We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Costumes

I love putting costumes together. I suppose it comes from being in theater as a teenager. Costumes are really an illusion. They don't have to be wonderfully made. If you look at them closely, they often aren't quite what you thought. But when you see an outfit on stage or out in the dark for Halloween, if it gives you the impression of the character, you did it right.

This is all very good for me, since I hate sewing! I really have no talent for it.

But today my kids were telling me that, even though I say I hate making crafts, their Halloween costumes always turn out awesome. I'm honored they'd say such a thing, because it is my ambition. Whatever else I've failed at in motherhood, I think I've poured myself into the fun of Halloween.

But, like I say, I'm not a sewer. I just make things that create an illusion. So don't expect to be impressed with my beautifully-made costumes.

This year, my youngest was Princess Leia. I was so happy when she decided on that, because I already had a white robe/dress that I made years ago when my older daughter was an angel. All I had to do was tie a ribbon around her waist to create a belt effect, put her hair in Princess Leia buns, and give her her brother's Nerf gun. She's fierce.

My older daughter was Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. That's the crown I made her at the top of this entry. I did look for crowns to purchase, but nothing was even close to right. So I picked the brains of the women in an online group I belong to: what would be some flexible, translucent plastics I could use? Bingo! Quilt template plastic. I attached two sheets together, because one wasn't long enough to go around my daughter's head. I glued sheer pink pearlescent fabric onto it, using an adhesive that bonds fabric, vinyl, and plastic, and that is clear and flexible when it dries. I looked at the Wizard of Oz movie and at websites to figure out what the top edge should look like. And I cut that out with scissors. Then I decorated with silver glitter glue and some adhesive silver glitter paper that's meant for scrapbooking. I am so not good at crafts. But I was pleased with how it turned out. After it dried flat overnight, I fit it to my daughter's head and stapled and glued the second seam to make it round.

I should have made it a little tighter, but that was so hard for me to figure out. It kept slipping down. I bobby-pinned and clipped it in place, and I set her hair in curlers to try to create some resistance. Of course the curls drooped. And all night while trick-or-treating, that tall, tall crown kept falling off. But she insisted she didn't mind. It looked great in the dark. People knew instantly who she was.

The dress was one I bought used in college for a costume. We layered multiple skirts underneath to make it more full. And, yes, I sewed those silly puffs for the "sleeves" when we decided today that she needed something like that. Eh, I tried. And I bought the wand.

My son's costume... well, he couldn't decide what to be. He's almost too old for trick-or-treating. He wanted something ancient Greek or Roman, since he's been interested in that kind of thing since reading "The Lightning Thief". He finally, last weekend, decided to be a Roman gladiator. Okay, so he had a cape. I started thinking of cardboard armor. I had some vague ideas. Then I came across a ready-to-wear costume in a store. "Boy, should I spend the money?" Uh, how much do you spend buying craft supplies for these kinds of things? How much time do you really have this week? Luckily when I called my husband to ask his opinion, he said, "Buy it. Yes. Do it." It was a good choice.

Of course, it wouldn't have been Halloween if I didn't have to get my sewing machine out. My son said there was no way for him to hold his pumpkin candy bucket while holding his sword and shield. And, besides, it would ruin the effect. So I took the unbleached muslin I'd bought to make him a tunic, back when I was going to make his costume myself. And I sewed him a little bag with handles that he could carry behind his shield. It worked.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack O'Lanterns

The kids have carved their pumpkins. They actually did it mostly themselves this year because I bought one of those handy-dandy kits on clearance last year, the ones with the little saws. I've always just had them design the faces (and clean out most of the goop), and then I'd do the carving with my dull kitchen knives. This was better. The saws broke about the time they were done, but I'd still buy them again.

I've baked the pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. I need to finish frosting them. Then I'm on to finishing costumes. No, I'm not done, but it's within sight.

I love Halloween.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pheasant & Kale Soup

I didn't take a picture of tonight's supper. I ate it all before I thought to take out the camera!

I had some leftover pheasant that my husband got in South Dakota lately. I had some kale from the plant that my boss gave me this summer. Both were in the fridge and needed to be used.

I searched the Internet for soup ideas involving chicken and kale and made up my own version. I didn't measure much, so some of this is a guess:

Pheasant & Kale Soup
2 carrots, diced
2 TB diced onion
1 TB oil
3/4 C chopped cooked pheasant or chicken
6 C chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
1/4 tsp salt
4 kale leaves, torn, with stems removed
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 handfuls fine egg noodles or broken spaghetti

Saute the carrots and onion in oil. Add pheasant, broth and seasonings and bring to boil. Add kale, garlic and noodles and cook until everything is to desired tenderness.

Even my picky eaters ate this up and said it was great.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heritage Hjemkomst

We went to the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center in Moorhead, Minnesota, last weekend. We wanted to see something interesting while we were there, but we didn't want to go somewhere where lots of germ-sharing was likely, like the children's museum.

Inside the museum is the Hjemkomst Viking ship, a replica that was built by a Minnesota man in the '70s and sailed from Duluth to Norway by a group of his friends and family in 1982.

They had to have been crazy to strike out on the ocean in that little thing, but they made it.

Right outside the museum is a replica Norwegian stave church, the type of churches built in Norway shortly after the Viking age.

It's beautiful inside in its way, but so cold and barren compared to what I expect from a church. Of course, it was cold and cloudy the day we were there. But there is no seating, the wood is unfinished with just a bit of painting in one area, and there aren't many windows. And then there's extensive, detailed carving in many places. It's primitive but extremely ornate at the same time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cosmic Joke

This is not supposed to happen in early October. I do not live in International Falls.

Okay, I know it can happen. But I don't have to like it. It's 32 degrees out at 6 pm, and the snow has not fully melted yet. I keep shaking my head.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Salsa Struggles

I finally had enough tomatoes, between my garden and my mom's, all at once, to make salsa. I've made salsa before with my sister-in-law's recipe. It was good.

I started out fine. I remembered to peel the tomatoes first this time. I put them in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. My daughter peeled them and cut off the the stems:

She did really well. She's an efficient girl.

Then I found that I was short on vinegar. So, do I run out at suppertime to get more, or do I find a substitute? I read in multiple places on the Internet that you can substitute lemon or lime juice for vinegar in a salsa recipe, and some even recommended it instead because the flavor will be better. I thought lime was a natural choice for Mexican food, so I filled in the rest of my needed vinegar with lime juice.

Well, that made it taste very sour, and I could really taste the lime. So I added a bunch more sugar and kept adding spices. There was also a bitterness I couldn't figure out.

Turns out I burned it on the bottom. My stove top is overly hot, and I was not cautious enough with my settings. I really can't turn it down enough for some things. I'm used to cooking on electric stoves, but I don't care for this one.

So I did the best I could in seasoning it to taste, well, acceptable. It's nothing like I've made in years past, though. It even looks dark in the jars.

I'll work up the courage to serve it to the kids once I buy some new tortilla chips. But I don't think I'll be sharing these jars with anyone else.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pullet Eggs

We've started getting eggs! Here's a picture of the first one I found:

The hen pushed the hay out of the corner of the coop and lined the spot with a few feathers, then laid the egg there. So then my husband and son got to work building nesting boxes! The hens mostly use those, but usually one egg a day is just laying out on the chicken coop floor. That can't be a very good mother hen, at least not yet.

Pullet eggs start out smaller than a normal egg. I should have taken a picture of the teeniest one we found. I wasn't even able to use it, because the membrane inside was so tough that it wouldn't break without shattering the shell. I decided a teaspoonful of egg probably wasn't enough to fight over.

At first there was one a day. We've worked up to usually four a day now, with ten young hens laying.

They are still mostly small eggs. We've gotten two that were like typical large eggs, but the one I've used had a double yolk; that makes an egg larger.

I've used them only once in baking, because it's hard to figure out exactly how many to use. I did measure a large egg in a liquid measuring cup so that I could approximate the volume when using the pullet eggs for cookies.

We're going to be bringing most of the hens over to my parents' soon, where they were always intended to go. But we're going to keep three hens, which theoretically will give you about 2 eggs a day on average, according to a chicken book I looked at. We've got a light on a timer in the coop now to encourage them to keep laying even though the days are getting shorter.

Those little eggs make cute, miniature fried eggs. Normally I can fit three large eggs in my frying pan, but on this day it held five:

The yolks are so orange from all the fresh greens the chickens are eating (and my red tomatoes, those darn birds). The pancake batter and chocolate chip cookie dough I made lately were deeply golden.