Thursday, March 6, 2014

Octopus Earrings: An Education in Burning Polymer Clay


This has been a crafty week for us.  I knitted a baby hat, setting off several days of pom pom making for the kids.  We've been taking a paper mache class, and just put the final layers on our projects.  And, we made these earrings.  ACTUALLY, the kids made these earring...I managed to nearly destroy them.

My kids are really into making things with polymer clay.  They got the Klutz Clay Charms book for Christmas and have pretty much worked their way through it.  Luke in particular got really good at making octopuses.  He keeps making them, then leaving them in bad places...which has made for lots of octopus splats on the floor.

This time he made one that I really wanted to make into earrings, so I put it in a safe place.  Then Laurel made it's sister-pus, and I attempted to bake them in my not-so-high-quality propane oven.  This is where things went horribly wrong.  You can't control the heat in our's basically on or off.  So I kept turning it off and on, opening and closing the door to regulate the heat.  But regardless of all that effort, the last time I opened the door to check, the tentacles had begun to burn.  Sigh. 

Thankfully, they seemed strong I decided to paint and glaze them.

And now, presenting my favorite new earrings...

I love my kids.

This is what it looked like the night we painted the earrings,
so I couldn't help myself...I opened the doors wide and snapped a picture.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Paper Portraits: Happy Family Project 1

I know I've mentioned this before, but when you  live in a small space you have to really consider what you keep. Since there isn't much room, every item that you keep either needs to be useful (like underwear or a coffeepot), or really special. 

This one is really special...every time I see it I feel my soul get warm (even when I'm mad at my husband).  I love how his eyes look worried and mine look irritated...who knew we could capture ourselves so well, without even trying!

I had no idea how much I would love these when I came up with the idea...but I really do. 

This was a super simple project; craft paper, a cheap canvas (3 for $3), scissors, glue and Modge Podge.  The only "rule" was that you could only use paper.  No drawing, writing, etc.  All the details of the face, hair, background, etc were all cut or torn from the craft paper.  (I wouldn't use construction paper for this, it doesn't hold up as well)

This was Laurel's second portrait that she made, it
was in a childrens' art exhibit at the Main Street Gallery

Cut the pieces and glue them on to the canvas really well.  Once they are secure it's time to coat it in Modge Podge, but if the parts aren't glued on well the Modge Podge causes the pieces to bubble up.

Give it time to dry...and then instant masterpiece.  Hang and enjoy for years to come.  I loved that Jon (who never crafts) really had fun doing this with us. The kids made one too and we gifted them to Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas.  (Grandma and Grandpa made one as well, this project is good for all ages!)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Living on a boat is simply simple

Life on the boat is great.  That's the easiest way to describe it.  Not that living in such a small space doesn't have disadvantages, obviously it does.  But the advantages have been so amazing, so awesome and thankfully completely automatic.

Jon and I have been married for nearly 10 years...and for nearly 10 years we've said that we should simplify our lives, slow down, spend more quality time together and have more cool adventures.  But for ten years our house, jobs and lives got in the matter how many articles or books I read, and no matter how many times we talked about it, we simply couldn't make the change happen.  But when we took the big plunge and moved onto the boat, suddenly, with this big change we'd made all those things just happened...without even trying.

We should simplify, cut-down, downsize, organize...clean up.

Moving to the boat has forced that change, because 250 square feet simply isn't a lot of room.  (plus it only takes about 20 minutes to clean up when it is dirty) Obviously you can simplify without moving onto a boat or reducing your house size by 90%...but no matter how much stuff we got rid of we still had too much stuff!  We estimate that we got rid of 6,000 pounds of stuff. heard me right. We sold, donated and tossed nearly 6,000 pounds of stuff that we obviously didn't need. No wonder I could never keep our house clean!! Now we have 4 towels, 4 plates, 4 bowls...just the stuff we need... not the stuff we kept just in case an NBA allstar team came to stay with us. (seriously, we had like 15 towels...who needs that?)

When you only have 4 of everything,
even the 5 year old can do the dishes!

We should spend more quality time together

Between homeschooling, living in a boat and having no cable on the docks...again it's just automatically happened.  In our last house the kids became accustomed to going off to their own rooms to play.Now that they share a room, and it's right next to the living room, we are always near each other.   Plus, without the temptation of TV, we just don't have that crutch of "seeing what's on."  Now we read, play, craft, talk, cook...or just hang out.  We don't have to plan to spend time together like we used to.  It just happens.

We totally built this pantry...that never
happened before we simplified our lives!!

We should do more cool things. 

Living on the docks is it's own adventure.  Between drunks and fishermen and sea lions and's a regular party down here!  We've seen a raven decimate a rat, a dozen sea lions playing, a heron dive for food, crabs sneaking around the ocean floor...we even have a pet seal we like to call AquaRog, cause he looks like Roger (our dog).  Plus since we have less house cleaning and such to do, I find that we go out more.  We've done art classes and hikes, played on a frozen pond, collected specimens at the beach, we play chess and use our microscope...and thoroughly just enjoy our time.  Last night Laurel and Jon snuck out at midnight for an Aurora Borealis hunt.  I just don't think they would have done that before.

Having such a small space means only keeping those
things that are special to you, things that make you smile.
Cutting out the stuff that kept the house messy, and removing the time wasters like TV (and cleaning!) have made us focus on what's most important to us as a family.  It's also renewed our enthusiasm for the next adventure around the bend.  (Nope, not gonna talk about it's not time.)  But suffice it to say, as much life changing as we have done, we have BIG plans still on the horizon. 

We are living the life we wished for, and planning for more. 

Trust me, if we can do it, so can you.

The harbor at night, yes, it is that pretty.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This is what homeschooling looks like...

You know that feeling that you're absolutely sure that you've chosen the right path in your life, and your heart is completely full? 

This is what it looks like for me.

This journal has been something we've been doing for a few months.  Sometimes it asks a question that you answer, and sometimes it's just free space to fill in.  I love being able to open up in a written format.  It allows me to explain something completely, and since she's reading it it gives her more time to process it.

This journal entry was based on an interaction that morning (similar to most mornings). When getting off the boat in the snow Laurel wants to have both of my hands to jump off. But some mornings I have a hand full of stuff...and she cries that she's too scared to jump...and I get frustrated and yell because she's making me late. But this day was special...I did NOT yell.  But I also did not cave.  She eventually jumped off holding on to one of my hands, and we talked about it on our morning walk through town to get Luke to school.  But she was still upset with me, even though I tried to explain my side.  So when it came time to journal my pen just started talking to her...and then she understood.  I don't think she understood my full meaning (about helping to teach her how to face the world bravely), but she understood that I always have her best interest at heart.  I love these little moments, especially since I don't think we would be having them if we hadn't decided to homeschool...and to a certain extent if we hadn't simplified our lives and moved onto the boat.

All I know is that more often than not my heart is really really full.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Learning to say yes

I am, by nature, a no-sayer. A sayer of no. One who says no when she should say yes. I am an expert at coming up with excuses for why I can't do something with you today.  And it's not you, it's me. I swear. I don't know if I've always been that way, but I can tell you I have been that way for as long as I can remember.

Since moving to Alaska, far from anyone we knew, we have had to make some changes.  But it didn't happen right away, in fact our first year of homeschooling involved a lot of staying home.  Out of every three invites from friends to join in their fun, I typically accepted one.  Truth is, I like being home with my kids.  But slowly I began to see what we were missing.  My friends here are so good at  saying yes.  Whether it's crafting or hiking or swimming or playing...they say YES.  And while it feels like I'm going against my nature sometimes....I am learning to say yes. 

It was hard for me at first, and I realized that in part it was because I felt I had too much to do before I could go out and play.  But now, since downsizing to the houseboat, there is just no excuse.
I feel like I have done more in the four months we've lived on the boat than I have in the two and a half years we've lived here! All in all, it's been pretty wonderful.  Letting go of the large house, the stuff, the classes, the time has freed us up in so many wonderful ways. 

We have learned to say yes when opportunities arise.  That might be the biggest change of all...and I'm just not sure that would be true if we hadn't made this huge step to simplify our lives.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One Amazing Life

You only get one life to live, you might as well live it AMAZING.

What amazing means varies from person to person.  For us amazing looks like freedom.  Freedom to have the time to explore whatever we want, whenever we want.  We have learned (over and over again) that a luxury kitchen, 3-car garage and having kids dressed in boutique clothes does not make us happy.

Seriously...thinking back to your childhood...which memories stand out the most? For me (and Jon) they tend to be the ones that cost the least money. Climbing trees, camping, picking cherries, exploring nature, spending time with family and friends, learning new things, cooking from scratch, eating a beautifully prepared family meal over a beautifully decorated table...and oh so much more.

And the really cool thing is that these are the same things that people have enjoyed about life for thousands of years.  Not once in there did I mention TV or computers or iphones or Kindles.  Because as much as we like those things...I would bet that no one ever thinks of them when they consider their best memories.  The strong memories that bring tears of joy to your eyes as you recall them.

So we are setting out to make our one life amazing, while the kids are still young, while we still have a chance to make their lives amazing...and to that end, this is our new home.  Floating atop the Pacific Ocean, docked on an island in Southeast Alaska...the salmon are so prolific outside the boat right now that you could scoop one right out of the water if you wanted to.  It's an amazing chance for us to live our life to it's fullest, without being weighed down by a large house and a lot of stuff.  We're in the process of remodeling the inside and downsizing our stuff to move onto the boat.  It will be a crazy month, but I think it will be well worth the effort.  Stay tuned...before and after pics to come.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The 20 minute skirt

What is with this sudden increase in sewing, you ask?  School is ending!  Summer is starting!  Our time is becoming more our own (as it should be).  It feels good just being able to do nothing if nothing is what I want to do.  (Of course I should be cleaning and organizing...but what fun would that be?!?!)

Actually, this started BECAUSE I was cleaning and organizing.  I started sorting through old clothes and such to donate...and before I knew it I was taking things out of the donation bags to breath new life into them as Laurel's summer wardrobe.

I made one like this last year (below) after seeing a tutorial posted on Pinterest.  I made a more subtle color choice this year though, which will help match more of her wardrobe. Plus I made a few adjustments this time...for instance, making the pockets big enough to actually put a hand into (oops!), and making it long enough to be comfortable for anything.  I'm not a big fan of skirts that don't play well.

I used the scrappiest scraps, making this skirt FREE.  The tan came from the striped curtains I made last year from Walmart sheets (which were only $5 to begin with), and the contrast on the pockets is from the skirt I made for myself last week.  This is why I don't throw scraps away!

I still had a hemmed edge on the sheet scrap, so I just lined it up and cut out a rectangle.  Then I cut out the pocket, and a length of trim to match.  I just folded a 2" strip of fabric (about the same length as the curve of the pocket) in half and pinned the cut edge of the strip to the cut edge of the pocket and sewed it in place.  Then you can snip the curve, press it back and top-stitch it to make it look/sit nice.  Then place a rectangle of fabric behind the pocket and sew it to the front panel.  Then sew the front panel to the back panel, make the casing for the elastic...and...done!

(For one added detail I made the casing a little too big and then sewed an extra line of stitching at the top...I don't know what you call that, but I like the way it looks)

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