Friday, April 18, 2014

DIY Constellation Luminaries

After a frigid and stormy winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us are ready for warm weather and long, sunny days.  To celebrate the coming spring and summer seasons, I dreamed up a tutorial for all my fellow stargazers out there in the world.  So if you're ready for fresh air, fireflies, cold drinks, bare feet, and mild evenings watching the stars sparkling in the sky, I've got a little something to help set the scene.  Keep reading to learn how to make your own constellation luminaries!
DIY Constellation Luminaries
One of the coolest things about this project is that it can be done with any constellation you choose.  For my test run, I created miniature, glowing replicas of the Aquarius, Scorpius, and Pegasus constellations.  You can do an image search on the web to find images of your favorite constellations, or you can use the perfectly-sized templates I've included below.

You will need:
Printed images of constellations sized at 7” x 2.5”
Colored paper
Awl or toothpick
Glass votive holder
Tealight candles

DIY Constellation Luminaries

1. Gather supplies and cut paper to measure 7” x 2.5”. 
2. Use a pin to poke holes through the points of the constellation. 
3. Use an awl or toothpick to widen the holes made with the pin. 
4. Lay the constellation image on top of the colored paper. 
5. Use a pencil to fill in the points of the constellation. You may wish to create marks around the holes to keep track and make sure they’re all filled in. 
6. Check the colored paper to make sure all points of the constellation are marked and visible.
7. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the colored paper to create holes for the light to shine through. 
8. Wrap the colored paper around the votive holder and secure the edges with tape. Trim any excess paper to create a clean edge around the top of the glass. 
9. Light a tealight candle and gently drop it into the luminary. 
10. Repeat this project to create luminaries for all your favorite constellations.

When I was designing this project, I had to do a bit of exploration to find images that were clear and properly sized.  I ended up creating my own templates in Photoshop and decided to share to make it easier for anyone else who might want to join the fun.  Just follow the links below for pre-designed, perfectly sized images to fit your luminaries.  You can either download the photos or send them straight to the printer without downloading (click next to the download button for the print option).  Make sure you set up the print job so that the image fills the whole page to ensure your printout is sized to fit a standard glass votive holder.
Constellation Printables
Click here to download a printable template featuring Pegasus, The Big Dipper, and The Little Dipper.
Constellation Printables
Click here to download a printable template featuring Hercules, Leo the Lion, and Orion.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fitness Friday #16- The Burst: A Fun Cardio Workout to Increase the Afterburn Effect

Good afternoon, movers and shakers!  The purpose of today's Fitness Friday post is to share one of my absolute favorite workouts in my repertoire.  But before I give you the play-by-play of how to do it, I want to discuss a concept known as the afterburn effect. Without rambling on about the scientific masterpiece that is the human body, let's just summarize by saying that the afterburn effect describes the hours upon hours that your body continues to burn calories AFTER a workout.  This can work against you if you've ever overexerted your muscles and paid for it the next day by waking up to a stiff, sore body, but you can use it (comfortably!) to your advantage and I'm going to show you how.

Basically, the best way to keep your body working long after you've completed any exercise is to go as hard as you can.  This could mean running at an all-out sprint rather than a casual jog or completing a vigorous weight-lifting session.  But if that sounds exhausting and just reading about "giving it all you've got" makes you want to turn the other way, I get it.  I enjoy exercise, but I also enjoy comfort and I've never bought into the philosophy that you have to punish yourself to be fit.  I exercise for pleasure and for the health benefits, but I'm no athlete.  Luckily for folks like us, the afterburn effect can also be achieved by completing various workouts with high-intensity intervals spaced between less intense "rest" periods.

The Burst Workout

In my pursuit of a healthy weight and lifestyle over the years, this has become one of my favorite workouts for two reasons.  1) It's fun!  I often  find myself smiling when I'm doing the high-intensity portions of this workout because the bursts of running make me feel like a kid again.  2) It's fairly low-impact.  I'm no runner, so long-distance training is not my focus.  However, I find that when I run in short bursts with rests in between, it doesn't feel like a chore.  Are you ready?  Lace up your running shoes and let's move!

The Burst Workout

Minutes 0-2: Warm up by walking at 4 mph with your hands on the rails of the treadmill or resting at your sides.
Minutes 2-4: Power walk, still at 4 mph but with your arms pumping as if you were running.
Minute 4-5: RUN FOR IT!  Up your pace to 5 mph and run for a full 60 seconds.
Minute 5-6: Walk at 4 mph with arms resting.
Minutes 6-9: Power walk at 4 mph.
Minute 9-10: Run at 5 mph.
Minute 10-11: Walk at 4 mph with arms resting.
Minutes 11-14: Power walk at 4 mph.
Minute 14-15: Run at 5 mph.
Minute 15-16: Walk at 4 mph with arms resting.
Minutes 16-19: Power walk at 4 mph.
Minute 19-20: Run at 5 mph.
Minute 20-21: Walk at 4 mph with arms resting.
Minutes 21-24: Power walk at 4 mph.
Minute 24-25: Run at 5 mph.
Minute 25-26: Walk at 4 mph with arms resting.
Minutes 26-29: Power walk at 4 mph.
Minute 29-30: This the the grand finale!  Sprint at 5.5 mph (or as fast as you can go) for a full 60 seconds.
DONE!  You crossed the finish line, and the crowd is going wild.  You are a superstar!

It may seem very involved when I list every step minute-by-minute, but you will notice a pattern after the first 10 minutes and it will all come very naturally.  For example, at the end of each running burst you will instinctively want to rest your arms at your sides, walk for a spell, and cool off a bit.  I also make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the workout, and the resting minutes are a great time to go for a refreshing guzzle of cool water.   

This exercise is most easily completed on a treadmill so you can track your time and pace (I unfold my treadmill in the living room and watch movies while I work out, a routine a highly recommend because it makes the time pass quickly), but if you don't have access to a treadmill you can also do this exercise in the great outdoors with a little help from a stopwatch, pedometer, or an app on your phone to help you keep up with the time and speed.  The greatest thing about this afterburn workout and that you don't actually feel it after the fact.  You can go about your day while your body remains hard at work burning excess calories and fat.  I also find it very energizing and refreshing, so I typically feel an elevated mood setting in right after I finish.  The next time you feel up to it, set aside a half hour to bring a burst of sunshine into your day.

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Crochet Leg Warmers + A Video Highlighting Tulsa's Fiber Artists

If you've ever poured yourself into any form of creativity, you might relate to something I've often encountered: Variety keeps it interesting.  Actually, I would apply this theory to lots of things, even beyond the artistic world.  It's easy to get burned out on your job, your town, your daily routine, or any aspect of life if you don't try something fun and different occasionally.  So when it comes to crafting, crochet is my escape.  My little craft desk is one of my favorite places in the world.  Nothing but good vibes are allowed in this corner.  Just ask my husband how quickly he gets shut down when he tries to talk politics when the music is playing and the work surface is open for business.  It's a very safe, happy place for me.

Craft Corner

That being said, sometimes I need to escape.  I spend a LOT of time in this corner, not only creating things but also photographing and packaging them.  So occasionally, I start feeling trapped in this space and I have to break away for a change.  That's where crochet comes in.  This medium is very mobile.  I can take it to the most comfortable spots of my home, to a coffee shop to work in the company of friends, or to a sunny park bench with a soundtrack of birds chirping and leaves rustling.   I was so pleased with a recent crochet creation that I wanted to share in case anyone else might be interested in bustin' out the crochet hooks and making some too. 

Crochet Leg Warmers

These fun leg warmers were based on a pattern I found here for only 21 cents.  I wanted mine to be tapered to fit my leg, so I altered the pattern by doing a double crochet decrease halfway around rows 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13.  I also wove a black ribbon through the top of the cuffs to keep them in place during wear and to add a little extra flair.  I was pleased with the results, but unsure of where I might be able to sport these new cuties other than around the house.  Luckily, I found the perfect venue.  I recently started taking belly dance classes (keeping with the theme of variety, I guess I was just craving something new and exciting) so I wore my new leg warmers to dance class and shimmied the day away.

Crochet Leg Warmers

If you'd like to see a few shots of these leg warmers in progress, check out this segment that was featured on the local news last week.  The lovely and entertaining MC Swab of Fly The Coop interviewed knitters and crocheters at Loops, a yarn store we all adore.  Not only can you see friendly faces working on various projects and discussing the merits of fibercrafts, there's also a brief conversation about how much my Gran inspired me to start crocheting.  I hope somewhere out there, her soul did a happy dance when her photo was aired on the local news.  

So now that you know about my creative escape, tell me about yours!  What do you do to recharge your crafty energy?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Glow For A Walk

As you may have gathered in my Gypsy Update, I have fallen in love with being a dog owner.  Like I mentioned in that post, I find it very enjoyable to wander around the city with my pup by my side.  Over the summer, we often wait until the sun goes down to walk her so she doesn't overheat.  Of course brightly colored clothing is just part of my lifestyle, whether I'm walking at night or not, but sometimes even that doesn't seem like enough.  So I recently created a set of accessories that will help keep me and my dog safe during our evening walks.

My friend Sherri, who works at a wonderful local yarn store called Loops, introduced me to a very cool product that I just had to try out.  Lumio yarn is unique because not only is it available in lots of fun colors, it also has reflective threads woven in.  I am not referring to a little bit of weak sparkle or a shimmery strand or two, instead this yarn contains actual reflective fibers that shine like stars.  So I crocheted a comfy slip-on collar for Gypsy, who reacted by giving me lots of puppy-dog eyes because I think she already suspected this collar was intended for walking and she was more than ready to try it out.

Reflective Dog Collar for Evening Walks
Dude.  Put down the camera and walk me already, crazy lady!

But before we headed out, I needed to make some matching wrist cuffs for myself because I am officially one of those people who dresses to match their dog.  We also had matching grins as we paraded down the street that night in our new gear.

Reflective Dog Collar for Evening Walks

Since I was so pleased with the prototype I made for my own purposes, I decided to go ahead and offer them for sale in my Etsy shop.  Because, surely, I'm not the only one who enjoys nighttime walks with my dog and wishes to keep her safe and visible.

Reflective Dog Collar for Evening Walks

I acquired all the most bright, festive colors available in this yarn and got to work creating patterns to accommodate dogs of all sizes.  I have many colors all stitched up and ready to ship in small, medium, and large, or you can choose custom sizing and include your dog's measurements for a perfect fit!

Reflective Dog Collar for Evening Walks

With this new creation, we've been getting in so many good walks that I've noticed more naps taking place too.  Some of them even involve *almost* snuggling with one of the cats.  We're one step closer to my seemingly unrealistic daydream of someday seeing an interspecies cuddle session in full force.

Isis and Gypsy

Thanks for taking the time to read about yet another silly little craft accomplishment that I'm way too excited about!  Have a colorful day!