52 Projects is an adventure in discovery. Every week, for 52 weeks, do something. Something you’ve never done before. Something you’ve always wanted to do. Something that scares you. Something that inspires you. Something that inspires others. Something that tickles your fancy. Something that caught your eye. Something that just popped into your head. It can be big. It can be small. It can be whatever you want it to be. Find out how doing something can lead you to discover things about yourself, your world, your God. Then, come here on Sundays and share it with others. I'll write about mine here, you write about yours on your blog, then use the tool in my post to link to your something. Please feel free to jump in and participate anytime throughout the year!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
This week’s project was a lot of fun. I’ve wanted to try my hand at making more items with re-purposed objects. My project also had to meet two important requirements:
1. Something simple because I’ve been fighting a nasty head cold all week and can’t really fathom anything tricky or complicated that involves any real brain power
2. Something that costs me absolutely nothing since I’ve already spent my creative budget on paint for my Dining Room chest of drawers project.
So I pulled an old issue of Mary Jane’s Farm and randomly picked my project. Initially, it was a hand knit rag rug which required a pair of #15 29 inch circular needles which I didn’t have and was not willing to drag my sick ass out the door to go purchase. I did have, however, a pair of much shorter #15 needles and the rag rug turned in to hot pads instead. Of course I already know how to knit but the beauty of this project was recycling old cotton t-shirts. I’ve never knit with strips of clothing before and I just happened to have 3 large bags of old clothes waiting to be dropped off at the local thrift store. For this project, I selected several old cotton t-shirts that belonged to my kids and cut them in to long one inch wide strips. I tied each strip end to another until I had a “ball of yarn”. I cast on 15 stitches on #15 needles and knit until I had a nice square of a hot pad. Not only do they make me smile with pride but they also can be tossed in to the washing machine and used over and over again. GO GREEN!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Not every project for me is about making pretty art. One thing that I have felt called to do for years is to volunteer my time for those that could benefit from my serving them. Specifically, I’ve felt a calling to do this in either a children’s hospital or a nursing home. After applying to my first choice of The Children’s Hospital and never hearing back, I decided to apply to a local nursing home. The nursing home contacted me quickly; they were thrilled to have someone with an art background come to help out. Last week I went for my initial orientation. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go back. When I entered the nursing home facility, the smell of sickness and dying hit me immediately. By the time I got to the top floor dementia unit the sadness overtook me. There were quite a few patients stuffed in wheel chairs with their heads on their chests in the corner and I wondered what that quality of life must feel like. For most of these patients, this is their final place.
I had 2 snow storms and a week to decide if I would go back. I decided that I did indeed want to give this a try. On Wednesday of this week I arrived at the nursing home, logged in and had my very first official volunteer experience. It was “manicure day” and when I arrived in the lobby there was a huge circle of women in wheel chairs waiting for me. The irony is that I am the polar opposite of this type of pampering. I am so low maintenance that I’m not even on the radar. For an hour and a half I held these women’s hands in mine and gently filed, trimmed and painted their nails. Very quickly I realized that the true beauty of my experience was not in the act of the manicure. With each hand I held, I could feel the flow of energy and I was feeling every rich and colorful memory of every word they said. It was the most touching thing I’ve felt in such a long time. I felt so good to be able to make these women feel beautiful and special. One woman appeared to have had a stroke. Although she couldn’t communicate very well, I could see by the sparkle in her eyes that this treatment for her was so special. I’m going back every Wednesday afternoon as long as I am in the position to do so.
This is my year for stepping out and bridging people together. This is my year for growing and discovering and serving and connecting. One of the women told me she was a knitter and was disappointed because their knitting circle no longer existed there; she knits alone in her room. So do many others and then there are a few who want to learn. You know where this is going, don’t you? I immediately offered to head a knitting circle and I’m going to keep on the Activities Director until it is established. And just to show you how inspired I am by those of you who have participated here at 52 Projects, Erika shared a scarf that she knit on a knitting loom. I Googled the loom and found that it is the perfect tool for elderly people who might have problems with their hands and the use of two knitting needles. So I am off to buy one of these, learn how to use it and share the skill with the ladies at the nursing home. Thank you, Erika. You have inspired me.
There is so much need for a little more compassion in this world. Volunteering does not mean giving up huge chunks of time. You could do a half hour shift once a week if that’s all you were able to do. You have no idea how much your willingness to help means to others. I think that maybe the reason why lots of people don’t want to go work in a nursing home is because it scares them to see where they themselves could be someday. Most of us take for granted this freedom we have every day to be independent, choose our own meals, take long walks and enjoy the beauty of our youth. This experience has shown me two major things:
1. It feels so good to be of service; expecting nothing in return. The Universe is calling us to build bridges with people of all ages, races and religions. This is where I feel so energized and happy. I want to follow this calling.
2. I have spent too much time over the past few months feeling “too old” and frustrated. I haven’t been living each day to the fullest. I am blessed with good health and mobility. I am blessed with youth. I am blessed with an intelligent and creative mind. I am blessed with an amazing husband and 2 beautiful children. I have the power to choose. I am a vibrant woman. I am in the prime of my life and I can do anything I put my mind to. The world is my oyster. Each day is a gift. Use it wisely. How have you been using your time?
Sunday, February 14, 2010
This week’s project was rock climbing. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. Yesterday we went to Go Vertical indoor rock climbing gym in Philadelphia. The best part about this is that we made it a family outing. Breen’s daughter Christine, her husband Dave and I took the 2 hour class while Breen, his son Tim, Max and Kendall climbed in the main gym. After the class was done, we all met up and took turns climbing and belaying each other. With all of this cold weather and snow we've been experiencing lately, it was so good to get ourselves out of the house for some exercise. I definitely want to go back and climb more. My strength was on the ground belaying. I found that I froze up on several of my climbs. Basically, I was nervous and tense during the climbs. My arms felt like Jell-O and at a certain height my hands and legs just wouldn’t move anymore. But I believe it’s really “mind over matter” and with a few more visits I’ll get more comfortable. Look out Mt. Everest, here I come :))
What did you do this week?
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Fourteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I was traveling in Greece. While there, I developed the most intense craving for Baklava. One bite and I was hooked. I’m sure I insisted on stopping at every pastry shop within a 200 mile radius of Athens. Since then, I still love it and I have always wanted to make it. However, working with phyllo dough has always intimidated me and Baklava seems so delicate and complicated that I never bothered making it myself. Until now. Yesterday we had a huge snow storm and I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to stay inside and cross this one off of my list of “things I’ve always wanted to try”.
Working with phyllo can be tricky. You have to make sure it’s thawed. Phyllo comes in a roll. Once it’s unfolded flat on your work space, you’ll notice all the layers of paper thin pastry. The trick is to keep it covered with a damp towel while you work with it. Once exposed to the air, phyllo will dry out quickly if it is not kept moist. The layers are super paper thin. Once you get started with the Baklava it’s like layering lasagna; only you’ll be making the layers with melted butter, cinnamon and nuts. The “syrup” is so easy to make. Once the pastry layers come out of the oven all nice and baked, the syrup gets poured over the entire top and absorbs in to the pastry. This was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
The end results were pretty good. I thought the Baklava was a little heavy on the syrup. Next time I make this, I’ll play around with a little less. In the end, I am very proud of my efforts and may even research more recipes using phyllo dough since I am no longer intimidated by it. If you’re thinking about making this, I will forewarn you that this is a dessert for those who love extremely sweet treats. Bon appetite!
•1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough ( I used one of the twin packs that came in the box)
•1 pound chopped nuts
•1 cup butter melted (I used a stick and a half)
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1 cups water
•1 cups white sugar
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1teaspoon vanilla and one teaspoon rose water)
•1/2 cup honey
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
2.Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
3.Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
4.Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
5.Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.