make your own: travel watercolor set.

    August 11, 2022

    For the last long lazy weeks of summer, here’s the gift of the world’s simplest travel water color set. It’s quick to make, easy to carry, and it offers a little something novel to get through these dog days.

    Rose and I used our origami folder tutorial to make a compact little case for toting watercolors. A small stack of these became party activities/favors for Faye’s birthday back in May. I brought sets along with us while camping for capturing camp scenes and keep them tucked into the car for weekend trips. They’ll be my go-to kid birthday party gift for the foreseeable future.

    To make the paper palette we squirted thick dots of watercolors from tubes onto small squares of water color paper. These paint dots dry and can be wet again and mixed right on the paper. Slide extra squares of watercolor paper into a pocket inside the folder and add a little scrap of fabric for blotting. Paired with a watercolor bladder brush, the set is ready for travel.

    When the mood strikes, use the outside of the folder as a makeshift easel by tucking the palette in one side of the opened folder and your canvas on the other. After painting, let the palette dry again, place everything back in the interior pockets, and secure the folder with the elastic.

    A few specifics that might be helpful:

    + To make each case, we followed the instructions for making origami folders and used one 184 lb. Mixed Media Toned Tan 9″x12″ sheet. The thickness of the paper creates a sturdy case, but can be slightly difficult to fold cleanly. Try using the back of a spoon or a butter knife to get a clean fold!

    + If you don’t have a heavy duty hole punch to get through the thick paper, you can also use an awl to make small holes for the elastic closure. Make sure you punch your holes into the right side (or back) of the folder, if you’d like your folder to open left-to-right with the interior pockets along the bottom edge.

    + For our closure, we used 1mm fabric elastic cord in light brown but a range of elastics works here. When I ran out of craft elastic I used thicker leftover face mask elastic and it worked just fine. If you’d rather avoid elastic altogether, you can also go without a closure at all, or add a ribbon or string to tie and untie.

    + Fillable water brushes make on-the-go watercolors especially easy.

    things i will do in august.

    August 4, 2022

    I skipped making a list for July but a year after daydreaming about it, we loaded up an old station wagon with duffle bags and bumped along dirt roads. We put up a tent and our out-of-office messages. We caught fish and swam like them.

    In August, we have summer camps and daycare to get us back to our more typical grind, which honestly comes as a bit of a relief. There are big projects to put brainpower behind and after so much togetherness, I think we’re all enjoying days spent a little more apart. Blessed be the childcare providers. Still, there’s only so much hustling that anyone can muster in the dog days of summer, so we’ll try to make room for the long and lazy stuff, too. Last night, it was celebrating ten years married with music in the park and a post-dusk bike ride and staying up far too late.

    Other things I will do in August:

    + Pack more picnics.

    + Read a novel. (Hopefully two.)

    + Remember to wear my helmet.

    + Make sun tea.

    + Eat every available tomato.

    + Finally announce a big project if I’m feeling very brave.

    habit shift: souvenirs.

    July 28, 2022

    Recently it came to my attention that Faye thought Cape Cod was the name of a prolific sweatshirt company and not a popular vacation destination. In the past few weeks we have been in and out of our share of balsam-scented souvenir shops. We’ve been tried and tempted by embroidered Adirondack patches bearing bald eagles and bear prints. We’ve very nearly been responsible for the crash of an entire display case of ADK-printed water bottles. We’ve seen more chiseled black bears bearing signs that say Go Away in a jaunty script than I could count. Buffalo plaid? Check. Adirondack chairs by the hundreds? Of course. Bonus if they’re over-sized and made for picture taking.

    Having encountered compasses in one too many junior naturalist guides, we did our part to support the Adirondack tourist industry and bought our small campers tiny compasses on carabiners from the local camp store. They were most assuredly not used for orienteering and everyone in the family had a slightly different and incorrect take on how they’re supposed to function. On one hike, Silas hooked all three carabiners together and hung them off the strap of his backwards baseball cap so that he looked like some kind of terrestrial anglerfish prowling through the woods. We bought a small bottle of Adirondack-made maple syrup and a small bottle of honey and enjoyed both daily at breakfast while camping. We’ll polish off the rest here in Brooklyn.

    But my favorite kind of souvenir, no surprise, is the one that doesn’t get put on a shelf or forgotten about immediately upon its homecoming. The best souvenirs settle themselves right into the way of things—souvenir objects that transition themselves into everyday objects. On this trip, we bought a yellow birch bowl. It’s wide and a little tall and it fits solidly in between the palms of two hands. We found it a local craft fair where my kids regaled the bowl maker with their recently stockpiled fish factoids and the bowl maker regaled my kids with videos of his lathe shooting curls of wood around his North Country studio. The bowl doesn’t say ADK on it or boast the silhouette of a moose. Indeed, to anyone else’s eye, the bowl is just a bowl. But at dinner on nights when it holds our family’s salad or at breakfast when it cradles fresh peaches, we’ll remember—or at least not forget—our two weeks in the woods and the friendly bowl maker who left his mark on the bowl’s bottom. Gary Pierce, Yellow Birch, 2022.

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