Raining Cats and Dogs

Dear Luka,

I know how you hate the rainy season in the Bay Area.  Maybe this new raincoat will help.  It is truly one-of-a-kind, made using Simplicity pattern #1239, with a few changes.  Instead of lining the coat as directed, I covered all cut edges with seam binding.  I also made the hood detachable, and ignored the scarf (like you would wear the scarf and not chew it to shreds instantly!)

Handmade Dog Raincoat

When you and your Mom go walking around your neighborhood, be friendly if anyone comes to compliment your coat, wear it proudly, and most important of all, stop eating random poop off the sidewalk!

Love,

Grandma

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Primed and Polished

Right alongside clothing concerns, from ethical production to actual components, cosmetics are often one of the last things that one considers when choosing a vegan lifestyle. In our food-obsessed culture, the focus is almost entirely on diet, while the remainder of our vast purchasing habits go largely unquestioned. It’s confusing, too, discerning the difference between cruelty-free certifications and pledges to avoid animal testing.

Then there’s the considerations towards personal health. Just finding something off the shelf that’s non-toxic is surprisingly difficult, with many mainstream labels boasting genuinely harmful chemicals like dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. When brands say that they’re five-free, it’s these bad apples that don’t make the cut. Now, many are taking it a step further to go “seven-free,” excluding triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) and xylene. That’s before we even start talking about shades and shimmers.

Based in Australia, Sienna Byron Bay has made the decision an easy one. Completely sustainable, vegan, and genuinely beneficial for your nails with breathable, water permeable polishes, each dazzling hue offers smart beauty in a bottle. Considering the disturbing number of landmines one must avoid when making an informed purchase, I was delighted to learn of this new brand, jumping at the opportunity to adorn my own fingertips.

That said, after years of grabbing hot pans out of the oven and washing dishes with scalding water, my hands are not very pretty to look at. To do these gorgeous lacquers proper justice AND enjoy them for longer than the average lifespan of a manicure, I decided to get a bit crafty.

Turning just a few drops of Sundance and Grace into genuine paints, plain white bowls became marbleized masterpieces in minutes. The idea is not a new one, but timelessly brilliant for any fellow photographers looking to jazz up their prop closet, or crafty kids who want to give personalized gifts this holiday season (because it’s never too early to start planning!)

Just fill a large bucket with enough water to submerge your dishes and drizzle your polishes of choice randomly over the top. The colors will float! Dip carefully, in one slow plunge, covering the surface smoothly. Let dry, but if you’re not happy with the results, just hit it with some nail polish remover and try again. Add more polish to the water if needed. Use with care, avoiding both the dishwasher and microwave to preserve the pattern.

Greater awareness of issues with cosmetics is building, which is very exciting to see, even as a fair-weather beauty enthusiast. Do you have any hot tips on brands to seek out, or surprising labels to avoid? It’s time to clean the shelves; no matter how you use lacquer, no one wants an evil genie to come out of those bottles.

High-Fiber Diet

Veggie burgers have a very obvious nutritional edge over the meaty competition, bolstering their longtime reputation as healthy alternatives. Now that the options are tastier (and more realistic) than ever, it’s hard to imagine that anyone is left asking “Where’s the beef?” these days. Still, some hardcore health food fanatics are left wanting for an even more virtuous variety, immune to any of the frequent issues that plague prepared foods in general; high levels sodium, fat, and a lack of fiber can afflict even the most favorable plant-based patties.

Well, hold on to your green smoothies, because the burger of the future is finally here. Not just high in fiber, but ENTIRELY made of fiber, it’s even stuffed with more organic material.

Organic material in the form of tissues, that is. Call it silly, call it crazy, but I’m just calling it a cozy. There’s no arguing that whether it’s crafted out of cotton, hemp, or linen, it’s the healthiest burger you’ll ever find.

Pattern from Twinkie Chanโ€™s Crocheted Abode a la Mode.

Shell Shocked

Whole coconuts are a luxurious culinary delight as much as they are potentially lethal weapons. Yes, you read that correctly. The humble brown-husked coconut, now fully immersed in popular culture and ubiquitous in even the most basic mainstream grocery stores, is ripe with potential… To maim or seriously injure the irreverent home cook. You’ve survived the harvest, cleared from the danger of falling coconuts that sometimes fall like bombs on the heads of unsuspecting beach-goers, but freed from the tree, that rock hard husk takes on an all new means of attack. If I were to add up all the cuts, gashes, bruises, and scrapes I’ve personally accumulated over the years of failed attempts to break into the delicious white flesh within, let’s just say it wouldn’t be a pretty picture.

In spite of it all, I keep on coming back for round after round of punishment. It was only after a sleepless night of internet searches that I thought to investigate a better way to get my coconut meat and eat it, too. Turns out, there is a trick to it. Just whack the damn thing. Seriously.

Put away the steel spikes, hammers, rubber mallets, machetes, and any other heavy artillery you thought was needed to break into those spherical fortresses. Just hit the coconut with the blunt side of a heavy knife a few times, all around the center, until it cracks cleanly into two perfect, equal halves. Catch the water in the bowl underneath and have yourself a victory toast.

With this radical new approach, I have all the coconut I can possibly eat. After drinking the water and using the meat to make coconut butter and coconut flour, I was left with the empty shells.

Nothing goes to waste around here, though, so they too became the focus of my restless mind. For the avid crafter and food photographer, what could be better than a brand new set of beautiful, organic bowls? The most difficult part of the project is sanding away the rough hairs on the outside. Once clean and fairly smooth, even out the edge just so that it’s not sharp, but allow some of the character of the coconut to remain. Strive for wabi-sabi aesthetics, not perfection.

You could stop right there and seal the deal with a food-safe enamel, or go over it first with a bold splash of colored paint. I went with a bit of glitz and glamor for this set, spraying the interior with gold before touching up the exterior with a high-contrast black matte. I know there will be many more where these came from, so the opportunities to unleash new color combinations will be endless!

The Final Final

It’s a familiar, if vexing routine. Intense stress of a difficult semester becomes condensed into the span of a few days, complete with a mountain of busy work that will never serve any purpose in the real world. Study, lose sleep, slave away on essays, and ultimately jump over another hurdle. Pause for a few weeks and repeat, ad nauseum. The relentless cycle of schoolwork and deadlines holds scant appeal these days, after a lifetime of compulsory education followed by an extended part-time approach to earning a degree. Still in the throes of this final wave of exams, I’m ready to get off this hamster wheel once and for all. This is my final round of finals.

Hard to believe that relief is in sight, at long last. Many years went by when I couldn’t even say for sure if I was a Sophomore or a Junior, graduating in 2015, 2016, or just graduating, period. Working online, separated from a physical campus by hundreds of miles, I was completely in the dark; there was no light at the end of the tunnel at all.

No one could have predicted what a crazy, twisting path lay ahead, nor how the journey might shape my life, far beyond basic intellectual enrichment. Pulling me across the country to this foreign land that I now call home, it may not be paradise and sunshine every day, but it sure is beachy-keen compared my once hermit-like existence.

Once the very last wave of grades crashes ashore, I can’t say for sure what the future might hold. Heck, I can’t even say what I’ll eat for dinner tonight! All I know is that there’s still so much more ahead, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have built my nest here in California to see it through.

That’s all to say, please forgive any blogging interruptions until graduation! Your regularly programmed posts will return shortly.

For Every Bird a Nest [of Kale]

For every Bird a Nest —
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round —

Wherefore when boughs are free —
Households in every tree —
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high —
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires —

Perhaps of kale so fine —
Of leafy greens e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires —

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house —

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?

[Ever so slightly adapted from] Emily Dickinson