Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Decoupaging the Past: WWII

How's your week going? Mine is best embodied by a moment this past Saturday at a craft fair in Tarrytown's Patriot Park. A boy--an Ecuadorian immigrant's kid no more than 10 years old--was about to buy a $2 ($1 for him, cuz he's a kid) resin magnet of Elvis Costello.

This one: GET HAPPY

Just as I was smiling, "Now THAT'S a cool kid," he dropped Costello and insisted on buying the one of John Hinkley Jr. holding a shotgun.
THIS ONE. Yes, Reagan's would-be assassin.

His mother shrugged and handed over a wrinkled dollar, my happy little customer skipped away, and I had what could be classified as a public meltdown.

Irony is alive and well, Friends.

So, I keep making Art. Or Craft. Whatever. Among other things, WWII (the good, the bad, and the very ugly) has been on my mind, so I started by chopping up a damaged LIFE Magazine celebrating the 30th anniversary of the end of WWII and made magnets using clear resin squares and rectangular jeweler's glass.

Ah, WWII: Pinup girls, factory girls, bombers, vengeance, defiance.

The Art of Paranoia

But don't worry about that right now.... SOLD
Oh, how we need those cuffs now.
Action Comics #1, reprint. SOLD

Like Churchill, I'm feeling feisty, ready for a drink,
a smoke (and I don't smoke) and am probably heading
towards a massive stroke. NOT FOR SALE.

I'll show you what else I've been making in a minute. Remember, Friends, keep using your body, your mind, your voice, and your hands.

Copyright 2016, Tanya Monier

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Generations of Hustle

So. Malfoy just won The Hunger Games, in part because nobody really likes know-it-all Hermione. 

The reactions of people close to me got me thinking that maybe it's a good time (maybe it's a bad time) for a refresher about where we come from.


Yousef Moun-aye-er (an alternative transliteration of the Arabic name that captures the sound a bit better than the Frenchy looking "Monier"--roughly translated, the name means "Someone Who Radiates Light") was raised in Qatana, an Ottoman garrison and dust-dry village some 20 miles west of Damascus. Talk about a dead-end existence. Yousef, a Catholic, was built like a grizzly, which made him a target for threats and abuse from the local Muslim forces. Aged 12, Yousef, all by his lonesome, decided to take what I like to call "One Big Risk" and run away to make his fortune in "Amreeka."
His journey--which crossed the Mediterranean Sea, France, and the Atlantic ocean--took years. He stowed away on an ocean liner, and when discovered, cleaned and hauled stuff around the ship for food.

What no one told this grizzly of a boy, however, is that "Amreeka" is a big place, two continents actually. His ship docked smack between both. Teenage Yousef decided to head north to his Land of Freedom. Illegally. Working for a traveling Mexican circus. I used to pretend that this meant he was a performer. My dad had to convince me that his dad had not swung from the flying trapeze as the circus paraded across the U.S. border. Yousef had been behind the parade, sweeping up the animals' droppings. Especially memorable were the elephants.
"But, it was a different time to enter as an illegal immigrant!" some argue. Yes it was. It was the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Tammany Hall, and of lynching blacks in town squares.

In a fit of racist, disillusioned pique, thirteen-year-old me once used the words that the mean kids used on me and around me: "So, we didn't come through Ellis Island or anything? I'm the granddaughter of a towelhead wetback?"

My dad stared me down so that I held my breath. Then he released a rueful little chuckle. "Yes, I guess your Jiddo was a towelhead wetback. And he had hustle."

That's my daddy on Jiddo's lap, giving the world the reverse finger.

He started school in blond-and-blue-eyed Grand Rapids Michigan speaking "Arabish." He had a lisp, too. He spent so much time with the speech therapist that he became interested in linguistics, but that wouldn't pay the bills. So, being the first in his family to finish college, he became a dentist and spent the rest of his career pushing tongues out of the way.

During his one trip to "The Old Country," he married a gorgeous, multi-lingual, huge-hearted, highly cultured woman from Damascus whose grammar, syntax, and accent he relentlessly corrected for the next twenty years. But when civil war broke out in Lebanon in the 1970s, swallowing my mother's siblings and children into the vortex of violence, he stepped up and sponsored them. All of them. We called our house "The Hotel Monier."

Mom and Dad helped those refugees to become American. They and their kids are blue collar workers, real estate agents, daycare owners, teachers, lawyers, pharmacists, and physicians. My dad, son of an illegal immigrant, is responsible for the existence of nearly forty US citizens, if you count the wives, children, and grandchildren of those who passed through our home on their way to the American Dream. If that ain't hustle, nothing is.

I don't speak Arabic in part because my older sisters and my father always insisted that "We are ONLY AMERICAN," and in part because it was easier to go blank and glazed when relatives spoke Arabic to me. Easier to insist, "I'm just an American."

Except, unlike my sisters, I couldn't pass for one. Except my body, face, and hair were at best "exotic" and at worst were mocked by the rich white kids at school as belonging to a "sand nigger," "camel jockey," "gorilla," "Afro Queen," and "terrorist." I learned to take on the bullies by biting and scratching back--literally and figuratively. I fell, again and again, into self-loathing and depression. I read novels too advanced for my age and drew portraits of my favorite lilly-white British New Wave pop stars. I learned history, French, and German. I grappled other "freaks" and outsiders to my soul, badgered the shy immigrant kids into friendship. I traveled and taught.

Today, I seek ways to remind others of the need for compassion, for empathy, for vigilance...for each other and for our future.

It's definitely not a time to sit still, Friends.

It's definitely time to hustle.

Copyright 2017, Tanya Monier

Monday, November 7, 2016

Closing Time...

Here we are on the eve of a spectacularly intense election, one that promises a break from everything that has come before, and I have changes to report, too.

My Prince of the Forest was given notification that his office in New York is closing three years earlier than expected. His choices are to leave a company he loves and has been loyal to for 18 years, or he can be assigned to one of the company's two other offices: Princeton, New Jersey, or Rennes, France. The company is based in California, as were we once upon a time, but California is not an option. As Semisonic's 1998 strangely liquor-loving ode to birth goes, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

So.... I am not sure where the future takes us, but we must leave Sleepy Hollow--dearest chosen home of my heart--next summer. The anxiety is nearly unbearable, so I channel my OCD into Google searches about our two potential future homes. Let's learn a little about them, shall we?


There it is, two and a half hours southwest of our home.
Just far enough away to know no one and nothing.

Population: about 30,000
Median House Price: that would be $750,000
Median Property Taxes: $16,000
Public Schools: Freaking phenomenal, naturally
Hold on: are we actually talking about Scarsdale, New York?

Princeton University: Claims to be an Ivy League, but as a Columbia University grad, I question whether one can call oneself an Ivy League if walking around campus doesn't guarantee bits of broken glass get lodged in your sandals.

Yes, it's perfect. But have you MET ME? Is this my natural habitat?

Let's be honest: we'll all be fine in Princeton. Maybe I'll find a few secret weirdos to bond with. But it's expensive--even for a Westchester resident of 18 years--and, frankly, none of us really feel drawn to this, even the Badgerettes, who only find consolation in the fact that we could come back for Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown's brilliant Halloween parties and parades.


So, how about the other contender for new, permanent home for this American Badger?

Rennes, France
So far away it actually seems like fun.

Population: about 250,000
Median House Price: 300,000 Euros (right now, that's like $350,000)
Median Property Taxes: 3,000 Euros (but they'll hit us up for more in other ways)
Public Schools: some of the finest in the world, thank you

Anywhere we go will feature Tudor Style buildings,
but these are actually medieval.

University of Rennes: 26,000 students specializing in science, tech, and the humanities. My kind of folks.
Dang it! I don't think I'm going to get
glass shards in my feet here, either. 

Rennes is the capitol city of Brittany, the Silicon Valley of La Belle France...without the Silicon Valley real estate prices. It's home to huge numbers of English speaking expatriates, and it's considered one of the most welcoming places in France for foreigners to live. (Once upon a time, I lived in Paris, and I can't imagine a less welcoming place--and I did live in NYC, so I'm not throwing uninformed shade.)

Did I mention that I'm fairly fluent in French? Oh, I make an ass of myself regularly, but I can clown like Jerry Lewis at the drop of a hat, so it usually turns out ok.

Interestingly, the Badgerettes (especially #1) are down for adventure. Both are happily playing French language games on Babbel these days, in anticipation of a future in which they'll need to parle that stuff. Even The Prince is learning office talk in French, mostly along the lines of "Je voudrais une biere."

You get the point: I'd rather raise French girls than Jersey girls, and they'd rather be French girls than Jersey girls (even the Prince).

Fingers crossed, for America and for us. Some of my toes are crossed, too. I hope we all get what is best for our future.  I'll keep you updated.

And I leave you with more one-hit-wonder lyrics from Semisonic:

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend.
Closing time, every new beginning comes
From some other beginning's end.

Tanya Monier, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Halloween Favorite: Do-it-yourself Centaur Costume

This DIY project is the all-time winner of The Happy Badger. My thanks to Mama Beja. Check out what else she can do at The Zen Toolbox. So without much ado, I share it again.

(Remember, if you're going to do this project for Halloween, best to get started early!)

This Greek myth themed costume is for the ambitious and/or Advanced Level Crafter.

Walk this way.

It calls for a lot of time, ingenuity, and effort...and better directions than I'm going to offer here. But if you can pull it off, like Santa Barbara's own Mama Beja did, you and your kid are gonna become the stuff of local legend.

For this project, you will need the following:
A Walker with wheels
A horse-colored blanket (you know what I mean)
Straight-haired wig/ponytail extension... in color complementary to blanket
Pillow stuffing
Heavy duty needle and thread
Thin cardboard, and lots of it
Long-sleeved t-shirt of same color as blanket
Twin sheet in white
Large sheets of paper to make pattern...or wing it, whatever
Straight pins
Laurel wreath, horns, or whatever head accessories you see fit
Matching boots (optional)
Pleather or leather scraps for hooves (optional)
A stronger ability to sew than I have...

Step 1: Chimera orientation
Get that walker. Set up the height to correspond to your child's backside, as the walker will become the backside of the centaur. Wheels go to the back, so that your centaur's back legs will roll behind him or her.
Set some time for this project--like, days.
Step 2: Legs, legs, legs!
Slice about 12 inches off one side of twin sheet. Wrap sheet around other two legs and affix. Once toga is draped on your centaur, these legs will be effectively camouflaged.
The looser the wrap, the more it will blend in with the toga
Measure the walker legs. Cut thin cardboard into long, triangular shapes for lower legs, and wider trapedoidal ones for upper legs. Pad with pillow stuffing, then wrap with blanket pieces. Sew inner vertical seams, stack upper leg on, and sew the horizontal seams connecting the two.

Detail of heavy duty stitching.

HEEL! Glue pleather/leather to thin long oblong-shaped cardboard.
Cut bottom of leg at angle and glue on "hoof."
Step 3: The End
Good luck with this part. I recommend that you play with the paper and/or play with the fabric and pins to see how to connect the rear to the hips before you start stitching.

Leave space to pad the haunches, or you'll end up with a bony old nag instead of a powerful centaur.

Attach the wig/hair extension to an appropriate place for a horse's tail. Sew it or stick it on well because chances are folks will be pulling on that thing all day and night.

Step 5: Come Together
You may well be asking, "How does my kid get in to this thing?" Here's what I know: Attach the leftover blanket piece back to the already-dressed walker, leaving a hole for your young hero to crawl in from underneath. The flap can be attached with safety pins to the brown long-sleeved t-shirt and pants.
Now, your young centaur can walk about freely and not lose his or her behind. 
I have no idea what to say about this photo that won't sound wrong, wrong, wrong.
Step 6: Final Touches
Riordan's characters might get huffy about mixing Roman and Greek elements, but the best way to pull this horse-human look together is a toga, so drape that sheet carefully to achieve maximum leg coverage and movement. Top with a laurel wreath.

If you actually finish this project, YOU will deserve a laurel wreath, not just your suddenly quadrupedal kid.

Apollo cranked up the sun on this kid to indicate his approval.

"Will the Happy Badger or the Badgerettes be centaurs this year?" you ask.

Umm, no. The Badgerettes are more inspired by the natural phenomenon that is my BedHead than by mythology, so they're going as flowers, and I'm going to go as a six-foot tall, white-puff-head Dandelion.

Happy Halloween!

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Keeping the Passed Present with Allison Gilbert

I haven't written much in the last year. To be honest, I've been busy at the gym, contributing to global warming by burning off my hibernation reserves. This doesn't mean that I haven't been making and selling things aplenty. I have been a busy, and happy, badger. I'm very happy indeed to talk about a book that my crafts are featured in, twice!

For a Sacramento girl, it's a brave new world indeed to bring me into contact with Emmy-award-winning CNN journalist and writer Allison Gilbert.

I first met Allison at the Wear It, But Don't Bear It fundraiser I put together at Tarrytown's W@tercooler. I just knew her as a generous friend of Jenifer Ross, and one of the many locals who came out to help two girls who lost their mother through domestic violence.

When Allison contacted me again, it was to ask me for help with her new project: a book that listed ways to honor and keep present the spirits of loved ones who have died.

Initially, I feared it would be a grim undertaking. But like Allison herself, the result is a thoughtful, heartfelt, and surprisingly upbeat book of practical tips, crafts, and artists' work.

Buy it on Amazon!
You should really buy the book, if not for you, then for someone you love. For now, I'll show you a little of what I did with Allison to merit two spots in Passed and Present.

Memory Keeper

Allison inherited a collection of her grandmother's recipe notebooks, which were packed with decades of glued-in magazine clippings (sometimes layered one atop the other) and her handwritten favorites, plus critical evaluations written in pen and pencil: "Excellent," "Very good," "So-So"....

I love that "Recipes Of The Stars" card so, sooo much. See those little clippings
at center and bottom? Those are Grandmother's notes, and happily most are
"Very Good" 
Allison wanted a way to see and display her grandmother's favorite recipes and her handwriting. Together, we chose three boxes--two small cigar boxes and one medium-sized, lidded wooden box that used to house some very fine wines. (I didn't drink the wines. I just get the boxes from a neighbor, who is a chef). Then I went to work to decoupage Allison's favorite images and recipes on each. The two small boxes went to Allison and her brother, each with a treasured recipe and Grandmother's handwritten note, "Allison's favorite" and "Jay's favorite" on the lid. The wine box, seen here, is also big enough to carry the rest of the recipe books.

It's covered inside and out with great pictures and handwritten comments.
Film Vases and Bowls

The other commissioned project I made for Allison is a pair of objects made out of her family's old 8mm home movies. I've talked before about making vases and bowls out of film stock and movies that I pick up at tag sales and on eBay.  

Allison made digital copies of all the 8mm movies she inherited--hooray for The Cloud, right?--then handed me the originals.

I had so many reels that I was able to make two pieces for her: one with a piece of redwood burl as the base, and one with a vibrant Greek ceramic coaster. 8mm is too narrow to make very tall pieces, but I think these turned out beautifully.

The bowl is about 10 inches in diameter, and the vase is about 8 inches tall.
I used water-based polyurethane on these, for a matte effect. Folks at
Allison's book tour meetings, called "Memory Bashes," are pretty much
astonished by these, which they keep thinking must be made out of records.
Passed and Present is selling well, and it's getting rave reviews in People Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Thank you, Allison, for this opportunity, and may your Memory Bashes all be awesome!

If you'd like to commission a box, bowl or vase, or pick out a pre-made film vase or decoupaged box (featuring old comics and cultural icons), contact me directly at tanyamonier@gmail.com or via Etsy, through my shop, Happy Badger Industries.

In a year of huge cultural losses, global (including but not at all limited to Bowie and Prince) and local (Tarrytown's Hank's Alley, The Thrifty Squirrel, and beloved W@tercooler all closed this year), I'm glad that I can do something to keep my own lost loves bright, encased in resin, literal and digital.

Till next time!

Copyright 2016, Tanya Monier


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Welcome to The Happy Badger!

Welcome, welcome! I figure I'll introduce myself by retelling a little story about how the blog and business got its name. Enjoy! Tomorrow,  I'll be sharing my Memory Keeper story about Allison Gilbert, wonderful woman and author of the new book (released today and on Amazon!) Passed and Present.

Please do visit the Etsy store, Happy Badger Industries.

So...Why "The Happy Badger"?

The answer to “Why the name?” is easier than “Why the whole curb-shopping thing?” so I’ll start with that.

The time: spring, 1998. The world still reeled from Princess Diana’s death, though it had occurred months earlier.

The place: Mainz, Germany. The town square flaunted a monumental banner advertising The Spice Girls’ movie, Spice World.

The moment: The man I loved, loved, loved had defied my cynical expectations and had moved from glorious Santa Barbara to gray Germany, to be with me. We were snuggling in my rented attic room. Its sloping ceiling, against which my lover always cracked his head when he sat up in bed, made Anne Frank’s attic look palatial.

At his suggestion, I had just finished reading Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf.

In my romantic bliss, I recognized a kinship with “Angeline,” who excitedly, delightedly greeted her mate “George” every time they met, no matter how many or how few moments had passed since they parted.

“You remind me of George,” I murmured.  “So strong and loving….Or, maybe you are a noble stag, like Bambi’s dad.”

My lover gave me a sidelong glance and a quick huff through his nose.

“Soooo…” I went fishing for a compliment. “What animal do I remind you of?”

No bites.
“Um… hello?” No murmur now. “What animal do I remind you of?”
Quiet thought crinkled the edges of his eyes.

I waited, eager to hear “wolf,” which surely would indicate that we were meant to be together forever. My ego demanded “hawk” or “lion,” something fearless and strong. But even felis catus would have pleased me. Yes, at that moment, I would have been mighty contented to be this man’s pet.

“Hmmm….” He hesitated a moment longer, then pronounced, “I think you’re a badger.”

End romantic reverie. Cut to barroom brawl.

Just as a general warning, Readers, never ever call your female lover “a badger.” I can guarantee that she will instantly become one. This warning goes double, triple, if your lover happens to have spent twenty-one of her twenty-five years on earth loving and studying and teaching the English language.

“I’m a WHAT?!! You DO know that “badger” is a VERB, right? And it’s NOT a GOOD verb! There are NO positive connotations associated with ‘badgering’ something! And,” I howled, “I’m tall! I’m not a damned badger!”

Literally and figuratively, I had my lover in a corner. He flushed but held his ground.

“I’m sure that a badger could be very sweet and loving when she’s happy—”

That “I’m sure” and that “could be” were directly responsible for at least fifteen extra minutes of shrieking, snarling, spitting rage.

But, bless him, my lover never fled me. And I didn’t kick him to the curb. To quote Charlotte Bronte, “Reader, I married him.” Truth be told, I am the Mr. Rochester in this relationship, and my husband is Jane Eyre.

It's 2013.

We live in Westchester County.
People still grieve for the loss of Princess Diana. When I see the latest oversexualized princess of pop shake what her mama gave her, I grieve for the loss of the Spice Girls.

From time to time over our nearly fifteen years of marriage, I have thrown my husband's ridiculous pronouncement back in his face. I even tell the story to skittish lovers to assure them that they should hold steady and not take the wildly insensitive things our beloved says too much to heart.

My husband has never bowed to my pressure to find me another animal comparison, dammit. (That’s probably because he’s the noble Prince of the Forest, humph.)

But, what I find more astonishing is that all these years later, his choice makes sense. A hawk flies high and far, but it is an isolated, anti-social creature: not me. A lioness is pretty awesome, but she’s too often willing to share her mate with others: NOT me. I like to cuddle, but I am no one’s kitty cat. And, to be honest, those animals are happiest when they have blood on their beaks or teeth.

The fact is, now that I am a wife-mother-tutor-curb-shopper-upcycler-blogger, I am genuinely happy. I love my suburban den and my family with all my furry, mammalian heart. I will bristle from my curly hair to my hairy toes and snarl and spit at anything that threatens them. I love to trundle around from place to place, juggling socializing and isolating activities.

Turns out that I am, indeed, The Happy Badger.

Copyright 2013 Tanya Monierhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1580056121/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1460517740&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=passed+and+present+gilbert

Monday, July 20, 2015

My Ear Problem, pt. 3: Needle

I'm going to get all testy for a paragraph or two. You just focus on
this serene image of the Hudson River, and know that it's going to be ok.

With the regular application of hot onion, briney epsom salt baths, and the blessed passage of time, I'm experiencing more watercooler-type blubbling going on in my left ear every day now, which is good! No question about the goodness! Although along with healing comes fluid shifts in the ear that cause a tidal wave of vertigo from time to time! Also, (temporary, but significant) hearing loss! My ENT, Dr. Jill Zeitlin, said all of that with exclamation points, so I will, too! I need to say that if Dr. Zeitlin weren't so kind and decent and whip-smart, her waaay cheerful style might irk....

Since the first post about my Ear Problem, friends flooded me with suggestions, including more onion ideas--strap them to your feet and sleep with feet elevated-- and Bikram Hot Yoga. I've got restless legs when I sleep, so no, no thanks to foot onion.
I'll let The Friendly Atheist put an end to further onion suggestions for me

As for Bikram Hot Yoga: I live in New York and my air conditioner died juuuuust as the torturous summer heat kicked in, so I get to enjoy Bikram Hot Living for free.

Thanks, reactiongifs. I love Key & Peele so much.
No hot yoga. Sensitively Air Conditioned Yoga with a breeze that will keep me dry and refreshed? I will consider becoming a disciple of that.

But I did take one suggestion, and I am very glad I did. I got acupuncture.

After being clenched up for so long, I feared that I would need some radical intervention. Like THIS.

 You coax, "But, just look at how calm Hellraiser's Pinhead is, Badger!"
I say, "Yes, yes, I can see the appeal....I wonder if he does Bikram Hot Yoga?"
I'm not a total novice to acupuncture, but the last guy I visited a decade ago would check my pulse and look at my tongue, while asking detailed questions about my emotional state. Each time, he'd nod sagely (and I mean that as an insult) and serenely intone, "No need to tell me. I can see it all through your pulse and tongue." At what became my last session, I replied, "You tell me," to his question, "So, how are you feeling?" and he snarked, "Well, now WE KNOW how you're feeling!"

So, yeah, I'm cynical and jaded and a bit terrified of handing over money to someone who uses the Royal We when speaking.

Fortunately, I didn't let any of that stop me from visiting Hudson River Acupuncture, a community acupuncture venture which sits modestly on the ground floor of the Van Tassel Building on Beekman Avenue.
Store C, 95 Beekman Avenue, Sleepy Hollow, to be exact
 It doesn't look like a guru palace, inside or out. For me, that's a good thing.

First, I met Pat, who is there most weekdays. He took good notes and got me set up quickly.

This is Pat.
It should be noted that my photo doesn't show that Pat has the intelligent, hugely dark eyes of News Hour's Jim Lehrer.

I mean that as a compliment to both Pat and Mr. Lehrer
And there's Gina, who takes the weekends. She's also remarkably thoughtful, gentle, and kind.
The acupuncture area itself is quite large--you will not be alone, Visitor, but you will be ok--and looks a little like my kids tried to turn the zero gravity chairs into ghosts.

Pat settled me in for treatment. Be sure to wear something you can comfortably pull up over your knees.
"Ready?" he quietly asked.
"Yes, but first (sigh, 21st century problems, Pat)...let me take a selfie."
Selfie Footie. It's a long way to Tipperary, you know?

Needles in head, face, jaw, ankles, knees, wrists. Now, time to relax.

I'm not the first person to say how weird it is to trust your body to a stranger who pokes needles into you then walks away. But weirder would be if he hung around wanting to chat, right?

My heart rate slowed and the heart palpitations I've been experiencing along with the Ear Problem (more or less permanently) subsided. Did it drain the ear? Eh, who knows? The pain did subside, and the effect lasted for days. If it's a legitimate treatment, hooray! If it's the placebo effect, bring it on!

By the end of our first session, I was ready to recommend them to you, all of you.

But before you pull out the needles, Pat, sigh, let me take a selfie....

Hudson River Acupuncture
95 Beekman Ave., Store C
Sleepy Hollow, New York 10591
(914) 909-6360
First treatment: $40. Following sessions: sliding scale $25-40, suggested fee $30

copyright 2015, Tanya Monier