Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Everyone Needs a Zombie Gnome

I thought about posting this tutorial earlier so you could have your very own zombie gnome for Halloween, but because this was a gift to Carole and Larry, I wanted to surprise them before posting a step-by-step.

First, you need a garden gnome.

I was in luck. Garden gnomes after Labor Day were 40% off at an Ace Hardware I happened to be by. It was kind of difficult to decide which one of three poses I wanted. I decided the one with the rake had the best opportunities for zombieness. You'll probably find garden gnomes on sale at garden stores or online. You can use my directions as suggestions for zombiefying your gnome.

This is for Halloween so I need bats and spiders and skeletons. I searched the Halloween aisles at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts and struck out. Then, I had to get buttons for another project and there they were. Halloween buttons. Of course.

Now, we're going to use fishing line to attach our buttons to our gnome. I've had this fishing line for some 20 years specifically for craft projects. I got out my needle threader because it can be tough to thread thread through the eye of a needle and thicker fishing line wasn't going to be easy. You'll need a darning needle because regular hand sewing needles do not have a big enough eye to shove fishing line through.

Once I got the line threaded, I positioned one skull on the rake and threaded the needle through the button and around some tines of the rake. I tied several knots once the skull was in position. This was repeated for each of the skulls in the package.

I left extra long lines so I could tie another knot if I felt the skull wasn't on the rake securely enough.

The rake provided a great place to stagger the skulls. There was a gnome with a spade and, I think, one with a bucket.

When the skulls were in place, I leaned the gnome over and put white glue on the knots on the back of the rake.

I really saturated the knots to make sure they were securely anchored to the rake. This was left for 24 hours to dry thoroughly. Once 24 hours had passed, I trimmed the ends to be close to the knots.

The next step was to begin the zombification. This was going to involve adding paint to the gnome. First color added was red. After all, zombies desire braaaaaa-aaainnns.

I used acrylic paint. Aside from the gnome himself, this was my biggest expense. Carole and I used to have acrylic paints in the basement. They last for a long time, but there wasn't any red. I had to go to the art supply store and get the smallest tube I could find of blood red. I did have brushes, however. Art brushes are very expensive so I was thankful I didn't have to buy one.

I took a small brush and just started adding strips and spots of red to the gnome. I went with the places where he'd have residue from his search for brains. I started with the face and hands and then moved to the clothing.

When that was done, I took black acrylic, something we did have, and added black smudges.

What really made him look zombie-ish was painting the black circles around the eyes. It made the eyes seem sunken. Black smudges were added to the hat and the pants and to the back side, which most people aren't going to see but which I knew I wanted to do. I took a moistened paper towel and smudged some of the black and red spots. When I was satisfied with the distressed look, I let him sit overnight.

Included in the button package were some flat buttons.

The small spider and the tombstone had button backs. Everything else was flat. I would need to glue those somewhere on the gnome and then tie the spider and the tombstone to something. The day after painting, I began placement of the other items.

The bats were glued to the hat. The large spider was placed in the middle of the web and both pieces glued to the base.

I tied the headstone to the base of the rake and glued it down. In the basement craft drawers, I found some wire. No clue why I have it. I cut a hunk, twisted it around the small spider and then anchored it to the rake. I could find no logical use for the hat item so that went in my give away bag. Seriously. I'm giving something away. I really can't think of why I would want to keep it. It doesn't have a button back so I can't use it on a sewn item. You know, it was hard to put it in the give away bag. I could hear this little voice saying, "Why give it away? You know you'll find a use for it." But I resisted the voice. I have so much "I'll find a use for". It's really time to be proactive about what I decide to save.

The completed gnome went with me to Virginia at the end of the month and was presented for their side deck.

He actually looks kind of happy there. You know he's waiting to steal your soul if getting your brains doesn't work.

Beverage:  Water


Things I See-November Edition

Here's another collection of things I saw worthy enough for a photograph.

I visited Carole at the end of October. On the way back, I needed a restroom and some tea. Dunkin' Donuts is my go-to place for tea, except, maybe, in western Pennsylvania.

I couldn't toss this even after I'd finished the tea because I can recycle the cup in my recycling. So, a Penn State item made its way into my Iowa Hawkeye house. The tea is always good, even if it came in the wrong color cup.

I've always wanted to make a braided rug. I used to have one that my great-great aunt made. She used wool scraps from a variety of sources. It wore really well for awhile and then disintegrated one day as I was, I thought, gently shaking out crumbs and dirt. I have a booklet that tells me how to make these kinds of rugs and it seems easy enough. It's a great way to use up fabric and is a craft that ties us to our ancestors.

What so great about these rugs, seen in a building I was inspecting, is that they are made from plastic bags. I'm not kidding. I saw these and knew, right away, what they were. I've known, for a long time, about places doing this. It's a great fund raiser for groups and a number of homeless shelters will have residents make rugs. If you accumulate a lot of bags and have no place to recycle them, it might be something you'd like to try. Here's a tutorial on the process.

I loved the colors in the stack. I didn't find out if they sold any of these or, because there were a lot of them, and bags, shoved onto this shelf unit, had the bottom dropped out of sale of plastic bag braided rugs.

This is coal.

Seriously. That's coal on the ground. Some of the people I were with had never seen real coal. Who knows how long it's been here. It's not something that's going to decompose quickly.

Seeing it brought back memories of the manual furnace that heated the farm house I grew up in. We used wood and coal. Coal gave off a smell, but burned for a long time and gave off a lot of heat, once you got it lit. Dad would start the fire in the fall with wood and then toss in the coal. We sometimes had to endure a warm house because he didn't want the fire to go out and have to start the process all over again if the warm spell was going to be just a few days. In the morning, the house was often chilly as the fire wound down, and we got dressed for school in the kitchen with the oven door open to remove the chill from the air.

The chimney had to be cleaned periodically because the layers of soot deposited on the inside could catch fire. We had that happen once. I remember sitting on the steps in the unheated back entry because the soot in the chimney caught fire. We were wrapped in blankets to keep warm. Mom and dad were dousing the red hot coal fire with water in an attempt to create enough steam to put out the chimney fire. Oh the smell and the smoke! Windows and doors were open to create drafts to get the smoke out of the house. I remember having to clean everything for weeks afterward because there was a thin layer of soot everywhere.

It's hard to see, but there is a spider the size of a half-dollar in the upper right corner of this door. Two of my co-workers are very scared of spiders. I would not have a tarantula in my house nor would I stroke one or pick one up or have one crawl across my hand. I'm not, however, terrified of spiders. I usually try to herd them onto the fly swatter or a piece of paper and toss them outside. They do more good out there anyway.

I don't think this gal spun a web in a food-rich environment. This was a courtyard, surrounded by 10 foot tall brick walls and covered with a mesh grating. I'm seeing very tiny spiders in the house now, spiders who were hatched at the middle of fall and who are looking for food before dying off in the winter. They just sort of show up, in the dish drainer, in the corner of windows, in front of books in the bookcase. I just look at them and wonder why they thought where they are was going to yield any sort of meal. Then I squash them.

Speaking of doors,

This was the main entry to a warehouse. The building was built in the 1930's and was reused in the 1980's as a warehouse. Security doors aren't made like this anymore.

A bunch of blocks. I was in a basement and these blocks date from the 1930's. What's so special about these blocks? Well, I don't know much about building construction, particularly older construction. They are interesting on their own and make me curious. What struck me was the Reg. US. Pat. Off. mark. Reguspatoff. I know it stands for "Registered, US Patent Office", meaning the bricks have a patent. It was also the name of a computer in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Someone told me it was in Rocky and Bullwinkle but that was the WAYBACK machine, which was an homage to the UNIVAC from the early age of computing. That age coincided with the germination in Jay Ward's mind, of a subversive cartoon which has just as much relevance to today as it did back in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Find and watch "The Boxtop Robbery" or "Wossamotta U". (The Wossamotta U fight song is directly purloined from the fight song for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I can't hear their fight song without singing, "Wossamotta, hats off to you. To your colors, ocher and Alice Blue. We shall e're be faithful and true. Hail Wossamotta hail. Better we should be in jail. Hail Wossamotta U.")

Back to Reguspatoff. I'm almost certain it was in Underdog, but I can't find independent confirmation. Since I don't get cable, I can't watch Cartoon Network which might have Underdog on the schedule. Seeing this on these bricks made me snicker. I didn't point this out to my companions as I was pretty sure none of them had the same frame of reference I did.

Finally, I saw this in the basement of a building.

Did you ride face first or feet first? I could never get up the courage to ride face first. My brothers and sister did, but not me. I didn't mind being in the front, but I could never expose my face to a wipe out.

I would go again. Grab the great nieces and nephews, find a hill with a soft landing, put on layers and layers and go sledding. We would start up by the garage and, if lucky, you'd make it all the way down the hill past the barn and to the bridge over the creek. Sometimes, if conditions were right, you could get across the bridge, onto the flat beyond and up the other side of the hill a bit. Ice was the worst. Hit a patch and you lost control. We'd spend hours outside. It took a good 10 minutes to drag the sled back up to the garage to ride it down again, always hoping for just the right mix of speed and dexterity to go even farther up the other side than you had before.

Sometimes, it was too dangerous to go down the hill by the barn, so we'd try to see if we could make it around the windmill and over the hump by the house. Hairpin curves are not a sled's forte. You made wide, sweeping curves. If you had to swerve quickly, the best course of action was to simply fall off the sled, which resulted in faces full of snow and lots and lots of laughter. Yeah, I'd do it again.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Most Expensive Socks I've Loved

I want to tell you about something I found.

You know I love socks, the wilder, the better. Way back in September (you do remember that month, right?), on my Animal Rescue Facebook feed, a sock company was publicized for having socks for causes. If you bought a pair of special socks, all proceeds when to animal rescue. The company is called Soulmate Socks.

When the company motto is "Life's too short for matching socks", you know I'm going to pay attention.

At the time, I couldn't afford a pair. They are pricey. So, I cut some discretionary spending and had the cash to get one pair. It was really hard to decide from all the offerings.

I ordered a pair called "Cosmos".

I love color, adore color. It came down to my assigning a number to the potential pairs and then rolling a 20 sided die. (Gamers will understand.) I mean, look at all the choices.

The only thing I knew was that I didn't want ankle socks. Beyond that, any pair was going to be good.

These are so much win. They are smiles for my feet. I spent a lot of time, that first day, looking down at my riotously colored toes and smiling.

Loud? Check.
Sturdy construction? Check.
Comfortable? Check.
Washable? Absolutely check.

The only thing that prevents me from ordering more is the cost. Since colors are repeated, you can buy several pair with overlapping colors and they will go together. Or follow their mantra and just wear what you feel like.

I'm thrilled with these. They will be go-to socks now that the weather is dropping into single digits.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, November 3, 2014

Another Split

(Heavy sigh)

I wore this pair to Virginia on the 23rd. The next day, I was going to wear them again when we went to get lunch and just around the house. I suppose splitting by the back pocket is to be expected after years of wear. I ordered a pair of light gray dressier pants from JC Penney, but don't like how they look so I need to take them back. I'll replace this pair at that time. They will be dumped in the crafting box. Now, I just need to use the fabric.

Beverage:  Black Cherry Seltzer


Curtains In Place

The curtains were put in place on the 23rd. I neglected to take before photos.

The Star Wars comic kitchen curtains.

The Star Trek home office curtains. The walls are a dove gray here which worked very well with the gray in the design. The original curtains, from Wal*Mart, were camel colored. Once on the floor, they were claimed, almost instantly, by Tobey.

The Star Wars dining room curtains. The curtains in the kitchen and above had been a dark red.

And the back door curtains. These had been a white lace.

Carole and Larry were thrilled. It was fun to see them get excited over curtains. They weren't going to tell friends who come to their annual Halloween party. They were going to see who noticed.

Beverage:  Black Cherry Seltzer


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Palla's Grill

With the end of October, a month of meeting oneself coming and going ends. The travels of the month brought the opportunity to experience different food.

We're working on the near north side of Chicago, the Uptown Neighborhood. At the corner of Wilson and Broadway is a restaurant where we find ourselves eating quite frequently. Our first visit was way back in September. At the time, we were just starting this job and none of us processed that we'd wind up being recognized by face.

They have a very wide menu. It's nothing flashy and they have next to nothing for dessert. They tout that they now serve liquor, but I think their selling point is visibility in the neighborhood and good food, really good, simple, satisfying food. You know there will be photos.

Chicken salad. It was huge and the chicken was so tender. It's served with warm pita bread.

Chicken fingers and fries. It's hard to do this wrong, but I've had some really bad versions. This basket came with crispy, thoroughly cooked chicken and unseasoned fries. On the tables are the usual salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and ketchup. I got barbecue sauce for dipping. Sometimes, as you eat slowly, the fries can be soggy by the time you get to the bottom. Not these. I think this is my favorite on their menu.

It's a polish. I think this is a distinctive Chicago item. It goes by "polish hot dog" and I've seen it referred to as a Kielbassa. We just refer to it as a "polish". It's denser than a hot dog, and is made of better cuts of meat. That also means it will be more expensive. Chicagoans dump onions, and mustard on a polish, but I've also seen relish, pickles and tomatoes on them. You are really looked down on if you put ketchup on them. I like my polish with mustard and ketchup. Onions and I have never really gotten along. Yes, there are the fries which stayed crispy through the meal.

Finally, here's a bacon cheeseburger and mozzarella sticks. This is probably my least favorite combo. The sticks were good. They were flavorful and gooey, just what you want in mozzarella sticks. The cheeseburger took some explaining to get. They don't have a bacon cheeseburger on the menu. I had to order a cheeseburger and ask for bacon. Then, it doesn't come as just a sandwich. I'm supposed to have fries, but they let me substitute the sticks for the fries.

The cheeseburger was kind of bland. Even with an addition of bacon, it was rather unremarkable. You can see the kitchen where food is made and you know this sandwich wasn't made an hour ago and kept under a heat lamp. Still, I won't order the cheeseburger again. The sticks would be really good with the chicken fingers. We aren't slated to go back until right before Thanksgiving. I think soup will be added to my meal. The best part of all this is the reasonable price for everything. Even though we can expense it, good food at good prices means if you had to spend your own money, you're getting a good value.

It's great when you find a neighborhood place, some small place, that surprises you. There are other places in the area where we could eat, but, when it comes lunch time, it's "We'll meet you at Palla's."

Beverage:  English Teatime tea