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

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!

Grannee's locket

This locket was always one of my favorite pieces of "Grannee" Leila's collection. I put several of her necklaces together to make this one long enough to wear. It is symbolic for me of my restringing project in general. Leila passed away just after my 3rd birthday, so I have few memories of her in person, but always loved the jewelry and china she left to me.

I have lots of fantastic memories of "Gam", my maternal grandmother Ruth. We were lucky enough to have her share vacations and lots of visits with us. Many of my 'souvenir' jewelry pieces were gifts from Gam.
In light of these connections I thought it was appropriate to put their photos in the locket (which has always been empty to my knowledge). I wore the locket to a family picnic on Mother's Day - it was really nice to have them with me.

Old jewelry and old memories

A few months ago, after a visit from my friend Swati... I got to thinking about jewelry. You see, she is quite talented at making jewelry and I think of her as an artist. I can be 'crafty' and I can figure out how to make a lot of things, but there is a little extra 'something' that true artists have... you can see Swati's artistry at http://fleurviolettejewelry.blogspot.com/

Anyway... thinking along as I do... about jewelry and why I don't wear it anymore. I used to love playing dress up with my grandmother's costume jewelry. I was certain that when I grew up, I would wear the Hawaiian sunset earrings on my honeymoon - in Hawaii of course. I would wear the lacey gold cuff bracelet, and the pearl beads... oh yes, I would wear them all!!! Ok, maybe not those weird black ones that look like rabbit poop. When I was an adult, I had an argument with my Dad and he asked me to return my grandmother's jewelry. It wasn't that it had any value to anyone but me, but it was a point he wanted to make. I got most of the jewelry back some years later, but it just sat on the closet shelf.
Whenever we went on trips, I always loved the idea of souvenir jewelry. My maternal grandmother gave me several such souvenirs. As an adult I saw so many cute pendants or earrings to remind me of the places I've been. Some I even purchased, but I rarely wore them. They too sat on the shelf.

My enjoyment of Swati's artistry and some of our conversations really got me thinking about my attitude toward jewelry - wanting it but not wearing it. Why was that?! I realized I had a couple of issues... money and comfort. I am simply uncomfortable wearing something expensive, being afraid I would break or lose it completely. I had to really think about how expensive is 'too expensive' for me to wear without worry. I came up with a number that works for me... and let's just say you won't find me sporting diamond encrusted anything any time soon!

My second major issue was comfort, physical comfort. I realized that I had made several adjustments to what I wear, like buying men's jeans because they have longer inseams (try finding a 40" inseam... I dare ya!). Why wouldn't I also do that with my jewelry? Of course! a 16" chain barely closes around my neck. I need something longer.

I pulled out a lifetime's worth of jewelry and stared at it. Cutting the first thread would be the hardest, so I began with the strands already broken. I was convinced my grandmother would rather I have fun with her old jewelry than leave it collecting dust. I was ripping things apart and before I knew it my mind was racing with possibilities.

I ended up with well over a dozen new pieces that I could actually wear and feel comfortable in! Not only that, each piece still has the old memories attached to it although now I can enjoy reliving them more often.