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Friday, October 28, 2011

How-to do a Halloween face painting

With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to share a fun spooky face painting video I made with my sister last year.

It's always hard to find feminine costumes that stand out from the parade of fairies and princesses that inundate town every year. (I admit, it's SO FUN to dress up as royalty or mystical creatures....and yes, I have a princess gown, elf costume, and fairy wings hanging in my closet.) I'm a nonconformist at I don't often want to blend in with all the other same old costume ideas.

Here is a unique face paint pattern that perfect for Halloween. It is a spooky skeletal/butterfly pattern. I did it in a video so you can see how to paint it yourself. Accompany this face with a cute black dress and -VIOLA!- the best costume ever.

Even though I used professional paints, anyone could imitate this pattern with eye shadow for the background colors and a good liquid eyeliner for the black and white lines.

Here is a picture of the final product:

Good luck with your creation!

Halloween face painting ideas

Just in time for Halloween! Here are some of my favorite Halloween face painting ideas.

Try painting a spooky pumpkin pattern like this one. This one can be made using eyeshadows as the background and a good liquid eyeliner for the black pattern. You don't have to have high-quality face paints to get good results on some of these patterns.

Princesses don't need face paints, right? Wrong! 
I love adding a face painted masquerade mask to a princess costume. 

Can skull paintings still be feminine? Kinda sorta. This was my attempt at making a 'girly skull'. 

It's fun to paint exposed muscle tissue for an interesting costume.  There is supposed to be an illusion of skin stretched across the face and stapled in place over the exposed facial muscles. This one is a bit tricky, and I'm not very good at it. I still need practice on this one.

Even fairies can add face paint for a colorful twist to their costume. 

I love painting eye masks. 
Masks compliment almost any outfit and make a great costume addition.

This is a mask I wore with an elf costume.
This one was painted entirely with eye shadow and eyeliner.

Abstract patterns are my favorite. It's SO FUN, like doodling on someone's face.

A tiger mask is super easy to paint. I like this stylized tiger pattern.

Here is a different abstract painting. 
Almost any kind of swirls will look great if you use two or more colors in your pattern.

Butterfly patterns are the most popular requests I get. Here is the standard butterfly face painting.

For a more elegant, adult look I shrink the butterfly and make it into an eye accent. This picture was taken at a sorority prom night. The pattern complimented her formal gown nicely.

This is my favorite butterfly pattern. It's a spooky butterfly. My daughter calls it an evil butterfly. We morphed  elements of a skull with the butterfly mask. Isn't it perfect for Halloween?

I made a video of how to paint this pattern. 
You can watch the time-lapse video of this pattern here.

See more of my face paint patterns here and here.

Have a beautiful day!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birthday kidnapping

Be patient with this pathetic rhyme.
I didn't have abundant time
To sit and think, through my language sift.
My time was spent preparing this gift.

Your trusty car was long neglected.
I thought, "It's time this was corrected!"
I drove it to my favorite lube shop
Where attendants laughed and shouted, "Stop!

"This car is four thousand miles o'verdue!
Don't you know what could happen to you?
We'll change the oil and inspect the brakes."
The good news is those both look great.

However the tires are much too bare.
We don't have a choice, they must be repaired.
If we drive much longer they will explode.
Then what would happen? Your head may implode!

I've ordered new tires after worry and fuss,
Tomorrow they'll arrive and be waiting for us.
I know you don't have a lot of spare time,
That's why this gift is especially fine.

I included a vanilla-scented tree
So each time you drive you'll remember me.

Happy Birthday!

This was the poem I left in Nathan's car for his birthday as one of his gifts. Sarah and I kidnapped it from the train station parking lot. We cleaned it completely out, vacuumed the carpets, and had maintenance work done. He never has enough time after work to work on his personal projects (like building a winch to remotely open the gate across our driveway), so we took care of these tasks as a way to free up some extra time for him.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rooster antics

Sarah with our favorite hen
If males torment girls as a way of showing affection, then Sarah has an admirer who can't get his mind off her.
Our Minorca rooster, Luciano Pavarotti, loves Sarah. He loves to peck her more than anyone else.

He is normally the scaredy-cat who is the first to run from any sign of danger (or even just a loud noise from something not even remotely dangerous). He abandons the hens and runs lickety-split across the yard towards the safety of the chicken coop. Even the docile hens peck him viciously when he has the audacity to try to steal kitchen scraps from under them. He squeals like a girl when that happens.

He's really such a coward. I think he realizes this, and is ashamed.  Perhaps this is why he torments Sarah. It's like he has to prove something to the hens.

He actually makes a point of seeking her out and pecking her without the slightest provocation. For example:

Yesterday Sarah and I were sweeping the driveway. There were no chickens in sight (a strange situation for me). We were happily listening to the birds sing in the trees.

Out of nowhere, Pavarotti came streaking across the yard like a black bullet. He sprinted right to Sarah and without any hesitation, pecked her ankle. Then he cocked his head at her and made all his feathers stand on end, doubling his puny size. It was as if he said in a mocking voice, "Ha! What are you going to do about it? Huh? Huh?" while he danced around her feet looking for a fight.

She squealed and tried to escape his pecking beak, but he followed her in haughty dancing steps, striking at her ankles. He didn't even see me. I yelled one sharp sound that made him leap and squawk in fright, then he was gone. All we saw was his tail disappear under the safety of the bushes where he hid in fear until we went inside. Dumb rooster.

Breakfast time for the poultry

Recently I was outside working on cleaning up the property (still a big project even after working on it for  months!). I heard a strange leaves rustling loudly, or wings flapping, or...what was it exactly? Like feet running through the leaves.

Suddenly our entire flock of 30 chickens came running from around the corner of the house. They ran at full speed straight for me, where they surrounded me, looking up at me expectantly for kitchen scraps. As I walked to the barn for regular chicken food, the flock followed me like a group of ducklings. Strangely, that made my day. It was so fun having chickens following me around the yard.

Usually I give them plate scrapings from our mealtimes (who wouldn't love Nathan's cooking?). They have been developing a discerning palate and they much prefer human food to chicken pellets. Can I blame them? Not really.

Now whenever they hear my voice they come hopefully running. They come no matter where I am on the property.

Yesterday I was painting our driveway gate posts (they transformed from being ugly, rusted, and dirty color to being clean and white!). I sang while I worked, so naturally the chickens heard my voice and congregated around me. Soon they were investigating the gallon bucket of oil paint I was using. Afraid that they would knock the bucket over, I quickly turned to chase them away. In the process my hair flew right into the wet paint on the gate post. Did I mention it's permanent white oil paint? Drat.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Matt's first real painting

Matthew has decided he wants to be a professional artist when he grows up. He has spent months drawing animals and making art projects in much of his spare time. His room looks like an art gallery. Seriously. He has like 50 pictures hanging on his wall.

I finally decided to let him try his hand with real acrylic paint (instead of Crayola's watercolors) and a real canvas (instead of printer paper). I spend an entire afternoon with him, teaching him different techniques (like how to do that mottled background) and answering his questions.

He's so proud of his finished product. I personally was just happy to spend the day in my pajamas making art alongside my son! (The painting I started is a study of Renoir, and won't be finished for a while, so no pictures are up for my own art.) His love language is 'quality time', so this was a perfect day in his eyes. He gave me the biggest hug and kiss that evening. That completely made up for all the neglected housework that day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cage Fighting

We watched a cage fight between Bella and a raccoon at 4:00AM this morning. Bella caught the raccoon inside our chicken coop. 

Bella was declared the winner by default as the coon forfeited after a couple encounters with Bella's teeth. There were no fatalities. Unfortunately.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Canadians sound like what?

We recently purchased "Homesteading for Beginners". It's a 3-DVD set teaching homesteading skills.

The DVDs are so interesting! They are made by a homesteading family that live near an Amish community. Read how they became started in homesteading here.The family learns and shares a lot of 'common sense' treasures from their Amish friends. Isn't that SO NEAT? I always wished I had Amish neighbors! (That's the one thing Texas lacks- no Amish communities!) They even sell clothing from their Amish friends and old fashioned kitchen tools for a farm kitchen. You can see their website here. 

The videos teach things like:
-how to butcher a pig or cow and preserve the entire thing in ONE DAY (remember, the Amish have no refrigerators so they HAVE to do it quickly.)
-how to make a variety of breads without yeast or sugar (How cool is that for food-storage freaks like me?!)
-how to home-can almost everything (even bacon and sausage- YUM!)
-how to milk a cow (which I've never seen done before, this was so valuable to learn!)
-lots of ways to garden and preserve your harvest for later (right up my lane!)
-how to make maple syrup (this made me wish we actually lived up north, where is actually snows and sugar maples grow!)
-how to make your own daily multivitamins from powdered plants(okay, this clip is seriously funny. It looks like she is making a witches brew, with green and red smoke raising out of the pot! We couldn't stop laughing!)

My kids have really loved watching these videos with me, and we have learned so much! Now we are so excited to begin experimenting with some new ideas (This is where I became convinced that I wanted to own a Jersey cow instead of goats.)

The family has such a cute Canadian accent. After watching these videos for a while, Matthew said, "These people talk so weird....oh I know what it is! They sound LIKE MUPPETS!"


Friday, October 7, 2011

Home Remedy- Chamomile

I'm always very fascinated with home remedies (not the old wives' tales....I care about the ones that WORK). Medical care is a lost art in homes these days. I often think of my ancestors....they didn't have accessible doctor clinics. What did they use? I love asking my grandparents for treatment recommendations they remember from their childhood. I am passionate about learning how to use natural remedies and recording the ones that are effective.

Last year three of my children all had pink-eye at the same time. If I took them all into the doctor, that would be $90 of just co-pays, let alone the prescription fees. I wanted to at least attempt to treat it myself.

I had read in pioneer journal accounts (dating around 1850) that chamomile fixed eye infections.

I steeped chamomile tea bags in just 4 tablespoons of water. I used such little water (instead of an entire teacup) so the chamomile would be more concentrated. I soaked cottonballs in the chamomile tea, then placed them over my own eyes to see if it stung or irritated my eyes in any way. I didn't want to try it on my children until I knew what it felt like so I didn't harm them. It didn't feel like anything other than soothing hot water on my eye.

I had the children all lie down in a row and close their eyes. I placed cotton balls saturated with the chamomile tea on each of their eyes. We left them in place for 5 minutes before removing the cotton balls and rinsing their faces. I did this once in the morning and again at night. Every sign of infection was gone in 2 or 3 days! In the past when I had gotten prescription eye drops for pink eye, it took 3 days to heal. I was impressed that this natural remedy worked just as well as the prescription.

I loved that I only had to pay $1.99 for a big box of chamomile tea bags, instead of $100 for the doctor. Now we always keep chamomile tea on hand for any eye infections.

This came in handy again this month when Daniel's cornea was scratched. I was worried about infection in this wound, but the chamomile treatment kept his eye free from complications and it healed completely in 2 days.

I feel so strongly that the Lord created many plants with useful properties that we can use for our health and healing. I'm so interested in learning about more of these plants and applying them in my family.

It was pretty difficult to know where to begin learning about healing plants. So many online sources were tainted with ridiculous claims and it was difficult to sift through the outrageous stories to try and find the credible treatments. Honestly- how could anyone think that tying a dead fish to your feet will make your cough go away? Or that wearing a bead necklace will cure tooth pain?

I found a book that I absolutely love on this topic. It's written by a BYU professor. It's called "From the Shepherd's Purse". It lists the helpful plants and has directions for extracting the beneficial oils from each of them in various ways. There are directions for various ways to apply the plant extracts (oral syrups, teas, lotions for skin ailments, poultices, etc.) It also has a chart for calculating dosages based on the patient's weight.  I love it!

I thought I should start sharing the home remedies that we have used so others can benefit from this information.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Homestead?

(This is part of a two-part post. Read HOW I am making a difference in our family's food here.)

Am I crazy?

Some people have asked if I'm crazy in my desires for self-reliance. It's so much work. It can be tedious or boring. Don't I have loftier goals for myself?

It's hard to explain all the reason's why I feel so strongly about the food we eat and where it comes from. There is so much to say. There are entire books on this topic alone. Here are the summarized points I want you to consider (there are a lot of links so you can explore the topics more in depth):

1- What are the ethics behind your food? Did you know America's sugar is almost exclusively made by slaves?  The sugar for your candy is made by modern slaves in the Caribbean, and they are owned by AMERICAN companies. Try finding an ethical source of sugar- I tried and had a very hard time finding it. Learn about the corporate practices behind your food labels. So many of them are ravishing the environments or spewing poisons. Animal products are processed in the most disgusting ways. I don't like the idea of supporting meat companies that are so cruel to animals. Simply put, I don't want my consumer dollar to support any corrupt companies. 

2- What is the health cost behind your food? Many foods are contaminated with harmful or deadly bacteria due to the unclean practices used on the corporate farm. What are you ingesting along with your salad? What pesticides are on it? Did you know the fertilizers are often sewage sludge? (Doesn't that explain why there are so many food recalls from contaminated produce?)What about E coli? Salmonella? Read more about food safety issues from the Union of Concerned Scientists. What is in your milk? Did you know that milk is tainted with steroids, harmful hormones, and antibiotics? (Lactating mothers know they can't breastfeed their babies while on antibiotics because the medicine crosses into the breast why are people okay with giving antibiotics and other drugs to dairy cows?) You can find good food in your area by clicking here or here. See why Jersey cow milk is healthier than the store-bought Holstein cow milk here.

3- What do you spend on food? As fuel prices increase, so does the food price. Remember all the oil used to grow the food? Farmers have to increase their produce price to compensate for their increased fuel costs. In the next year alone, the grocery prices will almost double, according to Marjory Wildcraft. Watch her lecture here to see why.

4- Food politics are a nasty thing. I feel like it's SO IMPORTANT to grow my own food or support local farms and avoid inadvertently giving money to Cargill and Monsanto (read or watch just about ANY food documentary and you'll learn about these corporations. It's too corrupt and too in-depth for me to try to share any of the issues here about those companies. You'd probably never come back after reading one of my lengthy tirades against bad food politics...politics like this.)

5- Why are you eating GMOs? Genetically Modified Food, aka Frankenfood. These have so many problems! In America these products aren't labeled, so you don't realize that the Kraft mac and cheese on your table contains GMO ingredients. These foods have been proven to cause health problems, and GMO foods are banned in most developed countries of the world. Japan's stance regarding GMOs is essentially "we'll watch what happens to America's children after eating GMOs for several years before we allow it in our own country. America can be the world's guinea pig". Aren't these red flags to you?

6- Do you realize what would happen if there was an oil embargo or trucking strike?  America would starve. Our food is produced almost exclusively with fossil fuels. Tractors are used to plant, fertilize, pesticide, and harvest the food. Tractors require a LOT of fuel. Then consider all the shipping fuel required to transport the food from the farm to your grocery store. What would happen with a trucking strike? Grocery stores would have empty shelves in less than 2 days. What would you do for your children? Do you really want to leave your food security in the hands of others?

I didn't used to think about my food, beyond the decision of what to make for dinner. I was first exposed to the concept of food origin (and it's accompanying politics, ethics, and health issues) in a book club. Then I learned some more in my own library digging.

In every book club I join I now recommend "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. He was several books published about food, but this is a good one to start with.

I opened my mind to moving on a farm only after I read "Animal, Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. (It's the second book I recommend to friends.) Her family ate only what they could produce for themselves (or buy from a farm within a 5 mile radius) for an entire year, just to see if it was too difficult to be a lifestyle choice. It's a fascinating (and entertaining) read. Nathan and I enjoyed reading it aloud together in the evenings. She's a great writer. Her bibliography at the end lists a comprehensive list of books to read regarding the differing aspects of food safety, sustainability, and politics. There are too many for me to list here. Visit her website here.

"Fast Food Nation" is a great one to read particularly regarding meat-processing plants. I thought  most things had changed since the writing of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle". I'm not as correct as I had thought. There are still so many glaring problems with just the food safety issues at these plants, let alone employee treatment.

I highly recommend you check those books out from your library and peruse them. It's so important to at least be educated about food issues so you can make your choices without ignorance. As the parents of our homes, we are the ones selecting the menus for our children. They trust us to do what's best for them. How can I encourage my loved ones to eat contaminated food?

If we don't know how to produce our own food, we are irretrievably chained to corporations. We lose freedoms. How? We depend on these companies for our own lives, literally our daily bread. Get to know your food. I'm a fiercely independent person and I refuse to be enslaved to company greed. I am not just a number in a statistic for their marketing teams to analyze. I am a free person, and I refuse to partake in the mass consumerism gripping our nation.

The answer for me was to be as self-reliant as possible. Not everyone can do that, but You CAN make a difference.  Learn how here. Learn more about food safety here. Those of you who prefer visual documentaries should watch "Food, Inc." to learn more about food issues.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.     ~Margaret Mead

If you have learned something new here, share this post online with others. Facebook. Twitter. It's so important that we know where our food comes from!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Homesteading for Beginners

(This is part of a two-part post. Read WHY I chose to move onto a farm here..)

We dabbled in urban homesteading when we lived in the city. Our teeny yard was filled with raised garden beds, a small flock of chickens, and a couple of peach trees. In that house I taught beginner gardening classes several times and we helped other families build gardens in their own backyards.

Our interests grew to include beekeeping and a desire to expand our collection of fruit trees.

We had a couple minor problems:

1- We couldn't keep a rooster (Well, LEGALLY we could keep one, but we didn't want to be bad neighbors....I'm sure no one would thank us for the ruckus a rooster makes at 5:00am)
2- There wasn't an isolated corner for a beehive (where it would be safe from the ravaging appetites of our chickens)
3- We couldn't fit any more fruit trees on the property (and we REALLY wanted to plan some pomegranates, pears, and plums.)
4- We couldn't fit a dairy goat on our property (even though I was so excited when I discovered a legal loophole in Round Rock's city laws that actually would allow us to keep a goat, sheep, or even a pig on our property. Cool, eh what?)

We already made our own bread, jams, yogurts, kefirs, and the occasional cheese. We wanted to dabble in more. We didn't have the land to do so.

Fast forward a couple years. Now we have plenty of land to do all of our experiments. Here is our four-year plan for this place:

Year One-
Move onto our new property. Give birth to our new little boy. Repair the house and make the necessary improvements. Start our large chicken flock, including guineas  and roosters this time. Incubate eggs so we can perpetuate the flock sustainably, without buying chicks online. Begin the compost pile so we will have soil amendments for our veggie garden. Start fencing in the garden plot. Plant our herb garden this year. (Seriously, have you seen how ridiculously expensive fresh mint and tarragon are? Yikees!) Begin vermicomposting with kitchen scraps. Raise enough meat birds to produce the meat our family will eat this year. Slaughter the birds and preserve the meat in one long weekend. Participate in 4-H so our children can learn how to work with livestock. Continue studying permaculture techniques to implement in our farm design.

Year Two-
Prepare the soil for garden beds (this one will be a doozy of a chore). Plant one vegetable garden bed this year, 100 feet long and 4 feet wide. Begin planting fruit trees for our orchard. Expand poultry flock to include ducks and geese, which will live in pools made in the fruit orchard area (the geese eat grass, so they'll keep the orchard area mowed and fertilized on their own, isn't that neat?) Expand herb garden to include medicinal plants. Improve the barn so it's ready for livestock. Reseed the pasture so it has a healthy ecosystem of grasses. Build a beehive and begin beekeeping in the pasture.

Year Three-
Add another vegetable garden bed, 100 feet long and 4 feet wide. Add grape vines to the property (not the wild Mustang grapes that already grow here, just to clarify. Those are mostly used to make wine....not helpful to sober Mormons!). Plant native berry bushes. Add some dairy goats or a Jersey cow so we have our own milk supply, then we can produce home made butter, cheese, cream, yogurts, kefir, etc. with farm-fresh milk. Yum! (I'm really looking forward to this particular goal! Milk is SO much healthier when it's not from a dairy plant. There's no pharmaceuticals in the milk.)

Year Four-
Add another vegetable garden bed, 100 feet long and 4 feet wide. By now I'm hoping our food production will be largely self-reliant. Unless calamities occur to set us back, we'll be using plenty of veggies from our three garden beds, fruit from our bushes, vines and trees, eggs and meat from our chickens, milk from our large livestock (either cow or goats), and sweetener from our beehive. It is presumed that we will preserve the harvest each year with canning, dehydrating, and freezing so we won't have to buy much produce during the extremely hot or cold months of the year.

My aim is to be as self-reliant as  possible.

Children and Classics

Sarah and I have been reading "Anne of Green Gables" aloud together each day. It's delightful. We read whenever Diego sleeps.

I used to read her the abridged versions of classics, but then I realized that she would never be exposed the rich language in an abridged form. When I was little I didn't enjoy Charles Dickens' books.....then one day I read Oliver Twist in its true unabridged form. It was a different world for me. The abridged versions only kept the essential plot. They removed the rich humor and wittiness that made Dickens loved by readers for over a century. Now I adore reading Dickens!

I began to read only the unabridged classics to Sarah. I was worried that she might not understand the vocabulary and out-dated phrases, but I find it's not really an issue. If I think she might not be familiar with a word in a sentence, I explain it to her and we move on.

It's so fun to watch her face as I tell the story. She is so expressive in her emotions regarding this book. Her face lights up with delight when Anne is ridiculous. Sarah's mouth drops open in gaping shock each time Anne is so scathingly rude to Gilbert Blythe. She giggles behind her hand when she realizes Gilbert loves Anne. Sarah hides under a blanket in embarrassment when Anne is particularly naughty. We have laughed and laughed together every afternoon as we read Anne's adventurous exploits.

I am so happy that my daughter has learned how to enjoy classic literature. It's so important to me that she be familiar with note-worthy books. Too many children's books published today treat children like they are idiots with over-simplified plots and no creative vocabulary. There's nothing to prompt the reader into thought. (Can I mention here how deeply I detest the abominable Junie B. Jones books?) I call those books cotton-candy books....all fluff. There's no content to savor, nothing to wrap your mind around.

This book has helped create memorable afternoons for us as a mother and daughter, reading on my bed wrapped in quilts. Her pleasure in this book is contagious...last night even DANIEL joined her on my bed to listen and laugh with Anne Shirley.