How to Clean a Paintbrush

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My hubby and I spent several hours last weekend painting our house–inside and out. I find that painting is a multi-day process for me since I tend to get bored with it quickly. Or, the weather kicks up and the project has to stop for a bit.

So, cleanup becomes important since I never know when I’ll be able to get back to the project and I don’t really want to throw away nice brushes. But brushes can be a hassle to clean and, if the cleaning isn’t thorough, the little paint gunk left in the brush gets into the next painting project.

Fortunately, my dad was a professional painter for a while and he showed me how to clean a brush properly without using chemicals (unless you’re using oil-based paint).

Step 1: Rinse thoroughly.

The easiest way to get paint out is to rinse it under warm water. Tip the brush upside down and let the water run down into the bristles to get out all the paint stuck in there. When the water basically runs clean, move on to step 2.

 

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Step 2: Use a wire brush.

Take a wire-bristle brush and scrape down the bristles of the paint brush, sort of like combing the paint brush’s “hair” with the bristle brush. This breaks loose all of the little dried bits that get stuck in the paint brush’s bristles. DO NOT scrape from the bottom up. Always start at the metal part of the paint brush and scrape down.

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Step 3: Rinse and repeat.

Rinse the brush again. I like to use warm water because I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to cold. Repeat step 2 as necessary until the brush is nicely cleaned.

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Call for Open Local Government

I wrote the column below, which will appear in today’s edition of the Colby Free Press, to call on local government officials to provide more open discussions on issues that impact the community.

Backroom deals and private meetings are alive and well in Colby government–and that drives this reporter nuts.

This newspaper has been deliberately and specifically excluded from at least two city government events in just the last few months: an awards banquet and community concerns, a regular once-monthly meeting between government officials. Such a blatant attempt to keep information away from the media leads this libertarian to question what they’re trying to hide.

I even offered to let a city official read any story I wrote on the banquet before it was published so he could make sure it was accurate, if that was his concern. Still, we were excluded. His excuse was his theory that the employees would not have any fun if a newspaper reporter was there.

Why would the City of Colby refuse to allow a reporter to cover a city employees’ awards banquet that many of the city’s employees attend, along with the city manager and council representatives? What are they doing that needs to stay hidden away from public view?

Maybe nothing. Or maybe something sneaky. The point is that we as the newspaper and, consequently, we as a public, have no way of knowing because the city exercised its legal right to keep us out of their gathering.

The city, along with other government offices, exercises that same right regularly, meeting in private on the second Monday of every month. They call the meeting “community concerns,” but the community is not invited to participate. Only community leaders, in the privacy of a back room at a local restaurant, get to participate in these discussions–discussions which may determine the fate of local business projects, government funding attempts, taxation and who knows what else that will impact the daily life of you and me.

These meetings are kept secret, as far as I can tell, and our reporters’ attempts to even sit and listen to the discussion have been turned away. Those who participate rarely have a quorum of any governing body, thus avoiding Kansas’ open government laws that would otherwise require the meeting to be open to the public.

I was able to attend one meeting, thanks to a somewhat accidental quorum of one government body attending that meeting, and I was surprised to see the number of government agencies represented in such a private discussion: the county commission, the city manager, the city mayor, the city council, the economic development board and more. I was very clearly not welcomed by the group and, according to one source, members of the group complained extensively afterward about having a reporter at their meeting.

Since then, another reporter on our staff has tried repeatedly to attend these government meetings but with no luck. He was even told by one city official that, should he show up at one of the meetings, no one would say anything because they didn’t want their discussions in the newspaper.

Why? Again, what are they hiding? What can’t the public know about discussions that may have a significant impact on their daily lives?

These are the people who determine the major happenings in Colby, so why can’t their constituents have a view on their discussions or a voice in those discussions?

If everything is decided in a private discussion or at a private event before it comes up for a vote at someplace like a city council or county commissioners’ meeting, the public never really gets an opportunity to have their say. And that’s not the goal of Kansas’ open government laws.

I call on those government officials who take such care to keep their dealings private to open the doors a bit more. Let the media and the public see what you are doing at your private events and backroom meetings. Keeping things secret looks suspicious to most members of the public, this reporter included, but if you aren’t doing anything shady why not let the sunshine in?

Spring is coming!

We’ve had a few warm days here and, even with some snow in between, signs of spring are starting to show!

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This rhubarb is powering through last year’s remnants, already showing promise. (Anyone know if you’re supposed to cut rhubarb back in the fall?)

I have my garden mostly composted and a load of seeds ready for planting. Bring on the warm weather!

Dijon Parmesan Chicken

 

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If your low-carb cooking plans look anything like mine, you probably find yourself cooking the same meals over and over again.

My mental conversations go something like this:

Me #1: What’s for dinner tonight?

Me #2: Well, we have that chicken thawed, so probably that.

Me #1: Ugh. Chicken again. How should we cook it this time?

Me #2: Grilled?

Me #1: Nope, too cold outside.

Me #2: Baked?

Me #1: (shrug) Too dry.

…And on and on until I finally settle on one of the same ways I’ve cooked chicken a dozen times in the last month.

Enter the cure for boring, dry low-carb chicken dishes: Dijon Parmesan Chicken.

This dish is simple, flavorful, tender and juicy. It’s about as good as chicken can taste without being breaded and deep fried!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
  • 4 T Dijon mustard or spicy mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 T white wine
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 T paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more or less to taste)

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a glass baking dish with foil.

Mix mustard, garlic, wine and oil together in a shallow dish like a pie plate. Mix the cheese, paprika and pepper in another shallow dish.

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Dip chicken pieces into the mustard mixture, spreading the mixture thoroughly onto each piece. Dredge in the parmesan mixture, packing as much onto each piece as possible.

Lay pieces in baking dish and top with any remaining parmesan mixture.

Bake uncovered until cooked through, about 40 minutes.

 

Book Review: The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages

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Like everything else I’ve read from this author, Shaunti Feldhan, I enjoyed this well-researched, easy-to-read book.

My favorite thing about it is that it’s actual research–not some relationship therapist telling me her views on how to have a better marriage. The book is really a practical application of years of research the author and her husband conducted on couples who were struggling in their marriages, mostly happy and highly happy. While conducting the research, they noticed patterns in each type of marriage, and the book describes those patterns in a conversational way.

Another thing I liked about this book is that it does not focus on how to fix a struggling marriage. Instead, it provides research-based tips for making any marriage better. If a marriage isn’t broken, why fix it, right? Well, this book gives advice on improving marriages that aren’t broken, sort of like cleaning a window you can still see through.

I highly recommend this book and Feldhan’s other books. They aren’t hard to read and they contain some valuable nuggets of data with real-life application — whether or not the data is politically correct.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tortilla-free Quesadillas

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Now that my family is eating a low-carb diet, we shy away from meals that involve tortillas, bread, rice, etc. But that cuts out most Mexican food, so I created the tortilla-free quesadilla. I think I may like it even better than normal quesadillas!

Ingredients

  • shredded cheese (a Colby or cheddar mix works best)
  • fajita chicken or beef, cooked and chopped

Method

Mound 1/4 to 1/2 c. of cheese in a non-stick pan. Keep the mound as close together as you can since it will spread out as the cheese melts. Sprinkle about 1/8 c. of chicken onto the mound and top with another 1/4 to 1/2 c. of cheese.

Cook over medium heat until the bottom layer of cheese begins to melt, bubble and form a crust, about 5-7 minutes. (Note: if you get impatient and don’t cook it long enough, it will fall apart when you flip it. So don’t get in a hurry!)

When the quesadilla is cooked enough that the cheese doesn’t run all over the place when you pick up the edge with a spatula, carefully flip it over. Cook for 2-3 minutes more.

The quesadilla will be melted through and flexible. I recommend placing it on a paper towel to let the grease drain, then rolling it into a burrito shape.

Top with sour cream, salsa or your other favorite quesadilla toppings.

And the wind keeps blowing…

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We’re in our third day of incredible winds here on the plains of western Kansas. Unfortunately, there are many empty fields this time of year and the dust blows everywhere.

It was so bad today that I literally had to stop while I was driving on some county roads. I could not see past the hood of my car.

While this is tiresome for me, it certainly makes me pause and think about the pioneers who braved this kind of nasty weather in a covered wagon or sod hut. They probably didn’t have so much dust blowing around since the natural grasses held the topsoil down, but they had no real way to get out of the constant blowing. No wonder some of them went crazy.

Normally, you can see large grain elevators behind this sign. You'd have to squint hard to see them today.

Normally, you can see large grain elevators behind this sign. You’d have to squint hard to see them today.

 

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