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Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 | 2 comments

Making New Soap from Old Soap

Making New Soap from Old Soap

These are all the remnants of soap I’ve been setting aside for almost two years. Some of the artisanal soaps hail from Wessex Soap which we profiled a while back, and from Truly-Life, the home-based business of Del Ray resident, Mellenie Runion, who also grows and sells loofah. Although I’ll keep buying handmade soap, it makes sense to whip up some upcycled soap bars from those odds and ends that otherwise end up in the trash. It’s really easy too. First, I broke up the pieces into small chunks. Then, with help from my youngest daughter, Nadja, I grated a few pieces that serve as the “base” and get the whole melting process going on the stove. You can use a double boiler or make the equivalent, like I did, by resting a bowl inside a pot filled with water. The soap pieces went into the pot over the boiling water. Part way through the melting process, I added some boiling water to the mixture and stirred. From what I...

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Posted by on Jul 17, 2013 | 5 comments

Mapping Your Garden with a Nature Journal

Mapping Your Garden with a Nature Journal

When I heard about the Art & Nature series at Huntley Meadows Park, a 1,500 wetland park in Fairfax County, I knew I wanted to try my hand at nature illustration. I also realized I might also solve an ongoing dilemma in my life: To reliably keep track of what I plant in my patio garden. The workshop I attended last week at Del Ray Artisans with Margaret Wohler, staff naturalist and illustrator with Huntley Meadows Park, satisfied both desires. Margaret began the workshop inside by having us arrange different sorts of leaves and then draw and color in the negative space. The exercise trained our eyes to look at plants in a new way, rather than automatically drawing what we know in our minds to be a leaf. In this “Tiny Landscape Mandala” workshop, we each received a sketch book, drawing pencil, sharpener, eraser, and watercolor set. After finishing our warm-up exercise, we went outside with embroidery hoops and encircled  a “tiny landscape” to draw. Like the 19th century Victorian...

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Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 | 1 comment

Very Phara’s Furniture Rescue

Very Phara’s Furniture Rescue

In her charming Del Ray cottage, with a front porch surrounded by gorgeous flowering vines and ornamental perennials, Phara turns curbside castaways into beautiful works of art. She’s a talented DIYer with a keen eye for furniture rescue and rehab, a skill she learned from her grandmother. I visited Phara to check out her collection. Most of her pieces were either found on the street or purchased at yard sales and thrift stores. Classic older furniture is usually built well, so while the finish may be damaged, the pieces themselves are structurally sound with many more years of use ahead of them. For example, take a look at this dresser Phara found on the street. She cleaned out all of the cob webs and sanded and re-stained the top in a dark walnut finish. For a one-of-a-kind fresh look, she painted the bottom portion in a vintage blue chalk paint and sanded the edges. Now she uses it as a sideboard and bar in her dining room. This dining table was...

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Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 | 3 comments

Urban Birding: The Old Town Ospreys

Urban Birding: The Old Town Ospreys

You don’t have to travel far to see some pretty amazing wildlife in Alexandria. I read about the family of osprey taking residence along the waterfront in Old Town and had to witness this ornithological extravaganza in person. The family is easy to find. First, head on over to Founders Park along Union Street in Old Town. You’ll see the giant nest sitting on a dock post in the river. Walk to the end of Dock H for primo viewing. Admire the gazebo and nautical-industrial lamps along the way… At the end of the dock (watch out there aren’t any railings) you’ll be able to get within 50 feet of the nest, a carefully constructed dwelling comprised of large sticks and debris. Osprey are known for building nests on telephone poles, so it’s no big surprise this family set up shop here. While the babies rest comfortably, watch as mama bird goes hunting for fish, the sole diet of the osprey. Her wide wingspan is glorious and graceful. She’s fierce and skilled,...

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Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 | 0 comments

The Wide World of Market Bags

The Wide World of Market Bags

Farmers’ markets are not only a chance to see a rainbow of produce and other whole foods, but also a great place to people watch and view the unique and stylish market totes and bags on parade. Here are some stand-out bags you might see on an average Saturday morning at our own bustling farmers’ market. A bike basket overflowing with tomato starts… The classic French market tote… A more contemporary counterpart. I often see a few in different colors… A woven basket the perfect size for quarts of berries and some savory treats… These colorful straw totes were perfect for gathering swappable items at our Spring food swap and would work equally well at the weekly farmers’ market… Stephanie, one of my friends from the Alexandria knitsters meetup made this super cute and sturdy market tote as holiday gift for a friend, so I decided to make one too. I opted for a simpler and quicker crochet pattern. This was my first ever crochet project, but with a...

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