Monday, January 31, 2011


A glass from the Pharaonic Village

I've had quite a few emails and comments lately inquiring about my mom. All the thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated, but she is safe and sound here in Michigan. She left her teaching job in Cairo in May when my Grandma Mary went into hospice and did not sign a new contract to return this school year.

Karnak Temple in Luxor

And I'm so glad she didn't! I can't imagine how worried I'd be right now. Not worried that she'd be intentionally hurt - every Egyptian I met while I was there was friendly and kind, so I know she would have been well looked after. It would have been the not knowing that would have bothered me; without skype, email, or her mobile phone we would have been left wondering. I'm such a worrier to begin with that it would have driven me crazy.

Cairo as seen from the Citadel

I am very thankful I got a chance to visit Egypt; it's an incredible country filled with good people, good food and sights I still can't believe I got to see with my own eyes. But I must admit that I'm glad I'm not holding a $1400 plane ticket for this spring break.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


The first group of islanders crossed the ice this morning, driving the three or so miles from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace. They went slowly and stopped to spud as they went - finding between three and five inches of ice. (Actually, I'm not sure if they drove or if they walked.) And while I am certainly not ready to hop on my machine and head for the mainland tonight, I would be dishonest if I said I that the prospect of an ice bridge doesn't excite me.

I know it sounds crazy to drive across a lake, but if you don't live on an island, you probably don't really get it. I don't mean that in a rude way at all, it's just that most people don't live their lives tied to a schedule like we do. And I mean tied! In the summer it's the boat schedule; miss that last boat and you're not going home. In the winter it is the plane schedule; miss that last flight and it will cost you some bucks to schedule later one. When we have good ice it's the only time we're able to come and go whenever we choose, and that's a beautiful thing...

I took the above photo back in 2009. I crossed quite a few times in 2009, 2008, and in the years before I started blogging, but the ice was iffy last year so I don't think I crossed. I know lots of people are curious about the ice so I'll do my best to keep you posted...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Horsing Around

We are a jammy loving family. If you were to pop in one evening or weekend afternoon, it's likely we'd all be in pajamas. I love coming home from work and trading my tailored work attire for the comfort of a knit fabric and an elastic waist. PJs are just so comfy and warm - we just love 'em. Well, except for my daughter - to be honest she would prefer to be completely naked all the time - so it is more accurate to say that she settles for PJs.

However, for the last few weeks she has been choosing pajamas. I'm sure it's partially due to the chill in the air (our high today is supposed to be about -20 {about -28 C} so the house is only about 66 {about 18 C}) but it's also partially due to the pajamas. My horse-loving girl loves her "horsey jammies."

I try to make the kids pajamas each year for Christmas. Last fall I found a cute horse print flannel at Joann's, but somehow I never got around to making them. This year I got busy and made sure they were finished before Christmas. The pants are Butterick 5565 - a super easy pattern since each leg is only one piece, and the shirts are just a purchased t-shirt with raw-edge applique of the horses from the flannel.

This was my first time using flannel for raw-edge applique and I discovered something important. The flannel I used frayed much more than the calico I've always used in the past. In some spots it frayed so much I had to go back and restitch the horses because the flannel frayed right through the stitching line. If I ever use flannel for this again, I won't clip as close to the seams. Despite the repair, they're still cute and the kids love them. I've got enough fabric left, I might get a pair too!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


photo via

The big Mackinac news today is that the boats are done for the season. Apparently they couldn't get out of the harbor in St. Ignace this morning due to ice and decided to call it quits. None of us are very surprised - it's been so cold lately - we knew it was only a matter of time...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mad Hatter

I've been trying my hands at hat making lately. Nothing fancy - just wool beanies lined with fleece. Of course, since I'm making them, they're made from recycled sweaters. The best part is I've finally found a use for the sweaters that don't felt well. When you go through as many wool sweaters as I do, you always end up with a few that don't come out quite right.

The more sweaters I felt the more I learn that all wool is not created equal, even all 100% wool isn't the same. Merino wool - too thin - I rarely buy it, all new wool - half the time doesn't do much, and of course, washable wool does nothing because it's been treated so that it won't felt. (Though I'm told if you dry clean it you can remove the coating, but with the cost of dry cleaning these days, I have yet to try it.)

These little beanies are super simple to make and I think I did all three in just a couple of hours. The felt pins were a snap, too. I just love how they dress up the hats just a little bit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When my daughter was nine months old she spent three days in the hospital on IV antibiotics for a really bad urinary tract infection. That began our year and a half long battle with recurrent UTIs that included catheters, kidney ultrasounds, time at DeVoss Children's Hospital with a pediatric nephrologist, and finally daily doses of antibiotics. We were assured that these things usually clear up when a child was potty trained and three months after my daughter's second birthday, when she was only wearing diapers at night, she stopped taking the medication. We held our breath and hoped she wouldn't get another UTI. Thankfully she was fine.

And she stayed fine. We had to revisit the hospital each summer for an annual kidney ultrasound just to make sure her kidneys we growing normally. Which they were, so this past summer she didn't need to be checked. Which was nice, because it was the first summer of her life that she didn't set foot in a hospital. (Some of you may remember our hospital visit of 2009.)

Yesterday, after peeing four times in three hours and complaining that it hurt and the subsequent visit to Medical Center that afternoon, she has been diagnosed with another urinary tract infection.

So now it is back on antibiotics, the pediatric nephrologist's office gets a call and we go from there...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2010 Teacher Gifts

I love homemade Christmas presents; especially when children are involved. Every year I have my students make a present, usually a Christmas tree ornament, for their parents. My own children also make their gifts. This year the kids gave the important adults in their lives (teachers and babysitters) hot cocoa. I shamelessly stole the idea but tweaked it to make it work for our situation. In addition to the wordle-wrapped cocoa, we made stirring spoons.

Milk-chocolate-dipped-and-coated-in-candy-cane-pieces stirring spoons. Let me tell you how incredibly yummy the house smelled the night we made those. It was all I could do to not eat the melted chocolate while we were making them. They were super easy to make, though since they involved the stove and a double boiler, close adult supervision was a must.

First we got out all of our frustrations by using rolling pins to smash a box of candy canes. (Putting them in zip-lock bags kept the pieces from flying all over the kitchen.) I heated milk chocolate chips in a double boiler and then I helped the kids dip plastic spoons into the melted chocolate. After each spoon was nicely coated, we just sprinkled on the broken peppermint pieces and then set the spoons onto wax paper to cool. They loved it., and took it quite seriously. It was fun to hear them say things like, "This one is for Mrs. W, " and "This one is for Louann," despite the fact that they were all exactly the same.

We packaged the spoons in little goody bags, tied them with some pretty ribbon, and finished each one with a candy cane.

Finally, the kids put several baggies of spoons into a lunch bag. Not the fanciest wrapping, I know, but it was something the kids could do so they could really feel like it was "their" gift. My son did an excellent job threading the ribbon through the holes. He was especially proud when he wrote his teacher's name on her bag.

Next year, I think we might make these. All I can say is, yum!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Better Late Than Never

OK, perhaps a better title would be: Better Really Late Than Never. Life has been busy and hectic lately. (Kids, school, mittens, grandma, etc.) So much so that I missed out on some important posts. So, now it's time to play catch-up:

Somehow I never got around to posting about the kids Halloween costumes. So, being that Halloween was ages ago, I thought I'd better get to it. My husband and son decided to be Stick Men this year, and man did they look cool after it got dark! Once the sun set, their black clothes disappeared into the night and they really looked like stick people walking down the street. (That night they both had black face paint and black shoes.)

My husband created the EL wire part of the project, Meijer supplied the black sweat suits, and I hand stitched the wire to the fabric. It needs to be done by hand because piercing the wire with a needle will ruin it - or so I am told.

My daughter decided she didn't want to be a Stick Person but a pink dinosaur instead. She absolutely loves dinosaurs right now so it was very fitting. Please excuse my editing job on the photo below. Since I don't show their faces on-line, I tried my hand at editing out everything but her costume. Certainly not a professional job, but you've got to start somewhere, right?

I made the costume using this pattern, which was a snap. The shoe covers I did on my own, tracing around her tennis shoes to create a pattern. The bodysuit pattern called for interfacing to stiffen the scales, but I used peltex instead. She loves it so much, she won't met me take it out of her closet. And, occasionally, she puts it on and wears it around the house on the weekends. Good think I made it quite big. I had intended for her winter coat to fit under it (it can be cold here at the end of October, or in the case of last year the kids wore their rain coats under them) so it's going to fit for a long time...