Monday, February 21, 2011

Easy Homemade Oil Lamps

Never buy candles again.With spring approaching, our thoughts turn to reclaiming our yard, planning a garden and the hurricane season. Normally I stock a supply of candles and wince at the cost, wishing I had more oil lamps. I don't know why but I suddenly remembered that my mother used to make them in mason jars. So, I thought I'd do some experimenting and go for "pretty" while I was at it.

1- Use 100% cotton wick material...a strip of cotton fabric or twine will do. I used cotton "filler cord" from the fabric department, 10 yards for $2.29. That's a lot of wick! 2- cut your pieces (6" to 12" long) and soak them in water. Shake off the excess and cover them with salt for several hours so they will burn slower and longer. Remove the salt and let the wicks dry.

3- Select your containers. I chose a candle glass, a sea shell and a little vase I made years ago. 4- You will need wire to stabilize the wick. I used 18 gauge "bright" floral stem wire, 18" long.
5- The purpose of the wire is to hold the wick either up from the bottom of the container or down from the top. So, fashion it accordingly. One thing I learned is that the only part of the wick you want exposed to the air is the 1/4" above the wire that you will light. You will see that I made a small metal sleeve to surround the wick in the little vase. I should have done that with the sea shell and I did coil extra wire around the descending wick in the glass.

6- Test the positioning of your wires in the containers and when you are satisfied, thread the wick through and crimp the wire snugly around the wick. You want it to to be tight but still allow you to pull the wick up once it has burned down.
Use only olive oil as it will not smoke, doesn't smell and, amazingly, it will not burn. You cannot set it on fire - go figure! In fact, if you have fashioned your wire to hang from the rim of your container, you can simply dunk the flame into the oil to put it out. I would suggest covering the lamps with plastic wrap and a rubber band when not in use to keep the oil from evaporating. I'm going to try infusing lavender in some of my oil to see if I will get that wonderful fragrance.
Also, I found this site (LINK) that gives instruction for making the type of clay oil lamps used by the ancients. You might enjoy it. I'm going to give it a try.

I have a party to plan for the weekend and will post the highlights.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rainbow on the Water

Have you noticed that life's greatest gifts are most often free? I can't begin to tell you what a miraculous sight this was to me this morning. For years my husband and visitors have spoken, on occasion. of the rainbow on the surface of our cypress pond and try as I would, I could never see it.
In the still of a Spring morning, the surface of the pond is often dusted with a fine layer of pollen. Until today, it has only made me think of the dreaded allergy season and I have anxiously waited for the slightest breeze to clear the surface and return the mesmerizing reflections that I love so much.
I don't know how or why it is that I actually saw the colors this morning because I'm colorblind and see almost no colors at all. But this morning, for a few minutes, I received one of those incredible free gifts. From the palest lime green, to a soft aqua, to a beautiful baby blue, blending into a lovely, light lavender, then into a perfect pink, and to peach and finally to a sunny yellow in the distance: I saw the colors, each and every one of them. Now, I know how it is that others have found the dusty pond so beautiful. I ran for the camera and couldn't wait to share the pictures...and I couldn't wait to share my excitement. I'm sure that science would attribute my momentary, morning vision to a particular angle or intensity of the sun or refraction or something like that. But for me it was a miracle moment and it filled my entire day with all the hope and promise that comes with a very first rainbow on the water.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Making a Unique Child's Shelf Unit

I've been trying so hard to think Spring into existence but it isn't working. These arctic fronts just keep rolling in. I thought getting down to 29 overnight again was something to grumble about until I spoke with my Alaska daughter today. She reported the noontime temperature at -4. Brrr. It reminded me that I only need to be patient a couple of weeks longer while Alaska won't see Spring until late May. I can hardly believe that I used to consider that "normal". But Alaska winters provided tons of time for projects.

Then I remembered this little shelf unit for toys that I made for one of her children and thought you might enjoy the simplicity of it. The construction is so very simple and the materials list consists only of
  • 2 - 1" x 12" x 8' boards,
  • 1 - 1" x 2" x 8' board and
  • a bundle of survey stakes.
  • The few shingles (only 24) can usually be obtained without charge from a construction site with a polite request and a smile.
  • A couple of hinges, a little paint and you're in business.
Cut one of the 1" x 12" boards in half (= 2 boards @ 4' long each) for the sides.
Miter one end of each of these boards at a 45 degree angle so the roof will fit snugly.

From the second 1" x 12" board, cut 5 shelves at 12" long each.
The remaining 3" (more or less) should be cut almost in half for the roof.
(You will need to take into account the thickness of the board as one piece will overlap the other when they are attached to each other at the roof ridge. The idea is for both sides of the roof to be the same length. Trim one if necessary.)

Mark your shelf locations and glue and screw them into place.

Glue and screw the roof boards into place.

Paint the entire assembly.
First, paint all your pickets.
If I remember correctly, I shortened the survey stakes a bit so that they would come just above a shelf edge. From the 1" x 2" board, four pieces are cut a little longer than the survey stakes so that they provide four legs at the corners. The 1" x 2" pieces are trimmed to points at the top end to match the pickets and are glued and screwed into place. Along the sides, between the 1" x 2"s', I painted two horizontal stripes white to simulate the horizontal boards of a fence. The pickets are then glued into position on top of the horizontal stripes. The same general spacing is used for the gate and the vertical pickets are glued and tacked to actual horizontal pieces made from two additional survey stakes.
Add hardware and shingles and you're done. Isn't it cute?