Monday, March 27, 2017

Faux Chocolate Jackalopes! A Tutorial Rises From the Ashes.

Until we moved to Montana, I didn't decorate for holidays other than Halloween and Christmas/New Years. Since moving I have gotten a lot more interested, maybe because I'd been using Pinterest for about a year by then? Whatever the reason, my holiday decorating tends to run to specific themes: Halloween is for setting creepy/gross scenes; Thanksgiving is for turkey, deer, and pumpkins; Christmas is for trees, and so on. Well, for Easter I want jackalopes, dangit!

From the Alphabestiary - SO COOL!

Jackalopes are not easy to come by in formats suitable for seasonal decoration or at crazy-low prices, which I get a bit of thrill from, I admit. This meant I was going to have to make them and probably do so via altering thrift store rabbits. Challenge accepted!

This 11" bad bun' was only $1.99!
The creepy-eyed couple were probably no more than a buck (heh)/buck and a half, but don't have the receipt.

Whoever was in charge of painting their eyes did not research rabbit eyes. These buns look they're going to eat your face while you're sleeping!

I am already in the habit of checking the holiday decoration section of thrift stores when I'm in there, so adding rabbits to my list was a no-brainer. I had to look several times there and in the tchotchkes sections over a several month to find some suitable pieces for my plans.

After lots if digging around on the interwebz via pinterest, craftster, etc. I decided on my choice of methods for changing these into faux chocolate jackalopes. Here we go!

1. I washed and dried the figures. I do wonder what is up with the creepy eyes on the pair... did whoever designed and/or painted these not even bother to look at photos of rabbit eyes? Was this person just that big of a Marty Feldman fan? We may never know.

2. I marked and drilled holes for antlers using representations of jackalopes I found online as a reference for placement.

For the 11" ceramic rabbit, I used a rotary tool with silicon carbide grinder bit ($6.99/2, and will be able to use for other projects) and kept water on hand to keep the piece from over heating.

I did a practice run on the bottom just to get the hang of this. It was my first drilling-into-ceramic project ever!

SUCCESS! I probably should have put masking tape down and marked that - it probably would have diminished or eliminated the chipping. But I knew that the antlers would flare a bit at the base to cover it and that spray painting it all one color would make it less noticeable.

For the resin pair, I used a drill with standard drill bits, 1/16" and 3/32", because I value a pilot hole (already had these).

3. After dusting them off, I used Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover, Espresso, in a satin finish to paint all the surfaces ($3.44, still have about half of a can, maybe a bit more). I did about 3 coats, all applied several seconds apart + a quick little touch up in a few spots after the first round dried.

I wanted to get the bottom and the down-facing stuff first, I stuck him head-first into this bucket.

After painting the underside, I set him on top of the overturned bucket to get the rest.

Obviously, I set up the spray painting in the nearly empty wood shed - here's the big 'um still wet. 

Even sitting on their paint stand (i.e. bucket), one can see how much less creepy these two are with a coat of paint.

~ And here is where this project stopped being quick & easy. ~

4. Meanwhile, I made wire armatures for the antlers for the big bun. I originally planned to use polymer clay over the wire armatures, but I couldn't seem to make it work. Clay was too soft, armature too flexible, the whole thing too small for me to finesse. So, I looked up paper mache stuff on line and found a paper mache clay/dough that I would make using materials on hand* already. That didn't really work on my armatures either. It was even softer, mushy even. But I thought I'd be able to use it to help fill that big bun's basket.** My next attempt was closer to standard paper mache - paper strips (napkins in this case) and decoupage medium.  Of course, I am doing this on the one weekend a year that is a mere 47 hours long! Why I thought the other methods were better in the first place? I guess I was hoping they'd be smoother.

~ The antler-making stage is where I stopped working on the creepy couple. ~

5. Once the antlers were dry, I put a coat of decoupage medium, then painted them with craft paint, white and ivory mixed, hoping it would look like white chocolate. Then, I stuck them in a bit of foam to dry. The didn't turn out nearly as smooth as I was hoping, but I just don't know what I can do to get the look I want.

6. When the rabbit and the antlers where both good and dry (admittedly, this is a few days after starting this whole thing), I used Quick Hold Contact Adhesive (by E6000) to glue them into the holes I drilled earlier. Then I set them somewhere warm-ish and out of the way to cure.

~ At this point the big guy needed something to carry in that basket. ~

7. After looking at lots of images of Easter Bunnies with baskets on their backs, I decided use a big egg in some kind of nest. Originally, I was going to either make eggs from polymer clay or buy some floral picks, but after researching the paper mache clay, I remembered that I had some Styrofoam eggs in my stash and that they'd be a perfect substructure for the paper mache clay! And it did not give me satisfying results! Too lumpy for imitating moulded chocolate.

8. Sooooooo, new wooden egg ($ 3.89/5 with coupon). I painted the egg with the same white/ivory mix of craft paint and made a nest with polymer clay that I spray painted with the same can I used for the rabbits. Its says right on the can that it could take several days to cure on plastic... I guess I didn't think about polymer clay being a kind of plastic so I was pretty disappointed/frustrated when it took about a week to get that sucker painted on top and bottom.

9. I glued the egg to the nest using the Quick Hold, but did not glue the next to the rabbit just in case I decide to put something else in there later on. Like my tears.

10. Lastly, the bow around his neck... which when I was putting it on I had the epiphany to make it a necktie and for some reason I find this faux chocolate jackalope wearing a necktie hilarious!

Et voila! I had a few ideas for where he should sit and the One True Spot was on the kitchen counter, in the corner behind the range. BUT he's brown and so are the surfaces in that corner. So I threw together a little egg-shaped backdrop with materials from stash and scraps and dug up this family doily.

Of course, more crummy lighting in this photo. We really like the kitchen lighting for working and being in, but it's not great for decidedly un-professional photography.

~ Hopefully, I'll take some time in the next week or so to finish the creepy couple. ~

*Well, not exactly. My half-empty, 5-gallon bucket of pre-mixed joint compound had gotten moldy. So I popped down to the local hardware store for a small bucket and while I was there I got to meet some new neighbors of ours, so it was an over all win.

** The recipe for this made about 25x more than I thought I'd need, so I looked around for other projects to do with it. Maybe I'll share that craft semi-fail later. Sigh.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Look Ma! No Cavities!

"Collecting is the sort of thing that creeps up on you."
~ Paul Mellon

Other photos of other framed tubes from before the newest additions, here. The lighting is even worse!

I don't consider myself a collector. I think that some of the people closest to me do consider me a collector and maybe they're right. They probably think of my theme-specific holiday decorations or my costume box (es) as collections, but I don't really. I think of a collection as something that is it's own end. Matchbooks just to have a bunch of match books. Or stamps or souvenir shot glasses or stuffed toys or whatever. You like or love a particular type of thing and you accumulate them just to have them. I think all my decorations or costumes are for a purpose other than just to have... they are for making my house or person look a certain way at a certain time.

Alphabet books: Art, educational, humor, foreign.

Here are the two things I believe are those that I collect: foreign toothpaste and alphabet books. I have a lot more tubes of foreign toothpaste than I do alphabet books and the reasons why are the same reasons why I collect them in the first place.

This is the second tube I ever bought. The paste was pink, the tube is metal, and that metal tube has failed and it letting some of what was left of the paste ooze out. For some reason, I like it even more that it's falling apart! If you look closely at the center left frame in the top photo, you can see where the cap and the threaded part of the tube under it has broken off and fallen onto the tube beneath it. I just love it!

First, just about everybody everywhere cleans their teeth and certainly the places I have been privileged enough and brave enough to travel have toothpaste. Second, toothpaste is pretty cheap, pretty small, very light, and usually pretty useful. The times it's not useful is when it's made in a place that has had a history of putting non-toothpaste/poison into toothpaste tubes and selling or exporting it leading to sickness and/deaths or when it has a flavor that just doesn't work for me - this is especially the case with toothpaste made for and marketed to children. Gak! Generally, I give them all at least one brushing. Often I use the whole tube, even if that's in a rotation. Or at least I did until my teeth became sensitive the cold. Sigh.

The two on the ends... they tasted like apple and grape Jolly Ranchers, respectively. It seems like that would turn kids off to tooth brushing. [shiver]

"It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks."
~Anatole France

Third, most places have at least one brand or style of marketing/packaging that is distinct and interesting to the outsider, i.e. me. And I sometimes have to hunt around a bit for such. For instance, Colgate is ubiquitous in many, many places and sometimes seems like the only option available. This is less the case for Aquafresh and Elmex, but they're the next most common that I've found. Also, toothpaste is available for sale at different types of stores in different countries or in a different section of a store than I, as an American, am used to. Also, despite the low cost, small size, and low weight I don't just buy all of them I find, even all the new ones. So, when I am able to hunt on my own, I also get to go on walks!

Pile of new displays, ready to go!

Finally, it's FUN(NY)! And other people think so, too, so when my family & friends go traveling or even sometimes when they know someone going traveling they'll bring me back or request someone bring me back some! How fun is that? I've even gotten some surprise packages in the mail from people who I don't normally get mail from with tubes of the stuff!

OK, OK. These aren't really foreign the same way the rest of the collection is, but a do have a few novelty toothpastes, too.

But a collection that is just in boxes is not for me. I am just too practical... or paranoid about being a hoarder... or worried about leaving too much for my "heirs"... or something else... or perhaps all of those things. It had always been my intention to frame them in shadow boxes, but it took me some years to get to it and even then I maybe had a dozen. Shadow boxes are expensive and my original idea was to use maps of the places they were from to mount them on. That was impractical for a few reasons, so it just didn't happen until... Ikea opened in Portland (where I lived at the time) and I decided to mount them in the style of my memory of an old natural history museum. I used my recollections of the "rock room" at the old OMSI from my childhood. Sure that's a science/industry museum, but science is the study of nature, so there.

I sure wish I'd kept Dad's typewriter, but I did what I could to make the labels look typed and handcut:
Brand County of manufacture/Country of purchase

I had already purchased a few shadowboxes on clearance at a craft store, but really got on a roll when I found these black, RIBBA, 9" x 9" (20cm x 20cm) at Ikea. Even at that cheap price, I haven't felt that I should buy enough to do the whole collection all at once, so I buy them in small batches and in the last year or so I have picked up enough new ones when visiting Portland to get most of the collection as it stands, including most of the generous gifts I've received in the last couple of years mounted and displayed!

New tubes! And finally stuff up on the window wall.

In the previous two homes, they've been displayed in the hallway, but here at the VME they are displayed in the upstairs bathroom. I think there is reasonably room for 6 or 7 more shadow boxes, but I think I could get the rest of my current collection displayed in 2 or 3, and I do hope to do some more traveling...

I have several more of the tiny ones in that frame under the medicine cabinet so I think i will reframe them altogether when I get more frames. 
I recently joined a Facebook Group dedicated to WTF-level items found in thrift stores. I kind of love the idea of these being included in such a thing when I'm dead. Maybe I need to make labels for the back? Hmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I feel drained.

Waste water-wise, we're back in business!

Looks like the kitchen sink might be "permanently fixed"! I use quotations, because as we all know true permanency is a myth. Thanks, Nick!

As inconvenient it is to use the teensy upstairs shower, it's way more inconvenient to wash dishes in the bathroom sink. Not just in terms of the dishwasher being out of service, but because the faucet and the small sink make it hard to wash large things and the counter in there seems ridiculously low, making washing more than just a few dishes kind of hard on our backs. Even Nick was unable to work loose the drain stopper in the overflow pipe on the tub. But he did seem to narrow the location of the clog down to the P-trap rather than a mass caught up on the stopper. Next stop: a moderate volume of chemical drain cleaner. Ugh.

I found one that is specifically for hair clogs, or claims to be, bu Liquid Plumber. It seemed safe to assume that hair was the primary culprit with the shower drain, right? Well, even though I let it sit about twice as long as I was supposed to, because I got caught up in Delia's daily fetch session and a few other tasks.

Speaking of Delia's fetch session... we know spring is in the air because she's asking for a drink from the well head mid-session. It was a balmy 45F when I got this shot.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

We have made a lot of progress around here making the place more suitable to our needs and more to our tastes and I've chronicled a lot of that progress here. However, it seems we've entered a season of regression. How timely.

I shared the sudden demise (?) of our chest freezer* and one of our stove burners. It seems like we may be to the point where the road and driveway will be passable for the appliance repairman to get here. Well, now we can add a plumbing "situation" to the list. Luckily, this situation is not toilet- or directly-sewage-related.

Suddenly, the main bathtub drain is all but completely clogged. Oh, it'll drain, but one shower's worth of water can take a couple hours to drain. ICK! Of course, I am diligent about keeping hair out of there, but anyone who knows me personally, knows that my hair will not be tamed and it will not be contained nor constrained. I did my due diligence digging around in there, using the non-toilet plunger, and measuring out enzymes, even though it was too late for that. So I dug out the drain snake, I mean canister auger, annnnd... realized that with the tub, I couldn't just feed it down the drain. Sigh.

In general I would rather read a step-by-step description with thoughtfully rendered illustrations than watch a video for my how-tos. I would also prefer those illustrations to be some kind of high quality drawing than a photo. You don't have to stop, rewind, fast-forward, pause, repeat a piece of paper or an onscreen still shot. That said, This Old House has decades of experience using the video medium to show people how to do stuff, their people know how to explain quickly and clearly, and they have all the lighting and audio equipment, too.

Hello, YouTube and the This Old House channel. One clear, concise video and I'm on it! Too bad the stop mechanism is stuck in the overflow drain and stuck good. Stuck better than the one in the video, which the TOH plumber, Richard Trethewey, got out with just a little bit of channel lock persuasion. Try as I might, I couldn't get that sucker dislodged. This explains why they last folks were using a rubber stopper in the tub and a removable strainer - the stop is stuck in the open position.

Then I saw this video. I have a ShopVac so I decided to give it a try. It didn't work for me. If the diameter of the hose in the video is any indication, they are using a larger, more powerful shop vac. Mine is a small, 1.5 HP model. It did do a good job of sucking the water out of the P-trap and then what was left in the tub, though! We'll be using the tiny upstairs shower in the meantime. Sigh.

When I was searching, in vain, for tips on getting the drain stopper unstuck I did learn about this cheap tool for unclogging drains. I picked on up on Thursday with the plan to try it over the weekend... then I saw that Saturday is World Plumbing Day, so I felt committed to trying it then... hoping that I would be the recipient of a World Plumbing Day Miracle.

I was hoping it would be flexible enough that I could push it through the drain and it would bend and go down towards the P-trap, but it would only bend up towards the stuck stopper. Sigh. I think we'll have use for it in the bathrooms sinks, so it was not an entire waste of $3. Oh, well!

I ended up back on YouTube and saw a couple other options, or rather variants on the plunger method, that I decided to try using plungers we already have. Which didn't work. Next step: Nick. Next week.

Other plumbing adventures this year so far:

The "new" kitchen faucet was dripping, but once I had a closer look I was able to fix it in a few seconds, sans tools. Just a little loose where the hose attached to the nozzle.

The kitchen sink drain is leaking a tiny bit. We know why... it's because we got a little creative, as suggested by our neighbor who is a real plumber, to get everything connected since our new sink is deeper and the original plumber installed the drain stubout/waste line higher than standard. The creative solution was employed to avoid having to cut out the wall and who know what all else to move that. Blast! Temporary solution? Didn't work, made it worse. So we have been washing the dishes in the bathroom sink again. Too bad it hasn't been long enough since the kitchen remodel for us to feel nostalgic about that. More work for Nick!

Boy, I am not excited to tackle the bathroom sink drain! I know when I take apart the P-trap to clean it, it will fall apart. It's that same crappy chrome plated stuff that was under the old kitchen sink. When I finally get around to moving forward on the remodeling in there, I know we'll decide that we want a new, less utilitarian faucet, too. Sigh.

In conclusion: lots of FAIL happening around here lately. Shoot.

*I saw that a local TV station and a regional appliance retailer have teamed up to give away an upright freezer, so I entered to win. WISH ME LUCK!

Monday, March 6, 2017

It's Always Something Major. Appliances, That Is

Oh! Yeah! Back at the beginning of the we had a bit of a kerfuffle with the kitchen-related major appliances. First, we lost function in one of the burners on the electric range that came with the house. The large, front one of course. We didn't replace it with the kitchen remodel I did last year, because Eric really wants to switch to a gas range, but there is no gas or propane here, so that means getting a tank, trenching, putting a hole in the foundation, etc. So you know, reallllly expensive. It seems counter productive to replace it with an electric one with the plan to hopefully go gas (well, dual-fuel, actually) in a few years.

That burner with the espresso maker on it, right there? Yeah, that one. 

Within a few days we noticed that the GIANT chest freezer in the mudroom that came with the place failed. CUSS! We got to it before much has really thawed, but when we were going to put stuff in the small freezer in the new "extra" fridge - also in the mudroom - we realized it stopped working, because it just got too cold for too long in the mudroom. Even though that fridge is "garage ready," apparently that is just for garages located in places that don't get below freezing for very long. Or for heated garages, because people who can put money into heating their garages throughout the winter usually wants a utility-grade, small, plain-white fridge? Sigh.

Meat and frequently used things went into the kitchen freezer which is also getting used for "daily" stuff like making ice and freezing "cubes" of canned dog food for Delia's dinner. What?

After The Big Thaw, the mudroom fridge's freezerr got some produce and more rarely used things. And yes, we buy butter at Cost and freeze it. So what? Like we're ever going to NOT use butter? Nonsense.

Well, the new fridge was still under warranty so I was hoping to get someone out to get it going and while they were here - with the manufacturer paying for the service all - they could look at the others. HOWEVER, the authorized dealers, whose numbers I got from the manufacturer, either don't come down here from Missoula for that particular manufacturer's warranty work (doesn't pay enough) OR don't come up our road when there's been 3' of snow recently.

Not very classy, but throwing away perfectly good food isn't classy at all.

I think the road is ready for us to get a service call, but I am not. I got really sick with a flu while on the DPMS World Tour (of the Pacific Northwest) and the house is a bit of a wreck post trip, etc. Maybe next week if the road stays clear? I have a feeling that the chest freezer is done and I have hope that a cockamamie plan* I have hatched will keep the new fridge going during the sub-freezing temps going forward. I'll run it by the repair guy when he's here. Meanwhile, the melting means that the ice-chests-buried-in-snow-on-the-deck-solution ended and we lost some garden and store-bought veg. Grrrr.

*If this plan works, you know I will boast about share it here!