Monday, September 30, 2013

One Year is Cookies, Right?

Anniversaries seem like a good time for looking back and for lists and since we've now been here on the side of this mountain for a year, I thought I'd share with you some of the lists we've been keeping both in our heads and written down.

When a dear friend sent me a surprise giftie in the mail of a woodland creature cookie cutter set that had a a fox AND a porcupine* I decided to make cookies of as many of our locally spotted critters as I had the cutters for. Luckily, I have a lot of cutters and I'd already started this post as a handy-dandy list. Neither Eric nor I are huge fans of cookie icing, so I applied only outlines. The cookies are Martha Stewart's shortbread recipe.

Critters we've seen at home or within a few miles of home:
White-tailed Deer
Mule Deer
Foxes (we've each seen them one or more times in the daylight since this post)
Flying Squirrels
Red Squirrels (I think)
Least Chipmunks (I think)
Skunks (one visual down the mountain a bit, one purely olfactory at the house)
Rabbits (probably Mountain Cottontail)
Marmot, probably the Hoary kind usually along the road, sometimes "sleeping"
Porcupine ("sleeping" by the highway)
Black Bear (cub)

I tried to include a turkey and a duck  cookie, but the turkey dropped when I tried to move it to the cooking rack and the duck wouldn't come out of the cutter with both its feet or its bill.

Mallard Ducks
Wild Turkeys
Bald Eagles
Blue Heron
And these:
Plus two different as-yet-unidentified larger, grouse-yish types.

Phyciodes orseis herlani butterflies
Some kind of swallowtail butterflies (9 species in Montana)
Other Butterflies
Yellow Jackets
Horse Flies
Mosquitoes (just a few)
Ten-lined June beetle
Western Conifer Seed Bug
Etcetera and so forth

I spotted the Ten-lined June Beetle one night on the deck when Eric was setting up his small telescope for us to peep some stars.  He's REALLY big and freaky looking in the dark, let me tell you. (the beetle, not Eric)  We all played it fairly cool though; the beetle went about his beetle business and we peeped stars. (photo from wikipedia)

Mystery Jumping River Fish or Fishes
Mystery Swimming Creek Fish or Fishes

It has been interesting for me, whose only memories are of living in Northwestern Oregon, to get used to this type of forest and it was fun (and a bit of a relief) to watch it get so green and relatively lush in the spring. From late-May to mid-June or so our part of the National Forest was carpeted with wildflowers. I bet we saw more than 2 dozen kinds over that time in the area within 10 minutes walk from the house.

We've lived through all four seasons (five if you include fire season) and can already tell this autumn is cooler, wetter, and less smokey than last.  We've already had a few fires in the wood stove, something we didn't do for a few-to-several weeks after we arrived.  We've had a few weeks of overcast and rainy weather, not real rain-rain, but probably what passes for real rain-rain in these parts.  If your head is covered (with lots of hair or a hat) you don't even really get wet and what wet you do get drys really quickly.

Eric with our Realtor, Sherry Kolenda, on our one viewing of the property back in August 2012.

We've done some cosmetic work in eight rooms. When I itemized it here and looked back at so many posts to make the links it seems like a lot has been accomplished.

Laundry Room (not yet photographed or posted even though it was the first room I painted, etc.)
Kitchen (appliance)
Living/Dining Room
Upstairs Hall Bathroom
Master Bedroom
Guest Bedroom
Master Dressing Room
Master Half-Bathroom
Plus replaced ALL the door knobs

When I think about the things we still have on our list to chance it seem like there's a long way to go.  I think that the stairwell and upstairs hallway, the master water closet. and the downstairs bathroom are at the fore of my mind.  The first three can probably be accomplished with just a little money, but quite a bit of work. The last one will be quite a bit of work, too, but will probably require more supplies be purchased to get to the image I have in my mind.

And tomorrow is October 1, one year from the day I took this photo.


I'm sure it's supposed to be a hedgehog, but as long as it lives under our roof it's a porcupine!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Just a $1 Mummified Woodland Fairy Prisoner, You Know The Usual

Everyone knows that we love Halloween, especially me.  Last year we'd just barely arrived in Florence at Halloween, so I didn't get to make anything - which for me is a definite marker for how busy things were in our lives during my Halloween prep months; August - October.  This year I've been plotting since... well, last year.

I'm really on a kick to make things with as much material that I already have around as I can. Not only does this mean I can make more things while spending less money at the same time it also means that I can feel justified in moving all the boxes of paint supplies and craft materials that I did, as well as reuse some stuff that we can't recycle or recycle easily here (which is everything).  Besides, who doesn't like to get more for less?

I'd seen some dollar store, mini skeletons made into fairy skeletons and decided that I wanted to make one, but when I hit the dollar store the only skeleton left was bigger than I was planning on by two or three times. I decided to give it a try, bought it, brought it home and stuck it in the craft pile studio.  

And then I found a broken, wooden bird feeder in the burn pile left by the former homeowners, probably the one that the bear had broken the week before we got here.

So, I did not clean it up, and I gave it a couple of "washes" of watered down craft paint on it in black and brown.  I had thought that I was going to shore it up where it had come apart, but I didn't.

Then I took apart the skeleton. The neck, shoulders, wrists, hips and ankles were already articulated, but I had to cut the knees and elbows so I could bend them to suit my purposes.

Then I used watered down white glue to decoupage white tissue paper onto the "bones" to imitate mummified skin and let it dry.  I left the balls of the articulated joints tissue-free, but covered all the holes.

Next I dry brushed on some Proceed Rough Irregular Texture (which is a professional decorative finish material) because I have it. You could probably get a similar effect by adding a little sand to craft paint.

You can see that I bridged the area between the rib cage and pelvis to make it look like the abdominal skin.  Next time (if there is a next time) I'll put something in there first to look like shriveled organs.

Next I painted the whole thing (including the non-tissue-covered ball joints) with ivory craft paint. The color didn't change the end effect much, but I wanted consistency in the surface absorbency before I added the glaze.  This probably isn't necessary for a small Halloween prop, but I guess that's what years as a professional decorative painters does.

Pardon my glaze encrusted nails and skin.

Next up 2 layers of glaze over the whole thing, one raw umber, the next Van Dyke hue, making sure to get extra in the eye sockets, "nostrils," and teeth of the skull. These were not craft paints, but more Proceed brand colorants in their Full-bodied Glazing Medium. Again, a similar effect would be achieved with craft paint and extender or blending medium and they would probably dry faster.

After locating the tissue-covered holes, I punctured them with the tip of a ball-point pen. The articulated pieces went back together then, but joints I'd cut took a few more steps.

Next I really get into the scrounging around the property for stuff that the former owners left behind. There is a small pile of BIG wire cut into 5-6' lengths. Who knows where or why, but it's there and I brought a length in to harvest the wire, which appears to be aluminum - so not the best for electrical purposes.  But just fine for making mummified fairy knees and elbows.  I used a utility knife to strip off a few inches of the cover then broke off individual wires for the *joints.

Next I figured out the angle I wanted the joints to be, then glued them in place in one of the bones of each pair and let that dry. I LOVE this glue, but I wish I'd used something that dried faster and harder not so much because the end result would have been different (although, it might have been), but because I didn't want to wait.

OK, OK, I purchased the Milk Duds, too, but not specifically for this project.

When I had gone under the house to look for the mouse-in-a-trap I noticed that there were lots of little things on the ground that had fallen out of boxes that the last owners has stored there, including many pieces of silk flower arrangements - there were also lots of silk flowers around the yard stuck into hose guides and wire fences and such, so it's safe to say that one or more of them was into silk flowers.  So I decided to go back under there with a bag to see what I could collect for this fairy.  And if I happened to stumble upon some pioneer artifacts or bags of gold nuggets, all the better.  I found plenty of good stuff, but none that good.  So, while the joints were drying, I cleaned these ferns and leaves with watered down craft paint and dry brushed this galvanized chain (also found under the house) with black craft paint.

I don't know what those little glittery plastic bits are, but I decided to age them the same way as the leaves and use them as the base for the wings.

Once the leaves were dry (which was way before the wire joints) I assembled them into wings and attached them to the back at the shoulder blades.  The glittery plastic bits are essentially buried in there, but I think their presence helps the wings stand out a bit.

The chain had a hook on one end and I used it to make a loop around the trapped creature's neck while we both waited for the joints to dry.  Soooo much waiting that I had time to distress some tiny flowers from under the house to make a "crown" as well as dig through my craft stash for the hair which is made from "Animal Whiskers/Moustaches des Animaux" glued to the skull

Finally I was able to glue the wired bones into the otherwise assembled skeleton, but because of dry time and wanting them to end up at a certain angle they had to be done just one or two at a time and propped up after the fairy was placed inside its cage.

While all that was happening I stained some excelsior that came in a package Eric received to make dirty-looking bedding for the cage.  Again, watered down craft paint, brown and black and let it dry. Oy with the drying!

I decided that there needed to be something of interest on the opposite side of the cage; that's one of the fun challenges of making a 3D prop, making sure it looks right and cool from all angles.  I decided a food dish could go there and that it could be made from a bottle cap. Guess what... more diluted craft paint and a black upholstery tack to attach it.

Again, please pardon the glaze encrusted nails and skin.

I wanted to fill it, but didn't find any little doodads in my boxes to put in there.  I had found a few small bones out by the chicken coop a week or so before, but I didn't think they'd show up well and thought I could find a better use for them later.  Then I remembered that I had pinned a recipe for fake moss that used dryer lint and paint & I mixed some up. It wasn't going to make good moss** (I'd thought that I'd put some on cage's roof), but it would be fine for filling this food dish with unappetizing slop.  Sadly the cage wood was too hard from me to push the tack into, so I drilled a hole, then glued it in place.

And in there somewhere I decided the fairy needed more decoration so I dug out more silk flowers, took them apart, stained them with watered down craft paint, and made wrist and ankle "wraps" out of them.  For now I think it's complete!  YES! 

The other end of the neck chain is wrapped around the left ankle and secured with a super thin wire from a floral pick in my stash (not shown above).

Congratulations and thank you if you've gotten this far, even if you just skimmed!  Here are the shots of what my Mummified Fairy Prisoner prop looks like complete!  There are still more photos that probably necessary, but dang it, I put a lot of thought and time into all the angles of viewing, so dang it, I'm sharing them.

The position was dictated by two things: 1) the prop would be hung form the ceiling so  the focus should be looking down and 2) the skeleton I ended up buying was just too big for the cage and to see its head it would have to be positioned something like this.  I think the size discrepancy adds to the torturous back story implied by the prop.

Reaching out for help in its last moments; extra creepy and horrible.  What is wrong with my imagination?

The reason I put the creature at this end of the cage is because it was most damaged by the bear attack.  With all the fussing of positioning the skeleton in there, the cage fell apart a little too much and I ended up gluing a few parts for stability.

The creature wrapped its left arm around the cage to support itself as it reached out with the right. The hand on the wood post there is the only place that the skeleton is glued to the cage.

The back of the creature as viewed though the bars of the cage. That cable is what holds the roof on to the bird feeder as well as makes the hanger.  Because it is anchored in the floor of the bird feeder and runs through it, the feeder remained stable enough to make this even though it was broken up.

The back is certainly not as interesting as the other sides, but adding this little bit seemed to really make a difference.

And because it's a 3D prop, I finished the bottom as well.  It's not especially interesting, but it is kind of funny because of the name of the feeder or the company that made.  Yeah, not so perky when I was done with it. HA!

Since this wrapped up on September 8, I still have time for more Halloween crafting!   MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

*From being around residential construction, carpenters, and woodworkers throughout my life I keep wanting to write "joins" rather than "joints."

**I didn't actually read the recipe before barging ahead.  When it wasn't working, I thought, "maybe my lint has too much dog hair."  But it turns out that I had left out 1/3 of the ingredients: the craft glue.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Terrific Twos (please)

Two carrot "candles" mounted in peanut butter to go with the Happy Birthday song!

Anyone in my gift-giving-to circle whose birthday falls in September or October knows that I'm very unreliable at this time of year.  Also if you live far away (which is everyone now) - ahem+.  I am just soooo focused on Halloween that the days fly by and I miss the significant dates.  So, when September 5th arrived it was almost 10a before I remembered it was Delia's 2nd birthday!  And I hadn't made treats!  ACK!  I hustled through my "Making: Beasties" pin board (on pinterest) for the recipe I'd planned to make which I found right away and realized that I didn't have all that I needed for it so I found another for which I had almost all the ingredients already. At least we had a "big" party for her first birthday, right?

She wasn't interested in the carrot "candles" but she was interested in the peanut butter at their bases! She let Betty have the carrots; at least Betty likes carrots.

The recipe came from King Arthur flour, which just happened to be the brand of whole wheat flour I had in the pantry.

Top row, left to right: Two each of gnomes to celebrate all the lawn fauna left here by the former owners that (mostly) Delia has demolished, hydrants to honor her urban roots, and squirrels, because... SQUIRRELS!
Bottom row: bones; the traditional shape of dog treats (there are 6 more of these)

Best of Breed Biscuits (their name, not mine)

2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour or Premium Whole Wheat Flour (I had Premium)
1 cup rolled oats, regular or quick (I used regular)
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (didn't have either, so left it out)
1/2 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk (mine was store brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter, crunchy or plain (I did half and half creamy and crunchy because I didn't have a whole cup of either)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cold water, enough to make a cohesive dough (I used half a cup, but could have added the extra tablespoon)

1) Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment. Grease is the word around here.

2) Mix together the flour, oats, parsley, dried milk, and salt.

3) Add the eggs and peanut butter, stirring to combine; the mixture will be crumbly.

4) Add enough water to bring the dough together; depending on the season, you may need to add a bit more (winter), or a bit less (summer). It seemed like my dough was together, but it wasn't together enough to be rolled 1/4" thick.  Oopsie!

5) To make biscuits using a dog-bone cutter, roll the dough about 1/4" thick, and cut with a 3 1/2" cutter (or the size of your choice). Gather and re-roll the scraps, and continue to cut biscuits until you've used all the dough.

NOTE: I have A LOT of cookie cutters.  Like probably over 165 now that I picked up an alphabet set at the Goodwill.  Yeah.  So, I dug through to find a few that I thought were appropriate to Delia and then I used some of the teeny tiny ones to finish off the dough.  *We generally give smaller, bite-sized treats to the Beastie Grrrlz so that they can have a few without compromising their healthy weights.

6) To make dog "cookies," drop the dough in walnut-sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten them to about 1/4".

7) Bake the biscuits for about 40 to 60 minutes, baking the smaller cookies for a shorter amount of time. When finished, the biscuits will be dark golden brown, and will be dry and crisp all the way through. Because mine were thicker, the small biscuits went for about 40 mins and the larger for 55 or so.  Either our oven runs a bit hot or the altitude makes it so that usually the lower number of minutes listed in a recipe is just about right for baking here.

8) Remove the biscuits from the oven, and cool right on the pans. I let the minis cool on the pan, because they'd fall through the cooling rack, but out of habit cooled the big ones on the racks after about 10 mins on the sheet. It worked just fine, but it seems I needlessly gave myself and extra thing to wash. [shakes fist at sky]

Yield: about 42 larger (3 1/2" dog-bone) biscuits, 60 smaller (round) biscuits. I ended up with 17 large treats and probably 70-80 mini treats.

Dozens of tiny triangles and tiny stemless 3-leaf covers (I guess). Once cooled I put this in an "airtight" container in the fridge.  It's going to take awhile to go though all these treats. 

+Today (Sept 6) is my oldest niece, J's, birthday!  And I haven't mailed off her gift, because I suck.  I haven't mailed her brother's gift either, it sits on my desk, his birthday was May.  Ugh.  Next week!  And I'll send her sister's then, too; 6 weeks early.

*This strategy meant A LOT more time went into making these than if I'd just made them all bone-, squirrel-, hydrant- or gnome-shaped.  If I'd been able to roll the dough to 1/4" I'd probably still be cutting and baking those suckers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wash up!

Once I had made some progress with the master bedroom "dressing room" I got fired up to start tackling the half-bath which is actually half in the dressing room.  This vintage corner sink is opposite the double rods of the closet; it's cute and quaint and not in the best shape.  In fact the exposed underside had never been finished which is not-clean looking and the hot and cold water supply hardware is kind of gungy looking, too.

Normally I'm not a big sink skirt fan except in vintage-y kitchens, but I really didn't see another quick, easy, inexpensive solution for this issue.  Luckily, I had several decent-sized remnants from the bed set and throw pillows so was able to cobble together a coordinating sink skirt.  It's a little more Garanimals Home Collection (that is to say "matchy matchy") than I'd prefer, but it I get the satisfaction of using remnants.  My skirt is attached with Velcro which is sewn to the skirt and adhered with silicone to the underside of the sink lip. When I installed it, I found that I was not the first to skirt this sink: there was two-sided foam tape under the lip which I removed.

I didn't have quite enough of the lattice pattern to do the whole skirt with it, so I made the "drop waist" bit using the plain grey. The piping is some I made for the dog silhouette throw pillows.  

The sunflower-yellow painted mirror got a make over with yet another faux bois treatment (so much easier, faster, cleaner to do that than to strip the paint and stain the wood) and like the circular mirror above the sink, was moved to the dressing room where it hangs to the right of the dresser.  I don't feel much pressure to fill that space with anything, since it's usually hidden behind the water closet door which opens out.

I did this paint treatment at the same time as this one, but with different colors.

I'm about half way there!

I just didn't like the idea of a mirror that is only over one side of the sink and don't really feel up to the task of creating a frame and mirror shaped like an inside corner and since we've plenty of mirrors in there already and don't plan on doing most of our grooming at that sink, I decided to hunt down an old-timey-looking corner shelf.  I did my preliminary searching on Ebay and Etsy, but the shipping made the overall cost of these more than I wanted to shell out.  Time to hit the thrifts!  When I find the shelf, a towel bar/hook/ring and a light fixture, I'll post the finished product.