Just For Fun is my way of sharing all the little things I like to do... from crafty things to thoughtful things!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"I'm on vacation!"

I have no exciting projects to show you today.  My aforementioned lilac beach inspired tote is crocheted, but I have yet to line it with the Little Mermaid material that has been sitting there for two weeks now. Since we had a cold snap I started an acrylic blanket for myself.  (I still love my Wool-Ease blankets, but my allergies are such at the moment that I cannot use them.)

We had a great weekend with friends visiting and then Steve and I were off work last week.  Unable to travel, we were actually able to spend some time just hanging out together.  It was so enjoyable!  We actually had time to talk with each other and do things like go to the local zoological sanctuary to talk with Cassie the Tiger - it just took the staff explaining what the different sounds meant for us to understand her. I took a bit of video with my phone of her saying hello, but of course I've no idea how to post it here.  I did learn that if you wear beige (like the staff does) all the animals greet you warmly, because they think you are carrying their breakfast!

We had a scary movie marathon day... well actually mini series day because we always have to start with Stephen King's "It".... and finally got Steve over to OliveU Naturally, a store that sells nothing but naturally flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  Makes me hungry just to think about it and Steve enjoyed taste testing. 

We stayed up late and slept in (8am!) and did not get any of the chores done that we had on our list.  Oh well, that's what vacation is all about! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It's been one of those phases of 'leftovers'.  You know, the phase that always comes just before cleaning out the closets?  The one where you refuse to buy another package of anything until you've eaten what you have, where you finish up the last of that smelly shower gel you don't really like so you can recycle the bottle, and even the summers dying flowers get yanked from the pot?  Yeah, that phase.

That phase also applies to crochet in particular because there is always leftover yarn from other projects.  I always squirrel away bits and pieces, just check the hat boxes in my office next time you visit.  :oP  But recently I had larger quantities of leftover yarn which allowed me to actually use them for items rather than an emergency stitch or two. 
I made several hats... from summer floppy sun hats to winter 'keep my ears warm' hats. 

The yellow one is cute because it reminds me of the nightcaps/bathing caps my grandmother's generation wore, with just a little fringe around the face rather than the extra coverage of the full blown sun hat.

It's hard to tell in the photo but even the winter hats have different finishes.  The light cream hat is two strands with a rolled edge, and the darker is a more traditional beanie style.

I also made four scarves out of leftover yarn as well.  Most of the hats and scarves will go in the "send to Swati" pile.  Every so often, she takes/sends things to India where the children's needs are larger than their resources.  Hats and scarves in particular will always be put to good use there.

I was also able to make some bags out of my leftovers.

The green tote is one of my favorites for when you just need an extra carrying hand.  At about 10 inches square, it can easily be a shopping bag for a handful of items, or carry water bottles to a hockey game.

The yellow 'packpack', as Amanda would have called it when she was younger, has all the things you expect in a backpack... large double thick shoulder straps as well as a small handle for carrying or hanging, a separate front pocket and a drawstring top closure.  Because I am picky about buttons, I used magnetic closures on both the top flap and the pocket flap.

You may be wondering about those little pouches.  They are literally 'hand bags'.  Think back to old photos or movies about Victorian times for example.  Ladies had hand bags... not big purses and totes like we do nowadays. 

While I doubt any of them would have carried orange cotton, they might have carried deep purple velvet.  The pouch on the far right is made from purple suede style yarn.  I liked it so much I made another one just for myself.  They are great for carrying your phone, ID and a couple dollars.

I use small bags like this a lot when we walk the craft fair or go to a concert or sporting event where I don't want to have to carry, store, or keep track of my regular purse. Most recently, I used one when we went to the museum.  No knocking over sculptures for me!  Well, at least with my purse!

If I don't want to carry it by hand, I just loop the strap through a belt loop on my jeans and let it hang.  It keeps me 'hands free' and I can still easily open and close it when need be.

I used to try and use my pockets, but for whatever reason (probably because I am unused to using them!) I always lost things by pulling out everything at once and dropping it all over the ground.

For me, these 'hand bags' are just the ticket.  If you want to try one, let me know... because I certainly have plenty to share!

Don't be afraid to put those leftovers to good use.  When I do, I feel better because I'm not wasteful, but also perhaps because I was able to breathe new life into something that might have otherwise gone unloved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Still Standing

Steve and I watched an interesting but strange movie last night called "The Pledge".  The theme is about a promise a retired detective made to the mother of a murdered child.  He was unable to keep that promise, and it eventually cost him everything he cared about, including perhaps his sanity.

As you can imagine, the victimization of children in the movie brought to mind my recent trial experience, sitting on a jury for a case involving the sexual molesation of an 8 year old boy.  It also brought back memories of my own childhood, the childhood years of my kids and my parents.

It got me thinking about my long running joke about having lived every 'afterschool special'.  There are very few difficult situations that I can't relate to at some level out of my own experience.

I've found my way through some harrowing things over the years.  I should be a basket case.  I really should.  I should be muttering nonsense while I walk around in circles in the corner of a padded room, bumping into the wall again and again.  I should be afraid to walk out my front door, and afraid to let people in, literally as well as figuratively.

I've experienced a lot of things I hope you never do, but I'm still standing. 

I carry some extra weight - is that emotional insulation?  Probably.  I've tried every suggestion from the doc and the nutritionist to no avail.  I have a lot of allergies, and have been unable to resolve them in any meaningful way either.  A little arthritis?  Well who doesn't at my age?!  I get wound up about certain things that make no sense to anyone but me (and Sheldon).

I'm not perfect, but I'm still standing.

Humans are incredibly resiliant.  We can be rocked to the core and still bend.  We can feel stretched to the breaking point again and again and again and still not break.  We can ultimately choose what to take from any experience.  We can overcome simply by deciding against being a victim.  Whatever that ability is, last week I saw it in the boy who had to explain to a room full of strangers exactly what a long time family friend did after saying "Don't tell your mom". 

And today... I see it in myself, and I'm still standing.

Are you?  Is there something in your life you need to deal with?  What's keeping you from it?  Take the first step today.  Don't waste another minute on anything that is keeping you from being the best 'you' you can be.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Christy's getting old, but not as old as those artists!

We celebrated Christy's birthday over the weekend by visiting the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Cezanne exhibit.  It has become a bit of a thing with me to visit the museum any time they have a traveling exhibit for an artist whose name rings a bell.  It might sound strange to phrase it that way, but here's my reasoning...  I don't know much about art or art history.  If an exhibit comes along with an artist I recognize, chances are that artist is probably important.  We've all heard of at least a few famous artists through one venue or another, be it educational or cultural, right?

By doing this, we've seen special exhibits for Monet (several versions of water lilies, one of my personal favorites), Rembrandt (wow were those Dutch guys detailed in that period) and now Cezanne (and several artists he inspired).  We've also seen a French Masterpiece exhibit that included Matisse and an Impressionist exhibit that included pieces by Degas, Manet, and Renoir.  As a part of those visits, I've also seen Picasso and Da Vinci.  Not bad for someone who doesn't know much about art!

I figure that I'll never make it to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and company, so I better take advantage of what comes within driving distance.  Some I liked, some I didn't.  In fact my son-in-law Andrew and I talked about it... being able to appreciate art doesn't necessarily mean you have to like it.  Whether we liked each piece or not, we were still able to appreciate them and they got us thinking.

Being a good Gramma,  I must admit that my favorite moments at the museum were all about my grandsons.  We visited one of our long time favorites "You... Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies" by Yayoi Kusama.  It's a dark room panelled with mirrors.  Even the tile floor and ceiling are reflective.  As you walk through, tiny LED lights glow and change color, reflected in all the surfaces.  As you move, you bump into the lines holding the lights, and they move.  You really do feel engulfed by fireflies... but in a good way.  LOL  To me, it feels like I am floating in the blackness of space with tiny stars all around me.  Topher went through it the first time holding on to Grampa's hand pretty tightly.  As soon as we exited, he said "Can I do that again?!"  Of course, we did!

It reminded me of the like/don't like discussion.  He wasn't sure about it the first time as it seemed a bit challenging in the dark and he wasn't sure what to expect.  When he wanted to see it again, he was able to really appreciate the idea that art can make you think of other things.  As we were leaving the museum, he saw a sculpture and brought my attention to it.  I asked him what the sculpture made him think about by asking "what does it look like to you... what does it remind you of?  A bright sun?  A ball?  A flower?"  I could see the light bulb go off in his mind and he thoughtfully said "I think it reminds me of a flower with all those things (petals) around".  An art appreciator in the making?  Most certainly.  And perhaps even an artist.  When a museum employee asked him if he wanted a sticker to wear, he said "no, maybe when I am a paint artist!"
I was also able to give Christy her birthday present... two crocheted bags.  The first is a double handled tote bag (what Mom doesn't need tote bags?).  I used a berry acrylic yarn and lined it with a paisley print I thought might connect to her retro side.  The second is a regular handbag made from a variegated acrylic yarn called "Cherry Cola".  I used a plain maroon lining since the outside was so colorful.  I added pockets to the lining to help keep things organized, and made the strap wider than usual to help it stay in place while juggling my grandsons, an armful of groceries and her homework.  Hope you can out them to good use Christy!  Happy birthday!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The eyes have it!

I went from Buddha Eyes to creepy eyes!  A while back I bought a grab bag full of clearance beads, most of which were great.  There was one strand that completely creeped me out.  From a distance I guess you could say they looked purple - ish... but close up they were disturbing and to me at least, looked like dead eyeballs.  Take a look and see for yourself... am I wrong?

I've been keeping an eye out (haha!) for beads I could put with the eyeballs and make something to go with my witch costume on Halloween (I swear, it's a costume!).  I thought along the liens of witches brew, bat wings, or even black hats would be fun.

In the end, I settled on these plain black glass beads.  They remind me of pupils. How the pupils got separated from the eyeballs we'll never know.  Is that a cackle I hear in the distance?

On to something more beautiful!  Greta mentioned the white lotus seeds she shared with me and I realized I had not posted them.  I recently restrung them to include this chunk of jadeite.

Along with the lotus seeds are unakite, jasper, mahogany obsidian, and tiny bone mahjong tile beads.  I think this one wants to be worn to the art museum on Saturday.
I also made earrings out of red, green, and blue pairs of mahjong tile beads.  Just for good measure I included the pair I made in July in the photo.

The tiles Greta gave me were small, but they look big compared to the others here.

These pairs are matched with colored marble with the exception of the green.  The green set is malachite. 

I like the 'chinese lantern' style shape overall, and now I have a pair to wear no matter the color of my mood.

Last but not least, I finally decided on stringing a chocolate brown and pale green glass heart with brown glass pearls.  I struggled a bit with this glass heart because the pattern seemed so busy, even though I loved the colors.

When I came across the pearls, I realized I could change up the strand by size and not color, and that would help me keep the balance I wanted. Alternating larger and smaller glass pearls did the trick.

I added some jade to the earrings to tie into the pale green in the glass.  It's admittedly hard to see here, bad light and poor photography, I admit it!

For the moment I am back to crochet and will share those projects soon.  In the meantime, today is my daughter Christy's birthday.  She's 27, which means I am not.  In fact, she is now the age I was when I re-met Steve at our 10 year high school reunion... can you believe it?!  Happy Birthday Christy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Seeing through Buddha Eyes

After my recent crochet projects, it was time to turn my attention back to jewelry and specifically the beads I ordered last month from Nepal.  There are several types of mala (prayer beads) as well as turquoise/coral beads, a Gao locket and a Buddha Eyes amulet.

It was one of those things... you know the kind... where you think you are just going to buy one thing but end up with a cartful?  I had such a hard time deciding between them that I had to have them all.  Clockwise from the top:  The turquoise/coral earrings are made from beads made in Nepal.  The shapes reminded me of suns, moons and stars.  The 3-round earrings are turquoise and carnelian from Nepal (markers on the malas) with an antique brass bead in between.  The 2-round earrings are rudraksha seeds and lotus seeds also from Nepal.

While I thought I was randomly choosing sandlewood, rosewood, lotus seeds, rudraksha seeds and yak bone - it turns out they have symbolic significance.  From Wikipedia:

Increasing mantras should be recited using Malas of gold, silver, copper or lotus seeds and with 108 beads. The mantras counted on these can "serve to increase life span, knowledge and merit."

Mantras for overcoming should be recited using malas made of saffron, sandalwood, or other forms of wood including elm wood, peach wood, and rosewood.
Mantras to tame by forceful means should be recited using malas made of Rudraksha beads or bone. ...this Mala, used to tame others, but with the motivation unselfish to help other sentient beings. To Tame by forceful means, means to subdue harmful energies, such as "extremely malicious spirits, or general afflictions". Only a person that is motivated by great compassion for all beings, including those they try to tame, can do this.

Interestingly enough.. the only type of mantra I did not cover with my collection is:

Appeasing mantras should be recited using white-colored Malas. Materials such as crystal, pearl or mother of pearl are preferable. These can serve to purify mind and clear away obstacles like illness.

So... I imagine I am not in an appeasing sort of mood.  :oP  That said, while my mind may be too far gone for purifying, clearing away obstacles is always a good thing.  I am a little curious as to why I was not attracted to anything in this group since I covered the others.
I also learned that: Buddha Eyes (also known as Wisdom Eyes) symbolize the omniscience (all-seeing) of a Buddha. Between the Buddha's eyes where the nose would be is a curly symbol that looks like question mark. This is the Nepali character for the number 1, which symbolizes unity of all the things as well as the one way to reach enlightenment—through the Buddha's teachings. Above this is a third eye, symbolizing the all-seeing wisdom of the Buddha.

No wonder I like it!  Of course it reminds me of the joke... what did the buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?  Make me one with everything! Here's how all the pieces came together for my Buddha Eyes amulet.  It's hard to see, but at the very top is an endless knot - one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols.

I was also attracted to the copper Gao locket.  A Gao is worn for protection and blessing.

The characters read "om mani padme hum".  It is the six syllable mantra of the Bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara. The Dalai Lama is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, so the mantra is especially revered by his devotees. 

One common interpretation is that each syllable corresponds to one of the six realms of existence and purifies the vice associated with that realm:

Om purifies bliss and pride (realm of the gods)
Ma purifies jealousy and need for entertainment (realm of the jealous gods)
Ni purifies passion and desire (human realm)
Pad purifies ignorance and prejudice (animal realm)
Me purifies poverty and possessiveness (realm of the hungry ghosts)
Hum purifies aggression and hatred (hell realm)

The end of the locket opens to reveal a space for a written mantra or sacred relic.  I have not decided what will go into my Gao, but it will probably be something written. 
I'm not sure what insights these new pieces will bring, but I look forward to it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pie, Pie, Me oh My!

... nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry, all at once as well as pie.
Apple, pumpkin, minced and black bottom, I'll come to your place every day if you've got 'em.  Pie, me oh my... I love pie.

One of my favorite moments from the movie "Michael" is the pie song.  So simple, and yet so true.  My love affair with pie started when I set out to perfect the classic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.  For years, I didn't think I liked pumpkin pie - until I figured out what I didn't like was other people's recipes!  Now, I am the pumpkin pie queen.  My nephew would rather have one of my pumpkin pies than anything else for christmas.  It's true.  One year I gave him my secret recipe and the ingredients to make his own pies.  I understand he warned the rest of his family to touch them at their own risk.

So, when Greta showed me these Pie-rets I just had to make them! 

We decided to make her family's favorite flavors... so here are chocolate cream, key lime, pumpkin and lemon meringue.  She sent photos of the kids in their pie-rets, and they were truly adorable.

I have to admit that the Dairy Queen style whipped cream on top of the cream/custard pies makes me smile. I like that they can be any flavor just by changing the yarn color.

I also made lattice pie-rets in Wild Berry and a  pinker version that looks a bit raspberry.  I couldn't resist a yarn actually named Wild Berry, and it is a gorgeous deep berry color... but I thought Greta's 7 yr old daughter might want something a little brighter for her pie.

The lattice pies are a bit softer though and are probably more wearable.  They are done with 'popcorn' stitches to look like lumpy fruit filling.  In the side view you can see the beret style pie crust 'hat' underneath the pie.

In working these pie-rets, all I could think about was the movie "Home for the Holidays".  It stars Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr and other familiar faces, and was directed by Jodie Foster.  I've joked for years that I was going to be like Aunt Gladys in my old age (I was a Latin teacher you know!).  She wears berets, and stylish Fruit Loops, says what she thinks - and stops in mid sentence... or song.  She falls asleep at the table, gives away lamps, and thinks it's magic when the boys change the bulb in her porch light.

I think the pie-rets may have pushed me over the Gladys edge before my time.  A Fruit Loop necklace (I made it myself!) will come with every pie-ret in her honor.

I made one special pie-ret that took some thinking.

Greta told me I could pick a color for her daughter... but her daughter's real favorite is 'rainbow'. Rainbow Pie? Not so much, but I just couldn't resist the idea of using her favorite color. I looked through my pattern books for inspiration and remembered the Pastel Carousel pattern. I used it as inspiration for my creation and dubbed it "Cutie Pie"!

I was so excited to give it to her, and she did not disappoint by being pleased about the rainbow colors.  We even talked about which flavors each color might represent.

Last but not least, Greta asked if I could try to make a Noodle Hat like Mr. Ping and Po wear in the movie Kung Fu Panda.  I tried a couple different designs for the hat itself, and for the noodles.  I finally decided the problem was having a real head instead of an animated one where they could change the scale every time they drew him!  I did come up with a version I think is as close as I can get with yarn... and it certainly has the Noodle Dream spirit.  Greta will add some chopsticks to finish the look. 

All in all... I had a blast making these pies.  You can expect to see me on Thanksgiving wearing my Pumpkin Pie-ret and my Fruit Loop necklace.  Just call me Gladys.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oolong and allergies, a complication

A couple of weeks ago I began an experiment in drinking Oolong tea to help with the skin issues that often accompany allergies.  My friends have had success with it, I read the article and I thought it was worth trying. 

Unfortunately, I've had to stop the experiment because... you guessed it... allergic reactions.  I had a reaction to one of the teas toward the beginning, but when I checked the ingredients it had malt.  I'm not necessarily allergic to malt in and of itself but as it is fermented, I though it the likely culprit.

Last week I had another minor reaction to another fruity tea.  Again no ingredients that are known problems.  I decided to take a couple days break from tea and it may be a good thing I did because over the weekend that minor reaction turned into a full blown issue.

I still have hives, even after upping my prednisone.  *sigh*  To the doc tomorrow, but for now, the tea experiment is at a standstill.

One big thumbs up though for the asthma regime my doc has me on... even with the inflammation and all that came with this incident - the asthma never kicked in to add insult to injury.  Gotta love that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Wedding Gift: Dream Trees pt 2

Amanda and Tim not only love each other, they love trees. They also love dreaming and making those dreams become reality.

What better gift for these two than a crystal dream tree?

In case you haven't heard of a dream tree... it is meant to help your dreams grow. Write your dream down, place it under the tree, and the tree will help your dreams take root and grow into fruition.

This tree was made by twisting aventurine chips and jasper rounds onto permanently colored copper wire, twisting those branches into larger branches and finally into a trunk.  (The tree is worked from the top down.)  The wires at the bottom of the trunk are splayed and set into plaster.  While the plaster is setting, add bits of gravel to the top.  After a day or two of drying, coat the gravel with glue to keep it from coming loose.  It gives the gravel a bit of shine, and if you are not going to be shipping it, you could skip that step.

See?  Those other trees really WERE for practice! ;o)

By popular demand... here is a more detailed step by step.  If you would prefer a Word document, let me know and I can send it to you via email. 


60 drilled chips or beads (I used aventurine chips and round jasper beads)
60 feet of wire, 26 gauge (I used permanently colored copper wire)
Plaster of Paris
Gravel or small stones
Container (I used a basic pottery drip tray because it is wider than deep – but you can use anything that will hold plaster… get creative!)

Wire cutters
Check plaster instructions for supplies needed to mix plaster. Use disposable tools.

Wire will harden as you work it, so twist just enough to hold each step.

  • Cut wire into 12 inch lengths
  • Slide one bead onto one length of wire and carefully twist the wire 3 times to secure the bead, leave remaining wire loose for now. Make 60.
  • Hold 3 wired beads together, grasping about a half inch below the beads, twist 3 times to secure them together. Make 20.
  • Hold 3 bundles of 3 beads together, grasping at the bottom of the previous twist, twist 3 times to secure them together. Make 6 bundles of 3 and 1 bundle of 2.
  • Hold 2 bundles of 3 together, grasping at the bottom of the previous twist, twist 3 times to secure them together. Make 2.
  • Place the 1 bundle of 2 between the last 2 bundles of 3, grasping at the bottom of the previous twist, twist 3 times to secure them together.
  • You should have one branch with 3 bundles, and two branches with 2 bundles.
  • With the 3 bundle branch in the center, twist all bundles together to within an inch or so of the bottom of all the wires. Spread the last inch of wires out like roots, and branches out as well.
  • Mix plaster according to package directions.
  • Hold or prop tree in container, pour plaster, and let set for a few minutes before adding gravel.
  • Let dry completely before coating gravel or making final adjustments on branches.
  • Final tree is about 6 inches high.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty Little Dolly

I don't know why... but everytime I make this cute little bassinette bag I think of the crazy christmas song by Mona Abboud - Pretty Little Dolly.  (If you haven't heard it, it's currently available on a Dr. Demento cd)  It reminds me of the days when all I wanted was the latest and greatest toy.  Advertising is a wondrous thing... but that's another christmas song by Tom Lehrer (and yet another Dr. Demento cd).

Every little girl has a favorite snuggly toy.  Sometimes it's a doll, a stuffed animal, or a favorite blanket, it doesn't matter - they all serve the same purpose, to bring security in an insecure world.  This bag allows little girls to bring a little of that security along with them as they run errands or go on visits.

It's about eight inches long and about 4 inches wide when folded out like a bassinette.  Handles are long enough to be worn like a shoulder bag when folded up.  It's a little hard to believe until you see it, but basically, you just loosen the drawstrings and roll the top edge of the bag out and down to reveal the bassinette hidden inside the bag.  It even comes with a little blanket to keep baby nice and cozy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sharing your gifts

This month my youngest grandson will have his first birthday party.  It's hard to believe he is a year old already, and it makes me think of the day he was born.  It was all the special things days like that are to be, but there is a particular kind of special I want to talk about with you.  Sharing talents, gifts, knowledge, and love.

Everyone has something they do that makes people feel special, that makes people feel loved.  It might be the gift of saying the right words or a talent for doing or making something special for someone special.  I am essentially a do-er, so for me, my offerings are often a reflection of my time and energy. 

When my oldest grandson was born, I crocheted a blanket for him so that he would be wrapped warmly physically, but also symbolically in love.  I also crocheted an extra blanket, took it to the hospital with me on the day he was born, and gave that blanket away to a total stranger and her baby boy.

It was an amazing experience.  It began when I asked the nurses whether there was another boy born that day, one I might give the blanket.  They thought it was a very nice way to celebrate my happiness at being a new gramma, and they thought about it for a bit.  One of them suggested a new mom who had lost her own mother a couple of years prior and had mentioned that she missed her mother on days like these.  She took me to the mom's room, briefly explained why I was there and asked if I could come in and talk with her.  The whole conversation took only a few minutes, but was very powerful.

I explained that I needed to share my joy in being a gramma, and that I was sorry to hear her own mother had passed.  I said that I felt sure her mother was watching from wherever she was, and that she had a hand in the circumstances that brought us together.  I gave her the blanket and explained it was a symbol of a gramma's love.  As you can imagine, we were both teary eyed by then, but it is a moment I will never forget.  She said it made her feel like her mother was there, and aware of what was happening in their lives.

When my second grandson was born, I was determined to share the 'gramma love' again.  This time I made a pink blanket for a girl.  When I spoke with the nurses, again they loved the idea, but they were sad to tell me that no girls had been born that day or were even in the nursery at the moment.  Just as I was asking them to give it to the next girl born there, one of the nurses had an idea.  She remembered that over in the NICU there was a baby girl who had been there for about a week or so.  She was really struggling and her prognosis was not good.  As you can imagine, her parents were struggling as well. 

The nurse told me that the girl was not expected to survive, but that if it was ok with me, she would love to sterilize the blanket and bring the blanket over (I was not allowed over there of course!).  It would cheer up her space for the time she was there, surround her with 'gramma love' and if the time came for her parents to have to say goodbye, they could at least wrap her in something beautiful when they held her for the last time.  Yes, teary eyed again!  I gave her the blanket and asked her to pass along my hopes to her parents as well.

I never got to know what happened with that little girl, but I know that I used my talents to share myself that day... in a way that may have been important for a total stranger.

What gifts will you share today?  Do you save them for only the people you love, or do you share them with everyone?  Food for thought.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Family Recipes

I am on a roll!  I loaded all our favorite family recipes their own blog: Family Recipes

It's a great way to keep handy (or bookmark) family favorites.  If I have missed your favorite, let me know and I will add it!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oolong and allergies

It's no surprise to anyone that I have allergies. :oP I heard from my friend Greta ( Rexphiles ) that oolong tea has been shown to help people suffering from eczema - common among severe allergy sufferers like Greta and I.  She and her family have been drinking oolong for some time now and has enjoyed the benefits of reduced flareups. So I gotta at least try it, right?!

Here is the article that got her to seriously consider oolong... and now me too! Oolong Tea for Eczema

I don't think of myself as a tea drinker so I had no idea which types I might prefer. I ended up ordering a sample pack from Rishi to give it a go. It was a good choice because it gave me several basics: Wuyi, Jade, Plum and Iron Goddess of Mercy (what a great name!). I actually enjoyed them all, but found the Iron Goddess a tiny bit strong for my taste. My favorite was the Jade.

Last weekend, Greta and I had a 'girls day' including a visit to Teavana where she taught me a bit more about the types available and reminded me that you can get several brewings out of the same leaves making it much more economical than you might think. I came home from Teavana with Jasmine and Monkey Picked Oolong. Even better, Greta sent home a few spoonfuls of several of her favorites so I could sample more. YAY!

We tried Sweet Oolong Revolution first because Steve thought it smelled the best - pumpkin and spices, what can I say the man loves his pumpkin pie. It was really nice both hot and cold, we'll be adding this one to our list for future purchases. We moved on to Monkey Picked Oolong.  It is a fantastic 'basic' tea without a lot of added flavors.  *thumbs up*  We tried Utopian Jewel which might be just a little too fruity for me - it might be the raspberry, or it might be the mildly serious allergic reaction I had later.  Sadly, we won't be repeating Utopian Jewel.

Next was Jasmine day, and this is going to be one of my favorites.  I did good in choosing it with the Monkey Picked for my first Teavana purchases! 

Then we tried Rishi's Plum Oolong which I like better cold than hot (the last third of the hot cup got strangely bitter) and Teavana's Kamiya Papaya Oolong.  While we both liked the flavor of the Kamiya, I broke out in a rash, so while not as serious as the Utopian reaction, one I probably won't want to repeat.  I may get more for Steve though because he really liked it.

So far, I haven't noticed many effects other than my allergic reactions... but since they have only been to certain blends, I imagine it's a flavor ingredient thing and not a tea thing.  Watch this space as we work our way through our samples, and I will keep you posted on the effects!
Now that the gift is out of the bag... I can share this beautiful scarf made for my friend Amanda who is getting married this fall. I thought this persian style design was reminiscent of fluttering leaves. Amanda has a strong connection with trees and is using leaves in the decorations for her big day. You can find her at http://amandaspatch.com/

The pattern is a little confusing at first, and for me, working with the fine sock wool takes getting used to. The first couple of triangles need to be counted pretty closely but after that, your fingers get into the groove. I made another Boteh scarf out of autumn colored variegated yarn which turned out nicely as well.

I found the pattern at the Interweave Store

Fairy house

Fairy day is June 25th.  This year I decided to celebrate by making this fairy house.  Ok, at the store, it was called a toad house - but we have none to speak of here.  I used moss and 'twig wire' from the floral department to add some personality to the house.  I made tiny windchimes out of jewelry findings, as well as a garden gazing ball. 

The fairies must love it because everything has been growing like crazy.. including several types of mushrooms that we have never seem before.  Here's what it looked like from the store:

In the garden:
I added a bench in order for them to fully enjoy the gazing ball...
And finally... a close up of the wind chimes, my personal favorite as we have several serious wind chimes hanging about our house too.

Dream Trees

We have a Dream Tree that belonged to my mother in law decades ago... and after seeing some made with crystals, I thought I should give making one a try.  I used brass wire and inexpensive but sparkly beads from the craft store.  A little plaster in a pot finishes it off and holds it in place.  This batch went to my daughter Amanda and her friends.  Thanks for letting me experiment on you!
To use a Dream Tree, write your dream on a piece of paper and place it under the tree.  The energy of your intention and the tree will help your dreams take root and grow into fruition!

Purse charms

I found a way to use up the last few odd beads left over from my restringing Grannee's pieces... I strung them on to lobster claw clasps, and added them to my crocheted bag as charms.  I've had several compliments on them as I am out and about, and it is a way to bring the memories of my grandmother's into my every day life.

Yellow flourite

What was it I was saying about flourite?  Heather over at The Stone Goat in Prescott had this yellow flourite pocket rock tucked waaay in the back of the store - by the shark teeth.  No kidding.  I couldn't resist it.  More findings from the charmless charm bracelet and voila! another star is born!

Chinese flourite

I've always had a thing for flourite.  There is something about that translucent green and purple stone that hypnotizes me.  I found this diamond shaped piece of Chinese flourite at http://thestonegoat.com/ in Prescott.  It's a pocket rock that just had to come home with me.  I was trying to figure out what to do with the Jade beads from a bracelet that my boss brought back from China.  And AHA! I thought they would go nicely together.  I found an old charm bracelet of my grandmothers that had lost it's charms (literally), used the findings to turn the pocket rock into a pendant, and a star is born.

Ah-baloney.. from Weed

In 2009 I went on a road trip with some girfriends in northern California.  They were all wearing gorgeous pendants and let's be honest, teasing me mercilessly about not wearing any.  North of Shasta, CA (our main destination) is a town called Weed.  Seriously.  While checking out the hysterically funny local souvenirs (as you can imagine), I found this abalone shell heart pendant.  I thought it was beautiful, but of course.. the chain was waaaay too short.  As a part of my restringing project, I put it with several different strands of my grandmother's pearl beads.  I wear it quite often now!

Crocheted bags and accessories

My very favorite crochet projects are the small ones.  It's a great way to try new stitches and patterns as well as find the satisfaction in a job well done that much faster than larger projects like blankets and sweaters.  In particular, I love bags because they can be all shapes sizes and colors.  Here are a few of my favorites...

This bag is just big enough for my wallet and 'must haves', with an extra long shoulder strap that I can wear diagonally.  It's made of red cotton with a silver strand running throughout. 
It is perfect for Christmas shopping!
The orange cotton duffle is larger than it seems - great size for overnight traveling.
My first attempt at felted wool for a bag...
using scraps from another project gives it the distinctive striped pattern.
A denim cotton hobo bag, lined to keep small items from finding their way to the ground.  My favorite carryon bag when traveling because it holds my purse and all my extras.
I loved the hobo bag style so much, I had to make another one with one strap isntead of two. This one is in super soft suede yarn, and is also lined in green fabric to match the accents.

Having a bit of green sude yarn leftover, I made this pouch style bag.  It's a bit larger than the red bag above, large enough for my wallet and the few small items I want to pick up at the craft fair, without being big or bulky like the hobo bags.
The lacey pattern of the top half of this bag actually stretches to enormous size to allow for carrying of odd shaped items.  The pattern calls it a shopping bag, but in lime green cotton, I call it perfect.

In Arizona, everyone needs extra sun protection.  I like this simple cotton hat in conjuntion with my mineral sunblock from Bare Escentuals.  I also had to try the great handles I found at the craft store.  The tote is open at the top, but lined inside... and the handles mean I can load it up without worry of stretching the cotton.  Where's the beach?

... and you can never mind these added photos, it's just a handy place to store and share them!