Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wall Decor: Black Framed Vinyl Records

I collect vinyl records and love to listen to them.  I, like many music enthusiasts, feel the "record" is a dying art--not just the musical format, but the actual album ART.  The jackets, the sleeves, the booklets, the lyric sheets--old vinyl packaging is rich with art and graphics.  I have often purchased records just for the jackets, with secondary consideration for the music.  You can't get that tangible, beautiful artwork on iTunes.  That's a shame, and something future generations won't have any concept of.

But still, even though I have beautiful records in my collection, I still never get to see it when it just sits on my shelf.  So, for our one year anniversary, my sweetheart gave me the perfect gift--a two-birds-with-one-stone gift that sent my heart soaring! 

He and I built this large cluster of black frames to cover our shamefully bare wall in our living room, and finally give my album covers the attention they deserve.  Here's how we did it:

Kyle bought some lumber at the hardware store.  The boards measured 4"x 1" and were 8 or 10 feet long.  He cut them down to about 14 inches long and then cut the widths to make frames of varying depths.  The shallowest is about an inch and a half, the deepest is 4 inches, with about 3 sizes in between.  I hope that makes sense, I wasn't there for that process.

Next, he cut a groove with a router into one side of each frame.  The records sit inside the groove.

We worked on the rest of the process together, first assembling the cut strips of wood into a square.

These elbow-shaped clamps were indispensable.  They made it possible for all of the edges to line up exactly with no overlap, making very clean corners.

Then we drilled holes into the corners and put dowels to secure the wood together. 

Add a drop of wood glue.
Let the glue dry.

REPEAT THIS PROCESS 16 TIMES.  (or however many frames you want.)

Piles of finished frames.

 I used a rotary sander to thoroughly sand the doweled corners, and smooth out the entire frame.
 Spray Paint:  I ended up using 3 different kinds of flat black spray paint.   If you can, use "artist's spraypaint" purchased from an art supply store.  Montana paint is excellent.  It covers really well, has very dense pigment, and dries smoother than the "industrial" type paints I purchased from Lowe's and Walmart.  On the Left is the Montana paint, about $6.50 per can, on the Right is industrial paint from Lowe's, about $6.50 per can, and not pictured is cheap, generic flat black from Walmart, $3.50 per can.  I used 6 cans of paint for two coats on all 17 frames.

Eventually, I covered most of the frames by laying them on newspaper on the driveway, but it was awkward to get every nook and cranny, the frames stuck to the paper, and it was a fairly windy day.  So, later on, to finish the second coat and the last 8 frames, I hung a line in my backyard and tied the frames to it.  They dangled on the line and I spray painted them, getting a very even coat, almost no dripping, and great coverage.  (Failed to get a picture.)  They dried quickly, dangling in the breeze.

Last step was to lay the frames out on my living room floor in the arrangement I wanted, and decide how to group them.  Once I decided how many small groups I wanted and how the groups were arranged, we screwed the frames together with 1.25 inch black drywall screws.  I put D-rings on the back, and hung them on the wall like this:

I color-coded the different arrangements.  Each of the colored groupings is an independent piece, and can be moved to other parts of the house, etc.

And this is the finished project with a few records in the frames.  The records are meant to be easily taken in and out.  The deepest frames can also be used as shelves for bricka-brack and whatnot.

I love it! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Haleem Bademjan: Delicious Perisan Eggplant Soup!

Thanks to Modjeh for introducing me to this life-changing soup!  (Recipe was taken from

My first experience with this soup at Epicure Cafe in Fairfax, VA.  It was so delicious!  The toppings pictured here include crushed nuts, roasted whole garlic cloves, sour cream, (I believe) pesto, and grilled onion.  Served with slices pita.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Knotty Truth: A White Girl's Dreadlock Journey

*********The reader must keep in mind that I am a female Caucasian with thick mostly-straight (little bit of wave) brown hair.*****

The Dread Dream
I wanted dreadlocks for a long time.  In college, I couldn't get them because it was considered an "extreme hairstyle" which was prohibited by my school's dress and grooming standards.  Which was fine, that's what I agreed to, so I was okay waiting.  After I graduated, my desire for long, luscious, beautiful hair on my wedding day superseded my desire for the amazing dreads of my dreams.  Problem was, I was very very single, with no indications that my wedding day was anywhere on the horizon.  Inner conflict ensued for quite some time.  So, I let it grow, and loved it most of the time...

But, God is a God of miracles and I got the man and wedding of my dreams.  And my hair was PERFECT on my wedding day!!  Faith and diligence rewarded!

I add this pic of me and my dear mother because we have exactly the same hair.

The time soon came to fulfill another dream--my dreadlock dream!  So on June 6, 2011, I invited my friend Brittney over to help me start the process.

Aches and Mistakes
Okay, I did something stupid, feel free to laugh, because it was silly.  I couldn't have known it would waste hours and cause much pain, but, to keep myself humble I will admit to this foolishness and show you the documented proof.  But first, an explanation...I have done this to my hair before--you separate your hair into sections, twist it until it wads itself up to your scalp, tie a rubber band around it, sleep on it (very painful) and when you undo it, you have an afro.  If your hair is short, it works really well.  I thought that this strategy would make my hair easier to dread---it would be kinky and curly and would knot better.  This was a mistake.  First--my hair the night before the foolishness started.

It stretched to about an inch above my belt.

Twisted insanity.
Its pretty huge.

Hello Cowardly Lion.  It was nearly impossible to get through.
It was ridiculous to undo, really painful, and impossible to manage when it was undone.  After trying to undo it for 2 hours, Brittney and I decided to start over.  So I showered, washed my hair straight (NO CONDITIONER!!), blow dried it, and started from the beginning.

The Road to Success
Brittney sectioned my hair in one inch, brick-layout sections.  This took about 2 hours.  Then she started at the bottom dreading the sections.  That day, she was at my house doing my hair for over 8 hours.  We finished about 6 dreads.

Bless Brittney for her patience--I am certainly grateful for her help!  It took me about 2 months to finish dreading my sections on my own after that.  I worked on it a lot those first weeks; it took at least 1-1.5 hours to dread ONE section of my hair when I first started.  So I spent 1-3 hours on my hair every day, dreading and tightening.  Luckily, my life wasn't particularly busy during that time.  I wore a lot of scarves, do-rags, etc.  So basically, half of my head (the bottom half) was dreaded and the top was in braids.  It didn't look bad, especially because I covered the top of my head most of the time, so it just looked dreaded.  Here are some pics from that time:
You can see the hair that is wrapped in the bun is braided, not dreaded.
Same thing here, a few weeks later.
Braids and Dreads.

This was the end of July; dreads about 6 weeks old. I only had about 6-8 braids left.

I finished dreading the braided sections some time in August.  I wanted to be diligent at taking pictures of the process, but at the same time I didn't want to show off the nappiness.  There were days when it looked pretty crappy.

If we liken dreading my hair to a journey driving across the US, then maintaining the dreads is like the long, flat stretch from Nashville to Denver.  The scenery is all the same, it takes forever, but you have to do it to get where you're going.

In mid-August, I started the first full round of TIGHTENING.  So, this is how it goes: You dread the hair--it takes forever and is a bit painful.  Then you have to wash your hair. I wash my hair once a week.  With undreaded hair, that's definitely not enough, with dreads it seems like too much.  I hate to use this word, but I really dread washing my dreads.  At first, they unraveled like crazy--by which I mean they came loose and tons of loose hair formed at the scalp and along the body of the dread.  When they are new, they are weak and fragile; the knots slip and come apart and they get really frayed-looking.  This is why you have to tighten, or your dreads will look AWFUL.  And people will judge you and call you a "dirty hippie" behind your back. There are worse things to be called, but still.

The Crochet Hook Method
There is debate in the dreadlocked community about the method by which you form/maintain your dreads.  I used "backcombing" and a crochet hook.  Some people use the "natural" or "organic" method; which means they don't touch their hair at all and eventually it forms dreads.  This takes a LONG time--watch youtube videos on dreads, and you'll see what I'm talking about.  I watched just about every video on youtube on the subject of dreads before I started, and I definitely think the backcombing/crochet hook method is the best.

Reason #1 that the crochet hook method is the best way to go: It accelerates the dreading/locking process better than any other strategy.  Your dreads will be tighter (more mature) if you use a crochet hook than any other means I've seen.  Do it.  You won't regret it.

Here is an example of a loose dread:
And here is the same dread after about 20-30 min of tightening with the crochet hook:
In the fragile beginning weeks/months, you will get a lot of loose hair.  This leads to a phenomenon I refer to as "Nesting".  This is when loose hair from one dread or section will migrate into and become part of another neighboring dread.  Some people don't mind this.  I hate it.  In the beginning, if I neglected to check on the back of my head for too long, I would find that some dreads where getting real cozy with each other and trying to join into one.  Not having it.  My loving husband has spent many minutes "de-nesting" my dreads--pulling loose hair out of neighboring dreads and isolating each section so it is free from the grasping hands of the other sections.  I have 2 sets of dreads that I didn't catch in time, and they were impossible to separate once I found them.

Two dreads forming into one at the root.  I call these Thelma and Louise.
It took me about 3 weeks, working on my hair every day, to tighten all of my dreads.  When I tightened them, I pulled in all the loose hair and the dreads were pretty wirey--fairly stiff and pretty scratchy.  It has been a big adjustment getting used to sleeping on them.  My hair feels like a burlap sack against my face/skin when I sleep, so I usually just move it away from my skin.  After I formed them, and when I tighten them, my scalp gets pretty tender and is painful to sleep on, but that goes away after a day or two.  Here's what the back of my hair looked like before I tightened it the first time:

Here you can see the loose dreads in the middle, and on the right side are the dreads I had recently tightened.  BIG DIFFERENCE!
 Here are some pictures of my dreads at the end of August---3 months and 2 weeks old.

How To Video #1

How To Video #2