Thursday, May 31, 2012

Excuse me, but those earrings are a LITTLE fishy

Seriously...they are totally fishy. Because they're fish!

I haven't done too much jewelry, but I'm still carrying around the wire and beads from when I did the crocheted jewelry a few years ago. I started up this project to clear my brain and try something different. It's a frustrating project because it's hard to keep the wire from bending (in the wrong places). And I had several small pieces of wire which made things a little hard to manage until it was complete.

I liked the initial look of the plain fish, but decided I wanted to try hammering it. So I grabbed a regular hammer and a piece of wood...that didn't work. All I did was smash my finger and make a fish impression on the wood.

So next I used a flat stone that we found on the beach. It worked ok, though I think I need to practice this skill a little more. After the hammering I decided it was still missing something, so I wired on a bead for the eye. I actually really loved the way it came out and wore the one earring by itself all day. (I didn't make it's partner till the next day...and honestly it was harder because I had to make it look like the previous one)

If you've never done any of this, it's worth a try. I bought all of the original materials at Hobby Lobby with a 50% off coupon, and it's lasted me through several projects (and only cost like $30; including the tools, 3 spools of wire and 3 packs of beads). Then I just sat down with the pliers, cutters and wire and started shaping a fish. That's how I learn a new skill, I just sit down and mess around until it either works, or I get too frustrated and give it up. It's not fancy...but it's my way.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Initials Pillow (and the last of the crib sheet)

RIP crib sheet, you have served me well. Who knew that one tiny, old, faded baby crib sheet could become: a skirt, a tooth pillow, another skirt and a couch pillow. (Not too shabby considering it wasn't serving any other purpose.) This was not the project I was trying to make. I was trying to frame this goldfish that Laurel made.

I wanted to mount it on burlap and frame it. But I didn't have enough burlap to cover the entire back, so I decided to sew on some small crib sheet scraps around the edges. But after putting strips around it, it still wasn't big I added another layer of strips. It looked so cool at this point that I added another layer. But without realizing I made it TOO big for the frame. (plus I really liked it)

So I thought I might make it into a wall hanging and then mount the paper fish on it, but I didn't think it did justice to itself (or the fish) that way. Finally I realized what a gorgeous pillow it would make. Rustic and simple, and very complementary to the pillow covers I made in January.

The pillow came together SUPER-quick. After I ended up with the trial-and-error front panel, I just freehand-cut my letters, pinned them in place and stitched around them. The longest part of the project was how long it took me to get to the store to buy stuffing (I live on an island so it doesn't take long to get ANYWHERE).

Every time I pass the couch and see this pillow it makes my heart smile. It will remind me of my husband and the nearly 10 years we've been together, and of my babies that used to sleep on that crib sheet. I love crafts with history, I want to fill my house with things that make my heart smile.

Now I have to figure out how to mount that fish...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simple Sweeter Sweater

I actually finished this sweater months ago. Yep, months. It's been waiting for buttons all this time. I have been wanting to make my own homemade buttons from found driftwood. Likely it would take very little time to do it, but I just haven't had the chance to set up my miter saw since I moved. So finally, I gave up on waiting and bought these rustic looking buttons instead. Within 20 minutes I went from a project-in-waiting to an actual wearable piece. (I also found the striped boot cuffs I knit months ago that are just waiting for the fleece boot socks to be cut and sewn...another 20 minute project that is just waiting to be finished)

This wasn't a difficult sweater by any means, it's just a series of rectangles, five to be exact. I like asymmetry in a sweater, so that was the first detail I designed. Next I decided that I was going to use much bigger needles on the bottom and smaller on the top so that you get this ethereal fairy look to the piece. I echoed the shape of the sweater in the sleeves making romantic bell sleeves.

I used 100% cotton yarn for this, making it my first project completed in all cotton. I love the feel of a natural fiber; linen and cotton are my favorite. (I haven't tried bamboo yet, but I suspect it's similar) The only thing I would warn about is that cotton isn't as strong as other fibers, and tore relatively easy when I accidentally tripped on it. Though, I don't think it's normal to trip over your yarn, so I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Kid Craft Weekend: Chickens and Pillows

projects made with love: by my kids, for my kids

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Guiness Book of World Records: Well, Amost

Part of moving to Alaska was to be a part of a smaller community. To actually BE a part of it, not just live in it. So when opportunities arise to say, be in the world record for the largest rubber boot race, we do it. (Even when we're not in the mood...and it was pushing it this time) Depending on which one of us is feeling more energetic at the moment, that one tilts their head and says "THIS is what we came here for," and the other one feels guilted into doing's a perfect tactic.

Despite the fact that all but me were napping when it was time to walk to the event, everyone got up, dressed and on the road within 10 minutes. We had to really hoof it to get there by the registration time, so we had a fairly unhappy boy at this point. But once we got there and registered and started seeing people we knew the kids settled in and started enjoying themselves.

The race itself was a nice slow pace, everyone was enjoying themselves, and everyone seemed to have a positive attitude. (I don't mean everyone in the family, I mean all 1008 people that came out to try and break the world record) Unfortunately we were shy of the 1367 we needed, but it doesn't change the fact that the feeling of positive community spirit was won't soon be forgotten. And that is why we moved here...well, the mountains and ocean don't hurt either!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

You Are My Sunshine Skirt (aka Crib Sheet Skirt Number 2)

After 2 solid weeks of rain the sun has finally come out in Southeast Alaska. In the last two days we have played on the playground, the beach and the backyard. After a long day of playing, I was tired (though the kids were not), so while they played in the backyard I made this skirt.

I didn't realize there was such a large remnant of the crib sheet left from the last skirt. I found it on the ground, and when I picked it up I realized it was the perfect size for a second skirt. I didn't have to do anything, it was already the right width and length. So I sewed up the back seam and appliqued on a hand cut sun. The heart was a late cover a hole I accidentally cut while trimming thread. (it happens) I love projects like this, quick, unplanned and cute. (oh, and FREE!)

So now we have rain-or-shine skirts...that way our fashion sense can be as fickle as our weather.

And don't think that's the end of the crib sheet just yet...I have one more project that's almost done.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Signature Cookie: White Chocolate Chip Spice Cookie

I did not set out to make my signature cookie when making these. I actually set out to help a friend trick her husband into eating something with whole wheat flour. So one afternoon while she was graciously watching Luke (she is the epitomy of gracious), I decided to make her some cookies with fresh ground wheat. In deciding what to make I knew it had to be something that would taste traditional enough to not be obvious...we WERE tricking him.

But I also had the issue of not having much on hand. I decided to make a chocolate chip cookie base, but I had no chocolate chips. So I made the base, added a little of this and a little of that, and the end result was incredible. Like a holiday party in my mouth, but without being too overpowering in any way. But, I could also tell it needed something. So this weekend I set out to make them again, removing and adding what I knew it needed.

Sure enough, they were perfect. So I've decided to make this my signature cookie. Many decades from now I hope my kids and grandkids remember those cookies that I used to make. That's the case with my grandma and Jon's...there are those recipes that encompass a memory or a person with just a little taste. I want to have that connection with my kids and their kids as time passes. I hope that doesn't sound creepy, because I truly think it's beautiful.

White Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies

1 cup butter, softened (there are NO substitutes for butter...NONE)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 1/4 cup freshly ground soft white wheat (or whatever flour you like)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, cloves
1 package white chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (not too finely)

Cream butter and sugars for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy (try not to eat it all at this point), add eggs and vanilla until combined, add oats and mix till combined. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture a little a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mix in chips and walnuts.

Cook at 375 for 9-11 minutes. (with my stone it was more like 12min, with a baking sheet it was more like watch out) These should come out golden, more towards crispy than chewy. The extra cooking time adds a caramelized taste that can't be replicated.

The taste of these gets better with age, so if you like them right out of the oven, just wait until the flavors set in overnight. (and for something a little more special you can even serve them on your grandmother's I did)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

To all the moms out there...Happy Mother's Day!

If yours was anything like mine you might have had a little of this

and this

maybe some of this

and this

We may not be fancy, but we sure are happy. Laurel in particular was so excited about Mother's Day this year, and has been working on her project at school for weeks. Laurel and Luke both helped plan the menu for breakfast, and the rest of the day was just us having fun. (note the fort)

If only every day was Mother's Day...ah....not having to cook or clean...wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tourist for a Day: Day 2

I consider myself very lucky, the weather held out for us on our 2-day Tourist for a Day extravaganza. However, today, the day the first cruise ship rolled in is AWFUL. The wind and rain are not playing around today, and I can't imagine how crappy it would be to pull into your first port only to find that you didn't even want to go out. I'm sure all the big stuff (float planes and ziplines) must be all the big plans the tourists had are pretty much out. (Just about everything we did would have been miserable or impossible in this weather)

Window Shopping at the tourist shops and candy buying

Tourist shops are fun, especially for the kids...they are, admit it. Keychains with pooping bears, packs of smoked salmon and bottles of Salmonberry Syrup. Trinkets...good. Candy...good. You should shop at one of the ports, but not all them. Make sure you go out and do stuff too.

Rainforest Sanctuary Tour

This was free for us, I'm not sure what the cost is...but I'm sure it's not cheap. So here is my honest opinion...if you aren't someone who loves adventure (ie ziplining, etc), or if you have kids that are too small to zipline (less than 80-90lbs depending on which zipline)...AND if you don't like to go out and find things yourself...this is the tour for you. You get a short/easy hike through the Tongass National Rainforest, you will see fruit, plants and wildlife. The tour guides will teach you new things, and if you come while the salmon are running (late May-Sept) then you will likely see salmon, eagles and black bears during this tour. You also have the safety and confidence of having someone else get you there, show you everything, teach you how to deal with wildlife if you come across it, and get you back to the cruise on time. I'm not against the RST, but I think it's too much to pay for what you get. We had fun, but it was free for us. (This tour also included feeding deer, seeing an eagle and an owl up close and watching a totem carver at work. Plus they give you hot chocolate and cookies for free, and the gift shop is if this sounds good to you, go for it. We really did have fun.)

George Inlet Tour and Crab Feast

We rode a bus out to George Inlet and hopped on a boat. The boat took us out to some crab pots that we pulled up and played around with, before tossing the crabs back into the water.

The boat took us back to the George Inlet Lodge where we were treated to an awesome dinner of all-you-can-eat crab. If you've never had Alaskan Dungenous crab, these are not the little blue crabs from the South (that I grew up with). These suckers are SO big, and so filled with meat that just a few will fill you. So we left, stuffed and happy. This tour was probably the most pleasant surprise of them all. I didn't know what to expect, but the tour guides were fun, the dinner in all it's glorious cheesiness was also really fun. The kids really got into all the fun and excitement (and competition) that the night provided. I would not hesitate recommending this tour.

Float Plane Ride to Misty Fjords

The next morning was our biggest adventure of the weekend (and a tightly held surprise until we got there). The kids still didn't quite get what we were doing until the lady asked if they were ready to see the Misty the point it dawned on Laurel that to get there we'd be taking a float plan ride. (then she squealed, and Luke realized it too) It was so much fun to watch the excitement come over them, and then it only grew as we walked down to the dock and got on the plane. The flight was smooth, the scenery was AMAZING and the Fjords were all the we expected.

I am so glad we spent the money on this one, this is what people come to Alaska see what you can't see almost anywhere else. 8 thumbs up for this tour, even from my husband who was incredibly scared to go up in the tiny plane...and make no mistake, it IS tiny.

After that we went back to hoofing it around town, we window shopped at Soho Coho (my favorite and totally worth seeing), rode the funicular up to the Cape Fox Lodge, walked to the Hatchery (which was closed, despite advertising that they would be open), went to the Totem Heritage Center, walked back downtown for lunch at Fish Pirates, went to the Southeast Discover Center and then onto the Lumberjack Show.

The Alaskan Lumberjack Show

This was the final excitement of our tourist weekend. (and it did not disappoint) There was nothing educational or adventurous going on here...this was just silly, funny, goofy fun. The kids adored it, and the grown ups all had fun too. The heat lamps overhead provided warmth, and the partial roof covering overhead would provide at least some protection from our Southeast Alaskan rain. The show was hosted by Ryan Seacrest's stunt double (not really, but he sure looked like him), and included log chopping, log rolling and a lot of crazy jokes. The whole show is based around the two competing teams, of which you get assigned to when you sit down.

There is cheering and heckling...and only the most hardened souls will not join in the fun. If you have kids, and the weather is bad...this is the show for you. If you don't have kids but you like to heckle people you don't know...this show is also for you.

Whew. We actually learned a lot this weekend, and I tested the kids on everything. We even discussed the morality of the era of fish piracy here in Ketchikan. It was quite a weekend. Highlights for kids: shopping, candy, feeding the deer, float plane and the scavenger hunt and movie at the Discovery Center. You can't do it all, so don't try...but decide which things you want to do at each destination and go for it. (remember a lot of the same things will pop up in other try to do the thing that is unique to each place) And pray that the day you come in the wind isn't blowing 50mph like it is today...good luck!
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