Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inspirational Stories for Publication

A fellow blogger and author recently put out a call for inspirational stories that she will compile and publish in the near future. This individual, Jena Isle, has the website GewGaw Writings. Here is her banner:Ms. Isle states in her blog the term "gewgaw" ...

... in this site means " bauble" - "baubles" of attempt to write poems, short stories, essays, quotations and what-nots...
She plans to put together twelve inspirational stories which she has garnered for a book she believes will be a good read for a wide audience.

The oral story I submitted last August to the National Public Radio Story Corps was one about a moral and medical decision which was made almost forty years ago that has had far reaching impact. You can read it here at Jena Isle's blog. If you scroll through her blog, all twelve stories she has chosen can also be read.

When she publishes, she will send each of the contributors one of these books. Thank you, Jena, for selecting this story as one of the twelve you believe worthy of publication. Best success on your book, as well.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Using Blingee Program for Glitter Graphics

Make custom Glitter Graphics

...just stumbled upon a free graphic program found at Blingee. An example of a blinged out picture is shown above. It is a free program and has dozens of graphics from which to choose.

These are the two main photographs shown below (but not blinged out) that I am using as inspiration to create a new oil painting that should be finished before the start of summer.

The lovely close-up picture of the pink and purple lily was taken by Kelly Sheimberg while on the New Zealand/Australia Scrabble cruise trip last month.

Thus far, two coats of underlying orange and yellow primer have been put on the canvas, and I hope to sketch out the lily and foliage by the end of the day. This painting will incorporate some of the newer water based oils readily available on the market. I'm thinking of jewel tones for the petals of the flower with lots of greens/blues for background foliage.

The first painting will be on a 11" x 14" canvas. By the start of summer, I would like to paint a similar lily in varying hues of pinks, reds and purples on a 36" x 48" canvas. Please contact me if you are interested in acquiring either of these original works.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Using Index Cards for Knitting Directions

Listening to a podcast about knitting tips a few months ago on Knitpicks, Kelley Petkun talked about translating lace charts for knitting on to index cards for easier reading while knitting. Since lace knitting was not on my radar back then, it did not occur to me that I would be looking for just such a tip in the near future.

Now that I am knitting with lace motifs, Petkun's hints made so much sense that I had to try it for myself: using index cards, that is!

If you are not a knitter or need any chart interpretation tips, stop reading here. (pause)

But if you are looking for an easier way to decipher knitting instructions from the written page, this posting may be your ticket to easier knitting.

The key is to write down ONE row of instructions at a time, transfer that ONE row of directions to an index card, and then organize the cards sequentially so that your directions are all transferred onto a set of index cards held together by a big locked ring available at any office supply store. After the completion of one row of instructions listed on the index card, just flip over to the next card. Be sure to check and triple check your typed instructions against the original pattern.

By following ONE row of instructions at a time, put on a separate card, your eye will not confuse which row of pattern you need to follow... much easier on the eye and brain!

Another hint: type out the instructions on a word processing program, using the appropriate label format for the labels you have on hand (mine is a 10 year old box of Avery #5366 Laser File Folder Labels). Then just peel off each label and affix to an index card, row by row.

Below is a close-up picture of a portion of a lace scarf recently completed using the index card method of following a more complicated set of instructions:

To hear Kelley Petkun expand on the merits of using this easier way to read charts, go to this podcast for step by step directions: Podcast on Lace Knitting Tips.

This is a picture of the completed lace scarf (the scarf pattern is from Kay Meadors' I Can't Believe I'm Lace Knitting book):

Trust me, I ripped and re-ripped this scarf many times before completely starting again and using the index card method of following knitting directions; the Petkun tip allowed me to finally finish the project. Thanks, Kelley and Knitpicks!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glass Jar Uses in Photo Crafts

Another tip for going green and creating fun crafts is using old glass jars.

Picture and instructions from Photojo:

It’s so simple we can’t believe we didn’t think of it before: just slide a photo into a jar, turn it upside down and display your upcyclin’ genius for all to see.

How simple is that?

It is a useful idea to use on a kitchen window sill: water splatters come off the glass in the dishwasher (but take out your photo prior to washing.....hehehe).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beaded Earrings for Hospice Fundraiser

Hospice of Western Colorado will host a fundraiser and an appreciation dinner for their volunteers in April. The theme for the fundraiser is "Art for Hospice".

My contribution to the effort is a dozen pairs of handmade earrings , some made by using the Japanese method of Makume Game technique using polymer clay, and others with glass beads and purchased findings.

If you have any extra glass beads or earring supplies that you would care to give to the Hospice of Western Colorado, please email me at nmccarroll at mindspring dot com and let me know, and your beads will be used in making more earrings for this fundraiser. (Some of you who read this blog make lovely things, and if you have some extra pieces not being put to good use, this would be a nice gesture on your part. Please be sure and let me know your website, and I will pass that along also.)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Felted Bowls as Blessing Bowls

Last year I whipped up five or six felted bowls with directions from the book One Skein, 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet, by Leigh Radford (Interweave Press). Back in the spring last year I blogged about the book here, and said that felting was a fun project since all kinds of mistakes in knitting can be camouflaged simply by the way the shrinkage factor covers blunders.

One of the bowls I made is just perfect to be given to my friend undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I filled it with candies and attached a little cross tied on to it with a pink ribbon, and filled it with peppermint candies. Here is the card I copied, with a verse from Walt Whitman, that she may enjoy pondering:

The quotation by Whitman is: "The strongest and the sweetest songs yet remain to be sung."

That is something to think about, isn't it? So if you feel you are used up and tired, remember that there is more life ahead!

Hopefully, a Blessing Bowl is the right gift given at the right time (later today, while she is undergoing treatment) for my friend Carole. This site: Eclectic Gallery gives a summarization of my heartfelt thoughts being conveyed to Carole with this bowl:

The Blessing Bowl is a vessel to share caring, love, thoughtfulness, compassion, joy, feelings, gratitude, and more. The Blessing Bowl... holds written acknowledgment of the blessings in your life.... it is a given as a gift of gratitude, a way to connect with our spirituality, a customized gift that celebrates life's blessings.

So often we forget to tell people in our life how much they mean, the Blessing Bowl gives you the opportunity to tell them how important they are.

This is Carole's gift, along with an attached charm in the shape of a cross that was purchased at the local craft store:

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." (Psalm 145:8)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lemon Tart with Rosemary and Strawberries

Ok, it's about time for a recipe.

The man of the house reaaaaallllllly enjoys cooking. And he is good at it. But every now and then, a dessert is nice. He does not bake, so that excursion into food decadency is left to me.

This recipe from Woman's Day Magazine caught my eye. Perhaps it was the fresh rosemary leaves in the tart shell that seemed like an interesting combination in a pastry.

Here is a picture of the featured dessert "Lemon Tart with Strawberries", courtesy of Woman's Day.

If a list of ingredients calls for sweetened condensed milk, it MUST be tasty! The ingredients are shown below, in case the picture whets your appetite, and all the instructions can be found here at Woman's Day.

Tart Shell: 1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp freshrosemary leaves
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 stick (1⁄2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbsp water

Lemon Filling: 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1⁄2 cup lemon juice

Decoration: 12 strawberries, hulled and halved
Our tart did not finish up quite as pretty as the professional picture, but it probably tasted just as fine. Man, was it good!

Any by the bye, there are 400 calories per serving. Sigh.

(Picture found at Flickr.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Knit Sweater Finished by Valentine's Day

When I saw the sweater pattern highlighted in Ravelry on this page: Pullover for Women, I knew I wanted to knit this since the needlework begins at the neck.

So, months later, here it is finished:

This pattern can be found at Knitting Pure and Simple. And a better picture of the same knitted sweater, again supplied by Knitting Pure and Simple, is this one:

This gal is much cuter than the broad sporting the red sweater, and the model's sweater does not have the mistakes in it that can be seen on the red sweater!

But with a scarf around the neck, most of the glaring mistakes are (hopefully) camouflaged.

This sweater took 10 skeins of DK yarn to complete, and the pattern is only $5.00. Check out more patterns at Knitting Pure and Simple.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Make a Pop-up Valentine Card

Looking for a way to make a personalized valentine, I came across this video; the two cuts that are the beginning of any pop-up card are the key for a three dimensional look.

Using recycled Christmas cards (many are red in color), "thinking of you" sentiments on all occasion cards, and a pair of scrap booking scissors with a decorative edge, you can make many different kinds of cards for your valentine.

Here is one re-made from a get-well card with the Bible verse included: I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles." Psalm 37:7 -- That verse is on the inside of this little recycled note card.

A bit of confetti or excelsior used in packaging adds a decorative touch. Knock yourself out, and give others a lift with a hand made card for any occasion.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Making Suet Cakes for Birds

Even birds like food treats, especially in the winter. From Feeding Birds, here is an easy homemade suet cake that your birds might enjoy now:
Making homemade suet cakes is simply a matter of melting fat down to a pour-easy consistency, adding a few ingredients of your choosing, then pouring the mixture into a mold. The shape of the mold is determined by the type of suet feeder you'll use.

If you are using lard or shortening for homemade suet cakes, adding equal parts of peanut butter flour will help maintain correct consistency of regular suet cakes.

To this warm and pour-able mixture you could add rolled oats, bird seed, cornmeal, raisins, unsalted nuts and anything else you think the birds would enjoy. Then, pour your warm suet 'soup' into the mold (a bread pan where you could slice off bits for your store bought suet feeder, cupcake tins that you could pierce with wire and hang from a tree, etc).
This little guy was photographed Saturday by Jack Heniford in South Carolina:

Cardinals (redbirds) are attracted to sunflower seeds and safflower seeds, according to Plant Answers.

Let me know if you have success with feeding birds, and what type feeder you have.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Possum Fur and Wool Fiber Blend for Knitting

Who knew that knitting with possum fur was a rage? In Dunedin, New Zealand, I picked up five skeins of wool that was manufactured there and is indigenous to the region because it consists of 40% possum fur, 50% Merino wool and 10% silk. It is soft, warm, and light weight.

When I got home, I looked up properties of this type blended wool and found a website Handknitting Possum Wool Yarn that stated the following:

Hand knitting Possum-Wool Yarn... Possum fur blended with merino wool makes a variety of yarns that are very special. Possum-wool yarn has all the properties that a 21st Century garment demands:

Feels like cashmere...
Is hard wearing...
Is light weight...
Is warmer than wool in winter and cooler in summer...
Has an angora 'glow' or halo to it...

NZ Nature says:
Possum Wool is luxuriously soft, incredibly lightweight, exceptionally warm and easy to wear. It won’t pill, it won’t wrinkle, it’s anti-static and is a market solution to an environmental challenge facing New Zealand. Once you’ve tried it nothing else will feel as warm and soft.
This yarn will be made into a shawl from a pattern I have used previously, written about in this prior posting found here, with the pattern from Knit Picks that can be found here. It may take a while to work up this possum fur, since I am making a wider shawl.

Not only can we knit with doghair, but we can also knit with possum, thanks to our furry friends.

I can't wait to start on the possum project!

Join me over at Kellis House for Show and Tell Friday. There is a lot of eye candy to behold there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Glass Beads, Wool Yarn and Wooden Buttons

Q: What favorite souvenirs did I bring back from New Zealand?
A: Anything from the Christchurch Artisan and Craft Galleries.

This artisan center (map shown above) houses several dozens of working artisan shops. Their website says:

Once the University of Canterbury, The Arts Centre today is a unique and colourful complex that promotes community education and the growth of arts and crafts in Christchurch. Located in the greenest and architecturally most harmonious part of the city, The Arts Centre is only six minutes walk from the central city, and 15 minutes drive away from the Christchurch International Airport.

West on Worcester Boulevard, The Arts Centre’s role as a venue for cultural recreation in the heart of Christchurch is enhanced by it’s immediate neighbours; the Canterbury Museum, the Christchurch Art Gallery and the Botanic Gardens.

Here are some glass beads from one of the largest bead stores where I have ever shopped, the Beadz Unlimited store. (Photo courtesy of Beadz Unlimited.) Aren't they gorgeous? I found some unusual glass beads in colors that are difficult to match, and also purchased a few beading staples.

This is NZ wool fibre from Fibre Artisans located within the gallery. It is a "Kid Mohair/Merino" blend, produced by Touch Yarns in New Zealand. The quantities and selections were vast, and I had a hard time choosing from their inventory.

Hand carved buttons made from prolific rhododendron branches were another souvenir. An artisan there makes buttons from about a dozen different native woods. Each button in each set was unique. Unfortunately, this artisan is retiring soon. Maybe someone else will take over his trade.

That gives me an idea...Grand Junction is in the heart of wine/vine country in Colorado. Perhaps cutting circles from grape vines and using the Dremel tool to make tiny holes could result in making some grape vine buttons. Hmm...that does not sound too difficult.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Flowers In New Zealand

Flowers in New Zealand are gorgeous. Everywhere you look, various species showed off their foliage. Most of the photographs of flowers were taken in Auckland, New Zealand at the Wintergarten Horticultural Centre.

Showcased are lily pads in a water garden, begonias, a carnivorous pitcher plant, and the embryonic parts of a fiddle head fern (after blanching, they are a delicacy used in salads). You can easily identify the day lilies and coral berry bush, as well as fuchsias in hanging baskets.

Here are a few flower photographs incorporated into a video:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wildlife (sanctuaried) in Australia

What an amazing three weeks away in New Zealand and Australia. This post will highlight just a few of the animals that I saw in Australia at the Healesville Sanctuary, under the auspices of the Australian National Zoo.

Healesville Sanctuary is one of Australia’s most recognised attractions, showcasing more than 200 species of Australian wildlife, only one hour from Melbourne.

The pictures, top to bottom, are of the Brogla crane, a wallaby, a sleeping koala bear, a kangaroo, and an emu. These photos were taken Jan. 30, 2009, in the heat of the Australian summer. Most of the animals we saw (including a platypus, whose picture did not turn out due to underexposure in his habitat) were suffering from the hottest summer on record there.

In fact, the Australian Open was being played in Melbourne last week on one of the record high heat days in that area, with temperatures recorded on the court at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The daytime temperatures hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit when we were walking around the city!

More about the sights Down Under to come later this week.