Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Happy Fourth

This year's Fourth of July was sunny and bright!  We kept it super low key since we were recovering (still) from our camping trip, and all of us were either succumbing to or getting over a nasty chest cold.  (Guess who still has it?  Winner winner, chicken dinner!)  We started festivities by washing our cars (using cheap and willing child labor, including the neighbor child) and then ended the day with some mild fireworks.  (No big and loud sounds for this crowd.)  Sandwiched in-between was a dinner consisting of hot dogs, potato chips, raw veggies with hummus, fruit salad, and berry shortcake for dessert.

The local fireworks was the day before on the third, and didn't start until 9:20--the time it actually gets dark here.  Which is even later (obviously given different latitudes) than in Maryland.  It made me wonder what time they start the festivities in places like Alaska.  Do they just give up on the idea of it being completely dark?  Of course, we had our neighbor's fireworks to listen to on the following days.  It was......not awesome.  The Fourth of July really is not one of my favorite holidays.  I am really quite a curmudgeon. I am o.k. with that.  (*waves fists at all the young hooligans*)

Photo dump time:

even more photo pleasure can be found on Flickr.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Short Sewing

Well, it took a couple of years, but Finn has finally outgrown the shorts that I made him two summers ago.  Actually, in length and waist, he is still fine, but I felt the rise was too short for another summer.  Instead, I took those same shorts, cut off an inch and a half, and hemmed them for Enna.  Summer shorts for her?  Done.  Finn, however, needed something new.

Last year, I supplemented his homemade shorts with these from Target:

They were perfect!  We got a size smaller than his age so that they would fit his waist, and they were still o.k. in length.  This year, they are getting a bit shorter, but not unseemly so.  However, I couldn't find these same shorts this year (so as to get more), and I didn't like the look of what I saw available online via Target. All this to say: I needed to sew more shorts.

I was going to use the same pattern as I used two years ago, the sketchbook short pattern.  However, I don't have it in the larger (5-12) size range, only the younger range.  I have learned in the past year or so that although my kids' girth measurements (i.e. waist and chest), might put them in a really young size, you don't want to do more the a two size difference between a waist/chest measurement and a height measurement since the proportions start looking really off.  This meant that although Finn's waist measurements might put him in the smaller pattern size, size 5 was as small as I should go since I needed the length of the pattern to be a size 7/8.  Clear as mud?  Anyway, I thought about buying that pattern in the larger size, but decided that I would take the art museum trouser pattern (which I did have in the right size) and make them into shorts.

This is a great basic pant pattern.  The "design feature" of this pattern is the welt back pockets, which I didn't bother with since I wanted a basic summer short with pockets.  I also opted not to do the flat front since Finn has expressed a preference of comfort for an all-around elastic waist.  Other besides that, I made it like the pattern directed.  I estimated (generously) an inseam that would approximate a short length, making sure that I had it long enough.  I hemmed them so that they hit at mid-knee.

The tricky part was coming up with a suitable fabric.  I really liked the fabric of the Target shorts. I posted a picture of the shorts on a couple of different Facebook sewing groups to get input on what exactly that type of fabric was called.  The consensus was poplin.  However, it was not trivial to find poplin that would be substantial enough for shorts.  (It is most often used as shirting).  Robert Kaufman makes a "Malibu Poplin" that is 5.3 ounces.  This is what I used, and it has been awesome--substantial enough for shorts but lightweight enough for summer.  (I had also checked out some lightweight/midweight twill, but those had a dressier look.)

The second set of shorts I made for Finn were using the Parachute Pant pattern.  I had some leftover sweatshirt fleece from previously made pants.  I went back and forth on whether the sweatshirt fleece was too warm for shorts.  It is a pretty lightweight sweatshirt fleece.  My mind has yet to fully adjust to PNW summers.  I still think that summers bring a lot of heat and humidity--in which case sweatshirt fleece, regardless of how lightweight, is just a poor choice.  However, with our low-humidity 70 degree days, the sweatshirt fleece is just fine.

I drafted pockets using the tutorial online.  However, I kind of wish I had pushed harder and left them off.  I don't think they hit at a good spot to be actually used, I made the opening a bit too big (I used the Art Museum pockets as a guide), and they don't lie nice and flat--they get caught on the hands and come partly out of the pockets.  All in all, it makes me a bit twitchy, but Finn isn't bothered by any of this, and wears them happily.

Faint white marks are just chalk markings to indicate pockets.  The picture was taken before they had been washed and these markings removed.

All, in all.  I am happy with the shorts.  What makes me more happy is to see my kids preferring them over the store-bought shorts.  It makes my heart sing to see my kids in well-fitting, home-made clothes.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

June Camping: Belfair, WA and Lopez Island, WA

Alternative working title: In which the bathroom gods frowned upon us.

We went back-to-back camping in June, which was a bit unplanned.

It turns out that if you want a weekend camping spot in Washington state during the summer months, you have to reserve in December.  When I looked in April and May, all the weekend slots were taken, and I had to settle for a Sunday-Tuesday booking.  Even that was not enough for a Lopez Island campsite during the month of July. Instead, I had to settle for a late June spot.  After I reserved our campsite, I found out that the Father/Son campout for church was the Friday before our camping trip.  And then, because of ward feedback, they changed it to a ward campout vs just an exclusive Father/Son thing.  I would have been happy to skip it, but Finn had been looking forward to that particular camping trip all year.  So, we made life extra crazy by camping a night, coming back home for a day, and then setting off for another camping trip.

Luckily, the church camp is not too far away from us in Belfair, WA.  It is charmingly situated away in the woods and next to a lovely lake.  They have boats, canoes, life jackets, paddles, etc. all accessible to camp patrons.  There are also playgrounds and open fields.  Altogether, it is a nice setup.  My one main problem, which could be a future deal breaker, is that they only have pit toilets for *most* of the campsites.  I say *most* because there are actually some rather nice bathroom facilities, but the camp administrators are rather rudely authoritarian about who can actually use them.  Only those people staying in a particular building may actually use the nice toilets/showers, the rest of the campers have to use pit toilets.  Look, I get that there are places where there are only pit toilets (or even no toilets!), but the payoff of those particular campgrounds is that they are remote/limited use.  You change your mindset: you are there to embrace nature and to become one with it. Those are great and certainly have their place.  However, I am not at this stage of life going to go car camping with my family at a place that doesn't have flush toilets and a sink.  No bueno.  And come on, a church campground can take the effort to have flush toilets for it's patrons.

The ward designated a group campsite, where people could mingle and enjoy a campfire and have breakfast in the morning.  However, we saw very little of it since 1) our kids where *begging* for bedtime at 8pm and 2) we, for well documented reasons, have to fend for ourselves food-wise.  We did stop by in the morning to chat while our kids clustered around us and refused to play with the other kids.  (This did change when we were actually packing up the site to leave of course.)  The commonly asked question was, "so how did you sleep?"  To which I replied, "as good as we normally do."  Which is to say--horribly.  One person then said, "and yet, you still keep on camping...." Which implies that we are a bit crazy or masochistic.  I won't argue with that conclusion.  I guess some kids/parents sleep great when camping.  We do not.  Our kids have yet to master the trick of staying in their sleeping bags.  We, instead, spend the majority of the night getting kicked in various places and trying to keep the kids from freezing to death by throwing sleeping bags-turned blankets-over them.

Don't worry, they didn't stay in those bags for longer longer than the first few hours. Also, we gave them melatonin so that they would sleep when it was that light out.

I keep playing with the idea of longer camping trips, so that we could explore areas a bit farther from home.  But until we get better sleep, two nights is our max.

What we ate:

I tried to keep it simple since it was just going to be for a night.

Dinner: Mexican style crockpot chicken cooked earlier in the week over tortilla chips and topped with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes.  Veggies and hummus as a side.  No dessert.

Breakfast: homemade granola (with modifications), with fresh berries and yogurt.  Hot chocolate.

We drove back on Saturday, swapped out clothing, loaded up our cooler with the next few days' worth of food, and headed out for our second camping trip on Sunday.

Minimalist campers we will never be.

After dealing with a less than ideal cooler situation for the past few years, I finally bit the bullet and ordered two new coolers: one large hard cooler and a smaller soft-sided cooler.  Up to this point, we had been using our plug-in cooler as our main cooler.  A few problems with this: it was too small for our camping needs, and it was not designed to hold ice/get wet.  The plug-in cooler is awesome for car trips and hotel visits where you can plug it in and have it act like a refrigerator.  It is not awesome for car camping.  Also, our soft-sided cooler was old and didn't keep things cool for very long.  After a lot of research and hemming and hawing and justification, I decided on this hard-sided cooler and this soft-sided cooler.  So far, the angels (and me) are singing their praises.

Also, planning for this Lopez Island camping trip highlighted Mr. F.'s and my personality differences.  I am a big picture sort of gal (N in Myer-Briggs speak).  For example, I researched great camping spots, saw that Lopez Island would be a great place and someplace we could bike, and went about reserving a campground.  It was only days before the trip that I started looking into how we would get there.  It turns out that we had to take two different ferries (I was expecting only one), and that the scheduling of the ferries were such that we could only get to the island at 6pm at the earliest.  Color me seriously bummed.  The trip as I planned it had us spending two days traveling with one full day left to explore the island.  When I explained this to Mr. F., he was all, "Didn't you see this coming?"  Turns out, he more or less expected this outcome.  If he were the one planning, he would most likely check travel details before making the reservations to see if the plan was even feasible.  He is all about the details.  (S in Myer-Briggs).

Live and learn.  We will not be heading back to the San Juans until we can handle more than two nights.  Otherwise, the travel time doesn't make it worth it.  That being said, We really enjoyed the camping trip.

Oh, expect for the small detail that the main bathroom for the campsite--the one with the flush toilets and sinks--was closed for renovation.  Why they didn't plan renovations for the winter when there wasn't so many campers, I have no idea.  Instead, they had a slew of port-a-potties that were all rank and filled to capacity.  (Dude, if you are going to do renovations to the toilets of a popular campground?  Make sure you keep on top of the pit toilet disposal!)  The toilet situation and the fact that I completely miscalculated the travel time, made me think that this camping trip was for the dogs.  Luckily, there was a second set of flush toilets in they day-use portion of the campground which was about as far of a hike as the port-a-potties.  Bonus, they were flying under cover of most of the campers so they weren't very crowded.  That find seriously saved the trip for me.

We spent our day on Lopez enjoying the campground (which was quite lovely with well-spaced camping spots with lots of privacy), lining up pinecones(?) while parents cooked, hiking to Shark Reef Sanctuary (very cool), and taking a family bike ride around the northern part of the island.

This is what I get when I ask for a nice picture with the kids.  Check out the version with their dad on Flickr--perfectly respectable.

Side note: I had heard that Lopez was great for biking since it was relatively flat.  This made me excited and is one of the reasons why I picked this camping location--I am always looking for places where we can go on a nice family bike ride.  However, I seriously want to know what they mean by "relatively," because dude, our ride was not flat.  I guess relative to the other islands, it is one of the flatter ones.  But there were some not trivial inclines, and they were at pretty regular intervals.  Mr. F. and I were huffing and puffing after our ten mile ride.  It was not helped by the fact that we were hauling our children either.

What we ate:

Lunch: Confetti salad, vegetables with hummus, fruit
Dinner: Hamburgers, steamed broccoli, s'mores
Breakfast: pancakes, hot cocoa (Mr. F. ate eggs)
Lunch: pizza quesadillas, fruit, vegetables with hummus (Mr. F. ate leftovers)
Dinner: chicken/pepper/snap pea salad, hash browns, s'mores
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, hash browns, hot cocoa
Lunch: sandwiches with lunch meat, leftover veggies/hummus, fruit

As usual, you can check out more pictures here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June Happenings

I started off the month solo parenting as Mr. F had to go to Florida for work.  It wasn't *too* bad.  Mostly because Finn now currently sleeps with me in our bedroom (long story short: we just couldn't deal with him waking us up constantly with bad dreams, etc.  Having him sleep on a pad in our room wasn't working either. So, this was the viable solution) and I only had to help Enna about once a night go to the bathroom.  Also, it was manageable since Finn was still in school and occupied for most of the day.  Mr. F. has another trip coming up this summer, and I think it will be a bit harder--not getting a break from at least one child during the day.

I have found that the best way to keep my sanity while solo parenting during the weekends was to make sure we had plans that got us out of the house.  This led us to take a family bike ride, with Finn riding his own bike for the first time (for a longer ride), while I had Enna in the bike seat.  We went five miles at a leisurely 6mph.  Finn needs a larger bike, and I think that will help him not get tired so easily.

On the last Saturday of my solo parenting gig, Finn's school hosted a "Dolphin Hunt."  You paid a dollar per family for a license.  Then the kids were let loose on the school grounds to search for a token.  If you found one, you could exchange it for a dolphin that one of the staff members had decorated.  I tried very hard to explain to Enna that we could only find ONE token and then get only ONE dolphin.  But of course there were tears because she couldn't pick one out for herself.  So much sadness.  Despite the tears, it was a really fun activity.

Of course, that didn't take up enough time, so later in the afternoon, I took the kids for a hike/walk around an urban trail of their picking.  Mr. F. came home during dinner, and I could crash (literally).

Also in June, I went on a 30-mile bike ride with the Salmon Girls.  It was basically my ideal day: a day spent riding my bike with friends on a trail in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  The other two are training for a longer ride this summer and are in better health/shape than I.  The most I had ridden up to this point was 15 miles.  We went slow, and I was feeling great.  However, by the end of the day, I felt super exhausted, and the next day had me crashing hard.  I don't know if my stamina will improve as I increase my exercise more gradually (vs having a jump like that.)  Or if I will just always need to plan a full day of recovery after an effort of that sort.  I am doing loads better, and I trick myself into thinking that I can just charge ahead.  The reality though is that I am still more fragile than I would like.  Stupid auto-immune disorder.

Next came Finn's last day of school.  He did excellent this year.  I had all "my feels", but he learned lots, was sufficiently challenged, and enjoyed first grade.  He is *not* looking forward to second grade, mainly for the reason that second graders have lunch later and he does NOT want to have a later lunch.  *eye roll*  He has been super excited to be home all the time (I wish I shared that excitement).  He loves to help cook, which has been surprisingly helpful (but also more stressful too).  I am finding that having both kids home all day long is plain exhausting.  This introvert needs more than the hour long quiet time that I impose everyday.  Below is a first and last day comparison.  Unlike some other years, there wasn't a huge difference in appearance, which makes me glad.  Otherwise, I tend to get all weepy and sentimental.

And finally, we went strawberry picking!  It was a very wet and cool spring, so we are just getting into the strawberry season.  I try to be reasonable, but then I get in the field picking berries and all my hoarding tendencies come out.  Plus, I have two great pickers.  Seriously.  I am just starting to see the perks of older kids!  Both the picking and the processing (cutting off stems, etc.) went so much quicker this year.  We went twice and picked about 30 pounds of berries total.

In other random news: I finally jumped on instagram.  Mostly, I wanted to follow a bunch of people for Me Made May, but I am really enjoying it.  You will see some duplicate photos as those posted above, along with some others.

Of course, all the photos of our June happenings are found here at Flickr.

We also went camping twice in June, but that will be it's own separate post.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Fishing Derby

Our first family activity in our new town last year was the fishing derby.  The local Lion's Club puts on a fishing derby at the end of April, right after the middle school lake gets restocked with fish.  They provide free poles and bait for kids as well as a cleaning station for those who are lucky enough to get a bite.  This event is awesome, because our kids can get the opportunity to fish in spite of Mr. F. and I having no fishing gear whatsoever.

This year, I found out the date the night before, and despite me not being spontaneous, we had to go. The kids absolutely love it, even though 1) they have no patience for actual fishing and 2) they have yet to catch any fish.  The only thing we seem to catch is submerged logs and the worms that we already place on the hook ("Look! We caught a worm"). This year, I made sure to bring the camera so that I could take some pictures.

More pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Easter 2017

I was thinking that taking pictures of our yearly Easter basket and festivities seemed slightly gratuitous.  However, Enna loves going through our pictures and watching the videos.  She mentioned prior to Easter that perhaps another animal would find it's way into the basket this year instead of Bunny.  It made me realize that the kids love seeing the pictures, and they like knowing what sort of things to expect--the sense of tradition.  So, please indulge me while I write another post about our Easter activities.  (I couldn't remember what we did last year--see, this recording is just as much for me as for the kids.  It turns out we spent Easter in a hotel after cleaning out our house for the final time and the day before we left to drive across the country.  So, no Easter celebration and not surprising, Enna has no real memory of what our Easter traditions are except from pictures.)

The Saturday before, we busted out some watercolors (tubed and concentrated) and painted our wooden eggs.  We had five left from two years ago (thank heaven!) and so each kid painted two and I painted one.  I was uninspired this year.  I rather liked the two characters that I had painted before (Humpty Dumpty and Little Red Riding Hood), but I was completely lacking in inspiration and skill. (Actually, I had an idea of painting a bunny or someone in a bunny suit, but I just couldn't figure out how to do that on a wooden egg.) So, instead I painted a field of flowers.  Finn went for spots and Enna went for whimsy.

The next morning, the kids found the Easter basket which consisted of some dark Hersey's kisses (nut and gluten-free!), a fruit bar, a fruit pouch, stickers, pencils, some novel sugary cereal, cards from their Grandparents, and a small gift: a game for Finn and a hamster for Eileen.

For breakfast, I had made some hot-cross buns: a special and yummy treat.  I kept it simple for dinner: Egg salad on toast, asparagus, fruit salad, and strawberry crisp for dessert.  As I write this, it sounds simple compared to other traditional Easter meals of ham, potatoes, cakes, etc.  However, it still required a lot of work.  I found a new appreciation for my mother who spent all this time on the food only to have us gobble it up, not really appreciating all the effort.  Parenthood really is an exercise in non-appreciation.  I am just glad that I have a few months before another holiday comes around requiring extra preparation and effort on my part.  Holidays are awesome for kids, not so awesome for me.  I am also appreciating the idea of family and friend gatherings: where the work is shared by all and not just the one.

After dinner, I tried to rally for the Easter egg hunt, however both Mr. F and I were wiped.  In the end, we had each kid hide the eggs upstairs for the other to find.  This was great.....until the four year-old couldn't really remember where she had hidden the eggs.  Also, she kept telling Finn where the eggs were hidden vs giving hints.  (Admittedly a difficult concept for a four year-old to grasp.)  This of course led to melt-downs from the seven year-old and headaches for the parents.  Despite all this, the kids had fun.  Phew.  We had the hunt inside our house since Finn had taken a bath and was in his pajamas already.  I then documented our unmade beds and cluttered rooms as I took pictures of the kids finding the eggs.  (Oh look!  Finn has hidden some eggs in the dirty clothes bin.  Charming.) Documenting our imperfect life right here.  You are welcome.

More pictures can be found here.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kid pants x 10

Although I would love to make all of my kids' clothing, the truth is: Mama don't have time for that.  I have instead tried to focus on making items that I can't find in stores to fit my kids, namely elastic-waist pants such as sweatpants, lounge pants, etc.  Even if they have a drawstring, I can't cinch it tight enough to stay up without serious discomfort.

My sewing plans: 2 sets of pajama pants for Enna using flannel I bought for a baby's blanket that never got made when I had babies.  2 sets of sweatpants for each kid (navy for Finn and navy and purple for Enna).  2 sets of fleece pants for each kid (black) for camping and outdoor play in the damp PNW.  The grand total?  10 pants.  

Since I was going to make so many pants in one go, I wanted it to be the most basic pant pattern I could find.  The pant patterns I have (Oliver + S), while awesome, include lots of little details to make them special.  I didn't want to deconstruct them back to the basic pant pattern.  (Although in retrospect, I could probably taken the free Sunny Day Short pattern and just lengthened it.)  I instead chose to use Rae's Parsley Pant pattern.  The bonus to this pattern is that it is just one pattern piece.  You can then spice this pattern up by adding pipping, pockets, patches, contrasting stripe, etc.  For $10, I feel like I got my money's worth already by making the 10 pairs of pants.  

For the pajama pants, I made as drafted.  It has a bit of a flare at the bottom for a vintage vibe.  I did not add pockets.

For the sweatpants, I straightened the leg and added patch pockets (included in the pattern.)  For Enna, I made a size 2 and added 3 inches in length.  I also knew from the pajama pants that I really needed more length.  So instead of doing a fat hem like the pattern called for, I did a total hem of 1".  For Finn, I made a size 5 and added 4 inches in length.  For fabric, I used the 100% organic cotton sweatshirt fleece from  I read that the polyester blend pills over time.  This has not pilled at all and has held up really nice.  It is *not* thick however.  I would say it is more of a lightweight sweatshirt fleece.  Still, I like it, and it has been great.  

For the fleece pants, I used the straightened leg pattern, added elastic to the leg cuff, and nixed the pockets since the fleece was so thick.  (Patch pockets would have added too much bulk)  For fabric, I used the WinterFleece from  I had ordered a bunch of different fleece swatches.  I was looking for something substantial and that wouldn't pill.  This has been exactly what I wanted. I don't have a great pictures of these plain, but you can see them in action by looking at all of our camping photos with the kids in them.  Here is one of them:

After all that pant sewing, I decided that it was my turn.  I have successfully made a couple of Scout Tee shirts, and am working on fitting a Cappuccino tunic.  Those will have to be written about on a different day.  And of course, now that summer is on the horizon, I made a quick inventory of the kids' short situation.  Enna will be fine.  She has some hand-me-downs and the shorts that I made Finn a couple of years ago will fit her once I hem them to the right length.  Finn however, will need some more made.  I plan on making two of the sketchbook shorts and two of the parachute pants shortened for shorts.  And then!  I have visions of making the kids some hiking pants using the Field Trip pattern and sourcing some nylon fabric (using the info in this tutorial).  So lots of sewing in the works!


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