Upcycled Tool Belt

A friend of mine gave me two unused canvas tool belts that advertise a hardware store that I don’t work for. I decided to cover up the advertisement and create a more robust belt loop by sewing on some recycled upholstery material. I used recycled trim, a recycled belt and some thread to make something that turned out really comfortable to wear. I’ll test the functionality today when I wear it to hold my hand tools while I work on the garden at a client’s house. Going to work is a lot more fun when you can express your personality with your tools!

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Mother crawdad with babies
I used my childhood crawdad catching skills to hand-catch the most “Macro” invertebrate of the day – a large mother crawdad with tiny babies clinging to the underside of her tail. We released all the animals back into the water after we had a look at them.

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are animals without a backbone that live in water and can be seen with the naked eye. I’ve had an interest in these creatures ever since I can remember. When I was young I caught a variety of water invertebrates such as water beetles, clams, crawdads and snails and attempted to maintain them in my aquariums. I was thrilled when my brother’s aquarium started to grow hydra even though they predate on tiny fish, because I’d read about them but never thought I’d see any. I currently have small colonies of freshwater shrimp in three of my aquariums. Many aquatic invertebrates are insects that live part of their life cycles in water but have an adult flying stage.

When the Litzinger Road Ecology Center offered a training workshop for volunteers on how Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are used to monitor water quality, of course I had to attend. Master Naturalist and Stream Team member Cliff Parmer taught us some Aquatic Entomology facts then we went outside to Deer Creek to learn how to take a scientific sample of water invertebrates.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Blog: Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Bringing color into a shady spot

Columbines with Liriope and
Columbines with Liriope and “Gold” Creeping Jenny groundcover.

I recently had a client ask me how to get more color into his shady yard. If you have a lot of shade in your garden and want a lot of color, that’s a challenge. Most flowering shade plants don’t bloom as heavily as plants for sun. Here are some ideas to help you get some color even with this limitation.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog: Bringing color into a shady spot

MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues

The Metropolitan Sewer District has been working hard on outreach to inform the public about Project Clear. In their own words, Project Clear is the “planning, design and construction of MSD’s initiative to improve water quality and alleviate many wastewater concerns in the St. Louis region.” MSD operates in both St. Louis City and County.

What are some examples of wastewater concerns in our region? Flooding, erosion, water pollution and sewer backups are some issues that affect many of our neighbors if not ourselves. MSD deals with both stormwater, which is intended to discharge directly into the natural environment, and wastewater, which needs to be treated at a wastewater treatment plant before release. MSD is undertaking large scale projects right now that are estimated to take 23 years to complete.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog: schnarrsblog.com

Do you have discarded woody plant material? Try making a Bonsai!

This sad-looking bush would a make a nice bonsai!
This sad-looking bush would a make a nice bonsai!

Sometimes plants that don’t look right for their intended purpose can be suitable for Bonsai. For example, this Privet bush (Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’) was removed and replaced because it didn’t look right in the hedge where it had been growing.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog: schnarrsblog.com

Make a Storage Box Out of Recycled Mat Board

 

storage box out of recycled mat board

When matting artwork, it’s common to have a lot of mat board scraps left over. I had a number of scraps that were large enough to make small open top storage boxes. If you would like to make one similar, here is how I did it.

You will need:
5 square mat board pieces of equal size
An assortment of collage papers
An assortment of tools for decorating paper – I used stencils, rubber stamps, paint, printmaking ink, markers and colored pencils
Yes Paste
Clean scrap paper
Bone folder or Squeegee multipurpose tool
Old credit card or your favorite glue-spreading tool
Acrylic medium
Paint brush
Tim Holtz Idea-ology Metal Box Corners – they come in a package of 8 and you’ll need 4 corners per box
Pencil
Awl
Chunk of old wood
Metal corner braces
Old belts or strips of leather or faux leather
Metal brads

First take your five mat board pieces and decorate both sides with collage papers combined with the paper embellishing techniques of your choice. Use water resistant inks because you’ll be applying acrylic medium over your collages later. Yes Paste is my favorite glue for sticking down large pieces of paper that have to look flat and free of wrinkles. I apply the glue with a credit card to get a nice thin layer then after laying down the paper piece I’m gluing I put a clean piece of scrap paper on top and burnish with a bone folder or Squeegee tool to get a tight, flat seal.

While working on this project at Perennial, another member asked me where I get my paper ephemera. The short answer to that question is that I’ve been collecting papers since the year I first got turned on to making collages – 1985! A more involved answer is to suggest some of the following sources of interesting papers:

  • Old magazines and catalogs.
  • Is someone you know doing some major cleaning? Offer to help in exchange for keeping interesting papers. This is a good way to get old graphic design samples, newspapers, books, maps, photos, negatives, stamps, envelopes, tickets – all kinds of neat stuff.
  • Purchase some reproduction ephemera from a craft supplier.
  • Save your art and paper craft “failures” and experiments. Whenever you have extra paint or ink, add a little more embellishment to your scraps until you get something you like. Toward the end of this article are examples of some great results I got using this method – Fun With Stencils.
  • Check thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, etc.
  • Shop a teachers resource recycling center like Leftovers, etc.
  • Make your own with any paper technique that you like, or a combination of techniques, such as rubber stamping, stenciling, painting, printing, making paste paper, rubbings, handmade paper, computer printouts, cyanotypes or drawing.
  • Use the decorative paper pads commonly sold for scrapbooking. There are designs for every taste and decorating style.

When you are satisfied with your designs, brush both sides of your mat board pieces with acrylic medium for durability and let dry.

Next start assembling your box from the bottom up, using the box corner hardware and the metal brads included in the package. Use a pencil to mark where the holes go and punch out the holes with an awl. An old chunk of wood is handy for protecting your work surface from the awl point. Be carful with the awl and aim it away from yourself while pressing down and through. Push brads through holes and spread the tines from the inside of the box to assemble the four bottom corners.

At this point the top four corners are loose and flapping so you’ll need something to stabilize them and keep your box shaped like a cube. At Perennial I rummaged through the spare hardware bins and found a couple of metal corner braces which worked wonderfully when attached with brass brads. There were only two available so I looked for something else for the other corners. You can buy metal corner braces at a hardware store and use them on all four top corners if you like.

Storage box with pieces of old belts on the corners
Storage box with pieces of old belts attached to some of the corners with metal brads

At Perennial there is a box of old belts and belts have holes! Idea! I selected some to cut down and use on the other corners. Attached with brads, they work well with the “grunge” look of my boxes. If you lack old belts, you can use a variety of materials that can be cut into strips and have holes poked in it – plastic from old lids, scraps of faux leather, scraps of real leather, thin metal – what do you have lying around that you want to try?

Mixing Different Paper Crafting Brands Together

Paper crafting supplies include things you use in scrapbooking, rubber stamping, journaling, card making, planners and more. Paper craft companies make coordinated lines of products that are designed to look great together. Recently I made samples for a promotion at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in which I used only products sold in their store. Within that criteria I did a little mixing of brands. I’m continuing to work on the journal prototype because I’m still having major fun with it. I’m developing some templates to help combine the Heidi Swapp journaling products I was demonstrating with making a custom planner. I’m bringing in more product that I already own from other brands. It’s challenging to get the different product lines to harmonize together but it’s satisfying and fun too. I’m getting some results that please me, anyway!

Heidi Swapp journaling pages and stickers.
In the center are some Heidi Swapp journaling pages and stickers. I picked out product from my stash that I thought might blend well. The Heidi Swap product line is pretty easy to blend because it includes both geometric and floral motifs. My layouts can go in either a traditional or modern direction – or I can attempt to blend the two as the Heidi Swapp designers have done. I looked for similarities in colors, shapes and patterns.
Samples of Journaling Page Layouts
Brands I mixed on these pages include Heidi Swapp, Tim Holtz, Project Life, Fiskars and DCWV. On the right side I made a pocket out of kraft card stock and a cut-down Project Life card, embellished with vellum paper, stickers and paper tape.
Journaling Page Layout Samples
Heidi Swapp journaling pages with Tim Holtz paper tape and miscellaneous papers cut with a hexagon punch by Creative Memories. Making some of the hexagons blank gives the design breathing room and also space for small stamps, stickers or writing later. The black binding rings are by 7gypsies.
Journaling Page Layout Samples
Again using Heidi Swapp journaling pages as a base, I found some harmony between a Project Life card and some Tim Holtz paper and paper tape. I want to go on a road trip now so I can write on these pages and add some photos!

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

The tone of public discourse about politics in our country today alarms a lot of people of different political persuasions. Events in my recent personal history have caused me to educate myself about emotional abuse tactics that others have used against me. I’ve noticed that a lot of these tactics are prominent in social media and the “mainstream” media. It seems to permeate almost all pop culture, entertainment and “news” which is why I avoid most of it and have for many years. I thought it would be interesting to compare emotional abuse tactics that I have personally experienced with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and see if there is any overlap.

Here are links to the source documents I used for my comparison:

And here are the results:

My Personal Experience Rules for Radicals
Intended target I was likely perceived as vulnerable because of grieving a deep personal loss and having suffered a recent and extreme career and financial downturn Low-income communities and “have nots”
Gaslighting Ex-boyfriend tried to convince me that I have a lot of illnesses and that my web site gave him a virus. Ex-boss told me I’m not smart enough to learn things in classes I wanted to take. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
Name-calling and put-downs Just in the last week I’ve had the following terms applied to me – “dumb”, “mouth-breathing”, “brain-dead”, “stupid”, “subhuman dwarf”. These were in one-on-one interactions where the people knew exactly who they were addressing.
My ex-boyfriend mocked my physical appearance and gloated and mocked me over signs that I was hurt by his actions.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also
works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
Isolating you from your support networks My ex-boyfriend put down my family and sabotaged a reunion I had with some friends I hadn’t seen in years.
My ex-boss instructed co-workers not to help me with my projects.
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the
target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Projection – accusing you of doing things they are doing themselves My ex-boyfriend had a lot of debt and I have none but he accused me numerous times of being bad at handling money. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks When people taunt you and hurt you until you react, they can accuse you of all kinds of things, such as being neurotic and mentally ill. And that’s just the beginning! “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong Abusive people have criticized me for not having enough money then got angry at me for working too hard.
I’ve been put down for taking classes to help me with my career while simultaneously being put down by the same person for my career not being sufficiently successful. I’ve been put down for things that I think are common sense – getting exercise, wearing sunscreen, eating healthy food, losing weight, saving my retirement money for retirement, combining car trips to save on gas. An abusive ex-roommate used to put down my hair color (it was natural then!). There doesn’t seem to be any aspect of my life that is too trivial for someone else to take notice of and attack.
“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance.

Results: there is not a one-to-one correspondence, but there is some overlap. I recommend you read the signs of emotional abuse very carefully – is someone in your personal life using those tactics against you? Is the media using those tactics against you? Are political movements using those tactics against you? I’m not pointing the finger at only one side here – I’ve been abused by people from different political points of view. My goal in writing this is to make you more aware of abuse in your life and inspire you to refuse to tolerate it – no matter who is doing it to you!

How to Raise Mealworms For Your Backyard Birds


Mealworm larva, pupae and adult

Life stages of the mealworm beetle in my hand – one larva, two pupae and one adult

Late winter and early spring are good seasons to attract desirable bird species to your yard. Birds are not brooding eggs yet because they need to wait until later in spring when there is enough insect food to feed their young. However, they are now engaged in, well, getting engaged! In other words many birds are scouting out nest sites and selecting mates if they haven’t done that already. Some of the most sought-after backyard bird species are heavy insect eaters. Raising live mealworms is so easy, I started by accident!

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware blog:
How to Raise Mealworms For Your Backyard Birds

Get Hands-On with Journaling

I hope you can join me for a demo this Saturday, March 18 from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Maplewood, Missouri. Try your hand at writing, lettering and embellishing a journal page. We’ll supply you with background paper, a rubber date stamp, stickers and 48 colors of gel pens for you to try out!

A hands-on opportunity to try out some fun products at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts
A hands-on opportunity to try out some fun products at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts

The samples I made will be on display and I’ll be demonstrating in the store while helping you out with your own designs. Take home a personalized page that you can put in a journal, a planner, a memory planner or a scrapbook.

The samples I created using paper, stickers and a rubber stamp by Heidi Swapp, accented with other products sold at JoAnn.
My samples showing journaling techniques with products by Heidi Swapp, accented with other products sold at JoAnn.

If you can’t make the demo in person, go to the JoAnn Facebook page on March 21 at 7:00 pm ET for a live presentation hosted by creativebug.