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In honor of Earth Day this year, I volunteered to go into my daughter’s preschool to teach her class a bit about sustainability. It was a lofty goal to teach a concept that is usually hard to explain to adults. However, I merged what I gleaned from a rather exhaustive online search for preschool Earth Day lessons and activities with my personal sustainable beliefs into a unique lesson plan.
First, we read “The Earth Day” by Todd Parr. While I don’t necessarily agree that children would understand the abstract correlation that reducing energy use would save saving polar bears and snowmen, I do appreciate his effort. (However, I honestly fear these children’s parents will think I’ve poisoned them with left-wing climate change conspiracy!) Despite my qualms with Parr’s broad analogies, I like the general message that we do all of these little things to take care of the Earth so it will take care of us – this is something we can all get behind!
Next up was a Pledge derived from the book. I picked 3 simple things that every kid should know in order to help take care of the Earth in their very own homes.
“I take care of the Earth so it can take care of my family, friends, and me.”
- I will turn off lights to save energy.
- I will turn off the water when brushing my teeth to use less water.
Then we played a game called, What can we recycle? I took a bag of “trash” (aka things from around the house that very well look like trash as well as things I fished out of the recycle bin and cleaned). One by one, I took items out and asked what it was, what it was made of, and if it could be recycled. If it could, it went into a paper bag (conveniently made with recycled paper). If it couldn’t, I asked if it could be used for anything else? There were string and clean popsicle sticks re-useable for crafts; a clean, yet old, partner-less sock for cleaning windows; and old books and stuffed animals that could be donated. Afterwards, the trash bag was empty, but the paper bag was full of recyclables and a re-useable grocery bag had items saved from the landfill for one or more uses. The teacher then told the class that she was bringing in a recycling bin to learn to sort their waste. Being as thorough as I usually am, I handed her a list of recyclable items from the township’s website. I let her know that she was fortunate to have a municipality that recycles sandwich bags and grocery bags since I have to bag them up and remember to bring them to the grocery store. I also let her know about Terracycle for the mountain of juice boxes the school must toss every week. When paper and aluminum are fused together, as in the case of juice boxes, recycling becomes rather difficult. However, some municipalities and programs are able to recycle these.
Finally, we had a mini recycle dance party. After sitting quietly for the lesson (mostly), I rewarded them with a little music. Jack Johnson’s “3 R’s” is a fun song that combines multiplication (“3 times 6 is 18 and the 18th letter of the alphabet is R”) and sustainability (“3 R’s we’re gonna talk about today: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!”). If you are a nerd like me, you will be impressed. If not, there’s a fun little breakdown with musical solos for you. There are also some examples of reducing your waste (bring your bag to the market), re-using things (wearing older siblings’ old clothes), and recycling (learn it). All that aside, the girls had fun twirling and a few boys rocked some air guitar and drums.
Thanks for letting me get all of that off my chest – can’t really unload that to a bunch of 3- to 5-yr-olds. For a tree-hugging purist like myself, I struggle with how to explain conservation to my own kid, let alone a group of kids whose households differ in routines and beliefs. At the end of the day, though, it’s good to just help them better understand that we do these things because we care about each other and the Earth. I’m not quite sure they understood the lasting effects of saving energy or water, but the overall consensus seemed to be that they like polar bears, dislike the dark, and might take baths with less water. My goal was just to get the wheels turning and I’d say the mission was accomplished.
Found in Nature series by Barry Rosenthal is a collection of found objects washed ashore on beaches in NJ and NY. Beautifully curated yet a sad reality of carelessness for our Earth and each other.
My father’s brother, my Uncle Andy, passed away last week. Our entire family is devastated and struggling to find peace with the news. This weekend, those who live close by gathered at my Aunt Isabel’s house to mourn the loss together. While we began arrangements and sorted through photos, something bittersweet and beautiful began to transpire. My father, the youngest of the family of fourteen (Irish Catholics, God love ‘em!), and his sisters started to share stories from their childhood. Most I had never heard before. Some sad, some funny. Like when my twin uncles were born and the family had no room in their home, so they slept in bureau drawers. Or how another uncle used to keep a pet squirrel in his pocket. Or the story about my grandma delivering my aunt by herself in an elevator. Or my grandpa who had to keep his helmet on at all times during the war because his fire-engine red hair would have tipped off snipers.
Despite our sadness, we laughed and sighed together, amazed how they all survived and were honored by their hardworking parents, who “put up with a lot of s#$%,” as Uncle Andy would have put it. For the ten remaining Johnston siblings – six women, four men – their lives have changed forever, but the stories that bind us as a family have come to be our silver lining.
Anyone remember a ways back when I asked you to vote for my friend Alison of a la Alison? Her braised pork belly tacos ended up winning the contest for Best Chili Pepper Recipe and is now being featured in Food52′s latest cookbook. So proud of this lady! She’s been gallivanting around the world being all pretty and talented lately. Like you, I follow her on Instagram (if you don’t, you’d better) and I dream of the places she explores and meals she shares.
Instagram by @alaalison
In the wake of Friday’s events, every parent in America – nay, the world – was squeezing their babe(s) tighter than before. This tragedy affected so many people in incredible ways. Whether questioning faith, safety, or government, it struck the core of humankind. It dredged up unknown feelings of hate and fear within us that we didn’t know were there. This holiday season will have a somber yet grateful tone as we mourn the lost innocence of children, both in Sandy Hook and beyond, and appreciate our friends and families more than we did on Thursday. The questions of why and how may never be answered nor understood, but we must accept that life is precious despite age, race, or community, and that we can also affect change on smaller levels to have meaning and be present in the everyday.
Sandy Hook rocked the boat for our general sense of safety and security. If an affluent community’s elementary school can be a target, then… whose community is safe? This sense of insecurity is what people around the world face each day throughout their lifetime. As Americans, we should be grateful for our freedoms, but we should also understand that it requires co-dependence within each community for citizens to care for one another. This tragedy may or may not affect the Second Amendment, or provide better mental health diagnoses and treatment, or increase safety and security measures everywhere. But we can do more than hope for safety in our neighborhoods and for our children. We can “pay it forward,” because a small act of kindness can rekindle our faith in people. The other day I saw a jogger stop to pick up debris in public landscaping, heard a friend gush about their good fortune of a free cup of coffee from the person ahead (and doing the same for another), and a chorus of coffee shop goers singing happy birthday to someone (I really like coffee). Simple and often overlooked, these are the small moments in my day that give me pause to be thankful for the “helpers,” and peace to know that these are the people that make even the worst of times a little bit better.
Rules of Friendship by Three Sixty Press
Editor’s Note 4/5/13: Much thanks to Mitko for offering a different perspective on this sensitive issue with this reference article.
I’ve always known my father to be a coffee drinker, but never quite knew his passion for the brew. Then this past March, he traveled to Vermont for a week-long course on coffee-roasting, where he fell even more in love with the craft.
What started as a leisurely hobby quickly grew into a business over the summer. My father, the “master roaster” (which sounds like he needs a scepter and cape), is the brain behind the operation. He’s so serious about the coffee experience that he’s corrected me for using my French Press wrong for years (here’s the real way to do it – which I’ll admit is much better). My brother, Joey, became his business partner and started selling pounds of coffee like hotcakes. Together, they’ve thrown themselves into a brick-and-mortar roast shop in nearby historic Medford, NJ, set to open next month!
It’s been really exciting to see both of them doing something they love, and it’s rubbed off on the rest of the family. I had the opportunity to design the store and the company branding, which I’m so excited to share with you soon. My younger siblings also stepped up: Zach, RN, has been helping with construction round the clock; and Devin, future RN, will have a kitchen there to bake up some tasty concoctions. Harvest Coffee will officially debut next month and I’m so excited – and proud – to share it!
These photos were taken during his first roast on June 7, 2012, with us kids (and a grandkid somewhere…) in tow to witness the special moment.
Photo by Kate Glicksberg
I’m so excited to finally share with you a project I worked on last year! Design*Sponge featured the kitchen renovation of Jaime Derringer of Design Milk yesterday with some superb shots of the before and after.
I met Jaime almost 2 years ago when I was embarking on a new business journey. I contacted her through her business consulting venture, Bakery, and asked if she was willing to meet me in person after learning she lived nearby. Our business relationship eventually turned into friendship. So when she moved into her beautiful mid-century ranch and mentioned she wanted to renovate her kitchen, the wheels starting turning in my mind. Of course, as a new homeowner, all of the projects were overwhelming, so I quietly sketched in my notebook, waiting for her to say “when.” Well, that sort of came when she was pregnant. You know, when your mind is really thinking clearly. However, she had fantastic partnerships with Electrolux, Caesarstone, ModWall, and many more to bring this buttery-walled, retro kitchen into the 21st century. So we buckled down to get things done before the water broke… though baby Amelia had plans of her own with an early delivery! The result is completely different from their original kitchen, but still keeps time with the mid-century modern aesthetic.
Photo by Jaime Derringer
As the editor of a design blog, Jaime definitely knew what she wanted and has a great eye. As an interior designer, I lent her my “professional occupant” goggles to create a kitchen that was realistic for her needs, budget, and schedule. We played around using Google SketchUp to create an optimal layout and test materials. We were quite limited with the appliances, plumbing, and electrical due to a lack of access above and below the space. Keeping the basic footprint, we forged ahead with a fresh, modern palette and increased storage. Jaime knew she wanted to mix dark wood with stark white, and SketchUp was a great tool to see what we could apply and where we could apply it. Working with a kitchen design center, we got creative with their stock cabinetry to reduce costs but create a custom look. A prime example was the finished open shelf for easy access to oft-used dishes.
Photo by Kate Glicksberg
We increased storage by adding a pantry and wine center in the breakfast area, as well as raising the overall cabinet heights in the room to the maximum 96″ ceiling height. There was even enough space in the breakfast area for a built-in desk, with space for her art collection above. The desk, designed for her husband Jordan, also can operate as a buffet for family events. Before, the space was divided with a kitchen on one side and a breakfast table on the other. Extending the cabinetry into the breakfast area not only maximizes the space, but also connects it to the outdoors, where Jordan can easily grill just off the kitchen.
Photo by Kate Glicksberg
You can see more of the progress of the kitchen, and more of her house, on Jaime’s sister site House Milk. It was a pleasure to work with Jaime and Jordan, especially as they made their house into a home for their new family.
This time last year, I was spending my birthday in Norway on a six-hour bus ride between Olso and Voss. (Here’s a lovely view from my window.) While I had a wonderful time, I am so glad to be home this year, and here is how only I would celebrate:
1. Bought myself a “Golden Apple Tree” print by Tugboat Press.
2. Received a staple-less stapler from my husband who is probably the only person in the world who knows how thoughtful a gift this is for me.
3. Got tickets to see “Moonrise Kingdom” tonight with the husband.
Not a bad way to start off another year alive, as well as the first day of summer. (Yes, regardless of what the almanac says, I hold off celebrating the beginning of summer until my birthday commences.)
- Instagram photo by JA
Things look a bit different around here, eh? Well, that’s just the start of it…
General Merriment will be changing its course a little, and I hope you will stick around. You see, I started this blog as a sort of experiment. I had no plans but to share beloved things found and made. However, over a year and half later, I’ve been inspired to do more with this blog. In partnership with my new business venture General Habitat, a sustainable interior design service, General Merriment will be incorporating a thoughtful collection of posts highlighting the value of everyday living. Sounds a bit existential, I know, but it comes from a personal reflection of my family and work life, and realizing that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. I want to inspire you, as others have inspired me, to live a life of meaning and balance – through beauty, through humor, through food.. really anything that makes your heart sing. For me, I believe in surrounding yourself with reminders – people, places, or things – that tell your story, sing your song, make you feel proud to be who you are. From childhood into the twilight years, we can live a good life without following the fads, spending savings, and being selfish.
General Merriment is my happy place, and I dare say it just got a little bit happier.
My first blooms of the season are a-comin’! I actually forget what and where I planted last year so this spring and summer will be pleasant surprises.
I’ve also been crossing things off my home improvement list, including some shelves in the living room. My buddy Gavin spent the better part of this week helping out (ok, doing almost all of the work). I can’t wait to get the photos he shot, as well as the video of the reclaimed wood being sawn through. Today I’m painting the room – something that should have been done before, I know – and this weekend I’ll get to my favorite part – styling. I can’t wait to show you!
Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Little bit of snow falling here today. Just enough to make things look pretty, which is really saying something for New Jersey.
Anyway, the winter sun is keeping my front porch warm so I’m determined to finish our renovation. It technically started 3 years ago when the floor was rotted and sinking so I opted for a new floor over an engagement ring. However, after an 8-month home renovation, a wedding, and a baby, we’re FINALLY getting it done. This helps move us along.