Monday, July 16, 2012

Making jewelry

     For years I've been wanting to try my hand at making jewelry. Whenever  I found a piece of jewelry I liked in a magazine or catalog, I clipped it and taped it in a spiral notebook. The notebook is full, but ... no jewelry was made. I was intimidated.
     To get over my intimidation, I chose to join a bead of the month club - Simply Beads. Each month I get a kit complete with everything I need to make that month's choices. I had six of the kits sitting on the desk in one of the bedrooms we turned into a home office. A few weeks ago I decided to "bite the bullet" and made my first necklace and earrings. I chose the kit I thought would be the easiest. It took me what seemed like hours, but I finished it ... and here it is.

I was so proud when I finished this. :-)

     The other day, Steve and I stopped at Michael's because I wanted to get some stretchy string to re-string a bracelet I got from a dear friend, Valerie Footh, at a garage sale we had together a few years back. I'm not sure what happened, but the stretchy string got way out of shape - almost as if someone had placed it around a big bottle and left it. 
     Anyway, while we were there, Steve found some orange "rocks" he liked for me to make a bracelet with ... and then I thought, hey, I should replace the silver beads on a necklace I got from Valerie at our garage sale. The beads kind of bit the dust, but I took the clasp off the necklace, took the beads off and saved the chain and clasp. Bought some beads, but now can't find the necklace. I put it somewhere safe. LOL So safe, I guess, that I can't remember where I put it. Sheesh!
     So ... here's the orange bracelet. I had three stones left over, so I made a pair of earrings and with the third stone, I am going to make a necklace. I will need to buy some more baubles to go with it, but that's OK, too. Oh, and the brown earrings were made at the same time I made the necklace and earrings above.

I know, they don't look like much, but they are a big deal to me.
     I really like this pretty little turquoise and silver necklace and earrings. I had some beads left over from making the necklace, so I made a stretchy bracelet. I love the stretchy bracelets. No hassles with trying to clasp them together one handed. Just stretch and slip it over the hand.

This is my 'little precious.' :-)
    And while we were at Michael's, I found a lovely heart-shaped stone and a little silver chain, so I put the two together and voila, a necklace for under 10 bucks. Can't beat that. 
      I've never really been much of a  jewelry person. 
     Oh, sure, when I was younger, I wore inexpensive rings, necklaces and earrings. When I got my ears pierced, I invested in a pair of sterling silver earrings. When my friend, Deanna, and I went to Reno and Lake Tahoe, I won some money on a slot machine and promptly went downstairs in the MGM Grand and bought myself my first piece of "real" jewelry - a 14 karat gold opal ring. Simple design. I loved that ring. Then for Christmas one year, I received an emerald ring - beautiful. After that, I bought myself a pearl and ruby ring. And one year my hubby bought me a gold necklace with a gold heart and a diamond in it.
     Then, one time when the girls were young, we spent a week at the Shilo Inn at Seaside, Ore. On the last night we were there, someone broke into our room and stole all my jewelry except what I had on. Mind you, I only had the three rings, a couple of bracelets and a couple of necklaces that I kept in one of those roll-up jewelry bags. I didn't think it was safe to keep it in one of the drawers, so I put the bag in my purse and hid my purse - I didn't want to take it to dinner with us - on the top shelf of the closet behind a bunch of other stuff.
     When we were coming back to the room, we saw a guy with a black bag come out of the hallway that led to our room at the end. It was a special occasion and we rented a king-size suite with an ocean view. The guy was in a hurry and he darted into the laundry room. At the time, we didn't think too much of it. Later that night, we heard someone turning the knob on the door. Again, didn't think too much of it. Maybe a kid checking to see if any doors were unlocked. 
     The next morning after we got ready to go, when I went to get my purse, it was gone. We told the hotel management, but you know how that goes. It's not their responsibility. We called the police. They took our info and we headed home to start making phone calls to cancel our credit cards.
  All the way home, Stephanie and Nicole played detective, tracing back our steps, who we talked to, etc. We figured there was a family working together. Two youngsters befriended Stephanie and Nicole and invited them to go swimming with them that night. We said, sure, that while they were swimming, we'd have a drink and listen to the music and come get them at a certain time. I think we went to the pool to get them probably a little earlier than we'd said, which was why we saw the guy with the black bag.
     Before we got home, a credit card had been used at the Red Lion in Astoria and another one had been used at a department-type store. Fortunately, we reported the cards missing right away and were not held liable for any of the charges.
     Several days later, we get a phone call. My purse was found in the dumpster behind the hotel. We went to pick it up. Everything was there except my wallet and my jewelry. And in the wallet were some photos of my parents that were irreplaceable - or so I thought until many years later, my aunt found them and sent me copies.
    We never again stayed at the Shilo at Seaside and that's when I decided not to buy any more  jewelry. I pretty much quit wearing anything except earrings for a very long time. Only recently have I started wearing necklaces again. I don't wear rings, not even my wedding ring. Didn't want to take the chance of it getting stolen. It's such a horrible feeling to know someone rifled through your belongings. 
     Anyway ... enough of that. 
     I am happy to report my interest in jewelry has come back to life!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lazy Sunday

     The day of rest. 
     We try not to work on Sundays, whether it's housework or yard work - but sometimes that's impossible. Especially when outside work needs to be scheduled around the weather forecast. We've been blessed - for at least the past nine days - with sunny and dry weather here in the Pacific Northwest.
     And, I have been on vacation. It's been wonderful. Hubby and I have spent a ton of hours in the yard working. We have a half-acre to keep "clean." Over the wet spring, we let the back third get overgrown. Not on purpose, mind you. We learned a valuable lesson. If it's sunny for even one day, make sure to mow because the next day - or days - it will rain. It doesn't take very many days of a little sun and a lot of rain for the grass to become three feet tall. No joke. See the photo below.
     Steve normally mows the yard in thirds - the front, the middle part of the back yard and then the lower part of the back yard. He got the front and the middle part of the back in order one day, then decided to do the lower part the next day. But it rained. A lot. When the sun finally came out, the ground was too wet and our Craftsman riding lawn mower is not four-wheel drive. Perhaps when we need to buy a new riding mower, it will be four-wheel drive. Hint. Hint.

I need a haircut.
     Keep in mind, too, that this "little" area is about 75 feet by 75 feet. Steve used the weed-eater to forge a path to the apple trees and blackberry bushes. He forged a path on the right, also, so we could haul grass clippings, weeds, etc., to the spot at the back of the property. Steve thought he could cut the grass with the weed eater, but, he would have been working all summer long. He looked into renting one of those DR trimmer thingies. That was going to cost at least $100 for four hours, although the guy at the rental place suggested picking the machine up on a Friday night, that way it didn't need to be returned until Monday so we'd have it the entire weekend. The downside? The cutting path of the machine was pretty dinky. In other words, it probably would have taken more than the entire weekend.
     We decided to call a former co-worker of mine. Many, many years ago - like more than 15 - Ed cleared off some of the land for us. A quick phone call on a Saturday morning and Ed was here bright and early Monday with his beautiful four-wheel drive Kubota.

See Ed work. :-)
     A little over a half-hour later, Ed was done. He also pushed two apple trees that had fallen over during a recent windstorm down to the back of the property where Steve could cut them. Thank you, Ed!
   So, here's what it looked like after he was done. Lots of long grass laying around in clumps that needed raking. 

Kitty likes the long grass. He's hunting field mice.
     We spent the good part of two 80-degree days, raking and raking and raking and mowing and mowing and mowing - and numerous beverage breaks - until finally, it looks like this.

     And this morning, we woke up to sprinkles and some much-needed rain to help the dry, brown grass become green again. 
     We haven't been working the entire time I've been off work. We've eaten meals on the patio, visited with family and friends, cooked steaks and potatoes on the barbecue, grilled hot dogs and fish on the barbie, napped on the patio and enjoyed fires in the Chimenea in the evenings. Love those fires ... the smell of wood burning and seeing the stars sparkle in the night sky.
     I spent one entire day reading magazines, some dating back two years. Some were dated 2000. Sheesh! What was I thinking? Oh, yeah, I had folded the pages of "stuff" I wanted to save, then stacked the magazines in baskets, boxes and book shelves. One day I will get to them I kept telling myself. And ... that one day arrived. Although I didn't get to all of them.
     I clipped and saved numerous recipes, craft project ideas, gardening ideas, ideas for the house, hints and tips, paint colors and more. You name it, I probably clipped it. But ... I didn't organize any of it. I just dropped it all into a big box. Hmmm. What good is that? Oh, yeah, it takes up less space than the magazines. Basically, I took one mess and made it a smaller mess.

Please buy me.
     I am convinced I need one of those NeatDesk Organizers. You know, that "powerful ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) scanner and organizer that transforms piles of paper in your home or office into neat digital files on your computer."
     NeatDesk includes patented Neat software "to identify and extract key information from receipts, business cards and documents - then organizes it in a digital filing cabinet. All scanned documents can be searched by keyword, so you can find exactly what you need in seconds. It's like having your own personal office assistant," so says the NeatDesk website.
     Oh, yeah ... that's for me.
     There's just one teensy, weensy problem. The machine costs $399.99.
     A girl can dream.
     Both Steve and I still have many, many magazines tucked away, but inch by inch, anything's a cinch.

     OK then, enough of that babble. I shall end this post with one recipe I found in the May 2011 issue of "Food Network Magazine." It's for a French Fry Deluxe salad.
     I know what you're thinking. Who puts French fries in a salad? Well, don't knock it until you've tried it.

     3 cups frozen curly French fries (about 9 ounces)
     4 strips bacon
     1 tablespoon yellow mustard (We prefer horseradish mustard with seeds)
     3 tablespoons chopped dill pickle, plus a splash of pickle juice from the jar
     1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup (look for some with no high fructose corn syrup - we buy Hunt's)
     3 tablespoons mayonnaise (look for some with no high fructose corn syrup - we get ours a Winco, their HyTop brand)
     1 1/2 tablespoons malt vinegar
     1/4 teaspoon sugar
     2 tablespoons water
     1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (I prefer Mediterranean Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink salt crystals)
     1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
     1/4 to 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
     2 romaine hearts, torn up
     1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
     Toasted sesame seeds, for topping (optional)
     Bake the French fries as the label directs until crisp. Let cool.
     Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 4 minutes per side; transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Cool slightly, then break the bacon into pieces.
     Make the dressing. Whisk the mustard, pickle, pickle juice, ketchup, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and water in a large bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
     Add the French fries, bacon, tomatoes, red onion, romaine and Cheddar cheese to the bowl with the dressing and toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Divide the salad among bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
French Fry Deluxe Salad courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Relaxing 4th of July

     So, here it is, July 4, 2012, and I'm sitting on the patio, enjoying the back yard.
     First thing this a.m., hubby Steve and I got out our chairs and sat in the grass enjoying our morning coffee. I splurged this morning and made myself a Salted Caramel Macchiato. Maybe not as good as the ones you can get at Starbucks or ZoJo's downtown, but still quite tasty. The grass needs to be mowed and the long, cool blades tickled my bare feet. We chatted about the ideas we have for the different decks we'd like to build in the yard and enjoyed the 62 degree temperature. We noted how thankful we are to be living in the Pacific Northwest. So many people in other states are suffering heat waves, flash floods and fires. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
     After an hour or so, we went inside and I made a hearty breakfast. A few hours later, here I am. It's now 80 degrees, but I am comfy under the shade of the umbrella over the table on the patio.
     I am trying to catch up on some magazine reading. My first choice is the Spring 2012 issue of "The Herb Quarterly." I'm only on Page 17, but decided to share some of the natural skin toner recipes from an article written by Janice Cox. She is the author of "Natural Beauty at Home." For more on her, visit her website
     Janice notes that toners play an important role in a natural skin-care routine. "They clean the surface of the face and help remove impurities and dead cells, they tighten pores, and they restore the skin's natural pH levels."
   They do their best work when applied after you wash your face, but before you apply moisturizer, she writes. And why, you might ask? Her reply: "Because the cleaner the surface of your skin, the more efficiently it absorbs and retains hydration."
    The best toner is pure, cool water. Witch hazel is another gentle and effective astringent that tightens the skin. According to Janice, other popular natural toners include green tea, apple juice and diluted lemon juice.
    For people with sensitive skin or dry skin, she suggests limiting the use of commercial-brand astringents or dilute them with water.
    Now, on to her recipes. 
    The first one is for a Honey Toner. She notes that honey "is a known skin healer and softener." She suggests if you have a breakout, that you put a small dab of honey on it in the evening to help it heal. Good to know.

Honey Toner
     1 tablespoon honey
     1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
     3 tablespoons witch hazel

     Mix all ingredients and stir well. Pour into a clean container.
     To use: Apply to clean skin with a cotton pad after cleansing. This toner may feel a bit sticky at first, but the stickiness tends to disappear the longer the solution sits. At first you might want to splash a bit of cold water on your face after using.
     Yield: 2 ounces

     Janice writes that fresh cucumber juice is a natural astringent that all skin types can use. Cucumber also can be used in a mild tonic for sunburned skin. She advises that this mixture be stored in the refrigerator between uses because cucumber juice spoils easily.

 Cooling Cucumber Tonic
     1/4 cup fresh cucumber juice (chop one cucumber, including the peel and process in the blender; strain off the solids before using)
     2 tablespoons witch hazel
     2 tablespoons water

     Mix all ingredients. Pour into a clean container.
     To use: Apply to clean skin with a clean cotton pad after cleansing.
     Yield: 4 ounces

     I found the following recipe from the website:

Cucumber Oatmeal Sunburn Therapy
     1 cup cucumber
     4 cups oatmeal
     2 tablespoons rosemary

     In a blender, puree the cucumber well.
     Remove pulp from blender and place in a large mixing bowl.
     Add remaining ingredients and stir well; mixture will be dry and lumpy.
     While running bath water, add the oatmeal blend under the water faucet.
     Allow the mixture to blend in with the bath water, then settle in for a relaxing soak.

     I haven't tried the Cucumber Oatmeal Sunburn Therapy and it sounds like it would make a mess in the tub that would be hard to clean up. I bet you could get the same result by wrapping the mixture in cheesecloth, then attach that to the faucet and let the water run over it.

     OK ... back to Janice Cox's toner recipes.

     This recipe uses strawberry leaves. Janice notes the leaves are often overlooked and they contain "four more times Vitamin C than oranges. Wow! That's amazing.
     She says the powerful antioxidant benefits skin by keeping it clean and clear. The leaves dry easily, so you can keep them and use them year-round.

Strawberry-Leaf Toner
     2 tablespoons tried strawberry leaves or 1/3 cup fresh leaves
     1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
     1/4 cup water

     Place the leaves and vinegar in a glass or ceramic container and let sit overnight. Strain the mixture and discard any solids. Add the water and stir well.
     To use: Apply to your skin with a clean cotton pad after cleansing. If you feel the solution is too strong for your complexion, add more water.
     Yield: 4 ounces

     Lavender oil made from fresh flowers is a well-known antiseptic and calming ingredient. I wrote a story for the newspaper where I work on essential oils and included information on lavender oil in it. Check out the links I have here on my blog if you'd like to read more about essential oils and lavender. It will be well worth your time ... I guarantee it. :-)

Lavender Skin Freshener
     3 tablespoons water
     2 tablespoons witch hazel
     2-3 drops essential oil of lavender
     1/2 teaspoon honey

     Mix all ingredients and stir well. Pour into a clean container.
     To use: Apply to your face using a clean cotton pad or spray and splash onto your skin after bathing.
     Yield: 2 ounces

     This last recipe is made with chamomile. Chamomile flowers soothe inflamed skin and help stop dehydration. Janice notes "In this recipe, you can use dried flowers from your garden or tea made from 100 percent chamomile flowers."

Chamomile Skin Freshener
     2 chamomile tea bags or 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
     1 cup boiling water

     Pour the boiling water over the dried chamomile and let the mixture steep and cool. Strain the solution and pour into a clean container.
     To use: Apply to clean skin with a cotton pad after cleansing or pour into a small spray bottle and spritz onto the skin.
   Yield: 8 ounces

   I hope you find these recipes useful.