Monday, April 28, 2008

The House that Jack Built and Other Projects...

The fourth week of every April is designated National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a time in which medical lab professionals can celebrate their profession. This year we decided on Bob the Builder as a theme because the laboratory, as well as the hospital, has been building and expanding and will continue to do so this year. We get overly excited in celebration with silly games, activities, and prizes. Activities this year included a guess the number of screws in the jar game, a Bob the Builder coloring contest, and match the owner to the house game in which several of us submitted current or previous houses and everyone had to guess who it belonged to. The Friday of Lab Week every year, we have a luncheon and pick creative theme related titles for our dish. I always bring dessert:

The House that Jack Built

Titled "The House that Jack Built," it was just a box mix marble cake with a crushed Whoppers laced white frosting filling - If you know your nursery rhymes, that might make sense. The shutters are of Kit-Kat bars, the roof shingles and door knob of M&Ms. The cake pan mold compliments of Diane.

As part of Lab Week, we also participate in a little community service. For the second year in a row we did a yard clean up of Mary's Haven, a hospice home near the hospital. We raked the leaves, weeded the garden, and swept out the gazebo for the residents and family to enjoy during their sorrowful time.

After all the house matching, tool talk, and yard clean up, I found some inspiration to begin more work on my own yard and home. It was a beautiful, warm week in Upstate NY... Perfect for getting out there in the evenings to rake, weed, and trim some branches. Probably because of our northeastern and extended winter climate, evergreen trees are ridiculously popular in my area, which makes raking leaves pine needles quite obnoxious. I pulled weeds and raked up the pine needles from the mulch, yard, deck, etc... Why pine trees? WHY?!

Filled entirely with pine needles.

I rearranged my garden gnomes, and added a new little friend to the collection - a solar light gnome that holds illuminating flowers - an Easter gift from my mom. Once raked, and anticipating a bout of April showers, I spread out some fertilizer and seed. It's looking greener already! I've researched mulch options... I have big plans for my vacation next week, but I'm waiting until we're in the clear from frost to plant more flowers. My perennials are coming up, but aren't in bloom yet.

My final project over the last week was fixing the leaky kitchen faucet. I had a plumber look at it when we first moved in, but the problem wasn't really resolved. There has been a slow leak from an undetermined source into the under-the-sink cupboard since we bought the house, and it was apparent that it had been an ongoing problem for quite some time. The plumber had tightened the joints of all the pipes and put in some Teflon tape, but the problem never really went away. Every few days I wipe up the accumulated moisture and look in disgust at the warped, water damaged base of the cupboard. I theorized that since we have a pull-out faucet that the water must just be running down the faucet head and down the hose and into the cupboard since its not coming from any of the pipes underneath. Sunday night, commonly referred to "trash night" in my house, I took the trash can out from under the sink and decided that I don't want to look at that disaster anymore. Determined to find the leak I turned on the water, grabbed a flashlight and looked for pooling water. Finally I found the source - it was seeping out of the part where the faucet connects to the hose.

I emailed pictures of the leak to my handy brother-in-law who suggested I need a new O-ring, perhaps a new faucet since the O-rings tend to be specific to the size/brand. Unfortunately, my faucet is not tagged with a brand label. While searching for a kit or new faucet at the hardware store I discovered the universal-pull-out-faucet-replacement-head. YES. I purchased it and some kitchen flooring samples (I'm on a roll now), went home and took the old faucet head off. Just as it was predicted, it was an O-ring problem, technically a non-existent O-ring problem. A little Teflon tape, a new universal faucet head equipped with O-ring, and a little advice from the internet and - ta-da! I now have a bone-dry cupboard.

My first successful plumbing experience - not huge but an accomplishment for me nonetheless!

Next project - repairing the warped, bowed, and stained bottom of the cupboard ruined by years of slowly leaking water damage. I will also be painting the kitchen and laying down more mulch in the front yard. Good thing I'm on vacation next week!

Friday, April 25, 2008

April's Project: Cinnamon and Sugar Bracelet

I modified April's Chunky Quartz Nugget Bracelet project of the month from my BeadStyle calendar to a chunky goldstone version.

Being the "particular" person that I am, I tend to shy away from asymmetry in my pieces. I've tried to be bold and live on the edge but I have a thing for symmetry. Oddly enough, the bracelets idea that I was following called for a very symmetrical pattern of quartz beads with metal spacers and glass beads, and I left my comfort zone and threaded the beads at random.

My supply list included copper spacers, goldstone beads of varying sizes, copper spacers, and glass beads with a metallic copper appearance. Including the antique copper finish lobster clasp, the bracelet is 8.2 inches in length (21 cm). It's a great piece for anyone that likes chunky jewelry.

The goldstone reminded me of a cinnamon sugar mixture I used to put on toast when I was a kid, hence the name Cinnamon and Sugar Bracelet.

Want to buy it? I'll take 10% off this bracelet for you if you tell me you read about it on my blog. If using PayPal, go through the motions of buying it up to the part where you continue with PayPal. Stop there and I'll send you an updated invoice through PayPal. Put in your message to the seller that you read about it on my blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The topic for the EtsyBloggers blog carnival this week is poetry. I don't have a favorite poem, and I aside from the required reading in school and college, I haven't read much poetry since "A Light in the Attic." I wonder whatever happened to my copy of that book.

Anyway, when I realized poetry was the topic for this week's carnival I had a flashback to my second year of college. It was the first day of my Drama and Poetry class and I was the first student to be put on the spot to recite a poem. I just sat there wheels spinning in terror. He told me I could recite a song if I wanted. I spoke the lyrics of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, which my mom had to buy me the 45 of when I was a kid, and I know all of the lyrics. The only thing that brought relief to such embarrassment was the boy in a flannel shirt tucked into his too-high waisted pants singing, yes singing, "Brown Sugar". So to sum it up, I can only list about 5 poets off the top of my head, can recite zero poems, and the lyrics to many 80s songs. Which left me nothing to talk about other than my favorite 80s songs.

Then I remembered - my mother-in-law, Diane, was the first Twitku champion! What is a twitku? It's a micro version of a haiku! Instead of using lines of five seven and five syllables, you use lines of five seven and five characters. The lines can be separated with a slash, and spaces don't count as characters. Punctuation is left to the discression of the poet. It is all explained here on Scott Schwister's Higher Education blog.

Diane takes it to the next level and imposes her poem onto a picture, as seen here:

Another of my favorites is a picture taken at a local pond:

And this one has a double feature:

More of her tiny poems, as she calls them, can be seen in her tiny poem set on her Flickr page.

And this is my go at it:

Monday, April 21, 2008

ADK Fire Tower Challenge : Hurricane Mountain

I used to spend a good portion of my summer vacations up in Schroon Lake, NY at my parents' camper. My mom and I spent most of the sunny days in the river or on the beach, but we would also join my dad on a fishing or hiking trip in the Adirondacks on occasion.

Within the last year I have rediscovered hiking with my sister (the in-law part is just a technicality). We started off slowly, with small hikes through Moreau State Park and snowshoeing in the winter. We had tagged along on an Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) walk in Saratoga and decided this month to join it for-realsies. Part of the appeal besides the opportunity to hike with groups of more experienced hikers was the free day-hikes book and of course the ADK badge - Not to mention the ADK Fire Tower Challenge, which is an added bonus.

The rules to the Fire Tower Challenge are:
  • You must climb 18 of the 23 summits in the Adirondacks, and all 5 in the Catskills
  • There must be a standing tower on the mountain the date it is climbed
  • You must document the date, as well as weather, companions, or any details that caught your attention
Upon joining ADK, we already had one fire tower mountain under our backpack waist straps - Hadley Mountain, which we climbed last summer. We actually were able to climb up that fire tower, from which the view was amazing.

On April 13th we participated in our first "winterish" ascent. Don't be fooled by the date of our hike, as we drove through snow to get to the trail, not to mention the snow that was falling for most of the hike, and the icy rocks that we scaled to get to the summit. It was definitely the most intense hike I can remember, and we are told it's actually easier in the winter because you have the snowshoes or stabilizers on feet to help get up the rocks. When bare, there is nothing to dig your feet into.

It had its adventurous parts such as the stream we had to cross proving our boots to be water proof, and my near-miss climbing up an icy boulder, putting a whole new meaning to the phrase "tree hugger". My sister didn't let her wardrobe malfunction stop her, and our hiking group was kind enough to lend her a pair of extra snowshoes when the clip on hers stopped working.

Upon arrival at the summit, it occurred to us why it was named Hurricane Mountain, as the wind gusts were quite fierce. While it was worth it just to see the fire tower and scratch another mountain off the list, the view was a little disappointing at first. The sky was covered in dark clouds and snow masking the view of the high peaks. But then, as if on cue, the sky opened up to a few minutes of blue sky and sun giving us just enough time to snap a few photos of surrounding high peaks before descending the mountain.

The total trip was about 6 hours, 5.2 miles, and an elevation of 2000 ft. Only 21 more to go! You can see the rest of the pictures from this hike by clicking on any of these pictures, or by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lyme Disease

The next topic for the EtsyBloggers Street Team Blog Carnival is "bull". Bull fights, the Taurus zodiac symbol, shooting the bull, etc. My first thought was the bull's eye rash associated with Lyme disease. I guess that makes me a dork. Or at least a normal medical laboratory technologist.

Anyway, I figured, since I will soon be posting about my hiking trips, why not raise awareness about Lyme disease, and while I'm at it, check out what some Etsians have made that either help prevent getting bit by a deer tick, or even help promote Lyme disease awareness.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an illness caused by Borellia burgdorferi bacteria, which is passed through the salivary glands of an infected deer tick when it bites the skin. The disease can manifest in several ways, some people don't even show signs or symptoms. However, often times an erythema migrans rash (the characteristic "bull's eye rash" will appear around the site where the infected tick bit the skin. Typical symptoms include headache, fever, sore muscles, and swollen or achy joints; of course these symptoms resemble those of the flu. Unfortunately, if left undetected, it can lead to more severe problems like arthritis, confusion, numbness, and possibly facial paralysis.

How can I prevent Lyme disease?

While Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, it's best to prevent getting it in the first place. When outside, you should use an insect repellent that repels deer ticks, such as a DEET containing spray. You should also cover yourself properly if you plan on hiking or doing yard work. Wear high socks, long sleeves and long pants. Basically, don't dress for a fashion show if you plan on walking through grass, brush, or the woods, or when you are doing yard work. Besides, a nasty rash and swollen joints isn't exactly attractive either.

Wendy Lou's Natural Bath "Don't BUG Me" Insect Repellent

While DEET is a very effective chemical repellent against the deer tick, there are a few other approved repellents on the market as well. Wendy Lou's Natural Bath sells a DEET free insect repellent called Don't BUG Me. It contains oil of lemon eucalyptus, which has proven to be as effective as low levels as DEET, and is the only plant based repellent approved. So for those interested in a more natural, renewable resource based insect repellent, you could try one containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, such as Wendy Lou's Don't BUG Me repellent.

Raising Awareness

I came across two shops on Etsy that sell items that are Lyme disease awareness themed.

Creative Art and Soul this Green Ribbon Sand Carved Aventurine Pendant for sale. While the green ribbon has several meanings, one is Lyme disease awareness. So sport this as a necklace and when someone asks you about it, you can tell them what you know about Lyme disease, the bull's eye rash, and how to prevent it.

King Milo Press is a shop on Etsy named for a Jack Russell Terrier that endured a lot of suffering for the first six months of his life before being adopted by a school teacher. Milo is now an advocate for Lyme disease and spreads the words through zines and green plushies. With the purchase of the Screen Printed Lime Plush Dog Toy (anti-Lyme disease), a portion of the procedes will go to the Lyme Disease Foundation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It Always Snows In April

At least from what I remember, even if it's just a little bit.

There is an email forward that I have seen circulating several times called "You know you live in Upstate New York If..." It lists several situations that us in the North can relate to. My favorite line of the joke is:

'Your four seasons are: almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction.'

So true! I was running errands the other day and all over I saw signs stating "ROAD WORK BEGINS APRIL _______." Hopefully they will fix the potholes that the winter has brought us. Meanwhile, we have had a few nice days in a row. If we didn't hit 600, then we came pretty close.

By this time of year, I have pretty much lost my mind and can't wait to get outside. Typically we get a few nice days of near sixty degree weather and then - BAM! - A snow storm comes out of nowhere. A woman that used to work with me told me to always wait until Memorial Day Weekend to plant your flowers outside - because it always snows in April, and there is always a chance of frost well into May. Well - I'm done with snow, so here's to hoping for a snow free April! With the recent weather, maybe its a sign that the snow will keep away until next winter.

During our little heat wave, I have been trying to find stuff to do outside. I was so desperate that I cleaned my car. I contemplated raking the back yard and picking up some of the branches that fell during the ice storms, then realized I'd have to shovel the back yard before I could rake it.

I do have some things to look forward to coming up, though. I have the Mets game on Saturday and my sister and I joined the Adirondack Mountain Club and we have some hikes lined up! We are going for the fire tower badge!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Perfect Storm

Meet Stormy Designs! Stormy is a mother, young grandmother, former waitress, woodworker, and an outstanding artist. When she became an empty nester with some extra time on her hands, she got back into beading. Thanks to the difficulty finding beads she liked a helpful little push from a dear friend, she discovered her talent in making her own polymer clay beads and pendants. She has since expanded her creations to coasters and designer tins as well.

Art has always been in her life; her father was award winning professional photographer, her mother a painter. Even both sets of grandparents were artistic. Stormy successfully ran a country wood craft business earlier in her life and has done tole painting. Now she sticks to polymer clay and beading, and she particularly enjoys sculpting polymer clay into objects like flowers and dragons.

Stormy Designs is the name of her Etsy shop where she sells her creations. The name Stormy comes from a nickname a customer gave her while waitressing - she liked it and it stuck! All the pictures here are Stormy Designs originals and can purchased through the picture links. Be sure to check out her entire store though!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My New Toy

I bought a new toy the other day with my A.C. Moore coupon. This is my anvil. Anvils provide a flat hard surface for hammering metal and wire for jewelry making. It also has horns on the side for shaping wire.

I'm in the process of wire wrapping some stones that I got in Key West, and I've been playing with some new techniques. Eventually I'd like to wrap some stones with flattened copper and sterling silver wire. Unfortunately, I have found that colored wire chips to the copper base when hammered.

What I was able to do with my new toy, however, was perfect my wire bird nests, at least at a smaller scale. The horn on the side is perfectly round and increases in diameter; while the bird nests are smaller in size, they are more uniform in shape. I made so many I'm trying to come up with ways to use them all!

The smaller size makes them less appropriate for a necklace pendant, but I found they are the perfect size to weave onto a wire crochet bracelet. Perhaps a pair of matching earrings will appear in my shop in the future.

The bracelet its self is two rows of double crocheted brown colored copper wire, Artistic Wire brand. I got a tip that Artistic Wire has less than 200 ppm of lead. After contacting someone in their customer service department, I got confirmation - its actually less than 6 ppm of lead!

The nests were made with matching wire of the same brand, just a smaller gauge, and of course my new anvil. A teal fresh water pearl is attached. The hook clasp is made with the same wire so that it matches completely. The nests and small teal beads were woven through the bracelet. The great thing about wire crochet is that you can manipulate the length a little. the bracelet in the picture is 6.5" long, but can be stretched out to about 7.25" long.

Like it? It's for sale here!