Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#31 - Unicorns

Unicorn Original Illustration Print by DanaChangingArt on Etsy, $20

I've often wondered where we came up with unicorns. I mean, my whole life I've hoped they are real and a little part of me still believes they are. ;) Surely they existed at some point? If not, then what are they based on? So I did some research...

Unicorns are said to be a mythical creature. However, many cave paintings (in France) and aboriginal paintings (in South America) depict a horse-like animal with a single horn. Marco Polo even said he saw a unicorn and that they were ugly creatures. The unicorn he described is nothing like the unicorn depictions we see today. He said unicorns had a head like a boar, hair like a buffalo, a single black horn in the center of its head  and feet like an elephant.

Alexander the Great claimed he rode a unicorn in battle. Julius Caesar reported he saw a unicorn in the forest in Germany. A unicorn supposedly appeared to Confucius's mother foretelling his birth then appeared to Confucius himself foretelling his death.  Here's one of Confucius's well known quotes:

Confucius Print by CuckooClick on Etsy, $9

In China, the unicorn is seen as a good omen and will only appear to humans when it has important information. The Chinese believe the unicorn disappears when the world is suffering difficult times.

The unicorn has always been associated with mystical powers. It is said to have the strength to kill an elephant. Unicorns are also said to be able to tell truth from lies and will pierce a liar through the heart. Unicorn horns were sold for medicinal use in many places. However, these turned out to be mostly cow or goat horns. Queen Elizabeth I supposedly owned a unicorn horn.

If unicorns did exist, they are thought to be one of the earth's lost species. Of the estimated 4 billion species once on earth, about 99% of them are now extinct (Barnosky et al, 2011). (I'm a science nerd by day and couldn't resist the urge to use that well known theory to support the fact that maybe unicorns existed and are now extinct...a little nerdiness for you there.).

So, maybe unicorns did exist? I choose to believe they did. :) Do you?
Believe in Unicorns Shirt by BluebeardStudio, $21


Barnosky AD, Matzke N, Tomiya S, Wogan GO, Swartz B, Quental TB, Marshall C, McGuire JL, Lindsey EL, Maguire KC, Mersey B, Ferrer EA.
Nature2011 Mar 3;471(7336):51-7. doi: 10.1038/nature09678. Review.

#30 - Dragonflies

 Dragonfly Necklace by lilyofthevalleyky on Etsy, $28

Every time I get the chance to go to the lake with my dad, there's always a ton of dragonflies. The little creatures kinda scare me but they are so pretty. So today I learned more about them.

My first question, of course, was do they bite or sting people?! 
Dragonflies don't have stingers, so they can't sting you. But it turns out they can bite if you catch one and it feels threatened. However, most don't bite if they just land on you. Even if they do bite, most aren't capable of breaking the skin. Anyone ever got bitten by a dragonfly? Share your story below! 

Why have I only seen dragonflies at the lake?
Dragonflies hang out near bodies of water because that's where they lay their eggs.

Are dragonflies beneficial? 
Dragonflies eat mosquitoes as a main food source! So I think they're quite beneficial! :) 

Dragonfly Ceramic Tag by FaithAnnOriginals  on Etsy, $6

Other Random Facts:

Baby dragonflies (nymphs) have a special appendage on their heads that they use to spear small fish!

Dragonflies spend up to 3 years at nymphs and only a few weeks as winged creatures! The wings are primarily for searching for a mate and breeding. When you see a winged dragonfly, it's near the end of its lifespan.

The largest dragonfly fossil ever found had shows a creature with a wingspan of nearly 3 feet! That's the largest flying insect known. I'll admit, I might pee my pants if a 3 foot dragonfly flew near me.

Dragonflies can move their wings independently which gives them awesome skills in flight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#29 - Mini Babybel

Today my snack was wrapped in wax. So I decided I need to know why. I mean it's not everyday you find cheese with wax packaging. (I actually hat to look it up to be sure it was wax and not something I was supposed to eat instead of taking off my cheese!)

According to Babybel ... "The wax that we use for the coating of this product is made up of an appropriate mix of paraffin wax and micro crystalline. There is no Bisphenol A in the wax. Its quality as stated “for food contact “responds to very strict criteria set up by the regulations."

Apparently wax is used instead of plastic because it allows the cheese to breathe since there are live cultures of bacteria in cheese and so the cheese doesn't spoil as quickly as cheese wrapped in plastic. Babybel orginated in France in 1952 but now nearly 75% of the cheese in eaten in places other than France.

I threw away my cheese wax but apparently a lot of people make sculptures with them! Check out this site: Sculpting With Cheesewax for some cool pictures. :) 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#28 - New Coffee Shop: Third Street Stuff

Today we held our weekly knitting gathering at a coffee shop I hadn't had the pleasure of visiting.

Third Street on N Limestone is so unique and awesome. The atmosphere is very different than the other coffee shops in town. My coffee and bagel were delicious! (forgot to photograph them though).

I love the art from the outside to the inside! It's everywhere! Check out some of the art on the outside wall of the building! This type of art is all through the coffee shop and handmade items are sold there too!

Here's the lovely group I knitted with. :) That's me in the white scarf knitting away. :)

Sarah and Sara knitting away!

Jenn and Grace

Matt and Becca
Ali learning to knit. :)
Sara and her awesomely completed fingerless gloves!

Amanda :) 
She was the photographer today so no pictures of here today so I stole one from her facebook page so she wouldn't be left out. :)

#27 - Stranded Knitting: Selbu Modern

I have finished and blocked my very first stranded knitting project!

This hat pattern is available for free on Ravelry (click here).

Stranded knitting is so much easier than it looks. You simply leave two yarn skeins attached and knit from the color you need as you go. The other color just floats across (don't pull too tight...let it float loosely behind your work).

Here's some photos of the process. It took me about 3 weeks to finish it (it wouldn't take that long except I kept getting distracted by other projects and of course there's the job...which I'm grateful to have but cuts into my creative time. LOL)

Pattern printed and yarn chosen :) The brown is "bark" and the pink is "cotton candy". Both are from knitpicks and were only about $3 each! Yay for a $6 knitting project!

Contrast band (brown) casted on and first row of pink completed. Stitch markers are your friend! Trust me on this one!

 Ribbing band completed. Stranded knitting begins!  

Hat completed!

Hat completed. Soaking in water to block. Blocking evens out the stitches. Oh my...blocking wool yarn stinks!! Apparently wool releases sulphur when it's blocked and it smells horrible. I guess that's what a wet sheep smells like! yuck!

Hat finished!! :) (still a little damp so no pictures of me wearing it yet)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

#26 - Tee Shirt Drawer Makeover

On pinterest earlier this week I saw a pin from blogger darkroom and dearly about arranging t-shirt drawers so that all the shirts can be seen at once.  This keeps you from ruffling through shirts to find the one ou want and actually takes up way less space than folding them and stacking them. Here's the photos from her organizing adventure...

Even though I've gone through my t-shirts and gotten out shirt to make a t-shirt quilt, I still have a ton of shirts. But I find that honestly I wear all of the ones I have left in my drawer. Plus there's the performance shirts I wear to the gym and the snugger shirts I wear to yoga so I don't show everyone my belly during downward dog...needless to say I have a lot of shirts in one little drawer...and no other drawers that I can use to keep them tamed.

So I decided to try this trick. I admit though I was hoping it would tame my shirts and have them in way less space, I wasn't sure it'd actually make that big of a difference.

Well, the verdict: IT WORKS! 

Here's my before picture...yeah, I know, it's a mess. Shuffling through the shirts daily to pick a gym shirt makes a mess. I've organized and organized and finally I gave up and just dig.



Because I had so much extra room in my drawer after rearranging my shirts, I decided to use the space for my gym pants and shorts so that I could use that drawer for sweaters which I recently stopped hanging up because I hate when they get the puffs on the sleeve from the hanger.

So here's my gym clothes drawer now:

T-shirts on left, then a tiny section of shorts (I don't wear shorts often), and then gym capri/pants turned different to separate them from the shirts. This is 2 drawers now contained in one. :) AND I can see what's in there at a glance. NO MORE DIGGING! 

Here's my newly formed sweater storage drawer since I no longer need a drawer for gym pants. :)

Totally recommend trying this!! :)

Friday, January 25, 2013

#25 - Watercolor Class with Cindy Alvarado-Yeary

Yesterday's learning/trying new things is coming to you a bit late because I was out learning to watercolor last night!! I would like to say thank you to Cindy for teaching us last night. :) I felt like a kid about to burst with excitement all week in anticipation of watercolor night! We didn't even make it inside before I made Becca snap a picture of me and Sara with the painting sign.

Cindy Alvarado-Yeary of PawprintsPortfolio held a watercolor class at the Midway branch of the Woodford County library last night. I've been so excited about it for weeks that I thought the day would never come!! (Sorry to those of you who've had to hear about it for weeks! LOL)

Check out these amazing painting prints by Cindy! These (and more) are available for purchase in Cindy's Etsy shop. Just click the photo to go to the listing.

Promise of Freedom, limited edition giclee print by Cindy Alvarado, $39.95

Snowy Crossing, Samoyed giclee print by Cindy Alvarado, $39.95

Class Time! 

Last night Cindy had awesome little painting stations set up for us taught us to paint a couple of snow scenes.

My first scene looks pretty rough. I've never watercolored before and I don't remember ever having a formal art class. So look over the fact that it looks like something a child would paint! I had a great time making it so that's all that matters, right? I haven't dusted the salt off my paintings yet so they will look snowy once I do that (the salt absorbs and lifts some of the color to create white spots like snow flakes).

The next scene went a little better for me. I figured out how to mix my paints a little better and how to add light and darker strokes of the same color. I'm much more pleased with the second painting.

While everyone else was finishing up, I painted the back my scrap paper that Cindy gave us to practice our colors on. My little trees and color mixing were getting better. :)

 I took my watercolor paints and my painting tips and instructions home with me so I can keep practicing (Thanks Cindy for giving them to us!). I'm planning to get some watercolor books and paper soon and just keep at it. I had so much fun painting that I'm hoping with time my skills improve. I'd love to be able to decorate my craft room with art I made. :) Sure, it's unlikely to ever the the caliber of paintings that Cindy does (that's mad skills!) but it can be beautiful in it's own simple way (I hope! LOL).

Sara and Becca painted with me and here's a photo of all our paintings together. :)

I think these bookmarks will be a great starter for my watercolor practice! Who couldn't use another cool bookmark? :)

Bigger Bookmarks ... Watercolor Paper by time2split on Etsy, $4

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#24 - Water Element

Today I learned about my Chinese Astrology sign. I am water.

Chinese Elements Coasters by BlythHouseCreations on Etsy, $29

One day this past summer when I was working in my little craft booth at the Lexington Artist Market, a lady looking at my jewelry creations made the comment the I must be a water element person. I didn't really know what it meant. She said this because so many of my creations are beach, water, sea, etc themed. I just shrugged it off that day and told her it must be because it's hot outside.

Here are some of my water themed jewelry pieces the lady at the Artist Market was referring to:

Seahorse Necklace, Sold

Starfish earrings, $8
Sailboat Necklace, Sold

Now here it is in the middle of January and I'm still creating beach themed jewelry! So I decided to see if I am indeed a water personality. It turns out the lady was correct...according to Chinese astrology I am water. However, according to western astrology I am Earth. I was born in the Chinese year of the dog. My western zodiac sign is Capricorn.

Find out what you are here:

Then you can read more about your sign here:

Chinese Water Element
Those born with the Element of Water can be charming and sensitive as well as compassionate. They are very flexible and "go with the flow" so to speak. They are often intelligent and creative. They have a great imagination and are not afraid to use it! They make excellent philosophers and thinkers. They often freelance. They often have more than one profession. Water has good people skills and can be very subtly persuasive. They have talents in communication and diplomacy. They are intuitive and can find things that elude others. They have a flair for organizing and can delegate with the best of them. They have the gift of noticing the special talents of others and making them feel good about their abilities.
Water can also be secretive and deceptive. They don't like to share their secrets with others. They have great skills of manipulation. Water tends to try to find the easiest way out. They may be too passive and too malleable to the whims of others. They need to learn to stand on their own two feet and follow their own path. They should avoid places heavy with water.
Water Element is the North. It is associated with the season of winter. Water's color is black and it is associated with the lungs, skeleton and excretory system.

For those of you who know me well, is this me?  Or do I just like making water themed jewelry?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#23 - Yin and Yang

Yin Yang Necklace by BeadedAmbrosia on Etsy, $29

Lately I've been learning a little about Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese art of improving life by improving the interaction between man and his environment...more on that later.

During the exploration of Feng Shui, I had to determine whether I am yin or yang. I didn't know people were either yin or yang. I just know the symbol and thought it meant good and evil. That isn't what it means at all.

Yin types tend to have large possibly bulging eyes, slight cheekbones, parted front teeth and cleft chins. These features are typical for individuals born in tropical environments.Yin occupations include research, writing, teaching and other mental jobs.

Yang types tend to have close deep set eyes, eyebrows that slant toward the bridge of the nose and strong cheekbones. The Chinese believe this type originates in a harsh cold environment. Yang occupations include travel, performing arts, sports and other physical jobs.

Here is a quiz to determine whether you are yin or yang.

This quiz (as well as several others) said I am slightly more yin than yang. I have yang features and work in a yin occupation (research). Maybe this is why I sometimes wonder what the heck I am doing in research? Just kidding...that's the funding crisis in research talking. ;) Quizzes keep putting me almost equally yin and yang...I guess that's why I'm crafty and science dorky all at the same time. :)

Applying the Feng Shui principles, as a yang personality with a yin profession my environment should be mostly yin. I have noticed I do well in a calm cool only if I could create this more often. I shall work on it. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

#22 - Inauguration Facts

Commemorative Plate of U.S. Presidents, RockiePatch on Etsy, $22

  • The Constitution specifies January 20th as Inauguration Day. If the 20th falls on Sunday, a private inauguration occurs on the 20th then a public inauguration takes place on the 21st.
  • Before the 20th Amendment, Inauguration Day was March 4th. The date was moved to shorten the lame duck period for presidents during the Great Depression.
  • African Americans did not participate in the Inaugural Parade until 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was sworn in. Women didn't participate in the parade until 1917.
  • Because there was a mistake in the swearing in of Barack Obama in 2009, he was privately sworn in again to make sure his inauguration was Constitutionally correct. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

#21 - Slipping Sliding Yoga?

Downward Dog Print by corinnaluyken on Etsy

Today I used my new yoga mat for the first time. I have to admit it was nice not having to wash down my mat before working out then still wondering if it was clean. Plus the mats in class aren't yoga mats but are universal floor exercise mats. It was nice to have my yoga mat under me today! I never quite understood why yoga mats are often painted I realized how much you look down at your mat during yoga! My green mat with leaves was quite beautiful and soothing. :)'s the little things in life, right?

Unfortunately I still slide everywhere. What can I say... I sweat! Does anyone else have this problem?! Why do my downward dogs become mile-long dogs? They would eventually lead to a belly flop if I didn't release a hand from the mat and wipe it on my shirt then reposition. This is annoying and it really interferes with my class when I have to wipe my hands constantly.

So my quest to stop sliding continues. Here are some ideas to help with the sliding.

  • Wash your new yoga mat. 
    • Apparently new yoga mats are more slippery than "broke in" mats. So some people recommend putting your new mat in the wash machine (on gentle) to help break it in. I noticed today that my new mat smells terrible (like vinyl) so I'm going to wash mine and see what happens. 
  • Put a towel on the top edge of your mat in class.
    • A towel across the top of your mat with give you a place to dry sweaty hands. Also if the towel is on your mat you can put your hands their during downward dog and this should help prevent slipping. However, be sure your towel is ON your mat and not on the bare floor or it might take off without you and you'll be a crashed doggy! 
  • Try a Yogitoes Skidless Towel.
    • I've seen someone with a towel thing on their mat and never knew what it was. These towels are often used for hot yoga. 
    • These towels also prevent wear and tear on your yoga mat.
    • The towels are a bit expensive so I'm going to try washing my mat then putting a towel across the top before looking into the skidless towel option.
  • Try non-slip yoga socks.
    • These socks aren't very expensive and might help with the sliding.  Amazon, Target, and many other stores all sell "yoga socks" that are non-slip. 

#20 - Namaste

Namaste Print by LaurenLPoole on Etsy

So I've been going to yoga for a few weeks now. I'm noticing I've getting more graceful with the poses and more flexible. Today I realized I still don't know what the heck they say at the end of class. Everyone says something (everyone but me...since I don't know what they are saying). So when I got home from yoga today I did a little search to find out what they are saying. They are saying "Namaste".

Namaste is the acknowledgment of soul of one by another. Namaste is a Hindu word and literally translated, it means "I bow to you". Another definition is that "the light within me recognizes the light in you". That explains why they do it as they bring their hands to prayer over the heart at the end of class. The yoga instructor says "namaste" first as a symbol of gratitude and respect for her class. The class then repeats it back to the instructor. Namaste allows individuals to come together energetically and connect.

So with that, I namaste religious? From what I can tell, namaste is not really a sign of religion but more a sign of respect and gratitude. It is recognition of our spiritual oneness (regardless of religious beliefs we are one as humankind).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

#19 - Selbu Modern Hat - Importance of Stitch Markers

Three of us in our knitting group are doing a knit-a-long for this hat. You can get the pattern for free on revelry!  (click here) After frogging (taking out the stitches for those of you who don't knit) my hat twice, I've finally got the correct number of stitches and started the colorwork for my hat. :) Today I learned the importance of stitch markers! I've never really done any projects that truly required them until now! They make life so much easier! My stitch markers are the boring ones from the local chain craft store...they aren't nearly as cool as these on Etsy!

Arabian Nights Stitch Markers by LadyDanio on Etsy

Here's my progress on my hat. You can see my boring little stitch markers in there. I've just started the colorwork in this photo.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#18 - Chemical Free Cosmetics

Clutch or Cosmetic Bag by SimplyTrendy2 on Etsy, $22

Yesterday I was absolutely shocked to learn that mercury is used in many cosmetics! Today my quest to find mercury-free cosmetics begins!

I decided to do my research and learn about other bad chemicals that might be found in cosmetics.

Here's what I learned:

1) Talc is a listed potential carcinogen!  Though I did find an article stating there isn't enough evidence to classify cosmetic talc as carcinogenic, why take the chance? There's enough things in our environment that we can't avoid without adding to it by putting stuff on our skin!

2) Mercury is used as a preservative and anti-microbial additive, especially in eye products such as mascara. The FDA allows concentrations below 60 ppm. 

3) Lead is found in many cosmetics from Europe and is also found in many lipsticks.

4) Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, and benzylparaben) are used as stabilizing agents in many cosmetics. Parabens penetrate the skin and can be traced in the blood minutes after application.  Parabens have also been shown to mimic estrogen which can disrupt hormonal balance.

5) Preserveatives such as formaldehyde and BHT are sometimes used in cosmetics! Would you put embalming fluid on your face? I hope not!

Here's a few chemical-free shops I found on Etsy (click on the shop name or photo to go to the individual shops):

Willow Tree Minerals 

  • uses no chemicals, talc, perfume, dyes, phthalates, bismuth, parabens or micronized minerals.
Black Slate Mascara by WillowTreeMinerals on Etsy, $14.95

Eco Love Beauty

  • paraben free, fragrance free, nano-particle free, talc free, dye free, bismuth free
Amethyst Mineral Eye Shadow by Ecolovebeauty on Etsy, $7.95

Pure Minerals Source

  • NO chemically treated ingredients of any sort, dyes, lakes (artifical/chemical dyes), talc(associated to cancer), Bismuth Oxychloride, Petroleum derivatives, Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, Methylparaben, propylparaben (chemical preservatives), urea, aluminum, ferric ferrocyanide (aka Prussian Blue), mineral oil - a fuel by product
 Sahara Lipstick by PureMineralsSource on Etsy. $4.50

Anyone have brands they'd like to suggest that don't contain these bad chemicals? I'll be looking into brands more over the next few weeks and updating this post. :)