Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crazy Creative ~ Carving Pumpkins

Every year I get asked how I carve my pumpkins. They're not exceptional- I've seen some really amazing carved pumpkin sculptures. I just do run of the mill jack-o-lanterns. But I do have a few tricks, so I will share them with you. And you don't need fancy tools or an art degree.

The tools:

a pencil
a small spoon
a large spoon
a vegetable peeler
a grapefruit knife
an apple corer
a cantalope knife
a 6" paring knife
a large, sharp knife

The steps:
1. choose which side of the pumpkin will be the face. Mark it so you remember.
2. Cut the "hat". AKA cut the top off where the stem is. Make a triangular notch in the hat at the back of the pumpkin. The notch, or hole, allows for maximum oxygen so that you get a really bright pumpkin when lit. It only needs to be about an inch wide. I use the large knife for this.
3. Gut the pumpkin. Save the seeds if you want to roast them- and they keep in the fridge for a few days prior to roating, in case you don't have time while you're carving. Use the two options of spoons for this.
4. Skinny up the front wall of the pumpkin by removing as much of the interior flesh as you can. Don't go thinner than 1/2 inch, though, or your pumpkin won't withstand the carving process.
5. Draw some faces on a piece of paper and get an idea of what you want to do (or look up ideas online). The shape of the pumpkin is important. Is the face long and skinny or short and fat? Long and skinny is good for a scared face. Fat is good for a happy smile. Are there any cool features to the pumpkin- lumps and bumps? Those could add to making a nose or a pimple in your design.
6. Once you've decided on your design, draw it onto the pumpkin. Remember that when you start to carve it you might not be able to precisely follow your pencil marks, so draw lightly.
7. Carve out your design using the paring knife and the grapefruit knife. The grapefruit knife is your best bet for almost all of your carving. Only use the paring knife for tough spots.
8. Now, you need to bevel your cuts. This means carving away the interior pumpkin flesh from your cuts so that you can't see the flesh from the outside. This makes your design clean and bright when lit.
9. Add any extra facial features- the apple corer works great for pimples. The vegetable peeler can add freckles, dimples or peel off the skin to make certain areas glow more. The toothpicks can hold fragile pieces in place or hold pieces onto the pumpkin to give dimension.
10. Test your pumpkin by lighting it inside first and clean up the cuts while lit- being careful not to tip the candle over. (Lit pumpkins are a fire hazard. Please be careful.)

Here are some of my pumpkins:

Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012 ~ The Ongoing Buddy Saga

This is Buddy.

This is the only post-op photo I have of Buddy on my camera. I have a few on my phone.

Last month Buddy had a cancerous tumor removed. So, as follow up we had an appointment with an oncologist. It happened to be on Halloween, but I'm still ranting over it- so here goes.

There are three options. 1.) surgery- the vet told me that no more skin could safely be removed from the area and that they did not get it all, but that more surgery was not an option. The oncologist disagreed and wanted to do another surgery. 2.) radiation- a three week course with temporary discomfort followed by a slim chance of major complications later. 3.) chemo- 6-8 months of being sick and unhappy with a 50/50 chance.

Okay, sure. Whatever it takes to save the Bud. Can't put a price on a family member, can you.

Yes I can.

The oncologist wanted to do a battery of tests right then and there, to the tune of 1400. Yes, that's right. Those were just the tests. Haven't even gotten to the treatment yet.

Then there's the cost of treatment. Surgery- 2400, radiation-6500 and chemo-5500. Don't forget to add the price of the tests for a final price of 4000-10000 for starters, barring any complications.

All this on a dog about to turn 12. Really?

Listen, I love my dog. So much. Billy loves him more than the world. That's his best friend. But the treatment costs for an old dog are just excessive. I want him happy and healthy. And if I can't get both, I'll settle for happy. He's not going to be happy about being treated. As proof of how much he hated the oncologist visit, he pooped on the sofa. Twice. In the same day. Yup. (I didn't even think he could get up on the sofa anymore.)

He will get a slim chance with a medication, that I plan on using, but I just have to rant about the price to give medical aid to man's best friend. And the worst part was that the prices for the same tests on humans are half the cost or less.

Someone suggested I do a fundraiser to help with the medical costs. But as I pointed out, in the wake of the tragedy that is Sandy, any money raised in a fundraiser needs to go to the victims of the storm. There are children tonight that are homeless and hungry and stuck in shelters. There are families without homes and cars and livelihoods. There are pets displaced and lost by the storm. There are people suffering. Really suffering. I can't ask people to help save an old dog, when so many people need immediate help.

So, Buddy will get some treatment and lots of extra treats.

Don't cry for Buddy. He's a good old dog that has led a good long life and won't leave us in the immediate future. Cry for the people of the East Coast. They're the ones that need it tonight.

November 1, 2012 ~ Lollipop, Lollipop

Do you remember the old song from way back when, "Lollipop?"

Well, as a treat Billy got to have one piece of candy when he got home from school. He selected a lollipop. This prompted me to break out into song. Only, I couldn't remember anything other than the chorus. Nevertheless, I belted it out off-key for him.

Billy laughed and asked, "Again?"

After a few more "agains" I remembered the new-fangled technology in my pocket and broke out my handy-dandy iPhone. Youtube quickly found for me a video of the original group singing the song live. In black and white, of course.

So, I turned it on and played it for Billy.

It was magical. Suddenly, the off-key song Mommy was singing was transformed into a fabulous song with musical back-up being sung for him right there in our kitchen. It was awe.some.

He insisted I play it over and over again. The first couple of times he just watched, mesmerized. Then he broke out into dance. He danced with his lollipop, singing Lollipop to the song Lollipop.

I'll post video later.

Oh yeah, another reason this is his favorite song- apple pie. What's better than a song that talks about lollipops and apple pie?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 30, 2012 ~ So Long, Sandy

Well, we weathered the storm without any damage. It's true. We didn't even lose power. Wait, what? Didn't lose power??? Nope. That's a first. It flickered and blinked and continues to do so as crew work on neighboring lines, but we never lost power.

Perhaps the scariest was the howling of the wind, banging noisily on the outside of our house. That was Monday night. We saw neighbors shingles blowing through our yard and the wind pulled the siding off of the neighbor's house.

By Tuesday there was only drizzle left.

We were shocked. We were stunned. We were thankful. But really, we were let down. All that prepping. A camping lantern on every table. The heat turned up so make a buffer for when the power went out. Coolers prepped and ready and homemade ice ready to fill the coolers and keep the food. Bottles and bags of water on the counter ready for loss of water. We were ready.

As a show of solidarity to our harder hit neighbors to the north, we should have at least lost power. At least for fifteen minutes. Nope.

And work? A couple of inches of water in the street, but no major flooding. And it made the news for those few inches. Lame.

Stop showing inches and start showing the beaches, New Jersey, New York.

Here, though, it was a grateful let down.

But it did scare Billy. He was scared. He refused to sleep on Monday night. The wind and rain were so loud that he just cried in fear. "Are you scared?" I asked him. (Sometimes he won't sleep just because. "Big storm, Mommy."

I told him about the 'Big Storm'. Better he understand than not. It was all over the news. He wanted to go out and play but couldn't. He was missing school and didn't know why. And let's be honest, a big storm is scary to a little guy. But the wind subsided and he drifted off to sleep.

Now that it's over he likes to talk about it.

Billy has some wise words for you all about hurricanes:

"Don't touch Big Storm. It bites."

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people hardest hit by Sandy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012 ~ Buddy and the Balloon

This story is from Saturday, but since yesterday was pretty boring (minus the whole superstorm thing) I'll write about the balloon story...

Billy was playing with one of his birthday balloons, still inflated, although not floating anymore. It was a green regular balloon, not one of those mylar ones. And he was throwing it up in the air and chasing it around.

Well, Buddy decided to join in the fun and nosed the balloon down the hallway. I gave it a good kick back into the living room.

Just then Buddy jumped up in the air, bring the balloon down and then, with a growl the balloon popped!

Oh no!

Billy was devastated- for a moment. Then we played with the other balloon still around, only this time Buddy was not allowed to play. Buddy got a ten second time out and then had to apologize to Billy by giving him a hug. Billy accepted the apology.

Then Billy went on to retell, only a thousand times, the story of Buddy and the Balloon.

"Buddy, no bite Billy balloon," he kept saying.

Then I'd ask him what happened.

"Buddy jump. Then Buddy bite balloon. 'Haaaaaaaaaaaum!' (that would be his impression of the sound). Then pop! 'Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaum!'"

Over and over again. And laughing after each retelling.

He's still retelling the tale of Buddy and the Balloon. Apparently, it's epic.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 28, 2012 ~ "Not Cool, Daddy"

I don't know what we were doing. Whatever, something unimportant. And Daddy was pestering me. I don't recall how, maybe poking me, maybe ticking. The way Daddy does when he's being silly.

At some point (and this is every time) my annoyance escalated to the point that I grumped at him.

"Not cool, Daddy."

Billy was in my arms at the time. And he turned to Daddy and said: "Not cool, Daddy. Not cool."

He got every intonation right. He said a phrase he's never used before and said it perfectly. And then we burst out laughing.


Billy loves football. It was a bye week. Even so, he insisted we watch football. And he insisted on sitting in my lap and having me explain the game to him (in toddler terms, of course). And when the first game was over, he wanted more football! What does Sunday bring? Endless football! So, I suffered and we watched the Giants/Cowboys game. Blech! Well, at least it's football, right?


Mommy's Big Little Helper

As you might have heard, there's a lil ole storm coming to town. Billy helped me prep the back yard. He helped me stow his toys in the shed and bring others inside. He helped move the plants and take down the swing. He's a big lil helper.

Does he know what's going on? Well, he wants to go outside and jump in the puddles. And he's looking forward to the "boom!" I explained it was a big storm. To him, storm equals thunder, so he's waiting on the "boom!"


Posting Unknown

I don't know what the storm will bring, but I would have to imagine we will lose power. I will continue to post daily so long as we have power and will post as soon as I am able after we lose power.

If you live in the path of the storm, please stay safe. I hope your loved ones and your property make it through the storm unharmed. Good luck to everyone and I'll see you on the other side (of the storm).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sunday Post ~ Go Away Sandy

I was debating between a Halloween post and a hurricane post... this seems more on topic.

Just before I started this blog over a year ago, we were hit with a big ole hurricane. To be honest, it wasn't that bad. We were without power for eight days, which was devastating to our food supply, but otherwise weathered the storm okay. One nice thing about tropical weather- it tends to bring tropical temperatures. Billy was fine, we camped in the den with all of our camping gear, minus the tent and ordered a lot of take out.

One lesson learned from Irene (last year's storm)- don't put food down the disposal when the power is out. Ahem, someone I live with that also washes dishes. Washing your dishes in the bathtub because the sink is backes up is NOT FUN.

But Irene wasn't a terrible storm. Not like Isabel in 2003. That was a terrible storm. Trees down everywhere, no power, storm surge. Where I work the streets were flooded so that the only way to get to our office was by boat. And I wasn't at the family farm for that storm, but there was a lot of damage, cars ruined, houses flooded, boats damaged. It was bad.

Then there was Floyd that flooded out my college campus so that I had to wade through two feet of water to get to the dining hall just so I could eat.

How can I forget Ida? I was on a ship in the middle of the storm. You'd expect boats to rock, but during the storm on twenty foot seas the boat moved up and down, front and back, and side to side in no particular rhythm. We could feel the wind push on the rigging, nearly flattening the 300+ foot ship. In our bunks the boat rocked so far side to side that at one moment we would be lying in bed, the next stand straight up on the foot board, the next doing a hand-stand on the head board. I talked a good friend of mine into going with me. It was an experience, but I'm not sure if she regrets agreeing to sail headlong into a hurricane. But, if you have to be on a boat in a hurricane, who better to be with than the Norwegian Navy?

And I could tell many stories about being at the beach with a storm coming up the coast. When the winds started the sand would blow so hard it would sting your skin like a thousand tiny knives. We would put the storm shutters down, so we couldn't see what was going on outside, only listen to the pounding of rain, howling of wind, and the surf getting closer and closer. One storm ripped the beach away. I remember standing at the ocean's edge, which the day before had been 100 ft further out. Some storms left pools of water trapped on the beach full of fish. One time one of those pools had a shark in it. That was cool, except that in hindsight, that shark probably died. And often the storms would flood out the basement of the neighboring hotel, and we would play in the "pool" created by it.

What will Sandy do?

If we're lucky she'll give us a sound lashing and then head on her way. I don't look forward to the debris, the water, the destruction. If we're lucky she'll leave that part off.

We've prepped, we've prepared. I've told Billy about the big storm. He doesn't care. I'm not sure what I'll do with him if we're trapped inside for several days. He's not an inside all day kind of kid.

All I can say is, go away Sandy. You're not welcome here.