Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What the World has Been Waiting For

So it's only 6 more days until the Election. Anyone besides me looking forward to Nov. 7? When I was little, I hated election season because all those political ads got in the way of more important things---like cereal and toy ads. Not much has changed there, except now I don't like the other ads either!

 Even if I start out liking a candidate, by the time I've been told 50,000 times how wonderful he is, I can't stand him. I mean, imagine a dating relationship like that.....

"Hi, Sweetie."

"Hello....Have I told you lately how wonderful I am?"

"That's nice. How was your day?"

"It was fully awesome, because it had ME in it."

"Well, I had a pretty good day, too. I got promoted, and got a $10,000 raise, and an offer to star in a big Hollywood production.


"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you say something? I was thinking about how lucky you are to have me."

And it just goes on and on until you're ready to scream. This presidential election cycle is also the first one I've been through on Facebook, and that has given me a lot more exposure to the political leanings of my friends and family. It doesn't help, either, that this election is one that people feel particularly strongly about. Both sides seem to feel that the United States will collapse into utter destruction if the other guy gets elected.

All of the emotion, rhetoric, hyperbole, passion, and mudslinging has left me feeling tired and over-saturated. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. Which is why this is the perfect time to debut my newest blog, Political Therapy: Because the world has been waiting to hear my opinions...

Ok, Ok. Stop banging your head against the wall and screaming. The reason I'm doing this is to keep the political stuff off of this one. I've always wanted this blog to be a happy place, both for me and my readers. But I'm discovering that every once in a while I need to burst out with an opinion on something more serious. So if you want to, you can go check out what I have to say. And if not, this will still be a happy place of cinnamon, spice, and rainbows. Everyone needs something like that in their lives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Snow Day!

We had our first "real" snow of the season yesterday. There was a light sprinkling a couple weeks ago, but it didn't count for anything. This time we actually got a decent coating that lasted a whole DAY! But don't worry, folks, there's plenty more coming.

It's so much fun to go to bed to the sound of a dreary, slushy drizzle and wake up to find the world transformed.

 The snow was thick and wet, coating the windward sides of trees, houses, telephone poles, etc.

The sky was soft and foggy, so you could hardly tell where the earth ended and the sky began.

It was a perfect day to revisit summer by tackling some of those "blessed" tomatoes overrunning my kitchen counters. I've already made a bunch of stewed tomatoes, so I decided to try something new.

Salsa! As in, Peach-Pineapple Salsa, my absolute favorite. It wasn't bad for a first attempt, though I'll have to figure out a way to make it thicker next time. The flavor is really good, though.  And there's nothing better for warming up your home on a dreary winter day than having a canning kettle bubbling away on your burner.

After 5 quarts and 2 pints of salsa, I have almost used up all my tomatoes. Today I will make a few more quarts of spaghetti sauce and I'll be done for now. Yay! The rest of the tomatoes we can keep up with by plain eating. Canning isn't very cost-effective labor-wise, but how nice it will be to pop open a jar of summer during the prairie blizzards to come!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Horror Story

I'm much more susceptible to horror than your average person. I'm still deeply traumatized by a Stephen King mini-series I saw as a pre-teen. I hated every minute of it, but couldn't bring myself not to watch and see how it ended. Since then, I've developed a lot more---I don't know---self-control, or more likely, self-preservation. Now I know better than to even watch a scary commercial on TV, so if one comes on, I'll either leave the room or close my eyes and hum like an idiot. But NOT an idiot with nightmares!

So it's been rather ironic that I've been living in my own personal horror story these last few weeks. A malevolent Presence has been lurking in my upstairs. I tried to ignore it. I tried to stay away from it. I tried to never climb those stairs and become vulnerable to its evil attacks, but to no avail---it reached me even downstairs and bound my spirit in inescapable chains of darkness.. There was no eluding the Presence.


Oh, the horror! Guilt lurked in my upper story, ready to gobble me up at the first opportunity. No matter how much I resisted, I could not vanquish it. Desperation drove me to try my last option, my last hope. I would climb those steps of doom and do battle with the Presence face to face.

No! Don't go towards the Mess.

But I must.

It's the only way.

See, all those weeks of nice, tidy, respectable existence downstairs, I'd had a horrible, dirty secret. The two rooms upstairs were an absolute disaster. One that loomed with ever-increasing urgency, because I need to get the rest of my attic crawl spaces insulated before winter. You'd have to be a mountain climber to even get up the stairs! Something had to be done.

So two days ago I put on my big girl panties and forced myself up the stairs to confront the lurking Presence of Guilt. And what do you know, it wasn't quite as horrific when faced head on. Turns out that the horror of Guilt only held its power as long as it remained a shadowy specter in the recesses of my mind.

The Long Storage Room of Doom

The Menacing Killer Vegetable Room

I'm still not finished with the second room, but everything is ready for insulating in the first, and I know the second one won't take too long---IF I don't try to avoid it like before. When will I learn that procrastination only makes things worse? Hmmmmm?

I don't know either. Oh, well. I'll figure it out later.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Paper Mache

when you don't have a clue what you're doing....

I was asked to make something decorative for the front of the Montana Conference's Women's Retreat. This might sound like a big honor---being picked out of the whole state---but our pastor's wife happens to be the Women's Ministries leader for Montana. Not that I'm implying nepotism; it was just simple for her to ask me because I was there.

And that is how I found myself making my first foray into paper mache. I've painted a few backdrops in my time, and I'm fairly comfortable working in the 2-D medium of foam insulation, but I've never tried any 3-D decorations.  I didn't even think of paper mache, but Ruthie, our pastor's wife, suggested it and I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I did was google it. I don't know how people ever did anything without the internet. Just think of the time wasted by having to go to the library and look things up!

I found a recipe for the paste here
and decided to use the cooking method. It uses 1 part flour to 5 parts water, so a little flour goes a long way. Which is a good thing. I went through 4-5 kettles full by the time I finished

I made the frame out of a lawnmower box, another smaller box, and some dowels with tar paper wrapped around them.  Unfortunately, it wasn't until after I had my first coat of paper mache on that I actually looked at some lighthouse pictures and saw that the tops of lighthouses are always round. To fix my rectangular box error, I cut two circles out of cardboard, put one on the top and one on the bottom of the box, then duct taped around the edge to make a circular top.

The actual paper mache part was super fun. If you're planning a paper mache project, allow yourself lots of time, because it's a lengthy process to put on the pieces and let dry between coats. But the fun value is awesome. It's so delightfully squishy beneath your fingers---the perfect activity for a tactile child that likes to get messy.

To paper mache, you first tear newspaper into strips 1-2 inches wide. Don't worry if they get a little bigger as you go along. Mine certainly did. It's actually nice to have a selection of narrow and wide strips so you can choose the best one for any particular spot.

Then you apply the strips by dipping them in the flour mixture, making sure to coat both sides completely. After they are coated, you slide your fingers along the paper strip to get rid of the excess paste. The more glop you have on your project, the longer it will take to dry.

Lay the strips in a crisscross pattern. Go ahead and press, rip, and tear wherever you need to in order to make things fit. Don't get too many layers on at once, though, or it will take forever to dry.

After all the paper was on and dried, I painted the whole thing with a white primer. I actually could have stood to have some more layers for strength, but I was in a time crunch. It did OK, though. There's not much can go wrong with paper mache.

I got an old mayonnaise jar and used that for the glass part of the lighthouse. I made a ring of cardboard around the lid and glued the lid to the top of the lighthouse.The jar could then be screwed and unscrewed from the lid  in order to put in a battery-powered candle if desired.

I added some detail by making a little fence out of Popsicle sticks and making four "posts" to go around the glass jar. The top of the lighthouse was a cardboard circle with a little piece cut out to make it angle a bit. I would have liked to have spent more time on the top, but by then I really had to get 'er done. I only had time for one layer of paper and it was a little more rugged than I would have liked.

The lighthouse was painted white with red stripes. The woodwork at the top was black, and the lid was spray painted with a metallic brass paint. I also spray painted the base with a granite spray paint to give it texture. Overall, it turned out very nicely, but I do have to say that the structure part of it could've used improvement. It was the leaning lighthouse of Pisa.

In between coats on the lighthouse, I began work on the ocean backdrop for the whole thing. I sort of expected that part to be a piece of cake, since I'd done a similar scene a few years ago. Well, God has a way of challenging our self-confidence to keep us wholly relying on Him, and things didn't go as smoothly as I'd wanted. I kept over-spraying and the design wasn't coming together right, but with God's help and a whole lot of covering things up, I got the first part done.

The sky had to wait a while until I got more blue spray paint, but the day before I had to deliver it for transport I finally got the whole thing finished. It was barely 50 degrees outside and windy, but I forced my frozen fingers around a paint brush and got the last details painted on.

I had a lot of fun on this project and will definitely be doing paper mache in the future. There are so many possibilities  open when you move into 3-D art. And I would recommend it for anyone that wants a fun art project for kids. It has all the messy elements kids enjoy and it turns out really cool, too. Caleb's no kid, but he was forcibly conscripted  helped me put on the paper strips, and he had a great time. Really.

 P.S. Here is a helpful tip. If you paint a backdrop onto a sheet, iron it first. Just do it. Trust me.

A Perfect Day for Blogging

Our little farmstead from the northwest.
Today is absolutely the perfect day for getting caught up with my blogging. We've been having a stretch of gorgeous weather, the kind that's ideal for doing all those winterizing tasks you've waited until the last possible moment to do. Hey, you have your holiday traditions, I'll have mine. And, sorry, dear readers, but making my house warm and toasty takes a wee bit more of a priority than you do. After all, YOU don't have to huddle up in a sub-zero wind-tunnel if I don't get it all done.

But today is gray and gloomy, with rain and wind gusting up to 50 mph. It's a great day to stay inside, and technically, I have a storage room to sort, but that can wait for a while. You'll be happy to know that I love you more than I love cleaning out my storage room. Don't you feel special now?

So the first thing to catch up on are a few pictures from a couple weeks ago. Fall is such a nice season here. After a few frosts, the bugs are gone, no more ticks, the days are still warm, and it's the perfect time to get out in nature. After all, you won't be doing much outside for the next 4 months, so it's nice to get a little Vitamin D stocked up.

Caleb and I did some exploring out back. I keep hoping that every new season will expose some undiscovered pirate treasure out there. No luck so far. Evidently, the pirates didn't think to come this far inland. Too bad, because no one would ever have guessed where they hid their treasure. But I keep checking the same areas just in case. You never know what you'll find.

This time I found an old wood burning stove that ripped apart when we tried to pull it out of the dirt. I also found an old children's wagon, identifiable only by the handle sticking out from a rusted skeleton. And Caleb and I were excited to discover that the shallow puddle we'd confidently ice skated on last winter is actually a deep, man-made pond that would have reached well over our heads. It still might for that matter, because I couldn't see the bottom of it, even after a summer of drying up. At least we'll have an ice rink this winter.

All the fields have been harvested, so we hiked across the wheat stubble to the top of a hill we've never climbed before. Turns out that the view from the top isn't a whole lot different from the view from the bottom. Climbing hills is somewhat less thrilling on the prairie than elsewhere. But I did get a nice picture of our homestead from a different direction.


And yes, that picture is at the top of a hill, even if it looks flat. Our hills are flat, OK! Don't rub it in.

We may not have found a chest of gold and jewels, but we still found plenty of treasure. Fresh air, a peaceful atmosphere, lots of wildlife, freedom in every direction as far as you can see, and lots of beautiful scenery. That's the kind of treasure no pirate's booty could ever purchase. After all, how many of the great pirates died horrible deaths as a result of their wealth, and I never have to worry about anyone stealing my treasures. They're a little hard to pack up and carry off!