As we’ve mentioned, ‘the improvised life’s laboratory is something of an homage to plywood. We’ve used it for many things, from window sills to cabinets to floors. We love the stuff, and are constantly hatching plots in our head for furniture, housewares, endless inventions. So we are smitten with carpenter and author Philip Schmidt new book PlyDesign which presents 73 ideas for sleek, smart home furnishings that you can make from off-the-shelf sheet materials using only basic hand and power tools. It features designs contributed by more than 50 creative builders across North America for tables, stools, workstations, benches, laptop stands, shelves, art panels, organizers, headboards, and more.
We love this crazy hauling bike and wish we knew the story behind it. We spotted it on Dargelos‘ blog in a post called ‘the mailman’s fahrrad’ (‘fahrrad’ means bicycle in German). Dargelos is an onliine store that sells great, intelligent biking gear, like the illuminating vest we posted awhile back. We have their Transporter knapsack, which we couldn’t live without: it’s light and holds a lot without looking bulky or feeling heavy: perfect for our long days wandering around town. read more…
A couple of weeks ago, after we posted our invitation/plea to become a ‘friend with benefits’ and support ‘the improvised life’, we received quite an outpouring of support, from subscription sign-ups to one-time donations to messages of how much our daily postings mean to our readers. Our favorite was this one:
Love your work and look forward to each installment. I just donated to you and would like to remain anonymous if possible. If not, please just put ‘Gratitude’.
In lieu of a link that says Gratitude (where would it go?), we made this sign, which is really what WE feel: pure gratitude for what we get to do daily and the amazing exchange and community we find ourselves living in, that is ‘the improvised life’. Thank you deeply.
You’ve made Mr. Hamilton very happy… read more…
Our new neighborhood is hit-or-miss for flowers…come to think of it, our old one was as well. Sometimes, when you REALLY need them to liven up the place, there just isn’t much of a selection. Then we took the word “liven” to heart in thinking about alternatives we could use when we couldn’t find great flowers. It’s having something alive, and from nature that really works the magic…flowers just happen to be one of many possibilities. We love these summer apricots in the brass basket a friend recently gave us from The Museum of Arts and Design’s store in New York City (and available by mail order). Imagine the setting WITHOUT this alt-arrangement and you see what a difference it makes.
We’ve also taken to picking up leafy, newly fallen branches read more…
(Video link here.) We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this lovely ordinary day than with this video of the great Maira Kalman – whose remarkable books are a blend of images and words into vivid stories – giving her two cents on what it is to be human. She covers a lot of ground: work, love, identity, life, death, THE POINT OF IT ALL.
Our favorite gem: read more…
UPDATE: After we published the post below, about giving balloons to grownups so they can experience “setting them free”, we got a number of comments alerting us to the dangers balloons pose to birds, wildlife and the environment. Charmed by balloons, we confess to having been completely naive about these harsh realities, which you can read about here. As we discovered when a reader freaked out about a post about shipping pallets, many of the dangers were overblown and the issues often more complex than stated, so we posted essential info. Our research indicates that Mylar balloons pose the worst environmental danger as they are basically foil and nylon; old-fashioned balloons are normally made of latex and are biodegradable. Numbers vary wildly as to how much wildlife is actually hurt or killed by latex balloons. There is some research that indicates that latex balloons, fully inflated and without any strings or ribbons attached, tend to shatter into tiny pieces at high atmospheres (about 5 miles); the fragments drop to earth to biodegrade . All that being said, we prefer to err on the side of safety, and have redacted our post:
A friend recently sent us an unusual birthday gift: a huge gaggle of classic, brightly colored helium balloons. What was unusual was the idea she had for them:
Remember when you were a kid and you accidentally let a balloon go, and you’d watch it, heart-broken, rise into the air? The balloon escaped, was set free, to ride the currents and seek its fortune as it were. I thought it might be fun to let one go here and there – or all of them – intentionally, and feel the freedom of watching them fly.
Inspired idea THAT IS POTENTIALLY REALLY BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
The balloons, powerfully heliumed, arrived with a note that read:
“Happy Birthday, With all our love. (Not to be used for travel.)”
We got SO many good ideas from reader’s entering our giveaway of Salads: Beyond the Bowl: Extraordinary Recipes for Everyday Eating that we could put together our own potent little pamphlet of salad ideas. The randomly chosen winner’s idea proved to be an especially charming one:
There is not much I won’t put in a salad, I love to add nasturtiums if I’m having company or the need to eat flowers.
And here are a few more favorites, including an idea we never thought of:
recently discovered the incredible delicousness of grilling heads of Romaine, including melting a little grated parmesan on one side. I would never have thought of grilling salad, but it’s now my favorite!!!!
and a saladic sort of poem: read more…
Today, Tuesday the 17th, is the last day to enter our giveaway contest of Mindy Fox’s Salads: Beyond the Bowl: Extraordinary Recipes for Everyday Eating. It is a book that will be useful all year long. Wondering what to do with quinoa? Check out Mindy’s Red Quinoa, Raw Asparagus and Endive Salad with Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano:
One of the things we love the most here at The Improvised Life is the sense of community we feel with our readers. We get some amazing feedback, and what we hear more often than not is that you love to wake up to the little tidbits of inspiration we post here bright and early each morning. We also frequently hear that you love the lack of eyesores–err, ads–on the site. The site itself requires upkeep, the creation of fresh new content requires time and effort, and all of that is a full-time (and wholly rewarding) job. In short, we still need to eat.
One of the things we’re doing to circumvent advertising on the site is our Friends With Benefits program. In short, for as little as $5 a month via PayPal, you can support The Improvised Life and get a link on our site to your own website or that of your favorite charity. So, what do you say? Wanna be a pal?
Every morning, a friend calls me, or I call him, with a poem to start the day. This seven-month-old tradition arose out of an ‘improvised life’ post called “What’s NOT wrong?” about NOT jumping out of bed to check email or read the news first thing in the morning. Instead, start with a few minutes of reading something really GREAT…anything that reminds you of possibilities, other ways of thinking, grounds you.
My friend and I discovered that reading – or listening to – a poem or two has the effect of placing us right IN the moment, while casting a great deal of light on things, often bringing Nature right into our apartments. Of all the books of poems we read from – of Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda and Su Tung-P’o to name a few- we’ve found the most treasures in The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry. I’m not sure “sacred” describes the selection of poems; were I to see the book in a store, I might pass it by, thinking “sacred” to mean religious. The books editor, Stephen Mitchell, calls them “poems of fulfillment.”
The other day, we got a snail mail note from a friend. While snail mail is inself a rare gift these days, there was an added surprise. When we opened the envelope, a cascade of pressed flowers fell out. In addition to bringing a charming blast of ‘garden’ into the apartment, the flowers were like little symbols of care and regard; our friend had taken the time to press the flowers and thoughtfully include them in her note.
We loved it. Pressing flowers (and leaves) is easy: you pick them, dry them, press them sandwiched between clean sheets of paper in a thick heavy book. Time does the rest. (There’s a great visual how-to here.)
But really, this is about the possibilities for enclosing surprises in a note or letter, that give it a totally “other” dimension. read more…
As is our nature, we started to deconstruct this strangely beautiful fly swatter, thinking it could easily be made with a piece of hardwood and a bit of leather. Then we thought: why bother? It only costs $12.80 + $5 shipping at Kaufman Mercantile.
We figure it would make a great, slightly odd, original and much-appreciated house gift for summer weekends. After all, most fly swatters are ugly and made of funky plastic. This one allows for chicly WHAMMING the occasional fly or mosquito, while being nice to look at during its off hours.
Kaufman Mercantile has some swell pricier items that provide inspiration and self-evident-how-tos for making them yourself: read more…