Monday, November 30, 2009

Resistance is Futile

Last weekend my husband spent some time cleaning out the basement. (Hooray.) I was surprised when he brought his collection of Star Trek, excuse me - new and still in the box Star Trek, action figures upstairs. In the 13 years A and I have been married I've seen those things out of their trunk once. I was really surprised when he started opening them and giving them to the kids to play with. Apparently, they aren't particularly valuable so hubby decided he'd give them to the kids.

According to my son new "guys" to play with is a good thing. I think it's a good thing the basement is a wee bit cleaner and, of course, that my son now knows what Klingons are. Qapla!*

(For you non-Star Trek fans out there, Qapla (pronounced k-PLAH,) means "success" in the Klingon language. They use it as a salute in a greeting or farewell.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Mittens

I'm kind of addicted to mittens these days.
I got just a little more funky for this pair. White on the front, pinkish on the back, and a wool skirt for the cuff. The pink was an old 1X Eddie Bauer sweater I got on clearance for $10.00 and just didn't wear any more. Both the white sweater and the skirt were thrifted for $1.00 each. The best part for me was finding the buttons - they matched the pink sweater perfectly.

I was lucky enough to stop at three of my favorite thrift shops yesterday and I hit the jackpot when it came to wool sweaters. I will definitely share the mitten pattern here and do a mitten tutorial. I just need to figure out how I can post the full size pattern as a pdf file. It may take me a couple of weeks to get it done, but I am working on it. Happy Thanksgiving! 

11/28/2010 Edited to add:  My apologies, but I will not be sharing a mitten tutorial as I had originally intended. This past spring  my friend offered to sell the mittens in his store, and ever since then we've had a little business on our hands. So, because Mackinac Mittens are for sale at two different Mackinac Island shops, I am currently not able to share or sell the pattern. Thank you for your understanding.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Rock

It's a rock.
A rock on Mars.
A rock on Mars named Mackinac Island...

Did you know there is a rover currently exploring the surface of Mars? I didn't. The Mars Exploration Rover, named Opportunity or “Oppy” for short, is currently traveling from one crater to another. One of the scientists on the project has started a blog to track the rover’s progress. (Check it out here.) As Oppy finds meteorites and rocks on its travels, they are being named after islands. (Go check out the blog and you'll see why.) Which islands you ask? Well so far there’s Block Island, Marquette Island, Shelter Island and Mackinac Island. Apparently it all depends who is working when a rock is discovered as to what it will be named. Mackinac was suggested by James Ashley (the Payload Downlink Lead and Payload Uplink Lead for the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer and a Mineralogy / Geochemistry Science Theme Group Lead for mission planning sessions) from Arizona State University. Yeah, I’m not exactly sure what he does either, but it sounds quite impressive. He’s a Michigan boy and says he loves to visit the island when he makes it home.

Pretty cool huh, to have a rock on Mars named after your hometown. Especially when you know that quite a few of us who live on Mackinac Island affectionately refer to it as "The Rock."

I know, I know, right now all of my friends are giggling and remembering how I earned the nickname "The Nerd Magnet" all those years ago. It was bad enough that my dad, yes my own father, had a Nerd Magnet name tag made for me. I wear it with pride, though I don't think my husband appreciates it very much...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Believe it or Not

A while back a friend called me. The conversation went something like this:

"Hey Liz, did you know that you can stand a broom on its bristles today?"


"You can! Really! The equator is aligned today. It won't be again for a few hundred years I heard. So just today you can actually balance a broom. We've had one standing up in our kitchen for, like, three hours now." I'm thinking, isn't the equator aligned every day? But instead I say,


"Yes, but you have to line up the bristles so they are facing north and south. That's the only way you can do it. It is so cool Liz - you've got to try it."

"OK, I'll give it a try. I don't know about the "aligned-equator" thing, the science teacher in me thinks that sound like a bunch of hooey, but I'll go give it a try."

So the Doubting Thomas in me went off to try it. After finding my compass (you know, because I wanted to do it right,) about 35 tries, and about 20 minutes I was able to do it. That broom stood there for a little over two hours - until the cat knocked it down.

Now, I don't think for a minute it had anything to do with equatorial alignment, the alignment of the planets or anything else other than the laws of physics. I think I, along with countless other people, would never stand in the kitchen and spend valuable time trying to get a to balance a broom unless the power of suggestion told me / us it was possible. Though I must admit that I actually had fun trying to get my broom to stand by itself and was quite proud of myself when I actually got it to work.

Now I just need to get the darn thing to sweep by itself and I'll be all set.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Veteran's Day

I know I'm late with this post, but I just had to share what our local American Legion did this year on Veteran's Day. It is one of the neatest things I've seen...

They gave every child in our school a backpack - every child. Written on each backpack were the names if Mackinac Island veterans. They even worked hard to put the names of relatives on the packs of kids who come from island families that go way back. Paul, the post commander, told the students that he hoped they would carry the names of these brave men and women with them and remember how much they loved their country.

My children are so young, they really didn't "get it" but that's OK. We talked about the names on their new backpacks and how they were real people who were willing to fight for our country and what it stood for. I was very pleased when my son wanted to know whose names were on his pack and then chose to carry it with him to school the next day. Both he and my daughter have used them ever since.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Slow Boat

It is that time of year on Mackinac again - time for the slow boat. Mind you, I'm not complaining. Despite the fact that the slow boat take 45 minutes to get to the island (compared to the 20 minute ride we've enjoyed all summer), it's still a boat and a connection to the mainland that I appreciate. I can't imagine what it would be like living on an island without a ferry boat. I mean how would I get my Christmas tree? OK, we use an artificial tree (my husband's idea) but everything we use, wear, eat, play with etc. has to make the five mile trip across the straits to the island.

That's my friend Stephanie, she just moved to the island a few months ago and is still learning "the ropes" of island life. Today's lesson: buying your Christmas tree. The island school sells them as a fundraiser, so all you have to do is get the tree from town to your house (perhaps a mile or two.) If you bought the tree on the mainland you would have to: buy the tree, pack it into the car, unpack it from the car, load it onto a cart to go onto the boat, unload it from the cart once it's on the island, and then load it into your bike cart to haul home. Phew - just thinking about it makes me tired. You might think the trees are considerably more expensive on the island, but they really aren't. Lots of things are more expensive here since the shop owner has the extra expense of the boat line and the dray line. Milk, for instance, is $2.39 at Wal-mart and $4.99 at the island store. But, when you factor in the cost of the boat, and the driving time to get to the store, $4.99 isn't really so bad.

Stephanie's next lesson: using the dray line...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gearing Up

A friend and I saw a really cute pair of mismatched mittens earlier this fall. Given their $50.00 dollar price tag, there was no way I could afford them, but I thought, "I can make those!" So I found this book in the library, and tested the pattern this weekend. I thought I would start out simple and make a matching pair first, before I went and got all wild and crazy. Plus I thought, if these worked out, they would make a perfect Christmas present for my husband. (Though after he politely informed me that he isn't a mitten person - I went back and added the buttons. Purple really isn't his color - he's really more of an autumn.)

Once I tweaked the pattern they were really easy and quick to make. Perhaps two hours from start to finish. They are done mostly by machine, but I did stitch on the cuffs by hand. Another reason they took so long is they are lined in fleece so it took extra time to make the lining. But it was worth it because I love how soft they are inside. They're going to be warm too, with a layer both felted wool and fleece they're going to be perfect for our chilly Mackinac Island winters.

A bunch of us island gals plan to get together after school during the first week of December and have a Mitten Making Party. We figured if everyone brought a felted sweater or two we would have enough different colors and patterns to choose from to make some really funky mittens. I'll be sure to get pictures and post them after the party. I can't wait to see what we all come up with!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mackinac Sun Dog

My husband and I were walking home earlier this week and were treated to a sun dog. (Can you see it? It's the little rainbow above the tree line.) I just love how my husband always seems to notice these. It's been a long time while since we've seen one - the last time being in February of 2008. The most spectacular one we've ever seen occurred just a few days earlier out over the ice. I was surprised to see one since it has been so warm here - I think our high yesterday was 55 (about 12 C.)

How about you - have you seen anything interesting lately?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Remember this?




Free at last!

Unfortunately the post-cast X-ray showed a small crack remaining in one of his bones. Not really a big deal unless he falls on it. Which makes it a big deal because asking my son not to fall is like asking him not to breathe - completely and utterly impossible. So, he's sporting a molded plastic splint for the next three weeks just to be safe. This one is removable so he can take it off to bathe and sleep. Plus, it doesn't restrict the use of his elbow or hand so it doesn't bother him nearly as much as the cast did.

Yes, the pack rat, I mean sentimental mother in me saved the cast. I just couldn't part with it - it looked so small once it was off. So now it resides in his "special stuff to be saved" box in his closet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Sewing Project #4

The Flower Girl Dress

I must admit that I am very happy I didn't try to make this dress right after Weekend Sewing first came out. Then I wouldn't have had the benefit of the experiences of all the people who made this dress before me, got really frustrated, and then blogged about it (or discussed their experiences here.) Gosh all their comments were helpful!

I knew the dress ran quite small and that I would need to measure my daughter and not trust the sizing and I knew it would be really hard to get on and off so I added a side zipper. I however didn't know it was going to be almost floor length!

I took up six inches in the hem and it still almost hits the tops of my daughter's feet. When I have some time I'm going to shorten it, but then again, some grow tucks might look cute, too.

I also knew that making the straps adjustable might be a good thing. (Anything to extend the length of time a garment is wearable.) Unfortunately I'm really frustrated about something today (we're all fine and healthy, so don't worry) and decided to take my aggression out on the poor little pearl snaps as I installed them. Oops.

Despite the cracked snaps, I think it is pretty cute. The fabric was from my stash; leftover from an exchange student who gave up on the quilt she was making her dad after she discovered boys. I suggested she take it home with her. She didn't want it, so it has been sitting in my cupboard for a little over three years. The zipper was in my stash too. I think I cut it out of a sweater I felted...

The butterfly fabric was going to be her backing fabric so I have lots of it. If you've got any cute ideas for me on other ways to use it, I'm all ears!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First Snow

It snowed on Mackinac Island today - twice. Once this afternoon at about 1:30 and again at about 5:00. The early snow was sloppy and mixed with rain, but walking home this afternoon we relished trying to catch flakes on our tongues. Well, until it started coming down so hard that it stung our faces! The best part was, once we looked closely, we found lots of little hexagonal flakes. According to this site, that kind of snowflake is a "rimed stellar plate."

If you didn't get any snow today, you can pop on over here to make and save your very own snowflakes. I think the kids and I may make a few tomorrow and decorate the dining room...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Heart Science

(My son playing with a musical instrument at the Mini
Maker Faire in Ann Arbor, MI. The instrument plays a
different note when different beams of light are broken.)

Yeah, I know, I'm a geek. But that's OK because it is my inherently geeky nature made this little quiz catch my eye. It is a 12 question quiz that asks questions about general science topics as well as recent scientific findings that have been in the news. The best part is at the end, you get to see how you scored compared to other average people. Pop on over and test your knowledge - c'mon, you know you want to...

It got me thinking about why some kids like science and others don't. Sure some of it is inherent personality, but I think it is also whether or not kids see science as fun and part of their daily lives. My husband and I sure do; it's part of the reason we went to the Maker Faire. (A Maker Faire is an event started by Make Magazine to "celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself mindset.") We try to find events and activities to get them interested in science.

My daughter loved this musical instrument she discovered at the Faire. It involves a spinning disk, magnets, a camera, and a computer. The computer recognizes the positions of the black points and depending on their locations, plays a different note. She loved it so much, and my husband is always looking for new and interesting projects, that he got in touch with the designer and now has the code to build his own. (How fun is that going to be!)

The kids also loved this little gizmo an eight year-old girl and her dad build out of an old CD player motor.

Pretty cool.

What do you do to get / keep your kids interested in science?