Friday, March 28, 2014

Let's Play With Shellac!

Shellac: Ye olde sealer made by dissolving the "resin excretions" of this freaky bug, Kerria lacca, in ethanol.

Thanks, Wikipedia...

Has your gag reflex calmed down yet? Good, because shellac is AWESOME.

You'll find shellac at hardware stores; expect to pay between $15-$22 per quart. Standard colors for shellac are amber and clear.

Awesome Fact #1: Shellac can be tinted. Buy tubes of colorant from a store like Wallauer's (NOT Home Depot, not only because I don't like HD, but because they don't carry tints) and GO TO TOWN with luminescent color effects.

Awesome Fact #2: Shellac goes on like water, seeping into every tiny crack, nook, and cranny. Then it dries ROCK hard. (yeah, I am using a lot of caps today--I'm impressed!)

Awesome Fact #3: Shellac may be the wonder sealant that you, Crafty Reader, have been looking for.
It can make floppy 16 mm films into porcelain-hard vases, even if you bend them into cornucopias.

(Thanks to Wendy Russell, Canadian craft maven, for this idea. If you search US cable for a station called "Ion" you too can enjoy her funny, clever HGTV Canada show, "She's Crafty.")

A cornucopia of awesomeness...?
Red-tinted shellac and a bit of imagination resulted
in this rectangular bowl with a 1-inch lip. 

Thin square. That golden hue is natural to the film.
I need to come up with a good interior base. Naturally, I'm selling these and more:


Warning about Shellac: Be sure you want to turn something into a glassy, rock hard object before you lay on the shellac. Once you shellac, you can't go back...literally.

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Right Way To Re-Gift!

Spring is sneaking its toe back into the icy pool of the Northeast. I'm seeing squirrels. I'm seeing robins. I'm seeing large numbers of snow shovels in the trash.
Ah, yes, the Badger is waking from her winter hibernation and finding that cruising the neighborhoods at night has value again.

Before Springtime Clean-Up gets too out-of-hand, however, I'd like to ask you Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow folk to keep some items OUT of my grubby little paws.

Here's What:

1. Wheelchairs (and other items for the care of the elderly or injured)
2. New-With-Tag gift-type items (soaps, gift baskets, purses, glassware, etc)
3. Office Supplies (including working PCs)

Here's Why:

Tarrytown's own Neighborhood House needs these items.

If you don't know much about Neighborhood House, you're not alone. It quietly does its good work in this unassuming little building on the corner of Wildey and Washington Avenues.

The (mostly volunteer) staff offer locals seniors and students a comfortable place to engage in a number of activities, including Girl Scout meeting, SAT study sessions, exercise programs, and art classes. They even lend out crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs, a fact I learned firsthand in 2001, when I tore a ligament in my foot and Neighborhood House lent me a perfect pair of crutches.

After dropping off these walkers last fall (which I discuss more in "Give It Away NOW"), I asked Karla, a fixture at the front desk, what they need most at Neighborhood House. She listed the three categories above.

Karla put an emphasis on Neighborhood House's need for gift-type items. So, if you are feeling the Call of the Wild and want to dump those gifty things that have been languishing in your closet, drop them at Neighborhood House.

These items will be raffled off at their Springtime "Penny Social" (a term I know only because of the Little House on the Prairie novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder). Much-needed funds will be used to sustain their regular programs for seniors.

Now, is that the right way to re-gift or what?

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

CSAs: Damn, That's My Jam!

It took local friends two years of persuasion to get us to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) called Rexcroft Farms.
Hiya! Rexcroft Farm's Farmer Dan.
I am so glad that we did, mainly because I love Rexcroft's fresh, local, organic fruit. This endless winter has made me doubly grateful for the CSA because we're still getting that taste of summer, thanks to homemade blueberry, strawberry, peach, and plum jams, which I cook and then toss into the freezer in Tupperware containers.

I know, I know: I should promote old-school techniques like canning.

For decades, my little Syrian-born mama and my finest living definition of "Hustle," has plucked fruit from her backyard trees in Sacramento--peaches, apricots, cherries, quince. And like it's no big deal, she makes a year's worth of canned jams and home-made fruit rolls. On family visits, I still load up on jams, especially quince, which is exquisite.

But it is a big deal for me to gather the necessary tools and stand, heat-rashed and cursing, over boiling pots in my 90 degree, un-air-conditioned New York kitchen. I'm thrilled to cut out one blazing hot step of canning by freezing them.
These days, I make PB&J sandwiches for myself using my jam masterpiece: Orange-Juice-Vanilla-Kentucky-Bourbon-Plum. (Yep, I made up that recipe.) And every time I eat it, I sing to myself "Two Clouds Above Nine," a great tune by 90s rave-masters Deee-Lite: "Damn, that's my jam!" 

Lady Miss Kier: Use your magic powers to Bring Back Spring!

Seriously, you should consider joining a CSA, too. True, CSA offerings are sometimes confusing. Consider Kohlrabi...


...spawn of a turnip and Diva Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element.

Freaky, yes! Happily, it's also delicious, as I discovered when I got adventuresome with Mark Bittman's genius cookbook How To Cook Everything.

That's really what CSA membership is about: showing up every week and taking a chance on real, fresh, local food. You won't regret the decision.

Check out these two very local CSA options:
1. Rexcroft Farms: Contact Barbara Carr (, or via Facebook)
2. Mobius Fields: Contact Deb Taft (, or via Facebook)

It also helps to get a deep freezer for the extra corn, tomatoes, and jams. And look, you lucky Westchester folk, you can get this one FOR FREE on craigslist right now:
Or...not. Your choice.

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hustle, pt. 3: Hank's Alley

Not long ago, Hank, my second-hand-furniture-dealing crush, gruffed at me, "Honey, you got Hustle."

Hank should know. Hank has Hustle. And I mean that as a compliment.
You can understand my crush: just look at that man, hanging out with Elwood and Jake.
I wander through his shop, Hank's Alley, at least once a week. It's the one antique store in town that doesn't think of itself as an antique store. That means I can afford stuff.

Hank's the only businessman I have ever met who regularly says, "Don't worry about the price on that tag. If you want it, I'll make sure you can get it."

This brutally cold winter has been brutal to all local businesses, Hank's included.  Today, I want to take you on a quick tour of the store, which is expanding into the second floor of the renovated firehouse on the corner of Kaldenberg and Central Ave in Tarrytown. 
The new upstairs is now set up with homey little scenes, like an Ikea showroom.
Half the furniture in my house comes from Hank: Deco wardrobes and sideboards, WWII era bookcases, rock maple dressers. end tables. Hank's Alley specializes in beautiful, unkillable, American-made furniture.

But look what else the man has for sale this winter.

An 8 foot tall birdcage. Hi, Frank, peeking out back there!

Vintage rocking horse.
Happy Days lunchbox

Winged Thai god. Ask for a special combo deal with the bird cage!
Vintage miniature kitchen appliances. American-made!

For the Disney lover in your life.
Beautiful display of stained glass windows.
Box of terrifying antique dolls.

Hank's Alley can furnish your home and your dreams (or nightmares, if you get those dolls). You call it.

Good stuff. Great prices. Go check it out.

Hours: Wed - Sun, 10am - 5pm; Mon, Tue, closed
24 Kaldenberg Place, Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone:(914) 524-9895

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Monday, March 3, 2014

Comics: Open Female Aggression and Secret Male Desire

I've been ripping up the unsellable comics, those of the Aftermath, making neat little piles: "Big, Bold Heroes," "All Things Female," and "Ads That Play On Male Fear/Desire." I'm BURNING through the Mod Podge.

Really, anybody and everybody can decoupage the heroes. Easy Peasy. Just check out "Comics Decoupage" on Etsy.
Soon, you can find this matched set on my Etsy shop.

Women in Comics: Far more interesting. I've got loads of material on that topic. Some is raw cliche:

This poor superhero got supersized and abandoned in the desert. Yeah, that's gonna happen to her male counterpart...

I had fun making this homage to Big-Haired Beauties:

Some of these Oh-So-Scantily-Clad superheroes may appear come-hithery, but their responses to men (even to heroes) is a lot more Noli Me Tangere than I expected. Frankly, I like it.

So, I decoupaged a box I like to think of simply as "Female Contempt." This ad, from the late 80s, demanded center stage.

I chose elements of two different stories for the side panels: Fantastic Four's Frankie ditches her boyfriend, bursts into flame, and flies off, alone in the universe, shouting "I'M FREE!"  


This hardcore X-Men hero smashes villains to pieces and calls a fellow mutant "FOOL"...just before she makes out with him (ah, well, I skipped that part--I'm thinking of making a makeout box)
Good results, I think. Fierce!
Even more interesting are the ads in the older comics. Those guys didn't need Netflix or Google algorithms to understand their target market's dreams, fears, and secret desires:


Weakling. Mobile. Mysterious.

Manly. Gainfully employed.
I like to think of this one as my "Little Box of Male Insecurities." I think I might have a niche market thing for Etsy...
and I have A LOT of cigar boxes to work with, thanks to a genrous neighbor.

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier