Somewhere Over the Rainbow

IMG_7685 Riding in a hot air balloon has also been on my back burner for years.

In the 70s, before I was born, a benefit fair was held for a friend of my parents. The fair included a hot air balloon, which escaped, and proceeded to fly over local pastures. Like the action hero he was, my father single-handedly helped the balloonist get back on the ground. Dad’s reward was a free ride in the balloon. (Which now that I think about it, should they really have been trusting this novice balloonist with a free ride?)

So, growing up with this tall-tale of my father befriending the Wizard of Oz, a hot air balloon ride was simply something I knew I would do one day. Only, the opportunity never came around. Our town festivals became closer to craft shows than true fairs. In high school, I was aware that Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA put on a hot air balloon show during Labor Day Weekend. But these were busy days and we never got down there. In married life, we discovered the Labor Day fun of the Decatur Book Festival (an aid to my book blog) and Dragon*Con (seeing our fav movie and tv actors in person).

IMG_7686Thankfully, it seems that balloons are becoming more popular at local festivals. There are at least two events in Macon with balloon rides. There’s a race which starts in Helen, GA. We just narrowly missed an event in Rockmart, GA. And for me, I became excited over KSU’s Owl-o-ween event. It seemed perfect. Balloons. Music. Halloween. A real thrill for the thriller time of year.

I’m normally an over-planner, but this year, with so much to do, I thought it would be okay to play the festival by ear and just show up. Boy, was I wrong. NOWHERE to park. We ended up paying a guy to park on the sidewalk in knee high grass and walking what felt like miles. Our one break at the ticket line was the fact we paid in cash. Once inside KSU’s stadium, I was overwhelmed by a sea of aimlessly wandering groups. It was Dragon*Con packed inside a college athletic park.

As it was still daylight, we knew we needed to hurry and find the line for the hot air balloon rides. That way, I figured, we could enjoy looking at a few booths and the Halloween themed balloon glow, and make our way all the way back to the car in enough time to drive home and watch my hubby’s alma mater play football. Wrong again.

IMG_7732The line was backed up nearly to the end of the park’s fence and was badly placed in the middle of two rows of booths. People not interested in the balloon rides felt it was okay to randomly break back and forth from booths on one side to the next. Two hours later, which is longer than I’ve ever waited for a ride at Six Flags, we were finally signing a wavier.

Two things that they don’t tell you at the back of the line: the ride is CASH ONLY and you have to have an ID. I panicked because after waiting all that time, I didn’t have my driver’s license on me. It was way back, miles away, in the car. Lucky for me, they accepted my husband’s ID for both of us. One crisis down. They should really have a back-of-the-line volunteer to warn you of these things.

Then, with only twelve people left in front of us: a drop of rain. Then another. The couple in front of us had chatted that last year the event was rained out. I checked the weather app on my phone. It was calling for cloudy but no rain. Why was there rain?? I was imagining the sense of defeat I’d feel writing that after 2+ hours we were forced to leave because of rain. It was time for silent prayers. Which were answered as the rain held off long enough for us to crawl inside the balloon’s basket and take off.

IMG_7747Much like horseback riding, I was a ball of nerves. As the balloon lifted, my legs felt like jello. The burner above our heads was hot and I feared looking up, case my hair caught fire. We were joined by an Indian couple and their young child, who decided he didn’t like balloon rides either. His crying woke me up and I knew we needed to act cool, so he wouldn’t be scarred. ¬†After taking a few photos with my camera, I decided to chat with the balloonist. As an introvert, this is very uncharacteristic of me. But I had to do something to take the focus off the crying and floating in the air.

IMG_7755So, I asked how a person learns to fly a balloon and if a license is needed. Our balloonist was actually a balloon instructor, which made me feel better. Keeping the conversation going, I asked if he’d participated in balloon races. He explained that speed wasn’t the goal in a balloon race, but rather a set distance. Learning, and feeling more calm, I looked up at the burner and actually started to enjoy it’s warmth.

Before I knew it, the ride was over and I gingerly got my land legs back. I dunno if I’d return to Owl-o-ween and wait in line 2+ hours again, but I can recommend riding in a hot air balloon. I’d love to do it again, just without the crowd and line.

No Joke, It’s Soap

IMG_6489I have wanted to make soap for years. It all began with Seventeen magazine. Being fourteen, as most marketing people will tell you, I read upwards on the teenage scale. In this one magazine issue, there was an article on cheap DIY holiday gifts, which included glycerin soap.

In my imagination, I saw myself making this awesome soap and wrapping it all up with care for all of my relatives waiting for Christmas. I knew that they would be in awe of my thoughtfulness and clever homemade holiday skills. It would harken back to old days, like Foxfire Christmas or Little House on the Prairie.

But, it wasn’t to be. I had a limited number of craft stores in my rural area. None of them had glycerin soap or a soap making kit. At this time, everything was candles. Tons and tons of supplies for candles, none for soap. Eventually, I did make DIY candles for Christmas, to a mixed reaction. I’m into reusing items, so I heated and cleaned several old Glade candle jars for my DIY candles. This was prior to the “Green” campaign, so at least one person looked at me like I was crazy for not buying them a new glass jar for their gift.

IMG_6492Anyways, since then, I’ve bought a few soap making books. I’ve also bought a lot of natural and homemade soap from DIY-ers. I just never got around to making any myself, until now. Thank goodness for Hobby Lobby, which had a soap making 101 kit. It tells you about 5 project ideas on a very basic and plain piece of paper. I’d need a Youtube video to explain the checker board soap, so I settled for a simple two layer soap: one layer solid, one layer clear.

The kit wanted me to melt the soap in the microwave. I really don’t like microwaves, so I followed the trick of a friend of a friend who makes lye soap from a crock pot. Dear MIL gave me a larger crock pot, so I have a small one I no longer use. The process was really quick and easy. Add half the solid soap sheet to the crock pot on high. When melted add color and fragrance. After that step, I used an old ladle to pour the soap into the mold.

IMG_6494

I recommend putting down newspaper around the mold for quick clean-up. I let the clear layer semi-harden in the mold before I added the solid layer to the crock pot and melted it. I probably should have waited longer than I did, but I was impatient to see the final result. So I poured the solid layer over top of the semi-harden clear layer and then waited several hours for the entire thing.

IMG_6499

This is an example of what I got. To me, it looks like brains. Brrraains! It would have been perfect for Halloween if I’d used clear red or green soap instead of making it clear blue soap. Kinda creepy, but oddly beautiful. Especially for my first try and not knowing how it would turn out in the end. Fun!