Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our Easter Holiday

I hope you all had a very nice Easter celebrating and sharing with friends and family!  We hosted Easter festivities at our place for the first time this year.  It was such a beautiful day.
We painted cornstarch "eggs" on the patio on Saturday. 
We painted a few bunnies and chicks, too.
Keleigh had an Easter egg hunt.  
My aunt and cousin (well, actually they are my mom's aunt and cousin so my great-aunt and second cousin??) came over for a visit.
Matt's parents joined us for a meal (falafel, mashed potatoes, roast asparagus, carrots sticks, salad, and apple crisp) in the afternoon sun on the patio.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My 1st Dress Without a Commercial Pattern

I took apart a homemade, brown, floral, vintage dress which I loved...loved beyond repair.  I can't even remember where I got it.  A clothes swap probably.  But I just loved it.  It was simple, functional, flattering with just a hint of out-dated style...which I love.  Using the pieces of the original dress I drafted up a little pattern--adding a little more wiggle room in the areas where I'd blown out the original dress repeatedly.  Clearly I needed more room.  And fabric that wasn't paper thin after decades of wear.
I'd never attempted anything like this before, really.  I mean, there was that one time I tried to make my own hat pattern back in 2011, but that was much smaller scale and didn't really work out like I might have hoped.  I was too new at sewing at that point.  It was too ambitious. But, with this dress I felt ready.  I was up for the challenge.
Turns out, it wasn't even that challenging.  I did add just a bit too much wiggle room and so had to take in the side seems a bit once it was finished.  Also, the darts are not perfectly even.  But, all in all, it was a cinch.  I cut it out and sewed it up in just a couple days--record time for me.  Without any written instructions to follow even!  I was pretty darn pleased with how it all came together.
I really like the cut of this dress, too.  Its interesting.  Sewing it up only made me appreciate that more.  For example, it doesn't have separate pieces for the sleeves.  Its more like a yoke--all one piece--which wraps around at the upper arms making sleeves with a little seam at the armpit.  Its a clever and time-saving design since the sleeves don't have to be set separately.  However, I think it might also explain why I kept tearing the dress--it doesn't have quite as much give.  The dress also has a really nice-looking seam across the upper chest.  It has two deep in-seam pockets.  Every dress should have pockets.  Okay, maybe not every dress, but every dress I'll ever make.  I enlarged the pockets from the original as I'd always thought they could be a little deeper.  It is a great length and fullness for cycling and other physical activities I get up to--like planting fruit trees.
I used vintage navy floral fabric which I bought years ago at the Montana Rescue Mission bargain center.  Now its my new vintage dress--vintage pattern, vintage fabric, brand new creation.  I'm pleased.  I will have to make another.  I'm wearing it right now...as soon as its clean I want to wear it.  Its quickly become a wardrobe staple.  I wore it as my Easter dress, too.

Boxers from Rags

Matt wears through shirts pretty quickly. He works part-time in a warehouse and full-time around our place building things and growing things and making things. All that adds up to shirts with lots of holes. Holes that only form in the front. I'd been saving these shirts in my fabric stash thinking I surely could use those perfectly good backs for something. I just wasn't sure what.

Then Matt mentioned he was going to need to purchase some new boxer shorts since his were starting to wear out. And the light bulb went on. My mom used to make boxer shorts for my dad when I was growing up.  I figured I could do the same for Matt using these old shirts.
I flipped through my basket of patterns and as it would happen had a pattern for shorts. It was supposed to be for size small--which Matt is not--but I thought I'd give it a go on the assumption that boxer shorts should fit well and not be baggy and so maybe the size small would work out.
And it did. Matt says they pass the test with flying colors. While at work he forgot he was even wearing the homemade boxer shorts since they felt just as comfy as his store-bought ones. Yay.

Of course, since I only had backs of shirts to work with the boxers are made of four very different--and not all that matching--tie-dye patterns. But, its not like people will ever really see them. (You know, other than when I blog about it for the whole world to see.)
The only real expense is the elastic in the waistband and even with that the homemade boxer shorts are still less expensive than buying new ones. Plus, I'm always thrilled when I can find a useful purpose for something that was destined to be rubbish.  I think its cool.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pull-Apart/Clover Leaf Rolls

Pull-aparts or Clover Leaf Rolls are surprisingly simple to make.  The best part is they look way fancier than they are so you get to eat yummy, fresh bread and people are extra impressed and assume you labored in love on their behalf.
The secret is that its really no labor at all.  All you do is grab a small piece of dough and roll it into a ball with the palms of your hands.  Repeat until you have three balls of dough.  Place into a baking cup in a cupcake pan.  Repeat until pan is full and/or dough is all used up.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-14 minutes or until fluffy and golden on top.
I've made clover leaf rolls with all sorts of bread dough.  Pretty much any regular bread recipe would work.  I've used our pizza dough recipe, the refrigerator roll recipe, several basic wheat and white recipes from the Beard on Bread cookbook and from the Better Homes and Garden's bread book.  So any bread recipe you like would work great, I am sure.

Its great.  They's easy to form, a little extra special to look at, and delicious to pull apart and pop into your mouth.  Yum.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My "New" Sewing Chair

We helped someone move a few months back.  During the move a set of wooden dining chairs were set aside to be discarded--they weren't going to be making the move.  I'd been thinking I should get a chair for my sewing room for some time previous to this.  See, our dining room table has four chairs.  One acted as our desk chair, another acted as my sewing chair leaving two chairs at the table.  As a result we were regularly having to go drag one or both back out into the dining room when we had guests.  So, I'd been wanting an extra chair.  Not bad enough to go buy one or anything, but I thought it would be nice.  And then a free chair fell into my lap.

I am convinced that if I can be patient I can get nearly everything I want to buy (except food) cheaply second hand or free.
The only problem was that we found them to be pretty darn ugly.  They'd been painted silver and splattered with black paint.  The seat had a big splotch of white paint on it.  Not real pretty to say the least, but the chairs seemed solidly built and so I plunked one of them into the trunk of our car.

Several weeks of sitting in the garage passed by.  We bought brown spray paint to cover over the silver-black splatter madness.  Matt suggested that the spray paint would stick better if we scraped the old paint off first.  When he set to it we quickly realized that once the silver was gone it was a pretty attractive chair with just a bit of wear.  It was made by the Wisconsin Chair Company according to a tag tacked to the bottom of the seat.  I am always pleased to add another solidly built, American-made item to my home.  From my brief explorations online it sounds like the company closed in the late 1950's.
Matt scraped and sanded.  I recovered the seat with a piece of tie-dye cotton which I'd squirreled away in my fabric stash and some penny nails.  I also had a small piece of quilt batting (for some reason) which I folded to make a doubly padded layer underneath.  Its way prettier and much more comfy, too.

I have two itty-bitty regrets:  One, that we didn't take a "before" photo of the chair in all its splatter painted glory and two, that I didn't grab the second chair, too.  Oh well.  I have a great new sewing chair at least.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Future Generations - Inspiration Thursday

"If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it." - Lyndon B. Johnson
Kids are not in the plans for Matt and I, but I still want to hope--and do my part to ensure--that future generations of Americans can have the same sort of priceless, tranformative experiences in the great cathedrals of nature that I have been blessed with. That's why I try to live as lightly on our earth as I can and volunteer my time with groups that promote wildlife and wilderness conservation, and environmental sustainability. I want there to be clean, free running rivers and streams. I want there to be mountains to climb and forests to explore. I want there to be condors and sea turtles. I am grateful for so many of the achievements of our human civilizations, but I don't want it at the expense of these things. Without the pounding waterfalls,dazzling wild flowers, powerful mountain thunderstorms, massive glaciers, lumbering bears, or open sky our world would be a poorer one. Even if I don't see them--just knowing they are there in all their wild, insensibly beautiful glory is enough. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Neck Impalement and Other Wilderness First Aid Emergencies

Matt and I are careful and prepared when we embark on our adventures in the great outdoors. That is just being smart.  Over all the years tromping around together we've both sustained very minor injuries, but never anything major. Thank heavens.  We are very grateful for that and hope to continue the trend.
Artist's Paintpots, Yellowstone National Park
We can always do our part to be observant of our surroundings, including the terrain, weather, wildlife, gear, etc.  That is critical.  We can always be prepared for the outing with good shoes, appropriate jackets and hats, walking sticks, etc.  However, even with a generally safe manner accidents can happen in a split second.   Case in point:  I once sprained my ankle as Matt and I were hiking out on a backpacking trip.  It was so silly.  I realized that I could see the trailhead end point and got excited at the prospect of having lunch soon since I was hungry.  I shifted my focus 1/4 mile down the trail for a matter of 15-30 seconds and rolled my ankle on some loose gravel on the trail.  Thank heavens I only had 1/4 mile left to limp through as my ankle quickly was painful, red, and swollen.  It happens so fast.
Front Basin at Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park
So, just in case....
Ptarmigan Trail, Glacier National Park
I was offered the chance to earn my two-year wilderness first aid certification through the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Medicine Institute this past weekend.  For free.  Another participant dropped out and I was offered the chance to fill in.  Since the course had already been paid for I was able to skip the $250 class fee.  I could hardly say no--even though I had been looking forward to a weekend where, oddly, I didn't have anything planned.  It was meant to be, I guess.
Now that I've completed the course I actually think that $250 would have been money well spent for the skills and confidence I've gained from the experience.  In fact, I am going to encourage Matt to take the course at some point.  Heaven forbid we should ever need the knowledge, but when we're out in the woods together it seems like it would be a comfort to know we've got the training to back us up....just in case.
I wouldn't say I had no first aid experience before the class, but it was certainly limited and I'd never been asked to demonstrate it in practice.  I'd never had to improvise a sling or splint.  I'd never had to lift or roll over an unconscious person. I'd never had to recognize the signs of shock.  I'd never taped a sprained ankle. I'd never had to check the A, B, Cs on a real person (airway, breathing, circulation). I'd never had to stabilize a foreign body that had been impaled into someone. I'd never taken another person's vital signs.  And so on.
South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
Two full days of training later and I can do all that and more.
Imperial Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
The training involved some rather intense scenarios where we got to practice our new skills in patient assessment and treatment under the watchful eyes of the NOLS-WMI medics who offered constructive criticisms on ways to improve the techniques.  It involved some pretty remarkable make-up and effects.  There was make-up to make us look pale or flushed or bruised. There was fake blood and fake skin.  There were patients moaning in pain.  There was fake vomit made from granola and water.  There were fake puncture wounds with protruding objects. There were unconscious patients.  There were fake compound fractures.  And most of them seemed pretty darn realistic.
A (fake) stick impalement to the neck.
It was cool--once I got past my initial awkwardness at play-acting and touching and being touched by so many relative strangers.  I helped make a heating pod for a hypothermic patient out of sleeping bags and a tarp.  I made a splint for a patient who broke her arm during a fall while hiking out of random pieces of clothing and shoelaces.  I made a sling out of my scarf.  I made sure that airways were clear and narrowly avoided getting thrown up on in the process.  I recognized the symptoms of heat exhaustion in some ultramarathoners and treated them with rest and water before it could become heat stroke. I irrigated and dressed an abrasion from a cycling accident. I did a head to toe examination of a patient who had an unexplained seizure.  I helped safely move a patient with a spinal injury after she'd been thrown from a horse.  I took vital signs.  I called in radio reports to rescue units.  (And of course, for the sake of clarity, these were all very much pretend scenarios.)
A (fake) hunting knife mishap.  
I really enjoyed the focus on using what was around in the wilderness first aid course.  No first-aid kit is every going to be perfect.  Or if I made the "perfect" kit it would end up being so huge that I'd not carry it around which would make it less that ideal again. The ability to make functional splints, wraps, bandages, litters, etc with what resources are available from socks and belts to tree branches and water bottles seemed pretty brilliant--whether the broken bone or burn happened in the city or way back in the remote mountains. That said, I do think that Matt and I need to bump up our first aid kit.  Its pretty good, but I can see a couple small additions that would be helpful such as a bigger roll of wider tape and syringe for cleaning abrasions.  I once fell and got stone and dirt in my knee on a hike.  That irrigation syringe would have been handy for getting the tiny bits of gravel out of my tender, ripped flesh.  We improvised and pouring water from my water bottle seemed to do the trick more or less.  But, a syringe is small and light and with greater force and precision is better suited to cleaning abrasions. It seems like a worthy addition.  Abrasions are one of our more common minor injuries.
South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
I hope to never really need to put the training to real use.  I hope, I hope, I hope.  But I feel that if there was an emergency--in the woods or in my kitchen--I'd be better prepared for it.  That's not to say I wouldn't be freaking out some on the inside if it was something major and bloody or involving someone I love.  But, I'd at least have a system and steps to work through when placed in the situation instead of just mentally screaming "What do I do!? What do I do?!"
And off and on all day long--both days-- I thought of my dear medical-geek friend, Josh, admirer of intubations and defibrillation, the fantastic paramedic who passed away last year.  He would have loved the course.  He would have loved talking to the trainers--swapping stories, checking out gear, and the like.  He could have taught the course, I am sure.  And I would have loved to talk to him about it.  I thought that over and over. I wished I could talk to Josh about all that I was learning.  He was built to be a life saver.  I am not.  But, I'd like to think I could do well enough now, if I had to, to make him proud.