DIY

Jeepers, Creepers!

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When summer in the Hudson Valley is nice and wet—mid-July brings Spring Peepers! But blink and you will miss them. These thumbnail-sized frogs answer to many names throughout the northeast - "tinkletoes", "pinkeltinks", "pink-winks" and are sometimes thought to herald from the moon. 

Here at home - and at my Grandfather's little yellow cottage on Rodeau Bay in Ontario, Canada where I first encountered one - we just call them "peepers". Peepers live in the loose leaves and bark of damp forests where they feast on ants, beetles, flies and spiders.  You'll hear the males' chorus in the spring near the marshes, ponds and swamps where females lay their eggs.  

When we found this little guy we whipped up a habitat for him using a mason jar and some cheese cloth. Adding a wet leaf to make him feel at home. After a half hour of study,  he craftily escaped and the boy sang a little song of encouragement as he hopped toward freedom (or the moon).

Sharpie tea set

 

This week my son and I transformed a set of plain white ceramic tea cups and saucers into a tea set fit for two adorable nieces. Inspired by a few days home from school with a cold - we wrote a story about two little mice who wander into a warm house and share tea with a sniffy little boy. Then we recreated the characters on a tea set.

Using oil-based sharpies in red, gold and silver, we directly and on the dishes. Then we put them on a baking tray in a cold oven, set the temperature to 350F and baked them for thirty minutes. We once made an entire set of dishes as a school auction project and our research tells us they will even be dishwasher safe!

 

DIY wallpaper to the rescue

 

Living not far from New York City's Chinatown - we've come to embrace its Blade Runner aesthetic. For years we've dodged in and out of market stalls selling raw fresh fish,  sweet-bean-paste buns, steamed  dumplings, and exotic fruits like durians and mangosteens.

Some of our favorite spots are Dim Sum Go Go for vegetarian dumplings,  Pongsri for its coconut rice, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for almond ice-cream, and the little café next door for its iced-lychee drinks (and walls papered with dollar bills). 

We've slowly domesticated our live/work loft near Chinatown - embracing the tools and the aesthetic of local restaurants. Most recently we coped with the upstairs neighbors' leaky hot water heater by wallpapering the kitchen wall with Chinese newspapers. 

We tried both mixing our own wheatpaste (wheat flour, water, vinegar) and using a low-odor, commercial wallpaper paste (preferring the latter because it didn't yellow). We simply brushed on the paste with a wallpaper brush, tacked on our newsprint, and brushed another layer of paint on top. Once it dried, we appled a second coat. The commercial paste promises it is easily removed with a little steam though we can't imagine removing it. In fact we intend to layer it with more found and homemade pieces of art as an ode to the lost graffiti mecca, The Chocolate Factory, up the block. Of course,  Banksy has an open invitation to add his own flourish.

 
 

Candied Citrus - ugli, cara cara, kumquat, grapefruit, mandarine & more

There is always a jar of candied citrus peel and ginger in our house to accompany an espresso or a  bar of dark chocolate after a meal.  When we have a huge variety of citrus on hand - or are making lots of juice - we save the peels to candy.

Julienne the peel and soak in water over night to release any bitterness (changing the water once). Then bring a simple syrup of one part water to one part sugar to a boil and boil to the soft-ball stage. (We used two cups sugar to two cups water for 10 fruit peels. And we assessed the soft-ball stage by keeping a glass of ice-water on hand - dripping the boiling syrup in occasionally until it formed a soft ball in the ice-water.)

Then macerate the peels in the simple syrup for a few hours before straining and distributing them on a drying rack. Sprinkle with Demarra sugar  and let dry for about half an hour before storing in an air tight container.