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

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.