Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pac NW Vacation - Day 8

Welcome back! You made it to the last day of my vacation blog-a-thon!

The second day of our trip to Victoria was a bit less rainy (until our hike back to the ferry, of course.) This meant we were able to do a few outdoor activities and that was good since it just so happened to be the first day of their Winter Wonderland Festival.

They had ice sculpture demonstrations, a roaming Frosty the Snowman, carolers, and free horse-drawn carriage rides.

We really enjoyed the carriage ride because it allowed us to see more of Victoria than we could have done if we were just walking. Here is K giving it "two thumbs up".

E enjoyed it too. She was so happy to people-watch and play with the faux-greenery.

The other neat thing about their Winter Wonderland was that they trucked in snow for the kids. While this may not sound so exciting now that we've had actual snow, it was fun for the kids because at the time we hadn't had any yet.

Here are a few other highlights from our trip.

Thanks for sticking with me on this tour of our vacation. We had so much fun and K continues to ask when we can go back. A serious shout-out goes to our amazing family and friends for putting us up in their homes and completely taking care of us. You guys rock!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pac NW Vacation - Day 7

For the next leg of our trip we headed even farther north into Victoria British Columbia. We took the earliest ferry out and stayed overnight at the Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites. The hotel was beautiful, the beds were comfortable and it was just a short walk to the downtown area. Unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as beautiful so we opted to do indoor activities. One of the attractions that sounded fun to me was the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. They are situated outside of town so we needed to take some form of transportation to get there. The concierge at our hotel suggested the bus since it was cheaper than taking a taxi. Eventually we got there but what should have been a 25 minute trip took us close to two hours. It was definitely an adventure and on the way home it gave us a chance to mingle with an entire busload of kids coming home from high school.

If you ever get the chance to go the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, I highly recommend it. It is an amazing paradise of flora and fauna and every species of butterfly you can imagine.

The Emerging Room (or butterfly nursery) was very interesting seeing all the different stages of a butterfly's life cycle.

We were lucky enough to have a butterfly land on A and me.

While I think this caterpillar is totally cool looking, I definitely wouldn't want him crawling on me. He was huge!

I think that was the thing that surprised me the most - I had no idea how huge some species of butterflies grow. K really wanted a Blue Morpho to land on her but whenever one was close she got a little freaked out because they are as big as A's hand (see the JAKES Place banner for an example. That Blue Morpho is eating a VERY ripe banana and it's almost as long as the entire banana.)

Not only are the butterflies amazing, the flora and fauna at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens are too. We saw flamingos and giant koi fish,

cute little red-beaked finches,

parakeets and a parrot,

plus tortoises, turtles, tropical ducks, quails, doves and an Ibis.

Among the orchids, hibiscus and other tropical plants were mini truffula trees,

duck pom poms,

pipe cleaner bushes,

and pitcher plants.

Ok, maybe I made up a few of those names but they certainly looked like how I described them.

We ended our day by watching cartoons and eating dinner in our hotel room. We would be taking the last ferry back the next day so we could have a little more time to explore. Don't worry, that post will be up tomorrow ;)  But... if you make it to that one you will have seen our whole vacation. Congratulations!

It's a box...

Oh but it's so much more than just a box! It's a HOUSE!

(Gratuitous picture of our bunny because he's so cute.)

Ok, so it doesn't look like much of a house yet but keep reading to see how you too can turn a big empty box into a fun playhouse for your kid.

Step 1. Let your kid go crazy decorating their house. Since there is a lot of cutting and taping, this is the one step where they can "help". At first I wanted to paint the box or wrap it in cute paper to make it look all fancy but K really wanted to color it. I'm so glad she was able to contribute because she loves her 'Rainbow House'. Sometimes I have to let go of what I think, as an adult, looks good and remember that what the kids make themselves are the things that look best.

Step 2. Open the top flaps and determine the how steep you want the pitch on your roof. Draw a diagonal line from the bottom corner of your flap to the top. I just eyeball'ed where I thought would be a good spot and then used a yardstick to draw the line.

Step 3. Cut off that triangle and use it as a template for the other side of the front flap and the back flap.
It's starting to look roof-ish.
Step 4. Use one of the triangles you cut off in Step 3 to make the top of your roof. I had A hold it in place and then I traced the angles needed to get it to match the rest of the roof. Cut that out and tape it to the front of your roof. Repeat the same thing for the back of the roof. Also, tape the side flaps of your roof to the front and back flaps.
Somebody was already very excited about her house.

Step 5. Measure the opening of your roof between the side flap and the peak of your roof. Using another box, cut out your measured rectangle and tape it to your roof. We taped it in the inside too. Also, if you can use another box that has cardboard that's equally as thick as the rest of your box, that will help with durability.
I was surprised to find that I can stand up completely straight in the
middle of the house.

There you have it. A basic cardboard playhouse that will bring your children hours of imaginative play.

The house looked a bit like a gingerbread house to me so I gave it just a few finishing touches to really make it feel as if it came from a storybook. I made the scalloped piece on the front and varying sized shingles for the roof to cover up all of the tape. I also want to add some windows (with shutters) and a doorknob.

This project was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. A and I got it finished in one night. Letting the glue dry on the scalloped facade piece and adding the individual shingles took the most time. So what are you waiting for?!? Get out there and do something awesome with a box!

(By the way, these books would be fun to read together in your box: The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and Little Boy by Alison McGhee.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pac NW Vacation - Day 6

Howdy! I'm back to recap more of our trip to the Pacific Northwest.

This day we took the ferry across the Puget Sound to spend the day in Seattle. Our first stop was to Le Panier Very French Bakery in Pike Place Market. A and I went there back in 2007, the last time we were in Seattle, and I've been dreaming of going back there ever since. We shared the same pastries we had the last time we were there and K had a piece of super chocolate-y mousse pie. I wanted to head back there before we left Seattle but never had the chance to so I guess we'll just have to go there again ;)

From there we headed over to Pike Place Market and spent a long time exploring all of the vendor booths.

K picked out a blue hair twist for herself and a pink (or maybe purple) one for her cousin, E.

One of the great things about going around Thanksgiving is we still get the nice Fall weather with a bit of the Fall color, but also get to see the Christmas decorations like these awesome pigs on the roof of Pike Place.

After we left Pike Place Market we walked over to the Tram depot and found out they had a free carousel running in the middle of their downtown square. We were the only ones riding and as it turned out there was a photographer there from the Seattle Times who had been waiting for someone to ride so he could take some pictures for the paper. Unfortunately we weren't going to be in Seattle the next day so we never got to see the pictures of K in the paper but at least we got some cute ones of her ourselves.
**UPDATE** My dad was able to find the article and her picture in the Seattle Times online version!**

From there we took the Tram to the Space Needle. I really wanted to go to the top of the Space Needle since we didn't do that the last time we were there and I had heard that if you eat lunch in their restaurant that they waive the fee to go to the observation area. This was a GREAT decision! The food was delicious and the views were absolutely amazing. We had such a good time and took a million pictures.

Check out these spiders. They totally look 3-D but are actually just painted on the roof.

When we finished lunch we went out to the observation deck and took a few more pictures of downtown.

On our way back to the Ferry we stopped in the Starbucks in the middle of downtown. While it isn't the original Starbucks, at least we got some coffee drinks from the Mother Land.

It was an awesome day! I really love Seattle and am already looking forward to going back and visiting the Children's Museum which was on our list for this trip but we ended up running out of time.

Goodbye Seattle. Until we meet again...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pac NW Vacation - Day 5

I'll bet you thought you were done being subjected to my virtual slideshow of vacation pictures, didn't you? Well, as they say on TV infomercials, "Don't answer yet" because we still have the whole second half of our trip.

After a tearful goodbye to the besties, we rented a car and drove the 3 hours north to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to visit the Hubs' brother and his lovely family. Unfortunately with work and school schedules they weren't able to join us on our day trips but we enjoyed having dinner together each night and letting the kids play in the morning. K talks about Cousin E quite regularly and is anxious to go back and visit her again.

Our first day trip was to Dungeness Spit. According to Wikipedia, Dungeness Spit "is a 5.5-mile long sand spit jutting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula" and "is the longest natural sand spit in the United States."

There is a beautiful wooded walk from the parking lot to the Spit and while it was very chilly that day, we all had a great time enjoying the incredible nature around us.

The Spit itself is covered in the most amazing uniformly round rocks and huge pieces of driftwood. I could have photographed the rocks for hours. We collected quite a few small stones to bring home for K's rock collection. If we lived closer or had driven instead of flown, I'd have a whole rock garden from this place.

The Hubs has a great eye for these intricate close up shots that I absolutely love!

As with most surfaces in Washington, everything is in-bounds for being covered with moss. Below, the top of a fence post:

I love how this tree is growing right around the remains of a previous tree stump. As they said in Jurassic Park, "Mother nature finds a way."

Our sweet little K, who has never met a rock she hasn't jumped off, with an assist from her daddy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pillowcase Pajama Pants

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog about our vacation to the Pacific Northwest to bring you MY FIRST SEWING TUTORIAL!!! (It's almost too easy to even be a tutorial and basically I just repeated the exact same steps from My Two Butterflies where I got the idea from originally but here goes.)

These pants were made using two standard size pillowcases. They are made for a child size 6-6X.

 Step 1. Select a current pair of pants that you like the fit and fold them in half to use for your pattern. Lay your pillowcase open just as you would if you were going to stuff a pillow into it (and if yours have the serious fold lines in them like mine do, you might want to iron them first. As you can see, I didn't.) Line up the outside seam of your pants on the folded side of the pillowcase. Trace around your pants adding a 1/4" - 1/2" seam allowance. At the waistband you'll want to go straight up to the top of the pillowcase instead of following the current waistband. This is to account for the elastic waistband and casing you'll be adding. The elastic will pull the waist in just like your current pajama pants. (Click on any of the pictures to see them larger for a better explanation.)

Step 2. Cut that piece out and then lay it on your second pillowcase, also on the fold. Now cut out your second leg WITHOUT adding a seam allowance since you already accounted for that in the first leg that you just cut out. (As a side note, these pants can be made out of only one pillowcase if you start with a skinnier pants as your pattern piece. I happen to like the wide-leg look and feel of the original pajama pants but that led to me having to use two pillowcases for my new pants.)

Step 3. Cut off the closed end of the two pillowcase legs you've created.

Step 4. Open up the two pieces you cut out and lay them down, right sides together (so you're looking at the inside, or wrong side, of the pillowcase.) Pin along the two curves and sew.

Step 5. Open up your pillowcase pants and revel in the fact that they actually look like pants!

Step 6.Pin the inseam together and sew. I used a straight stitch for these pants since the fabric is cotton but you could also use a zig-zag for added durability.

Step 7. Measure the waist of your recipient and subtract an inch - that will be the length of elastic you will cut. For example, if my waist was 32" then I would cut a piece of elastic that is 31" long. Also, determine how wide your elastic is so you know how big to make your casing. My elastic was 1/4" wide so I made my casing 1/2" so that it would be easy for me to thread the elastic through. To make the casing, fold your waist down 1/4" and press with an iron. Then fold it down another 1/2" and press and pin. Or, you can do what is called "finger press" which is creasing the fabric with your fingers instead of breaking out the iron. That's how I did these pajamas because I was going for ease and this fabric creases easily (as evidence by the fold marks.) **Be sure to leave a 1 - 2 inch gap open for threading the elastic.**

Step. 8 Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of this step but how I do it is I stick a safety pin through the end of my elastic and use that to thread it through my casing. Just don't forget to hold onto the other end so it doesn't accidentally getting pulled through. Once the elastic is all of the way around, sew the two ends together and then sew your opening closed. I also like to sew across the elastic right on the outside of the waistband on the two sides and the back because there are few things more annoying to me than to have the elastic in my clothes twisted.

Step 9. Give the pajama pants to the sweetest little Godchild on the planet and be amazed at how easy they were to make ;) Then go make 10 more pairs!

The cost for these pants were $0.00 since I already had the pillowcases, thread and elastic. However I think using some vintage pillowcases found at a thrift store would be cool or even some that have the fancy scalloped edge.

For another great idea on repurposing old pillowcases, check out One Crafty Broad, also known as my super awesome sis-in-law :)