Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mackinac Must Haves

Year-round life on Mackinac Island differs from mainland life in many ways, the main difference being the Island's ban on motorized vehicles. I know many people are fascinated about what year-round life is like here so I thought, over the next little while, I would show you a few of the things that I can't imagine living without. OK, that's a bit strong. Perhaps it would be better to say the things I don't want to live without; the things that just make Mackinac Island life a little easier.

With that said, this is my list. I didn't conduct a scientific poll, and there are lots island residents who have lived quite happily not owning a single item on my list, but for me, they're a "must have." It's kind of like disposable diapers and sippy cups. Millions of mothers raised countless children without them, I'm just thankful I didn't have to...

Mackinac Must Haves: Creepers

The snow, the ice, sadly it's all pretty much gone. In fact, I walked to and from work every day last week. It's a bummer because, at this time of year, we all feel like we should still be riding our snowmobiles. Walking is challenging because even though there isn't enough snow to ride the roads are still pretty icy. In fact there are some people who continue to ride just for safety. It is a lot easier to buy a new set of wear rods (metal bars to prevent wear to the bottom of the ski) for a snowmobile than it is to deal with a broken ankle. Which actually happened last week - one of my student's moms slipped and did break her ankle!

Since I've been walking, I'm glad I have these:

They slip on over your boots or shoes to give you some traction on the ice.

They're not perfect and you still have to be careful, but I don't know what I'd do without them. In fact, my YakTrax are definitely in the top ten on my "Mackinac Must Haves" list. I prefer the kind that have a velcro strap to help them stay on. I upgraded to these because when I wore my old pair, without the strap, one of them kept falling off.

They're calling for snow tonight. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be back on that snowmobile in the morning...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade Superhero

It all started with "Superhero Princess Week" in pre-school. My daughter isn't a big princess fan, but I dutifully offered to make her a princess dress this past weekend. You should have seen her face - it was as if I had asked her if she wanted to eat an entire plate of creamed spinach! There was no way she was going to wear a princess dress to school. "Would you like a superhero costume instead?"Of course her answer to that one was "Yes!" So I quickly pawed through my fabric stash, and after hearing several choices she decided she wanted to be ...

faster than a running cheetah, able to leap into the canopy in a single bound - she wanted to be Jaguar Girl! A perfect fit for her, since these have become one of her favorites this winter.

I found several tutorials on line for making capes out of thrifted skirts, but hitting a thrift shop wasn't an option, so I had to come up with plan B. To draft my pattern, I started with a bib that I knew would fit around her neck. After measuring the length from her shoulders to her knees, I laid the bib over a large piece of white paper, measured down the appropriate distance, and roughed out my design. As for how wide to make the cape, I completely winged it. (My french curve was quite helpful for creating the curves at the bottom. I think I picked mine up at a thrift store for a buck or two, but I've found that it's quite handy to have.)

Here's the bib and my pattern. The bib is fairly large - designed to cover a messy toddler.

Here is my final pattern:

My daughter is quite tall for four and a half, so this size would probably need to be shortened if your child was younger or on the short side. (It also fits her six year-old brother.) One change I made to the pattern you see above is at the top. You've got to cut through the fold there to get the two little flaps that overlap to close the cape under the chin. I also clipped the square corners into more of a curve because I thought it would be more comfortable.

I cut one cape from my jaguar fabric and one from plain black to serve as a lining. Next I appliqued the J and the circle to the jaguar piece using fusible web. (I made the J pattern by printing out a capital J in a font I liked at size 450 and the circle is just a tracing of one of our dinner plates.)

To sew the cape I placed the fabric pieces right sides together and stitched around the outside, with a 3/8 inch seam allowance, making sure I left an opening to turn it. I turned it right side out, pressed it, edge stitched around the outside to give it a finished look, and finally I stitched on a velcro closure at the neck. Perhaps an hour and a half from start to finish.

The mask was quick and easy, too. I just traced the mask onto fusible web. Then I cut out the mask and a second mask, the same size, out of fabric-backed vinyl (left over from these boots.) I fused the two together, making sure the fabric side of the vinyl was going to touch my daughter's face. I used the vinyl because 1. I had it on hand and 2. I wanted something to give the mask a little stiffness. Heavy weight interfacing would probably achieve a similar effect. Next I stitched around the edge to make sure the two pieces didn't come apart, added the elastic strap, and that was it. I found the template for the mask here.

You should have seen her running down the hallway on her way to show her teacher. The teacher in me knows I should have stopped her and reminded her to "use her walking feet," but I decided the thrill of feeling her superhero cape flapping behind her was more important than walking - just this once.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


It's been six days and Bobby is still missing.

It's kind of like an elephant in the back of the room - it weighs heavily on each person's mind, but no one really wants to discuss it. It's a pretty emotional situation for a lot of people on Mackinac Island. There are only about 500 of us here year round, and while not all of us were friends with him, we all knew him. He was Bobby Roach; just an average guy - he had children, he was a volunteer firefighter, he worked hard, and he played hard. And while I honestly didn't know him well at all, Bobby Roach was as much a part of the island landscape as Sugar Loaf or Arch Rock. For many people it's hard facing the possibility that he - an employee, a good friend, and a loved one is gone ... forever; most likely through the ice late Friday night. The search has been called off and while we are all hoping for a miracle, the chances that we'll actually get one are slim to none.

The island will get through it, somehow we always do. We're a tight knit community and tend to pull together in times of crisis. We just seem to have had more than our share of them these past few years...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Missing In Action

I've had a pit in my stomach all day. You hear about things like this on the news, but you never think it will hit close to home. Until it does. And then it shocks you because those are stories you hear about on the news - not stories about people you actually know.

One of the islanders is missing. Yeah, missing. And while I may not have known him very well, I'm worried and keep hoping that he'll be found alive. No one has seen him since Friday night, and as soon as people realized that was the case, the search began. Pretty much all day Sunday the police department, the fire department, the Coast Guard, and just regular people searched; every inch of Mackinac Island (and as much of the ice as was safe) was covered by snowmobile, airplane, and helicopter, but with no luck.

For us the scariest parts of this is that his snowmobile is no where to be found. Which makes us all wonder - was he out on that ice by himself Friday night?

For each of the past two winters we've had snowmobile accidents that have ended in tragedy. I keep hoping that this story will have the happy ending we're all praying for...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Homemade Valentine's Day Cards

I saw these Valentines last year and immediately fell in love with the idea. They were cute, personal, simple, and best of all - homemade. I showed them to the kids, and while they didn't really care about the homemade part, they loved the idea of giving their friends candy.

The hardest part was getting a good photo - one with a hand in a decent position and large enough not to tear once the stick was inserted. Then I photoshopped in the messages, uploaded them to Kodak, and they arrived in the mail a week later.

I cut the slits above and below the hands with an exacto-knife and the kids are ready to slide the suckers into their hands tonight after dinner. I know these did end up costing more than other Valentine options, but the kids really like them and, of course, so do I. Plus, we don't have to spend forever signing their names on each one. At four and six, writing your name that many times is quite a daunting task. I liked them so much, I needed some for myself.

Despite the fact that they wouldn't be homemade, I am leaning toward these for next year. The science teacher in me adores them! Yeah, I know, I'm a geek...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sigh. I was supposed to cross the ice this afternoon. A number of the teachers had grand plans; we were going out to eat, to move cars from the dock parking lot to the ice bridge parking lot, and then pick up a few much needed groceries. However, things didn't quite work out...

Just as we were getting ready to leave the school, a parent overheard us making plans. He had just came across the ice from St. Ignace and warned us about the pressure crack.

"It's changing minute by minute due to the wind," he said. "When I headed to the mainland, earlier the crack was pushed up a bit, but nothing major. When I came home 20 minutes later there was about three feet of water on top of the ice around the crack. There's solid ice under it, but plan on getting wet and I wouldn't take a cutter. You might even want to wait to tomorrow."

He didn't have to make that suggestion twice. I'll take foiled plans over the alternative any day...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No Storm Here

The huge weather "event" seems to have missed those of us living in Northern Michigan. I'm not complaining mind you, Mackinac Island has gotten quite a bit of snow this year. Which, of course, we love given that snowmobiles are our main form of transportation during the winter months. I took this picture last week - the morning after our last snow fall. It looks so idyllic, doesn't it? Just a perfect, albeit incredibly cold, Mackinac day...