Wednesday, 19 July 2017

DIY Wire Gem/Bead Tree


When I've gone to the Sudbury Gem & Mineral Show in the past, I've always noticed some booths selling pretty wire trees with gems as the leaves. There were all sorts of different colours since different gems were used. They looked so complex that I thought it would take a lot of work but, earlier this year, I decided to see if there were directions online. I bought some beading wire and gemstone beads at a craft store and tried it out. I wanted to make a small tree just to learn how to make them and it was easier to make than I thought! I gave my first tree to my Dad as a late birthday present. I decided to make another wire gem tree for this DIY post and I even made another tree, a weeping willow, with seed beads! The step-by-step directions are below along with photos and tips. Once you know how to make the wire gem/bead tree, it is easy to switch up some of the steps to make different looking trees. At the end, I give a short description of how to do some of the steps differently to make a weeping willow with seed beads.


Supplies:

  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Gemstone beads (or regular plastic/glass beads)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors

Notes before starting:

*These instructions are for a small tree. If you want to make a larger tree, increase the amount and length of the pieces of wire.

*Always twist wires in the same direction so that they look nice.

*Trees are perfectly imperfect so make sure to keep this in mind:
  • The twisting does not have to be perfect.
  • Give your branches and roots some variety. Do not make them all the same.
  • Arrange the branches and roots in a natural way so that they go all over the place.

Instructions:



Step 1:



Cut 24 pieces of the beading wire, each measuring around 12 inches.


Step 2:



String a gemstone bead on a piece of wire, bringing the bead to the center of the wire and folding the wire in half. Twist the two halves of the wire together a few times at the base of the bead. 


Repeat for all of the other pieces of wire.


Step 3:



Take two of the beaded wires and join them together by twisting them together at the base of the previous twisting. Add a third one to a few of them. 


Repeat this with the other beaded wires so that you have several small branches.


Step 4:



Take two of the sets and twist them together, just like we did with the single wires in the last step. Add a third one to some of them.


Repeat this with the other sets so that you have at least four large branches.


Step 5:



Twist all of the large branches together at the base of all of the twisting and twist down to create a trunk. Do not twist all of the way.


Make sure that you leave enough wire to create roots in a similar way as creating the branches.


Step 6:



Separate the wires into three groups.


Separate each group into two groups so that you have a total of six groups.


Twist each of the six groups a bit. A few of these groups can be twisted all the way. Others can be separate again into two groups which can be twisted all the way.


Cut off any excess wire.


Step 7:



Bend and arrange the branches and roots in various directions.


To make a weeping willow with seed beads:




Cut 24 pieces of the beading wire, each measuring around 12 inches. Keep each piece of wire straight. Curl one end of each of the wires in a bit to make a sort of loop that will hold the beads on.


String seed beads onto a third of a piece of wire. Do this for each of the other wires. Be careful not to let the beads slip off of the wires. Follow steps 3-7 of the wire gem tree instructions.


They make such pretty decorations and they especially make pretty gifts!

Cheers,
Kaylie

Monday, 10 July 2017

Coraline (Neil Gaiman)


When I saw Coraline by Neil Gaiman at a library book sale, I knew that I had to buy it. I had never read it before and had mostly heard about the animated film that was made from it. I ended up watching the animated film after reading the book and I liked how they interpreted the book when it came to the imagery, but I found it a bit strange that they added a completely new character, a young boy named Wybie that wasn't in the book whatsoever, to help Coraline. Of course, this new character has a grandmother from whom he finds out some information but I didn't like how suddenly Coraline has someone who helps her rather than her being the true heroine in the end as she was in the book. He was an interesting character and I guess Wybie helping her showed teamwork between children but it was as though the filmmakers were saying that she couldn't do it all on her own; she still needed help from a boy. This was my feminist point of view of the film and I'm sure that it would stand out for anyone who has both read the book and watched the film. With this little rant over, let's concentrate on the book that I absolutely adored.

Coraline is bored of her own life. Her parents don't pay enough attention to her when she just wishes that they would take some time out of their busy schedules to spend time with her. She ends up finding a door in their new house that is bricked up. It used to lead to the room on the other side of the wall but was blocked when the house was split up for several families to live in. The first time unlocking the door shows the bricks but the second time Coraline looks through the door, she finds herself in a parallel world with other parents that look exactly like her own but have buttons in place of their eyes. This parallel world appears to be better but she knows that she belongs in her real home with her real parents and she sees that this parallel world is all just an illusion and a trap.

Coraline is the heroine of the story. She works alone with only the help of a cat and, later, three ghost children. Even though she has this help, she is the character that ultimately saves the day in the end. She is an explorer and she treats this tough situation as an adventure. Bravery is also very important in the story. Coraline faces her fears and never gives up. A really important thing that Coraline says is "When you're scared but you still do it anyway, that's brave." She was scared but she made it through in the end and saved everyone. Even though she was scared, she convinced herself that she was brave and that she was an explorer and could make it through this adventure. I connected with her so much in some of the ways that she felt about fearful situations. These include things that you cannot see being easy to be afraid of, whistling when she was afraid that something would jump out at her (in my case when I am scared of the bush at night at my camp I start saying random things out loud or kind of saying things in a sing-song voice), and hugging herself and telling herself that she was brave when she was afraid (I often put my arms around myself when I'm scared or worried).

At the back of the book, there is information about the author, Neil Gaiman, his own description of how he wrote the book, as well as an interview with him. In his description of writing the book, he ends by saying,"It was a story, I learned when people began to read it, that children experienced as an adventure, but which gave adults nightmares." This perfectly describes the mix of adventure and nightmare that Coraline experiences and she herself recognizes it as both. Perhaps this is because she is an older child? So maybe she sees it as both an adventure and a nightmare because she is still a child but she is growing up. We definitely see her growing up a bit in the story since she takes on the responsibility of saving the day and she learns new life lessons along the way. She certainly showed more of the child that she is since she reminded herself that she was an explorer but she did that because she was scared from seeing how the situation was a nightmare. I love the idea of taking a scary situation and seeing it as an adventure. It's turning something negative into something positive. I think that maybe we need to channel our inner child in that way sometimes.

Another important lesson in the story is that once Coraline knows that this other world is all just an illusion and that her other mother in this world has simply created it to seem perfect, she realizes that perfection isn't important to her. Perfection and getting everything you want isn't actually a great life. She accepts that things might not be perfect in the real world but her parents still love her and she loves them. She doesn't want to stay in this other world and fights her hardest to set things right and save the day by saving her parents that the other mother has trapped and by freeing the trapped ghost children and getting back to her real home. Perfection is all just an illusion. Nobody's life is perfect but it is the imperfections that actually do make it perfect.

There is a lot of positivity and lessons in this book. Being brave even when you're scared, seeing challenges as an adventure, and accepting that life isn't perfect but that's what makes it perfect are all amazing things to remember in life. I love how, if you really take a good look at children's books, we see these beautiful messages.

Cheers,
Kaylie

Monday, 26 June 2017

Religion and Mindfulness


This Spring, I have visited the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, known to Sudburians simply as "The Grotto," here in Sudbury on two occasions with my best friend. The first time was to show her the Grotto because she had never been there and the second time was to have a picnic there for her birthday (although it was raining on and off so we didn't stay very long). It is a very beautiful place here in our city. I always think of it as a hidden gem because it isn't something that I see "advertised" anywhere. You usually have to live here to know about it or find out through a friend or through a search online. I first learned about it through a short little blurb in a Sudbury history pamphlet and I have since found some more information about its history on its old centennial website. The area is not only home to the statue of Mary but includes several other religious monuments, some spiritual and decorative monuments, as well as grounds filled with paths, benches, and flowers. A flat labyrinth can be found where one is supposed to meditate as they follow the path to the center. There is also a fountain surrounded by pillars that have a roof. This part of the area is a common place for people to take graduation and wedding photos. Since I went during the Spring, the fountain's water wasn't running but it's beautiful when it is!


One thing that is made clear about the Grotto is that it is not only a place for religious people or people who follow specific religions. It is a place for anyone to go to relax, reflect, meditate, or pray. I'm not religious but I do consider myself to be spiritual so this is a lovely place to visit. When I visit, I just like to look around and take it all in. The view, flowers and plants, monuments, and layout of the area are all things that I enjoy. I appreciate that we have a place like this in Sudbury, even though it has a lot of monuments that I don't identify with. That's ok. It isn't entirely about just one religion. It's about spirituality and appreciating the beauty of life. It's also a good place to just sit and think.


I find that religion and spirituality are similar to mindfulness. You slow down and notice the world around you or pay attention to certain aspects of your life. Instead of just moving through life from one thing to the next, you take the time to look around you and appreciate all of the beauty. Gratitude is a big lesson in religions and I think that gratitude is a part of mindfulness too. Mindfulness involves living in the present moment and I find that when we live in the present moment, we realize just how much there is to be grateful for. The world is so busy and noisy these days and people seem to just be rushing through life. We need to learn to slow down, relax, and appreciate our lives.



Someone once told me that prayer is a form of meditation and it's true when you think about it. During both prayer and meditation, you are focusing on the present moment and focusing on a specific thought or several specific thoughts. They are also both times of relaxation. There are many different ways to meditate and you can actually see many different activities as a meditation or turn them into a meditation. Prayer is simply a more religious form of meditation. The Grotto here in Sudbury is a place where some people go to pray but if you aren't religious, it is also a nice place to meditate. When you see someone praying, think about how they are also doing a type of meditation. It really opens your mind to all of the possibilities when it comes to meditation.


These red and white tulips are the Canada 150 tulips for Canada's 150th anniversary of confederation which is this year of 2017. It was a nice surprise to see a lot of these tulips at the Grotto along with other flowers as well. The second time that I visited the Grotto with my best friend, there were beautiful lilacs and you could smell their amazing aroma while walking towards the statues. More flowers had been planted since the first time and there were a few more candles in tall glass vase-like holders at the base of the statue of Mary. I also spotted a faerie ornament beside the Grotto. It's so nice to see that this beautiful place is being taken care of for everyone to enjoy. It is a place that people know about but, at the same time, it isn't too busy. Even if there are other people there, they tend to be respectful and not be too rowdy. It's a great place to go to get away from the craziness of life for a little while.

Cheers,
Kaylie

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Seasons and Feelings


Seasons make us feel a certain way. We feel certain emotions and associate the seasons with certain things or experiences. We look forward to some things during certain seasons, and there are some things that we don't look forward to, but I want to talk about what I love about each season and what I associate with each one. First off, I think I should mention how I rate each season since this will give a better understanding of which seasons I like the best. Fall is my favourite season. Summer and Spring are almost tied but I'd say that Summer takes second place with Spring coming in third. Winter is in last place, although I do like the beginning of it. I'll explain more about the parts of Winter that I like in the rest of this post, along with what I like about the other seasons.


Spring

Spring is a new beginning. It is a time to wake up and enjoy the little things in life. The world starts to come alive again. The snow melts away and plants start to grow. It's fun to explore and see which plants are starting to poke up out of the ground. The sun starts shining way more and the cold starts to go away, allowing us to spend more time outside without freezing. To me, Spring is magical. We don't know what to expect when the snow melts and everything that disappeared during Fall and Winter comes back. Spring is full of surprises. When I think of Spring, I think of bunnies, flowers, rain, and innocence. The days should be filled with tea parties and prances through fields of wildflowers. Spring is a time of pretty things.


Summer

My birthday is in July, so naturally I love Summer, even though my favourite season actually comes after summer. Summer is a time for swimming and lounging by the pool. It is a time for gardening and eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Summer is very established. Sure, things continue to grow and there are still surprises, but it isn't as unpredictable as Spring. The right place to be during the Summer is outside. Meals should be eaten on a porch, or better yet, at a picnic. The days should be spent on road trips. The nights should be spent camping in a tent or stargazing under a magnificent starry sky. Summer is the time for adventures.


Fall

Fall is not too hot and not too cold. It is cool enough to get to wear sweaters but not too cold that you have to wear a whole lot of layers. The mosquitoes are dying away and it is the perfect season for spending time outdoors. You won't get too sweaty and the bush doesn't feel so crowded anymore since the plants are drying up and the leaves are falling off of the trees. It's especially nice if Summer decides to hang on for a little while longer while Fall slowly comes in, giving you that perfect combination weather. Fall is a very cozy season. I tend to think of it as dry and earthy. It's a spooky time of the year, but spooky in a good way. Fall and cemeteries just seem to go together, because Fall seems old too. I love thinking about my ancestors during this time. It's the perfect time to look at old photos and documents. Libraries beckon us inside and an evening in a cabin with a wood stove is a necessity. I love harvesting and seeing what we can still get out of our garden. Herbs, pumpkins, and squashes come to mind. Fall is the time for being thankful.


Winter

Oh, Winter. You're so crazy but you're wonderful in the beginning. I love Winter during the month of December (even though I realize that it doesn't officially start until less than a week before Christmas). The beginning of Winter is nice because the snow is just beginning to fall (hopefully it is or else you might end up with a green Christmas) and it's pretty. The first snowfall is magical, even it is light. When it comes to Winter past January 1st, I find that it's just too much. I tend to stay inside a lot during the Winter since I get cold more easily than other people and it becomes uncomfortable and even a bit painful, in a way. Winter is all about curling up with hot chocolate and a good book, with a fireplace video playing on a computer or laptop (or a real fireplace). The Christmas season brings warm, happy feelings, especially when it gently snows the first few times and the snow is just so pretty sitting on tree branches. Winter is a time of love and patience.


Sometimes, I feel like I just move through the seasons without fully celebrating and enjoying them. I am not Pagan but I do think that the Wheel of the Year that most Pagans follow to celebrate the seasons is very interesting. I think it would be great for paying more attention to each season, like people did in the past. Seasons were important in times when there wasn't as much as there is now. Farmers had to pay close attention to seasons and the seasons often determined whether or not something could be done. I want to enjoy seasons instead of always looking forward to the next one. I want to live in the present moment of each season and appreciate each one for what it offers.

Cheers,
Kaylie

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim (Boom! Studios)


I absolutely adore the Lumberjanes comic book series as you would know after reading my thoughts about Lumberjanes Vol. 1-5. I read them as they come out in volumes and I am always checking when the next volume comes out. The friendship between April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley is so strong and they go on all sorts of crazy adventures together! What's not to love? This series is so refreshing and different from other comic books and it has some great messages mixed in. It makes me long for adventures in the great outdoors and makes my imagination run wild. The stories continue to get more and more interesting and I'm always wondering what will happen next while also making some guesses.

Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim has a theme of oceans and sailing. April is working on the badges for the nautical life skills section of the camp handbook and wants to prove to the new counselor Seafarin' Karen that her cabin is a good team after finding out that everyone in the cabin has to be a good team and all tie good knots to earn the "All For Knot" badge. After only thinking of herself and her love of mermaids in the previous volume, she doesn't want to let down her friends again. The girls end up finding out that Seafarin' Karen's ship has been stolen by selkies that keep taunting her and keeping the ship within view but protected by whirlpools and that Seafarin' Karen is a werewolf. Weird things don't surprise the girls so much anymore and they decide to help Seafarin' Karen and also show her how great a team they are. The group actually splits up with Molly and Ripley going to see if the bear woman knows anything about selkies and April, Jo, and Mal trying to help Seafarin' Karen figure out a plan to get her ship back.

Molly wishes that she was something more interesting like all of the people that she has met who are involved in the supernatural and that she didn't have to leave it all to go back home when the Summer ends. She is given the choice of sticking with the bear woman to learn more about the supernatural but she chooses to go help her friends and the bear woman says to herself that she's not ready yet. Maybe the story will return to this in the future when Molly is more ready since she seems to have more potential in the area of the supernatural than the others, especially in the end when the spyglass, which is used for spotting supernatural things, shows that all of the girls are glowing after being involved with the supernatural but Molly is glowing more than the others. Earlier in this volume, Molly mentioned how she remembers the bear woman saying something about the woods and how it changes people and wants them to stay so maybe the woods have chosen Molly. We have already seen hints of how she loves being at camp and dreads going back home because there isn't an exciting life waiting for her back there. Camp has also helped her figure out who she really is. It means a lot to her so maybe this supernatural life is where she is meant to be.

As with every volume, there is an emphasis on friendship, getting along with each other, and working together. This is always evident with the girls of the Roanoke cabin but in this volume it is also evident with Seafarin' Karen and the selkies since they are enemies that turn into friends. The selkies stole Seafarin' Karen's ship because they thought that she stole one of the selkies' pelts but in reality the pelt was stuck in a magical portal in the water. The ultimate reason why it was there in the first place was because Seafarin' Karen had it in her mouth and was tossing it around while in wolf form and it ended up in the water. Due to all of them helping each other while caught in a stormy sea of magical portals, they forgave each other for all of their anger and hurt towards each other and decided to sail away together. And the girls of the Roanoke cabin earned their "All For Knot" badge. Such a happy ending!

Cheers,
Kaylie