Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Project 366 - 2016

It's been four years since we completed our first Project 366.  Also known as Project 365, it's a photography project where the goal is to take a photo a day for an entire year, to document both the special events and the everyday life we live.  Being the overachievers that we are, we chose to do this for the first time four years ago, on a leap year.  We liked the idea of the one extra day for the challenge.

So when this year rolled around we decided to complete the project again.  We knew that this year would bring some pretty big changes in our life and this would be a good way to document those adventures.

The first four months of the year have gone by and we have successfully taken a photo a day.  I thought I would share some of these with you.

Day 1: The first sunrise of the new year.  Scott took this photo on his way to work.  In someways it represents not only a new day, but a new year and everything it holds for us.

Day 9: For almost 10 years these women of my bookclub provided interesting conversations, some hilarious moments, support through the good times and bad, but mostly they provided their friendship to me when I was new in town, never questioning or judging.  They are some of the best women I have ever known!

Day 13: One of the things I am most proud of was my career at Fire District No. 1.  I loved my job and the people that I worked with.  It sounds cliche, but they really were like a second family to me.  I never really believed that the "going away" lunch would ever be in my honor.

Day 23: What better way to start the great Alaskan adventure than with a four-day road trip with my sister.  Day one took us from Oregon to across the Canadian border.  The next three days would take us through the heart of Canada in January.

Day 34: Imagine one of these cargo containers holding pretty much everything you own in the world. 
Although I never had any doubt, it was a relief when the movers called to say our container had arrived and would be delivered to our house in a few days.

Day 41: Part of Scott's job is to attend training every Wednesday night.  Scott loves getting in with the crews and getting his hands dirty.

Day 51: Waiting for the rain to clear so that we could take our official "We've Moved" photo proved to be a lesson in patience.  Quickly figuring out it could be well into the summer before that happened, we threw on our raincoats and braved the storm.

Day 58: Living so far away from the ocean for so long, we can't seem to get enough of the beach.  I never thought my days would revolve around the tide table.  I can see beach combing becoming a new hobby.

Day 68: Yikes!  I like seafood as much as the next person, but this was not exactly what I pictured when Scott said he was bringing shrimp for dinner!  

Day 78: We went down to the boat landing today to see these two brothers off on their journey.  They are paddle boarding from Alaska to Mexico. We didn't know them, we'd never even seen them before that morning, but what they are attempting has never been done before and we wanted them to know that there is a community of people who are cheering them on.  You can follow their journey at http://www.northamericanpaddle.com.

Day 85: As the days get longer, we have started going out for a drive when Scott gets home from work.  We search for wildlife and new hiking trails, we talk about our day, but mostly we take the time to appreciate this adventure we are having.  I look forward to this part of the day.

Day 90: I told myself that I was not going to get sucked into buying all new house decorations.  We brought plenty with us.  We probably should have even downsized a little more before we came.  But when I saw this cast iron mermaid in the second hand shop downtown I knew she would make the perfect doorstop for our patio door.  She does her job just perfectly!

Day 99: The whole time Scott and I have been together, he has always worked shift work.  He was gone three or four nights a week.  This worked for us and I got used to having those nights to myself.  Now he works a regular 8-5 work week, which means he's home every night.  I really thought this would be our biggest struggle, but it's actually been a pretty easy transition for us.  For the first time since I got here, he had to travel for a few days for a work conference.  I was a little teary-eyed dropping him off at the airport ferry.  Watching him walk away, I already missed him.

Day 105: Technology is a great thing.  It has definitely helped us to stay more in contact with family.  Using an App on my smart phone I am able to "watch" my niece's softball games in realtime.  

Day 113: I was never that person who took my dog everywhere, but since moving here Mack and I spend a lot of time together.  When I go to town to go shopping or run errands I figure that he can either be locked up in his crate at home or he can go with me and stay in the car when I run into the store.  This will probably change when summer comes and it gets too hot to leave him in the car. 

So that's four months of our lives in a nutshell.  This project helps us to focus on each day.  We work together to figure out what we should take a picture of.  One of my favorite picture so far was on May 2nd, but you'll have to wait another four months to see that one!

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Bee My Honey" Quilt

Crafters are also collectors.  You know what I'm talking about.  Whether you quilt, knit, scrapbook, paint, make jewelry, or do a multitude of these, you can never have enough supplies in your stash.  You go to the craft store to pick a few needed supplies and come home with a bags full of things you may need someday for a future project.  Heck, sometimes you even base your vacation plans around where the craft stores are located along the way.

A couple of years ago we were on a road trip through Eastern Oregon and were passing through the town of Joseph.  As soon as we were within cell reception coming into town, I quickly googled quilting stores.  Joseph is an artist community so I was pretty sure there would be a pretty good chance of a good quilt store.  I wasn't disappointed.

With no particular project in mind, I spent some time browsing the selection for something that I could take home and work into a project later.  I was super excited when I came across this "Bee My Honey" line of fabric from Moda.

My favorite thing about this line is the actual "B" fabric.  We have collected letter B's for a few years and I thought a lap quilt made out of this fabric would look great with the rest of our collection.  Below is a sample of all the different fabric designs in this line.

Not sure what I was going to make, I bought two jelly rolls just in case.  A jelly roll is made up of 42 strips of 2 1/2" wide fabric, generally all from the same line.  These are great because they take the work out of having to sort through an entire store of fabrics to come up with the ones you want to use for your project.  They are also great because you can find a ton of quilting patterns that specifically use jelly rolls.

This past summer I came across this pattern and instantly thought it would be a good one to use for my "B" quilt.

Since I had two jelly rolls, I decided to make two of these quilts and give one to a good friend for her Christmas present.  With everything that happened last fall with Scott's job and our move, I was only able to actually get Tonja's done in time for Christmas.

I pulled my quilt out a few weeks ago to work on.  The way this quilt works, I took three of the jelly roll strips and sew them together.

Then using my pyramid ruler I cut alternating triangles the entire length of the strips.  Each set of strips made nine triangles.

Using six of the triangles, I turned them around to make a hexagon shape.

I had thirteen of these hexagons. The next step was to lay these out to form the majority of the quilt top pattern.

Using the leftover pieces, I formed one final mismatched hexagon and filled in around the edges to complete the top layout.  It was about at this point where I realized that, in my mind, these fabrics were really busy and the hexagon pattern was hard to see.  Live, learn, and take notes for next time.

Starting along the lefthand side, I sewed each row together.

Then I sewed all the rows together to complete the top.  I had ordered the backing fabric for this quilt last year when I was working on Tonja's quilt.  It's my favorite thing about this quilt.  I had to do some sewing on it to make it the same size as the front.  Then I cut out the batting for the middle of the quilt and I was ready to find someone to quilt it all together for me.

I went to the local quilt store and asked the owner if she had some recommendations for anyone in the area that might be able to quilt it together.  She gave me a list and highlighted the ones she recommended.  I called the first lady and she told me that she was too busy with personal issues to be able to help me right now.  I picked her first because she lives two houses away from us and I thought that would be convenient.  So I moved on and called the second lady on the list.  I had driven past her shop several times on the other end of the island when we had gone out hiking.  She asked me if I could come in the next weekend and she would take a look at it.

Scott and I drove out there one Saturday.  I was so excited.  I knew exactly how I wanted it quilted.  I love this idea and knew this would be a great quilt to try it on.  I had all of my quilt pieces, along with this photo as an example of how I wanted her to quilt it.  I just simply wanted it quilted in straight lines, following along the seams.

The lady was very nice, but she took one look at my example and said that it was too hard for her to quilt that pattern on her long-arm quilting machine.  But she was confident that I could do this quilting on my own at home on my machine.  I stood there debating what to do.  Should I just compromise and pick one of her preprogrammed patterns.  I knew I would not be happy with that choice.  I had my heart set on the triangle quilting pattern.  Sadly, I packed up my quilt pieces and my example and left.  I was disappointed and I didn't do a very good job of hiding it.

So off to Walmart we went to buy basting safety pins (which are just super large safety pins).  I watched a couple of You Tube videos and decided to move forward with doing this myself.  Giving it a try was better than shoving it back in a drawer and never knowing.

I laid out the backing, the batting, and the quilt top on my kitchen floor and went to work pinning it.

Almost three hundred safety pins later, I was ready to head in to my sewing machine.

It was actually about two weeks between meeting with the quilt lady and getting to this step.  My sewing machine did not come with a "walking foot", which is what you want to use when quilting or working with several layers of fabric.  Thankfully I still have the book that came with my machine when I bought it 20 years ago and I was able to find the part number and order the walking foot from Sears.

Just installing the walking foot on my machine took some google research.  What did people do before the Internet????  After I finally installed it right and took a few practice passes on some scraps, I was ready to go.  I honestly can't believe how easy it was!

Just a couple of hours later, I had my first quilt that I actually did all of the work on!!!!

I pulled out some yellow fabric I had in my stash (that I purchase on a whim to be used on a future project) and used that for the binding.  I liked the contrast the yellow had with the rest of the fabric.

I'm so proud of this quilt!  I feel like emailing the quilt lady back and thanking her for forcing me to step outside of my comfort zone and do something I never thought I could do!  I have this huge renewed sense of confidence and can't wait to get started on my next project!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Moving Is A Great Adventure, But Not One I Hope To Repeat Anytime Soon!

I don't know how military families do it.  Moving is a great adventure, but not one I hope to repeat anytime soon!  This wasn't as simple as renting a moving van and inviting some friends over to help load everything up.  This move would included several airline flights, hiring an official moving company, trusting that everything we own in the world would be safe in a shipping container on a barge, and even a four day road trip through another country!

After Scott got settled into his new job, and had the rental house secured, we started the next step of moving our animals.  We were so lucky to find a landlord that allowed pets.  I'm not sure what I would have done if this hadn't been an option.

Our first move was the cat.  Scott's work holiday party was the first weekend in December.  We figured that it would be a good chance for me to meet everyone so we planned on me flying up for the weekend and bringing the cat with me.  In the almost 11 years we have had her, I cannot ever remember a time when we had to put her in a carrier and take her anywhere.  She wasn't about to go willingly.  The first test of the cat carrier would be when we went to the vet to get her "Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection", basically saying she was healthy to travel.  Getting to the vet took two tries, and one canceled appointment.  I won't go into all the gory details, but I will say there were a lot of tears and begging on my part before I realized that she wasn't going to just walk into the carrier on her own.  I googled the best ways to catch a cat and, you know what, it was so much easier after that.  So  the next morning off to the vet we went.

Whew, after the vet visit I was feeling really good about this.  We just had to do this cat carrier thing one more time and then we would be there and it would all be over.  Two days after the vet visit we loaded up again to head to the Medford airport for our journey north.

From pretty early on, we had decided to check Lae'ula with the luggage.  I was not convinced that she would be happy with being shoved under the seat in front of me for very long.  I did not want to be that person on the plane with the screaming child (cat!).  I knew this was the right choice when she insisted on telling everyone in the airport terminal what a horrible cat mom I was for shoving her in this confining crate.  Oh well, no matter how much she yelled, she was contained and safe until we made it to Alaska.  Oh my naiveté!

You might notice in the photo above that there is another person checking a dog on this flight.  I watched this person carefully so that I would feel like I had a better understanding of the process.  Well, you can imagine my surprise, and slight panic, when they made these people take their dog out of the crate so that TSA could inspect it.  Surely they would not make me do this, right???

Yep they did.  My heart is racing telling you this story because it was the closest I have ever come to having a panic attack.  I made it very clear to the two very nice TSA agents that I would not be removing my cat from this carrier, as she would escape and run wild through the airport, never to be caught again.  They gently removed me from the line and proceeded to take me to a different area of the check in.  They informed me that I would be taking her out of the carrier, and that I needed to calm down.  They came up with a plan on how we were going to do this, and again told me that I needed to calm down. I acknowledged their plan and then told them how we were really going to do this.  They opened the carrier, I pulled my cat out and held her so tight to my chest that I could feel the air going out of her lungs, but I was squeezing her so hard that she couldn't possibly breathe back in.  I kept telling her what a good cat she was and how this would all be over soon.  It seemed like five minutes, but I'm pretty sure it was 30 seconds, and she was dropped back into her crate and safely secured again.  As I wiped the tears off my cheeks, the TSA agent turned to me and, with a gentle hand on my arm, told me again that I needed to calm down, it was all over.  I felt so silly.  In hindsight I am so glad that I did not know that I would have to do this.

When I was finally settled in my seat on our plane (thank God for the free beer and wine they serve on these flights!), the flight attendant came up to me and asked me my name.  When I told her, she handed me a piece of paper.  My initial panic was quickly relieved when I reassured that Lae'ula had also made it safely onboard.  We were on our way.

It was a quick turnaround trip for me, but a relief to have half of my family officially moved.  Now it would be six weeks before Scott and I would see each other again, and almost two months before we would all finally be living in Alaska.

Thankfully, the time we were apart fell during the holiday season, which is always super busy.  This made the time go faster.  I can't tell you how many people thought it was sad that we would not be spending the holidays together, but in all honesty, we have rarely ever spent an actual holiday together.  With Scott's 24-hour shift schedule, and me traveling to see family, we learned early on to adapt to celebrating a holiday on another day.  

The hardest part of being separated was being the single person responsible for either moving out of our old house, or moving into our new one.  I had the responsibility of selling our house, coordinating with the movers, and wrapping up everything in Oregon, while Scott had the responsibility of getting new accounts set up and meeting various people at our new house to get things activated.  It's amazing how many official papers we signed via scanning and email.

Everything seemed to be coming together for us.  I can't think of one thing that didn't really go as planned. But there were days when I waited for the other shoe to drop.  There had to be something that would go wrong, right?  It was just after the first of the year, when we had spent a month apart, I was super overwhelmed with selling our house, I was sad to be leaving my job that I loved, and I had begun the process of saying goodbye to people, when I had this overwhelming feeling that something was about to go wrong and the whole plan would fall apart and I would never actually make it to Alaska.  I couldn't do another night of eating the random food we had left in our cupboard so I ordered Chinese and picked it up on the way home from work.  Now, you should know that I am a big believer in signs and that everything happens for a reason.  I just needed that sign that would convince me everything would be ok.  That sign came in the form of my fortune cookie that night.

Deep breath!!!  Everything would be fine.

Scott would be coming back soon to help me finalize the house for the movers.  The plan was for him to take Mack back with him on his return flight.  This meant another trip to the vet to get our travel certificate.  Thankfully, Mack likes adventure; and he especially loves his vet.  Dr. McInnis made me cry when we left because he was so sincere when he said goodbye to Mack and wished him luck with his new adventures.

The ironic thing about flying from Alaska to Oregon is that you spend way more time in airports than you do actually on a plane.  It's an hour and a half from Ketchikan to Seattle, an hour from Seattle to Portland, and an hour from Portland to Medford.  But based when you travel, it's hours of waiting time in each airport between each flight.  

Nick and Stacy also planned a weekend trip to come up and help us prepare.  It was crunch time.  The movers would be here in two days and we needed to have everything ready to be packed and loaded.

The boys spent two solid days going through the shop, the garage, and the house.  They took a load to the dump and a load to goodwill.  Nick's friends came by and took some stuff.  Nick and Stacy took a pickup load back to Nevada with them.  But still, we looked around and wondered how in the world we had accumulated so much stuff!!!

I really didn't think this day would ever come!

Bright and early Monday morning the movers arrived.  It had done nothing but rain for the past 48 hours.  The skies cleared just after midnight and the thermometer dipped to below freezing once again.  Getting the big moving van up the driveway covered in a sheet of ice became quite a challenge.  

After taking stock of everything that was left to move, we were told that it would take two days to pack the house and then a third day to load everything into the truck.  

It was very strange to just sit back and watch strangers pack everything you own.  I originally asked if we could do this step while I was still working but was told that it would be easier if I was around so that I could answer any questions the movers might have.  That meant a lot of sitting around waiting for them to ask me something.  I felt bad not helping, and I definitely didn't want the moving crew to think I was supervising them.  They kept reassuring me that this was totally normal.  Maybe in their world, but not in mine.

During the few days of working with the crew, I overheard some pretty funny conversations between the movers.

"I'll just jam it in this box. I'm sure there's room."

"I think that was supposed to come apart."

"Ugh, another IKEA piece of furniture!"

"Has anyone seen my drill?" (The drill would later be found in one of the boxes labeled "office". Don't worry, we shipped it back to them.)

And finally at the end, they said to me, "Thanks for not helping us." (This was sincere, as it was easier for them to do their work if I stayed out of their way.  Since they were in responsible for the packing, they didn't want me doing any of it and risk anything getting broken.)  They did also thank me for not having any secret things hidden under my bed!

Two solid days of packing later, I felt like I was living in a fort made of boxes.  Thankfully this would just be for one night.

When the movers walked in Wednesday morning, they told me that they should have everything loaded up and be done around lunchtime.  The plan was for me to leave the house the same time the movers left.  I would be spending a few days with my parents before making my journey north. When it was 7:30pm and the movers were still loading the truck, everyone was getting cranky. They had put in three very long days of hard labor, and I still had a four hour drive over a snowy pass.  We finally said our goodbyes close to 8:00pm.  There were a few items still left in the garage that they would come back for in the morning.  At this point all of us were ready to be gone.

Even through we were done at our house,  the moving crew still had to take the truck back to their warehouse, where they would then transfer everything to our official shipping container.  The shipping container would be hauled up to Tacoma to be placed on a barge.  It would then be delivered to Ketchikan 3-6 weeks later.

Meanwhile, Scott and Mack were making their way back to Alaska.  I love this picture because of the questionable look in Mack's eyes.  He had never had a real "crate" before.  As soon as we knew we were moving we bought a crate at the local Petco and worked to acclimate him to it.  He knew that something big was up at this point because Scott had loaded that big crate up in the car with him.

The thing about Mack is that he is always up for an adventure.  He's really good around other people and animals so we didn't worry about him freaking out at the airport or on the plane.  He would do just fine getting through his TSA inspection!

You just wish that you could explain it to him in a way that he would understand.  What he knew of the past six weeks was that daddy left and didn't come back.  Then the cat left and didn't come back.  What he didn't know was where everyone was going to.  Scott and I would FaceTime and night and Mack could hear them over the phone but he couldn't figure out where they were.  Some nights it practically broke my heart when he went from room to room looking for them.

But here they were finally getting ready to make their big trip.

Scott said this was the worst part because Mack saw him as Scott was getting off the plane and started whining for Scott to come back and him.  There was nothing Scott could do but keep walking away from him.

When they boarded the second leg of the flight in Seattle, Scott waited and waited for the flight attendant to bring him the slip of paper saying Mack was on the flight.  He panicked as the plane started pulling away from the gate and he still hadn't heard anything.  He finally got her attention and made her go check with the pilot to make sure he was loaded.  Thankfully the pilot confirmed he was onboard.  Scott was sure for a moment that he had lost the dog!

Meanwhile, in the middle of all of this packing and moving adventure, we were lucky enough to sell our house!  We actually sold it to the guy who help Scott put it in 20 years earlier.  Because he had done most of the prep work for the house, he waived all of the inspections.  This drastically cut down on the time it took to close, not to mention all of the costs involved.  We wouldn't officially close on our house until after both of us were up in Alaska, but we left knowing that it was pretty much a for sure thing.

Moving truck loaded and on it's way back to the warehouse - check
Scott, the cat, and the dog all safely up in Alaska - check
The house in the final stages of selling - check

One last photo before I left...

I will be the first to admit that there were a few tears pulling out of the driveway that night.  Tears of sadness for everything that we were leaving behind.  The house where were raised a family and made our home.  The community where we made wonderful friends.  The careers that allowed to us to provide for our family and save a little extra for our adventures.

But there were also tears of relief that this step was finally over.  I had one more big adventure before arriving at my new home.  Stay tuned for that update!