emergence

Hullo.
It’s been a while hasn’t it? How are you- are you and your loved ones well?

While I’ve decided to stop apologizing here for anything I write (or in this case, don’t write), I do feel a need to explain where I’ve been these past few months.

Guys, winter was hard, like really hard. I don’t mean in a super serious, family-illness or major depression sort of way, but in a grinding, grueling, let’s-just-get-through-this, cold sort of way. Normally I can take winter in stride- drink lots of chai, snuggle into big sweaters, hibernate and dream- but this winter really threw me off my game. Between feeling a bit over extended at my (still new-ish) job*, and still trying to settle into our new house, all endeavors beyond functioning as a normal human in society fell by the wayside. With approximately 175 polar vortices barreling through Ohio every few days running (or even walking) outside became impossible, eliminating the last barrier that stood between me and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So that’s where I’ve been- surviving. Working, living, struggling to maintain relationships with people outside my house whom I love, and feeling totally incapable of handling anything beyond that, especially creative pursuits. The last things made in my studio were Galentines. I’ve mentally written several posts, some funny, some not, some helpful some not- all of which seemed locked away in my brain, totally inaccessible to my fingers every time I sat at my desk. A mean little voice started to whisper ‘phony…” and “fail…”whenever I though about writing or making, and rather than squash it like a tick, I listened and worried. I don’t mean to alarm or melodramatize here- there were people who had WAY worse times of it this winter- there were good things that happened this winter, and I never felt truly lacking or upset. Even at my lowest I think I’d use words like “stressed” or ‘tired’ before I’d say I was depressed or even sad. But, it can be a bit unsettling to find an uninspired, listless and tired person who can handle nothing beyond the Netflix cue where once there was a bundle of energy, ideas and projects to tackle. And that feeling, the feeling of not knowing exactly who I was, was what really got to me.

All of which is do say, it’s getting better.** No, I haven’t suddenly reached Nirvana through all my hours of youtube-yoga, and no, my house isn’t any cleaner/more organized/even unpacked all the way. Even as I write this, I’m acutely aware of how slow and dear the words are coming – like an i.v. drip from my fingers. But they are coming. And even though I still feel a bit uninspired, and fragile in my assertion of myself as ARTIST (and more fragile still, as writer), I also know that this fragility is only as permanent  as frost. I can’t really do anything to make it stop, but I can make some small changes and cultivate small joys in the other areas of my life and know that eventually This Too Shall Pass. There’s a cool mist where once there were frigid hellish gales. I’ve traded my heavy black winter coat for my favorite blue-green jacket. There are green things poking through the mud. My garden isn’t mine, yet, but I did manage to replace one of the raised beds and tuck in a few seedlings this weekend. And for the next hour, I’m going to be in my studio. Doing what? Hell, I have no idea- the ‘what’ will come later. For now, it’s just enough to be ‘doing”.

 

 

* which, by the way, is still wonderful- the overextension is temporary, not personal,  and largely on me as I still struggle to find balance and define what’s ‘enough.’
**it almost always does. until it doesn’t, at which point it’s a good idea to ask for help.

 

 

It’s like Lilith Fair. Minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

Valentine’s Day could be the most contentious holiday on the calendar. Most holidays enjoy a tepid scale from ‘like’ to ‘obligated’ to ‘don’t care.’ But Valentine’s day (or, ‘V.D’ as I shall from now on refer to it) provokes intense reactions from people of all walks of life. No matter what your religious/cultural/political stance, odds are pretty good that you either LOVE it or HATE it.

As a kid, I loved the holiday- cinnamon gummy hearts? I get to wear EVERYTHING pink? There are balloons in the living room for NO REASON? All wins! At a certain point, however, I began to see everything that was ‘wrong’ with the holiday and found myself approaching each February 14th with dread. Coincidentally, this was during those magical, quasi-goth-wannabe-alternative preteen/teen years where my greatest aspiration was to be EDGY and COOL and to give ZERO fucks.

As seen here, circa 2002.

As seen here, circa 2002.

At some point during college I accepted that I will always be irrepressibly optimistic and happy and that dorkiness was not only in my personality, it was in my very genes. It was then that I abandoned my attempts at ‘cool’ and took up the banner to combat the rampant haterism and ironic apathy that seem to be making the rest of my generation fairly miserable.
Part of this Mission of Sincerity was reexamining my feelings towards V.D.  Now that I’m old enough to hold two contradictory opinions at once I can acknowledge that yes, on some levels Valentine’s Day is kind of terrible, but, as it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon, we might as well look for and celebrate the parts of it that aren’t terrible.
To illustrate my point, I’ve made the following Venn diagram:
vday_diagramI also find that around this time of the year, I am in desperate need of some hi-fun/low-risk art projects. And at any time of the year, I am always in need of some new historical heroines. Last year I set myself to creating valentine’s celebrating awesome contemporary women artists. It was so much fun, that that I decided this year to make it an annual tradition. This year’s theme was ‘Suffragettes of America!’ Chosen purely because the suffragette song from Mary Poppins was stuck in my head, it actually turns out to be fairly pertinent, as Feb. 15th is Susan B. Anthony’s birthday!
So whether you’re looking for a belated Valentine’s day card or a note to cheer up a friend imprisoned for trying to vote, feel free to print these out and pass them on! Click on the images below to learn more about each woman.

This badass lady gave 75 to 100 speeches a year during her prime. When fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election, Anthony refused to pay any of it. She said so during her trial, with a speech so stirring that the US Government never enforced or tried to collect the fine- they were too embarrassed. BAM.

This badass lady gave 75 to 100 speeches a year during her prime. When fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election, Anthony refused to pay any of it. She said so during her trial, with a speech so stirring that the US Government never enforced or tried to collect the fine- they were too embarrassed. BAM.

Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth went on to become a famous abolitionist and women's rights activist. Her most famous speech 'Ain't I a Woman?' was delivered right here in Ohio!

Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth went on to become a famous abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Her most famous speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ was delivered right here in Ohio!

Who says feminists have to be women? Among his many causes, Max Eastman helped found the Men's League for Women's Suffrage in 1910. Hawt.

Who says feminists have to be women? Among his many causes, Max Eastman helped found the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage in 1910. Hawt.

galentines_MaudPark

As the youngest person at the 1900 National American Women Suffrage Association convention (at 29), Maud realized the movement needed more young supporters. She subsequently began touring colleges looking for student support. Gotta love a lady who recognizes the power of youth.

As a nurse working in the slums on NYC's East Side, Sanger saw firsthand the havoc that unplanned/forced pregnancy could wreak on girls and women and fought to legalize birth control, end unsafe abortions, provide sex education and just, in general, give women control over their own bodies. In the 1920's. BAM.

As a nurse working in the slums on NYC’s East Side, Sanger saw firsthand the havoc that unplanned/forced pregnancy could wreak on girls and women and fought to legalize birth control, end unsafe abortions, provide sex education and just, in general, give women control over their own bodies. In the 1920′s. BAM.

An all around Progressive reformer, Madge was the Vice President of the National Women's suffrage association, President of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association and, along with her husband (editor of the Lexington Herald) used their position to promote Progressive political and social causes. Now that's what I call a power couple.

An all around Progressive reformer, Madge was the Vice President of the National Women’s suffrage association, President of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association and, along with her husband (editor of the Lexington Herald) used their position to promote Progressive political and social causes. Now that’s what I call a power couple.

Long before Angelina Jolie, Izetta Jewel used her position and fame as a stage actress to champion political change. At the 1924 Democratic Convention Izetta became the first woman to address an American political party convention.

Long before Angelina Jolie, Izetta Jewel used her position and fame as a stage actress to champion political change. At the 1924 Democratic Convention Izetta became the first woman to address an American political party convention.

Ida B. Wells could be my new hero. Journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, early leader in the Civil Rights movement. This hardcore lady, a former slave, risked her life to  document lynchings after three of her own friends were lynched.

Ida B. Wells could be my new hero. Journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, early leader in the Civil Rights movement. This hardcore lady, a former slave, risked her life to document lynchings after three of her own friends were lynched.

Another journalist, Emma Bugbee covered the Suffrage movement, nicluding the famous Suffrage hike.

Another journalist, Emma Bugbee covered the Suffrage movement, including the famous Suffrage hike.

Happy Galentine’s Day everyone!

(note: these are but a small sample of the kinds of brave ladies that fought for our right to vote. They were chosen purely for the ease with which I could make puns out of their names. Check out this article for a more complete picture of the nearly 100 years struggle for suffrage.)

Enter the housfrau

Enter the housfrau

“Cat, it’s been a bit- everything okay?”
Oh, yeah, y’know, I’ve just been so busy. Being a mutherfuckin adult, and all.
Cause guess what, dewds and ladydewds-
We totally bought a house.

A house! We bought it! And then we moved! And then we went on vacation!*
Having only been here 1 day and a handful of evenings, it still feels like we’re squatters.

Buying a house was simultaneously the most exciting, terrifying, horrible and wonderful experience. Setting aside the payment schedule that ties one to the bank in the manner of indentured servitude, there’s also the crippling weight of responsibility. While before I blithely accepted everything from black mold to asbestos to demonic-centipedes in the basement with a ‘not my problem!’ I now find myself obsessively monitoring cracks and creaks and tapping on walls for reasons that are as mysterious as they are Utterly Important. Neuroses aside, thought, there’s something about looking out a window and knowing, should the mood strike me, we could build a crow’s nest off the roof, or keep chickens, or PAINT ALL THE WALLS HERRINGBONE and no one can say a goddam thing about it. Makes one feel downright pioneering.

like this guy.

like this guy.

Like a lot of 20something double-x-chromasomed humans, I’ve read, subscribed and unsubscribed (and then secretly resubscribed) to an embarrassing number of ‘life-style blogs.’ And, like a lot of my fellow blog readers I’ve found myself feeling less-than positive about them.  Not that there’s anything inherently insidious about ‘life-style porn- hell, if you want to spend three days making, styling and photographing vegan cupcakes on vintage plates because you seek to put more beauty in the world, I say go for it (and also, send me the link because I will eat that shit up). It’s when those pictures are used (whether externally or internally) to make a woman feel like there is something she should be doing or she’s not a good enough woman that the whole thing just…bums me out.

So, in an attempt at candid honesty and the lofty pursuit of TRUTH, I present a glimpse at our new (yet unnamed?**) house which is no less curated*** but definitely unedited and, for the most part, uncleaned.

The view from the front door. Obviously unpacking books and Tardis lights are number 1 priority.

The view from the front door. Obviously unpacking books and Tardis lights are number 1 priority.

That's the front door you just came through on this imaginary journey!

That’s the front door you just came through on this imaginary journey!

the dining (?) room. Not seen here: the mound of stuff on the floor behind the pile of boxes.

the dining (?) room. Not seen here: the mound of stuff on the floor behind the pile of boxes.

The Kitchen- Beav's mom spent last monday, while we moved, unpacking and settling our kitchen. Friends, this is the most lovely thing you can do for someone who's recently moved and who likes to cook.

The Kitchen- Beav’s mom spent last Monday, while we moved, unpacking and settling our kitchen. Friends, this is the  loveliest thing you can do for someone who’s recently moved and who likes to cook.

The kitchen's also the first room in which we've started to decorate. We've decided to stick with our previous, tasteful theme of 'Awkward Nudity"

The kitchen’s also the first room in which we’ve started to decorate. We’ve decided to stick with our previous, tasteful theme of ‘Awkward Nudity”

This RUMPUS room. Look at all that light! What is this, a futuristic space rumpus room?

This RUMPUS room. Look at all that light! What is this, a futuristic space rumpus room?

Our backyard. There's a yard! And no one's dog can poop in it unless we let them. #thingsthatbecomeluxurieswhenyouliveinapartments.

Our backyard. There’s a yard! And no one’s dog can poop in it unless we let them. #weirdluxuries.

house_first week8

New house = new studio! With three windows!! (trust me, the third’s on the left)

The chair from which I write this now (instead of dealing with the surrounding detritus.) And what's that door- a closet? A studio closet?! Yeah it is.

The chair from which I write this now (instead of dealing with the surrounding detritus.) And what’s that door- a closet? A studio closet?! Yeah it is.

Stay tuned for exciting house updates (spackling! Fixing toilets! Filing paperwork!) and how-tos (ex: How to start a garden, How to Make Cheap-ass Curtains, How to Make Sure Your House Isn’t Haunted, etc)

*not advisable, but as the trip was family-organized and pre-planned long before the house and to a place with temperatures hot enough to make 2pm mojitos downright rational, we allowed ourselves to be 'talked into it'.
**Suggestions? 
***Sorry, folks, no pics of bedrooms or bathrooms. In part because some strange (Puritan? British?New England?) part of my ancestral DNA feels this is 'not done,' and in part because as of right now they are purely functional, and empty (boring) spaces.

D.O. for that B.O.

This past week, my coworkers learned a few of my dirty secrets, namely that for weeks (and in some cases, months and years) I have not bought or used commercially available face wash, deodorant, shampoo or conditioner. Rather than be horrified and confirm all my deepdark fears that I actually do smell like an armpit, they were surprised and then fascinated. After an in-depth discussion about what I use to get un-funky, I decided to start a series of posts I’m calling;

How to Make Your Own Damn Hygiene Products That Are Petroleum-Free, Cruelty Free, Cheap as Hell, Unlikely to Make You Rashy and Which Will Help You Take on the Hygiene Industry Patriarchy All While Meeting Your Own Personal Standard of Beauty*

Are you a stinky, dirty, itchy, oily person who has to interact with other humans and thus must meet at least the minimum standard of hygiene acceptable to the majority of society? Does thinking about all the strange chemicals and potential animal cruelty that went into your hygiene products really bum you out? Do you have the sensitive skin of European aristocratic babies that wells up into hives at the mere mention of, well, anything? Do you wish you could afford products with ingredients you could pronounce and which would leave you rash-free, but have tragically woken up once again to find that you are still not Gweneth Paltrow and don’t have an artisinal woven basket full of fair-trade rubies to trade in for said products?

Good fortune! You can solve (most) of these problems with cheap-ass ingredients from the grocery store and the barest minimum effort required.

Throughout this series I’m going to not only share recipes I’ve tried and found to be successful, but also some of the facts, figures and history surrounding each product. Turns out most of what we take for granted as ‘necessary hygiene products’ have absolutely fascinating history.

Like, for example,

deodorant.

Humans have been using things (herbs, oils, salves and what have you) to cover up body odor for as long as we’ve been sweating which, since sweating is a biological function, means probably for as long as humans have been humans. The first commercial deodorant, however, appeared in 1888, thanks to those saucy folk, the Victorians.

"I say- nothing breathes quite like layers of crinoline, velvet, fur and societal shame!

“I say- nothing breathes quite like layers of crinoline, velvet, fur and societal shame!”

Antiperspirant, on the other hand, was invented soon after, but didn’t really catch on until 20 years later. Covering up one’s sweat with other smells? Historical (and prehistorical, even) precedent, totally fine. Stopping one’s sweat entirely? Newfangled witchery! Besides which, Victorians were all about not talking about things, so even admitting that one needed antiperspirant was a taboo. It wasn’t until the 1920′s that antiperspirant became common, when a school girl teamed up with a Bible salesman to create what was essentially a whisper campaign to scare self-conscious women (and eventually men) into buying the product.**

Today, antiperspirants and deodorants are a huge industry, pulling in 18 billion dollars. 18 billion dollars! Imagine 18 billion of anything- then turn that anything into dollar bills- that’s how much we as Americans are afraid of sweating and/or smelling.

As a moist, nervous preteen with no concept of money, I would’ve paid 18 billion dollars (or tacos) to find the thing that would save me from the social ridicule I feared lurked just minutes away at all times. My average body temperature has always been a few degrees high, and as a kid this made me feel like a superhero (no socks ever! See how I go without a hat all goddam winter and tremble at my powers!).  A few years, a new school, and a flood of confusing hormones later I found that, my powers had turned against me. Suddenly, not only was every classroom A HUNDRED DEGREES, but I found myself with a new found social anxiety which, coupled with obsessive tendencies, created a terrible, sweaty cycle. Faced with the prospect of talking in front of/being around/thinking about people, I would start to sweat. Sweating would beget panic which would only beget MORE SWEATING which would beget more panic and so on until I would find myself holding my shirt to the hand dryer while washing my armpits between classes (#thingscrazypeopledo). Did anyone ever actually tease me about being sweaty and/or smelly? Of course not, probably because they themselves were also caught in some sort of self-conscious panic/cycle involving some minor ‘flaw’ that I was to busy panicking to see. Alas, middle school.

By the time I got to college, things had mellowed a bit. Art school, with it’s endless projects/deadlines/all-nighters gave my everbusy brain a focus outward, while art students, with their varying degrees of weirdness helped me to relax into my own skin. Around this time I took a science class about food that sparked a lifelong interest in food systems, food politics, ecology and specifically, how what (or who) we eat can affect our bodies, mind and world*** (‘wtf Cat, weren’t we talking about deodorant?’ yeah, just stay with me.). Over the next couple of years this interest led me to reevaluate and readjust not just what I put into my body, but also what I put on it as well. This was also when my hormone levels began to subside and where I once had tough-as-nails, sebum-covered teen skin that welcomed gallons of Bath and Bodyworks on the regular, I now had sensitive grownup skin that broke into a welts whenever I even looked at something with fragrance, or more than three ingredients in it. Enter Toms of Maine.

Also, this.

Also, this.

That, friends, is the tail end (trust me, it looked much jucier in its early days) of a mysterious and painful armpit rash that came out of nowhere and responded to nothing but time- time and a break away from my new, all natural deodorant. Having diagnosed myself with everything from eczema to cancer (thanks Webmd) I eventually settled on hives and/or allergic reaction. But Toms of Maine, you were supposed to be free of heavy metals and scary chems and (in this case) even fragrance! You were made with tears of joy cried from massaged and grass-fed cows or some other such miracle substance, right? Further internetting revealed that rashes from Toms of Maine’s deodorant are not super common, but also not totally unheard of. The next couple of months found me holed up at my computer, icepacks in my pits, looking for any sort of all natural, cruelty-free and fragrance-free deodorant with high recommendations from my fellow sweaty/rashy-folk. This search led me to another moment of self-realization-
I am cheap as shit.

fancyassdeodorantSo, faced with either supporting an industry who made me feel icky, oozing sores or spending fourteen donuts worth of dollars on deodorant, I decided what the hell, maybe I could make my own? After a bit of research, online and off, I found a recipe which, in addition to being cheap, seemed fairly easy as well. The original site has, alas gone down, but the recipe looks something like this:

HOMEMADE CHEAP-ASS FRAGRANCE-FREE DEODORANT RECIPE

In a small jar, combine 4 Tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot and 3 teaspoons of baking soda. (note: if you find this is ineffective, up the amount of baking soda. If you find this too harsh, decrease the baking soda) Microwave jar for 30 seconds at a time until the coconut oil is melted. Stir to combine everything, and let cool until solid again. To use, swipe a bit onto your finger and schmear into your pits. In the summer, or if you live in a hot climate, you may find the deodorant reverting to a liquid state. Either store in the fridge or just know that you’ll have to wait a few minutes between application and putting on a shirt. 

And that’s it. You can add fragrance or bees wax or the blood of a virgin to yours to make it extra smelly or solid or imbue it with powers, or you can use magic to somehow finagle it into an empty roll on deodorant container, but, should you wish to put forth the barest minimum of effort for satisfactory results, this is it. I’ve used this deodorant recipe for well over a year now and not only have I had no complaints, smell-wise, it also has not given me a rash so far.****

Success is how you define it. I define it “Not rashy, so far.”

Go forth and sweat!

*Suggestions for a shorter and/or catchier title welcome.
**In some ways, it’s nice to know body-shaming in advertising isn’t a new phenomenon. In others, it’s entirely depressing.
***…but more on this later.
****DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a physician, dermatologist, beautician/etc. These are recipes which I’ve tried and while they work for me, they may not work for you. This may be because your skin/hair/pits are different from mine or because your ingredients are from a different source or hell, because the moon is gibbous over Capricorn- I don’t know. I went to art school. If something’s not working for you, use common sense- either tweak it a bit or quit using entirely.

Super Massive Website Update (and other changes around here)

Super Massive Website Update (and other changes around here)
Cosmika performance

click the image to find out more about these sensual spacebabez.

Website updated! Website updated! Curious about what I was doing the later half of 2013? Go check it out. If there’s one lesson I can take away from 2013 it’s to either document as I go or to save up 20 episodes of This American Life for the two times a year I do update everything. (On a related note- any recommendations for a good, streaming radio program one could listen to while doing such tedius tasks as website updating, dishes doing or rug making? I’ve just about exhausted the TAL and RadioLab archives.)

You also may have noticed, if you’ve been here before, that things have changed around here as well- In an effort to simplify and clean everything up a bit, I went ahead and deleted the pages that were serving as a makeshift portfolio in years past. Looking for art? Click on the links above or go to www.catlynch.com- that’s where it’s all going to live from now on.

I’ve also changed up the header and tagline to be a bit more intentionally generic. After the few weeks of private and public existential crises, I’ve decided 2014 will be a year of experimentation here- instead of trying to figure out what this strange nook of internet is for RightNow, I’m going to give myself permission to not give a shit about what I give a shit about this year. My only goal is to write, and to write often. Both online and off, for the past six months I’ve felt the ever suffocating weight of writer’s block- in large part because the longer I wait to write anything, the more loaded and precious it feels like the next thing has to be. So forget that- good writing, bad writing, relevant and global, inward and navel gazing- nonfiction, fiction, a grey area between the two- funny writing, sad writing, absolutely vanilla writing-  reviews, how to’s and interviews- writing I’m proud of and total crapola.

And now, the semi-regular New Year’s nod to Miss O’Hara.

ONWARD!

Civil War General Salt Dough Ornaments! (tutorial)

Civil War General Salt Dough Ornaments! (tutorial)

Christmas is tomorrow- huzzah!

But wait- Do you find yourself needing one last gift for that hard to shop for second-cousin, but find that all the stores or closed, or that you can’t be arsed to get out of your sock-monkey onsie?* Or maybe you’ve done all your shopping but need some sort of craft to really put you in the Christmas spirit? Never fear, I have just the tutorial for you to make your very own…

Civil War General Salt Dough Ornaments!

Jolly General Jackson wishes all Rebs the Merriest of Holidays!

Jolly General Jackson wishes all Rebs the Merriest of Holidays!

If you’re like me, nothing gets you more into the spirit of the Holidays like learning about the war between the states. Did you know that Ulysses S. Grant made Christmas a national holiday 5 years after the war in an attempt to unite the North and South in spirit?** Of course, before this Christmas was still celebrated by people on both sides. Abe Lincoln received his “most famous Christmas gift” in 1864 when hottie General William Tecumseh Sherman announced the surrender of Savannah.

Dear universe, All I want for Christmas is a PBS mini series about the Civil War with Hugh Jackman playing the roll of W.T. Sherman.

So how does one immortalize a general  or two in salt dough? Easy peasy-

Step one: Make the dough. There are more recipes for salt dough on the internet than there are johnnies in the North. I ended up using a 2-1-1 ratio (2 parts flour, 1 part salt 1 part water ). Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add water, stirring as you do to avoid lumps. Once it’s fairly well mixed, knead it a little with your hands on a floured counter-top . The final texture should be close to slightly sticky play-doh. If it feels too sticky, add a little bit of flour (though be sure you don’t add too much or the dough will be as tough and unpliable as Stonewall Jackson.)

Fun fact: Should you find yourself suddenly in the trenches and with rations running low, you can simply adjust the ratios to make hard-tac!

salt dough_1

Watching Ken Burns’ ‘Civil War’ helps to infuse the ornaments with a sense of historical gravitas appropriate to the holiday season.

Step Two: Get Sculpting! Using either the internet or your companion’s illustrated Generals of the Civil War books set, begin to model the faces of your favorite generals. Salt dough doesn’t lend itself to subtle details, so I recommend sticking to generals with interesting and distinctive hair/facial hair (which- Good fortune! Is roughly 95% of them)

salt dough_2 burnside

…like General Burnside.

To get the small details I used a defunct ballpoint pen. I also found it advantageous to sculpt them directly on a cookie sheet covered in foil , that way transferring them to the oven was undisasterous. Also, don’t forget to poke a hole through the top for the string to go through.

Step 3: Bake the ornaments. According to the source I used, salt dough should bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees F. Two hours?! Balderdash! I’ve got nog to drink and carols to sing. I baked mine for an hour, handled them gently afterwards and they seemed fine.

My oven is boring and disgusting, so here’s a picture of a civil war campfire recreation instead.

Step 4: Decorate! If you want your ornaments to reflect the scarcity felt by the soldiers on both sides during the lean months of winter during those cruel war years, you can pull a loose thread from your grey or blue shoddy, string it through the top and stop here.

If you, like me, wish to give the ornaments a weathered, metallic sheen- as though it were a metal earned through service rendered and passed down through the ages, start by painting the whole thing black with acrylic paint, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies in those magnificent beards.

salt dough_3 grant

W.T. Sherman, not even salt dough can diminish your raw manliness.

 Once the black has dried , lightly brush a layer of gold acrylic paint over the top

Braxton Brag- your service to the Confederacy may have been controversial, but there's no controversy about that rockin' beard.

Braxton Brag- your service to the Confederacy may have been controversial, but there’s no controversy about how rockin’ that beard is.

Step 5: Finish it! Attach a bit of grey or blue felt, maybe a bit of lace if that’s your thing (and it should be) and your ornament is done, ready to be gifted to starving Georgians under-seige or hung on your tree, next to the hardtack and salt pork***

saltdough_done

photo credit: Allison Buenger of the Creative Cleanse.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

 

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written 12/25/1863 after his son joined the Union cause.

*it is real and it is life-changing.
**sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_in_the_American_Civil_War

http://spoonful.com/crafts/salt-dough-ornaments

***”Union soldiers would use salt pork and hardtack to decorate Christmas trees.[8]