Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from my Clan to Yours!

Click it! Click it!

I can officially say that I got my card done ON TIME this year. Unless you live in a more eastern timezone than I do, in which case you're way too picky.

Have an excellent year!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

DIY Photo Framing on a Wooden "Canvas"

I know, it's been ages, and I do have lots of stories to tell you, but first a how to!

I've been doing yet more painting around the house and as I stare at my newly painted walls, their sad lack of artwork has been getting to me. I've been trying to figure out how to get something cool on the walls without breaking the bank when Pinterest came to my aid.

I found a little instruction on different kinds of mounting techniques and things related to engineering prints, but they don't seem to be as inexpensive where I live as the original posters have noted. Instead, whilst staring at a skinny blank section of wall, it struck me that there was a picture I wanted to put there and that the best way it would fit would be on a piece of scrap wood that was languishing in the garage.

I pulled out the 9" x 24" piece of plywood, eyed the spot and the idea all came together. For you, my step by step plan, with photos.

You will need:
  • scrap wood
  • ModPodge or other glue for decoupage
  • paint
  • paint or foam brushes
  • scissors
  • photo
  • measuring tape
  • sanding block
  • rags
  • pencil
  • picture hangar and a nail
  • level
  • needle-nose pliers
  • hammer

The piece of plywood I chose wasn't quite true on one side, so I had Eric give it a tiny trim.

After that, I sanded it down on the edges and the front side where I would be gluing the photograph. It doesn't have to be perfection, but splinter free is nice. You don't want anything poking you as you're smoothing your image down.

I wiped down the board with a clean rag and painted the edges. You could paint the entire board, but since the photo is going to cover the entire front side and the back will never be visible once it's hung, that seemed like a waste of time and paint.

After the paint was dry, I unrolled my photo to check out how much trimming it would require. I had it printed as a 20" x 30" poster (a standard size available at Costco) and then cut it down to 9" x 24" (a decidedly non-standard size). I trimmed it on my cutting mat with a rotary cutter and then switched to scissors as I got closer to the image.

Once almost all of the white space was cut away, I pulled out the ModPodge and slapped a coat onto the plywood face that I had sanded down and a coat onto the back of the photograph. I carefully laid the photo down onto the wood and smoothed it out carefully, to ensure there were no bubbles under the photo.

After I let that dry for about an hour, I used more ModPodge to coat the front of the photograph. I used all vertical strokes for the first layer. After that dried, a couple hours later I added a second layer of glue perpendicular to the first layer. The glue dries clear and forms a protective layer over your photo and will give it a matte look.

The next day, I picked up a self leveling hangar and hammered it down. You may need a pair of needle-nose pliers to hold the tiny nail in place, unless you have skinny, tiny fingers. You can use any hanging device you'd like, but my board weighed just under 3lbs and since I didn't want it to slide off the wall, I went with a heavy duty hangar.

Be sure to place something cushion-like under the photo when you go to hammer the hangar into place or you may nick your image. I grabbed Emma's blanket since it was begging to help.

Then it was time to pound a nail into the wall and hang that bad boy up.

I made sure to sign the back and wrote down that this image was of Igor Mitoraj’s “Tyndareus Cracked” from the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy, when Eric and I went for our 10th anniversary trip in May of 2006. It only took me six years to finally print it.

Since that turned out so well, I know what I'll be doing with the big blank wall when you walk in the front door. I see a series of large black and white photos hanging there. Maybe six? I might even use the thinner 1/4" plywood so it will be even lighter and easier to hang.

Total out of pocket cost? $11. The print was $9 (plus tax) and the hangar was a dollar and change. Everything else I already had on hand. I also learned that if you want to make your own ModPodge, all you need is equal parts Elmer's glue and water, shaken together in a jar. Clearly I'm going to need a lot once I start gearing up for 20" x 30" images!

Now to find some more pictures to print!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Staring at Pronghorn

In case you didn't know, it's pronghorn hunting season here in Colorado. It's only 9 days long, so it's possible that hunters who eagerly desire a pronghorn trophy might be willing to trespass onto private preserve land. And if you want to keep them off your land, you need to watch over your land and gently remind those eager hunters that there are signs posted all around the property clearly stating that No Hunting is allowed.

If your best friend asked you to run off to Pritchett, CO to go stare at bison, pronghorn, hawks, prairie dogs, and hunters, you'd say "Yes!", wouldn't you?

I did.

But then, we already knew that I'm a sucker.

And so, off we went, gallivanting across the countryside to protect property rights and migrating herds of pronghorn.

On the way in to the Bison Ranch,

we passed The Hut. I didn't take the time to photograph it last time, but made certain to this time around. Creepy, no?

Its decrepit nature will only continue to worsen as the vagaries of wind and weather attack it relentlessly over time. Nothing good ever happens here. Do Not Enter.

After driving for hours and not seeing any pronghorn, we were starting to wonder if we would ever see a single one during our trip or if we were going to have to ask for a do-over. Pronghorn?! What pronghorn!

Then, pounding away from us in the distance, we saw a small herd of about 11 - 12.

Turns out that their brown/tan/cream coloration means they blend in really well with the dry grasses and scrub on the prairie. You don't really notice them until they start to move. At one point, Misty mistook an entire field of baled hay for a large herd as we were driving past. A very still herd.

At the ranch, we hung out and chatted about pronghorns, wolves, and politics. Suddenly, Misty yelled at me to come outside and have a look at the sky.

That night, at that moment, the sky looked like this:

Incredible. Awe inspiring. Fantastic.

Freezing cold.

It's an incredible experience that you just can't get down in the city. Even on top of Flagstaff Mountain outside of Boulder, you still have to deal with light pollution. Here, however, there are no lights and few houses, separated by miles of scrub and critter filled space. What I can't properly share with you in these photos is that behind the shivering photographer there came the sound of a pack of coyotes, howling into the distance. How far the distance was I don't know, but I was hoping they weren't making designs on my haunches.It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and reminded me why humans like caves, huts, and houses.

Just as I felt that I was finally getting the hang of night sky shots, my frozen hands and numb fingers forced me to stop for awhile and warm up. By the time I returned, the sky was completely clouded over, just as if someone had pulled a big woolly blanket across the plains. It was impossible to see a single star at that point and made me very glad that I had taken as many pictures as I had before going inside. It also made me wonder why I didn't have a flashlight, because a night on the plains without a moon is very, very, very dark.

Instead of the cabin, which appeared to be overrun with mice, we decided to sleep in the pop-up camper that Nicole had brought. An unheated pop-up camper, in a two person sleeping bag, in long underwear, PJs, two pairs of socks, a hat and a warm and fuzzy blanket. It was a little chilly that night, you see. Fortunately for me, Misty was like a roaring fire at my back and kept me toasty warm, in addition to all the other layers I was wearing. After giggling and shivering in our double sleeping bag (Misty is incredibly cuddly.), we finally settled down and fell asleep to the sound of the wind ruffling the camper's canvas sides.

In the morning, after waking up three hours later than planned, we got ready to go stare at the plains, wild animals, and watch for trespassing hunters. The plan was for Misty and I to take note of license plates of hunters in the wrong and phone them into the local Wildlife rangers. However, as it turned out, most of our time was spent sitting the in cold car and watching hunters drive around aimlessly looking for public lands to hunt on, miles and miles away from us. The preserves we were protecting are checker-boarded with private ranch land and public grazing grasslands, so it's easy to get confused as to where you can and cannot hunt. However, the pronghorn weren't abundant, so we'd see more trucks than ungulates. As far as calling it hunting goes, it didn't seem very sportsmanlike to me. Instead of having to trek into the woods, set up a base camp, create blinds or hide in trees and wait for your prey, pronghorn hunters get to drive around the vast grid that makes up the South Eastern portion of Colorado on dirt roads, stop when they finally see something and then shoot it. Even fishing has more of a mystery to it than that.

I also discovered that you can hear gunshots from very far away on the prairie. There's nothing but gently rolling scrub and distance to muffle the sound. It's also incredibly quiet out there, except for the sound of the local wildlife. No engine noises, no people, no equipment. Just wind, birds, prairie dogs, and the occasional insect. It's very soothing. Very zen.

A hawk and crow appear to be playing together, circling in the air.

A hawk sits on a pole and contemplates its next meal of prairie dog.

The Lone Prairie

Someone ate all of the sunflower seeds.

The colors are beautiful and make me think in terms of paint chips. You could make a really nice room with lime green, chocolate brown, cream, and tan.

Yes, something big clearly died here.

All of the most fashionable environmentalists are wearing Blaze Orange this year.

Plants are still blooming. 

Prairie dog having a snack. 

This p-dog thinks we might want to eat it. Maybe if I were a little hungrier.... 

We were getting ready to head back home and were making our way back to the ranch when Misty stopped the car abruptly. There, on the left side of the road was a single pronghorn. (Or perhaps it was married. I dunno, since I didn't ask.)

The Lone Pronghorn.

After taking a few shots (with our cameras!), we crept the car closer to it. My 70-200mm lens just isn't cutting it for wildlife photography. Clearly I should rent a big prime! The prongie decided it needed to hie itself home and trotted over to the other side of the road and ducked under the fence.

Pronghorns go under fences, not over. Strange but True Tales from the Prairie. 

The fact that we got to see the pronghorn actually walking under a fence was great, because I was honestly having a hard time believing that these deer-like critters didn't just jump every fence they came across. Turns out they aren't as sproingy as deer and it's the best reason why the bottom wire on prairie fences should be smooth instead of barbed.

Once it was on the other side, it turned back to us to watch us closely. Very curious was this ungulate. 

Having successfully survived this close encounter with humans, it took off at a trot to find some friends and maybe a mate.

As I mentioned last time, Colorado is a fence OUT state, which means if you don't want cattle on your land, it's up to you to keep them off of your property by putting up fences all along your borders. It also means you're very likely to run into them on the road.

Young cattle with winter coats look all soft and pettable. Also a bit daft.

Just try not to do it literally. Cattle will seriously mess up your ride.

Bison, on the other hand, will utterly destroy your ride and wreck your life, should you piss them off whilst trying to pass them in your suddenly completely inadequately safe vehicle.  I highly recommend stopping and waiting for them to move.

"You shall not pass...easily!"

Or creeping up to them really really slowly and encouraging them to get out of the way.

"Where are you goin'?"

Perhaps if you offered them a sacrificial hunk of gluten free zucchini bread they might be tempted to move out of the way faster.

Staring contest winner: Number 45!

No? Then you're going to have to do the best you can to get past them without somehow pissing them off.

Safety tip: Do not enrage the bison.

I also highly recommend that you don't forget your glasses on the bathroom sink, thus requiring you to drive through the herd of semi-unpredictable (Prediction: They will get in the way. True! Prediction: They will get out of the way. Possibly!) bison a total of four times instead of the two it would have taken originally. Although I was quite amused listening to Misty hyperventilate over just how BIG they were and how CLOSE they were and how utterly SURROUNDED we were by a dozen or more two ton animals. Well entertained, but you should know that I had my window rolled up tight. Bison kisses aren't on my Bucket List, you see.

Then, not-so-suddenly, we were no longer surrounded by giant shaggy beasts and were on our way home.

Gunshots heard: 5
Interactions with hunters: limited entirely to waving in a friendly fashion.
Trespassers evicted: Zero for Misty and I, Nicole snagged a few on her watch.
Close encounters with bovine: Six
Dogs acquired: Zero (But it was a very close thing, because Misty is a sucker.)
Fun memories acquired: Tons!

The six or seven hour drive out and back again was spent with almost non-stop talking, laughing, joking, and being completely inappropriate in ways I won't share. Misty has threatened to bring a recording device next time just so she has a record of how completely ridiculous I can get when cooped up in a car.

Ruh-dick-uh-luss. I'm tellin' you!

And just so you know: when you want to have an adventure, I am the friend you call.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Moving Forward

In case you're wondering what I've been up to all summer, I was off taking a few pictures of hummingbirds,

families other than my own,

and those monkeys of mine.

And thinking.

The twins are going to be in kindergarten this fall. Well, technically in August since we're in Colorado and we like sending our children into schools without air-conditioning when it's 106 degrees outside. (No joke - it's been incredibly hot this summer, with very little rain and the schools don't have A/C. Here's hoping they won't roast!) Clearly, I need to come up with a plan. What am I going to do with myself once the twins are in school full time? Other than run around, jump for joy and have a celebratory breakfast the day we drop them off?

I think I've been stuck on hover-mode recently.

Neither moving forward, nor backward. Stuck somewhere in the middle. I am not certain if I should go back to school or just get some job somewhere or the other to just make some cash. School clothes don't buy themselves, after all. If I do go back to school, what am I going for? What do I want to do? The age old question of "What do I want to be when I grow up?" is stuck reverberating around in my head. Again.


In the time it took me to get back to this post, all three children are well started into the school year. The twins are some of the youngest in their class, since they made the cut-off by three days this wasn't a big surprise to me. The fact that there are only 3 other kids right around their age did surprise me. Caitlin, our middle schooler, is having a great time. She now has to ride her bike ever-so-slightly downhill all the way to school and has done it willingly, compared to being completely unwilling to ride all the way uphill to elementary school. In her defense, it's a pretty hefty hill going up, but meh! She's OK now. Also, we're trying to turn her into Sporty Spice by signing her up for all manner of 4 and 6 week sports classes.

It's pretty amazing, actually. She leaves just after 8 am and doesn't get home until 5 pm. So far she's tried out volleyball, but that ends this week and then next week it's tennis! We're going to keep on throwing different sport "opportunities" at her until one sticks, dang it! We're also looking at signing her back up in skating lessons, since she really seemed to like those. The twins have also expressed an interest in learning how to skate after watching Caitlin do a performance, so that will be something new this fall.

All of this change is pretty exciting, actually.

The twins have scooter bikes without pedals that they were kind of iffy about, but over the course of the summer they've really taken to them. Now that they're in school, we have them ride their bikes home every day. They're at the point where they're able to glide and balance, so it's just a matter of time (Possibly even this weekend.) before we try them out on pedal bikes! They are loving being in kindergarten, love their teacher and classmates and are really enjoying the whole going to school process. I love all of the quiet that comes after dropping them off. I feel like I am regaining braincells and can occasionally maintain an entire thought process for minutes at a time!

I immediately started on a painting project in the basement that I then turned into a construction project for Eric. I'm awesome that way, you see. The Diderot Effect. I has it. It's just that after I had pulled all of the stuff out of the library/ex-plant nursery/out-of-sight-room-filled-with-crap and painted the walls, the giant purple paint stain on the 10 year old carpet was really bothersome. Since I'm turning it into a library/guestroom in an effort to lure friends and family members out to come see me, it only makes sense to replace the carpet with nice, new laminate flooring. Eric grudgingly agreed, so now we're at the demolition stage. How quickly I can go from a "quick" paint job to full on remodel I'll never quite understand, but apparently that's how I roll.

After he's done and we've pulled the room back together again, I'll post some pictures. Unfortunately, I don't have true Before and After photos because I didn't take any pictures of just what it looked like before I had cleared it out prior to my friend Val's visit. Oh, it was an eyesore. Instead, I have pics of what it looked like before I painted and removed the 17 year old bookshelves out. It should be pretty spiff when I'm done. Also, the books will be alphabetized again. Pet peeve. Gah!

Somewhere in here I'll start to seriously think about my future. Perhaps there's a book waiting inside me quietly trying to make its way out. Perhaps there are photos that need capturing. I know my garden needs serious attention after I ignored it all summer. Those 100+ degree days weren't my idea of gardening weather, so there's a lot of weedy neglect happening. Also, the front and back yards need a little more plant editing. As the summer finally cools off, I'll be out there again, ripping and shredding and revamping my beds.

I just wish I had as clear a plan for my own future as I do for the assorted rooms in my house. Ah well. I guess I'll just wait for my brain and creativity to wake back up and then I'll see.

Yup. I'll see.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Start of a New School Year - for EVERYONE

It just so happens that we start the school year early, here in Colorado. While Eastern states wait until after Labor Day, we like to get our chilluns back in the trenches in the middle of August.

So when Monday of this week rolled around, we went school shopping and bought three sets of school supplies. On Tuesday, we took the twins up to meet their new kindergarten teacher. On Wednesday, we took Caitlin to her new middle school (Which she loves!).
She's so BIG!

And only slightly terrified.

At the end of the day, we even picked her back up again. We're good parents that way.

And took the twins up for an assessment at their new elementary school, while Caitlin was being educated. On Thursday, Caitlin rode her bike to school on her own.

And on Friday...

I'm in love.*

With kindergarten.

When you make the cut-off date for kindergarten by three whole days, chances are really good that you're going to be the youngest and shortest kids in the class. That's OK, though, because they've got each other. As a matter of fact, they weren't even separated, as I had thought they would be. Maybe it's because they aren't identical?

Caitlin came with us to see the twins off, since middle school (I'm still not over the concept yet.) doesn't start until later in the morning. It was pretty exciting to have us come full circle with Caitlin here, as the big sister, dropping off the twins on their very first day. When we dropped her off in kindergarten, we had no idea what was in store for us the very next year.

Logan blinked or made weird faces all through my shots. Sigh.

Lining up to go inside, Logan turned back to me and told me he loved me in the one piece of sign language he knows. Yeah, that's mah boy.
No, I didn't cry, but I do admit to a heart clenching moment when he did this. Verklempt. So sweet!

After they walked inside, we dropped Caitlin off at school
Apparently Fridays are "Crazy Hat Day". At least, that's what she said.

and ran away for a triumphant celebratory breakfast with our friend, B.




And it was good.

I was reminded by a friend that I also needed to pick them up and that I didn't just get to leave them at school until another 6 years had passed. Since I figured that was probably true and that the phone calls would get annoying before the day was out we went to go pick them up by the end of the school day. Six whole hours later.

Six years from now, I'm going to be amazed just how small they are right here, in this shot.
Those ones! Over there! THEY DID THIS TO ME! Logan points out the Parental Units in a very accusatory way.

Daddy gets First Hugs, whilst Mommy photographs The Moment.

After Eric snagged all of the initial hugs, Logan ran over to me with intent eyes and gave me big hugs and squeezes and kisses. He's pretty darned cute, so I let him. Emma did too, but I can't shoot and hug and kiss all at the same time. I know, I need more arms.

Both of them were in a great mood and started telling us about their day while I tried to get a few more cute kindergartener pictures in.


Yeah, I'm in love with Friday. And with all of these school age children!

Wow! We survived! what do I do with all of this free time? Guess I'll have to write about it. On Monday. Or Tuesday, since Monday the twins don't have school, but they do on Tuesday! Squeeee!

* Yes, I'm a child of the 80's and here's the music video, because I know it's now stuck in your head, too.

** Just in case you need a second song to get the first song out of your head.
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