Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paper strip Collages

Way back last May (already!), one of my very first posts on The Butterfly Jungle was a test post. I knew no one was listening and I was mainly just playing and experimenting. Actually, that's what The Butterfly Jungle is for me: playing, experimenting, sharing, goofing around. It's not my vocation, it's one of many avocations.

Anyway, if you've clicked over to that post you know that I was goofing around that day, scrambling to come up with a craft activity at work.

Since that day, the craft I came up with has become one of my favorites to do with my patients. It's fairly easy, readily adapted, and oh so colorful.

Mostly colorful. But maybe you're feeling a bit monochromatic.

Like my sparkly Barn Swallow?

Anyway, the basics of this project are that you cut paper into strips and glue them onto a piece of tag board that has been cut to the dimensions of a frame mat. This project is super cheap- get the mats at a dollar store (usually two in a package), use scrapbook paper, magazine pictures, wrapping paper- anything you have around the house, and tag board or posterboard for the backing. You could even use cereal boxes- heck, don't spend lots of money on this. Most of you dear Butterflies have ribbon but if not, hit  up Wal-Mart for a couple of spools at 97 cents each. Cheap!

I'm going to have to send you elsewhere for the tutorial on this, acutally two tutes. I made the original tutorials for The Creativity Greenhouse, my "professional" blog, and since, as we know, tutorials are time consuming to make, I won't re-invent the wheel but rather send you over there to check it out.

The first post- Paper Strip Collages, Part 1- gives the basic directions for making this project. Keep in mind that the audience of The Creativity Greenhouse are professionals who mainly work in healthcare settings with individuals who may have varying degrees of cognitive or physical impairment. Some of the instructions may seem obvious to you but The Creativity Greenhouse is intended to target folks who may not necessarily have had so much craft exposure in their lives or for whom crafting and creating is serving a different purpose.

Paper Strip Collages, Part 2 gives some adaptations that make the collages easier for folks with some type of impairment, even craft impairment. Seriously, I once had a patient who was a physicist but she just didn't get this at all so she and I worked together ("Let's do this in the closet", she said, "So no one can see what a dolt I am.") at a fairly basic level. It was like Einstein not being able to figure out the yo-yo. Anyway, she got it and proceeded to go to town with it.

I love it when that happens!

So since you'll not be getting the tutorial here (and I do hope you'll click over the The Greenhouse and give it a try), I'll show some of the collages I've made- nothing too fancy. I love variations on a theme and tend to get a bit carried away. Check it out.

I loved cutting out this girl and her doll! More cutting in my future.

This one is a bit different in that I cut th paper into wavy strips
and highlighted the edge with a silver Sharpie. After I glued them to the
backing, I put a piece of vellum over the top of the strips.

For the butterfly on this one, I used a favorite photo of my daughter, taken by my dad, and colorized it in Picnik. Fun stuff.

So jump over to The Creativity Greenhouse to get the lowdown on how to make these. Scissors and glue- doesn't get much more basic than that!

Thanks for visiting and have a great day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hummus Among Us- Black Bean Hummus

The other day I was talking to a lovely woman from Lebanon and naturally we were soon talking about food. She is such a genteel soul, one of those people who are classy without ever trying, but she was clearly, in the most ladylike manner, disgusted with me for not making my hummus by first soaking the dry garbanzos, then cooking, etc. She assured me several times that it is easy to do, which I'm sure it is, but she's retired with no children at home and sets her own schedule in life. I go with canned garbanzos. Except for this recipe, which I've had forever and of course do not remember where I got it. I suspect it came from a magazine. An Internet search revealed countless sites with the exact recipe so I'm not sure to whom I should give the attribution.

You need:

1 - 15 oz can black beans, drained, reserve the liquid
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 - 2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
fresh cilantro, to taste, optional

OK now, pay very close attention to these complex instructions:

Put everyting in a blender and whirl to consistency you like. Use the reserved juice from the beans to thin if needed.

Whew! Now sit down and take a break before you go receive rave reviews from your dining companions.

This recipe doesn't make much as you can see by the photo- one lunch for two or three (or just me but those black beans kill me the rest of the day). I generally serve this in a pita pocket with lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, etc. or in a Flat Out, though the hummus tends to squirt out the bottom if you're not careful. It's also good as a dip with some nice whole grain crackers or some veggies. Oh, you know what to do with hummus. Go get you some and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by today. I really appreciate you visiting The Jungle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

100 years of Silence- The Yellow-Crested Spangle

Well, this is The Butterfly Jungle, a place to celebrate beauty and surprises in life, so I thought it would be fun to periodically post a quick feature about one of our beautiful winged Lepidoptera wonders- common, rare, striking, beautiful, simple, huge, tiny. And what a better way to kick things off with a bit a joyful news, a butterfly that was sighted in 2009 after a 100 year absence. I give you the Yellow Crested Spangle (Papilio elephenor Doubleday)-

Image via ButterflyCorner.net

Kushal Choudhury, a lepodopterist researching swallowtail butterflies for his PhD, spotted a Yellow Crested Spangle in 2009 in the Ripu-Chirang Wildlife Sanctuary in the northeastern state of Assam, India (darker pink area on the map below). The sancutary is located in the extreme northwest of Assam.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 The Yellow Crested Spangle, long thought by some to be extinct, is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which means "really really endangered and very protected."

Image via Wildlife Extra

Mr. Choudhury's photograph (above) of the mud puddling swallowtail is the first ever live photograph of the butterfly since it was initially described in 1845.

Photo by Naturhistorisches Museum Wien; Photographer Thomas Neubauer Via Butterfly Corner

So that's our beautiful Yellow Crested Spangle, making an appearance after a long, mysterious retreat. Don't you love it when there are new discoveries and re-discoveries in the world?

Thanks for visiting today- hope you enjoyed the butterfly!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ah, The Pearl - June

Image via Akoya Pearl

Image via Shreve, Crump, & Low
Look how beautifully the pearls in this brooch are graduated.

Image via Bijouterie Sudha

Can you just imagine the first guy to crack open a mollusk and find a pearl? I'm sure he was mystified as well as enchanted. I've always felt a bit of an attachment to pearls. As a kid, we used to pry open freshwater mussels out of Sam Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas looking for pearls. Mostly what we found were tiny, flat lumps on the side of the shell but every once in a while, just often enough to maintain the hunt, we would find a nice pearl. By nice I mean a free-floating whopper of 2-3mm. But it was my first exposure to pearls as well as to the truly unexpected odd-ball beauty that God hides in the world for us.

Image via eHow

So here you've got this funky, dirty river mussel with a great name like the Texas pimpleback or the fatmucket that you slugged out of the muck and after you've chopped and pried at it for awhile the hinge snaps and the mussel creaks open to reveal.... grossness. So you slide your finger in under the mantel and after a second or two you feel it.

Oh look- a pearl!

Pearls are the only birthstone that do not need to be cut, faceted, or polished. Pearls are also the only birthstone formed as a result of biological activity of a living organism, the mollusk. Mollusks are a huge phylum of invertebrate animals, of which there are about 85,000 named species. It is the largest marine phylum, making up about 23% of named marine organisms but there are freshwater and terrestrial species as well. Oysters and mussels are the mollusk friends who give us pearls.

Image via Kevin Main Jewelry

Now, you don't find a pearl resting luxuriously on a clean bed of satin sheets, awaiting your ring setting. It's much more... slimy.

Image via Kari Pearls
(freshwater pearls)

So let's begin. An oyster is a living organism.

The Anatomy of Pinctada Maxima (silver lip oyster)
Image via Pearl Magpie
I love this picture.

Like all living things, oysters can get irritated. Maybe it's a tiny parasite, a bit of food, or a grain of sand which the oyster cannot eject that gets the pearl ball rolling but something gets inside the oyster (or mussel) and starts to annoy and chafe at all those lovely soft internal organs. Like the tiniest of pebbles in your shoe, the irritant, well, irritates so in response the oyster secretes a substance called nacre, the oyster's saliva. Nacre is composed of calcium carbonate and something called conchiolin, which acts to hold the calcium carbonate together. Nacre is continuously deposited along the inside of the shell as a defense mechanism as well as for structural integrity. On the inner side of the shell, nacre is called Mother of Pearl. In a ball around a nasty irritating bit it is called a pearl.

Image via Physics.Wisc.edu

Nacre is continuously laid down in thin layers around the pearl or over the shell and is surprisingly light as well as very strong.

Image via Berkeley Lab

Scientists have been working to understand and recreate this strength and structure for  such uses as artificial bones, dental implants, airplane manufacturing, and computer components. How cool is that?

Natural pearls are formed all on their own, with no help from anyone and are increasingly rare, found in about 1 in every 10,000 mollusks. They are an accident of nature and form over many years. An oyster pearl may contain only 1 or 2 natural pearls. Used as long as 4,000 years ago, the use of natural pearls in jewelry has been mostly supplanted by cultured pearls since the beginning of the 1900's and the market for natural pearls was virtually dead in the water by the mid-1950's. Interest in natural pearls is making a come back, however. In 2007, a double strand necklace of 68 perfect natural pearls, show to the left, known as the ‘Baroda Pearls’ was auctioned at Christie’s Auction House for $7 million.

Cultured pearls, on the other hand, are formed after human intervention. A tiny bead or a bit of tissue nucleus is inserted into the pearl oyster, for saltwater pearls, or into mussels for freshwater pearls. Cultured pearls are fully pearls, not fake pearls. The difference between natural and cultured pearls can be seen only by x-ray in order to get a look at the center, but other than that they are as much a pearl as natural pearls.

Photograph of Pearl under the microscope
Photomicrographic image of a pearl via Molecular Expressions
I want a print of this for my wall.

Cultured saltwater pearls come primarily from the akoya oyster pearl and are farmed extensively in Japan and China. The techniques for growing round, rather than flat or misshapen cultured pearls, were developed by Kokichi Mikimoto, the son a Japanese noodle-maker. Today, Mikimoto pearls are  highly sought after and are considered to be among the best cultured pearls.
Circa 1950's vintage Mikimoto pearl earrings. Image via Antique Jewelry Mall.

Cultured freshwater pearls come out of mussels as opposed to pearl oysters. There may be as many as 50 pearls in one mussel. While they can be farmed in any body of fresh water, a large percentage of freshwater pearl farms are located in the Yangtze River delta of China. Freshwater pearls are known for their wide variety of colors and shapes and are generally more affordable than saltwater pearls. However, the rounder they become the more their value increases. Japan and the United States are significant producers of freshwater pearls but once again, it is China that leads the way. Pearls farmed on Lake Biwa in Japan were of such nice quality that for a period of time all freshwater pearls were called Biwa pearls. However, pollution in the lake began to seriously damage pearl production by the 1970'S. Chinese freshwater pearls, however, began a dramatic climb in quality in the 1980's after a rough start. Remember the "rice krispie" pearls in the 70's? OK, well, some of us do.

Rice Krispie pearl strand
Image via Sudlow Jewelry on Etsy

South Sea and Tahitian pearls are the fourth type of  pearl used in jewelry. South Sea pearls are cultivated in Australia and parts of Indonesia and while these pearls may be up to 20mm in size, they are hard to cultivate. Tahitian pearls come to us from the French Polynesian Islands and can be black, grey, or green-black, bronze-black, even a pinkish variety. Round Tahitian pearls, because they are so difficult to produce, can command very high prices.

Image via Sunday Observer

To be honest, there are so many variations of pearls I'm sort of at a loss as to how to present them here. And we still haven't gotten to the history and mystery of pearls. Let's take a quick look at the shapes.

Image via Gold and Pearl

Blister Pearls
Image via Espy Jewelry

Blister pearls form when the pearl remains attached to the inside of the shell. These pearls are often left with the shell and fashioned into some very striking pieces.

Image via Chicago Silver

They can also be cut away from the shell and set as a half pearl. Blister pearls are sometimes called Mabe pearls but true Mabe pearls are grown in, of all things, Mabe oysters and have a particularly beautiful luster.

Image via Creeping Vine Designs

OK- so let's talk about luster. Luster is the bling of a pearl. It's what makes a pearl mysterious. This is oyster saliva, after all. For simplicity (and much more clarity than I could bring to the discussion), I'll quote from the Pearl Magpie:

Lustre is the best expression of a pearl's beauty. It is the quality of the light reflections from the pearl's surface and depends upon the thickness of the translucent layers of nacre. The iridescence that genuine pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers of nacre, these layers break up light falling on to the surface producing that special effect of a deep glow, or rainbow effect on a mirror-like surface finish Thick nacre results in high lustre pearls with sharp and intense light reflection quality and a metal-like steely look (compared to milky, dull and flat looking surfaces), the higher the lustre the higher the value.   (quote source)

Image via Cerise & Co.

Very briefly, shamefully brief because it's so interesting, pearls are graded by luster, size, shape, color, and surface (degree of imperfections in the nacre surface). We'll touch on this again in a minute.

Image via Wikimeida Commons

The largest pearl known pearl in the world a a non-gem quality pearl from the Philippines known as the Pearl of Allah or the Lao Tzu. It is a "clam pearl" from the giant clam, and gemologists refer to it as a non-nacreous pearl since it does not have the luster of pearls from oysters or mussels. It has been valued from $42 million to $93 million. It weighs just over 14 pounds and has been called the ugliest pearl in the world.

Sorting Pearls. Image via Kari Pearls

The Latin world for pearl means "unique" as no two pearls are alike. Pearls are among the oldest gems and were long considered to be the most valuable. A fragment of the oldest known pearl jewelry, found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess who died in 520 BC, is displayed in the Louvre in Paris. Religious and mythological references to pearls have been found in ancient cultures all over the world: India, Persia, North America, Asia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Greece. Pearls have been associated with love, purity, happiness, wealth, power, virtue, and modesty. During the Dark Ages, knights wore pearls into battle under the belief that its luster would give protection and could heal from poisoning.

Ancient Roman earring, second to fourth century AD
Image via The Pearl Professor

To the ancient Romans, pearls were worn to indicate wealth and prestige. In numerous cultures through-out the centuries, efforts were made to limit who could wear pearls through laws and coercion. The Greeks believed that pearls were the tears of joy shed from Aphrodite as she was born from the sea. Over in Egypt, in an incident that is generally agreed to have occurred, Cleopatra challenge Marc Anthony to a bet to see who could produce the most expensive meal. At the banquet, Cleopatra called for a simple vessel of sour wine, or vinegar. She removed one of her pearl earring, estimated now to be worth thousands of pounds of gold, and dropped it into the vinegar. The pearl dissolved in the acidic vinegar and our girl Cleo drank it down. The wealth of a nation in one cup. I hope she smacked her lips as she won that contest. If you're interested, click here for a USA Today article about the chemistry of Cleopatra's pearl cocktail and how it could have been concocted.

Portion of The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giambattista Tiepolo, Italian, 1743
Image via The Age

It was commonly thought that pearls were formed when oysters rose to the surface just a few times a year, opening to catch dew drops. It was also thought that pearls were the eggs of oysters. The ancient Chinese believed that pearls came from the brains of dragons and could be seen for thousands of yards because of their luster. They were also the first to use pearls in jewelry and would place a pearl in the mouth of the wealthy deceased. Knights returning from the crusades of the Twelfth and Thirteenth centuries contributed to the popularity of pearls as personal decorations.

The oldest known pearl is the Japanese Jomon pearl, dating back approximately 5500 years. The pearl was dated by the artifacts with which it was found. Another archaeological site at which pearls were found pierced into the hands of human remains dates back 6,000 years.


And in 1916, famed French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on New York's famous Fifth Avenue -- by trading two pearl necklaces for the valuable property

Image via hhhenterprises

Shopping? Pearl strands are referred to not by length in inches but by descriptive names. From shortest to longest, these are Collar (12-13"), Choker (14-16"), Princess (17-19"), Matinee (20-24"), Opera (28-34"), and Rope (45+"). There is also a style called Bib which is several strands in varying lengths.

Let's go back to the four considerations in valuing pearls, just in case you're in the market. I'll quote from Pearls of Joy, again for clarity's sake:

When dealing with cultured pearls there are several factors that will determine the overall value of a pearl. The biggest factor is shape, round pearls almost always command the highest price but many love the uniqueness of baroque and off round pearls as well. Read more about pearl shape here.

The surface of a pearl is another important factor to consider, the cleaner the pearl's surface the better. A pearl is a natural gemstone so there will always be some form of imperfection but as long as they are minor they won"t be noticeable when worn. Read more about pearl surface here.

Related to surface is luster, a poor surface will negatively impact the luster of a pearl. High luster is what all pearl buyers are looking for; a high quality pearl with high luster will be almost mirror like in appearance. A pearl's luster is what makes a pearl "pop" and stand out. Read more about pearl luster here.

Last but possibly most important is size and in the case of pearls, size matters. Traditionally a women will "earn the right" to wear larger pearls as she matures. A good rule of thumb is to choose pearls 7mm and larger for adult women and keep anything smaller reserved for young girls and teenagers. Read more about pearl size here.

All pearls sold in retail are cultured pearls unless specifically labeled as natural. Buy from reputable dealers, ideally one that specializes in pearls. And don't get hung up on brand names. Cartier, Tiffany's, and Mikomoto produce exquisite pearls but they by no means produce the only pearls. Shop around. And don't forget the Tooth Test- slide a pearl over your front tooth; if it feels smooth as a baby's bottom, it's a fake. Real pearls (and that includes cultured pearls) should feel a bit gritty. Real pearls will also feel cool when touched to the skin.

Image via Carrots n Cake
We'll go back to Pearl Magpie to learn some of the tricks that sellers sometimes use when selling pearls:
Setting three-quarter or half pearls into jewelry pieces and selling them as whole pearls. Fully round pearls are far more valuable than those that are semispherical.

Adding a lacquer coating to a pearl to increase it's luster. If you are suspicious about a shiny topcoat, try the "tooth test".

Using epoxy to fill pits and then coating the filling with pearlesence. (compare to body filler in a car repair)

Selling imitation pearls as real pearls. The simple tooth test should spot the difference. Pearls sold as "Majorica pearls", "Atlas Pearls," or "Kultured Pearls" are all imitation pearls.

Selling cultured pearls as natural pearls. Assume that all pearls are cultured pearls due to the scarcity of the natural pearl. Price, Provenance and an x-ray test result should backup a natural claim.

And FYI- natural pearls are sold be carat weight, cultured pearls by size in millimeters.

So once you have your pearls, take special care of them. Remember that pearls are organic. The nacre surface can be worn down by rubbing and chemical reactions with perfumes and other creams or lotions. Apply your "cosmetic chemicals" first, then adorn yourself with pearls. "Last on, first off" is a good maxim to keep in mind. Wipe your pearls with a soft lint-free cloth as soon as you remove them (if you use a damp cloth be sure to let the pearls dry completely before storing). You can use a mild detergent such a Ivory Flakes if your pearls are dirty (better to take them off before mud-wrestling) and never use harsh cleaners that contain ammonia or clean them in an ultrasonic cleaning machine. Perspiration will also harm your pearls, another reason to wipe them as soon as you take them off.
To avoid being scratched by your other jewelry, store pearls in the original box, a separate and dedicated compartment of you jewelry box, or in a soft pouch made of chamois or a nice flannel (anything non-abrasive, like you would swaddle a baby in). As with opals (oh I can't wait for October!) pearls will dehydrate if stored unworn for long periods. There is a saying that pearls want to be worn. OK, well, we would hate to disappoint a pearl so go ahead and adorn!

Inage via Moon Rise
Finally, pearls should be re-strung from time to time. They should also be knotted between each pearl in case the strand breaks. Can you imagine that feeling in the pit of your stomach if you saw your pearls flying under the couch, out into the road, or down a floor vent?

OK, I know this post is getting long, but let's go pearl diving (which, by the way, we didn't even get to. Maybe another time).

South Sea Golden Pearl
Tahitian Pearls

Chocolate Tahitian Pearl
Style CEO
I know, chocolate, right?



Hattons Antiques

Empress Eugenia Pearl Tiara, commissioned by Napoleaon
Internet Stones
Oh my, another lovely tiara.

Faceted pearl, a recent technique. Kari Pearls.

Because pearls are so soft and not easily carved, they have been used mainly for jewelery and personal adornment, But not always. Case in point, this stunning canopy, circa 1865, adorned with 500,000 seed pearls as well as other gems.

Main Image

Main Image
Both images via Reuters.

The canopy was commissioned by the Maharaja of Baroda in India and is believed to have been intended as a gift to decorate the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Medina. The canopy was to be auctioned by Sotheby's in March of this year and was expected to sell for around $5million. I was unable to find if it did indeed sell.

pearl necklace 4 pearl necklace designs
Image via Fashion Base Camp

Blue Heron Jewelry

My humble little strand of pearls.

And it wouldn't be a birthstone post without a butterfly.

Vintage Georgia Seed Pearl Brooch
Image via NWWOne

But the truth be told, I have two priceless pearls that were given to me as a gift. I cherish them and guard them and hold them near to my heart. They are my most precious possesion.

I'm so sorry that this month's birthstone post is so late. Where did I get that crazy idea that when school let out for the summer there would be more time? Thanks for stopping by today.