Smug Handmade Upcycled Xmas Presents

Belgian chocolate pine conesSmug Scout is a big fan of handcrafted items. She seeks them out everywhere from the streets of Paris to New England church fairs and has been known to meander aimlessly for hours on the Etsy web site. She does not, however, use her own hands to craft much of anything, largely due to the damning combination of laziness and ineptitude. Still, once in a while, unexpected forces converge that lead to a frenzy of production. Today those forces led to handmade Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cone Xmas gifts.

Smug Scout has been thinking about upcycled pine cones for the last few days following a lively exchange with her favorite distant Smug scouts (one in NH, one in flyover territory, one in the squalid snake pit of Key West) on the popular and exciting subject of upcycled objects (so popular and exciting that even one of her favorite distant Smug scouts quickly bowed out of it). Then this morning Smug Scout woke up facing a grim amount of work from the job that has an actual income attached, so not surprisingly she was vigorously motivated to go for a nature walk (she even pretended it was cold enough to wear her North Face fleece pullover) to collect pine cones. She found assorted pine cones and some other curious looking cones to bring home (but not without getting sticky pine cone goo all over her hands, the unnecessary North Face fleece pullover, and even her hair). Then, after a failed attempt to rid herself of the pine cone sap (which Smug Scout discovered you need alcohol to remove, though she doubts red wine will do the trick without creating a new and messier problem), she made six Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones using ribbons she had kept from Hermès scarf boxes, Godiva and Neuhaus boxes from Belgium, a Bavarian jam jar, and some unknown domestic packaging.

Hermes pine coneHow can you make your own Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones? Here is a list of materials for this project:

  • Pine cones or other cones you pick up off the ground
  • Ribbons from various packaging you somehow could not bear to discard

Smug Scout does not herself have patience for overly complicated crafts projects, so even a clumsy amateur is unlikely to struggle with the instructions. Here they are:

  1. Pick up pine cone or other cone.
  2. Tie ribbon around it in some fetching way.
  3. Do all that again for the other cones.

Bavarian and Maine pine conesYou will see that that Smug Scout also has one cone with a lobster cocktail stick awkwardly emerging from it like a harpoon because she wanted at least one Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cone to represent New England. Smug Scout is not really sure how many people will covet these Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones (or even politely accept one for that matter), but if you are Smug, you will at least appreciate the environmental benefits of upcycling, specifically in this case that the pine cones are happier and more productive wearing pretty ribbons (themselves spared a smelly interment in a landfill) than lying in whatever unceremonious spot they landed after being cast off by their trees. Furthermore, they are unique, handcrafted, and not available for purchase anywhere.

If any readers have other easy ideas for upcycling pine cones, please share them with Smug Scout, especially during this so-called “season of giving.” She “rescues” almost every pine cone she sees on the ground, and there are only so many Smug local object tableaus you can display at home without seeming impossibly précieux (unless of course you are from Portsmouth and your entire house is a Smug local object tableau). Now who wants to “rescue” some extra Smug New England pine cones for her?

Smug Rocking Chairs in Portsmouth

Lobster trap rocking chairSmug Scout recently spent a long weekend in Portsmouth, which as usual meant an unrelenting onslaught of Smugness (aside from one very very sad absence of Smug camaraderie). Smug Scout had an especially packed agenda because she brought her friend Smug Eastside Actor, who had never before set foot in New Hampshire. One of Smug Scout’s other friends in L.A., Smug Ex-NH Bartender, even touchingly called him a “little NH virgin.” Smug Eastside Actor’s deflowering was as painless as his photography was prolific. Because he is an actual actor, not simply a Smug one, he has almost 3,000 friends/”friends” on the social media site Smug Scout has renamed One Billion Monuments to Narcissism (1BMN), all of whom enjoyed beautiful and alluring photos at five or ten minute intervals all weekend. As a result, the local tourist board is offering him an incentive to return in the form of a free lobster roll at State Street Saloon. (Well, yes, Smug Scout completely made the last part up, but she wanted to give a special mention to that quietly Smug watering hole for its appeal to the most impossible New England chowder and lobster roll purists/elitists. The bar itself is of course not new to her, as the friend who recently abandoned Portsmouth for the bowels of Key West [now Smug Conch Collector? Smug Seedy Florida Bar Trawler?] used to take her there late at night for its colorful local clientele and the legendary “White” Bloody Mary.)

As excited as Smug Eastside Actor was by his new experiences, because Smug Scout comes to Portsmouth four or five times a year, there are not so many surprises for her anymore. Thus she was thrilled by the discovery of Smug rocking chairs made out of lobster traps outside of a ridiculously Smug new store on State Street named Pickwick’s Mercantile. First of all, let us review the key features of Smug chairs:

  1. Absolutely no new materials, only reclaimed and/or repurposed from another, preferably more practical, utility.
  2. Violently uncomfortable.

Smug Scout did not know that all of the grounded lobster traps she sees all over the place in NH and Maine were waiting to be reclaimed and repurposed; she thought they were just regional outdoor decorations, sort of like the dead, rusted out cars on cinder blocks one sometimes sees in less sophisticated Smug-repellent rural or blue collar neighborhoods. So she may be ignorant about all practicalities related to lobster traps, but she does know that chairs made out of them offer a punitive discomfort. They do not have cushions or even contours, though the back meets the seat in a way that is somewhat curved to fit a human body–as long as that body is made of Jell-O. Smug Scout believes it would feel like sitting Indian style on a sewage grate. Even Eames wire chairs appear plush by comparison; at least they are sculpted and have leather seat pads made specifically for them. In fact, the only difference between “Lobstah Rockahs” and medieval torture racks is that the former do not feature spikes and do come in six fashion colors with contrasting mesh drink holders (ideally proportioned for the bottle of vodka you will need to dull the physical pain from your sitting experience). Smug Scout cannot think of who would truly enjoy sitting in a “Lobstah Rockah,” but she believes that the chairs’ biggest fan base would be actual lobsters, who would be only too delighted to find their underwater death chambers turned into pricey furniture.

Smug Scout did some research and found that the company making these lobster trap chairs is called Sea Rose Trap Company from Scarborough, Maine. Naturally, she was fascinated by the descriptions she is reproducing below in red (of course, right?). Her responses remain black.

The Original Lobstah Rockah™!

Sturdy and comfortable, these lobster trap rocking chairs are made to last! Pressure treated rockers, vinyl coated wire, and poly twine will all withstand the elements for years to come. Each rocking chair has all the details you’d find on a real lobster trap. This is the genuine article!

Wire choices: black, green, yellow, blue, lime, grey
Twine choices: yellow, orange, blue, black

Smug Scout is very confused about why “all the details you’d find on a real lobster trap” are a selling point for a rocking chair, which is supposed to provide a relaxing experience rather than an entrapping one. Smug Scout is also confused about the writer’s use of “on” rather than “in” here, but she knows this type of nitpicking makes most people cross.

Lobstah Rockah™ Loveseat

The latest addition to our product line – The Lobstah Rockah™ Loveseat. Now you can enjoy all the benefits of the Lobstah Rockah™ with anothah! Durable and weather resistant, this loveseat is made with vinyl coated wire and has pressure treated rockers. This chair has every detail that you would find on a real lobster trap. 

Wire choices: black, green, yellow, blue, lime, grey
Twine choices: yellow, orange, blue, black

Do not assume that Smug Scout has no romantic fantasies set in New England; she has many. You will not be surprised to find out that these tend to feature reclaimed wood, especially birch and knotty pine. Not one of them, however, features either a “Lobstah Rockah Loveseat” (to put you in the mood for an…altahcation?) or a phonetic transcriptionist who turns “another” into “anothah.” Smug Scout is happy to listen to New England accents, but transcribing them is another story. All this “lobstah” and “chowdah” and “steamahs” nonsense is just gimmicky drivel meant to sucker punch rube tourists from newer (read: inferior) states.

She does laugh when she sees NE residents write “scollops,” though.

Smug Home Inspection: Derek

Smug Scout lives to locate Smugness in its natural or, better yet, completely contrived habitat. One of her favorite places to do this is in other people’s homes. Sometimes, of course, a favorite place for her may be far from a favorite place for her subjects to invite her. For example, she is fairly sure she annoyed the Smug Barrington Bartender by asking to see her refrigerator a few too many times (after a few too many of Smug Barrington Bartender’s Bully Boy artisanal small batch organic white wheat whiskey cocktails). Smug Scout is sure that Smug Barrington Bartender’s refrigerator is full of multiple varieties of kale, local artisanal spirits, and handcrafted products from her Smug country store. She certainly has nothing to prove to Smug Scout. On the other hand, Smug Scout’s friend Derek had much more to prove after tantalizing Smug Scout by saying she probably would not want to see his messy Portsmouth apartment. She said it would be more than enough just to see the Smug decorative corn stalks on his “balcony” (more like a way station for trash that has been carried outside but not down the stairs), but when he invited her in, his place became fair game for a spontaneous Smug home inspection. What caused Smug Scout to be initially quite dumbstruck was the way Derek’s apartment effortlessly combined Smugness with absolute squalor. At first, Smug Scout did not really want to look around, let alone sit down, because she thought she was in the filthy, debauched lair of a frat boy. Imagine her surprise when she discovered a slew of Smug accoutrements mixed into the rubble:

  • Locally grown Marina di Chioggia. At first Smug Scout could not believe her eyes. She even said: “You have a Marina di Chioggia?” Derek breezily informed her that this Smug, wart-riddled green pumpkin was a gift from local farmer friends. Smug Scout wishes that she had New Hampshire farmer friends who would share such a Smug bounty.
  • Fair trade bamboo bath mat.  In addition to its sterling no-exploitation Derek's bamboo bath matpedigree, this item is Smug because it does so poorly at its only job: soaking up water after a shower. It has zero drying ability, but at least it gives the impression of walking barefoot in some sustainable Southeast Asian forest. You have the added benefit of not having to worry about poachers, smugglers, frightening insects, infectious tropical diseases and other problems that bedevil sustainable Southeast Asian forests. We can probably agree that freezing and wet feet are better than malaria, dengue fever, or being shot with a tranquilizer dart by some cretinous scoundrel poacher who mistook you for an elephant.
  • Derek's coat rackHand forged cast iron coat rack. Smug Scout did not know right away that she was even looking at a coat rack because no matter how long or hard she stared at it, she did not see one single coat. She then realized that Derek does not wear coats (though he has since bought a bright green Marmot jacket) and that he preferred to use this hand forged cast iron coat rack as a wall decoration. Even the following month when Smug Scout attended parties in Derek’s apartment, she noticed that no one put coats on the coat hooks. Smug Scout assumed this was a house rule of Derek’s, so she put her own Marmot winter wear on the back of a chair that seemed far enough from drunk people’s drinks to be safe. Meanwhile, guests piled their coats on the couch. Smug Scout smirked at the idea that the coat rack was empty while the couch was unusable for its original purpose: sitting.
  • Handmade birch bark candles. At first Smug Scout thought she was looking at some phony imitation of birch bark, so Derek had to inform her, quite archly in fact, that these candles were made from repurposed birch trees from the New England woods. These trees, he had to point out Smugly, were not savagely cut down for commercial reasons but rather died of natural causes and reincarnated as a Smug eco-friendly light source.
  • Local and artisanal salts, spices, rubs, spreads. Smug Scout was delighted to see this impressive collection of exotic flavored salt, lavender infused raw honey, and Smug Stonewall Kitchen products from the eponymous store down the street. However, what elevated this display’s Smug quotient is that it is just that: a display. Smug Scout was stunned to discover that Derek neither cooks nor eats in this kitchen.
  • Soap and spoon contraptionArtisanal handmade lavender oatmeal soap and local handcarved wooden spoon “sculpture” to prop up broken window. Smug Scout was especially fascinated by this contraption because it demonstrates critical yet at the same time paradoxical elements of Smugness: ridiculously expensive and handmade products stripped of their intended utility only to receive another, apparently more important one. You see, if Derek neither cleans nor cooks, he may as well use the soap and spoon to perform a function like holding up a broken window that he would rather not pay to have properly fixed. Smug Scout understands this choice very well because she balks at spending money anywhere other than Smug restaurants, stores, and vacation destinations.

Still, as impressed as Smug Scout was by the random, yet oddly comprehensive, array of Smug products, she could not help but turn up her nose at the squalor. These were the worst sightings:

  • Horrific refrigerator. Smug Scout does not know how to put this politely, nor does she have the slightest inclination to try: she was repulsed by the contents of Derek’s refrigerator, not even to mention the legion of unidentifiable stains decorating its surfaces. She thinks any product bearing a Market Basket label, such as “Fat Free Cottage Cheese,” already a vile over-processed product, must border on inedible. (For those not from the region, Market Basket is a bargain supermarket for those of low taste, lower class, and lowest standards, though Smug Scout has never actually set foot in one to confirm the certainty of her position.)  Another nightmare of chemical processing, Entenmann’s “Softees” donuts, certainly comes from the same anti-Smug source. She does not even want to know what the “homemade” very dark brown liquid in the seltzer bottle is (probably not artisanal black birch liqueur).  She does approve of both the Stonewall Kitchen Chipotle Ketchup and the Sriracha, though the latter container does not look safe to handle.
  • Beheaded cabbage patch kidGrotesque tableau. Smug Scout is pretty sure that Derek got the gourd from the fields of his New Hampshire farmer friends, but she does not believe the same could be said of the Cabbage Patch head. She does not know what the white plastic rat has to do with local gourds and bloody doll heads (nor they with each other for that matter) but vaguely wonders if it has something to do with the Pied Piper. And while she received a similar gourd as a gift from Derek, she will not be re-imagining this grisly trifecta in her own home.

Thank you so much for the tour, Derek! Smug Scout recalls that you sent an updated photo of your “re-Smugged” refrigerator, but it has disappeared into BlackBerry oblivion. Perhaps you would like to re-send it? Smug Scout welcomes any photographic rebuttals!

Smug Bowl = Smug Nature Experience

Big city Smug people, unlike their woodsy New England and Pacific Northwest counterparts, have an ambivalent relationship with nature. On the one hand, they love its dramatic beauty and lovely pre-reclaimed raw materials. On the other hand, it can be messy and disgusting, even dangerous. This is why big city Smug people, for example, tend not to like sleeping in a nylon bag on top of insect-infested dirt or grass, an unsavory activity also known as “camping.” Smug Scout recently read in a Smug West Coast magazine called “Sunset” about a popular new Smug activity known as “glamping.” She has a strong distaste for such inane neologisms, but now she understands what this one means: large tents with reclaimed pine plank floors, king size feather beds (naturally including turndown service), elk-antler bedside lamps, and private bathrooms with heated slate floors. It means local seasonal organic cuisine, often featuring local seasonal organic wild animals, served in a rustic lodge dining room or by some bearded laconic peon directly to the tent. It means outdoor activities that require North Face or Patagonia faux roughing-it costumes and, for legal reasons, an extremely experienced team of local guides. Smug Scout believes that this pale, defanged adventure can cost about $500 a night.

Smug Scout will be blunt: she is no more interested in glamping than she is in camping. She does not want to sleep in some foppish tent. She does not want to eat local seasonal organic wild animals. In fact, she hopes their living relatives will pillage those overwrought “tents” while the phony campers are away on some trumped-up “wilderness experience.” She certainly does not go “rafting” or “fly-fishing.” Her desire for all things rustic seems to have one massive limitation: she does not like to visit the scene of the rusticity; she really only wants a precious souvenir from it. For this precise and utterly cockeyed reason, she recently fell in love with the reclaimed wood bowl you may have already spotted in the above photo of a reclaimed wood bowl. This reclaimed wood bowl is a Smug masterpiece because it has the rare distinction of simultaneously embodying both the stunning beauty and unpredictable ferocity of nature. You can see the lovely rings and the handcrafted looking shape. You can guess that it was as expensive as handcrafted objects with zero practical utility usually are ($80) and purchased at a Smug venue (the artisanal Piedrasassi wine tasting room in Lompoc, California). What you may not see, what you must feel, is that it has extremely sharp, rough edges. You could get a splinter. You could cut yourself. You could catch your hand-knit fair trade humane non-mulesed-wool sweater on its feral points.

So we are left with the following paradox: Smug people would rather bring nature indoors than bring themselves outdoors. So be it. This pretentious tomfoolery is much better for the local economy than a bunch of primitives in sleeping bags who use trees for toilets.

Smug Household Tip: Wine Bottle Ziploc Drying Poles

Smug Scout is not a natural housekeeper and has virtually nothing to share on Smug topics like green cleaning or time and space wasting European kitchen gadgetry. She will not apologize for any of that. She is not a Smug jack of all trades. However, because she has a small kitchen with what she is sure is an illegally small amount of counter space, she has been forced to improvise to meet certain needs. One of her most Smug needs is reusing Ziploc bags until the plastic becomes cloudy and wrinkled, perhaps toxic. Since she brings her lunch to work every day, and her lunch often features local organic heirloom cherry tomatoes, she must wash at least one Ziploc bag per day. But a dilemma presented itself: how could she dry them to prevent mold from befouling the interior? The solution arrived in the form of wine bottles she lazily left on the counter and did not immediately recycle. Smug Scout ingeniously turned the bags upside down and put them on top of the wine bottles; they dried in record time. Here are the Smug benefits:

  1. You will not need to buy Ziploc bags more often than once every ten years. In fact, Smug Scout does not even remember how many years ago she bought that box of Ziploc bags. She also still has every one she ever got from a friend, though her friends may no longer recognize them in their current form. She will not ask them to try.
  2. You will need to continue to buy expensive and limited production local wine, so that you will have sufficiently Smug wine bottle Ziploc drying poles. You do not want a wine bottle Ziploc drying pole made from cheap swill of suspect provenance, like any house label of a certain eco-hostile supermarket chain (all that plastic!) known for its $2 wine, which Smug Scout considers unfit for human consumption.

Tip: do not let any flagrant wastrels make fun of your antique Ziploc collection. If that happens, use the diversionary tactic in this sample dialogue to develop a response:

  • Flagrant wastrel: Those bags are disgusting! What are you, some relic from the Depression?
  • Smug Scout: Maybe so. What is the last bottle of wine you bought?
  • Flagrant wastrel: I got a great deal on a French red from Trader Joe’s. It only cost $4.99.
  • Smug Scout: I see. You have vulgar taste and clearly no gag reflex. I would only drink that plonk through an IV line.
  • Flagrant wastrel: You’ve just insulted me!
  • Smug Scout: True, but I hope I insulted Trader Joe’s more.

Just ask Smug Scout if you need a bottle or two for your Smug wine bottle Ziploc drying poles. She will not share her Ziplocs, however. You will have to age those on your own.

Final warning: be proud of your Smug wine bottle Ziploc drying pole. Try not to let Smug friends bamboozle you into squandering $20 on a reclaimed wood plastic bag dryer from Vermont, even though this is clearly a very Smug object. Smug Scout in fact just found herself out-Smugged by a very Smug friend in Portsmouth who first took pictures of her reclaimed wood plastic bag dryer, pictures that featured Smug iconography such as MacBooks, hand varnished reclaimed wood tables, and an “earth-sensitive” pinot noir (a bottle that still had wine in it, pointedly not to be used as a wine bottle Ziploc drying pole), only to brag that she could not take a picture of this contraption “in use” because she simply “doesn’t use much plastic.” Wow! Out-Smugged on two counts! Now Smug Scout knows when she is down for the count, but she would like to point out that it is much more sensible to spend that $20 on a bottle of wine than an object you then become too Smug to use.

Smug Stuffed Animals in Portsmouth

Though Smug Scout prefers Smug grown-up company, she knows there are many Smug children under five (such as the ones who congregate in boisterous packs at the Portsmouth FM) whom she recognizes as future Smug scouts in miniature form. Smug Scout recognizes that they possess certain abilities and inclinations she happily lacks, such as the operation of felonious babysitting gadgetry like iPads and iPhones.

Smug Scout is grudgingly aware that Apple products, like actual organic, local, heirloom apples, are very Smug, but she would like to dispense with the lot of them, or bushel if you prefer, and advise parents to focus not just on distracting their miniatures with addictive carnival screens that will turn them into anti-social automatons but also on truly Smug old-fashioned children’s playthings: handcrafted stuffed animals. Thus, she dedicates this post to her young readers.

Hello, miniature Smug scouts under five! Aunt Smug Scout knows you do not really want to waste your young life pressing your sticky little fingers onto greasy screens. Yuck! Smug Scout knows you really want Smug stuffed animals that are fun for both play and Smug stature among your friends. She suggests you bring your Smug parents to Nahcotta, which is a Smug local arts, crafts and sustainable products store in Portsmouth, NH. There is a whole section devoted to shoppers in your demographic, so you will have no trouble spending your Smug parents’ money on superior products. Smug Scout recommends Earth Friendly Creatures, which are small, simple, barely identifiable stuffed animals that cost around $16.  Use the below tips to negotiate with your parents (who may not want to pay so much on something they like to believe they could easily craft themselves–if only they could just finish that nasty organic vegetable canning project).

  • Made by underpaid, uninsured artistic adults in Massachusetts, rather than underpaid, uninsured, non-artistic children in China
  • Body is made of locally milled “EcoSpun” recycled materials from Massachusetts, rather than toxic materials from China
  • Eyes and noses are made from recycled bottles from Massachusetts drinkers rather than recycled bottles from California drinkers that arrived in China via container ship
  • Tag is tied on with a chopped off shoelace from Massachusetts rather than a plastic tie from China
  • Only available at Smug arts and crafts stores in New England rather than anywhere else in the world, including China

Warning: if your parents are the type of New Hampshire residents to say “Mass-holes,” please replace “Massachusetts” with “local New England artisans.” Otherwise they could refuse the purchase on nonsensical geographic grounds, no matter how often you point out that Massachusetts is more local than China.

Tip: if you do not live in New England, please tell your parents to schedule a vacation there immediately. Choose Portsmouth, NH, or Portland, ME. Smug parents will just love it!  There is reclaimable wood everywhere, and you’ll notice that some of it is still in an exotic form known as trees.  In fact, tell them that reclaimed wood is so popular that Smug restaurants are even named after prized varieties of it, such as a legendary establishment known as the Black Birch Kitchen & Drinks. Point out there are cocktails made with macerated local black birch tree bark. No one would dream you made that up. 

Final note: If your negotiations fail, try telling your parents that if they will not buy you an Earth Friendly Creature, you will embarrass them by lying down and playing dead in front of the next corporate chain you see.  Pick Starbucks, for example. Your parents will be mortified to be stopped and spotted near dangerously multi-source mongrel coffee.


Smug SmackDown: Reclaimed Wood Cutting Boards

Smug Scout does not care about professional wrestling, nor does she understand how anyone would choose to watch bulging roughnecks attack each other. However, Smug Scout does care about and understand reclaimed wood cutting boards, and she has noticed so many of them recently that she has put together her own Smug match for you to determine which of some recently spotted reclaimed wood cutting boards is the Smug heavyweight. Smug Scout will sideline the silly mixed sports idioms while you look at three contenders for most Smug reclaimed wood cutting board. Smug Scout asks you to read the descriptions, study the pictures, make a selection, and see if you agree with Smug Scout’s winner below. If you disagree, you lose.

1. This is a reclaimed wood cutting board from Ravensburg, Germany. Smug Scout bought it over the summer at a farmers’ market in Oberstdorf, a town not too far from the reclaimed wood site.

2.  This is a reclaimed wood cutting board on which a wine bar called Covell in Silver Lake serves its cheese assortment.

3. This is one of a few sets of hanging reclaimed wood cutting boards on display in some boutique on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica (L.A.’s other Smug epicenter after Silver Lake). Smug Scout cannot tell you the name of the store.

Smug Scout hopes it is obvious to you that #3 is the winner of most Smug reclaimed wood cutting board(s).  First she will explain why the runners-up lost.

  1. This German reclaimed wood cutting board was purchased in Germany where such products are not Smug but rather traditional, ordinary, and even cheaper than their mass-produced Chinese counterparts. Smug Scout only paid about $7 for this numbered reclaimed wood cutting board (19 out of only 25 crafted!), and she was the only customer who asked if the wood was local, sustainable, and of course reclaimed. The brisk German wood woman showed no interest in boasting about the provenance of the wood; she simply said “near Ravensburg” (“in der Nähe von Ravensburg” if you insist on the original) and gave Smug Scout a brochure in exchange for her 5 Euros and immediate departure.  Smug Scout asks you to study the German Economic Miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) to understand why “Made in Germany” makes pragmatic economic sense rather than puffed up Smug sense.
  2. This Silver Lake reclaimed wood cutting board was used to serve cheese and “accoutrements” (which is just a Smug way of attempting to transform apple slices and pistachios into an exotic French delicacy).
  3. This Santa Monica hanging set of reclaimed wood cutting boards is the clear winner because it is used for nothing other than a frivolous store window decoration.  As we know, an object’s Smug quotient rises in an inverse proportion to its actual utility. If that sounds repellently mathematical, how about some realistic household examples? If you have a knotty pine plank that you “reclaimed” under cover of night from a White Mountain hayseed’s firewood stockpile and you hang it horizontally above your architectural couch, you are very Smug, but if you use that “reclaimed” knotty pine plank as a TV tray, you are much less Smug. By the same token, if you have a set of antlers you “reclaimed” from a White Mountain hayseed’s hunting cabin and you hang it above your decorative fireplace, you are very Smug, but if you use those “reclaimed” antlers as a hatrack, you are much less Smug.

If Smug Scout may be honest, she is ever-so-slightly charmed by the hanging reclaimed wood cutting board tableau.  She thinks it is ever-so-slightly clever to attach colorful paper fake tree growth rings to this hanging reclaimed wood cutting board tableau. However, she does not see any utility.  Well, maybe she can think of one. She wonders if the colorful paper fake tree growth rings could be used to fixate the gaze of someone on an acid trip. On second thought, that is not a likely consideration of the hipster logger who slices fallen trees into reclaimed wood cutting boards. Thus, the prize must go to #3.

Stay tuned for the next Smug SmackDown: Men in Kilts!

Smug Pencils in Silver Lake

Smug Scout has just found her new favorite colored pencils. They are from a Smug store in Silver Lake (that is the Smug epicenter of Los Angeles for those of you in other places). The store is called ReForm School, which has a Smug capital “F” to make the name appropriately ironic for this competitive neighborhood. When Smug Scout walked in and saw the dizzying array of local, sustainable crafts, few of them suggesting any actual, practical use or utility, she knew ReForm School is ahead of most of its competition.

Smug Scout was most excited to see a faux-industrial steel basket filled with what she can only call “bunches” of rustic reclaimed wood pencils. Each bunch is wrapped in recycled brown paper with two rubber bands to hold it all together. There is no brand. Smug Scout thinks that is Smug, as if to announce pointedly: “the brand is local forest, not some evil corporation.”

Yet there is a problem. These bunches of reclaimed wood colored pencils do not come with a sharpener.  As much as Smug Scout can picture these reclaimed wood colored pencils adorning her desk, she knows that if she has to use a Bowie knife to whittle down the bark, they will end up as blood-stained shards that she will have to compost.

Now Smug Scout understands why the reclaimed wood colored pencils are displayed in a faux-industrial steel basket. The steel basket is not just a faux-industrial receptacle that reflects the store’s eco-ethos but rather an interior design tip. You are not meant to write, draw, or color with these pencils. Nothing so utilitarian. You are meant to exhibit them in your living room, perhaps on top of the dead log you call a single-source coffee table.  They may never write a word, but they tell your visitors that you are Smug. And that is all the function any Smug object really needs.

A few thoughts on reclaimed wood

The Smug Scout has been spending a lot of time thinking about reclaimed wood of late.  Please do not offend her by deeming this occupation preposterous. What should she think about? World misogyny? Global climate change? The possibility that a large buck could impale Paul Ryan with live, rather than decorative, antlers? No, no. While she would love to picture Ryan bleeding to death from an antler hole while a deer family contemplates a rare non-vegetarian dinner, instead she is having apolocalyptic visions about the future of reclaimed wood.  With all of the buildings, furniture, household objects, and useless, expensive, unidentifiable knickknacks made from reclaimed wood, she wonders how soon there will be a shortage of unclaimed wood to reclaim.  She believes that Smug fans of reclaimed wood have a fantastical vision of the reclaiming process.  It involves a logger dressed up in a Brooklyn hipster costume, which itself was drawn from actual blue-collar loggers but now incorporates fair-trade flannel and “water-less” jeans, roaming forests in the Pacific Northwest.  It involves this sustainably dressed logger carrying an antique buzzsaw (please do not expect the Smug Scout to be technically accurate about tools) and occasionally stopping to forage some wild chanterelles.  It involves this hip and happy logger smiling as he carefully rescues dead trees from their sad fate of rotting and regenerating in the forest and places them in his hybrid logging truck.  It finally involves this Smug logger driving, of course a short distance, to a wide variety of artists and artisans, who will chop and slice the logs in an artistic and artisanal, if also absurdly profitable, way for sale to the country’s Smug suckers.  This is indeed a vision of tender and moving beauty.  The Smug Scout, however, sees it differently. She imagines that the future of reclaimed wood is in forests “reclaimed” from the pulp and paper industry as that industry realizes there’s more money in “reclaimed” wood than in institutional toilet paper, cereal boxes, and particle board.  Maybe Smug Scout is just too cynical.  Maybe Smug Scout needs to calm down.  Okay.  Just put a reclaimed wood cutting board with some foraged chanterelles in front of her, and she will stop.

Smug chairs

You know an object is Smug when you see reclaimed wood, but you do not have a clue why someone would want it or what the fuck it even is.  These look like chairs to your perplexed Smug Scout.  They look like ugly and uncomfortable chairs.  They look like lamely shaped chairs that would only feel at home in a room filled with antlers and pretentiously arranged “exotic” tchotchkes.  But before you even go into that, you may ask how the Smug Scout knows the wood is reclaimed.  She knows because she saw these unsightly creations in San Francisco and is sure she doesn’t have to tell anyone what a Smug Epicenter that is.  You can’t even find furniture there that’s made from wood without multiple past lives.  It would just be young and obscene and vulgar, like a five year old trailer park beauty queen.  She imagines a brief conversation taking place in a room that could have been featured in “Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table.”

  • Smug Host: Please make yourself comfortable.
  • Perplexed Smug Scout: That is just not possible.
  • Smug Host: What’s wrong with you? I have beautiful architectural seating crafted by a local driftwood artisan.
  • Perplexed Smug Scout: I’d rather sit on your sweaty yoga mat.