Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last day of January

Thought I'd follow up on the high school herbal class Robin and I finished last Friday before I turn the calendar and move on.
I am very proud of the work the girls did in every aspect of the class. They made two kinds of soap, a salve, a body oil and lip balm. They calculated the costs and prepared a suggested lowest bid for their products at the coming Valentine dinner and silent auction fund raiser. They hand crafted boxes, note cards and wrappings to best show off their products for the auction.

The top photo shows Iris hand stamping the paper that became the bottom of this box. The second picture is her table partner Jasmine decorating a bar of the lavender soap. The lid of their box was made by ironing purchased tissue paper to freezer paper then folding the box. 
The girls had fun with paper punches, fancy edge scissors,  and color sample sheets from the paint section of the hardware store that I've been collecting for years. The intense colors in every shade imaginable were each beautiful in the way the girls used them.

Robin normally prints a label for her products containing the contents information. We wanted the recipients of the products to know what they contained. Since all the items were decorated the information had to go somewhere else. The girls used simple cardboard templates to make envelopes and then made small cards with the contents attached which they slipped inside the envelopes, each decorated to match. Below is an example of one envelope and some of its cards. Note the embossed calligraphy on the outside of the envelope. Papers cut from scraps of the box bottom and top were used as backing for the contents labels. Lovely fancy cut edges.

And here is the finished ensemble for this set.

Again, the top was made with tissue paper ironed to freezer paper and for the bottom of the box a simple piece of black construction paper was used.
Eight boxes were made in all. Each different, each uniquely the product of our 11 teenagers.

In addition to the auction project, the girls were introduced to other herbal uses: infusions, concoctions, tinctures, etc. They spent part of one class making a teabag of crampbark which they could brew and drink as needed.
Here they are preparing the bark. Using a potato peeler they carefully removed the bark of viburnum opulus, then broke it into small pieces.

The bark was then placed in teabags and ironed shut.

They also sampled some tea Robin made with some of the extra white pine needles they had collected to use in their body oil.

When it's heated, it turns this lovely shade of rose. Add a little honey for sweetness.
It was a marvelous 3 weeks and I'm not sure who enjoyed the class most. I learned so much, had a ball, and have some nice souvenirs of the experience. All the girls, three of the staff members, Robin and I each were able to take home soap, salve, oil and lip balm. But the best of it all has been the pleasure of working with the beautiful youth of my community.
Thank you, Robin, dear friend.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A few years back I ordered a pattern designed as a traveling sewing bag. I had an idea that I could alter the pattern and make it into a jewelry carrier for when I travel. The first one I made as a prototype. It's the one I use now when I travel. Since then I've changed it a bit for Anne, and then for my sisters Mary and Terri.
This morning I mailed my 6th version to my niece Krysta studying at FIT in New York. (I had told her at Christmas to watch for something after the holidays. I'll bet she's forgotten by now, or maybe given up on me!) It's the first one I've made with a squared front flap. The others all came to a point as shown in Mary's below.

Here are a few in progress photo's of Krysta's. There is an outside fabric and a lining with batting between. The binding is made of the fabric I used for the outside. Quilt shops are selling these lovely long zippers that can be inserted and cut to any length. They come in lots of colors, are free of packaging and cost about half what you'd pay for the prepackaged kind.

Krysta, I enjoyed making it for you. I hope you like it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

UFO no more

Love these long winter nights of video watching and handwork. Determined to move along on my series of wreaths of the seasons, I began "winter" last weekend and then decided I was ready for all of the tiny half cross stitches and narrow cross stitches of "spring" which was all that was needed to finish it.

These photos are deceiving in their color. The 14 count canvas of each is actually the same shade of oatmeal that you see on the holly wreath.
Below is the cover of the book I'm using. I've owned it for years (the publication date 1973) and I've done several of the designs over time. I did the violet wreath for Anne years ago on 18 count. That means 18 squares per linear inch on the canvas. The tiny stitches were hard then for my eyes, and would be difficult now without magnification.

Last night I began summer. The left hand page shows the working chart and the right hand page an idea of the finished piece. I'm calling them by the names of the seasons but they are not presented as such in the book. In fact there are more wreaths included that would be suitable too. And birds, and sprigs of flowers. It is a beautiful collection of Danish designs.

It is satisfying to finish a piece that has waited so long for my attention. And makes me quite happy to be moving along on my plan of the 4 seasons set.

thought you'd like to see how I work. I prop my pattern on my music stand and fix it at a good height for my sofa. Then it just takes a quick glance over my specs to check my stitch placement. Works great, leaving my hands free for the work and saving time juggling the pattern.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

National Popcorn Day

If you don't know Susan Wittig Albert and her series of murder mysteries featuring China Bayles as a retired attorney running an herb shop in Texas, check them out. Each book in the series has an herb in the title and within the story Susan includes herbal use and lore. China Bayles also has a book, a Book of Days, written with Susan's help.

You can subscribe to Susan's newsletter, All About Thyme, chock full of herbal tidbits that contain much of what's in the Book of Days. That's how I was reminded that today is National Popcorn Day.

Watch as a single popcorn kernel becomes my favorite snack. The moisture within the tiny kernel explodes out turning the outside shell inside out revealing the starchy innards which we love to munch.
Enjoy a  bowl tonight and think about me doing the same. I'll be thinking of all of you as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A couple of peeks

Friday we uncovered the soap we made on Thursday. It's still curing (the chemical reaction between the oils and lye is still going on) so we'll leave it be for a while yet, wrapped to stay an even warm temperature. Not only is this giant bar beautiful, it smells divinely of lavender and sandalwood.

There's lots of time between heating and mixing as this is a precise recipe we're following. So to keep the girls engaged and to prepare for our packaging, we learned how to fold a simple box of Origami papers. We'll be using these small boxes to nest our finished products in. Here are a few early examples that I shared with the girls to give them some ideas....

This box (which I designed to house a gift that's in the mail to someone, shhh, don't tell!)  has a lid with a quilled embellishment.

Here is an example of an undressed salve tin sitting inside a floral box with a paisley lid resting on some of the sample papers.

And here's a tiny bar of soap wrapped for giving. Who wouldn't love a sweet gift like this?
Next week the girls will be making body oil with the white pine they collected last Tuesday when the weather felt like spring. Also an herbal salve, and lip balm. The week after they get to wrap, package, and decorate in whatever way they choose.  More on that later.
Robin and I are having a grand time. Gee, I never had a class like this when I was in high school!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

K is for kids

Well, winter decided to show up this morning. Snow, wind, cold, January! I am glad. And the weather has brought the birds back to my feeders. Hurray. I do enjoy their footprint embroidery on the back porch, and Dovey loves to watch their acrobatics.

Well, today was my second day helping my herbalist friend Robin with her soapmaking class at the local Youth Initiative High School. We have about a dozen girls, 9th, 10th, 11th grade. They are beautiful and sweet and fun to work with. The kids are what I miss most since I retired from teaching. So nice to ease back into the classroom this way.

Robin is doing a 3 week class making soap, salve and lip balm. The girls will package, label and make a container for each set of products to be auctioned at a Valentine fundraiser. So we're also deep into discussions about packaging and I've been bringing samples and templates and lists of fun decorating "stuff" they can be looking for at home.  More about that later.
For now, just look how cute the girls look in their protective goggles. We were using lye after all and needed to take care for our eyes and hands.
Tomorrow it's another type of soap using rendered beef tallow. Today's soap had lavender and sandalwood essential oils. I think Robin would like to cover up some of the "meaty" smell of the tallow tomorrow with peppermint oil. I'll let you know!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

early gifts of the new year

The wolf moon, also called the old moon, or moon after yule

Happily our skies were totally clear in the east this afternoon. I was not going to miss this moon rise! I went out onto the front porch to take the pictures above.  I used my trusty Canon SX120 with nearly full 10X zoom, so the farm below the moon appears quite a bit nearer than it actually is.

And here is the moon rising just a few moments later caught through the kitchen window. Still a bit of zoom so the moon would appear obvious in the photo, but not as much zoom as the others.

And the sunset was silently glorious: no fanfare, no trumpeting clouds,  their brassy edges burning.

Friday, January 6, 2012

an epiphany

Follow your star and recognize the infant gifts within yourself for with intention they will grow to become limitless.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

J is for January

It's no coincidence that many of us spend the early days of this month in reflection on the events of the old year while plotting a course correction for the year ahead. After all, January gets its name from the god Janus, who had two faces on his head, one looking forward the other back.
I often begin the year wondering about its end. Will someone in my life be gone by the start of the next year? Will I? Morbid, maybe. But it's part of the unknown that frightens me just a little bit. I don't tend to think on it again as the days move along. Just during the countdown and immediately after as I hold myself up to the early beats of the infant year.
The winter here, so far, has been profoundly easier than last year's. Our opening snow Nov. 9th has been nearly our total so far. Today we enjoyed sun and mid 40s. Our low tonight should just touch the freezing mark.  I read in Star Date yesterday that the earth was actually closer to the sun than it will be again this year, 1.5 million miles closer than average. These numbers astound me. The night sky here on a cloudless night is dazzling with stars. The Milky Way is clearly visible. The planets are brilliant.
Today's sunset,

while electrifying to the eyes in the deep southwest, dusted the opposite sky as with pastel chalks, soft whispers.

As the sun was just about to slip below the horizon, it shown through the sewing room window, through the living room, to inflame the wreath on the dining room's front door. Just one moment later and it was gone.

I think perhaps what I hope for myself in the year ahead is that I don't miss those precious, grace filled moments that come, and surprisingly often, but are in danger of slipping away unnoticed.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Here's to 2012

I find it delightful that this newborn year has begun on the first day of the week. A blustery, high wind day of snowflakes moving parallel to the ground and the sun unable to shine through the grey. A day spent in the company of my beloved Jerome and my dear companion Dovey. May the joys of 2011 help us leap into the unknowns of 2012.
May all that we hope for be possible.