Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Yesterday we made homemade Gak. It is the coolest stuff. To make it, you mix equal parts white Elmer's school glue and water (usually about 1/4 c. of each) with a few drops of food coloring. In a separate bowl, mix 2 c. water with about 1 TBS.+ of Borax. Pour the glue mixture into the Borax solution and it turns to a rubbery glob of Gak. We made it a lot as kids and now my kids like to make it every now and then. The kids had a blast playing with it and it kept them entertained for quite a while. However, the festivities came to an end when Tyler decided that Gak would be fun to put in his hair. Of course, he let it sit there for a minute or two before he told me. That gave it a chance to settle in and surround each individual hair on the top of his head. I couldn't get it out. I tried giving him a bath, but that didn't do it either. The comb would not get it out, because the comb would just get entangled in the goo and become stuck. I had to pull out the clippers. Jeff is the usual barber around here, but I did my best. Even the electric razor had a hard time getting through the gak. Now he's sporting a nice buzz cut just in time for...winter. Now if that doesn't inspire you to make Gak for your kids, then nothing will!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Miscellaneous Tidbits

Behold, the ear flap hat! I am thinking that we would be one step closer to world peace if every one had their own cozy flannel ear flap hat.

A few weeks ago, we had friends over and I made this monstrosity of a dessert: graham cracker crust, melted chocolate, and homemade marshmallow spread on top. Jeff got out the trusty torch and browned the top. You know that the torch is worth keeping around when you can fix leaking plumbing and brown the delicate peaks of marshmallow deliciousness. It was really good, and really sweet. I was glad we had people over to help eat it.

Here is a journal I made for my sister. I am having so much fun sketching out designs and turning them into journal covers. 

Pretty Bird

Back in the olden days when Jeff and I were dating, a cockatiel walked up his Mom's driveway. She caught it and brought it inside. Jeff's mom just so happened to have a bird cage in her shed, even though she had never owned a bird. (She is a major pack rat, and I used to tease her that if an elephant walked up her driveway she would probably find something to put it in, and she would agree with me) She put the bird in the cage and kept it as her own. As it turned out, the bird talked. Its favorite phrase was "Pretty Bird " which it would loudly proclaim every time you walked in the door. The bird would also whistle at you. Between Pretty Bird and Tater, a person could get to feeling pretty good about themselves.  I taught it a specific whistle just by doing it whenever I was over there. My mother-in-law taught it to say 'Shwoo, shwoo!' That was what she always said in place of whistling when she thought someone looked good, because I guess she couldn't whistle. 'Pretty Bird' stayed around for quite a while, until one day it flew out the door. Oh, the horror! They drove around for a few days looking for the bird with no luck. I can't remember if it was days or weeks, but low and behold the bird showed back up at the house. Pretty Bird lived with her for almost 10 years I think, before meeting its demise. If there were to have been an autopsy I would bet money that bird had lung cancer from all the second hand smoke. But we shall never know.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Recently I overheard a friend call her little girl Zippy. It made me a) realize that we have a lot of nicknames for our kids, and b) maybe we're not the only ones. I am not sure what it is about nicknames, or why certain people are more prone to them than others. For example, James' repertoire of nicknames consists of James-Bo, or Bo-Bo. Katie has a few more, like a million and one derivatives of Ki-ki and Keekers. There is Ki-ki Beekers, Ki-ki Squeekers, Ki-ki Von Bueller, and the list goes on. She is not a fan of these names, so we try to stick to the Katie approved ones most of the time...such as 'Sunshine' and 'Darling' and 'Kate.' Moving along to Tyler, that kid has a list of nicknames a mile long. His primary nickname is 'Squatchy' which is short for Sasquatch. He also answers to 'Baby Squatch' and 'The Squatch' among others. Other monikers include: Mini-Beast, Nuggle Muffin, Mr. Squishy, Pocket-Sized-Dictator (PSD), T-Bone, Big T, T-Bird, and the list goes on. Jeff and I also have nicknames for each other which have questionable why on earth does Jeff lovingly call me 'Lurch' on occasion...I will never know. I suppose coming from the same guy who called my sister Rat for years it can be explained. And Jeff has been called 'El Heffe' for a long time, which I think was started by Phil. I had no idea there was a song by that name, or that it meant 'the chief' until recently. Good thing it wasn't something obscene! What about you? Any awesome nicknames you want to tell me about??

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Farm Hands

I forgot to add this to the last post. On Saturday James and I had our Farm Hands program. My friend is also doing it with her son, and it is fun to have them along. Due to cold weather and possible snow which never materialized, there weren't many visitors to the farm. We were sent to help with collecting the maple sap. They collect it the 'old fashioned' way, by horse team and wagon. We followed the wagon all over the farm. The wagon would stop and we would collect the sap buckets and pour them into milk cans on the back of the wagon. The sap must be collected every 24 hours. It is amazing how much sap is collected in just 24 hours! The sap buckets are 2 gallon, and many buckets were nearly full, or full to the brim in just that short time. A tree gets one tap for every 8 inches in diameter, so some of the larger trees had two taps. It is basically a little spout hammered into the tree. The bucket hangs on a hook below the tap with a cover to keep out leaves. Incidentally the cover does not keep moths out, but they are strained out later. It takes 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to make one gallon of maple syrup! You can tap any type of maple, but their sap is less sweet and therefore takes much more to make syrup. The sap is clear and thin, very similar to water. In fact, it tastes like faintly sweet water. In three hours, we collected 350 gallons of sap! That was 3 and a half wagon loads. They said it is a good year for sap. The weather should warm up a bit during the day, and fall below freezing at night to bring the sap up in the trees. Once the sap is collected it is poured through a regular kitchen sieve into a holding tank and pumped up to the barn loft. It is fed down into the 'sugar shack' where there is an evaporator that slowly evaporates the sap until the sugars become concentrated and the syrup reaches boiling. The sugar shack was a nice short break from gathering sap, because it was warm, smelled of maple syrup and wood fire, and complete with a few old timers who happily answered all my questions. The evaporator is wood fired, so they have to keep a really hot fire. The syrup gets strained through a paper filter and a really heavy thick wool filter. Then they bring it to the exact temperature by hand, and bottle it up. The kids get to help with each step of the process, and sample the syrup. It was really good! My favorite part of the day was seeing James running across the pasture with a sap bucket swinging, ear flap hat flapping in the breeze. He looked so happy and he was having so much fun. I am really glad we can do this. I could sign him up for Karate or soccer or something, but I don't think he would really enjoy it. This program was made for him!

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • I had my painting class last night and Tyler did NOT want me to go. The little stinker actually hid my coat in his room. He gets major points for creativity with that one. I am plugging away at my painting and having a blast doing it! On Sunday while everyone else was napping, I got in an hour and a half, sitting in front of the sunny window and painting. It was lovely.
  • I have realized that James has a weird and annoying habit of chewing on the corner of his coat. It is starting to get frayed. I pulled a card out of Dad's playing book and put a dab of Tobasco sauce on the coat. It wasn't five minutes before I heard James spitting in the yard, trying to get the taste out. I hope it works. When we were kids, we had a dog named Stealth. We kept him on a rope outside so he would not run off into the wilds of Loma. When he learned to chew through his rope, Dad put tobasco sauce on the rope. Although Stealth has never been known as a smart dog, or anything even close, he did figure out that he needed to find a different place on the rope to chew through.
  • Speaking of Stealth, he was our one and only dog. I specifically remember driving out to our friends' house to choose a puppy. There were little black puppies all over the kitchen and Dad shook his keys to see who would come over first. I guess Stealth did, because we took him home. He was a very friendly dog, part black lab and part golden retriever. Dad had dreams of making him a hunting dog, but an early incident involving a close-range truck backfire sort of ruined Stealth's chances of being around loud noises, gunfire included. I do remember Dad putting a pheasant wing (or something) on the end of a fishing pole and dragging it all over the place to teach Stealth to track the scent. At one point, we left Stealth in the care of some friends on their farm. He managed to find and eat a significant amount of rat poison while there, and he was never the same after that. He was still friendly, but his intelligence level was rather diminished. He would howl at the moon, squirrels, and nothing at all. Which is probably why when Dad heard him howling one night, he disregarded the ruckus. Turns out, someone was breaking into the church that night. But enough rambling about Stealth...
  • We got a new-to-us couch last night, delivered via bread truck by none other than Jimmy Stewart himself. I thought that was random and funny. Through a random set of circumstances we ended up being on the receiving end of a free leather sectional. As it turns out, I have no sense of in, what will fit where. I just can't estimate things like that, and the couch was not going to fit in Dad's truck. Lucky for us, Jimmy Stewart lives next door to the couch people, and had an almost empty bread truck handy for delivery. Thus, we got a couch delivered in a bread truck via a complete stranger named Jimmy Stewart. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Painting Class

My painting class is going well, although I feel really, really slow. This picture was my 'practice' sheet, which I am pretty sure was the teacher's attempt to a) assess my skill and b) teach me her methods of painting. I am feeling ridiculously rusty but despite that, it is really fun and relaxing but also a good brain workout. I must say that when the teacher was telling me to do cast shadows, she started sketching the shadow for the sphere to the right. I kept thinking...what is she doing?! That is on the wrong side! Am I that rusty that I can't remember what side the shadow goes on? But she is somewhat particular about certain things and I didn't want to question her method so I went with it. Once she sketched it in she said that she did it so the shadow would fit on the page. So I am not crazy after all. Now I am working on a painting of this nearby one room school house:

I had a few landscapes chosen that I thought were fairly simple, and she said no, not for my first painting. After rustling around in her avalanche of art books, she brought forth a watercolor rendering of this school house which she wants me to paint. I am not really sure why she chose this, because it is not simple, but I think I am up for the challenge. So far I have the sky nearly done, which I think is going to be the hardest part because you have to leave the white of the page for clouds. The bricks will be tedious but I enjoy tedious stuff. I will put up a picture of it when I finish, so long as I don't totally botch it! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Hallmark Holiday!

Valentine's Day is here again. It seems to me it just might be a holiday invented by Hallmark in order to sell greeting cards and teddy bears holding ruffly hearts. Not that I would mind a greeting card, but a teddy bear, not so much. Alas, I do take the day as an excuse to do fun things like have a special dinner and make the kids something fun. Not to mention the recipe I am going to try tonight: white chocolate pudding with blackberry curd. Doesn't that sound good? Now that I have a school age kid, I am faced with the dilemma of the Valentine's Day card/treat. There must be 24 of them. Do the math, and that means my kid is going to come home from school with 24+ cheesy cards with either candy, junky toys or both attached. Which makes me want to break out in hives. Because it goes like this: 'Moooooom, can I have a treat from my treat bag???'  'Moooooooooooooom!!! It's not fair that James' got a treat bag and I didn't!!!!' 'Mooooooomm!!' And there is the inevitable 'Mom! This microscopic yoyo I got in my treat bag broke when I looked at wrong! Can you fix it?? If you can't, I just might die a slow and painful death because it is the end of the world!!' The only benefit is parental sampling that occurs after bed time hours. However, Valentine's does not yield much in the way of chocolate which is a disappointment, because candy hearts are seem to be better suited as sidewalk chalk than actual food. If you are wondering what the point is to all this rambling, it is this: I procrastinated, as if the need for Valentine's cards would go away. But it didn't. And so, as I was making dinner, I had a 'Eureka!' moment. And so during dinner I drew up a stick horse, wrote a cheesy message, and ran to Staples after dinner. Voila! Stick horse Valentine's cards. Jeff is certain that the kids are going to be angry that they only got a pencil, but James is home now and says that they liked their cards. Woo!

Monday, February 11, 2013

James' Latest Drawings

James has a new hobby: drawing his own Where's Waldo pictures. He draws all sorts of fascinating scenarios. He is getting quite the sense of humor. This drawing has several Waldos hidden, distinguished by their striped hats.

Here's a close up of Giant Waldo, who is quoting from Jack and the Beanstalk. He has also been drawing some fabulous cartoons in school, such as a cactus leaning over and begging a cowboy for water. And a giant sharp-toothed fish coaxing a scuba diver to swim into his gaping mouth. I love the drawings, but I'm starting to wonder if he needs a little more challenge at school.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Heaven In A Bucket

Check it out!! A flashy new bucket of my favorite face cream. I use it every day. I am sure that the beauty police would disapprove, but this stuff is the best. And if one of your bovine friends happens to be suffering from chapped or windburned teats, they will benefit from it as well.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Drama In The Coop

I posted this already, but the post has vanished...weird. 

On Thursday evening, I decided to let the chickens out for a bit. I have kept them in their run for a while because of issues with a huge hawk hanging around. I figured if I let them out just for an hour in the evening, they would probably be fine. I also hung out one of those garden eye things that are supposed to ward off the beasts. Turns out, it wasn't the hawk I needed to worry about. I went to lock them up and saw a possum in the run. I came in and got Jeff and we went out to investigate. In the process, we scared the possum into the chicken coop. Awesome. Just awesome. We got the thing cornered and taken care of. Unfortunately the chickens didn't care for the sound of that and went absolutely nuts. There were feathers flying in every direction and chickens flying into walls. The poor things were in a complete panic. Chickens can't see much at all at night so they are especially vulnerable. I couldn't coax them up onto the roost. They just slept in a heap in the corner. Now I must be even more vigilant with Chicken Safety Protocol.

Snow! Crafts! Bread!

The weathermen have been predicting snow. First 4-10 inches, then 2-4, then 4-6, and didn't snow. And didn't snow. Argh! I was surprised and happy to wake up to find that it finally, really snowed! Not a ton, but about 6 inches. Tyler woke up, looked out the window and exclaimed "Ho-wee Shoe!! It 'nowed'!" You can imagine I was thinking he was going to head another direction with that and I was wondering where on earth he would have come up with that phrase. I don't know where he came up with the phrase 'Holy Shoe' either...silly kid.

The kids were out by 7:15 am, trying their hardest to work with the light, fluffy snow.

There were rosy red cheeks,

And great big grins. And warm oatmeal from the crock pot when they came in. 

And in other news, yesterday I had a Martha Stewart on 'roids kind of day. I was highly productive, which surely means I will accomplish nothing from now til next Tuesday. Yesterday morning, the kids and I did a batik watercolor project, which we let dry and cut up for a few projects. I cut hearts from the paper and hung them from a tree branch on the ceiling for a Valentine's Day mobile. Probably first and last time I decorate for a holiday other than Christmas. And with the rest of the paper I made a set of coasters for some special people who's names start with R and P.

We put clear Elmer's glue on nice watercolor paper. I dried it with a hair dryer which made those nice little scallops. Then we painted over it with watercolor and sprinkled sea salt on it while wet. The sea salt (or any salt for that matter) sucks up the paint around it and leaves a light star shaped marking. I made the coasters by modge podging the artwork onto kitchen tile. While I was in the crafty mood (ok, so I am always feeling crafty) I also cut out the pattern for James' earflap hat, a purse for Katie, and the journal cover for Rachel. And now I have successfully turned this into my craft blog. Oops!

Close up of the glue/salt design

This one was Katie's. I cut my favorite section out for this coaster.

And on to the pictures available...but yesterday I decided that I simply must use up the remainder of the ridiculously expensive beer I bought for the mustard. $13 for a pint and a half? Is that normal? But I digress...I made yeast bread with beer. Two loaves to be exact. I was completely entralled with the incredible amount of foam that beer makes. I need to get out more. Then I thought to myself, 'Self! You should make that Buttermilk Flax Bread you've been wanting to try.' So I doubled that batch, which was supposed to make 6 free form loaves but I made 4 huge ones instead. And then I thought, 'What the heck! I shall make those homemade bagels I have been wanting to try while I'm at it!' And so I did. And I doubled the batch. And I am crazy. But at least I have 6 loaves of bread and 2 dozen poppy seed bagels to feed the hungry beasts that beg for food 10 times a day!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

School Lunch

James has the honor of student of the week this week. It means he gets to bring in his favorite things to display for the week, make a poster about himself and have someone join him for lunch. Jeff arranged to take the morning off to surprise James. He thought only I would be able to come. It was so much fun! He was so surprised and happy.  I made him fresh blueberry cinnamon scones as a treat because he really likes those. He also got to choose two of his friends to eat with us, and his teacher. It was fun to see him in his element with his friends in his classroom.

And in other news, Jeff picked up his new $700 contact and got home to put it in and it doesn't fit! I will spare you my tirade but it is very, very infuriating, especially since this after many other failed contacts and lots of money spent. I'm thinking a glass eye would be cheaper at this point.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Sister Megan Strikes Again

A few years ago I made my brother some Habanero vodka...well, I didn't actually distill it myself, although some of our small groupies are certain that I make my own moonshine largely because we drink out of mason jars. But I digress. I made my dad some butt-kickin' sinus-clearin' varnish-strippin' mustard. We are always in search of mustard that actually has a kick to it and so I decided to make some myself. It needs to meld overnight in the fridge, but so far signs are good that this mustard just might pave the way for my parents' Netti pot to retire.

In other news, here is a hypothetical conversation between an Engineer and his very non-engineer wife:

Wife: I ordered fabric for our curtains today.
The Engineer: (wheels turning) You know, you could sew mylar to the window-side of the curtains to deflect the heat. That's why they put mylar shuttles (or something like that). It works by deflecting the heat instead of absorbing it....etc., etc., etc.
Wife: You really think I am going to make mylar curtains? They would be really ugly. (...and in her head: only a half step better than those that tack up Nascar sheets or sheets emblazoned with unicorns in lieu of curtains)
The Engineer: Well, you could just put the mylar in between the curtain and the lining.
Wife: And then they wouldn't be washable.
The Engineer: You could make it removable. Like it would just hook it in there somehow.
Wife: Or, I could just line it with something that was made to insulate curtains.
The Engineer: You could do that.

And in other, other news, I scrambled an egg in my pocket the other day. It takes talent, my friends, but I did it. It was inevitable, really. When I collect the eggs, I put them in my coat pockets. I guess I forgot one egg in there and went to put my hands in. I must have hit it just right because it cracked all over my hand. All in a day's work for this Chicken Francher.