Say hello to our new coasters!
I took an acrylic class at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and I finally learned how to an acrylic photo transfer. Basically, acrylic is made of plastic, so when a clear gel dries, it can pick up ink from newspapers, books, or similar printed materials. We needed coasters for our new coffee table, so I grabbed a pack at the dollar store. I’ll upgrade to better material when I get this process down!
I used Liquitex gloss gel, because the matte gel doesn’t “look” waterproof to me (even though it is. I’m just saying I would think twice about putting a wet drink on top of it).
And I used maps from a 1947 almanac for the printed material. Yes, I ripped pages out of an old book. I felt bad for about 2 minutes. Then I envisioned how cool they’d look as coasters. You’ll also notice our stop sign table has now become my craft table. That’s because we don’t care how much paint or glue gets on it- it’s already covered in graffiti!
Okay so I coated the paper with acrylic gel. I didn’t stick to a specific shape- I just tried to cover the parts I thought were most interesting, since I was going to cut it later anyway. I used a big oil brush, because I don’t mind the bristle marks. A foam brush would be better if you care about the texture.
I let the maps dry overnight, and then I gave them a bath in lukewarm water. If you use hot water, the gel might get soft (and your fingers will get wrinkly). I didn’t paint over the coasters- the white is just the back side of them.
I flipped over my palate and started scrubbing the paper side (NOT the glossy side) of the maps to get all the paper off. I started just rubbing with my hands and then realized I could just use a brillo pad, which was much more efficient. If you want a completely transparent transfer, you’ll have lots of scrubbing to do. I purposely left a thin layer of paper so it would still be translucent.
I left out the maps (glossy side up so it wouldn’t stick to the paper towel) to dry for an hour. They didn’t stick, but I’d probably use aluminum foil on a baking sheet next time since they were delicate and hard to move when we needed to use the table. After they dried, I measured the inside border of the coasters and cut the maps accordingly.
Here’s how they turned out! I think they’re pretty cool- the totally random juxtaposition of traditional fruit (a la still life) and antique maps, plus the fact that we now have colorful coasters for our coffee table.
We’re old people. Seriously, I was thinking about how much of a geriatric couple we are when we woke up at 8am on a Saturday morning to go to estate sales. But it’s sad to know that after we’re fully furnished, we won’t need any more stuff, even if they’re hidden treasures in someone’s grandma’s attic.
Anyway, we found this dresser for $5 in a guy’s garage. He said it was his grandfather’s from the 1960s, and it wasn’t much to look at, but the wood was in good shape. And I thought the different sized knobs were charming-like mismatched socks on a little kid who dressed himself for the first time.
My favorite part was the retro shelf liner inside: Who would have thought you’d find a colorful surprise like that in a dresser with a nasty old paint job?
We detached the legs and Josh attacked the dresser with a hand sander to get all the paint off. Then we painted the drawers white and stained the rest with the dark walnut stain from the desk we were working on.
At a yard sale that same day, we bought these legs off a couple who donated a table to Goodwill and forgot the legs in the car. So we bought them for $1 and stained them to match. I love our new dresser table, but I especially love that it was so cheap and easy to make!
This is our one week anniversary of moving into our new place in Seattle, and we’ve been having fun getting it all set up. One of the best things about this house is the workshop in the basement, which is now covered in yellow sawdust and has frankenstein furniture parts strewn around the floor.
Josh spends more time at his desk than probably anywhere else in the house, so when we saw this little yellow fellow at Goodwill, he had to do some convincing to persuade me he could actually do something with it. He builds robots and electronics gadgets, but I’ve never seen him fix up furniture.
We could see patches of the original wood after detaching the bottom:
I was envisioning something a little darker (like this one on the bottom left), but Josh assured me we could sand off the yellow and stain it. It didn’t take more than a glance at those cute little stubby legs to see the potential in that thing. What’s a few hours of sanding?
After a casual encounter with the hand sander, the sunny green-yellow paint finally came off…slowly…and stubbornly.
Poor Josh labored all afternoon with 80 and 60 grit to strip it, then went over it all with 120 and later 220 for the final round.
And all the hard work paid off:
Inspired by Daniel’s AMAZING desk on Manhatten Nest, we bought some brackets and legs on Amazon. Although the picture doesn’t look like the correct legs, you’ll notice the height does say 28” and when they arrive they look more like these guys. Daniel happens to be Josh’s CMU friend Jeremy’s little brother. Small world right?
We cut off 2 small pieces to raise the top board above the dresser (the legs we ordered were a little too high so we did this to make it level instead of cutting the legs). Then the next step was a dark walnut stain, which we applied outside and left overnight to dry.
Ta-da! We spray painted the handles silver to brighten them up and set it all up in our new office. It’s pretty cute right?
It was my first day at work, and there was talk of a fun, leisurely kickball game that night. Would I be interested? Uh sure. The last time I played was probably in 4th grade gym class and that horrible day when I kicked, missed, and stuck out is still a sensitive topic for my elementary-school self. Can you come early for practice? Mmkay. Practice for rec kickball? That should have been the first sign that this wasn’t going to be a schoolyard kickball game.
And it wasn’t. We met an hour early to practice grounding the ball, catching fly balls. and perfecting our kicks (ankle not toe, third base not first, etc). The team was a mix of people from work, two random high school kids, and a few friends of said coworkers. There was actually an umpire and the other team was gearing up on the other side of the field. We relocated to the baseball diamond and the showdown began. Blue had no idea that Orange was about to bring it.
After an uneventful first 8 innings, tension was high. The blue team broke out the rule book (it was more like a rule packet) and I felt more and more like an extra in a spinoff of the Dodgeball movie. The high school all-stars caught everything that came their way, and Heather kicked a solid grounder toward third base to get safely on first. Then Kickball Mike popped an uncatchable home run into the stratosphere and Orange went home victorious.
Kickball is a part of the Pittsburgh Sports League (PSL), which serves “young and young-thinking youth.” Go Orange!
I was anxiously anticipating the Welcome to Pittsburgh! sign. Actually there was no sign to welcome me (or if there was I couldn’t see it through the traffic near the bridge). But the curved yellow bridge does sort of hint at a smiley face. I haven’t spent much time in Pittsburgh- just a few weekends here and there. I’ve tried crepes, ridden the incline, and played frisbee on the CMU campus. I’m excited to see more of the city this summer. Some people hate change, but for me a new place means new adventures with new people.
Josh’s friends had some extra baseball tickets so we unpacked my stuff from the car and carpooled downtown. After a fun round of parking-garage-hopping, we found a space and headed to the game a little late. We ran into Shawn, who is the first person I met at Deeplocal. I was confused because people used the Buccs and the Pirates interchangeably. Apparently they’re the same thing? Josh’s friends bought a huge bucket of wings. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what they tasted like…chili lime? Sweet and sour with hot sauce?
A few seconds after I took this photo, the ball came flying past third base right where that little boy was standing. He hopped over the bars, nabbed it, and ran away beaming and victorious. Guess his baseball mitt came in handy after all. If I took longer taking this photo, I might have gotten the white blur coming right toward Josh and Sid…or maybe it giving one of them a concussion.
Please know that this photo was taken after driving 7 hours from North Carolina so I look a little haggard. If baseball is the all American sport, we were a little unpatriotic. We spent 90% of the time walking around the stadium and 10% eating wings in the stands. The Pirates won 10-1, so it wasn’t an intense game. Sid bought a beret-with-avisor after trying on several very “Pittsburghian” hats with several very unflattering looks. And then the game was over.
A look back at the stadium after everyone cleared out. Josh took this from the bridge. Well, Pittsburgh, here I am. Four years ago, I felt the same way about Winston-Salem. Here’s to a new city. Cheers!
Okay so we’re backtracking but Huacachina is worth writing about. I think it holds a special place in our hearts because it was the first time we really felt like gringo tourists, but this trip was something to look forward to after the internship and our meeting with the Ministry of Education. I’ve never been snowboarding and I’m not too hot on a skateboard, but sandboarding was a blast!
The dune buggy we took with some Peace Corps volunteers who just happened to be working out of Ancash too. We compared stories on our roller coaster ride over the dunes.
Incredible landscape with beautiful textures and lines.
As the evening started to get a little cooler, we stopped sliding down the sand dunes and sat to watch the sun set.
The sand isn’t as soft as it looks, as I will soon find out half a second after Josh snapped this picture.
We felt like little kids, splashing in the hostel pool, racing down hills of sand, and throwing our hands up on the buggy ride. Working in Ancash was a valuable experience and we both had a lot of discussions with new friends in the area about education, women’s rights, indigenous culture, and poverty. But our trip a little south of Lima truly felt like a vacation, and we were okay with doing silly touristy things for a weekend.
Home to the blue-footed booby, Humbolt penguin, pelicans, sea lions, and the occasional dolphin colony, the Islas Ballestas are known as the “poor man’s Galapagos.” The islands, composed mostly of rock formations, certainly lives up to its name. You’ll find a variety of exotic marine animals for only $15 USD, including the taxi to and from the port and the two hour boat tour.
The color gradients that fade into the sea, the fluttering of thousands of birds, and the salty smell of the ocean air—it’s easy to appreciate the islands. Some visitors bring waterproof cameras, but other than the occasional sea spray, your equipment should be fine. Keep in mind, you’ll be riding in very small tourist-grad boats, and the waters can get a bit rocky if the weather doesn’t hold up. If you have a low threshold for motion sickness, be sure to take medicine before the ride.
Cruise along the island’s rock formations, and you’ll discover massive flocks of birds reminiscent of The Little Mermaid. You might consider wearing a hat to avoid “bad luck” overhead. In the country’s indigenous language Quechua, “guano” means droppings. The term has been used to refer to the excrement of marine birds such as the ones on the Ballestas, which provided excellent fertilizer for pre-Incan communities.
All of the boat tours are guided, so you’ll learn about the islands’ history, marine wildlife, and environmental protection policies. Tours are available in English and Spanish.
Humbolt penguins live along the coast of Peru and Chile, named after the early European explorer. They are an endangered species, due in part to guano mining. Because their droppings provide rich fertilizer, their natural habitat gets destroyed in the process. Their adorable waddling will make you wonder why anyone would want to harm these beautiful creatures.
A far cry from the stereotypical circus sea lions you may have seen balancing beach balls on their noses, these sea lions (lobos marinos- marine wolves) take lazy naps in the sun. Some of them may swim nearby, so scan the water for visitors.
The wildlife and scenery of the Islas Ballestas are impressive, but there’s plenty to see nearby as well. During your morning tour, you’ll also pass by the Candelabra, an ancient geoglyph carved into the sand. If you’re intrigued by the mysterious carving, check out the Nazca Lines. The Paracas National Reserve is a memorable place as well. Photographers love the red sandy beaches and pink flamingos wading in the sea.
We wanted to do a quick little post about the last school that we worked with in Ancash: Tinco. Tinco is a town just below Punta Callan (4225m), the high ridge just west of Huaraz which we went over to visit all our prior schools. This meant that is very high and very cold (freezing at night). Since the school was only an hour and a half away from Huaraz, we were planning on going to Tinco and returning to Huaraz every day. It was going to be glorious- hot showers and internet every night.
That was until we got to Tinco and met the headmistress. Truth be told, it’s never a bad thing to meet someone who is truly invested in the kids’ education. But she got the whole town was ready for us and we needed to stay in the town because they already arranged us food and a room (a classroom with a bunch of blankets). We returned the first night to Huaraz because I had a doctor’s appointment; I was still not feeling that well and running to the bathroom 10 times a day didn’t seem as enjoyable with toilets that didn’t flush. The plan was the stay in Tinco the remainder of our 2 weeks.
We worked from 7am to 4pm teaching the kids, then from 4pm to 8pm teaching the teachers, then we taught the bored teachers card games until 10pm. We were exhausted, and I was getting sicker and sicker.
I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling great but it wasn’t just bathroom problems, I felt nauseous. I leaned over the second story of the school and puked up all the super greasy french fries from dinner. This combined with my bathroom runs kept me in bed all day while Hope taught the kids. Afterwards we decided to go back to Huaraz for the night so I could get better in the hotel. Hope wasn’t feeling too hot all of a sudden and while we were in Huaraz she ended up puking out of the windows of a Taxi. French fries actually came out of her nose. I think we all know what made us sick…
The best part of the story is that when we returned to Tinco and told the headmistress that we couldn’t eat the townspeoples’ food anymore, she seemed to think it was due to other reasons besides food poisoning or parasites like the doctor said. She asked if we had fallen recently? And we said no, why? She continued to tell us that when you fall sometimes your stomach goes to a bad place and it needs to get everything out of it to make it better. We told her we didn’t think this was the case. She had an alternative theory, she said she was talking to the local indigenous women and they had told her that they have been staring at us because we were gringos and because of this we had bad energy and us throwing up was trying to get that bad energy out. The indigenous women also told her they were going to stop.
We had a great time with the kids in Tinco but we were always trying to convince this headmistress that we couldn’t eat their food, and she kept feeding us. We appreciated everyone’s hospitality but since this was the last school, we tried to decine graciously. Frankly, we are both sick of being sick.
It took us until the end of our time in the schools to realize that we should really do a repaso, or a review, of all the activities and functions that we had taught over the past two weeks. It’s one thing to lead kids and teachers through steps, but the time is wasted if no one can remember these things. We bought a bag of candy from the grocery store and the repaso was GREAT SUCCESS in the words of Borat.
We wrote 8-10 tasks based on the things that we taught- tasks that the kids have already done but we modified them slightly so they couldn’t just find the activity in their diary and say they were done. We divided the classes into groups (secretly placing a “high aptitude” kid in each group to act as a natural leader) and explained that the group to complete all the tasks would get the candy.
Well actually everyone got candy when they finished, but the first team to finish got to choose first. There were a few simple rules: Someone in the group would pick a task out of the hat (we actually used a soup ladle in one school) and read it out loud to the other group members. Every member of the group had to finish the task before they could move on to a new one. If they needed help, they had to raise their hands quietly and wait for me or Josh to come over and give them a hint.
We were surprised how much the kids remembered and happy to remind them of certain steps when they forgot. The repaso day was by far our favorite day of the two weeks. It’s just too bad we didn’t start doing this from the beginning!
It’s not uncommon for Josh to walk into the café, order an orange game and some eyeball bread, and then inform the waitress politely that he is going to hit her with a credit card. After three months in Peru, Josh has come a long way from his unique form of Spanish sign language (shrugging and pointing to me to translate).
When I started learning Spanish a year ago, I remember how humbling it was to make mistakes and laugh over them. It was a lot easier to remember those little language nuances through real world experience than it was to memorize a page in my grammar textbook. So as travel partners, we use a system called “language boot camp.” I’m Josh’s support system and help out with translation when needed, but for the most part he takes the first step. His Spanish has improved significantly over a short time and I’m very proud, but sometimes the first step is more of a tumble…
It’s not difficult to order food in a different language when there is a menu in front of you. Again, Josh has mastered the art of international sign language: the universal point and mumble. But he usually trips up at breakfast when the waitress asks what he wants to drink. Instead of jugo de naranja, orange juice, he has asked for juego de naranja, orange game (with a similar pronunciation but less refreshing aftertaste) on more than one occasion.
Sandwich and pizza are both translation-friendly options for beginning Spanish learners, but other dishes are not as easy to remember. Take garlic bread, for example. When we’re really hungry, we’ll order a basket of garlic bread, or pan de ajo, as a starter. Josh has startled many a waiter when he asks for pan de ojo, or eyeball bread, instead. Luckily, they’ve never had it on the menu, even though eating cow eyeballs is not unheard of in Peru.
Ice cream is usually our dessert of choice, but not even the sweetest vocabulary can escape a hilarious mispronunciation. A few times, Josh has ordered dos bolsas de helado, or two bags of ice cream, which is quite a bit more than dos bolas de helado, or two scoops of ice cream. The first time he asked for a coño, or vagina, instead of a cono, or cone, the server turned bright red. This is an innocent mistake with a naughty meaning, and Josh never forgot that real world Spanish lesson.
In most parts of South America, you won’t get the check until you ask for it. It’s not bad service; in fact, it’s considered rude for a waiter to place a check on the table if the patrons haven’t requested it. Unlike our “eat and go” dining habits in the United States, meals in Peru tend to revolve around conversation and slow eating, and a check just makes diners feel rushed.
Josh has perfected the subtle hand wave across the restaurant to get the waiter’s attention. But sometimes he puzzles the poor servers when instead of the cuenta (check) he asks for the cuento (story). No one has burst into “Little Red Riding Hood” yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The worst is when he asks to pay with a credit card. Just one little letter turns the Spanish word pagar, to pay, into pegar, to hit. So when he tries to tell the waitress he will pay with plastic but instead explains that he will now hit them with his VISA, it’s no wonder they take a few steps back.
They say you learn from experience, and learning a language is no different. We still have a few more weeks left in South America, and Josh and I both expect to eat—and laugh—our way around the continent as we both perfect our Spanish.
This post is an entry for the Language Learning Blog Contest being hosted by Pimsleur Approach. You should enter!