Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Western Adventure: Day 11

It appears that I completely forgot to recap the rest of our Great Western Adventure! I am determined to sum up the back half of our trip so you can see the amazing things that we did and saw!

Interested in what we did before we kayaked on Lake Yellowstone?
Days 1-4: Chicago, The Corn Palace, The Badlands, and Wall Drug
Day 5: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Devils Tower
Day 6: First Day in Yellowstone
Day 7: First Camping/Kayaking Day in the Grand Tetons
Day 8: Second Camping/Kayaking Day in the Grand Tetons
Day 9: Back to Yellowstone and Visiting Old Faithful 
Day 10: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Lamar Valley

Day 11: Kayaking on Lake Yellowstone
After another quick breakfast of biscuits, bacon, and oatmeal, Nick and I drove to the boat ramp for Lake Yellowstone, which was about 40 minutes from our cabin. We had booked a guided kayak with the same company that we used for our kayaking and camping trip and, to our delight, our guide was Julia from our previous trip! We ended up having a personalized tour because no one else had booked for that morning.

We paddled along the edge of the lake so we could see the active thermal elements and those that are now dormant.

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We passed over a lava tube which was kinda eerie and also went past the old Fishing Cone, also called the “cook it on the hook” spot. Back in the late 1800s, the Fishing Cone was one of the main attractions at Yellowstone, where tourists could catch a fish and then "cook it on the hook” by holding it in the Fishing Cone geyser. Over time, the geyser stopped erupting. Today, it is covered by water. I snapped this pic later on when we were out of the lake.

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We passed by a ledge where hot spring water was pouring into the freezing cold lake.

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Julia had us put our hand in the water to feel how the top layer of water was hot and then a few inches below the surface it was freezing. It was pretty cool!

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After a quick lunch at Grant Village, we headed back to the car where I was startled by a text message informing me that we had had an earthquake back at home. What?! Sure enough, there had been an earthquake in Virginia and our friends and families felt it up in Pennsylvania. That was the first of the strange things to happen at home while we were vacationing over a super volcano. During our vacation, there was an earthquake, a hurricane, a tornado, flooding, and a murderer on the loose back at our usually calm home. The only thing we experienced was a bad lightning storm. Go figure.

After we made sure everyone at home was OK, we went to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, where another boardwalk was set up to wind between the hot springs. We saw some really pretty hot springs, many of which we had seen from the lake during the kayak.

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That evening we went on a walking tour of the historic Lake Yellowstone hotel, the oldest hotel in a national park.

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Our guide told us a bunch of fun stories about the early visitors and how the hotel was built and then added on to over the years. During the outside portion of the tour, I couldn't stop watching all of these birds flying in and out of their nests. You can also see how buggy the walls of the hotel gets. They have to repaint it pretty often because of the mosquitoes.

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There were a lot of political struggles over the years within Yellowstone and the men involved did a lot of crazy things, such as the guy who ran ferry trips across the lake sank his own steamboat in the lake when he was forced to stop running the trips! The interior was also pretty cool, including this huge fireplace with decorative tiles.

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After the tour we took what was supposed to be a quick drive up to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to take a better look at the upper and lower falls, but the bison had something else in mind: a huge traffic jam. Neither direction of the road was moving at all because the bison just kept walking back and forth across the road.

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At one point a ranger came and played a sound from his jeep that sounded like hoofs trotting on pavement and the bison seemed to disperse. We also passed this dude who was taking a nap about 2 feet from the road.

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Unfortunately on the way back to the hotel the bison were back at it, causing us to be late for our dinner reservations in the fancy hotel restaurant.

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I was not pleased, to say the very least!

We ended up only being a few minutes late for dinner. The dining room was PACKED. This is one of the only “fancy” restaurants in the park, so if you are planning a trip and want to eat there, make sure to make your reservation way in advance. I had bison tenderloins and Nick had sea bass. They were both delicious. Plus they have $6 mini bottles of champagne. Amazing! For dessert, I got the Yellowstone Caldera (a chocolate cake with molten chocolate center) and Nick got the French apple galetta, and they were both great.

Happy and full, we retired for the evening in our hotel room, the only non-cabin that we stayed in while in the park. After sleeping in a bare bones cabin for a few nights, the hotel room felt kinda weird.

Up next: We visit the Roosevelt Arch and the Old Faithful Inn!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our New Couch!!

I mentioned in my Knitted Afghan post that Nick and I were taking the plunge into adulthood and finally getting matching furniture. We were so fortunate to have family and friends give us their used furniture when we bought out house in 2008 that we didn’t have to buy anything for the living room! My parents, by way of my sister, gave us two insanely comfortable chairs and ottomans, my aunt and uncle, again by way of my sister, gave us a couch, and the parents of my friend gave us end tables and lamps. We have such great people in our lives!

A comfortable couch is pretty important to us. We actually like how our current couch feels, but the fabric just isn’t our taste. We had a red slip cover on it for a while, but constantly adjusting the shifting slip cover got really old really fast.

  Knitted Afghan

We had started our couch hunt last year and came up empty. Everything was either too big, too expensive, too cheaply made, not comfortable, or not our style. We wanted a nice couch but something that wasn't overly expensive so that we’d feel like we needed to hold onto it for the next 30 years. So we stopped looking. This turned out to be a good thing because between then and now, we changed our minds about our downstairs renovation, which, in turn, changed the plan for our furniture.

So we decided to start looking for couches again, starting with the Crate and Barrel outlet in Cranbury, NJ. As soon as we walked in, we saw the perfect couch. We spent awhile sitting on it and examining it, and then a little while longer wondering if this was too good to be true. The couch was originally $1699 and was marked down to $509!! We couldn't find anything wrong with it, so we bought it. We finally got this bad boy in our house yesterday and it looks awesome. Flick has been spending the last 24 hours making sure his scent is sufficiently rubbed all over it.

Our new couch

Flick loves the new couch. He has been planted on it since we brought it in the house.

Flick on the new couch

We still have the issue of mismatched furniture, but at least we're on our way. Even though the chairs that we have are a little bit big for our space and the fabric is dated, I absolutely love them.

Our New Couch 

They are SO comfortable! I had been struggling with the thought of getting rid of them, so much so that I was considering trying to store them somewhere until we have a bigger house where we might be able to use them again. Then Nick came up with the perfect idea: let’s reupholster them. Duh! How did this not occur to me? Sure, they’re still going to be slightly too big for our space, but I’m willing to live with that if it means still having super comfy chairs. And the styling won’t be too different from our couch because underneath the bottom flaps are legs that look just like our couch’s! It was meant to be! We're going to reupholster the ottomans in the same fabric as the chairs and attempt to convert them into storage ottomans.

Now I just need to make some new pillow covers since our button covers no longer go with the couch (well, they went with the red slip cover so I guess we're a little far removed from when anything matched in our living room). I'm thinking something quilted, but we're still deciding on the color scheme, so it might be awhile! And don't worry, curtains and new flooring are on our list as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sewaholic Minoru

Ta da! My Minoru is finally finished, a good two months after I started making it. To be fair, I had to put it on hold while I finished up MaMotts' quilt and my Black History Month outfit, so I only just got back to working on it.

Sewaholic Minoru

This is the second jacket I have made so far and I'm just as pleased with this one as I was with my Amy Butler Runabout Jacket. I feel like the Minoru was easier to make than the Runabout, but maybe it's just that I have another year of sewing under my belt and I wasn't as nervous that I would mess something up. Actually, the Runabout was the first wearable garment that I ever made! It's funny how much can happen in a year.

I used cotton twill for the outside, quilting cotton for the lining, and a slippery lining fabric for the sleeve lining. I am so pleased with the fit. I cut out a size 6 and I didn't have to make any adjustments to the pattern except for move the elastic up about a half inch so it hit at my natural waist. Oh, and I added pockets using the tutorial on Sew Well. The pockets don't stick out like this normally, I just opened it up a bit so you could see the pretty lining!

Sewaholic Minoru

This project involved a couple of techniques that I have never done before. It is my first garment made with raglan sleeves and my first garment that needed a casing for an elastic band (I'm counting this as a different technique than the elastic waistband that I made on my first try for a Black History Month outfit).

One bonus that I noticed today is that the sleeves are long enough that they still cover my entire arm plus the bottom of my hands while driving. A lot of my jackets ride up my wrists while driving, so it was nice that the cuffs on my Minoru pretty much stayed in place.

Sewaholic Minoru

I also really like the effect of the elastic band around the waist. It really makes the jacket super flattering.

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I'm a little disappointed that I didn't line the hood because I think the lining fabric would really make it pop. I decided early on not to line the hood because I thought it would be too thick while tucked inside the collar. I'm pretty sure I am right that it would have been too thick, so that makes me feel better about it.

  Sewaholic Minoru 

I love how you can see the faintest hint of the lining near the zipper on the collar.

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And of course I love the pop of color on the inside of the jacket. Plus, hidden pockets!

Sewaholic Minoru

Next up is Simplicity 2215, a Cynthia Rowley design. I'll be making view C, the skirt. So far, the muslin is going together quickly, so hopefully this will be a quick project. I need a quick one after my last few larger undertakings. I really like the dress for this pattern too, so if the skirt sews up super quickly, maybe the dress view is in order too!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Knitted Afghan is Finished!

After a year of on and off knitting, my afghan is complete!


This thing has changed designs a couple of times over the past year, mostly because I didn't closely follow any sort of plan and ended up having to make do with what I had already knitted. The result is a narrow, yet very long afghan. Initially I thought this was a huge mistake, but it actually turned out to be a good mistake because I can have my feet tucked under it and still have enough afghan to properly snuggle around my neck when taking a nap. Yes, I finished this on the train ride home on Friday and I've already given it a test drive during a nap after our 9-mile run on Sunday. It was awesome.

This shot is a reenactment—I don't usually smile while napping. Bonus: This may be the last time you're seeing our hodge podge furniture! We're finally becoming adults and getting matching, non-made-me-down furniture this year. It's going to be awesome!


The final product is 14 knitted panels using Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn in 7 different colors. If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen 7 shades of the same color to form an ombre effect. (Side note: The only thing I can think about whenever I hear the word "ombre" is Santino's impression of Tim Gunn saying "Andre." Anyone else? Probably not.). I'm not thrilled with how all over the place the colors are, but at least it's finished. I do like how the blocks look on the front and the back when pieced together.


The joined seams create a neat texture on the back. I also really like how the gray yarn that I used to piece the panels together pops in between the colors.


I don't think it's half bad for my first major knitting project. The other thing I would have done differently is to not do a stockinette stitch for the full panel. I think it would have looked better if I had done some ribbing or just straight purling near the edges so the panels didn't curl up. I'm not too worried about it though. It's done and warm and that's all that matters!


I am officially in the clear to start work on my Aidez sweater now, just as soon as I get the correct size needles for the yarn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Basic Chevron Scarf

What started out as knitting practice turned into a full grown scarf!


This project includes a few knitting “firsts” for me: increasing and decreasing stitches, following a pattern, joining two skeins of yarn mid-project, and a new way to cast on. I am very pleased with how this turned out.


I began this as practice to get used to increases and decreases so I would eventually feel comfortable with knitting a sweater. I can’t say that I’m completely comfortable with the idea of knitting a sweater, but after this scarf I feel prepared to take the plunge. It even looks cool on the under side!


Once I am finished with my knitted afghan, I’m going to get started on the Aidez sweater. I’m a little hesitant since I heard that some people have had sizing issues, but I’m going to try it out anyway. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Black History Month Luncheon Dress

Wednesday marked the last day of Black History Month and my workplace hosted a closing luncheon featuring local artists and writers. Last year’s luncheon featured a performance by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, which was insanely phenomenal, but sadly they weren’t at this year’s luncheon. Watch all of their videos on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed. And then imagine how it would have been seeing those performances in person. It was amazing! (Can you tell how disappointed I was that they didn't come again this year?)

This year the luncheon included an African Attire contest and, being a member of the celebrations committee, I thought I should join in the fun. My first go at this project was McCalls 7647 from the 90s.

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I found this lovely African print fabric on VogueFabrics (it’s no longer available) and ordered enough to make the faux wrap skirt and the overskirt.

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The fabric is a stiff cotton so I was a little worried about the bulk of the skirt, but I forged through and whipped it up relatively quickly. When I tried it on to mark the hem, I realized that there was no way I could wear this skirt to work. It was boxy, bulky, and shapeless and made my lower half look about 50 pounds heavier. Of course I knew that the skirt was going to be like that all along, but I thought the overskirt would make it not so hideous on me. Boy was I wrong. I’m not even comfortable putting a picture of me in the skirt for learning purposes. It was that wrong of a choice for my body type. Since someone else who can pull off floor length skirts might want it, I threw the skirt into the Purple Heart bag and I was left to figure out a new solution. It was the first time I had used elastic in a waistband so at least I learned a new skill.

I eventually decided to make the Lisette Portfolio dress (Simplicity 2245). In my most lucky happenstance moment of the year, Joann ran their $1 Simplicity sale merely one day after I crashed and burned with McCalls 7647! I also finally got to pick up a couple of Cynthia Rowley patterns that I have been wanting for months. All was right in the world.

Almost right, I mean. I wanted to use the same African print fabric even though I didn’t have enough left to make the dress (even if I took apart the skirt). After some panicking, I found the same fabric on FabricsDownUnder.com and they kindly agreed to send me uncut yards instead of the fat quarters that they advertise on their website. What wonderful customer service!

The Portfolio would have never made its way into my pattern stash had it not been for this very specific occasion. My body type does not do well with loose clothing, especially tunics, and most especially tunic dresses. But I thought this was the best case scenario for my luncheon outfit. For the contrast fabric, I used white cotton that I had in my stash. Much to my delight, this dress went together so quickly and easily! I can’t say that I’ll be using any part of this pattern ever again, but for this special occasion, I’ll pay the $1! The only modification that I made was adding 3 inches to the length of the dress so it hit at my knees instead of above. I was still hesitant about wearing a shapeless sack to work, so I raided my mom’s belt collection and found this black weaved belt. I was glad to once again have a visible waist. I do like the pockets even if they stick out a bit when I have the belt on.


I still thought I looked a little cult-memberish, so I added a black cardigan. And then my outfit was complete!


I’m positive that this dress won’t see the light of day until next February, but at least I was comfortable wearing it to work and I looked festive for the occasion too. It was a win-win!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

Mary at Biblioblog has passed on the Versatile Blogger award to me! Thank you, Mary! What a nice thing to wake up to on Sunday morning.


To take part, you link back to the person who awarded you, share seven things about yourself, and award 15 other bloggers and notify them that they have been awarded. I've seen this pop up on a bunch of the blogs that I follow recently, so I don't think that I'll make 15, but I certainly will try.

Here are my seven things:

1) I have been to 35 of the 50 states.
2) I started sewing 3 years ago on my grandmother's old sewing machine.
3) I play in an Ultimate Frisbee league in the summer.
4)  Back in school, I played a bunch of instruments, including the viola, mallets, piano, auxiliary percussion, and the upright bass.
5) I once made a mad hatter cake covered in fondant for my sister's bridal shower. It took about 13 hours....
6) One summer during college I worked as a janitor.
7) I won $1,300 in the first real poker tournament I ever played in in Atlantic City.

The lovely bloggers that I'm passing the Versatile Blogger award on to are:

Charmingly Domestic
Ginger Makes
My Fabric Obsession
Becca's Creative Notions
Dibs and the Machine
Made by Trisha
Kestrel Finds and Makes
Miss Crayola Creepy

Thank you all for inspiring me and being part of the bloggy world! Don't worry if you're too busy to partake in passing the award on. I love you all no matter what!