Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Freezing fall foliage.

I had to bust out good ol' thesaurus.com to get a synonym for 'preserving.' That's how bad this alliteration addiction with the letter f, strictly related to fall themes, has become. Really, "preserving fall leaves" could never have worked, though.

Shutting up.

A couple weekends ago, I collected some fall leaves. Getting them back to DC from Ohio proved to be slightly more challenging than anticipated, but I managed. Well, this is really my fault. My poor packing and general shady looks at TSA. That came out wrong. I don't think I look shady. I always wear tight clothes (ie yoga pants) so as to show that I have nothing to hide, nor anywhere to hide. For some reason, they always want to search my hair, though. It's odd because I have thin hair. Thiiiin hair. Thanks, Dad. One day, I want to pop out the line, "It's where I keep my secrets" but I have a feeling they won't pick up so much on Mean Girls as probably just take me away. Anyway. Sunday. Cleveland airport. I'm getting my head searched, per usual, then wait for my stuff to come through the machine. The belt stops. Bad sign. I arrived at the airport with more than twenty minutes to takeoff, which is an improvement for me and something I need to do more often, so I'm not freaking out. Then the agent grabs my bag. Now I'm freaking out and running through the list of things in there in my head.

I did buy a candle at Marshall's. And a mascara and eyeliner combo at Wal-Mart. Are those things allowed? Is a candle a solid or a liquid? It's sort of in between because it can be both. Did I take out my mace? Yeah, I definitely left that at home. I did find this awesome driftwood stick that I crammed in there. That's weird. Hm. 

The agent pulls me aside and asks if there's anything breakable or fragile. I give her the go ahead. She said they're just going to run some tests, run it back through the x-ray, and I should be good. As she's unzipping my bag, I start to cringe. The leaves. Before I left, I just tossed the leaves in on top. And yup, She unzips the bag, and it's just leaves. It looks like I just packed leaves, except that you can see my underwear peeking out the top and my stick at the bottom. I look like some weird woodland creature. The agent takes a wipe, swabs around my bag, tries to keep the leaves inside, then zips it back up. 

Needless to say, I was embarrassed. The bag came back through the machine, at which point I snapped it up and took off. Note to self: keep the weirdness in check and don't pack the underwears on top. Also, use a plastic bag once in a while.


Good ol' Martha helped me by doing the heavy work. Get it? The heavy work? Because she's a book. And she flattened the leaves with her weight? Yeah. Killed that one.

Also, I don't know when this became the good ol' post. Must be the homecoming season and the good ol' days.

I really can't stop today.

After four days of chilling in the book, I carefully removed the leaves. Some lost their color and vibrancy in the process, and I tossed those out. I was left with ten that I loved and really hoped my preservation process didn't mess it up.

I started by ironing the leaves between two pieces of wax paper. Correction: a wax paper sandwich. I put the leaves between the wax paper then used a piece of scrap cotton fabric on each side. You don't want the iron to touch the wax paper. Unless you want wax on your iron. If you do, go wild. I didn't. I used the iron on the cotton setting and started very gently. So gently that I was barely touching the fabric. As the wax paper started to melt together in the blank spaces, I gradually increased the pressure. I made about ten passes over the leaves before holding the iron over each leaf for about five seconds.

Ironing said and done, the leaves looked like this, on super high contrast:

The wax paper is melted together in the empty spaces and there are discernable bubbles around the leaves. Bubbles isn't the word - shadows. There's a clear shape outlining each leaf.

I carefully peeled off each leaf. You'll be able to feel the wax they've soaked. They're stiffer, smoother, and the wax paper where they were lying has a different texture than the usual slipperiness of the wax paper. It'll feel like parchment paper. Then, very carefully, I used a sponge brush to coat the front of the leaves in modge podge. Homemand modge podge, at that.

The leaves looked so cool with the modge podge drying; I almost wished they stayed like that.

I left the leaves alone for the night to fully dry. In the morning, I flipped them over and carefully painted on a layer of modge podge on the back. I gave that coat a day to dry while I was at work. Once I was home, I painted the fronts again, just for good measure.

Sadly, but also luckily, the only casualty was one corner of the big maple. He did have stunning colors though, so I'm a little upset he's not perfect now. Hmph.

I scattered the leaves around my room to bring in a little of the fall feeling that's through the living room/dining room/kitchen/mass room. I popped three in a gold vase that I scooped from Home Goods over a year ago, and the yellowy goldy browns in the leaves compliment the vase and the books underneath fantastically.

I scattered the others on a white lacquer tray that sits on the bench inside my door. The tray is from West Elm, the result of a recent tray binge of sorts. I bought four trays in one order. Maybe I'll own up to them later. For now, you can see this pretty white lacquered guy holding my jar of buckeyes and pretty scattered leaves. My phone charges here at night, too. If you'd like to be more formal, his name is Stevie. This is Stevie's bed. 

Did you catch the baby maple in the buckeyes? It's like he just fell in when they fell off the tree. A pretty little red leaf swimming in the buckeyes. Is it weird to make these stories up and fall in love with baby leaves?

But the preserving. That's what you really care about. So far, it's been just under a week. Eleven days. Still going strong. When can I call it a success? What sort of luck has anyone had with other leaf preservation methods?

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