Monday, April 28, 2008


I'm going to be missing in action for a while...

The five seniors at my school (yes, a graduating class of five) are heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on their senior trip this Thursday. They have worked hard to raise money for the past six years and their trip is finally here. (As the senior class advisor, I am the female chaperone for the trip.) I tend to be an anxious person anyway, but this trip is kind of pushing me over the edge; there are so many things to wrap up and confirm, traveler's checks to get, etc. not to mention the week's worth of lesson plans I need to write for my substitute. Anyway, things are getting quite busy around here and I just don't seem to have time for everything...

I'd love to say that I will post pictures of the rain forest hike, the zip line adventure, the snorkeling, and the tour of Old San Juan while I am there, but I am a realist and I know I probably won't have the time. So I'll just have to save those posts for when I get back. Have great week...

This photo isn't mine. I shamelessly borrowed it from

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For the Love of Chinese

When you live on an island with only three open restaurants (one of which you won't eat at due to an unfortunate food poisoning incident,) there are times you'll do almost anything to get something different for dinner. Like wait down town to meet the boat at 5:00 pm, even though you were done working an hour and a half earlier...

My Chinese food is on that boat...
...I'm giddy with anticipation as they open the hatch......look at those brown bags; I can almost taste the cashew chicken...
Look at that smile... Now I have to ride my bike over a mile (uphill) to get home and I don't even care - because I don't have to cook tonight.
Getting home late; lugging food uphill; it was *so* worth it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fabric Silhouette Tutorial

This is my first tutorial, so bear with me. As a first-timer, if anything is unclear to you, let me know and I will try to clear it up. I know I probably didn’t take enough pictures… my apologies.

clear tape
transparency film (the clear plastic sheets for an overhead projector – not the ones for using in a printer – you want the ones for a copy machine)
paper-backed fusible web
thin permanent marker (Sharpie)
sharp scissors – a large and small pair
light table or window
Xacto knife (really sharp!)
rotary mat
iron & ironing board
background fabric (traditionally light)
silhouette fabric (traditionally dark.)

1. Start with a photo. The photo doesn’t need to show the face, but you want a photo with good definition of the person you want to silhouette. Notice in my photo how easy it is to see M’s outline (except by her one elbow, which I had to wing.)

2. Enlarge the photo using a copy machine to the desired size. I printed out the photo in black and white (color really isn’t needed) and then blew it up 200%. Trim away the white edges and tape the pieces of the large picture together. This is now your pattern.3. Tape the pieces of the transparency film together to make a piece large enough to cover the part of the picture you want to use.Tape the photo enlargement to the light table or window so it won’t shift.Tape the transparency sheet over the paper enlargement. Make sure your entire image is covered by the transparency.

4. Trace the image with a permanent marker. Don’t use a water-base marker because it will smear. Trace the outline of the shape first. The go back and trace any other important lines inside the image. (These lines will give the silhouette detail.) Notice how I included her hairline, ear, and the folds of her dress. Some lines I traced with a dotted line since I wasn’t sure I was going to include them in the finished piece. But I thought “better safe than sorry” – if there was a chance I was going to use them later, I put them in.

5. Pull the transparency away from your picture and look at the image. Does it have enough detail? Can you tell what it is suppose to be? I decided mine had too much detail and decided not include a lot of the flower in the finished piece. (Notice how I leave it out later on.) Go back and alter the design until you are happy with it. (It took me quite a while to feel that I had her bent elbow just right.)

6. When you are happy with your design, you are done with the enlargement of the photo.

Your transparency is now your pattern. FLIP the transparency UPSIDE DOWN and tape it to your light table. (Flipping it reverses the design so it will face the correct way when you iron it onto the background fabric.)

Place a piece of paper-backed fusible web paper side up over the transparency pattern and tape it down. Use a pencil to trace the design.

I found it easiest to trace the lines I was planning to cut along, such as the outside edge, with a straight line. I traced the interior lines, the ones I planned to use the Xacto knife to remove, with a dotted line. It really doesn’t matter though.

Occasionally, turn off the light and check the design. Once you have it all traced, turn off the light again and look at it. Does it have enough detail? Can you tell what it is supposed to be? Do you need to go back and add more interior detail lines? (Check out my first fabric silhouette. It doesn’t have nearly the detail as this one, and looking at it now, I think it needed more. Unfortunately my Xacto wasn’t sharp enough and it was the best I could do.)

7. Press your fabric and then use a lint roller to get off as much lint as possible. Press and de-lint BOTH sides of your fabric. Doing this now will save you frayed silhouette edges later. De-lint your ironing board cover now while you’re at it.

Now, place the fusible web web-side down on the dark fabric and follow the manufacturer’s directions to fuse it into place.

8. Now, you cut. I used my large scissors to cut all the way around the outside of the silhouette first. Hold the silhouette and pivot it as you cut, instead of your scissors. Cut with short even strokes. I left some of the small detailed places (like her hand) uncut and went back and cut them with my smaller scissors later. (They worked much better for the little details.) I also went back and used my little scissors to cut into the silhouette edges to show definition. I did this where her hair met her forehead and where her sleeve met her hands. It was easier to use the scissors since I could just cut in from the outside edge.

Once the outside is cut, lay the silhouette on your rotary cutting mat. Use the Xacto knife to cut thin slits along the interior lines. I just cut about a millimeter (or so) on either side of the line and then brought the two sides of the cut together into a point. This step was easier than I anticipated, though I must admit I did practice on some scrap first. Having a very sharp blade is very important! If the blade is dull, you’ll just fray the edges of the slit and it won’t look as good.

Once the design is all cut out and you are happy with it, be very gentle. If you handle the silhouette too much, the edges will start to fray. If this happens, just use your small scissors to trim away the fraying threads.

9. Press your background fabric and then gently peel the paper backing off of the silhouette. Position the silhouette on the background and follow the directions to fuse it into place. I also fused the flower – (Which I backed with fusible web and then cut out of a floral fabric.)

I chose to frame my silhouette so I did not finish the edges. If you were going to use it on a quilt, you would what to sew along all of the edges to prevent fraying. Be sure to sew along the slits in the interior of the silhouette too.

You’re done, yeah! If you make one I would love to see it - leave me a comment with the link so I can check it out. If you decide you like making these, be sure to pick up this book. While I used a different transfer method than she does, she has great advice on layouts, filling in missing photo parts, and the book includes several patterns you can use if you can’t seem to find your own. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Swapping Fun

Monday night we saw the UPS dray coming down our street. Could it be? Were they delivering a box from Vancouver?
It was a box from Vancouver!
Filled with wonderful surprises!
Personalized necklaces, beads to string...
a toy ferry boat - complete with "toot"...
computer games...
those bead-thingies you put together and iron to make pictures...
but that's not all. There was a cute kit to make picture frames out of CD holders, a book for me, barrettes, bracelets, heart clips, name plates for the kids (that even matched S's bedroom,) homemade letter magnets for the fridge, stickers, and best of all - a picture of our new friends!

Thank you so much L! You and the girls put together a super package. S is already asking when we can swap again.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Winter Strikes Again

This is what I woke up to in the back yard this morning - my husband's bee hive covered in snow. I guess Mother Nature decided she needed a little more winter. I was really enjoying my taste of spring. *Sigh* I bet the bees are ready for spring too...

A checked them a few days ago and he says they made it through the winter. He'll be starting a new hive this spring. I didn't realize it until A started keeping bees last year - bee suppliers will send the bees to you in the mail! I would have loved to see our Post Master's face when the buzzing box arrived.

This is what I am ready for... spring flowers and sunshine. (I took this photo last summer.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Such a nice foggy spring day:

You can listen to it, if you'd like.*
(It is my very first audio recording, so it isn't the best quality, but you've got to start somewhere.)
Many of us who live near the water find the mellow sounds of freighters on a foggy day comforting. The fog wraps around you like a well loved quilt and then you hear that horn; it sooths you like a purring kitten and reminds you why you love living near the lake.

two otters playing on the ice...
and all is right with the world.
*I had trouble listening while using FireFox, but it worked in Explorer.

Pay it Forward

Spring has put me in such a good mood lately. Maybe it is the sun (it was still light at 8:30 last night - yeah,) the sparkling water, the boats, or maybe it’s just the feeling of the weathered boards of the boardwalk beneath my feet (since the snow is melting fast and I can actually see the ground now.) I don’t know… and it really doesn't matter. Whatever it is, it's just put me in a good mood lately.
Hopefully I can spread some of my good feelings to you today…Thanks to J, at Sew Bee It, I am Paying It Forward. So, I promise to send the first three people who leave a comment (and tell me they want to participate) a homemade gift. Though, I must admit I have absolutely no idea what it might be. The rules say that I have 365 days to send the gifts on their way (and it just may take me that long.) I’ll ship anywhere you happen to be, so don’t feel like you can’t participate simply because you live outside the US. Just make sure you leave me your email address so I can contact you about shipping, etc. Remember, if you do participate, you are agreeing to Pay It Forward yourself. Maybe you don’t sew, but do you do anything else creative? I'm sure you do, and I’m sure others would appreciate whatever you have to offer. I know I would...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Posted Goodies

This is what was waiting for me at the post office yesterday... filled with lots of little packages from my good friend M.Oh my, I am going to have fun! (How did she know I was just looking at oven mitt patterns the other day?)
I couldn't put Rescue Pack or Backpack in the photo of all the goodies because I couldn't get them off the kids. S wore his all day - it even went up to his room for nap time. (A boy might need his treasures, you know.)
Thank you M for our special surprise! Now, I'm off to go bake a chocolate cavity "bun" cake. (Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Safe Journey

Attention L, my swap partner,
do not read any further!

Lest ye spoil the surprise...

Here is our swap box, all ready to go out in the mail earlier this week....

We joined the Little People Care Package Swap back in early March (or was it late February? I can't remember...) There are a number of swaps going on right now and I was lucky enough to be looking in the right place at the right time and came across this one in time to actually join in. Whoo-hoo! I loved this swap because it was all about the kids.

The rules were simple: Send a picture of your family or children, a postcard or map from your town, or a photo of your house, and a note (along with your swap items.) If we chose to spend money, the limit was $10.00 - not including shipping. Also, packages had to be sent no later than April 1st.

The kids and I worked on our swap items for a few weeks. I decided on an art and science theme, and we sent the supplies for art projects and science experiments. Along with a few items that didn't really fit the theme, but we wanted to send anyway. Here's what we came up with:
The required postcards and photos, contact paper mosaics, Polygon pictures (pictures made with stickers of different shapes,) misc. stickers, two of our most favorite CDs (look here and here,) two slightly loved books S wanted to share,
a marble painting kit, two crayon rolls, a little fabric ball, soy bean seeds to sprout and investigate as they grow, flower pencils, honey from my husband's bee hive, a bib, and a kit for growing crystals on pipe cleaner shapes.
(I could not interest S in dictating notes, so sorry L, they are all me.) The scariest thing is - we only went over budget by about $2.00. Remember, I live on an island and need to have things on hand since I can't just run out to the store whenever I want to. Oh yeah, and I am a total pack rat, too. Just ask my husband... So safe journey little brown box. We hope you make it to Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, safely.

Friday, April 4, 2008


There was a wonderful surprise waiting for us this morning... a ferry boat, and it was headed our way. When you live on an island, the first day of ferry service in the spring is a thing to celebrate. The "slow boats" as we call them (since the ride takes 45 minutes) started today. Yippee! They may only be making three trips a day, but the sheer fact that they are running means that spring is just around the corner. Even the kids can feel it... While we were riding home from the boat dock, S looked over at the snow-covered ground and asked, "Where are all the lady slippers?" Soon little one, soon... It was a beautiful day for a boat ride, don't you think?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Entomology 101

This year, for spring break, instead of any one person having to do an eight hour drive, we met in the middle. So, right now we are in Lansing, Michigan - 1/2 way between our house and my husband's family - who all live in Indiana. The other day we visited took five kids (8, 7, 3, 2, & 2) to the Michigan State University Bug House. If you live near Lansing, or are going to be near Lansing and have a budding entomologist at home, I highly recommend it. It was small, but so worth the trip. They wouldn't let the kids hold the scorpions or the tarantulas (understandably,) but pretty much everything else could come out of its cage for a visit. J liked the Vietnamese walking stick (above,) while pretty much everyone liked the giant millipede (below.)

Dark wing beetle
Australian leaf bug
Not only did they have live specimens for the kids to look at and handle, but they had toys for the toddlers and displays for the older boys. Plus, the admission was a donation, so it was quite affordable.