Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Palestine and Cross-Stitch Embroidery

My husband and I were fortunate enough to pilgrimage to Greece, Jordan, Palestine and Israel in 1995 with a group of people from our local Lutheran church. It was a pilgrimage because the trip met the criteria in it was a conscious choice of a place to be; cultural differences were encountered which caused disorientation; we had shared reflection; there were common rituals and spiritual disciplines; and the group came to have a sense of community and leadership.

Among many things, I learned that the Palestinians have a lifestyle that I would not want to trade for living in America. Money is scarce, and women have unique challenges in this society.
Women in Gaza have been bearing an increasing burden of supporting their families. Although it is labor-intensive and time-consuming work, thousands of women are willing to embroider as many stitches as they can while juggling household responsibilities, in exchange for a wage that would afford basic subsistence for their families’ survival.

Sunbala is a Jerusalem-based nonprofit Fair Trade organization that supports 14 different craft producers. Sunbula helps Palestinian artisans to be economically empowered, and supports the preservation of the cultural heritage. The Sulafa Embroidery Project aims to provide income for the Strip’s refugee women and to ensure that the traditional art form of embroidery is kept alive. Women, by receiving the embroidery work, earn an average of $40 per month, a significant amount in the area where a majority of people live below the poverty line ($2/day per household).

The UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Project is located in Gaza City and provides income generating opportunities for hundreds of refugee women through a network of 9 community centers across the Strip. Sulafa is a nonprofit project established by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) in 1950 as a part of the Social Service Programme. Sulafa’s shawls, with their elegant style and striking geometric patterns, have been the top-sales item at Sunbula for many years. Gazan women’s artisanship and resilient spirits against all odds are reflected in the beauty of their products.

Once a traditional craft practiced by village women, Palestinian cross-stitch embroidery has become an important symbol of Palestinian culture. Embroidered pieces can be found in the homes of most Palestinian families in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel and the Diaspora beyond, adorning the walls of houses in Jerusalem, villas in the Gulf, suburban homes in the United States, and cement block houses in refugee camps. In addition, cross-stitch embroidery is given as gifts and worn by Palestinians worldwide on festive occasions.The handicraft also symbolizes the traditional rural lifestyle of Palestine, much of which was lost after the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.
All proceeds from purchases directly benefit Palestinian craft producers, and help to carry out their mission to support women, refugees and people with disabilities.

While in Bethlehem, I purchased an embroidered eyeglass holder shown on the right. After 13 years, it still looks as fresh and bright as it did when we were in the Holy Land.

It was definitely a good investment for a small price, and proceeds from sales helped defray the Palestinian women’s expenses in producing hand made products.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Making Your Own Footstool

My dad had given me a framed piece of needlepoint several years ago that his aunt had made in the 1920's. The glass was cloudy and the frame was in pretty bad shape. It was definitely not something I would use as it was put together all those years ago. But the piece of needlepoint using deep shades of greens and reds was beautifully executed and in perfect condition under the glass.

Isn't that pretty?

To preserve that nostalgic old piece of needle crafted art, I decided to make a footstool and place on the top of it the rose needle-pointed in wool.

I measured the unframed piece of work, discarding the glass and frame. Those measurements determined what size box was needed in order to have an adequate base for the footstool. Then I determined how high the footstool should be in accordance with my favorite reading chair. My father-in-law made a hollow pine box base, so half the battle was over.

Coordinating upholstery fabric in reds, greens and blues was purchased. Bagged polyester filling was place on top of the box, and then the needlepoint rose was secured to the top of the box with a sturdy staple gun. I bought fabric three times the diameter of the box and the appropriate height of the box. It was all fairly intuitive after that as far as cutting, hemming, gathering the fabric and sewing the skirt.
The skirt was also attached to the box by staples. Where the edges of the top and skirt came together, I hot glued a length of cording all around it and attached tassels to each corner.

The dogs immediately destroyed the cute corner tassels, but it still looks nice enough to use and display that vintage piece of fiber art.

After the first footstool turned out so well, I decided to make a more simplified one without fabric on the bottom. Instead, a nicely crafted pine box supplied by my woodworking friend was used for the base. I stained the wood and put a quick acrylic spray on the wood when the stain dried. The top of the box was covered in the same manner previously described, but using a striped fabric for the top.

There was even enough fabric left over to make a matching pillow.

Only after making these two footstools did I find an article from the Carol Duval television show that explained how to make a footstool step-by-step. Those directions can be found at Carol Duval.

Another footstool using a metal planter as a base is shown with directions given by DIY, DIY Decorating & Design host Nancy Golden. All the tools she used are included at that site.

I was pleased with the results of making these two footstools, and happy to preserve my Aunt Lula’s needlepoint. To sum up, who could say it better than Mark Twain?

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.--Mark Twain

Monday, April 28, 2008

Word Game and FREE RICE

Do you like words? If you DO like words and word games and are willing to help The United Nations World Food Program in a small way, there is a fun site called Free Rice.

Free Rice rules are simple: Click on the answer that best defines the word. If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word. For each word you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program.

A Player says:

They give you a word with four possible definitions; pick the right one and they donate ten grains of rice to a hungry person through an aid agency. (Don't say "why don't they just give the rice," because the rice is funded through ad revenue which they get by hits, and each time you move to the next page of choices they get another hit and can buy more rice. No game, no views, no ad revenue, no rice.) As you get words right, you move up to higher levels; the highest is Level 50, and I've managed to stay there for fairly long periods... but then they stump me with a word like nisus (yes, I should have studied harder in Latin class) and I drop back down. WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance…
I played for five minutes and answered about 50 word definitions (with several mistakes, but don’t worry, the program gives you back the same word to answer correctly when you least expect it).

Give Free Rice Game a try, but be sure and keep your coffee hot and the phone muted, because this game can be addictive.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Windows Movie Maker - Song & Spring Pictures to Video

I have been trying out a new craft on my computer through the free Windows program called "Movie Maker". Since I had lots of digital pictures of growing flowers and some original oil paintings of flowers, I decided to marry them and created this video. Superimposed into the video is the upbeat song from the recent movie JUNO. This might give you a smile (just click on the arrow on the blue screen below).

lyrics from the movie JUNO

If I was a flower growing wild and free
All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I was a tree growing tall and green
All I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves

If I was a flower growing wild and free
All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I was a tree growing tall and green
All I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves

All I want is you, will you be my bride
Take me by the hand and stand by my side
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.

If you were a river in the mountains tall,
The rumble of your water would be my call.
If you were the winter, I know I'd be the snow
Just as long as you were with me, let the cold winds blow

All I want is you, will you be my bride
Take me by the hand and stand by my side
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.

If you were a wink, I'd be a nod
If you were a seed, well I'd be a pod.
If you were the floor, I'd wanna be the rug
And if you were a kiss, I know I'd be a hug

All I want is you, will you be my bride
Take me by the hand and stand by my side
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.

If you were the wood, I'd be the fire.
If you were the love, I'd be the desire.
If you were a castle, I'd be your moat,
And if you were an ocean, I'd learn to float.

All I want is you, will you be my bride
Take me by the hand and stand by my side
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.

By Barry Polisar (from Polisar)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Perseverance and Sox: If at First You Don’t Succeed…

My patience was tested yesterday when I tried correctly knitting the toes of a woolen sock. Mind you, I had gotten through the heel and gusset without problems, which are supposedly the most difficult part of creating a sock. But the toe was awfully hard to get right.

Here is a picture after my first attempt, entitled “naughty” sock. Note the toe was pointed. Yikes! Tear it out and start over. (This is called frogging in knittereze language.)
But, as with all things, perseverance paid off.
Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance. Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint. Perseverance is trying again and again. (from Perseverance)
So, after several more attempts at "getting it right," this is the “nice” picture of the sock with a correctly formed toe. Yea!

Some Quotes:

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. ~Henry Ward Beecher

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places. ~Author Unknown

When the world says, "Give up,"Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."~Author Unknown

Let's get on with today, and enjoy our small successes!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Color Wheel - Complements and Split Complements

Several years ago, I took a six day course on the use of color in painting. The local instructor was very knowledgeable; her text was a self-published book “Color is Exciting”. Velma Bartlemay brought the subject alive, and all of us students ended up with a thorough background on techniques of paint mixing and hue and tint color composition.

There is a terrific website entirely devoted to color. Check it out at Colour. Hundreds of essays are submitted daily about lots of different ways that color affects us, and great tips and techniques when working with color in any type application. One piece of writing is featured on a daily basis.

Back to the Color Wheel: As you probably know, complementary colors are those colors directly across from one another on the color wheel. Littletownmart gives this example of a color wheel and further explains...

Split Complementary Colors are "one off" from the opposite color. Pick a color, find it's complementary color, then select the two colors on either side of the complementary color. Split Complementary color schemes can use two or three colors.
Note :
Click here for an excellent and in-depth discussion and teaching on colors and the color wheel.

New super washed wool sock yarn arrived in the mailbox yesterday, and the blue and pinkish colors are outstanding. The use of split complementary colors in the skein will make the colors pop out.

Example 1:
In the smaller ball of yarn, to be used for baby booties, the manufacturer (Cascade) made good use of split complementary colors in that yarn lot. The color red is directly across from blue on the chart. Split complementary colors of pinks and oranges in the yarns (grayed down reds which are split complementary colors to the blue) are married with the grey (a grayed down blue).

Example 2:
The larger skein of predominantly blue yarn is paired with its complementary color of orange and its’ split complementary colors of yellow and orangish-reddish hues: another use of split complementary colors that the yarn manufacturer skillfully applied to this yarn lot.

However, in knitting, when various colors of yarn are put together, the eye often play tricks. Another knitting blogger, Kristin, at KnittingKninja says:

colors are changed by the presence of another color. Two objects I’ve knit really demonstrated this truth to me. My daughter’s … jacket is knit in bright purple wool, and I added stripes of two different blues, both blues that have a lot of yellow in them. Next to the purple, the lighter of the two appears to be a pale sage green, but on its own, the ball of yarn is a blue-grey.
So remember, even when we carefully select our colors, sometimes the juxtaposition of the colors can make the end product a different color mix in the perception of the eye.

That is the art of putting colors together: even when we use color wheel matching techniques, the eye pleasing arrangement is not always what is anticipated. Sometimes, it comes out even better! In this case, the little jacket swatch shows a very effective and elegant use of complementary colors.

It is a good thing to keep that old color wheel in mind when selecting colors in room décor, knitting articles of clothing, etc. And check out the fun site Colorspeak, where you can make up your own color palettes. Lots of web designers have input on commercial use of color and address the issues in a low-key, conversant manner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dog, Cat & Rat - Peace on Earth

contributed by Darlene on Ravelry:

This is an amazing video of one of the homeless in Santa Barbara and his pets. They work State Street every week for donations. The animals are pretty well fed and are mellow. They are a family. The man who owns them rigged a harness up for his cat so she wouldn't have to walk so much (like the dog and himself). At some juncture the rat came along, and so no one wanted to eat anyone else, the rat started riding with the cat and often, on the cat. The dog will stand all day and let you talk to him and admire him for a few chin scratches. The mayor of Santa Barbara filmed this clip and sent it out as a Christmas card.

Why can't we all just get along like these guys?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Copper, Silver

It is that time again ...Spring Cleaning. My copper and silver needed baths and a buff. Wanting to be eco-friendly, I decided to research a few home remedies to make that precious metal shine. According to Freedom Moon Works:

Eco-friendly alternatives to commercial cleaning products:

*are less polluting to manufacture;
*are less likely, in some cases, to cause injury if accidentally ingested;
*don't cause indoor air pollution in your home;
*are generally less expensive than commercial products;
*can reduce waste from packaging;
*are simple and effective and have been used for generations;
*can help you save space in your cupboards and closets;
*are less likely to harm the environment during and after use.
Ok, I'll buy that. So I decided to take the plunge and do it myself.
Home Repair says:

of course some methods work better than others, but all involve some sort of caustic solution. Be careful not to breath in any of the cleaning solutions and treat them with respect. Also, most solutions must be applied and left for several hours, so make sure they are out of reach of curious children.
Start by making a paste out of flour, salt and vinegar. I used a guesstimated quantity, about 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup salt, and 1/2 cup vinegar. Just make sure it is pasty and gritty, then apply it to the copper. The acid in the vinegar will begin to dissolve the tarnish immediately.

I highly recommend you use gloves and clean outdoors, if possible. It did create a bit of a gooey mess. And if the tarnish is heavy, you may need to apply more paste and heavier elbow grease.

(the homemade copper cleaner is being applied in the above picture)

It really was not too much of an ordeal. The entire process took less than 30 minutes from start through clean-up. And then, VOILA!

Here is the copper pot all shiny and new looking, proudly showing greenery. Now, on to cleaning the silver:

Freedom Moon Works gave this quick fix for polishing silver, and BY GOLLY, it worked!
#1 Boil silver 3 minutes in a quart of water containing: 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and a piece of aluminum foil. #2 Rub silver with a baking soda/water paste and a soft cloth; rinse and polish dry. #3 Rub with toothpaste. Use a soft toothbrush to clean raised surfaces. Be careful not to scratch surfaces. Be gentle.
On the right is a picture of the neglected, tarnished silverware prior to the remedy.

And below is a picture of serving pieces all cleaned up. This job took about two hours since I had a lot of silver to polish, but it still took less time by this method than using a commercial cleaner.

Hmm. The pictures do not give justice to the work involved, but it really DID give the silver a polish, although the pictures lie.

I would love to chat with my estranged niece Ashley and talk about this silver cleaning project since she once brought up this topic as a business idea. In the meantime, I send her good thoughts and love.

Now I need to polish all of my mom's silver!

March for Babies and Spina Bifida

Upcoming Walk Event:
Saturday, April 26, 2008 8:30 AM Opening Ceremonies; 9 AM March Begins

Location: Lincoln Park
12th & Gunnison / 6-mile route
Grand Junction, CO
Phone: (970) 243-0894
Debbie Horwitz, Director

March for Babies! is the new name and reflects what the event and the March of Dimes are all about: babies. Take off your walking shoes, put on your marching shoes and sign up. You'll be supporting lifesaving research, services, education and advocacy that help all Colorado babies get a healthy start.
This organization has a mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

The "March for Babies" has always held a special place in my heart. Every year, when the event rolls around, I check out the poster child to determine if the selected kiddo was one born with spina bifida. Two times out of three, yes, spina bifida is the birth defect of the cute kid with crutches. Believe me, I can tell.

My daughter was born with this condition, and with the more severe type termed myelomeningocele. She also has hydrocephalus, with its own set of serious complications. Sometime I will write about her remarkable life.

Disaboom gives a thumbnail definition of this birth defect:

..."spina bifida” ...(with neurological deficits in movement, sensation, bowel, and bladder). During development, the bony arch fails to form and the meninges (spinal cord covering), spinal cord, and related nerves herniate through the opening which leads to neurological injury. These tissues may be partially or completely covered by skin. There may even be an open defect with leakage of spinal fluid and the spinal structures exposed to air.
As young parents, we educated ourselves about what the future might hold for our daughter. I joined parent support groups, learned how to give my child physical therapy help, researched physicians and health care systems and practically lived side by side with her for many years at various hospitals across the US.

Support groups are important not only for the provision of information, but also to keep isolation in check. Current groups involve internet connectivity, such as the spinabifidaconnection,
...a community where the ups, downs, positives and negatives of living with spina bifida are discussed. It is a person to person support website for spina bifida. This site offers resources, personal experiences, and support so that our visitors can discover options and make decisions for themselves.
After her birth, and for many years thereafter, the isolation and, at times, almost despair, was not mine alone. I learned other mothers had walked that scary path of having a child with special needs long before I ever took that first step.

If you have never read the poignant “Welcome To Holland “ piece by Emily Kingsley, read it here: Someone Different. That writing precisely mirrored my thoughts as a young mother.

The more recent piece of writing that I would like to put directly in this blog is by Maureen Higgins. It is entitled “To You, My Sisters”:

Many of you I have never even met face to face, but I've searched you out every day. I've looked for you on the internet, on playgrounds and in grocery stores. I've become an expert at identifying you. You are well worn. You are stronger than you ever wanted to be. Your words ring experience, experience you culled with your very heart and soul. You are compassionate beyond the expectations of this world. You are my "sisters."

Yes, you and I, my friend, are sisters in a sorority. A very elite sorority. We are special. Just like any other sorority, we were chosen to be members. Some of us were invited to join immediately, some not for months or even years. Some of us even tried to refuse membership, but to no avail. We were initiated in neurologist's offices and NICU units, in obstetrician's offices, in emergency rooms, and during ultrasounds. We were initiated with somber telephone calls, consultations, evaluations, blood tests, x-rays, MRI films, and heart surgeries. All of us have one thing in common. One day things were fine. We were pregnant, or we had just given birth, or we were nursing our newborn, or we were playing with our toddler. Yes, one minute everything was fine. Then, whether it happened in an instant, as it often does, or over the course of a few weeks or months, our entire lives changed. Something wasn't quite right. Then we found ourselves mothers of children with special needs.

We are united, we sisters, regardless of the diversity of our children's special needs. Some of our children undergo chemotherapy. Some need respirators and ventilators. Some are unable to talk, some are unable to walk. Some eat through feeding tubes. Some live in a different world. We do not discriminate against those mothers whose children's needs are not as "special" as our child's. We have mutual respect and empathy for all the women who walk in our shoes.

We are knowledgeable. We have educated ourselves with whatever materials we could find. We know "the" specialists in the field. We know "the" neurologists, "the" hospitals, "the" wonder drugs, "the" treatments. We know "the" tests that need to be done, we know "the" degenerative and progressive diseases and we hold our breath while our children are tested for them. Without formal education, we could become board certified in neurology, endocrinology, and physiatry. We have taken on our insurance companies and school boards to get what our children need to survive, and to flourish. We have prevailed upon the State to include augmentative communication devices in special education classes and mainstream schools for our children with cerebral palsy. We have labored to prove to insurance companies the medical necessity of gait trainers and other adaptive equipment for our children with spinal cord defects. We have sued municipalities to have our children properly classified so they could receive education and evaluation commensurate with their diagnosis.

We have learned to deal with the rest of the world, even if that means walking away from it. We have tolerated scorn in supermarkets during "tantrums" and gritted our teeth while discipline was advocated by the person behind us on line. We have tolerated inane suggestions and home remedies from well-meaning strangers. We have tolerated mothers of children without special needs complaining about chicken pox and ear infections. We have learned that many of our closest friends can't understand what it's like to be in our sorority, and don't even want to try.

We have our own personal copies of Emily Perl Kingsley's "Welcome to Holland" and Erma Bombeck's "The Special Mother." We keep them by our bedside and read and reread them during our toughest hours. We have coped with holidays. We have found ways to get our physically handicapped children to the neighbors' front doors on Halloween, and we have found ways to help our deaf children form the words, "trick or treat." We have accepted that our children with sensory dysfunction will never wear velvet or lace on Christmas. We have painted a canvas of lights and a blazing Yule log with our words for our blind children. We have pureed turkey on Thanksgiving. We have bought white chocolate bunnies for Easter. And all the while, we have tried to create a festive atmosphere for the rest of our family.

We've gotten up every morning since our journey began wondering how we'd make it through another day, and gone to bed every evening not sure how we did it. We've mourned the fact that we never got to relax and sip red wine in Italy. We've mourned the fact that our trip to Holland has required much more baggage than we ever imagined when we first visited the travel agent. And we've mourned because we left for the airport without most of the things we needed for the trip.

But we, sisters, we keep the faith always. We never stop believing. Our love for our special children and our belief in all that they will achieve in life knows no bounds. We dream of them scoring touchdowns and extra points and home runs. We visualize them running sprints and marathons. We dream of them planting vegetable seeds, riding horses and chopping down trees. We hear their angelic voices singing Christmas carols. We see their palettes smeared with watercolors, and their fingers flying over ivory keys in a concert hall. We are amazed at the grace of their pirouettes. We never, never stop believing in all they will accomplish as they pass through this world.

But in the meantime, my sisters, the most important thing we do, is hold tight to their little hands as together, we special mothers and our special children, reach for the stars.

And we do reach for the stars. This text is for all you moms who dedicate your life as caregivers, by accident or choice. The March for Babies brings it all home to me again this week. Research into prevention of early births and causes of infant mortality is key, and March for Babies is helping.

Bless all of you out there walking for our kids. And God bless and strengthen our children.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No Weekend Posting-Come Back Monday for March of Dimes

On Monday, I will give some information about the upcoming March for Babies happening next weekend in Grand Junction. I will also briefly write about my experience of being the mother of a handicapped child and quote some uplifting literary work regarding having a "differently abled" child.

In the meantime, you might want to read about March For Babies.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Passover Foods

Ariella said it, I didn't:

Ariella Marcus from April 17, 2008 tells it all in Jewish World Review:
There's no reason to be bashful about saying it: Passover is probably the only Jewish holiday that's both loved and dreaded. Those who strictly observe the 8-day celebration, enjoy the annual spiritual boost it provides. There's the traditional Seder(s) where family and friends gather, of course. But then there's the remainder of the week. With chametz — leavened products — forbidden, menus are limited. Matzah is a staple. So are potatoes and chicken and meat. And how can one forget the miracle of macaroons? Being at the mercy of Manischewitz … well, don't get me started
Kugel Recipes can be found at this link.

Daffodils and grape hyacinths in our garden.

May we all have a blessed Passover Meal today.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Knitting with Dog Hair

Knitting With Dog Hair: Better A Sweater From A Dog You Know and Love Than From A Sheep You'll Never Meet (Paperback) by Kendall Crolius (Author)

“Stop Vacuuming and Start Knitting!” Is the Read Bite on the cover of the book.

In the first paragraph of KnittingDogHair, Crolius says
For millions of years, the human race has been living with and benefiting from its relationship with animals. We’ve relied on them for companionship, for transportation, for food - and for our clothing.
What a shame that all our dogs’ fur just goes to waste each time they are groomed. Since I knit, and know a couple of women who spin sheep’s wool, I wondered if it were a crazy idea to start saving my pups’ hair for a future knitting project.

After some research, I came up with a LOT of good information about utilizing dog fur. And, I am now collecting our dogs’ fur. Note picture on the left that shows results from last week’s sheering efforts of the Shih Tzu and Maltipoo.

Natalie Kestecher of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a pod cast on Tune in here if you are interested: radio podcast on dogs. It is fascinating and well worth a listen.

The highlights from my listening to Kestecher's show were:

1) a bit of history of how knitters used Great Pyrenees mountain dog hair for Polish and Russian peoples;
2) an Australian speaker regarding dogs, the environment, recycling and other matters pertaining to dogs at International Dog Day where about 20,000 people gathered recently in Sydney, Australia;
3) a woman’s story of Sarah Ben-David, her great grandmother born at the beginning of the 20th century in Poland. She recalls Sarah’s story of farming olive trees in order to get to her end purpose of breeding dogs for the purpose of using their fur for clothing. Her dog hair farms reached all across Europe by the end of Franco’s regime;
4) the psychic relationship of dogs with people

You are likely skeptical at this point. You might think "won’t I smell like a dog if I knit a sweater from dog fur"? The answer is NO. You wear wool sweaters, don’t you? Do you smell like a sheep? NO, of course not. It is all in the cleaning of the fur/wool in preparation of spinning.

This article found on USAToday highlights a couple who speak to the advantages of dog hair made into clothing. They espouse the advantages of dog hair as fodder as being both warm and waterproof.
Animations - happy dog

As for me, I am keeping my dogs happy and groomed, and accumulating their sheerings for a new sweater.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cups Coffee House

Cups, sponsored by Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado, operates a lovely coffee house at the Old Miller Homestead on North 12th Street. The menu selection of coffees, teas and assorted pastries are an attractive offering to the homey atmosphere.

Cups Coffee House says:

Cups is the first of its kind in the Grand Valley! All proceeds from Cups will directly support the Hospice Child & Teen Center. Staffed by volunteers and one manager, Cups offers fair trade coffees and a variety of pastries. For more information on the coffee house or to become a volunteer, please call 970-623-9665.
A group of my friends sometimes meet at Cups for coffee and a chat. Here they are enjoying some free trade coffee:

The coffee and pastries, clean-up and service is offered by volunteers who generously donate their time. Tips are welcome, as the sign on the jar indicates, but all monies go to Camp Good Grief, a berievement program for children who have experienced the loss of a parent or caregiver. This program is also sponsored by Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Knitting for Charity

Tired of simply knitting scarves and hats, giving them to unappreciative friends, and yet you still have that craving to knit more WhatzIts?

Knitting for charity might be just the ticket for you. The Lion Brand Yarn Co. has a detailed listing of charities that would be most appreciative of your crocheted or knitted items. They can be found here.

Lion Brand Yarns also offers free patterns. And a gadzillion more free patterns are available here at KnittingforCharity.

Interweave Knits has a long list of charities just waiting for your beneficence. The listing, and more, can be found at Knit to Give.

Most requested items according to Nellie the Knittin’ Nut are:

Number seven: PET ITEMS!Believe it or not, pet items are among the most requested knitting charities. Animal shelters always need warm blankets to dull the cold chill of cement floors. Many other animal charities happily accept animal sweaters and booties. You can even hand-knit kitty toys and the like. Stuff them with catnip and make an animal's day!

Number six: SOCKS! It's no big surprise: people all around the world need warm, thick socks to keep them warm. Soldiers, orphans, and families worldwide find themselves in need of socks. Orphanages are probably the number one requester, striving to provide warm socks for all of their special little children -- especially in underprivileged (sic)and developing nations where cold becomes a problem, countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Mongolia.

Number five: MITTENS! Coming in next on our list of the most requested knitting items: mittens! You could almost take that blurb about socks and read it word for word in this category. Mittens provide warmth for little fingers just like socks provide warmth for little toes. Orphanages,homeless families, and many other people benefit from warm hand-knit mittens.

Number four: AFGHAN SQUARES There are an astounding number of charities that assemble afghans and blankets from your premade squares. This is the perfect idea for people without much time, or those who can't commit to a large project. You can whip up a few squares and send them off to become gifts of warmth!

Number three: AFGHANS and BLANKETS! If you have a bit more time on your hand, you might want to assemble an entire blanket or afghan. These most requested knitting items spread warmth and comfort all around the world.

Number two: PREEMIE AND BABY ITEMS! There are so many tiny children in need. You can help them by making blankets, burial clothing, jumpers, gowns, and any other number of items mothers might desperately need. There are so many charities out there targeting preemies and infants that your donation is sure to find a welcome home!

Number one: HATS! Hats come in as our most requested knitting item. There are two reasons charities need hats: for warmth and comfort. Most commonly, this means either knitting a hat for a homeless or very poor family, or creating a chemo hat to warm and comfort cancer patients.

And there you have it! Whatever you love to knit, you're sure to find a category among the most requested knitting items that's right for you.

Please leave a comment and I will send you a link to a darling pair of preemie booties you can whip up quickly. I received the free pattern from a woman in Denmark (I think!) which I can pass along to you.

These booties will be my first project to knit with a group of women who get together and knit for charity twice a month in Grand Junction.

It would be fun to share fiber talents, so think about signing up to knit or crochet for a worthy cause.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ravelry Swap - Knitting

Hey! I am excited. First, I joined a knitting group on the web called Ravelry. It is a HUGE international community of knitters. There are currently over 110,000 individuals in this virtual community of knitters and crocheters. This is their logo: After becoming a Raveler, I then signed up to chat in nine different groups, each associated with various types of interests. One of the groups I joined is termed "This American Life" for Ira Glass groupies. Another group I joined yesterday was a SWAP group that celebrates any holiday imaginable by sending a box of goodies to your swapmate. A SWAP is just what it says: I give you something and you give me something back, all tied in to knitting or special interests. A SWAP occurs about every 6-8 weeks.

The next celebrated Holiday in Ravelry SWAP is WORLDWIDE Knit in Public Day on June 14, 2008.

This is what I will gather up for my soon-to-meet friend as specified on the Swap:
"The SWAP box should include:At least one skein of yarn (one as some skeins are more $ than other skeins)A pattern that could easily be knit in public by the average knitter. Knitting accessories: this includes tools, bag, magazine, book, etcetera. Anything else of your choosing. Other Rules: a. The value of the package contents should total at least $30. b. Stash raiding is allowed on tools only* as long as you do not send junk. c. Packages are to be mailed by May 31 (a week earlier if international).* "

Check out the website Ravelry and search for SWAP in the group listing if you are intriqued by the prospect of fun; it is a certain way to make a new knitting friend who might hale from anywhere in the world!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Christian Women's Connection Luncheon

There is a fun connection happening all over the United States and Canada every month geared towards women. It is called the Christian Women’s Connection, sponsored by Stonecroft Ministries.

Lunch is served, door prizes awarded, a special feature on a topical subject is presented, music is provided by a talented individual, and a delicious luncheon is served. As a boon, FREE childcare is provided! (Plus, you know your children are treated kindly and cared for safely.)

Yesterday, the Connection here in Grand Junction was a dynamic happening at Two Rivers Convention Center at noon.

When my children were small, I was involved in this organization (then called Christian Women’s Club) while living in Montana. Some of my closest friendships were formed during those years. It was a time to connect with women of all ages, and I looked forward to it for weeks ahead. On the Stonecroft website here is a quote:

...a variety of brunch, luncheon, and dinner events for women and couples. These groups range from our Women's Connections and Christian Women's Clubs to the relaxed After 5 events when the workday is done. Each event includes an entertaining feature and an inspirational speaker who gives personal insight on coming to know God.

Busy mothers get a welcome break with our Moms on the Run groups. Kids play under supervision nearby as these get-togethers work as much to stabilize mom's sanity as they do to provide a Christian message.Thankfully, the two go hand-in-hand!

Close to 100 women attend every month here at Two Rivers Convention Center on the third Thursday of each month. In May, Cynthia Liebrock will speak on "Finding Your Purpose."

Phone Marilyn at 970-245-9799 to make a reservation for the May 15, 2008 luncheon. You might just be glad you did.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Elephant Painting

Snopes verifies this is a true video, and that elephants can be "taught" to paint. This video is validated in the sense that it represents the real phenomenon of elephants who
have learned to paint — with the caveats that "painting" in this sense means the animals outline and color specific drawings they've been taught to replicate (rather than abstractly making free-form portraits of whatever tickles their pachydermic fancies at the moment), they work under the direction of trainers, they don't all exhibit the same level of proficiency, and the quality of their output can be highly variable.
Elephantart has this to say:
The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP) promotes and distributes the work of elephant artists to raise funds for elephant conservation. By exhibiting and marketing the paintings internationally, the AEACP aims to increase public awareness of the plight of Asian elephants whose numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate. In recent years, the number of domesticated elephants in Thailand alone has rapidly diminished from 11,000 to only 3,000. Deforestation of the Thai countryside has led to a ban on the logging of teak, an industry that once employed thousands of elephants. Although much needed, the logging ban left these elephants and their life-long owners (mahouts) without a livelihood.

For $500, you could buy this picture and many more painted by elephants:

My paintings sell for less. If you want to gander at my artistic attempts, they are displayed here at Nancy's art-google.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Since reading a book of the same title by Philippa Gregory last year, I have been fascinated not only by the correct depiction of the historical facts, but also to see the costuming for the 16th century. So I was anxiously awaiting the movie on big screen.

If your history needs a bit of a brush-up on the facts surrounding King Henry VIII and/or Anne Bolyen, this site The Monarch succinctly displays information pertaining to that era.

If you want a professional movie review, visit Rotten Tomatoes for all the background movie information, including the cast of stars.

But what I was panting to see was the costumes. And I desired the entertainment element of viewing on screen the bizarre facts of how Henry VIII split with the Catholic church and forever changed the face of English history.

The golden hues of pastoral settings and vivid, metallic colors in the women’s gowns and Henry’s attire were, indeed, lovely. And I was impressed how accurately all the known facts were crammed into a two hour movie.

I did crave feasting my eyes on more banquet scenes and the food of the period. Only two rich background shots, one of roasting meats and one camera-hurried dinner at court, were all the viewer was served for food eye candy; even those shots were miserly portioned out by the film editors.

Thank Heavens for NetFlix where I can again see the movie and frame-stop those two quick scenes!

Also, I was disappointed in the portrayal of Henry himself. Instead of the curmudgeonly, portly, syphilitic older man that he must have been at the time these events occurred, The King was represented by this hunka-hunka guy Eric Bana who was young enough to be my son. Really, I am not ancient, but the guy was no old, bad toothed, probably odiforous, overweight monarch, either. He (Eric Bana) was HOT!

Portmann and Johansson were lovely (sniff). In my humble opinion, it was Catherine of Aragon, Wife #1, (Kristin Scott Thomas) who was the true star. How could one's sympathies and heart not go out to this sweetly portrayed, once beloved by her husband, saintly, elegant yet soon displaced wife?

If you want another viewpoint (and male oriented), read what my husband thought of the movie in his post today: Chicks Flick.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Watercolor Montage - Art

Have you ever wanted to create a collage or montage of related subjects as an object 'd art? It is fun and relatively easy to make one using your computer and most associated photo capturing software.

I was reared in the south where magnolia blooms were present in my grandparents' yard for most of the spring and early summer months. Their fragrance holds a fond memory for me. My grandmother used to clip those sweetly aromatic magnolia blossoms in the early morning and put a few in a vase that always stayed on her kitchen window sill.

Mom (my grandmother) has been deceased for over twenty years. In remembrance of her life, I wanted to paint a magnolia blossom and somehow incorporate that image onto a piece of her original, copyrighted sheet music. This montage would be a unique memoriam to her talented life as a musician and strong Christian teacher.

Here are the steps to make your own montage:

  • obtain your image (in this case, an original watercolor painting of a magnolia) and take a picture of it with digital camera, saving it to your computer in a temporary folder containing pictures

  • obtain second image (I used a piece of my grandmother's sheet music which I scanned and saved to my computer in a temporary file)

  • obtain and save third (or more) object in the preceding manner (the back of my montage includes copyrights from 1921, the year some of this music was copyrighted in Canada)

  • using the picture software on your computer, compose the montage and choose the "collage" feature (most all software has this type editing choice)

  • this case, I blended both images together, creating a soft, ethereal effect.

  • Here is image #1, which is a digital copy of the original 5" x 7" painting, retrieved and held in a temporary file:

    After choosing the "collage" feature on the software, the resulting image (left) was created after incorporating the two pictures together (the digital picture of the painting and the scanned copy of the sheet music) via the tricky software.

    Now YOU can make a montage!

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Crafting Good Behavior

    Our older dog, Mercy, is a graduate of the GJ Parks and Recreation Beginning Dog Obedience class. My husband and I decided that we would not home school our younger dog, but instead, send her on for more advanced training. The class is described in the latest city recreational brochure as follows:

    Dog Obedience training can be the beginning of a rewarding, loving relationship between you and your dog. Learn about proper equipment and how it is used, basic commands, and communication. Your dog must be at least four months old; have current distemper, parvo, and rabies vaccinations; Mesa County license, and must be under control at all times. Holly Koch will instruct sessions beginning on Wednesdays and Sundays at Sherwood Park, and Bob Simpleman will instruct the other classes at Canyon View Park.
    So, after much fanfare and putting off classes for a month because of the weather, our younger 16 month old Maltese-Poodle pup, Libby, and I started this program today at a nearby city park.

    Ms. Koch, instructor, is keen on a strong sense of owner responsibility. She certainly knows her area of expertise, and displays a caring attitude and good teaching skills.

    Libby is the pup on the end of the red leash. Her friend and classmate Beaux looks on.

    My future goal is for the older dog, Mercy, to complete the 10 steps of the AKC/CGC Test to gain her certification as a Therapy Dog. With the good weather ahead of us, I plan to heed Cesar Milan and Ms. Koch's advice of "exercise, discipline and affection" in order get a head start on this certification.

    Our daughter benefited over the years from several Therapy Dogs having visited her during many of her countless hospital stays at Children's Hospital in Denver. I would like to give back some of the joy she received from being able to pet a well mannered dog.

    Perhaps Mercy The WonderDog might be able to help others who could benefit from a dog visit while undergoing medical treatment.

    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Knitted Mug Cozies

    Knittingdaily is an excellent website for knitters and fiber artists. In a recent post, Garter Mug Cozies, a free download is available through April 24 if you sign up for their (free) mailing list. Believe me, you will want to be in this informational loop if you work with fibers.

    I am knitting up one of these in green fingering weight wool and am almost finished after working on it for just over an hour. It is fun to watch the quick progress.

    A quote taken from Garter Mug Cozies about this handy little coffee accessory:
    I recently had to give up coffee. Completely. No decaf, no low-acid stuff, just cold turkey on that lovely, hot, rich, amazing beverage.

    Can you hear my whimpering from where you are? So what does this have to do with knitting, you ask?

    What if you could combine coffee, mugs, and knitting? What if every time you picked up your coffee mug, you were touching a lovely bit of knitted-up yarn as well?

    Garter Mug Cozies, people. They're about knitting, and they're about mugs, and they're easy, and they're pretty, and they are extremely addictive. Plus, the pattern is free.

    You've been warned.

    Don't blame me if you end up knitting a gadzillion of these for all your friends, and then another badillion for your friends' friends.

    Did I mention the pattern is free? Yup, free. But it's free for ONE MONTH ONLY! 30 days of freeness, that's all. As in, today's it's free, and through most of April it's free, and on Thursday, April 24, at 4:59 PM MST, the pattern is still free, and then POOF!—on Thursday, April 24, at 5:00 PM MST, the pattern is not free anymore.

    Get it while your coffee's hot.

    Now we MUST have a picture, and this looks much better than the stage where my green cozie currently resides. The red cozie pic is from the Knittingdaily website.

    Get going!

    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    Beggar Christ Icon

    The Catholic Knight says...
    use of pictures and statues (iconography) in churches has always been used as a way of telling a story visually. It's no different then when parents use picture books to explain things to small children. The icons (statues and pictures) serve to visually tell a story, and remind people of some Christian truth.
    A previously published pen and ink drawing (icon) of the Beggar Christ and Vincent de Paul by Meltem Aktas caught my attention. A copy of her work is displayed in the meditation room at St. Mary’s Hospital Pavilion (oncology clinic) in Grand Junction, CO. It certainly gave me pause after studying this icon and reading the poem associated with the drawing.

    On the back of this framed illustration is a poem written by Jennifer Gordon for the 10th anniversary of Colorado Vincentian Volunteers that explains Aktas' rationale for creating this piece of art:

    In unfamiliar streets I wander laden
    With a loaf so full
    That surely there will be enough for all.
    In the same streets we meet.
    I see your clothes, Your eyes, and think, “Aha!
    Here is one who needs me.”
    With a smile I hope is warm
    I offer you bread
    Only to know that the piece you give me
    Is exactly what I did not know I needed.

    This is my rendition in watercolor (5"x7") of the original painting by Aktas that I completed in 2007.

    It is displayed in the living area of our home and is a reminder of my professional and volunteering affiliation with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (Kansas).

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Knitting Socks, Self Patterning Yarns, Blog Searches

    I am excited about learning how to knit socks on circular needles. Tomorrow is my first class at the Tangle yarn store in Grand Junction, CO.

    Take a look at the well organized Tangle website. Lots of classes are available for beginning knitters. Note the beautiful yarns, also. I had little trouble in finding a couple of skeins that just begged to be in lap and under my eyeballs for a few days while knitting socks.

    Here is a picture of the colorful SELF PATTERNING yarn that I purchased for this sock class project:

    What exactly is self patterning yarn? A bit of information from The Boston Globe explains it thusly:

    self-patterning yarn is (sic) dyed at intervals so that different colors and shapes emerge automatically, without your having to change yarn or, really, do anything but sit there and mindlessly, happily knit.

    Along with the advent of the self-patterning yarn, which arrived in American stores about four years ago, have come new techniques in sock knitting, using circular rather than the traditional double-pointed needles. The two developments have given new meaning to the phrase "foot fetish," sparking interest in both beginning and experienced knitters.

    Stripes, zigzags, dots, Fair Isle patterns, or random smudges of color emerge effortlessly from under the knitter's fingers in a hypnotic progression, and the choices are nearly infinite.
    A detailed blog site from a woman in France who wrote about her socks on April 3, The French Knitter, is fun to browse. Also, the Loopy Ewe has a complete site and shows fun socks on her April 2 posting. She even mentions Colorado. That is my residential state, and it was fun to read about her adventures in the car while traveling. And I found many more knitting blog sites by performing a simple Google blog search.

    A quick lesson on performing a Google blog search for yourself:

    1) open up the Google toolbar
    2) look to the upper left; click on the MORE tab
    3) scroll down to BLOGS and hit ENTER
    4) type in your blog topic in the open window bar (example: “socks”)
    5) All blogs recently written with that term (socks) in their headlines will be displayed.

    If you are an experienced knitter and do not need instructions on making gussets, you might want to try making some socks without a teacher at hand. This link will take you to a free socks pattern: Socks

    You can bet I will show you a picture of my finished socks in the near future, dropped stitches, warts and all.

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    Knitting Projects and Contest

    After reading A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber several years ago, my sister-in-law and I got hooked on reading all of her books. The main character in her books owns a small yarn shop and has various entertaining adventures.

    Charlotte and I absorbed about a quarter of Macomber's more than sixty books. Then, lo and behold, guess what Charlotte and I took up after a long respite? … You guessed it, KNITTING!

    Debbie Macomber has five knitting project books out now that are on my current Amazon Wish List.

    Here is a link to those booklets: Debbie's Projects

    You can check out this author and all of her books on her website: Debbie Macomber

    And, she has a contest….

    Take a stroll down Debbie Macomber’s famed Blossom Street this month, where the grand prize winner will receive a copy of The Shop On Blossom Street, A Good Yarn, Back On Blossom Street and an advance reading copy of the latest Blossom Street title,Twenty Wishes and much, much more...

    The drawing will take place Thursday, April 24, 2008, just before Debbie departs on her 20-city Twenty Wishes tour.

    Here is the website to enter: Contest

    Just sign in to her guestbook, and you will be entered into the drawing.

    Good luck to all entrants!

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Silk Ribbon Embroidery - Covered Buttons

    Thinking I would like to embellish a few vintage vests which I previously sewed, (referring to March Post), it seemed a natural fit to incorporate ribbon embroidery onto buttons.

    This site: Purl Bee ...shows in great detail how to make a covered button. It is a very complete and easy-to-read tutorial which I highly recommed taking a look at. A picture of completed buttons is shown at right, taken from the Purl Bee citation.

    Ribbon embroidery can be used for decorating articles of clothing, sachet bags, purses, etc. It certainly gives a distinctive touch to any lingerie, outer wear, or craft item.

    On the left is a picture of a few silk ribbon birds which I made for a size 36 (7/8”) button cover. I thought they would be in proportion to the button, but after I put these onto the button covers, they were WAY too large.

    Then I decided that what was needed was to make much smaller silk ribbon birds in order for them to fit onto individual button covers.

    The smaller birds shown in the image (right side) can more deftly be wrapped around the button cover.

    Using examples from the book An Encyclopedia of Ribbon Ebroidery by the American School of Needlework (1996), these replicas of American Goldfinches worked much better.

    I will show a picture of the completed button once I get several more embroidered. But for now, the vest needs to be completed so these buttons can be added to it!

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Silk Ribbon Embroidery

    “Embroidery…the word conjures up so many visions and memories for me: crewel wool pomegranates flowing across an eighteenth century bedspread in Balmoral Castle;…” Judith Baker Montano (1995)

    This book, Elegant Stitches, was my first reference book on the subject of embroidering with silk ribbon. Embroidering with ribbon was very popular about 10-12 years ago (who knows, maybe it is still in vogue).

    I loved the idea of beautiful colors creating a landscape though various types of knotting ribbons, as well as threads. Ms. Montano explains and gives examples of over a hundred types of stitches in her book. The book is a real keepsake not only for the knowledge it imparts, but also for the gorgeous illustrations.

    Silk ribbon embroidery can be used for decorating articles of clothing, sachet bags, purses, etc. It certainly gives a distinctive touch to any lingerie, outer wear, or craft item

    My mother-in-law sewed pretty mauve ribbon roses on the sachet bag (left foreground) shown in this picture:

    More about Silk Ribbon Embroidery in next post.