Saturday, September 20, 2014

SLC Comic Con 2014

As you may or may not have heard, the Salt Lake City Comic Convention was held earlier this month. This was the second year this particular convention has been held, and it has became a very large convention in a very short time. We missed out on the excitement last year, so it was a big goal for us to make it down this time around. Shortly before prices went up, I went online and purchased Saturday tickets for our crew.

We really don't live that far from Salt Lake City, so driving down for the day was an option. Brady made an executive decision that we should turn the fun into a mini vacation. This was one of those times that my husband was right; it was great. After a fair amount of researching hotels, we ended up staying at the Doubletree by Hilton that was about 3/4 a mile from the convention center. We stayed in a suite setup, complete with a mini fridge and coffee maker. Finding food that is safe for our food restrictions can be a complete pain in the behind. So having the ability to eat meals we brought with us, and can serve in the room, was awesome and saved us from dragging our tired children around the big city even more. Plus....our view was not half bad either.

Since we arrived the evening before we planned on attending the event, the older kids and I took the opportunity to walk to the convention center and get our wrist bands. I would highly recommend this. We arrived as things were shutting down, so there was no line to pick up the wristbands, and it saved us a lot of time the next morning. It was also nice to get to see some of the costumed attendees meandering around the grounds.

Saturday morning, we all got dressed and ready to go. My wonderful hubby even ran to Walgreens to pick up some cosmetics for me since I left mine home and I knew pictures would be taken. I am pretty sure that was a little awkward for him.

Princess dressed as Elsa, Squirt as Spiderman, and Spike as......Spike. As for the oldest child, she dressed as Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck.....

If you don't know who that is, don't feel bad, it is a bit obscure....and not appropriate for
young-uns. However, she did put a lot of effort into her cosplay, including make her horns, the design on her T-shirt, her glasses,  the arm stockings, and the stuffed toy (called a scalemate), so it was nice to see some people recognize what she was and give her a holler. She has written some information on how she made some of these, and other fandom crafts on her blog.

Of course, one of the biggest draws of a Comic Con is the fellow attendees in cosplay. These were just a few of my favorites (although I wish I would have taken pictures of so much more.)

Hiccup and Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon 2
Me and Princess with Totoro
We spotted Merida in line. She was super sweet and Princess was thrilled.
We had a great time at SLC Comic Con. We saw cool things, bought cool things, and talked to cool people, including many authors and artists, which I did not expect. There are definitely things that could be improved upon, such as the extremely long wait to get in that the people on opening day had to deal with, but for the most part it was great.  The biggest problem is that so many people want to attend, and I just don't know where they could possibly hold the event that would allow for better traffic management. For perspective, this year 120,000 people attended SLC Comic Con. That is just so many nerdy people to manage in a single building, ya know. Even with the ridiculous crowds, we would still like to go again. Here's hoping next time is even better.

For more pictures and information about our experience at Comic Con, you can check out my husband's blog here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Recent Spinning

This month, I had a lot of fun with my spinning projects. I decided to try something new and purchased 4 oz. of corriedale from my local yarn shop. There were two packages for sale: an off-white colored one, and one that was a slight variety of darker colors. I chose the darker fiber. While it has some off-white fiber in it, it is mostly a brownish gray. The color does give it a more rustic look, and it does not look as soft as it is. Especially after washing it, it should be soft enough to wear against the skin without a problem. 

Spinning the corriedale was wonderful. It drafted like butta'. Up until this point, I have not been able to spin a thicker yarn with much consistency, but my 2-ply finished yarn falls mostly within a worsted weight, with some thick and thin action happening. When I originally purchased it, I was debating whether to be listing the finished yarn on my Etsy shop. If it shows up and then disappears, it may be because Spike did take a liking to it and thought it would make a nice hat. :)

Would I spin corriedale again? Definitely. 

Another fun spinning-related thing that happened was the county fair. The kids and I have attended either the county or state fairs every year since we began homeschooling. Getting to go during non-busy hours and getting a nice discount on admission are a big part of that, but the kids have always enjoyed it. Normally, I leave the fair kicking myself for not submitting anything for the living arts competition. This year, I decided to change that. I submitted this shawl and my bamboo handspun yarn. My shawl got first place, and my yarn received best of division. The ribbons are currently hanging by my yarn stash, in all their kitschy glory.

I have learned over the years that many knitters, spinners, and crocheters have yarn distributed in many areas of their home. I am no exception. My kids jokingly kid me about it, and my husband does not mind it at all. I do, from time to time, make it attempt to corral all the yarn back to it's central location in our school/craft room. Our entertainment center has a shelf that was a temporary home to many small balls of handspun. These are mostly the leftovers after finished a full bobbin of 2-ply. I get excited to see it all strung upon my niddy-noddy and toss the remainders up upon the shelf. I decided to do something about that this week, and have been working a little each evening on plying together some of those lonely small balls of singles. The latest amount I finished is some of the remainder of some merino that I Kool-Aid dyed. I spun a large amount of the singles with a spindle before I got my wheel, and it was the first yarn I ever plyed. It does look nicer on the niddy-noddy than in a ball on a shelf, I must say.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chore Charts

The school year is creeping in on us, and with it is coming the intense and undeniable draw to be more organized. It could be because of the back to school sales, where aisles of all sorts of organizational goodness like binders and file folders beckon, or because I know our life is about to lose the lazyness of summer, but the call of organization is hitting me bad.

I have had the same piece of paper with the kids' chores taped to the pantry door for quite some time. It has included a regular set of chores, which they have memorized by this time. As I sat and pondered deep household-running thoughts the other day, it did occur to me that having the same chores week after week does not teach the kids to clean more than those items. They also get really complacent after doing the same job so many times.

So tonight I sit here at my computer, while all my munchkins are tucked into their beds, working on blank chore charts, that can be filled in weekly with a variety of skill-building chores. And since I have gone to the trouble, might as well share them with you. They are listed below in a variety of colors. I am planning on letting each child pick a color, printing it out, and then laminating it so that I can use a dry erase marker to write the chores and reuse the chart each week. There is also a plain version that would use less ink if you would like tor reprint the chart each week.

There are two time slots per day for chores. Some things, like emptying the dishwasher need to be done in the morning in our household. The morning chores will be things that only take 10 minutes or less, although the complaining about it may be much longer. 

Chore Charts


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recent Knitting

I realized yesterday that I never posted anything about the shawl that was destined for the cruise. When I picked out the dress that I wore for formal night, I thought it would be nice to have a shawl to go with it. Like many knitters out there, wanting a shawl did not mean going to the store to peruse the selection of shawls. Instead, it means going to the yarn store and perusing the selection of yarns. Even if the cruise is a mere few weeks away. With the blessing of my husband, I went to the local yarn shop and spent a good deal of time looking at every beautiful yarn that seemed like it would coordinate with the purple of my dress, as seen here. I rubbed them against the inside of my wrist to see how soft they were. I carried them around. I laid all my choices side by side and stared at them. I texted my husband pictures of the laid out yarns and asked his opinion. I ended up choosing a 50% merino, 50% silk fingering weight yarn by the Great Adirondack Yarn Co. The yarn name is Sirino, and the colorway is Peacock. The price tag for the yarn did make my breath catch, but it was just so pretty. This was, by far, the most expensive yarn I have ever purchased.

I chose the pattern Palessie. This is a paid pattern, and I felt it was well written and worth the cost. I purchased the ebook with has both a shawl and cowl pattern.

 I knit with all my might and free time on this shawl, trying to finish in time. My free time was not in a great abundance leading up the cruise and trying to get all of out preparations and packing in order. I was so close, and yet not quite there. By the time I went to bed on the first evening of the cruise I was a third of the way finished with the bind off. With formal night being on the second night, I really did not think I have time to finish and block the shawl, and made the decision not to let it overtake the other fun things I wanted to do with my family.

I did end up finishing it on the place ride home, and blocking it the following weekend. As far as I am concerned, it still is a souvenir from my trip, and I love wearing it. I still have yet to master the great shawl photograph, so you will have to take my word on just how much more beautiful the colors are in person.

The second project that I am working on is a simple pair of socks for myself. The yarn is Premier Yarns Serenity Sock Yarn in the Indigo colorway. But what is that you are thinking? That sock picture below looks nothing like Indigo. Well, you see, Joanns had a wonderful clearance of sock yarns going on a while ago so I purchased a number of skeins. I had enough for two pair of socks with this colorway, but I didn't actually want two pair of socks the same color. The color you see below is the result of me plopping the yarn into a pot filled with water and a number of Kool-Aid packets. There was grape and some sort of red one, but I can not get any more specific than that....since I can't remember.

The pattern for the sock is just from using the numbers provided in Silver's Sock Class, which I highly recommend for those wanting to learn to knit socks. I did change the heel flap for a regular stockinette and added the garter edging. The toe does look really weird in this photograph due to the fact that I still need to do the Kitchener stitch to close it up. Second sock syndrome hit me pretty bad on this one, and even before the first sock was done.
Lastly, I am working on a pair of socks for the little man. Squirt has been asking me who gets the socks I was working on for the last few pairs I have made, and was disappointed that none of them were for him. I had a single skein of Panda Cotton on my yarn shelf, so I decided to try to whip him up a quick pair. I had gotten to the arch of his foot when I made the conclusion that they were too big.

Two things bothered me about the socks being too large. First, I was pretty sure I would run out of yarn before I finished. Second, the whole idea of making something for him to grow into flies out the window as far as socks are concerned. I would bet my pinky toe that one is lost within two months of me completing them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recent Spinning

I have quite the blessed gal lately. First off, my husband forced me to get a new dishwasher. Our old one had been broken for nearly a year. It was the second time the pump has gone out on that machine, and like a petulant toddler, I threw a tantrum and refused to get it fixed or go shopping for a new one.  It never really cleaned the dishes all that well anyway, despite being sold to us as a friggin' awesome dishwasher. What is the point of a dishwasher if you have to mostly wash the dishes before loading them? 

Anyway, while we were shopping for a new fridge since ours was leaking out increasing amounts of water onto the kitchen floor, Brady declared we were getting a new dishwasher as well. I was not sure, but now that it is installed, it is so wonderful......there just are no words. Washing dishes by hand for quite a while has made the machine seem nearly amazing. While the dishes are being washed, I can do other stuff! Like spinning!

That brings us to my second bit of wonderfulness. I received a box containing an extra bobbin, a beautiful niddy-noddy, and a lazy Kate.....all which match my Kromski Sonata. So far, all I have done is look at them admiringly, but I am sure I can get some use from them soon.

For finished spinning, I have this skein to show you. This was 4 oz. of bamboo roving that I purchased shortly before our cruise. The color reminded me of the Caribbean waters that I have marveled at, and so even though I was intimidated by spinning bamboo, I bought it anyway. It is two-ply, and about a sport or perhaps heavy fingering weight. I am really happy with this yarn, which I think will make a nice small scarf or shawlette.

My collection of handspun yarns is slowly growing. So far, they just sit and look pretty on my shelf. Honestly, I like looking at them enough, that I am okay with that for the time being. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Silly Chicken Tricks

We have a goji berry plant in our backyard that Brady planted a few years ago. It has grown quite large and produces many, many goji berries each year. They are not all that wonderful when eaten fresh, although once they are dehydrated are a nice substitute for raisins in cookies. Dehydrated or not, there really is more than we can eat. We do have some backyard residents who love them. The kids regularly pick goji berries to toss to the chickens, who lovingly gather around when they see someone near the bush. Me, Brady, and Princess were doing just that when we discovered just how much they love those berries.

Two of our chickens, Spirit and Starlight, jumped to get the berries from Brady's hand. The two in the background, Sweetie and Princess (the chicken named by our very own Princess) were having none of those shenanigans and just waited for more to be tossed to them. I don't know if anyone else would find this amusing, but I found it downright hilarious.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Senses Spa aboard the Disney Fantasy

Each of the four Disney ships have a wonderful spa, called Senses,  that has a variety of great treatments. On our third cruise, aboard the Fantasy, me and Brady scheduled a couple's massage. It was the first massage I have ever had, and I was unsure about how relaxing it would be. I am not much of a touch-feely person, so it honestly gave me a bit of anxiety as the time for our massage approached. All my worries were pointless. The two ladies who did our massages were great,and the whole experience very relaxing.

We started our treatment by being led to the women's and men's changing rooms. Inside, an attendant showed us how to operate the lockers, and where to get robes and shower shoes. We were also told where to head to when we finished changing.

The location where me and Brady met back up was the relaxation room. The room has a number of white, very comfortable, recliners and a beautiful ambience. There is spa waters flavored with cucmber or lemon, and a selection of teas available that you can help yourself to. This is where I really started to feel calm and relaxed. Our masseuses came in shortly afterward to discuss what type of massage each of us wanted. They were both very nice and easy-going, which put me at ease.

Just like the rest of the spa, the couple's massage room was beautifully decorated. The massage was very relaxing and had a wonderful finishing touch of putting me and Brady's hands together. I enjoyed it very much. 

The spa treatments at Senses are generally fairly expensive. I do feel that it was worth it when looking at the whole experience.

An example of one of the teen spa treatment rooms.
On our latest cruise, we decided to let our oldest daughter get a facial at the teen spa area, called Chill. This is an area located in Senses Spa that is specifically for teens. There is a complete list of treatments for the 13 to 17 age crowd, and rooms that are decorated with more of a young, funky flair to them. Once again, this was not a cheap experience, but our daughter really enjoyed it. From what she told us, the woman giving her the facial was very nice and made her feel relaxed. Teens will need a parent to drop them off  in order to sign the necessary paperwork.

Senses Spa waiting rooms. This is also where some of the informational classes that are presented by the spa are held.
 Me and Brady finished our Palo brunch shortly before she was scheduled to get finished, so we made our way to the spa waiting room.  We had quite a fun time looking out the large windows at a bird that was gliding along the side of the ship. I can only imagine that it had started with the ship when we were at Jamaica, since there were no islands around that we could see. We were mesmerized enough by the bird that we missed our daughter. Thank goodness for wavephones, so we could catch up with her to see how it was.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

Our family had a wonderful July 4th, as I hope yours did as well. We are all spending the lovely, mellow time when the weather is cooling down a little and everyone is relaxing before it gets dark and we will all migrate outside to watch fireworks.

We started our day with a parade. I am not sure how things are in different parts of this country, but here in Utah, parades are a big thing. The kid of thing that it is nearly required that you venture out the previous day (even if it is pouring rain with close lightning like it was here) to set out a blanket so you could have a place to watch. Me, Brady, Spike, and Squirt had a nice time watching the festivities though, and we loved waving and yelling at Princess as she went by on the float with her Girl Scouts. Next time time I will bring along our canopy. The heat was brutal! Luckily, we had our umbrella and some kids walking by selling cold drinks.
Totally unpractical, but I totally want one of these cars.
The bagpipers were awesome!

To cool off, we went over to my in-laws home to play in their pool. Most of Brady's siblings were there, and the kids got the chance to see their cousins, some of whom live far away. Swimming may not be my favorite thing in the world to do, but on a day like today, the cool water was wonderful.

I can now hear the first bit of the pops and bangs of fireworks from outside. Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Disney Cruise - Pirate Night Tips

One of our favorite nights on our Disney cruise sailings has been pirate night. These occur on select cruises, mainly in Caribbean and Bahamian sailings. The evening has a host of pirate activities, including themed pictures with characters, pirate trivia, a pirate themed dinner menu, and a deck party including fireworks! Up until recently, Disney cruise line was the only company to be able to offer fireworks at sea. Now you can also see them on on Norwegian Cruise Line, but for our money.....we are still sticking to Disney. :)

Are you going on a Disney Cruise and want to make the best of it? Here are some of the tips we have picked up over our sailings.

1.Dress up! Many people are concerned about how much to dress up for pirate night. On every cruise, we hear someone comment with regret that they wished they had brought pirate costumes. However, no one who has dressed up has ever seemed to regret it. At home, it may be seem like a hassle to pack pirate costumes, but once you are on the ship and seeing other people dressed up, you will be glad that you did. For our family, pirate costumes take up an entire large suitcase, but I still would not leave them home! There are always people who chose to just wear a pirate T-shirt (I was one of those on a cruise when I was pregnant with Squirt), but fully enjoying the theme of the night and wearing your pirate best is really fun. Pirate costumes are available for purchase on the ship if you would rather buy them there, but don't plan on them being cheap.  Disney does provide each passenger with a pirate bandana, so if nothing else, you can sport that.

2. Put your costumes on before First Seating/First Show. Don't wait until it's dark to get into the pirate spirit! We aim for around 4 o'clock to gather everyone back to the stateroom to get ready. We usually have second seating for dinner, and we like to get our costumes on before the show that night. That way, if you want to get some pictures taken between the show and dinner (or vice versa if you have first seating), you are all ready.

3. On the larger ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, there are two pirate deck parties. On the classic ships, both shows are combined into one which is shown after second seating. The first is aimed towards younger children and includes Mickey and friends. The second one, after second dinner seating, is more for older kids and adults and includes Jack Sparrow and fireworks. You are welcome to go to both if you like. The times will be listed on your Personal Navigator. Our family really likes the second show.

4. Wear comfortable dancing pirate shoes. After the second show, the upper deck turns into "Club Pirate" complete with a DJ. Fun family dance party under the stars!

5. If possible, take a nap. Pirate night tends to be a night we are all up very late. Of any day on the cruise, this would be the one to plan for a nap for little cruisers if possible.

6. Save a little room. A pirate buffet is served in Cabanas after all the deck party fun has happened, complete with yummy deserts and turkey legs! Especially if you have late seating, keep this in mind while you are eating dinner.

7. Be aware that there is a possibility that the fireworks and deck parties may not happen. Sometimes bad weather happens, and it is just not possible. However, Disney will do their best. On our most recent voyage, I realized we were turning shortly before the party began, and found out afterward that the captain steered off of our original course to go around a rain storm so that there could still be fireworks and fun up on deck.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Shutters Photography on the Disney Fantasy

Our family just arrived home from our wonderful voyage on the Disney Fantasy. This was our fourth Disney cruise, and the second time aboard the Fantasy. Our family now feels a little like the Fantasy is our "home" ship, and we love it! Unlike the rest of my crew that takes to the seas a little better than me, I am continuing to walk a little like Captain Jack Sparrow while my sea legs wear off. It was definitely worth it though.

On-board the ships, there are photographers taking pictures at different times and locations throughout the ship. While we have purchased some of the photos on our past trips, we decided to go with the entire package of digital images this time. At the time of our sailing, to purchase a CD with all of your photos, the cost is $349 on the ship, or $295 if you purchase beforehand. There are other packages available. The smallest package is 10 images on a disc for $149. If you visit you can see what is available and place a pre-order if you wish.

We made more of an effort to get our pictures taken this trip. Formal night fell on Mother's Day, and one thing I really wanted was family pictures. We do have some, and while they turned out nicely, they were missing a certain....something. Brady, for one, does not understand why we are getting our picture taken by the train tracks or an old side of a barn. Esthetically, these backgrounds look wonderful, but I do get his point. I was willing to spend the money on the photo CD because I know that the family pictures I would get on the ship mean something to my family. These are pictures of us having a wonderful, memory-filled time, and not just Mom making them dress nicely and smile.

These are some of the pictures we had taken on formal night when we were all dressed up.

Where else but a Disney cruise can you get formal pictures with Minnie dressed up as well? An opportunity we could not pass up.

My Tips: 

Especially if you pre-order all of your digital images, make time to get those pictures taken. After all, you have already paid for them. It is easy to get caught up in doing everything on the ship, but you will truly love the photos when you are back home. 

Take advantage of short lines when you see them. On a few occasions we saw a photographer set up and just waiting for guests to photograph. Even if the background is not exactly what you want, it will only take a few minutes, and it doesn't cost anything to get the picture taken. You never know, you may really like the results.

Don't worry about everything being perfect. Chances are, it is not going to be, so there is no sense in worrying about it. al

Go to Shutters periodically throughout the cruise to check on your photos and make sure they are all there. Our first Aquaduck pictures did not make there way to our account automatically, so we had to do a little searching to find them. Sometimes the facial recognition system needs a little help.

If you have more than one stateroom for your family, go to Shutters on the first day to ask for those rooms to be combined on the CD. This only applies to immediate family members (i.e. parents and kids), so if you have a giant family reunion on board, you cannot combine all those rooms.

Especially on formal night, get there early if there is a background you want. The people at Shutters can give you more information about times and backgrounds. The line for having your pictures done on the staircase gets very long. We arrived a few minutes before the photographer (by accident) and we were about to get a few different locations, and pictures with Minnie in the time that those who arrived later had to wait in the single line.

We had many more portraits taken throughout the cruise, actually 97 in all. I would like to share some other topics and tips about cruising over the next month or two, so I will be sure to share more of them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Easter! Our family had a great morning. Molly and Beatrix must have helped the Easter bunny know what our kids would like, since there were Disney trading pins in the Easter eggs hidden outside. Those will soon be put to good use on our upcoming Disney cruise! Now...with sounds of Minecraft playing in the background...I think I am ready for a nap.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Birds and The Bees

Don't worry....this is not going to be an awkward blog post in which I sit you down and explain the facts of life.

The weather has been wonderful lately, and our backyard pets have been loving it. The bees are beginning to leave their hive and explore during the warmest parts of the day, eagerly awaiting blossoms. The chickens have been given the entire yard to wander. They spend their days looking for bugs and enjoying the sunshine. They do tend to make a mess of our mulch, but they are just happy I suppose it is alright.

Such a lovely day just called for introducing you to some of our pets.
This is Spirit, a Delaware hen. Gizmo named her because she definitely had spunk, even as a little chick. She was three days old when we got her, and was kept in a playpen along with a few fellow chicks in the master bathroom until it was warm enough to go outside. She was known for escaping, and even now she sometimes tries to come into the house.

The pretty black hen in the front is Starlight. She is the only hen we have that has been hatched by a momma chicken. We don't have roosters, so I suppose you could say she was adopted. She is incredibly soft, but extremely hard to catch. In the background is Nickel, one of our Americanas. She lays gorgeous green eggs!

Since the bees are not fully active at this point, I was only able to take a few pictures through the hive window. All winter I have been peeking in their and seeing very little signs of life. With the worry of hive collapse, it is always a relief to see all bees doing so well.

This is an area of the comb that is attached to the window. You can see a bit of their honey stores, and if you look closely, you can see the bee hanging out between the two combs.