a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Is it Halloween yet?

I really love Halloween. The cooler weather, fun costumes, carving pumpkins (and eating the baked seeds!), decorating the house and yard…

Every year, for Halloween (and Christmas), Fred and I decorate the front porch and yard. We live on one of the more traveled streets in town so, I believe, it’s as much fun for people to look at as it is for us to do.  We try to pick a different theme each year and have come up with, what I think are, pretty cool designs over the years. This year we’re doing more a “traditional” Halloween with a creepy cemetery in the garden (I’ll do another blog on that when it’s done) and a witch on the front porch. 

I’m in charge of “creating” the witch and, rather than just buying a mask, I wanted to see if I could make her from scratch. I mean, really, if she turned out ugly, would that be a problem?  

w6I started with a plain, foam mannequin head, a roll of paper towels, and duct tape to mold the final shape. I then used equal parts white glue and warm water, along with smaller pieces of paper towel, as a mache, to add more detail (like wrinkles and warts) and then larger strips to smooth out the rougher spots and cover the duct tape (the ends tend to peel up after a while — especially with the cheaper stuff, which is what I mostly use for art projects).

w5Once that dried I gave it a coat of flesh-colored paint — mostly to see how the facial features were going to look and make any adjustments before adding the next layers of paint. I had to smooth out a few edges, add a couple more wrinkles here and there, and build up the cheekbones a bit more.

w4I happened to have a pair of eyeballs (doesn’t everyone have them lying around?) but my original design only called for one. I glued it in place then used some more mache to secure it. When it was dry, for the skin color, I started with black then dry-brushed on some gray and light green for highlights. For the finer details, like nostrils and lip lines, I used a smaller brush.

w3Then it got some hair (I still have designated it as a “he” or “she” – only because I don’t want to stereotype…). I was going to use a wig but decided to use quilt batting, instead. I liked the fluffy, yet gnarly, look of it and it’s actually pretty perfect for my witch.

Tw2he frame for the “body” is just PVC pipe with a cross-piece in the center (think of an “+” — arms come out the side, head on top, torso/legs is the long piece on the bottom) and added padding (old dog towels) to give it some shape. Fred then secured it to a 2 x 2 board so it would be free-standing.

At 6′ tall, it’s actually pretty impressive and, once Fred lights it (in his “spare” time, he has a light & grip service – lots of fun toys) it’ll look even better. Now on to the 8′ Creeper for the garden… 

 w1

 

 

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Reflections of Wooden Boat Festival

Dozens of boats flock to our little town each year for the annual Wooden Boat Festival. It’s one of the best times of the year as the weather always seems to be good and there’s so much to look at. Of course you have to like boats in order to really enjoy it…fortunately, I do.

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Crispy Roasted Broccoli

I admit it. I teeter on the edge of becoming a true “veggie snob.” Even though, as a kid, I ate (and liked) the canned brown slime my grandmother called “spinach,” I’ve now developed taste buds that cry out for vegetables that are fresh and prepared well. Cooked in a way that, at very least, brings out their flavor — and, ideally, enhances it.   

This has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways I’ve fixed broccoli, to date. Not only do the little florets get crispy and brown, the broccoli stalks get tender, yet stay firm — making this a great textural contrast, as well!

roasted broccoliCrispy Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 1 head fresh Broccoli (if you need to rinse this, do so a few hours or day before as the oil won’t stick to moisture)
  • 1 tsp. minced Garlic (I used roasted), more to taste
  • 1-2 Tbs. Olive Oil (enough to coat without being “drippy”)
  • Salt, Pepper, and/or other seasonings to taste (I think curry or cumin would be delish)
  • Fresh Lemon juice (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Chop the broccoli into small, bite-sized florets (you don’t have to use the stems but I like them).
  2. Put everything into a bowl or bag and toss/shake to coat.
  3. Roast at 375F (to 400F, depending on your oven) for about 30 minutes.
  4. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice.
  5. Check the seasoning again (I had to add a bit more salt at the end).
  6. Serve warm while it’s still crunchy.

Needless to say, this doesn’t keep well if there are leftovers. Fortunately, that’s never been a problem in this house. 

 

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Life Hacks

I always just assumed they were tips and hints of cool and inventive things to do to make your life easier. Who knew they had an actual name? According to Wikipedia “life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way.” I like it!

Fred has just found “life hacks” on the internet. I can tell when he’s found new ones because his eyebrows raise and there’s a distinct twinkle in his eye as he hits “mail link to page.” Within seconds, I hear a “ding” on my phone alerting me there’s a new email, followed by a big smile and “didja geddit yet?” (Yes, it is mandatory to stop what I’m doing to look at his email. But I can’t really fault him for wanting to share. I’m sitting here doing a blog post about it that’s going out to the world…).

Here are a couple to get you started, in case life hacks are new to you, too. I’ve also put a couple of links, below, in case you want to take a peek at some more (sorry about any duplicate ideas in these — some things are just worth posting again and again!).

Use a sticky note to get debris out from in between the keyboard keys (a vacuum with an attachment works well, too but you don’t always have one of those in your desk drawers…).hack 1

This is a tip that I’ve been using since before Life Hacks had a name!hack egg

Use a can opener to cut through the edges of that super hard, plastic packaging.hack 2

 

This is, by far, my favorite one. It makes me want to do laudry…almost. http://www.youtube.com/watchv=0qeozw4thnM&feature=player_embedded

Website links:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/readcommentbackwards/37-essential-lifehacks-every-college-student-or-a-dmjk

http://dedalvs.tumblr.com/post/48998678919/99-life-hacks-to-make-your-life-easier

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/100-life-hacks-that-make-life-easier.html

http://1000lifehacks.com/

(Hey! If you’re the originator of any of these, let me know! I’m happy to give you credit and kudos!).

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