Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Ruby is the name my son has given to this new addition to the toy box. She kind of looks like a Ruby, don't you think? I'd love to tell you that she's my own creation, but she's not - I tested the pattern for Becky over at Whosies - Written Whatnots. She puts out some cute little patterns in her shop, but likes a few people to test them first.

Being a pattern tester has gotten me thinking about drafting a few of my own. Not that I have a shop or anything, but it might be fun. Hmmmmmm... Now what could I come up with? That might be a fun summer project...

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Un-Pillowcase Dress

When you live on an island, birthday parties can present a bit of a challenge. Since I work full time, I can usually only get off the island on weekends and that makes getting gifts difficult. It's not like I can run out to the store after dinner or on my way home from work. The closest Wal-Mart is a 45 minute boat ride and then an hour drive. If you want Target, it is more like a two hour drive. But, I am thrilled that a Meijer is opening in a couple of weeks - and it will only be an hour away! I love Meijer. Sorry, I'm going off on a tangent aren't it. Anyway...

Recently we got a party invitation just a few days before the party, and I wasn't able to got off the island to purchase a gift in time. If I hadn't been able to sew, I would have been in a bit of a pickle. Luckily I was able to make this the day before the party:
(Remember this in Northern Michigan. Wearing this dress without a shirt and quite possibly tights probably won't happen. At least not before August.)

I thought S and K's little friend, M, might appreciate something pink and bubbly instead of a vintage pillowcase, so I serged up a pillowcase-shaped tube and went from there. I am especially proud of my homemade bias tape. I bought myself a bias tape maker a few months ago and I was itching to try it out; it worked perfectly! Though I did find this tutorial on how to avoid using one. Now why didn't I think of that?

The best part of these little pillowcase dresses is they they are adjustable. I purposefully made it a bit long, so hopefully M will get at least two years use out of it. She thought it was a princess dress for her dress-up box, and if that makes her happy - I'm happy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Birthday

I just had to share that little snippet of a drawing my son made for me on my birthday. At 4 1/2 he is just now beginning to draw images that appear to be more representative than scribble and each one makes me smile. He drew it for me at school and then gave it to me, so it now hangs in a place of honor behind my desk.

As of this week I am thirteen times my daughter's age. Which I suppose isn't as bad as it sounds because I really don't feel old. However, I seem to be perceived that way:

The other day when my son asked me a question I told him, "I don't remember."

"Did you forget because you are an old lady Mama?" he asked. Absolutely not. I am not an old lady. I'm not even ready for the baggers at the grocery store to call me "Ma'am." It catches me off guard every time. I may be 39, but I don't feel old. Sure I have more aches and pains than I did ten tears ago, but my body has a whole lot more miles on it than it did back hen. Thank goodness I feel young. With two little ones to chase after, I'd be in big trouble if I felt old.

How are you feeling this weekend?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jaguar Jammies

One of my daughter's favorite things, well until this winter was her jaguar jammies. They were a pair of one piece velour footed pajamas that snapped up the back. Despite how they made going to the bathroom a challenge, she loved them. She was really upset the day we couldn't cram her growing legs into them any more and she sadly admitted that they didn't fit.

"We have to give dese to baby G," she told me. "And you can make me new jammies. With a tail Mama. I wanna tail. Preaseeeeeee." How could I resist that? Plus, the next time I was at Joann's - the fleece was 50% off! I think I may have bought cheetah by mistake, but it's close enough. So, as requested, I made new jaguar jammies.

The only problem is - she refuses to wear them. She tells me she likes them, but has yet to do more than try them on - once. My son, on the other hand, adores them, and asks K if he can borrow them regularly, though he still asks for his own pair. (Thank goodness I made her's big enough to fit again next winter.) "And Mama," he says, "I would like my tail to be attached. Attached Mama. Please don't put velcro on mine. Do you understand Mama?"

Yes dear. I understand.

I was always a bit scared of sewing with fleece, so I had never sewn with it before. What was I afraid of? If was wonderful! It had just the right amount of give for making the neck, and it let me try out some of the stretch stitches on my Bernina. I'm going to have to get some more to play with because I loved it. Who knows, I might even need some new jammies.

Just in case you are curious, the snow on the island is melting fast. The road in front of our house (which is not plowed) is now clear and the snow in the woods is melting fast.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I feel so good about what I accomplished this weekend. Between Friday and today I managed to check the following items off of my list:
  • raked the front yard
  • swept and despiderwebbed the front porch
  • cleaned the kitchen - twice
  • broke down my daughter's crib and moved it to the basement
  • helped both children clean their bedrooms
  • put new sheets both kids' beds
  • washed, folded and put away eight loads of laundry
  • sorted and matched lots of socks in the "orphan basket"
  • washed and organized all the kids hats and mittens and then packed the heavy ones away in the basement
  • packed away my winter coat, snow pants and boots in the basement
  • reinstalled the shower curtain in the kids' bathroom after an unfortunate incident with a broken bottle of blue plaque dying stuff
  • organized, dusted, swept / vacuumed and washed the windows in the dining room and the entry way
  • vacuumed the stairs
  • took apart and cleaned our little Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner
  • scooped the cat's litter box
  • made oatmeal banana cookies
I still have a pile of papers to grade, but I needed a break...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back into the Swing

When my son was born my friend from Japan sent him the cutest little smock. I loved the style but the oatmeal-color fabric wasn't my favorite. So I took it apart, used the pieces as a pattern, and made a new one. I love how it turned out. I'm going to have to make a few more of these because this one is heading off to a friend of mine who just had her second baby on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


My little girl turned three this weekend. Three - where did the time go? Wasn't I just on maternity leave?

K is such a little person now - full of personality and confidence. Despite my best efforts, she is not an adventurous eater and bread in its many forms is her favorite food. She loves baby dolls, being read to, her new little princesses, pretending to be a puppy, her umbrella and her pillow. And I love her with all my heart and soul. Despite all her faults (that all came from her father - not me!) - her temper, the battles over cleaning up the toys, and her heavy handedness when she deals with her brother, I adore her. She is my little bug, and she's three...

She told her Papa she wanted a rainbow cake for her birthday, so I went with the rainbow theme for our little family party. Well, I guess it wasn't so little since Grandma and Grampie drove all the way up from Southern Indiana and Grandpa Jack came from Petoskey. My son reminded her that, "Grandma Crissie is at Egypt and she couldn't come."

Birthday shirt? Check.
Rainbow room? Check.Rainbow cake? Oops, that cake looks white to me...
Papa apologized and told her that he forgot to make a rainbow cake. (Wink wink) She took it pretty well, but then chastised him at the dinner table for it. When he apologized again she said, "Dat's O.K. Papa. I'll eat dat cake." You should have seen her face light up when she and her father cut the first piece. "The rainbow's inside Papa!"

Apparently he didn't forget after all...

If you want to make a rainbow cake, just separate your cake batter (A used yellow cake) into different bowls and then use gel food coloring (A used Wilton brand from the cake decorating isle) to color each bowl of batter. He spooned each bowl of batter into the center of the cake pan, plopping the next color on top of the ones that were already there and hen baked according the the directions on the package. Though, it took two trips through the dishwasher to get the bowls clean...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Camel Market

The camel market (souk al-gamaal) is just outside Cairo in Birqash. Even though it is just outside the city, it took us about an hour to get there. When we saw trucks like these, we knew we were getting close. (Enlarge it and look in the bed of the closest truck.) It cost 20 Egyptian pounds for each of us to enter, and I paid an additional 10 pounds for a camera permit.
Luckily my mom knew Fridays were the busiest day. The pictures just don't do the place justice - imagine about 1,000 camels walking, running, sitting, peeing, groaning. Just imagine camels everywhere.
If only I could understand Arabic...
This one is getting a closer inspection. I wonder what the going price was.Look at the camels behind the boy below. Notice how one of each camel's front legs is tied up. Most of them were hobbled in this way so they couldn't get too far too quickly. Every now and then someone would want to see one of the camels run, so they would unhobble it and "encourage" it to run around.
We were the only westerners there until right before we left, and then it was only a van load.
After the deals were made, it was time to load the camels.
This one was not interested in getting in the back of the pick-up truck.Once the camels were in the trucks they were tied down and driven off to who-knows-where. Mustafa, our driver, told us they were off to camel races in the Sudan.The hardest part of the day, for me, was seeing school-age children working rather than being in school. There were lots of young boys working that day. Many of them walked up to me, pointed to my camera and then back at themselves, as if to say, "Take my picture." So I did. Then they would rush up and want to look at the image on the back of the camera. When I showed them each one would get a huge smile.
As we left, this man asked me to take his photo too - he was the only adult who asked. You should have seen his smile when he saw himself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mmmmmmmmm... Camel

Ok, I tried it, I did; in a dish called kuftah. The camel was mixed with beef and lamb so you couldn't really taste the camel, but it was pretty darn good. So good that I ate it on at least two other occasions. I have to say that I really enjoyed Egyptian food, and we ate it as often as we could. In case you are curious about what they eat over there, here are a few of my favorites:

The dips below were really good. The first one is made with tahini and garlic. You dip warm pita bread (right from the bread lady) into it as an appetizer.
This one is called baba ghanoush -it's made with egg plant. Not quite as good as the tahini, but still quite yummy.
This was the lunch we had at the Pharonic Village. I didn't eat the salad (my doctor advised me not to eat any uncooked vegetables) but the grilled chicken was wonderful. (I wish I could remember the name.) The rice was interesting; it was seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, but wasn't really sweet. It was OK, but not something I would ever make at home.
Chic peas are in lots of dishes in Egypt. One day for lunch they were served with a rather spicy sauce. It was delicious.This was, hands down, my favorite Egyptian food. The souk (little shopping area) around the corner from my mom's apartment has a bakery where they make bread and other goodies. Almost every evening I would go there and buy four of these little beauties for our breakfast the next day. (I think it is called fiteer, but I need my mom to double check.) It is hard to describe; it is kind of like a cross between a slightly sweet croissant and filo dough, and was it ever good. If I thought I could get them through customs I would bring about 10 of them home. That way my talented husband could figure out how to make it for me at home. The possibilities are endless, I see it as pizza, with eggs and sausage on top, stuffed with veggies. It was that good!
We didn't eat at McDonald's - we just met a group there and I thought it looked interesting in Arabic. My dad tells me their food tastes quite different in Egypt- partially because all their sausage is made from beef. (Followers of Islam do not eat pork.) We saw all the fast food places you can imagine: KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Hardees, and I'm proud to say we never stopped to eat. I can't imagine going all that way just to get a Quarter Pounder... I had hoped to buy my husband a cookbook while I was there, but the only ones I could find were in Arabic. So now I am searching for recipes on line. If anyone is interested I can post the good ones as I find them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Christianity In Cairo

I didn't know that 10% - 15% of Egypt's population is Christian. They are Coptic Christians, who follow the Coptic Church. (Which is looks very similar to the Russian Orthodox Church to me. ) The Copts have their own Pope through. We were lucky to get to visit several of Cairo's Christian Churches.

The Hanging Church is Cairo's most famous church. It was built in the late 600s, on top of a horseshoe shaped Roman wall - hence the name "Hanging Church." In one spot there is an opening in the floor where you can look down to see that it really does hang between the two sides of the wall. It is a beautiful church.

This must be field trip time for Egyptian schools, because there were several school groups here too. Then we went on to a crypt where the Holy Family hid during their flight to Egypt.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, along with other Christians hid in the crypt, under a church, behind this door. We touched the same door they went through. I've never felt such a personal connection to the Bible as I did when I touched that door.

We also visited the Cave Cathedral. It was amazing! It is a huge church built in a natural opening under a cliff. It is the largest Christian church in the Middle East - seating 20,000 people. It is located in Garbage City, a slum of Cairo where many of the city's Christians live. I'll try to post more about Garbage City later. I don't have many photos - they wouldn't let me get out of the car and walk around when we were there.

Here's a close up on the carving above the alter. A Polish artist comes every summer and works on the carvings, which are all over - donating all his time. The photos really don't do it justice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whirling Dervishes

Last night we went to see the Sufi Dancers, better known as the Whirling Dervishes. It was probably the most amazing performance I have ever seen. The Sufi, a sect of Islam, believe that they are closest to Allah (God) when they are whirling. And man did they whirl!

The show was held in an old madrasa (school) - Wikala of Al-Ghouri, which is very close to the Khan El-Khalili. (The Khan is the ancient shopping area, but more on that in another post.) The show was free of charge and well worth the two hour wait. We were told to arrive early because the seats would fill up quickly. It was true – by the time the show began, both sides of the court yard were lined with people standing. We were the first ones there and were able to sit in the front row. I thought it would be mostly Western tourists, but the vast majority of the audience was Muslim. (With the head scarves it is easy to tell.)

The dancing was amazing! They danced and whirled for what seemed like ages. This guy (pictured above) spun around for 28 minutes and then stopped on a dime with no disorientation. If I spin for 45 seconds I can’t walk straight and he whirled for a half an hour!

The music was great too: drums, Middle Eastern horn things (look behind the dancers above,) and wonderful singing. Although, since it was in Arabic, Allah was the only word I understood.

If you ever get to Cairo you have to go see this - 8:30 pm on Wednesday and Saturday nights. I promise you won't be disappointed.