My New Obsession -- Modern Calligraphy and Lettering

I've been an artist my whole life, although I generally don't refer to myself as one. (I'm trying to get comfortable with that term.) Both of my parents are professional artists, my mom an oil and acrylic painter, and my father a professional photographer. I've always loved art, using my hands, being creative, making crafts, etc but have always kept it as a hobby. My favorite medium is watercolor painting. I've been painting my own Holiday cards with watercolor paints for years. I often gift my artwork to friends and family, and even painted my brother and sister-in-laws wedding invitation. All of this just to say, I now have a new interest in a new type of art. Something new to obsess over, and learn, and practice, and enjoy. I've been noticing modern calligraphy and lettering all over the place: restaurant signs, inspirational instagram posts, etc. So what do I do when I become obsessed with something? I learn how to do it myself! (i.e. kombucha, jackfruit recipes, protein energy balls, etc.)

I've watched MANY youtube videos. I first bought a flat head calligraphy marker. Then a paint brush marker. And then realized I should just use my watercolors and brushes, and loved the color options using paints. Lastly, a friend of mine, Sam, teaches a modern calligraphy course here in NYC, with a traditional pen (with nibs) and ink. So I went to her workshop, and further became obsessed. It was very helpful to have an actual professional critique not only my writing, but also my bad posture, (posture has a lot to do with calligraphy!) Who knows where this will go, but there is something about calligraphy and lettering that I find so soothing. It truly is a type of meditation, similar to painting, where you are using a different side of your brain, unable to think about the dumb drama in your day, and simply commit to the brush/pen in your hand, and what is coming out on paper. I like to set up my workspace with a clean desk, a nice candle, and some calming music to help get into that flow state. I don't write this post to brag about my calligraphy, but more as encouragement to try something new. Find something fun, creative, and healthy to obsess about, and practice. Practice it all the time, and watch yourself learn, grow, get better, expand, and love.  

How to Make a Holiday Wreath!

Growing up on Martha's Vineyard, we always had grapes growing on our back porch. These grape vines would grow rapidly in the summer time, latching onto the roof of the porch, and making their way connecting to nearby trees, and even creating a beautiful canopy over the outdoor shower. By late summer and early fall there were dark purple sweet Concord grapes hanging all around the porch. Because my mother is a gardener and has the greenest of thumbs, she taught me how to cut back the grape vines every winter, in order to promote new growth the following spring. So began our tradition of cutting down the grape vines sometime in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we could keep the grape vines healthy and so we could make holiday wreaths! 

This year, living in Brooklyn, we luckily have grape vines in our backyard! So I was excited to keep the tradition going and make my own holiday wreath. 

Things you'll need:

  1. Old, dry grape vines (around 5-10 per wreath)

  2. Sheers or cutters for the vines and greenery.

  3. Green wire for wreaths (you can get at many garden/flower stores, and craft stores).

  4. Fresh greenery including, boxwood, pine, evergreen, holy leaves and berries, etc.

  5. Decorations including ribbons, berries, sparkly things, etc.

  6. Gloves

Let's Get Started! 

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Cut down those vines!

Using your clippers or sheers, make sure to cut long pieces.

1. Cut down long pieces of vines. Around 5-10 per wreath that you are making. Of course these varies depending on the size of the wreath you are making. 

2. Begin to create a circular shape with the vine, simply wrapping the vine around itself. You can use anywhere from 5-10 different vines to shape your wreath. It all depends on how thick you want it to be. The more vines the more sturdy it will be.

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Shape them into circles.

Keep in mind they don't have to be perfect circles, when you put the greenery in, that will fix the shape!

3. Start collecting greenery from... anywhere/everywhere! If you live near the woods, start gathering different types of greenery, from boxwood, evergreen, pine, holly, grasses, whatever you'd like! If you don't live near these kinds of trees you can also go to the grocery store and farmers markets around this time of year and buy bundles of greenery. 

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Get all your supplies ready!

I'm using boxwood greenery and some red berries I found at Trader Joes.

4. Get your green wire ready and start laying the greenery down, all facing the same direction. (This part is very important!) You want to layer the greenery on top of each other, all facing the same way, wrapping the wire around each small bunch that you lay on top of the vines. Trying your best to hide the wire each time you wrap. And don't cut the wire! Not until you are all the way done. Just keep wrapping, and wrapping, and wrapping. 

5. At the end leave enough wire so that you can create a loop to hang the final product. 

6. Here's the fun part. Taking any decorations you make have, from red berries, to sea shells, or holy berries, or gold sparkly things (I found mine at Michael's Crafts). Start tucking these decorations into the wire, and vine wreath frame, using any extra wire you may need to really get them to stay put! You can also layer in different type of greenery at this point. 

7. Trim off any crazy branches or greenery that is sticking too far out. I like a loose kind of look. It makes it feel more homemade, which I like. But if you want a really neat and tidy wreath go ahead and start trimming those rogue branches.   

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Look how pretty!

Homemade Kombucha

My new obsession is making kombucha at home. It requires the perfect amount of work and passiveness, and it doesn't go bad if you forget about it for a few days. I like to compare it to owning a goldfish as a pet -- very minimal maintenance. You check in on it every once in while and its in a big glass jar of liquid. It also kind of fascinates me -- theres a live culture growing and living inside of this liquid, and every day it looks a little different. Call me weird, but I like it. Also, there are tons of health benefits to drinking kombucha. Its amazing for your gut health, which is hugely connected to your immune system and your overall health. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor so I won't get too preachy here, but there are lots and lots of articles you can read about why kombucha is so darn good for you. 

Here's what you need: 

  • 1 gallon glass jar.

  • piece of cut up t-shirt for the top, with a rubber band

  • 6 tea bags (black, oolong, green)

  • 1 cup of white sugar

  • A scoby (there are kits where you can make your own, or you can get one from a friend who already makes kombucha which is what I did.) When your friend gives you their scoby make sure they include 2 cups of kombucha tea from their last batch with the scoby.

Directions:

  1. In a large pot heat 5 cups of water. Just hot enough that sugar will melt in the water.

  2. Turn off heat and place 1 cup of white sugar and mix, place tea bags in liquid as well and let steep for a few hours, while simultaneously letting your liquid cool to room temperature.

  3. Remove tea bags and put liquid mixture into your glass gallon container. Fill the rest up with room temperature water. Leaving a few inches at the top for the scoby and cups of past kombucha tea.

  4. Place your scoby into the mixture with kombucha tea. The scoby may sink to the bottom at first and then in a few days float to the top. Its all OK.

  5. Put t-shirt or fabric over the top with rubber band to hold it in place.

Now, depending on how warm the weather is, or how much light is in the room will depend on how quickly your kombucha will be ready. The ideal temperature is 75 degrees, and you should store it in a moderately dark place. You will need to let it sit for 7-30 days, I prefer around 10-14 days personally. The longer you let it sit the more vinegary it will taste. As you let it sit a new scoby will start to form at the top of the liquid, (this is the part that is most fascinating to me.) It looks like a white jelly fish floating at the top, covering the entire surface area of the liquid. It will get thicker and whiter every day. And will probably start forming on day 3 or 5. Here comes another fun part:

S E C O N D   F E R M E N T A T I O N 

If you want to flavor your kombucha, as I like to, I recommend doing a second fermentation. It will also make your kombucha more carbonated, which is fun. So once your kombucha tea is done and cultured, you can poor the liquid into smaller sealable glass containers. Leave a couple inches at the top, so do not fill all the way. From here you can pick which flavor you want. Here are a few that I recommend: beet and ginger; strawberry and ginger; pineapple and ginger. Can you tell I like ginger? Basically any kind of fruit juice is good, because the kombucha will continue to eat off of the sugar from the fruit juice, and create carbonation. Again, i'm not a scientist, just go with it. 

  1. Blend fruit/ginger in a blender. For one gallon of tea I used one raw beet and a chunk of ginger around 2 in x 1 in.

  2. Pour fruit mixture into bottles of kombucha tea (use a funnel). You can strain the pulp out of the fruit, or leave it, up to you!

  3. Seal the bottles and leave on your counter top for 2-3 days.

  4. Use CAUTION when opening the bottles up, there will be carbonation and it can bubble and overflow making a mess. I recommend opening the bottles over the sink and with a kitchen towel on top.

  5. Refrigerate to enjoy cold!

I've read many articles about homemade kombucha, and have talked to a few friends about it as well. It seems there is always something to learn, which is also probably why I like it so much. Any tips or tricks please leave in the comment section below! Happy brewing. 

 

L <3