February 29, 2012

Susanna's Birthday Weekend

Last week Susanna had her 35th birthday! Thanks to Playmobil, She got flocked via text message.

Mike and I headed up to celebrate with her for an action-packed weekend, full of snow, smelt fishing, boat riding and even a little antiquing.

Like last year, our trip was anchored by the LaConner Smelt Derby. But unlike last year, this year the day was dry, and we even caught a couple fish (about 3 smelt and 1 herring total)!

 Not large enough to eat, nor to win the derby, but at least we caught something!

 This is Mike, reeling in his line to call it a day, 
and then realizing that he's had a tiny smelt on the line the whole time. 


After we had our fill of the Derby (oh, about 15 minutes in and I was done, but we did last for an hour or so) we headed over to hop on Clayton's new fishing boat. He's only had it in the water for about a week, and we were eager to check it out. He'll be shipping it up to Alaska soon and then he'll fly up to begin his fishing season next month.

We all piled in and cruised up and down the Channel. Clayton pulled a couple of 360's in the middle of the channel - that thing turned on a dime.



Aidan testing out a fish hold - when he goes up this summer it'll be one of his jobs to clean this hold out.

February 22, 2012

Sleep Shorts

A major goal of mine for 2012 is to sew some clothes for myself. I've only ever made baby clothes and doll clothes before, so this is a big step for me. To keep it simple, I started with the boxer short pattern in Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders. I wanted to make these for my sisters and myself, so I omitted the "boxer flap" portion so that the pattern could be for sleep shorts.

I ended up making three pairs, with only one slight variation (I ran out of 3/4" elastic for the band, so I substituted 1" elastic). Each pair of shorts uses 1-yard of fabric. I chose flannel, as recommended in the book, and picked up two yards of the 5 Funky Monkeys by Erin Michael, one yard in each color. For myself, I used solid coral-colored flannel.

This pattern was pretty quick, however I was slowed down a little by having to create hidden seam edges. Since I don't own a serger (yet), and since I couldn't line the shorts, I really didn't want messy, fraying fabric edges. I think they turned out really well, but it was quite time consuming. I've now got my eye on a serger.

This is what the seams look like on the inside.

And this is what they look like on the outside.

I slept in my pair last night, and they were very comfy!

February 19, 2012


Mike and I just wrapped up a mosaic workshop through Portland Community College. It was a 5-hour Saturday workshop, with a couple hours on evenings before and after the workshop to discuss project ideas and grout the finished piece. We took the class because Mike has always been interested in mosaic tiling, and I have an interest anytime there's a craft that we can do together.

Mike and I have very different approaches to beginning new projects, therefore our outcomes are different too. I chose a small project (in hindsight it was perhaps a little too small - lots of little pieces to cut); something that I wasn't too invested in so that I could just have fun with it. Mike chose a larger project; something that he had invested a lot of interest in, and something that he really, really wanted to do just right. As a result, my project is done and he's still working on his. Since his isn't complete I'll save it for another blog post. In the meantime here's a picture tutorial of my mosaic process:

My simple sketch

I chose to work with stained glass shards, and apply the shards to a piece of framed clear glass. The idea is that my piece can hang in a window, with the light shining through, and it will glow. Our instructor recommended purchasing a picture frame, removing the back piece, and then gluing the glass to the frame. There were a couple of added advantages to this approach: I could put my sketch behind the clear glass and use it to guide me in placing my glass shards, and cutting glass is much easier than cutting ceramic tile.

Our main cutting tools were Running Pliers (left) and Glass Nippers (right). The running pliers have a little cutting wheel on one side used to score the glass sheets, and then the pliers are used to break the glass along the score line. The nippers are used to "nip" little pieces of glass off a large piece. This helps in shaping. I used the nippers a lot because my pieces were so small.

We started with larger sheets of glass and then cut them down into smaller shards. We purchased most of our glass at Cline Glass, making use of their "Tips & Tails" bins. These are the ends that get cut off the larger sheets when making big panes of glass. They are sold by the pound and are significantly cheaper than buying square sheets ($3/lb vs. $12/lb). Problem is that the color options are limited and you don't ever know what's going to be there. Lucky for me there was lots of blue and green. We also picked up some smaller glass shards at Scrap for only $1.50/lb.

Once I had some pieces cut I started laying them out on my glass. It's a bit like working a puzzle; trying to make all the pieces fit together. The instructor said it's much faster to cut your pieces to fit rather than spend the time searching through your shards for the perfect piece. She's right, but there's something fun about the challenge of finding the exact fit as well.

The instructor encouraged us all to try her "tape trick", which I found to be pretty handy. The idea is that after you have a small section laid out how you want it, place a strip of packing tape over the pieces (secure one end to the frame, and apply the rest over the shards). Lift up the other end and all of your pieces will be ready to apply glue. Apply glue to the back side of the shards and then lay them back down. Keep the tape in place until the glue has dried. I didn't let the glue dry completely because my piece was so small that I needed to remove some tape so that I could keep working. For glue we used PVA glue (Elmers, Alenes, etc).


After all the shards were glued down, and dry, it was time to grout. I don't have photos of the process because my hands were a little messy. The materials were pretty simple:

Mixing up grout is a "guesstimating" process. But for my small piece I really didn't need much (about a small yogurt container's worth). I added a little water, and folded it until it was the consistency of pie dough. Using my hands (gloved), I rubbed it into the grout lines using circular motions. Once it was fully grouted I used a damp rag (not wet - you don't want to add any more water to the grout) to wipe off the excess.

Once I got it home I painted the frame black and added some black glass beads for eyes. Then I put it in the window...

Glow, baby, glow!

February 16, 2012

Handmade Christmas: Passport Covers

One last Christmas gift project for my sisters and brother-in-laws were passport covers. I found the tutorial at BunnyBum and whipped up 8 of them pretty quickly (the first was a practice "throw-away"). I lined a few of them with contrasting colors before it dawned on me that when in use the inside would never be seen. After that I just used the same fabric.

This was an extremely easy project, and for the travelers in your life it might be a good way to distinguish passports quickly. It's also a great way to use up leftover fabric scraps.

February 12, 2012

In case of an emergency...

One of my goals for 2011 was to compile an emergency bag for Mike and I. Living in the Pacific Northwest there is always the risk of an earthquake, and although they've been quite rare/mild so far, there has been talk of a "big one" in more recent years. It eases my mind (a little) to know that we've completed this goal. It makes me feel like we have some sort of "plan".

There are lots of online resources for the "necessary" items in an emergency kit. There are also lots of pre-packaged emergency kits available for purchase. I reviewed lots and lots of resources, and for awhile contemplated purchasing the ready-made kits. However, when I reviewed the cost of the kits, then factored in all of the extra stuff I'd have to buy to supplement it (to fit our specific needs), I realized that the cost wasn't any cheaper. Not only that, but I didn't get a choice of items in the ready-made kits, and some of the stuff was rather cheap looking.

That said, here is the list of items in our kit:

A lot of this stuff was purchased on Amazon, but some of it we already had on hand or was easy to pick up at the grocery store.

I haven't tested any of this yet (happily, no need) but while reading the reviews for these products I encountered lots of people who had tested them, which factored heavily in the purchase of specific brands.

Datrex 3600 Emergency food bars
Datrex Emergency Water packets

Water treatment tablets
Water bottle
collapsible drinking cup

Fire & Light

Hybrid solar-powered flashlights
Industrial-grade lightsticks
Bear Grylls fire starter
Waterproof Matches

Sanitation & Medical
Medique first aid kit 
Emergency Mylar blankets
Baby wipes
Pack towel (super absorbent)

Tube tent
Nylon rope

Swiss Army knife

Backpack to put everything in
Deck of cards

Things I still need to add
Old pair of glasses
Bucket (for carrying & for sanitation)

February 7, 2012

What's New?

This vegetable is not in heavy rotation at our house. Not for dislike, but rather because I don't know what to do with it. Other than serve it raw, or in a marinated salad (my contribution to our 2009 Thanksgiving dinner) I have always drawn a blank. Until I came across a little blurb in one of my magazines about mashed cauliflower. So I gave it a try last night - very tasty!
Far fewer carbs than mashed potatoes, and aside from a bit grainier texture, I'd say they are just as good.

1 head of cauliflower (medium), cut into florets
1 sweet yellow onion (medium), cut into rings
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper

Steam or blanch the cauliflower until it's fork tender.
Saute the sweet onions.
Add all ingredients to a food processor and "process" until smooth.

The texture is a bit grainy, but also creamy, and the onions make it quite sweet! I imagine that you can add/subtract any number of items to suit specific taste preferences. Next time I'll add a bit of cumin...

Kindle Fire

Mike bought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I haven't given up books, but having the Kindle has become incredibly handy, particularly since I've had to ride the bus for the last 6 weeks. The Fire is also awesome because it's a fully-functioning tablet, allowing me to access the internet, email, play games, watch movies, etc.  I've taken full advantage of the Amazon Prime lending library too (I just finished Sugarland, which I fully recommend).

Old to many, but new to me. This is my second week of trying Zumba and I really like it. I think that I'll love it as soon as I learn all the moves and don't have to think so much. I get bored easily so every year I try to find a new exercise regimen. Since I love to dance, Zumba is a good fit. And an hour of exercise has never gone by so fast!

Mike and I signed up for a class through Portland Community College and we met for the first time last week. We spent the weekend picking up tools, sifting through bins of stained glass and searching the web for image inspiration. This Saturday is our big workshop day and I can't wait to see what we create by the end of it.

February 4, 2012

Timberline Skiing

Last week Mike and I spent a beautiful afternoon on Mount Hood at the Timberline Ski Resort. 


I am a "fairweather" skier - in order for me to really enjoy it all the elements have to come together. This was one of those trips: the weather was warm and sunny - not a cloud in the sky.

The slopes were wide open and the runs were long. The line waits were non-existent. And the views were incredible.

 Mount Jefferson in the distance

Silcox Hut, buried up to the roof

 So much room to myself!

At the end of the day we packed up our gear and grabbed a beer in the historic Timberline Lodge - always worth a trip, even if skiing is not part of the plan.

February 1, 2012

Handmade Birthday: Hamburger

Because I wasn't sure if the Toy Lamp for Aidan's birthday was going to turn out, I made him a second, back-up present. Susanna told me that Aidan had really been wanting a handcrafted hamburger, and he didn't care if it was crocheted, sewn or needle-felted. I decided to sew him one out of wool felt, using the pattern in Big Little Felt Universe (same source for the tools and fruit/veggie basket). This pattern was very easy to follow and worked up quickly - I got most of it done on a car ride to the coast and back. I omitted the onions because they looked a little bulky (but I figured a 9-year-old wouldn't be that interested in onions anyway).

For easy wrapping, I just encompassed it in a sheet of aluminum foil. 

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