Monday, March 31, 2008

Poetry Contest (Prarie Home Companion Radio)

While listening to Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show on Saturday, I learned about a free poetry contest. This contest is to be written in iambic pentameter, must be 14 lines in length, and must be a topical love poem. To refresh my memory, I had to look at the definition of “iambic pentameter” and searched here:
Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is a type of meter that is used in poetry and drama. It describes a particular rhythm that the words establish in each line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called 'feet'. The word 'iambic' describes the type of foot that is used. The word 'pentameter' indicates that a line has five of these 'feet'.... In English, the rhythm is created through the use of stress, alternating between unstressed and stressed syllables. An English unstressed syllable is equivalent to a classical short syllable, while an English stressed syllable is equivalent to a classical long syllable.

Eager to try my hand at this contest, here is my submission on love (in iambic pentameter, and 14 lines in length):

If only love could always be just so
That when you listened to my yam’ring heart
With all its boring tales of sad, sad woe
And still could look into my soul with like,
Then I’d consider you my great hero.

But since you won’t share my small thoughts with glee
But do indeed share our bed with dog Jo,
How could I not appreciate you when
Although the animal listens just so
Much more, while you, my dear, don’t give a whit,
And on wintry morns when the cold winds blow,
You mostly disregard my rambling thoughts;

Yet you fetch me coffee at temp zero.
So all in all, you ARE my great hero.
----by nancy mccarroll

To look at all the guidelines for this contest, here is a link to PHC: Guidelines

Good luck to contestants!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Decorative Art

The decorative arts are traditionally defined as ornamental and functional works in ceramic, wood, glass, metal, or textile. The field includes ceramics, furniture, furnishings, interior design, and architecture. The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the "fine arts", namely, painting, drawing, photography, and large-scale sculpture. Some distinguish between decorative and fine art based on functionality, intended purpose, importance, status as a unique creation, or single-artist production. Decorative arts, or furnishings, may be fixed (for example, wallpaper), or moveable (for example, lamps).

I first started in the decorative arts in the mid 1970's and was pleased with the camaraderie found in my tole painting classes, as well as being able to provide gifts that were hand made. Then, I painted mainly on wood.

This week Doe Clore, a teacher of beginner and intermediate decorative painting classes, taught her friends and pupils in Fruita. I was fortunate enough to sit in on this class, and produced this tray using techniques that Doe taught. Using acrylics, it took only a few hours to paint flowers and a flag on this wooden tray.

After the paints dried (very quickly, within an hour), I sprayed several coats of an acrylic sealer on the tray.

It should be fun to use, especially on the 4th of July.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Edible Landscapes - Amazing Art

"Incredibly, everything you see in this image can be found in the kitchen. Photographer Carl Warner has painstakingly captured all kinds of food in a series of still lifes".

Use the bar on the right of the screen to scroll down for viewing all the pictures.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Swan Lake Ballet

Swan Lake Link

The above link takes you to a seven minute video of Swan Lake, an incredible piece of mastery from China. If your patience is lacking, scroll to the last minute of the video. That ending minute is sensational!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

iPod Holders - Knitting

My neighbor gave me a darling little bag several years ago that she had knitted with ribbon yarn. She attached an I-cord (Idiot cord) to the purse, and a bit of fluffy yarn along the top for extra blitz. It is handy to hold car keys, a lipstick and a couple of must-haves when I jump into the car to go out for errands.

My friend Pat also gave me the pattern for this purse, and since then, I have made several more in differing sizes, yarns and ribbon yarns. Then I made another smaller one for my iPod so it could be hung around my neck while keeping plugged in, hands-free and mobile. To make a fun little three-knit-stitched tube for a handle or long cord, try this simple technique described in Elizabeth Zimmerman's instructions: I-cord

These little cords are fast and fun to knit, and are handy accessories.

Here is a picture and pattern for this iSock holder from iSock

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Let’s talk about beading.

I was mesmerized by this activity about two years ago and made over fifty pairs of earrings. Shown in the picture is one pair of those surviving earrings and its matching necklace, and a pair of glasses with a beaded string attached. Those articles, as well as about a dozen of my favorite earrings and bracelets which were self-made (note that term “self-made“, NOT “homemade”!) survive in my jewelry stash.

Like most crafters whose made supplies have outgrown one’s personal use, I gave away many of my beaded articles to friends and family.

I continue to work with beads and “found” objects, and have kept the myriad beading items honed down and tucked away in two boxes, an admirably small cache. You never know when you just HAVE TO HAVE a hand-made bookmark or hostess gift at the ready.

But my long-time friend Carol in North Carolina has professionally taken to fashioning great looking earrings and necklaces from novelty beads and findings. Her jewelry items are nicely displayed at this website: Carol's Creations

Take a look and see what she has up her sleeve and in her portfolio.

And if you have not looked into beading for yourself, most beading shops and craft stores offer short classes teaching this hobby. Well illustrated instruction books are readily available, too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Over the past few weeks, I have been an avid fan of listening to various pod casts while knitting or sewing on projects. There is so much to learn from such a diverse group of talented people, that I find myself tuning in to cached programs on my iPod while also trying to do something somewhat productive. (I must admit that I also play Scrabble on the internet while listening) Scrabble Link

One podcast that is new to me is from Marble Falls, Texas, the “Hill Country” of Texas, hosted by Rhonda Bell. Since I am a Texas native, and my sister lives in Austin, her locale holds special interest for me. Her pod casts go back over the past two years, so I am going to record all the back casts for future listening.

Take a look at her website and maybe listen to a pod cast; she hosts them in a friend-to-friend atmosphere, like you were chatting over coffee:

Rhonda's Knitting Pod Cast

On her website, take a look at these free patterns which she has garnered:

Free Patterns

And another site for People Who Knit and Also Love Books: Knit Lit is a fun site since host Heather Ordover has a professional read classical books in the latter part of her program. It is sponsored by Knitting Out Loud, Knitting Audiobooks.

And I cannot forgot to give a hoot out to Kelley Petkun, another favorite podcaster whose program "Knit Picks" is also on my iPod iTunes podcatcher.

Knit Picks

Take a listen; you will probably get hooked!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Knitting Face Cloths

Knitting dishcloths is a great past time while watching television, especially when "Fox News" goes on just a bit too long in our living room.

Use 100% cotton yarn (various brands found at WalMart or your local hobby store). Sugar and Cream is a popular ball of wound cotton and comes in many single and variegated colors.

The problem I have after finishing the DISHCLOTHS is that I do not want to get those pretty colors “dirtied” by dishwater residue. So, I use them as luxurious FACE cloths. It is a simple treat to use one at night for makeup removal with a nicely scented soap. The knitted texture of the cotton cloth gives just enough of an abrasive quality to make you feel like you have given a good wash to your skin. Throw them in the washer after use, but do let them AIR DRY.

After making several dozen, and giving them to grateful girlfriends, you might try using a more pricy yarn incorporating some wool into the fiber. This type would not be used for a face cloth, but could be used as a coaster.

Here is a link to many dishcloth patterns:


My favorite pattern is the first one listed on this web site entitled “Idiot’s Dishcloth”. It has been around a long time, and is one of those patterns that has been handed down for several generations.

These are addictive to make. My sister-in-law and I chuckle over our time spent knitting and crocheting these useful(err...useless?) articles.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Eggs in Paper Mache

The paper mache eggs pictured below the chocolate rabbits were made by my daughters in the 1970’s when they were little children. Carefully packed, the eggs have survived over the years in my “Easter decorations box”. Instructions on how to make these are include in the link:

Not remembering back that far, we must have done some variation on that How-To theme using colorful tissue paper.

Each spring, I bring them out and display them (this year they reside in a new felted bowl discussed in a post to this blog last week).

Have a Blessed Easter.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Knitting Sit-ster Dolls

A favorite knitting project which I frequently turn to is making little knit dolls with a pipe cleaner hidden in their legs to make them pliable. After making a few, I decided to create some in all shades of pink, with the crossover arms in the shape of a breast cancer ribbon (pink, of course). I have made over thirty of these dolls, and give them to women going through chemotherapy and/or radiation for breast cancer. They bring a smile and are a happy little addition to a computer desk or what-not shelf.

Here is a picture of a couple of Sit-sters I have knitted. They are called Sit-sters because of their flexiblity to sit without assistance. Unfortunately, I have given away some of the more creative ones with wild and crazy hair made from colorful, shaggy fibers.

The Pattern for these dolls came from an excellent book, The Natural Knitter, written by Barbara Albright, along with a concise excerpt from the description of its contents.

Book Review from Tree Hugger

Albright adroitly covers much ground, from the plants and animals that produce the fibers to the artisans who coax them into luscious skeins of yarn. Alongside the vibrant, lavishly detailed photographs are knitting patterns to more than 20 classic designs, created from yarns spun from the fibers of sheep, llamas, angora bunnies, yak, and silkworms, as well as from organic cotton, hemp, linen, and even pineapple. (Look elsewhere for the eyelash-yarn bustiers.) You even get step-by-step instructions on how to dye yarn at home with naturally derived, eco-friendly dyes.

If you are a knitter, you will become a fan of these little creatures for gifting purposes. Contact me if you would like directions for knitting Sit-sters.

A link to knitting for charity is included here:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Why Is it Called "Good Friday"
Calling the day of the Crucifixion ‘Good’ Friday is a designation that is peculiar to the English language. In German, for example, it is called Karfreitag. The Kar part is an obsolete word, the ancestor of the English word care in the sense of cares and woes, and it meant mourning. So in German, it is Mourning Friday. And that is what the disciples did on that day—they mourned. They thought all was lost.

I’ve read that the word good used to have a secondary meaning of holy, but I can’t trace that back in my etymological dictionary. There are a number of cases in set phrases where the words God and good got switched around because of their similarity. One case was the phrase God be with you, which today is just good-bye. So perhaps Good Friday was originally God’s Friday. But I think we call it Good Friday because, in pious retrospect, all that tragedy brought about the greatest good there could be.

I can see virtue in either terminology. If we call it Mourning Friday, as in German, we are facing reality head on, taking up the cross if you will, fully conscious that the Christian walk is seldom a walk in the park. But if we call it Good Friday, as in English, we are confessing the Christian hope that no tragedy—not even death—can overwhelm God’s providence, love, and grace. Either way seems fine to me!


This is a great link for cookies (Open Tomb Cookies) and an activity to do with children. Erica in Michigan shared this in her knitting blog in 2006, and it is worth repeating. It is a good multisensory way for kids to understand the Easter Story.

Easter Tomb Cookies


1 c whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 c granulated sugar
1 qt. or gal. size zipper bag
wooden spoon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place pecans in ziploc bag and let kids beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read: John 19:1-3. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

Let each child smell the vinegar. Add teaspoon of vinegar into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30...Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said,"It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sins. Read Luke 23:27 A large number of people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him.

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup of sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8--Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him~and John 3:16--"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins
have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18--"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." And John 3:1-3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Fold in broken nuts. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper. Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard.

GO TO BED. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, buy your grief will turn to joy." And John 16:22 "So with you~ Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take
away your joy."

On Easter morning, open the oven and remove the cookies. Take a bite. Notice~the cookies are hollow!

On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.

Read Matthew 28:1-9 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you
are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: "He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, "Greetings," He said. They came to Him, clasped his feet and worshipped Him.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Day of Spring

Happy Spring!

Easter Decorations

Palm Sunday is past and the palm used in church is displayed along with bunnies and spring ornaments placed below a vase of alstroemeria.

Enjoy your beginning of the spring season today.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The terrarium pictured above is my attempt to revive a plant which seemed to never get enough water, no matter how often or how much it was watered. The problem appeared to be with the original commercial soil mixture in which it was planted. That mixture allowed water to seep right through it and down to the bottom of the container where it quickly evaporated.

In order to revive the plant, and to make a conversational item placed on a side table in the living area of our home, I repotted the pepperomia large-leafed plant in a wide-mouthed glass snifter. I also transplanted some ground cover from our back yard which was sprouting back from the winter. The plant(s) have now been thriving in their new environment for about two weeks.

The instructions of how I prepared the terrarium are listed below, as well as the link to the site which was investigated.

Garden Helper
Creating your terrarium: Before you begin construction, get all of your tools, materials, plants, and of course your container, together in one convenient place. Your planting foundation will consist of four layers.

The bottom layer is for drainage, and consists of pea gravel, pebbles, or very coarse sand.
Proper drainage is essential to ensure that the soil doesn't become over-saturated, which may lead to root rot, and the death of your plants.
Depending on the size of your container, you will want to spread at least an inch of drainage material evenly across the entire bottom of your terrarium. For large or deep containers, up to 3 inches of material may be used.
On top of the drainage layer, it is a good idea to spread a thin layer of activated charcoal (like you would use in your aquarium filter).
This layer will help to clean the air of the fumes caused when the organic materials begin to decompose.
The third layer is a thin cover of sphagnum moss, spread over the first two layers.
The purpose of this, is to prevent the soil from sifting down into the drainage layer, which would render it useless.
The final level is that of your soil. Many garden centers sell a potting mix specifically for terrariums. In reality, all that you normally get for the extra money, is sand added to their regular potting mix. You may choose a pre-mixed terrarium soil, or, if you prefer, just add one part coarse builders sand, and one part leaf mold (or humus) to each two parts of your usual mix. Never use beach sand in any potting mix! Do not add any fertilizer to the potting mix. It already has enough nutrients to last a long time. Too much will cause the plants to out grow their surroundings, much too quickly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Felting With Wool

Felting with wool was project I had wanted to try for a few weeks. There is a handy pattern and felting instructions included in a nifty book I recently bought entitled "One Skein Knitting" by Leigh Radford (referenced at end of post).

I began with two skeins of wool purchased from the local craft shop (not finding the bulky wool which the pattern suggested be used), held the two different colors of wool together and began knitting the project.

Then I discovered I had made a mistake. No worry. Since perfection is not in my vocabulary, I remembered the Japanese word/thought process which my brother John had told me about several years ago. The word is “wabi-sabi”, which means that to have something flawed in a hand-made item only increases its intrinsic worth.

From wikipedia...

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude. In theMahayana Buddhist view of the universe, these may be viewed as positive characteristics, representing liberation from a material world and transcendence to a simpler life.

And another source says:

The primary aesthetic concept at the heart of traditional Japanese culture is the value of harmony in all things. The Japanese world view is nature-based and concerned with the beauty of studied simplicity and harmony with nature. These ideas are still expressed in every aspect of daily life, despite the many changes brought about by the westernization of Japanese culture. This Japanese aesthetic of the beauty of simplicity and harmony is called wabi-sabi (wah-bee sah-bee). Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.It is the beauty of things modest and humble.It is the beauty of things unconventional.

After that excursion into wabi-sabi, let’s continue on with this felting project.

Here is a picture of the beginning project, in which I inadvertently twisted the circular needle, making a twist in the final product. But I did not take out all the previous knitting in order to correct this minor mistake, and soldiered on, finishing the piece with that flaw incorporated into its beginning.

Then I washed the final circular knitted piece and began the felting process:

Felting Guidelines
"Fill washing machine with hot water at lowest water level possible and add 1-2 Tbsp of dishwashing soap. Place knitted piece in washing machine, along with a tennis show or some tennis balls for friction. Set machine to agitate and check progress every few minutes - felting time will vary, depending on temperature of water, type of soap, and intensity of agitation. When knitted stitches are no longer visible and the fabric is smooth and impermeable, remove the piece from the machine. Do not let the piece run through the spin cycle, doing so may cause permanent creases. Remove the piece, squeeze out the water, then roll it in a dry towel to remove excess water. Lay it flat to air-dry, checking on piece periodically and reshaping as needed. Depending on the climate where you live, it may take several days to fully dry.”

From One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet, Leigh Radford, published by Interweave Press, 2007, Loveland, CO, p.116

And here is the final result, on my kitchen work station, with no one the wiser for the one mistake initially begun while knitting the third round. It typifies the concept of wabi-sabi. It is impermanent, it is simplistic yet utilitarian, and by gosh, I like it.

I plan on making several more smaller bowls in different colors, using the recommended chunky wool yarn. Perhaps there will be no knitting mistakes in the next bowl.

But, perhaps there will be more wabi-sabis in many future projects and relationships, thereby somehow increasing their worth. After all, we are all flawed human beings, but valued in the eyes of God in spite of our individual personal wabi-sabis.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Acrylic Paints on Tote Bags

During our friendly art class/workshop a few weeks ago, a decorative artist brought in a black canvas tote bag on which she had painted a patriotic picture. She used regular acrylic paints (the ones you find in craft stores in a plethora of colors, each costing from $.69 to a bit over a dollar). Since I had never used my acrylics for anything other than stenciling, I thought I would give it a shot.

I used a Mary Englebreit picture from a purchased note card, and a Maxine cartoon found on the internet. Both images are fun and indicative of my taste in whimsy, so I decided to paint replicas of these images on an old cream colored tote bag. That tote bag was purchased for a previous project that I never got around to completing, so it offered the perfect surface for painting with those little bottles of acrylics.

The surface of the canvas was fortified by attaching it to a clip board. That way, it was easy to put the secured tote in my lap and paint while I watched television with my husband. After a weekend, I came up with this bag painted on each side. It was fun to do, and shading with the fast drying acrylics was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined. Give it a try with you favorite picture, or be even more original and let your creativity take you to a place you would like to be.

Knitting Markers with Colorful Beading

Knitting Markers made from beads and jump rings (close up below)

While listening to one of my favorite knitting podcasts over the weekend, I surfed over to one of the sponsoring knitting websites and found accessories which make knitting more fun. One of the accessories I found was knitting markers with beads attached. Since I have a collection of beading materials, I took the idea of colorful markers and made some of my own.

I am knitting two projects now, and am using six of the markers incorporated into the work. It makes the handwork even more fun as I come across one of the markers. Not shown are a couple of knitting markers where I used an old ring as the marker, and attached a small bead string to it. Make sure that if you are making these yourself, be aware of any closure of the rings which might snag your yarn. Just firmly crimp all attachments, and VOILA! You are in business.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!