Let me off the grid! A journey toward artful, holistic living in the middle of Sin City...

A journey toward artful, holistic living in the middle of Sin City...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Corruption in Las Vegas? Say it isn't so...

WARNING: This is a rant. It contains profanity and the sentiments expressed would probably be considered subversive in nature by those working within the Power & Greed Machine.

I was recently talking with a friend who works at the Las Vegas Valley Water District, our "not for profit water supply agency." Our conversation left me depressed, outraged, and even more cynical about the state of our so-called modern society. 

In February of this year, Patricia Mulroy, the General Manager of LVVWD since 1989, retired. I don't know a whole lot about Ms. Mulroy, except that during her term The Springs Preserve was created and it's an amazing center for conservation, education, culture, and history here in Las Vegas. She has also been very active within the community and from what I've read, held in high regard by many.

I know even less about her successor, John J. Entsminger, except that he's a lawyer who has been with the LVVWD since 1999 and one of the first things he did was to lay off a whole lot of people. Seems like everyone in the Power & Greed Machine are still crying the poor mouth, in spite of the fact that our economy is improving. Perhaps they think that if they keep talking about the lack of money, they won't have to reinstate all the things they took away when the economy really was bad. And they can justify taking even more things away (like people's jobs), because "there's no money."

So here's the outrage part (like laying people off isn't enough): For years there have been signs all over the Water District's buildings and offices that carry the agency's "mission statement." Recently, all those signs were taken down  and replaced with NEW signs (how many thousands of dollars did that cost, Mr. Entsminger?). There was no announcement about this. One day the old signs were there, the next day they weren't.  And guess what? The new signs look exactly like the old signs with one exception: the old mission statement signs carried an "Ethics Statement."  The new ones don't.

 What. The. Fuck?

Does anyone else have a problem with this? Because I sure as hell do. You don't have the money to pay people, but you can pay for signs that clearly state the new regime's mission: WE HAVE NO ETHICS AND INTEND TO DO WHATEVER THE HELL WE PLEASE. How can anyone think this is an OK way to behave?  This is yet another example of "business as usual" brought to you  by the P & G Machine.

I wonder how long it'll take me to dig a well. Oh, wait - you're breaking the law if you're not connected to our "not for profit" water supply agency... 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mummy Skin

Boris Karloff as The Mummy
No, it's not my Halloween costume, it's what I woke up with this morning. Happens every year around this time. The weather shifts from hot and dry to cold and dry. My hair stands straight up with every pass of the hairbrush. Everything you touch - light switch, dog, husband - responds with a snap, crackle, pop. And my skin is really unhappy.

For one thing, I haven't been drinking enough water. Very bad in the desert, no matter what time of year. It's so easy to drink enough when it's 150 degrees in the shade. But when it cools off, I forget. So back to drinking LOTS of water with lemon essential oil to hydrate and alkalize my system.

The other thing I did, which made my skin VERY happy, was take a detox bath. If you haven't done this, you really owe it to yourself. To say that my body went into paroxysms of joy (is that too much information?) might be overstating it, but I felt a definite reaction when I got into the tub that told me this was exactly what was needed. Here's what you need to recreate the experience:

The coconut oil, Epsom salts and baking soda you can get anywhere. I usually buy mine at Costco because they are the GIANT size and more economical. The essential oils you can get from me (ask me how!) or from your own stash, if you're already a doTerra  user.

Happy Skin Detox Bath

2 cups Epsom salts
1 cup baking soda
1-3 tablespoons coconut oil
5 drops Lavender essential oil
5 drops Cedarwood essential oil

Run your bath water HOT (not so hot that you'll get 3rd degree burns, but hot like you mean it because you'll be in the tub for 20 minutes). Add the Epsom salts and baking soda while the water's running. Mix the coconut oil and essential oils together and add them to the bath. I usually put the oil in my hand (if it's solid), add the oils and mush them together, then swish my hands around in the water. Obviously, if the oil is liquid, put it in a bowl or something. The coconut oil is to moisturize your skin and carry the essential oils onto your body rather than the sides of the tub. (You'll still have to clean the tub afterward.) Have some water close by to sip, set your timer for 20 minutes and climb in. Relax, relax, relax. (Sorry, there are no pictures of me in the tub. That really would be T.M.I.)

For an added moisturizing boost, once you're out of the tub and dried off, add a couple of drops of essential oil to some coconut oil and smooth it all over your skin. No more mummy skin!

You can change the whole mood of your detox bath by changing the essential oils you use. Interested? Just ask me!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Shrine for my Mother

A while back, my friend, Jamie and I were prowling through antique stores in Boulder City and I found this
Kind of blurry - sorry
It was love at first sight and since it was only $35, I had to have it.  I immediately thought "ofrenda" for Dia de los Muertos. Well, that day is fast approaching and it's looking pretty bare. Meaning I need to stop procrastinating and get it together.

I have been thinking about making shrines for my parents for a long time.  That's all I've been doing. Thinking about it. For years. For some reason, I've had a really difficult time doing it.  The loss of my parents (my mom in 1985 and my dad in 1997) was nothing less than devastating. My mom, who was my best friend in so many ways, was only 48 when she died of complications due to multiple sclerosis. The older I get, the more I miss her. My father was 59 when he died. I am so grateful that I really got to know him during the last three years of his life.  He'd come out to visit and we'd stay up all night long talking about everything.  I've never thought, "Oh, I wish I'd said this, or told him that," because I did.  I just wish we'd had more time.

Today, I created my long-overdue shrine for my mother.

The lid of the box

I have been saving these crayon boxes for years (literally), thinking they'd make good shrines. They do.


I'm sure as the years go by, I'll find other things to put into and around the shrine.

It doesn't look quite so bare now.

Our Samhain/Dia de los Muertos altar has usually consisted of photographs: family, beloved pets, people who have influenced us in some way - artists, writers, musicians. I kind of like the idea of shrines, though. I'm already thinking about an accordion-type book to house all the pictures of our pets for next year's altar.

But first, I'll get to work on my father's shrine.

How do you honor your ancestors and loved ones at this time of year?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Gifts from a Can, part 1 - Punched Candle Lantern

This is the first in a three part series that will keep all your cans out of the trash or recycling bin!  To begin, you need a can.

It doesn't matter what size, although tuna fish cans might be a little small for a candle lantern. But, you decide. You need to use a can opener that takes the whole top off the can instead of the kind that leaves sharp edges. This is a must because when we use the ends of the can next week you really don't want to slice off your fingers!  This is what my can opener looks like:

Figure out what you're going to do with the contents of your can (probably a good idea to do this before you open the can). I made soup.
Lentil pastina soup
Wash off the lid and save it because we're going to use it next week. Take the label off the can and save it because we're going to use it the week after next. Don't be like me and forget where you put them...
Wash out the can, fill it with water and carefully put it in the freezer overnight. It needs to be frozen solid.

The next day...

Gather up your materials: a hammer, a big nail (I found this one in the bottom of the tool chest - I don't know what the technical size is, but it's got a good diameter), a sharpie marker, and your can full of ice

Draw a design on one or both sides of the can using the marker. You could also free draw it. Keep your design fairly simple.  The next time I do this, I think I'm just going to do spirals and curved lines.
OK, here's the voice of experience speaking: when you begin to hammer the nail into your design, start at the bottom of the can. Trust me. I began at the top and the ice came flying out of the can in BIG chips. Not good. You want the ice to stay in the can as long as possible, to provide support and keep the can from being crushed while you're hammering the snot out of it.
Yep, there are the ice chips.
If you're doing a design on both sides, start at the bottom and work halfway up the can. Then move to the other side and do the same thing. That way, there'll still be some ice to support the walls of your can.  Mine got a little wonky, but I managed to tap it more or less back into shape.
Yeah, it's pretty wonky. But it still works.

I didn't take a picture of the next step because I know you can figure it out without a visual. Use the can opener to take off the bottom of the can. Save the bottom - put it with the the top and the label. Don't be like me and leave them on the kitchen table where they will be sucked into the Twilight Zone...

Put it over a candle (I used one of those battery-operated tea lights because that's what was handy) and you're good to go!

As I said, next time I'm going for spirals...
Next week we'll use the ends of the can to make plant markers for your garden.  See you then!

(Shared on Homemade Mondays)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happenings at the Homestead...

Autumn has arrived in Las Vegas - a welcome relief from the scorching heat of the Mojave blast furnace. We built six keyhole beds in the front yard this summer and stuff is growing in all of them! It always amazes me when anything I plant grows here.  I'm still an Ohio girl, used to throwing seeds on the ground and everything grows. It's taken us years to "grow" our soil so that it supports something besides tumbleweed.
The Morning Room
Yep, the Morning Room is where we begin just about every morning with coffee, books, conversation and whatever we're working on - I'm usually knitting or writing letters and the Husband is always working on his novel.  You can see to the right that the Swiss chard is pretty happy. To the left is the our volunteer squash vine that appeared one day after I transplanted the fennel from the back yard to the front.

The Mystery Melon
We had no idea what it was until the other day when I discovered a melon in the middle of all that vine. Can you see it toward the upper left of the picture? I found another tiny melon this morning.

Our "gated community" - ha!
I finally found something that will grow in the cinder blocks that line our walkway - Vincas. They seem to thrive on heat and neglect. They also get bushy and full of blossoms. What a deal!

Herb Spiral
The basil growing in the herb spiral I built earlier this year has gone crazy. It attracts a lot of bees. I'm thinking that pesto needs to be made soon before it gets too cold and the leaves turn that sad color of brown...

The three biddies: Chi-Chi, Bela, and Viv

I couldn't write a post about the homestead without including a picture of the girls.  They're foraging in their very own garden bed filled with chicken-friendly plants like red clover, rye grass and hairy vetch (?) I have no idea what hairy vetch is, but I love saying it.

Lastly, here's something seasonal:
Little Witch on the Homestead
Until next time...

Gratitude: Top Ten Reasons I'm Thankful I Retired From Teaching

Do you know why this woman is smiling?
The husband commented to me just yesterday that I appear to have been made for retirement. You know what? He's right.  I haven't been this content, productive, happy and calm for years. I know I'm lucky; most people don't have the opportunity to retire at 55. I awake each morning with a grateful heart, knowing that the day is mine, to do with as I choose. Here is my Top Ten List:

10. I no longer have to perform according to anyone's expectations except my own.

9. I swim every day during non-peak hours. That means I don't have to race to the pool before 5 a.m. and fight for a lane.

8. I devote huge amounts of time to turning our property into a homestead, growing as much of our food as I can.

7. I take classes for myself, not to satisfy the Board of Education's licensure requirements. (I just finished a 6-week woodworking class!)

6. I enjoy cooking again.

5. I read more.

4. I have time to work on my art! How wonderful it is to spend entire days in my studio being creative without time constraints.

3. I love on and play with our dogs and cats so much more. That is an investment of time that pays you back with tons of affection and entertainment.

2. I get to hang out with my husband, who also retired this summer.

1. I can use the bathroom whenever I please. (Those of you who have not been teachers can never truly appreciate the luxury of this. Teaching is the only profession where you can't go pee whenever you want.)

To my friends who are still working, my wish is that you arrive here sooner rather than later so you can settle into the joy of being in charge of your own life!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spooky Silhouettes Tutorial

Spooky Silhouette Halloween card

In honor of my very favorite time of the year, I thought I'd share this easy technique. I used to do this with 4th graders (on a much larger scale) in conjunction with an architecture unit.

First off, you need tissue paper.  Make sure it's the kind used for art - it will say "bleeding" on the package. No, it's not a British expletive, it means that when the paper gets wet, the dye will run. This is important.  If the paper doesn't bleed, the technique won't work.
Bleeding tissue paper (not bloody, although for this time of year that could be nice and gruesome...)
The messy art table is optional.

 Once you've got the tissue paper, all you need is card stock (thicker paper is better for this project), an envelope to fit your card, a spray bottle with water in it and black Sharpie markers with different sized tips. I used a chisel tip, fine point and extra fine point.

You don't have to sort your colors; I'm just that kind of bear.
 Tear your tissue paper into smallish pieces. Use whatever colors float your boat. You might want to tear more than you think you'll need because you're going to cover your card and part (or all) of your envelope.

 Turn off the fan and send small bouncing children of the two-legged or furry variety out of the room for a few minutes (trust me). Open up the card and lay it so the outside is face up. Lay out the tissue paper however you like it, overlapping some of the pieces.  You can leave some areas white if you want, or cover the whole thing.
See why you don't want the fan blowing?

 Once all the paper is in position, carefully give it a spritz with the water. Carefully. Don't be like me and squeeze the trigger full force, sending bits of tissue paper flying all over the table. (What a dweeb...) Make sure all the paper is wet, but not soaking.  You don't want rivers. You do want it wet enough so that the ink will transfer to your card.
After I gathered up all the pieces from my water blast...

You can see how the ink is beginning to feather out from the water

Now go make yourself a cup of tea or coffee or pour a glass of wine and let the paper dry. Please don't be impatient like I was and try to make it dry faster with the blow dryer. Remember what I said about spritzing the water carefully? I'll leave it to your imagination...

When the paper is dry, it should easily slide off your card, leaving you with this:
I did the bottom half of the other side, too. I just didn't take a picture of it.

I did the envelope, too while you were drinking your wine:

(You know all those little bits of tissue paper that just came off your card? Aren't they cool? I think they look like they've been tie-dyed. Don't throw them away! In my next tutorial I'm going to show you something you can do with them so you're getting two art projects for the price of one. Put 'em in an envelope and put them somewhere safe. DON'T be like me and forget where you put them...)

Break's over! Back to the tutorial:
My sketch, done at 4:30 this morning

You need to figure out what kind of silhouette you want on your card. I suggest playing around with some sketches. Remember that silhouettes are black and the interest comes from the outside edges. Leaving spaces between objects will let the background colors shine through and provide visual contrast.
Let your pencil whisper over the paper!

Once you've got your ideas sketched out, transfer them, in pencil lightly to your card.  I used to tell my students that you want to keep your picture a secret from everyone but yourself.

Take your Sharpie in hand and begin to fill in your silhouettes:

A word of caution - notice the back of my card:
The bleeding Sharpie!

 That's why I put scrap paper inside my envelope when it came time to draw on it.

Come to think of it, it might not be a bad idea to put that paper inside your envelope when you're doing the tissue paper thing, too if you don't want the colors on the front to show up on the back. Depending on how heavy the paper is that your envelope's made of. Just sayin'...

Now that you've got your spooky silhouette all finished, there's one more thing you need to do, and that is erase ALL your pencil marks. The best eraser for the job is a white eraser because it's soft and doesn't leave ugly smudges on your paper. Sanford is the brand I have, but I'm sure there are other companies that make them.
You can see the eraser here. I think it's called a "Magic White" or something like that.

So here's what you can do to mask all the "stuff" on the inside of your card.  Cut two pieces of paper, slightly smaller than the face of the card and stick them to the inside of your card. I used glue dots because they were sitting on my messy art table. Double sided tape would work, also. And probably glue stick. Wet glue like Elmer's isn't my favorite because it makes the paper squinchy (= wrinkly). 

You're probably wondering, "Why doesn't she use one paper and fold it in half, then glue it in?" Well, I'll tell you. I once spent 47 minutes one day trying that very thing on another card and I couldn't for the life of me get the damned thing to go in so that: a) the card closed/opened flat and/or b) the inside paper didn't buckle. Incredibly frustrating. So I don't mess with that shit anymore. If you've figured out how to do it and can explain it to me, I'd love  to know.

Do you love this card, but don't have it in you right now to make one? You can buy a printed version of this very card, plus a hand-decorated envelope right here.

Do you want to try this project on a grand scale, with kids? (I salute you for your bravery!) Check out Mrs. Picasso's Art Room. 
She's got some great ideas.


Hey! Remember these?
You didn't throw them away, did you? Be sure to save them because in my next tutorial I'm going to show you something fun to do with them. It's a recycling/upcycling kind of thing.
Thanks for stopping by! See you next time...
(Shared on Homemade Mondays)