Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Plain White Blouses - Jazz 'em Up

...have a plain, white shirt that needs a little jazzing up? Embroidery and vintage pieces of needlework did the trick on one of my staple white blouses.

The birds and hearts were copied from Sue's Tree House, cool designs for diverse uses.

This design was drawn up atop a linen handkerchief, embroidered, and ironed atop Wonder Under before being appliqued onto the blouse. The blouse was a very thin cotton, so adding the embroidered images helped with the "see-through" issue.

Here is a vest repurposed with appliques and embroidery:

This is a blog you might like to visit; it has lots of vintage items: Emmamyrtle's Blog.

Anxiety and Dogs: Possible Solution

Do you have a dog with thunder anxiety? Really, our Shih Tzu goes wild when she hears a hint of Mother Nature sending out a storm call. Apparently, this anxiety is not an unusual phenomenon in pets.

Yes, we have tried doggie tranqs on her. Yes, even a wee, tiny bit of Xanax has been used (be careful....animals get a minute shaving of a tablet, and sedation can be pretty serious). Obviously, psychotherapy is out of the question with a sentient being who cannot speak. So, what to do to help our furry, four footed kidlet?

The answer may be found in the Thunder shirt:

Thundershirt is a proven solution for most types of dogs coping with thunderstorm and noise anxiety. And no training is required! Simply slip on Thundershirt and watch the symptoms disappear. The price of Thundershirt is less than a single visit to the vets, and just one Thundershirt will treat your dog's anxiety for a lifetime. No drugs or training needed! Perfect for thunderstorm, noise anxiety, fireworks, vacuum noise or camera flash anxiety. Thundershirt (patent pending) does the following for most dogs suffering from noise anxiety: 1) The physical sensation of wearing Thundershirt distracts the dog from focusing on her fears, and 2) Being wrapped in a Thundershirt gives the dog a feeling of safety and comfort. Soon after putting on her Thundershirt, your dog will likely settle down and relax. Many dogs will lie down and weather the storms with little to no further symptoms of noise anxiety.

From a more scientific perspective, according to neurobiologists, many types of traumas can cause nerve damage, leading to dogs having exaggerated responses to stimuli such as loud noises. Applying constantly maintained pressure with Thundershirt provides an unchanging, quieting stimulus that allows the dog to relax

That explanation sounds like baby bundling! And if it works for humans, perhaps it will help our little dog.

You can buy a dog garment here at at Thundershirt. One user on that site reported:
I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant when I purchased this product on the recommendation of a friend. Ten minutes after putting it on my dog, I became a believer. Not only was my dog calmer, but for the first time ever, he didn't wake the neighborhood with his howling and barking. I don't know how it works, but it does!!! I highly recommend this product for any dog that has a fear of thunder or other loud noises.
The product should arrive in today's mail. Leave me a comment if you want to know if it works with our Mercy Dog, since we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vintage Embroidery Uses

Vintage embroidery work fascinates the observant appreciator of the needle arts. Some gorgeous and intricately worked old pieces can be found at estate sales, rummage or garage sales, etc.

Many bloggers write only of embroidery. Here are a few blogs that showcase lovely snippets of such work:

Sue's Tree House
Lucykate Crafts
Karina's bird-embroidery
Cates Linens

This is a work shirt which I repurposed, using nine different pieces of vintage embroidery found on antique table runners and linen napkins to cover the front panels, back yoke and sleeve cuffs. Some of the embroidery was so old it was frayed, so using the Wonder Under product helped insure fabric stability.

    Incorporating vintage hankies on pillows top: can be found at this post a year ago:

    And here is a picture of a new pattern I am working on for application to the front of a plain white blouse, followed by embroidery work in various stitches, finishing off with crayon coloring on the shirt:

    The fairie was sketched by Michelle at Michelle's Blog. She will dress up that shirt front, for sure.

    After it is embroidered, I will color it with crayons using this technique from the TintedLinenTutorial:

    ...Trace your pattern onto your fabric very lightly with a pencil or a water soluble marker... Tape the fabric down on the corners to a flat smooth surface.Take out your crayons and color! You may need to color a little harder in the fabric because the ironing will soften the crayon. Experiment with shading to add depth or only color a few things to really make a bold statement. Try to color in the same direction because the strokes will show (unless this is the effect you are trying to achieve).

    When you are satisfied with yourself, sandwich the fabric between 2 pieces of plain paper. Set your iron to the "cotton" setting. Press the fabric sandwich slowly and smoothly. This will 'set' the crayon. You may need to press a few times to get the results you want. I did mine a few times to soften and melt the crayon for a smoother effect. From this point you can either back the design with another piece of fabric or place in an embroidery hoop. Embroider your heart away! Use different stitches,beads, sequins, etc.

    Thanks again to Tracy at GiggleFace Studios for her tutorial on using crayons on fabric.

    I have several items of vintage embroidery that I would love to give to others. Drop me a comment or email me with your address if you would like some!

    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Alpaca and Llama Wool Yarns

    Consider this free advertisement for Knitters Review, because that weekly magazine is a wealth of information. It has "timely, in-depth, and insightful reviews for knitting and fiber enthusiasts", and is chock full of goodies, all relating to products dealing with fiber.

    This week, buffalo fiber is showcased on their webpage:

    What do you knit for someone truly special? If you can, you save your pennies and splurge on a glorious yarn, taking your time to knit an equally glorious gift from it. You try to find a yarn that, even in its natural state, whispers sweet nothings into the ears of its wearer.

    I love working with different animal fibers. New blogger friend, Brenda at Split Rock Ranch, raises, trains, shears, and sells llama furs, and she even dyes and spins their fiber. One smart cookie, that Brenda. Here is what she sold me yesterday:

    You can find her Etsy Store at this website: Split Rock Llama and Alpaca on Etsy.

    This yarn is merino wool, handpainted and handspun in colors of fuchsia, burgundy, black and gray. I will combine it with a purple merino wool to create another baby sweater.

    I asked Brenda at Split Rock Ranch about the properties of alpaca wool, and she replied with this:

    Llama and alpaca are hollow fibers so they trap air and act as an insulator, very much like down. They are best spun fine(r) and knitted in smaller projects like scarves, hats, etc. unless they are spun laceweight. Because they don’t have “memory” like sheep’s wool, they can tend to get stretched out of shape if your garment is too bulky and heavy.

    An open-work shawl done in llama wool would be gorgeous. Tip to make that skein stretch a bit farther - use big needles! That leaves a bit of space between stitches so the garment doesn’t get too hot.

    Llama fiber will be a new experience (in my limited repertoire, at least) to use in knitting winter garments, so come on cold weather... those knitting needles are anxious for a workout with animal fibers.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    1941: Mom and Dad During Navy Years in War

    OK, now it is sketched out.

    Painting this portrait of my mother taken from a picture in the early 1940's has been slow work. It was started a year ago, and progess has stalled on it. Perhaps memories of an acrimonious divorce between my parents is creating hesitation on further painting, but I just can't get the impetus to finish it. By posting on this blog, maybe inspiration will come.

    Don't they look happy? I especially like the Navy cap in the upper right corner of the original picture. That needs to be added into the canvas.

    Dad was stationed in New York as an airplane test pilot when the top snapshot was taken.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Easy Crochet Flowers

    Needing a specific color button, and wanting it knitted or crocheted, I looked for directions on how to make a button ornament. Here is an excellent tutorial video showing that within six minutes, one can be created:

    So I got out my yarn stash, reviewed the video several times for accuracy, and made four buttons with beads as centers. I used a size G crochet hook and various weights of yarn in differing colors. Depending on the size crochet hook used, and the weight of the yarn and number of stitches, the flowers can be made as large or as small as desired.

    Here is a picture of four of the completed flowers:

    The center of the magenta colored ornament at the lower right of the picture was made with a small crochet hook and sock yarn, again using the same technique. Then the small pink rose was sewn into the center of the larger crocheted flower. If made about the size of a US quarter, they will look cute on a baby sweater.

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Scrabble Tournament in Ohio

    Competitive Scrabble playing is one of my time suckers. I. Love. It. If you'd like to play online with people from all over the world, go here to sign up, create a player name and begin the adventure. My name on the Internet Scrabble Club is "templeton7", so give me a shout and we can play an online game.

    So, in two weeks I'm off to the beautiful city of Dayton, Ohio to compete in the 2009 National Scrabble Tournament (over five days, 31 games total). As of today, I will be competing with 483 registered entrants, having the opportunity to play with the best players from all over the world. If interested in this tournament and organization of players, visit Scrabble Players Organization.

    While perusing a chat site for players who are addicted to this game, I came across the New York City Scrabble Club site. It gave me a laugh, and you might grin while reading it, too. Their website is: New York Scrabble.

    Our mission, and what you should and should not expect from us:
    1) To foster competitive Scrabble® play.

    ... our regulars include the highest percentage of the most skilled regular club attendees in NYC.

    ... all are welcome, we also have plenty of players at various lower levels of skill. Our players range from teenagers to octogenarians; from writers to chefs to dog-walkers. We also let in braggarts and blowhards, but we don't let them out without giving them their comeuppance.

    ... it's not a social club that also plays Scrabble, it's a Scrabble club that occasionally also fosters socialization outside of the club.

    ... you come to us because you're looking for a stimulating challenge, a genuine battle of wits, as you've run out of that among your relatives, friends and neighbors.

    ... we're not a substitute for something missing in your life, tho many do view competing at Scrabble as a form of therapy; we're the focal point of something you already had at least a minor obsession with.

    ... we're not going to take it easy on you just because you're a "beginner" -- lots of players are developing their skills online these days before they ever come in for face-to-face play, so we can no longer make assumptions that you're unskilled just because we've never seen you before. But if you are relatively unskilled, we hope you're mature enough to take a beating or several and view getting your revenge as an intellectual challenge, and we will gladly show you a few ideas to help you improve quickly.

    2) To increase your awareness of the vastity of language, the variation in North American usage of English, and the amount of international culture it now absorbs.

    ... your degree in English doesn't mean you know the only way to use English, and more words than the average bear; our dictionary is THE dictionary, arguing with it is tiresome and pointless. Our dog-walker will defeat a surprisingly high percentage of English professors and scriptwriters, and he’s not even Hank Azaria.

    3) To increase your understanding of how to mathematically optimize the application of your vocabulary and spelling skills in conjunction with values of the letter set and the geometry of the game board.

    What a hoot. Those New Yorkers know how to say it.

    This will be my third national tournament to attend. Over the past 13 years, I have competed in about 25 sanctioned tourneys; too bad my scores don't reflect that I am anything other than your average nerdy, obsessed, Scrabble player.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Endearing Geeky Spouse Habits

    Husband sent me a link to a self serving post about geeky husbands. The original post can be found at top-10-endearing-habits-of-a-geeky-spouse. He gets lots of accolades from me, so the passing on of the article was not really necessary for him to get even more brownie points.

    To summarize, here are a few highlighted endearing habits of a geeky spouse that hit right on:

    Finding the best deals in grocery stores. Not everyone will notice that, even though the 12-pack of Coke cans is on sale for $3, it’s still not as good a deal per unit as the 2-liter bottle at its regular price of $1.29. But a geek will — we knew math skills would come in handy one day, even if nobody else thought so!

    Not being glued to the TV when a sports event is on. Now, I realize that plenty of geeks love sports (I’m a baseball fan myself). But as a general rule, the typical geek is much less inclined than the typical non-geek (particularly the male variety thereof) to insist on watching every minute of every game their favorite team plays in a season

    Providing technical support to friends and family. We may grumble and sigh about doing it so often, and we may get frustrated when our in-laws don’t know the difference between WEP and WPA. But don’t be fooled: We actually enjoy this on some level. Everyone — geeks included — likes to be needed, and geeks also love few things more than to look like an expert. So this is really a win-win: The non-geeks get their computers and gadgets fixed, and the geeks get to look like geniuses for doing things that wouldn’t impress a single one of their geek friends.

    Cooking. I’m sure there are lots of geeks who don’t like to cook, or don’t think they do, but if you’re one such, I humbly suggest you give it another few tries. Cooking has so much geek potential it’s a wonder it’s not considered a “typical” geek activity: you’ve got lots of different ingredients to pick from, measuring implements, heat, chemical reactions, gadgets galore and a great deal of nuance. Plus, it’s like doing scientific experiments where you get to eat the results! And there are few things more endearing to potential life partners than being able to cook well (and not just on a grill).

    So husband hit four out of the ten points. How geeky is your mate?

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Ham Radio 101

    Daughter Julie's husband, Jack, is a radio ham operator. He is always coming up with conversation on his radio and making contact with people from all over the world. There is a whole lot out there of which I know nothing, ham radios being one such subject.

    Jack wrote an email today which I thought I'd share here about the subject of "ham radio in a nutshell". Every time he gets a contact, postcards are shared and the ham operators collect those cards, called QSL cards. He has several dozen neat ones from all over the world.

    This is Jack's picture and his call letters:
    USA, KA4WWN, JOHN P HENIFORD, 1729 CRICKET RUN RD, YORK, SC 29745; from his email:

    My friend Joe, ham operator KP2AE, Extra Class licensee, says, "there's some science in it...". He means whatever contacts you get depend on the Ionosphere. We use High Frequency radio (HF) from 1.3 megahertz to 50 megahertz for long distance contacts. That part of the spectrum doesn't travel in straight line-of-sight paths - it bounces off the Ionosphere, maybe multiple times.

    A lot of things affect how many bounces there will be. One factor over a period of years is sunspots. They are solar storms, and they cause heightened ionization in our atmosphere, and therefore , more radio bouncing in HF. Actually we're still in one of the seven - year low periods, probably starting to come out of it so long contacts should soon become more frequent. Medium long wave radio gets the bouncing too, but not as much. That's regular broadcast radio. Very High Frequency, like police use, hardly gets it at all except sometimes it might. Long wave , below half a megahertz, doesn't get it, it's used for sending code to submarines and other special applications. Some hams can use Extra High Frequency, up in the gigahertz range, that can go straight through the atmosphere and bounce off the moon.

    I said Joe is an Extra Class. I'm a General Class. Joe passed a more difficult test than I did. The Federal government produces the tests, and we're licensed by the Feds. Some of the things we're allowed to do could interfere with government radio applications, so we have to follow the rules which have the force of law, to avoid such. CB used to be regulated, but there's so much trash on it I think they just gave up the regulation, and should probably abolish it..Family Radio, like campers use, as you know, is regulated only by power limitations. The Feds assign call signs, too. Joe's indicates he was licensed in the US Virgin Islands when he worked there, and he retains that call. Mine shows that I was licensed in the Southeastern US.

    So, there you go - ham radio in a nutshell.

    Enough said. Thanks, Jack, for sharing your expertise.

    Moss instead of Grass for Lawns

    Walking along and listening to podcasts this morning, NPR Science Friday had an interesting story about how one guy on the East Coast of the US (Pennsylvania) had ripped out all the grass in his lawn and replaced it with moss over forty years ago. Note that one must have a shady lawn in order to accomplish this green feat.

    Here is the website from a researcher who looked into the problem from NPR Story.

    ...and this talks about cultivating moss on acid soil. Buffering is slow, but about half way into the video, you will see an amazing lawn of grass, so it may be worth your wait to view the show.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Painting a Day Lily in oils

    This is one of our front yard day lilies blooming. Yellows, reds, rust colors, oranges, burnt sienna and greens set it off. The bloom lasts less than a day, so you have to admire it when you can.

    Now to try to paint a likeness of a day lily.

    Step 1: Outline the day lily in pencils, adding in some leaves and filling in the background with some color:Stretched canvas painting continues after a week of work with further definition of petals:

    Here is a picture of the day lily still in progress after about three weeks:

    It is about half finished at this point. It is 30" x 40", and there is still lots to do on it. Grounding the leaves from the base is a hurdle that needs to be overcome. Any helpful suggestions?

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Finches, Flying the Coop

    I have been amusing myself with watching the wrens over the past few weeks, from nest building to egg laying to bird hatching. And this morning, here is a picture of one of the little ones right before he flew the coop:

    One of his siblings still in the nest about an hour ago:

    Their size is deceptive in the picture, as they appear larger than their actual size of a silver quarter coin. That bird poop around the perimenter of the nest is disgusting, but they don't seem to mind.

    This YouTube site,, shows 10 minutes of finches in their nest.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    Mint in Dips and Salads

    Tons of mint are grow in our back. What to do with it? From Indian Food Forever:

    1 bunch fresh mint leaves
    2 green chillies
    1 tbsp tamarind pulp
    Salt to taste, a little water

    How to make mint (pudina) chutney :
    To make tamarind pulp soak a little tamarind in water and keep aside for 2 hours. Then strain the mixture in a bowl with the help of a spoon. To make tamarind juice add a little water to the pulp. These days ready made pulp is available in the market.

    Wash the mint leaves well. Grind it to a smooth paste with green chillies, salt and tamarind juice. You can add water if the mixture is thick.

    This mixture is similar (or the same) to that green dipping sauce served with appetizers at Indian restaurants. It is delicious with Frito's!

    And from Lowfat Cooking:

    A bright green salad of sugar snap peas and sweet green peas in a light, mint dressing. Cook Time: 2 minutes

    2 1/2 cups frozen peas
    1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed
    2 tsp sugar
    2 tbsp
    white wine vinegar
    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1/4 cup freshly chopped mint

    Preparation: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add frozen peas and snap peas, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking, and empty peas into a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sugar, white wine vinegar, olive oil lemon juice and mint. Drizzle over peas. Toss, then refrigerate for 2 hours. Serves 8

    Per Serving: Calories 83, Calories from Fat 17, Total Fat 2g (sat 0.2g),
    Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 53mg, Carbohydrate 12.6g, Fiber 3.8g, Protein 4g

    Here is a picture of this refreshing summer pea salad with mint sauce:

    Another summer salad shown below is my husband's invention and can be found at his weblog recipe for pasta primavera salad. (no mint in this salad)

    And here is our Tuesday Ladies' Auxiliary yesterday after our salad repast. Let's do it again soon, friends.

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Faroese Shawl

    Over the past couple of weeks, little progress has been made on a lace shawl I have been knitting because I have ripped out more stitches on it than have been accurately completed. But FINALLY, I'm about 10% through it.

    It should end up quite large, if perseverance continues, roughly five feet at the top edge tapering down to a modified ending point four feet from the edging border.

    The pattern begins by casting on 423 stitches and continues row by row for a bit less than 200 rows. Here it is at row 20 on size 7 circular needles:

    The Faroese Shawl was named by Marily van Keppel as she translated the pattern from the Faroese language and has it published in A Gathering of Lace (complied by Meg Swansen). This shawl has its own thread on ravelery. Moderator Diane at Bella Vita Farm has been a great help in interpreting this pattern. Thanks, Diane.

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    House Finch: New Family Arrives

    SIL Jack asked what kind of finch we had nesting in the arbor. Here is what Birdsource had to say:

    The identification of these three finches of the Carpodacus genus can be extremely difficult. Each species is about the same size and shape, each is colored red with varying degrees of brown streaking, and each is common to feeder areas. What's more, the ranges of these birds overlap quite a bit, primarily owing to the ubiquitous distribution of the House Finch.

    The picture of the male house finch, courtesy of Larry McQueen, appears to have similar colorings to the one I see going in and out of the nest.

    Dragging out the ladder again, here is a picture of the newly hatched finches this morning:
    It's off to fill the finch feeder again, so the hatch lings can receive supplements to their diet of insects from their parents.