries I've watched or want to watch or want to re-watch, so I figured this was a good way to start sharing some of the must-sees with people.

 

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE

This is available to watch through Netflix. It has come to mind a lot for me recently in all the hype of Netflix's relatively new true-crime series "Making A Murderer.” Making A Murderer is certainly worth watching if you are interested not so much in true crime but in systematic injustices. I recommend watching The Central Park Five to get a taste for if this sort of documentary is for you before investing the hours required for binge watching Making A Murderer.

When I watched Central Park Five, I found myself needing to watch it in two separate sittings as I was getting too infuriated with the justice system (specifically police officers) to sit through the whole thing. The documentary follows the story of the group of NY black male teens that in the mid 80s were wrongfully convicted of the brutal attack of a white woman in central park. Essentially the only evidence against these boys was their video taped confessions, which are heart wrenching to watch as all I see are young scared boys being intimidated by authority and simply doing as they've been instructed. Everything surrounding the circumstances of their arrests and imprisonment and even their eventual releases makes my stomach churn at the whole system and the way the media is involved. It's definitely worth watching, if you don't mind feeling disgusted at our society for a little while.

 

WALK TO SCHOOL

This is available on Netflix and might be one of my favorite documentaries. It is visually beautiful and is much more what I would call an experiential rather than narrative documentary. It follows children from around the world on their daily routine and journey to school. 

I always get a little nostalgic when I watch things heavily featuring scenic African plains. And I got hit with waves of memories of my time in South Africa watching children wary of elephants when no baboons or other animals were present - an eerie feeling of walking into danger only humans can't sense. I also couldn't help but chuckle at the reality of how easy it is to suddenly stumble into a pack of giraffes. 

I always appreciate watching a documentary that profiles very commonplace things in different areas of the world. While much of what I saw in the documentary was heart warming for me personally, I think there is a lot of value in spending a little time experiencing what "normal" is elsewhere. 

In Morocco you watch the children rely heavily on hitchhiking and in India there is a striking scene of brothers dragging a homemade wheelchair through a river on their regular route to school. 

This is not an ideal documentary to watch in the background while multitasking because it's so visual. So treat yourself, grab some wine and some popcorn and have a little bit of an eye feast and feel slightly humbled in all our privilege.

 

BRONIES

This is on Netflix and yes, I know your initial reaction is to laugh - as was mine. But this documentary is totally worth watching. And it also sort of makes me want to watch "My Little Pony." This documentary does a great job juxtaposing "Bronie" news media and public opinions with actual "Bronie" interviews. 

Essentially, the Bronie community is all about being kind and curious. The lessons in "My Little Pony" are perhaps intended for young girls, but they are being applied in this community of young men. Because as one Bronie said, "Watching girl characters do awesome things is just as awesome as watching boy characters do awesome things."

I think it's wonderful - I can't imagine what it feels like to be a teen boy, but I think it's incredibly sad that our society looks down on young men who are embracing basic principles of how to be a compassionate human being. I think it's great that this fandom community has developed to give these men a supportive, loving community. In addition I learned that charity is a huge part of the community. Really, it's all just about being "a good friend."