Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Halloween Paper Mache!

Supplies -

Oval shaped balloons
Paper mache paste
Old paint brushes - wider brush is easier
Rolls of crepe paper - we used yellow, orange, and "gold" (didn't look very gold to me)

This paper mache project was inspired by the Oct. 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living and it has probably been that long since I have made them. Gather your supplies, and prepare areas and children for a sticky mess.

You start with a balloon - a regular oval shape works great for pumpkins. For a skull I used an oval shape that I then wrapped masking tape around to give it more of a skull shape (below). For rounder shapes you can blow up the balloon to size and then tape down any protrusions. Don't worry about covering the tied knot - later you will need a place to cut the balloon out and and insert your light or candle.

With your paint brush, brush a thin layer of paste onto the balloon, then place your strip or piece of crepe paper on the paste and cover paper with another thin layer of paste. It is like using a decoupage technique. Below Hannah is crafting covers for our lights in the dining room using ripped pieces of crepe paper in different shapes. She has also used some bats that were cut out of black tissue paper.
For the pumpkins you use longer strips in overlapping colors -
For the skull I used shorter strips in different directions and gave it more of a massage with my finger tips to get the look of fine lines.

I recommend three layers of crepe paper - it goes quicker than you would think - no need to let layers dry in between new layers. Once you have your layers finished, hang by the knot to dry (we used a bit of string hung across our bay window). I would give the forms a good 24 hours or more to dry - drying time may be more or less depending on the moisture in the air and also the thickness of your paste. Then comes the scary part...
Pinch your knot and cut a hole in the balloon - allow the air to escape slowly - your form may collapse slightly but don't worry - after you remove the balloon you can simply blow air back into the form restoring it's original shape.

Here's some of our finished products -
For the above light covers a large hole was cut both in the bottom and the top of the dried form - use light bulbs of 40 watts or less (ours were candle flame shaped.
The pumpkin shapes were turned into lanterns. We sketched the faces with pencil and carefully cut them out - the hole at the top was enlarged. I hot glued a metal canning jar rim to the inside bottom of each pumpkin. On the replaceable lid I hot glued a small tea light. The handle is a length of florist wire thread through each side that had been reinforced on the inside with a bit of masking tape. Our boys carried these on a lantern walk and this picture doesn't quite do them justice when they are lit up in the dark.And finally the skull was used as a decoration for Hannah's Eerie Evening With Edgar Allan Poe.
The face was cut out and a hole was cut in the bottom and the top (to let out heat). The skull was placed over a tea light in a votive glass and set in a Terra cotta pot.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The five year-old at dinner "I like the know that stuff that you stuff in the big hole in the chicken...what's that stuff?"

Dad - "Ah, that would be the stuffing, would you like some?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

I think you know a book qualifies as living literature when it brings another time and place so close your almost there. We truly loved being whisked back in time and across the sea in "Little House in the Highlands" by Melissa Wiley. Believe me - it's not always easy to find books that truly interest children ages 5, 8, 11, and 13 - but this book had something for everyone. Hannah (13) our budding young herbalist and beginning piper would surely love anything set in Scotland - but put in a mysterious figure like Auld Mary and a description of making haggis and you've got a teen enjoying a book just as much as her 5 and 8 year-old brothers.

But Katie (age 11) was truly inspired by Martha and her doll Lady Flora. Her knitting needles have been still all summer, but after hearing about Lady Flora, I think Katie wanted to do something a little extra for her own Lady Lydia picture above. She simply casted on a needle full of stitches and knit two stitches together at the beginning and end of every row. The next day Lady Lydia was sporting a new shawl for the coming cool weather (or at least I imagine it will come to our corner of NJ eventually - we're all still in shorts!). And a pink sweater is also in the works. No patterns - she's just knitting away what comes to mind. Here's the back view -

Friday, October 19, 2007

Each Autumn our family becomes consumed in a large apple related project - for years it was making applesauce but when our favorite source for apples raised their prices beyond our means we thought our autumn apple days were over. But then my daughter received this book for her birthday.

Apple cider vinegar! My husband noticed that a lot of apples from our CSA went to compost. For one reason and another a large quantity of apples were not suitable for distribution - so my husband, always looking for an opportunity, asked if he could have a crate of them. Between The Little House Cookbook and our other favorite The Encyclopedia of Country Living we gleaned enough information to start our first batch - which was a great success!

Now this year we have the "mother" from last year to aid the mega batch we've started.....

We have the food grade barrels and lots of apples....

And eager hands for trimming and chopping.....

Hmm seems like a rather large chipmunk in the background joined in for this particular task!

We managed to nearly fill one of those huge barrels (we did split the batch into two barrels to aid aeration - not to mention the need to maneuver these things).

Hubby estimates a yield of about 40 gall0ns of vinegar. Now you might be asking yourself - "what on earth are they going to do with 40 gallons of apple cider vinegar?" Most of it will actually be bottled and sold at the CSA - for our efforts we will keep a couple of gallons for ourselves. But we hope that our vinegar operation will benefit the garden by supplementing the gardeners' continuing education fund.

This project will also become the basis of our next science block - acids, bases, and fermentation!

Everything must be saved, nothing wasted of all the summer's bounty. Even the apples cores were saved for making vinegar.....Farmer Boy

Our leftover scraps were either composted or happily fed to some chickens and pigs we know!