Thursday, October 16, 2014

Leave The Driving To Us


I remember when taking the bus wasn't viewed with disdain. Bus companies were everywhere and, if you couldn't or didn't want to drive, you could get from here to there by bus. When I was in college, I took the bus to visit my grandmother. It was a 5 hour trip, what with stops in scores of small towns, but it didn't cost much. When I was dating my ex, I would take the bus from college to visit him because the bus stopped in his hometown.

I don't think the bus stopped in my hometown, at least I don't remember it stopping there. But given the fact that bus travel in the past was a vital connection between cities and towns, it probably did. In small towns, the "bus stop" was usually a restaurant or gas station. You couldn't buy tickets there. Those would be sold by the driver. Sometimes the bus was full. Sometimes it wasn't. For getting around on a budget, it was a college student's preferred mode of travel.


Greyhound was the cream of the crop when it came to bus travel. They were always more expensive than regional carriers, but you got bigger, nicer and, dare we say it, cleaner buses. I remember the station in downtown LaCrosse was not very big but it was neat, with those plastic chairs with the scoop bottom. They had blue, silver and black ones and the interior of the station was tiled in white, blue and cream-colored tile, with stainless steel trim. I never traveled on Greyhound. They were outside my budget, but you could use their terminal to travel by the regional carriers which served the small towns Greyhound deemed too expensive to service.

 My sister came for Christmas one year and it was the first, and only, time I was in the old main bus terminal in Chicago. It was on Randolph Street. Our parents came to Wheaton and we took the train into the city and then, because it was snowing and cold, took a cab to the bus station. I remember you walked down into the bowels of an old building. It was a far cry from what the terminal looks like today.


I remember the dark and dank arrival and departure area. There was a creaky escalator, wooden, if I remember correctly, that took you from the street level down to the actual terminal. It wasn't clean. Perhaps it has always been a part of places open to the public that they would attract some of the less fortunate of humanity. It was my first contact with homelessness. Before organized shelters, bus stations and airports were the places the homeless went because it was warm and there was a bathroom. The old bus station, in operation since a bus terminal was needed in Chicago, was not inviting and fully fit the stereotype of a dirty, smelly, scary place.

This one, built in the mid-2000's, is open and airy with a small deli, lots of open space and clean restrooms. It's set off of downtown which means there's a bit of a hike to get into the city.


There weren't a lot of taxis waiting for people, either. It's almost like Chicago is not a bus destination city. Buses are not seen as the way to go to visit a place.


We have bought into the view from the past of a bus station as a less than secure place, situated in a part of town you shouldn't go to with the exception of the hours of 11 am -2:30 pm. The homeless "live" there. Don't use the bathrooms because they are never cleaned. And only people really poor, who can't afford air travel, take the bus.


But, in searching fares as a "what if", I can go from Chicago to Washington, DC, let Greyhound do the driving, and it would cost me from $155 to $305, depending upon the amenities I chose. I can't take a competitor to Washington. Greyhound seems to be my only option, but I took a look at the cost to, say, go back to Iowa for Thanksgiving. $80 round trip. If I drive for work, I would get reimbursed for the mileage to the tune of around $240. There would be the cost of a cab from the train station to the bus station because that is a hike, but I would be money ahead, plus the cost of wear and tear on my body. I would just need someone to be at the airport to pick me up and drop me off.

The thought of flying chills me. It's just not a friendly way to go anymore. For my sister and I, getting from point A to point B involved a bus, with fares that fit our budget. We could not have gone where we wanted to go without a bus.

We give bus travel such a negative image now. As I age, I'm thinking leaving the driving to someone else might not be such a bad idea.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea

Deb

Findings

I'm cleaning the basement in fits and starts. Carole wants me to find her history and anthropology books so that gives me an incentive to tidy up some areas while I search. Wheaton had an electronics recycling event last weekend and I got rid of two printers and four bags of cables I no longer needed, in addition to that behemoth of a TV. I really need to be ruthless in what I save and what I get rid of.

In organizing, I stumbled across a stack of these.


This represents a couple years of photos on a medium I no longer can access. "Flowers, July 1996". I wonder what flowers, where. Probably in the yard, which is long overgrown. My friend, Doo, who has lots of computer equipment took the discs and was able to get images off the ones that were not formatted for Macintosh computers. He has a friend who has Mac hardware and who has offered to try to access these.

We thought this technology would last for a very long time. I don't think I have any more random discs in the basement, but who knows. It will be interesting to see what's on these.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea

Deb

Images

Here's a collection of random images taken in my travels over the past month.


This reminded me of a flamingo.


The room was dark. From the doorway, I could see the cord for the light bulb. When I turned on the light, there stood these. I was startled. I probably would have actually gasped had it been the other half of the body; that feeling that I'm being watched. This was like walking into Salvador Dali's store room.


Abandoned. Tell me you don't see the face. It reminded me of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, only that has a happy ending.


Built in the 1930's. How many people walked up and down these stairs? Admittedly, these went to a basement, so not all that many, but if they could talk, what would be the stories they could tell?


Autumn in Chicago. A typical tree along a busy street.


There was no spider to be seen. Given the state of the shed, I'm thinking this web dates from summer. It's been awhile since I've seen a web like this. Such beauty.


Usually, you see the old Airstream campers on the road. This one is new.

I'm not much of a camper. My dad loved to camp and we went out and about at least twice a year. It was never as luxurious as this although one year we rented a cabin for a weekend. I think it was a Memorial Day weekend in northern Minnesota. The only things I remember are that it was cold and damp and when dad tried to get the wood burning furnace going, out poured all these mosquitoes. There was a leak in the flue which had allowed rain to come into the belly of the furnace where it sat in a pool. He couldn't see the standing water, perfect mosquito breeding grounds, so when he tossed in the first sticks of wood and the kindling, the mosquitoes poured out the open door. We never rented a cabin after that. You can rent Airstreams for camping. My idea of "roughing it" is Motel 6 so this might be a step up from that.


Found on the ground while adjacent to a job site. Someone is not king of the world.


If I knew more chemistry, I probably could figure out what chemical reaction is going on here. Maybe it's just the salts in the plaster leeching out. I don't know. It's cool to see, however.


Finally, I should have saved the tag from these. I don't remember what they are but they have been a source of happiness all summer. They seem to like this pot and I love the way they drape over the side. I think I watered all of three times this year. We got enough, sometimes more than enough, so things didn't dry out.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea

Deb

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Accidental Craft

I'm not on the lookout for more crafting ideas. Really, I'm not. I have a bazillion projects in my house already. But, when I was dropping off, at JoAnn Fabrics, the print of Scotland to have framed, I passed by a heap of these.


Oh man. It just screams Halloween decoration project. I had to wait until payday and then, JoAnn Fabrics was nice enough to put them on sale, 50% off. One of the small ones made it home with me. You probably can guess what I turned this into so let's get started.

First off, I asked the model to hold still long enough so I could ascertain where all the features go. She didn't want to pose.


Neither did Mija.


They know the sound of the camera and with that sound comes a flash which they don't like. So, I had to do some ear scratching to get an idea of where to put the face on the pumpkin.

Here's what I used for this project:
Phillips screwdriver
Exacto Knife or other flat knife for shaving
All-purpose (Elmer's) Glue
Thin Styrofoam
Glitter
Chenille sticks in black (I call 'em pipe cleaners, but whatever)
Toothpicks
Empty envelope
Newspaper

Step 1 is to decide, on the pumpkin, where you want the face to be.


Once I decided which side was the face, I used the screwdriver to "draw" the eyes, nose and mouth on the pumpkin. This is important for whisker placement. The black pumpkin is very forgiving in drawing so long as you don't push very hard. These are advertised as "carveable" but they are quite sturdy and would take some work to carve.

When the eyes, nose and mouth were to my satisfaction, I poked holes for the whiskers on either side of the nose.


You have to push fairly hard, to get the screwdriver through the pumpkin and you need to push all the way through. I couldn't find my awl, but I don't think it would have made the right size holes.


One side was a triangle, the other wasn't. There are quite a few whiskers on a cat's cheeks. I opted to go with 4.

If you are a regular reader, you remember the styrofoam spiders I made a couple years ago. I had pipe cleaners left over from that project.


I kept the long ones same size. I can always trim them after assembly. The shorter ones would be the whiskers over the eyes, by the ears.

When the holes were finished, I slathered one end of a pipe cleaner, dribbled glue in a hole and stuck in the stick.


You can not have too much glue here. Repeat with the rest of your sticks.


I've really got these glued up. The glue dries clear so it won't be seen in the finished product. The key is to make sure the sticks can't be pulled out or otherwise come out of the holes.


Let this dry, completely, overnight. The next day, we start with the glitter.

I filled the outlined nose area with a mixture of glitter colors.


Technically, a black cat's nose is glossy black. But I wasn't about to go buy more glitter when I've got a bag of colors already, some of which are pushing 25 years old. I decided, for effect, a pink nose was needed, but I don't have pink glitter. Again, I'm not rushing out to buy another color. Relying on my knowledge of color combining, I used red and white.


I dumped a bunch into an empty envelope and shook.


The result is okay. It works. I slathered glue over the area where the nose is and drizzled the color mix over the glue. For good measure, I patted the glitter down into the glue and let the pumpkin dry over night.

The next day, it was time to do the mouth. The same process was used only I didn't need to dump the glitter into an envelope. I could shake it right from the bottle. Make sure your work space is covered with newspaper or you'll have glitter all over.


This glitter was tamped gently into the glue and left to dry overnight. The reason I'm letting this dry is so there isn't overlap of glitter colors. The next day, I did the eyes in the same fashion using gold glitter.


I use toothpicks covered with glue to outline the space and fill it in. You can see how the glue dries clear for the whiskers. They aren't going anywhere. I decided to put the whiskers in first, before the face, so I had a reference for the nose and the eyes. Plus, I didn't want to mess up the glitter. I'm not sure which is easier, to put in the whiskers first and be careful you don't bend them, or do the face first and be careful you don't smear your glitter or rub it off.

With the eyes done and rested overnight, it's time to plan where the whiskers above the eyes go and to make the ears. Step 1 is to cut two triangles from styrofoam. I happened to have a piece of half-inch styrofoam which had been used as a packing material.


I cut 2 matching triangles from the piece.


This styrofoam is great because it will handle weather well. I intend to put this and the spiders on the front steps at the end of the month so they aren't exposed, all month, to weather. We've had rain since mid afternoon on Monday, sometimes very heavy. While I'm mostly confident the pumpkin would withstand rain and I know the spiders will, I think I'll keep them inside until the days right before Halloween, just to be sure.

So, I took the triangles and figured out where, on the head, I wanted them to go. You're going to have to shave the bottom of one of the triangles so it fits the curve of the pumpkin.


It's kind of like peeling an apple except the flakes you carve away tend to stick to your hands and the knife. I carved and then placed the ear on the pumpkin to see where I needed to peel more away.


When the ears were to my satisfaction, I spray painted them black. Thank goodness for having left over black spray paint from making the spiders.


These definitely have to dry overnight. Enough spray paint had gone under the ear to the "back" that, when I flipped them over, there wasn't much to spray. The force of the spray will push these all over your paper, too. Just be aware of that. I didn't get to the ears for a couple of days so they were thoroughly dry by the time I had to work with them.

I wasn't sure how I was going to hold the ears on. If the pumpkin was softer, I could just shove a toothpick, slathered with glue, through the ear and into the pumpkin. But there was no way with this pumpkin that was going to work. Then I had a lightbulb moment. The pipe cleaners. I used the screwdriver and poked three holes in the bottom of each ear. You'll need to watch on the edges so you don't poke through, but you need a hole about an inch deep.


That was filled with glue.


Then I took some of the short pipe cleaners and cut them in half.


This provided an anchor for the ears that was just long enough to go into the hole in the ears. Each ear will look like this when you're finished.


While letting the glue set on these, I could use them to mark where the ears will go on the pumpkin. Hold the ear on the pumpkin and lightly press each end of the pipe cleaners onto the pumpkin, leaving a mark.


Take the screwdriver and poke holes at these marks. The pipecleaners are flexible enough that if you don't quite get the holes to correspond to where the cleaners are, they will still go into your poked holes.


You'll also want to make the holes for the eye whiskers at this time.


By the time I was ready to attach the ears, the glue holding the sticks in the ears had dried enough to be really sticky. You can let it dry completely overnight or continue. You're going to use more glue here so I didn't think it mattered.

You need to put the ears on first, before the whiskers. The whiskers just get in the way if you do it the other way around. Slather glue on the area where the ears are going, making sure you dump some in the ear holes.


Don't be stingy. Cover the ends of the sticks coming out of the ears and stick the ears onto the pumpkin.


If you've punched your holes right, they will slide in easily.


I slathered the glue onto the area where the ears sit and stuffed some under the ear before sticking it onto the pumpkin. The whole idea is that it shouldn't come off. Remember, the glue dries clear.

When this was done, I used half sticks and stuck them into the holes above the eyes, putting glue in the holes and on the end of the sticks.


The pumpkin was laid flat-ish, as flat as I could get, so the glue didn't slide down the front of the face, and it was left to dry overnight. I decided, after looking at it the next day, that the full length of the sticks was too long for the face so I cut them a bit over half-way.

Here's the finished pumpkin.


Mija gave it a sniff.


The model was less than impressed. At least she posed.


You can see this is not a one day project. You possibly could combine some steps, but I recommend letting things like the glitter and the whiskers dry completely before moving on to the next step. Pushing the glitter into copious amounts of glue and letting it dry means the glitter won't sluff off as you move it around the house or as someone sniffs the final product. Assuming you have to buy everything, the final cost, provided you get the pumpkin on sale, should be around $20.

I hope you enjoyed this project.

Beverage:  Water

Deb