DIY Crate Coffee Table

Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

SUPPLIES
* 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
* 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
* 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
* Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
* 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
* 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
* Optional – 4 corner braces

TOOLS
* Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
* Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
* Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
* Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

INSTRUCTIONS
* Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
* Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
* Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

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Cemeteries & Geocaching

God, I feel gross.

I took Griswold to Fosterdale Cemetery this afternoon. There’s a request from a woman on an ancestry forum trying to find her ancestor’s burial plot there and a Geocache happens to be hidden there, too. So, I thought it’d be a nice little adventure with purpose.
Fosterdale Cemetery founded circa 1873
The cemetery is a tiny little thing off Route 17B not far from Yasgur’s Farm and Bethel Woods where Woodstock took place. There are a lot of veterans buried here, and many flags decorating headstones were knocked over or the sticks broken from the fierce winds we had a few days back. I was sure to keep Griswold on the paths except for when I uprighted or repaired the flags. I wasn’t able to find the headstone for the ancestry researcher after two sweeps. Bummer.

I headed over to where the cache was stashed. The description said it was “far away” from grave sites. But my GPS said I was within a foot from it, and I was fairly close to a very elaborate memorial for a young man killed in a car accident on September 5, 2011. I thought I must have my coordinates wrong, because it felt just a little too close to a grave to hide a cache.

But there it was, buried under some gravel. I opened it, took out a trackable, logged my name and was re-burying it when I noticed a truck driving up. I took a seat on a downed tree and plopped Grizzy on my lap to wait and see where they were going.

To my horror the truck stopped a few feet from me, the driver got out and knelt down in front of the young man’s grave. When he stood, a male passenger got out and the two of them checked on the shrubs and trees that were planted around the marker (and the cache), cleaned the granite benches engraved “Forever 21”, straightened a cross and spotlight and smoothed out gravel.

I wanted to get up and walk away but I was frozen with absolute mortification. I had a baseball cap and big sunglasses on so the men couldn’t really see my face, and I didn’t make a peep.

Here I was having “fun” trekking around for some silly hidden treasure in the same place where they pour out their adoration, devotion and grief by meticulously caring for the dirt that covers this boy they love.

As they drove off, I started sobbing. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Niagara Falls on my face.

Before coming, I’d worried about taking Griswold to a cemetery out of respect for the dead. It turns out I was the one I should have worried about. Guh.

I, for one, will never, ever, ever Geocache in a cemetery again. Once home, I logged in to the Geocaching website. The cache was placed in 2010 before this young man died. I logged a note for the owner about what happened and that it was time to move the cache. I hope he does. And I hope Mr. Telesky is resting in peace, and I’m sorry I messed up what should have been a private moment.

Telesky Memorial

Christmas 2013

I had an especially awesome week leading up to Christmas. I had three separate dates with my protégé which was the biggest treat. We hopped aboard a vintage train (pic at right & at bottom) to Midtown where we shopped at the Disney store and Toys R Us Times SquareNostalgia Train, and got tickets at the TDF booth for Newsies the Musical. Our seats were pretty high up in the mezzanine but this musical’s set design allowed for great viewing. The choreography was phenomenal and we enjoyed the show very much.

During intermission, Jeaniah pored through the program matching each actor’s headshot and bio with their characters. A few minutes into the second act, the lead male was singing in earnest and Jeaniah whispered, “He has a very pretty voice!” I agreed and took note at how enthralled she was. At curtain call, she applauded politely for chorus, loudly for a few of her favorite supporting cast members, then screamed the highest pitched dolphin squeal that could’ve broken glass when the lead male took his bows, like we were at a One Direction concert. Her unbridled enthusiasm made me happier than any gift could.

On the subway ride home, some boys started breakdancing in our car and could’ve rivaled any dancer in the Newsies chorus. Our car wasn’t that packed so it wasn’t too obnoxious and they were seriously talented, so Jeaniah gave them a dollar.

A few days later, I picked her up after school. She opened my Christmas gifts for her: a bracelet loom, tons of rubber bands and charms for making the bracelets, and a jewelry organizer for her new bedroom. These were met with gasps of OH MY GOSH! and COOL! I also packed her bag with her favorite treats that I normally would put in a stocking like some gummy bears (Gummy bears?! I LOVE gummy bears!) and a bag of Goldfish crackers (Goldfish?! I LOVE Goldfish!). This cracked me up. I’ve known her for two years now, so of course I know what she wants and likes to eat and do and see. Her surprise was delightful.

She mentioned that she had cards for her two teachers but wished she had gifts, so I let her pick two gifts from a shopping bag of heavily discounted Christmas items I had just snagged at Rite Aid. She chose an amaryllis and a candle/holder.

Later that week, I picked her up after school to go see “Frozen” in 3D. We both really loved it and the theme song “Let it Go”. In the movie, it’s sung by Idina Menzel but when then end credits rolled, it’s this Demi Lovato version. Dang it is a catchy tune! I felt so happy from the movie, so the heck with it….I’m gonna SING! We sang what words we knew (not many) at the tops of our lungs and mumbled the rest and bounced around in our seats. I gotta take this girl to a real concert.

ESB

A couple of days later Christian and I joined her and her family at the annual Hour Children Christmas party with gifts supplied by the Marine’s Toys for Tots program. We got a few really nice pictures and made some crafts before Christian and I scooted out to LIC for the LIC Flea and the gorgeous view of Manhattan with the ESB decorated in green & red for Christmas with an awesome light show timed with music airing on 106.7. Fun! (Click here for the YouTube video of the light show.)

All in all, it was a great week in the city with all it has to offer, but I was happy to leave it behind for a long “vacation” at our cabin upstate. We enjoyed dominoes, the wood fire, Vince Guaraldi, lots of good home cooked meals, “Cheers” on Netflix, making pomander balls, way too much candy and almost too much laziness. Among other gifts, I gave Christian a pair of Hunter boots and Morrissey’s new autobiography and a bunch of tech gadgets; he gave me a gorgeous vintage tub planter, a much needed wallet and  a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The latter was really a gift to him: I stayed busy and out of his hair for a whole week. ;oP

We rang in the New Year quietly around our fire, writing out our goals, the theme of which seemed based on this Samuel Beckett quote:

All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Onward and upward to us all in 2014!

Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Newsies LIChristmas 2013 Tree2013 Tree Christmas 2013 Pomander Balls  Fireside Chat

Window Pane Turned Picture Frame

I found a junky old window, cleaned out the broken glass and caulk, got four new pieces of glass cut to size and ordered basic mats online which I trimmed with a box cutter. Then I chose four photos of bugs & a bird that I took at the Rock House, printed them out on photo paper and voila! A window pane turned picture frame for our dining room.

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice Cream

Sopaipillas & FlagIn high school, I studied Spanish for two years under the tutelage of Mrs. Spooner. One assignment required us to make a Mexican dish of our choosing. I elected sopapillas because, A) I loved them, and B) I knew I could get them at Pancho’s at their freakishly cheap “all you care to eat” buffet. After chowing down, I could simply raise the Mexican flag at my table, request additional sopaipillas from my server, stuff  them in my purse, repeat a few more times and still be home in time for Moonlighting.

“What’s a sopaipilla?” some of you might be wondering. It’s deep-fried pastry that can be used in all sorts of dishes, but is primarily served as a dessert served in the shape of a puffed up little pillow and served with honey. We would tear off a corner, pour a little honey in the hole, swirl it around and mmm, mmm, GOOD!

I have never seen them anywhere in the Midwest or Northeast (though I’m sure I’ll hear from someone telling me where they serve them around these parts). The one time I did order them from a menu at a New York restaurant, they were not sopaipillas. They were hard & crunchy like cinnamon pita chips. That was my first and last attempt since 1991.

Now that we have the Rock House, I’ve enjoyed cooking, baking, making, trying all sorts of things. So when I came across this sopaipilla recipe in In Style magazine, I clipped it. It’s been sitting in a drawer ever since. I mean, it looks delicious. But it also looks like a messy hassle. Look at the list of ingredients and all those steps in the instructions. Frying, too? Messy & bad for me and…ah, forget it.

Fast forward to today when I came across the recipe stuck in a drawer. “Hey, wait a second? Isn’t a sopaipilla basically just puffed pastry?!”

PUFFED PASTRY! AKA my new BFF and answer to all the world’s ills. Since discovering it a few months ago (Like I’m Chris Columbus or something. Heh. You’re welcome for The Americas, BTW!), I’ve used it for pot pies, egg soufflés, desserts, tarts, pizzas, you name it. If it came in queen-sized sheets, I would sleep with it like a down comforter. That’s how versatile and easy it is. How easy? I’M GONNA EAT IT LIKE A SOPAIPILLA!

If you don’t make your own dough, this is the hardest part: Bake the puff pastry, drizzle it with honey. DONE! Screw you Bobby Flay & your stupid, messy recipe!

Now, technically, that’s all a sopaipilla is, but I fancied it up a bit because when you get old the things that excited you when you were young only make you feel hopeless and empty and search for meaning in life. So I spiced it up a bit with sugar & cinnamon (which is how many folks eat their fritters & sopaipillas anyway. This was my first time.)

Sugar & Spice

INGREDIENTS:
1/3 of one sheet of Pepperidge Farm’s Puff Pastry Sheet (they owe me a % of profits based on how much I’ve been pimping them out!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tspn ground cinnamon
Honey
Vanilla or Caramel Ice Cream (Because screw it. WHY NOT?! It’s my mom’s birthday! {Or whatever excuse you need to justify this delicious decision.})

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Cut the pastry sheet into 4 squares & bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

Place the sugar and cinnamon into a paper or plastic baggy and shake to combine.

Add the hot pastries to the bag and shake until coated with the sugar mixture. Drizzle the pastries with the honey or, if you have a squeeze bottle of honey, let the diners tear off a corner and squeeze away themselves. Serve yourself first, though, because they’re best hot and you deserve the best.

Add a dollop of ice cream to the plate and you have what I call Sugar & Spice and everything Nice Cream.

Dunking in Sugar & Spice Waiting for Pastry Bon Appetit!

Skinny Mountain Air

“Worst run ever,” I posted on Facebook last Sunday. And it was. I felt like a beginner and the time on my Runkeeper app agreed. I set out for a simple 5k. I say simple, because I’m not a beginner and I had completed a 10k race only a week before. One week! Twice the distance. And I sucked. It felt like sand bags were tied to my legs and a Sumo wrestler was sitting on my chest. I’m at my fittest since my book came out! (Thanks friends, tour and hotel bar for the good times, but I’m happy to shed you!) How can this BE?!

“Amazing how quickly I fall out of the practice of running in the mountains,” I continued. “I’ll try again tomorrow. Oof.”

Typing that felt like a copout. I mean “mountains”? Really? Sure, I can see amazing mountain ranges in the distance as I run. Vistas that offer something beautiful, different, interesting with every run, every season. Flocks of wild turkeys, a cornucopia of colors, fuzzy caterpillars crossing the road not realizing they’re in mortal danger…so much to see, things to photograph, moths-in-the-making to save. Mountains are what I see off in the distance.

I did go the next day as I publicly declared and it was worse. I only went 1.47 miles and was slower. SLOWER! Granted I was with Griswold, but even he was dragging! Usually he flies along, excited for the adventure, fresh air, wildlife and the best part: running back home. But he still trailed behind me, huffing & puffing.

This required some research.

So I scoured my Runkeeper history about when I last ran up here, when did I run here consistently, and just how high up are we? Which is why I can’t switch to Map My Run…I’ve got too much stored on Runkeeper and if theres one thing I love, it’s STATISTICS! I might even make an Excel spreadsheet of all the info, that’s how much I love examining each and every nuance. Is it too late to become a statistician for a living?

Turns out we’re 1,247 feet above sea level. The race I ran the week before was at sea level or barely above/below. Hmm, interesting. While it’s not Machu Picchu where we had time to acclimatize, it’s still a significant difference from home.  Turns out, athletes regularly train in higher altitudes before races! Not 10Ks on Roosevelt Island but, still…

I’ve always remarked that even though I workout less up here, I lose weight and tend to eat and snack less. And that’s a thing, too! Check out this article I found: Can Thin Mountain Air Make You Slim?

Aha! So I’m not making it up! It’s harder to run up here and I take in fewer calories. I KNEW I LOVED THE ROCK HOUSE!

Bolstered by my new knowledge –I don’t suck entirely, I just need a day or two to acclimatize– I ran two more short runs (5Ks) followed by 20-minute Bob Harper workouts. (Short but great. The hour long workouts are killer! I highly recommend them.)

Based on these runs, by this time next week, all will be normal. Fascinating! (To me, anyway.)

Trash By Another Name

I’m hopping on the hipster, green, gardening trend and getting myself an indoor composter. Here’s the one I chose for the Rock House upstate in the Catskills. I know nothing of composting but always feel awful bagging up rinds, coffee grinds, eggshells and rotten veggies when we pack up from a week at the cabin to head home to NYC. Since there are just two of us and it’s only a weekend home, I figured a 5-gallon composter was big enough. BUT: It turns out that compost can spontaneously combust. WTF?! Why does everything require an asterisk and at least eight hours of intensive research?*

I still can’t have chickens or a goat since we don’t live there full-time which makes me very, very sad. I suppose I could be that lady who rides the bus with a live chicken except that I can’t carry it along with the dogs, parakeet and my overnight bag. Someday I’ll get a baby bjorn that can accommodate all my livestock. Till then, it’s composting, raised bed gardening, building bat housing and feeding birds, deer, beavers and raccoons.

*Including this blog.

 

Adventures in Gardening: In the Beginning

Growing up, we dug up rows of dirt, plopped in some seeds and had fruits and vegetables a few weeks later. The Internet made it all seem so complicated. After all the research and over-thinking, it was time to get my hands dirty.

I had a few days at the cabin and took the plunge on beginning my landscaping and gardening projects. I spent part of a day gathering rocks that I stacked at the base of the cabin, covering the concrete and creating a raised flower bed. Once it was in place, I filled it with soil from the woods mixed with bags of plain topsoil and two bags of high quality, fertilized soil. Then I planted some hostas that I purchased from Home Depot. Hostas are hearty, low to the ground, spread over time, and are great in the shade. I think this is the perfect spot for them as long as I can keep the slugs away.

Behold the before and after:

5864939688_1edbd2ba04_b After Before After After After

Gardening Questions

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. So, I’m giving Facebook the big middle finger and taking my gardening posts elsewhere. The Internet is a huge time suck (weird, right?) and varying opinions leave me up in the air.

Example: Some have said how impossible ferns are to transplant and how I should propagate from spores only to have others say that propagating spores is near impossible and I should just transplant. Lesson? Trial, error, time and patience will win. I just need to gain the confidence to try, err, wait and try again, if needed.

Patio I spent some time clearing the weird patch of patio at our Rock House. I ended up with  66″ x 51″ patch of rocky earth that eventually stops at about 15″ deep when I hit the solid slate, giant boulders that the house is built on.

I’m going to first try transplanting ferns in a straight line up against the house and fill the rest in with the rocks that I dug out. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try ferns again because they’re native (we have 4.5 acres COVERED in wild ferns) and I truly believe moving them 20 feet is gonna work at some point.

Hostas  Meanwhile, hostas are sprouting on our walkway. This is our third spring owning this cabin and in spite of the hostas being trampled, eaten by deer & dug up during an installation of a French drain, they’ve sprung back each time. I love hostas and they’re obviously low-maintence. This and their hardiness makes me excited to move them to an area where they can actually thrive. Until then I’m going to build little wire cages around them so we don’t smash them again.

Also, there’s a strange bush or tree growing by the outbuilding that no one can seem to identify. It’s not pictured in three very extensive gardening books and a horticulture expert drew a blank, too. So, I’ll keep my eye on it and decide whether it’s worth keeping, moving or killing. God complex, anyone?

Bush or tree?

Bush or tree? 2

Happiness Is…

During Spring 2011, our first at the Rock House, I worried to Christian:

“I think something’s wrong with me. I find myself staring into the woods for long spells. I’m not even thinking of anything…just staring at birds, squirrels, trees, leaves, nothing. For hours.”

“You know what that’s called?” He asked.

I stared blankly at him.

“Happiness.”

Rock House in Winter

Hmph. Interesting.

I guess I would draw the old “Happiness Is…” naked cartoon characters here in this photo.

For multiple reasons, we usually travel over the Christmas holiday. In fact, we had just returned from an amazing trip to Peru when we signed the papers on January 4th, 2011, to purchase our little cabin in the woods. But for our first Christmas as homeowners, we wanted to spend it in no other place. We got a tree, made sugar cookies from scratch, and played tons of Scrabble and Monopoly. It was perfectly peaceful and simple.

The year 2012 proved to be exhausting –in a good way– for both of us. Between my book tour and Christian’s TV and stand up work, we found ourselves traveling more than staying home. So, again, we wanted nothing more than a couple of weeks in the woods at our Rock House. We were so lazy, we didn’t even put up a tree (we did hang fresh pine garland, stockings and some twinkle lights) or swap gifts.

Instead, we bought this mini pie pan (two egg soufflés and two chicken pot pies I baked are pictured at left) and stocked up on a bunch of new games like Mystery Rummy (Jack the Ripper), BlokusMr. Jack in New YorkCarcassonneMexican Train dominoesLost Cities and new jigsaw puzzles.

Are we humbugs? Not really. It’s just that every morning waking up in the Rock House –no matter what the season– is like Christmas morning. There is a feeling of lightness here. The freedom to do nothing. I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t want to be anywhere. This is it.

Since we’d no place to go, I sang, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

Three was the magic number it seems. I enjoyed three snowfalls for 12+ inches of snow, three jigsaw puzzles, three seasons of Cheers, season three of “The Wire”, and three books (The Other Wes Moore, Hands of My Father, Just Kids).

Over a week of being disconnected (I didn’t post a thing on Facebook, didn’t read the news & contemplated closing my Twitter account) and not being able to come up with a single goal for 2013, I finally updated my status to say, “Stick a fork in me.”

I’m done. I have nothing to look forward to, to work towards, to want or need. Will this feeling change? Probably. But until then, I’m left to wonder how and why I tried so hard at anything.

So perhaps the cartoon should read:

“Happiness is…

a terrible thing for ambition.”