Monday, June 23, 2014

Grocery Bag

End of year teacher gift ideas never come easily to me.  I searched around for some ideas and finally decided on a grocery tote. Mainly because I had just a bit of cute teacher fabric leftover from a Handprint teacher quilt I made last year and also because I see the value in fabric grocery bags.

I used a plastic Wegmans bag as a pattern.

Bag Parts
Front, back outside and 2 lining 16.5" x 13"
2 Side Panels outside and 2 lining 4.5" x 16.5"
Handles 2 outside, 2 lining 5.5" x 13" shaped and pleated
Loop 4.5" x 3"

First I started with front and back panels that were 16.5" x 13".  These were pieced in a basic log cabin pattern with 1" to 3.5" pieces.

Next I cut two side panels 4.5" x 16.5".

These four pieces went together to form the bag.  (Red side panel, pieced front, blue side panel, pieced back)

I formed the bottom of the bag by folding in the side panels into the bottom seam.  Here is what it looked like on the lining.

On the outside, the bottom looked like this.

For the handles, I followed the basic size and shape of the plastic grocery bag.  I cut a rectangle of 5.5" by 13".  I measured 2.5" in the center of the strap and also centered lengthwise.  With the strap folded in half, I started the curve about 3.75" from the edge and curved in to the 2.5" mark.  I copied this curve on the other side mirror image.

Need two straps, each with a lining.
Handles, turned and top stitched.

Handle position ended up having the inner edges of the handles 1.25" covering the side panels.  I put in a pleat because it seemed a bit too wide after all.  The finished size with the pleat was 3.5".

Next was a loop.  Cut at 4.5" by 3", then ironed in half lengthwise, each side folded in towards fold line and then folded in half.
Pieced Grocery Bag

Handles and loop is positioned right sides together with outside of bag.  Then I made a lining using the same dimensions:  two 16.5" by 13" panels plus two 4.5" by 16.5" sewing together (with opening for turning in one side seam) then folding in the sides into the bottom seam again.

Sew bag right sides together at top edges, flip, top stitch, and blind stitch lining opening for turning.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

4th Grade End of Year Party

Four parents worked together to make a nice party for a group of 24 students.

We had two hours and it was filled perfectly. We didn't have everything planned out, just many ideas and materials to implement them. They had a quick pizza lunch during this time as well. 

First we had the whole group do an egg toss with hard boiled eggs. 

Then we broke up into three groups. We had three stations set up and the kids rotated through each station.

Station 1 Ice Excavating
A trip to the dollar store yielded 12 small rectangular containers and 24 plastic animals for $6. 
At home I added two animals, 4 shells and 6 pennies to each container. Then I added water a bit more than half way and froze overnight.

I brought the frozen containers in a cooler and students worked in pairs with play dough toys such as plastic knives, hammers, and also paint brushes, syringes for water, and coarse salt. The kids seemed to enjoy the activity and it was perfect to do outside in the grass. 

Station 2 Marshmallow and Toothpick 2D and 3D building
I provided mini marshmallows, toothpicks, paper plates, and sandwich baggies in case they wanted to bring them home. The kids built different things and some chose to eat their marshmallows up and others brought their structures home. This was done outside as well sitting on blankets. Marshmallows, toothpicks and dollar store baggies totaled $5.50

Station 3 Obstacle Course
When I was researching ideas for the party, I found many great resources for obstacle courses.  Seeing what we had around the house helped too. I decided to make two identical courses.  It was fun putting this together and also testing it out at home. I did buy a couple things at the dollar store:  two baskets, two bins for water, 4 pool noodles, 2 packs of bubbles and two sets of squishy water balls totaling $12.

The obstacle course:  6 hula hoops to jump in and out of, crawl under pool noodles on chairs, pogo stick 5 times,

walk heel to toe over rope, sit on hopper and hop to cone and back,

make a basket with a ball, using the squishy water balls, run and fill a cup 1/2 full, then dump back in bin,
hula hoop for 10 rotations, jump rope 5 times, jump or hop over hurdles (stakes with plastic tape), blow bubbles and pop five, then run back to the beginning. 

The next child in line was able to start after the first got a basket.  Nothing was too difficult for anyone to accomplish, some kids were just faster than others.  I think there was a nice mix of concentrating and just playing. 

We had time and more eggs and did another whole group egg toss. Popsicles were had. 

Finally we headed back inside to work on our postcards. I thought this was a neat idea when I saw it. Kids address two (or more ) postcards each with their own address. Then all the postcards are put in a basket. Each child pulls out two postcards checking they aren't their own and decorates the backs. Then over the summer the kids hopefully remember to send out their postcard to their classmate with a friendly summer message. 

Eureka Sunrise 6 Review

Our old Eureka tent has a footprint of about 11'x7' which we finally outgrew. Really our 30" mats were just too wide to fit five across.

When researching new tents online, I started looking at 8 person tents and felt they were all huge and mostly expensive. Our old tent was rated for seven people, so I figured I had to look higher. Finally I calculated what we might need and broadened my searches. 

The Eureka Sunrise 6 has an 11' x 11' footprint.  I calculated that while we couldn't fit five mats together, we could easily have four together and have one going the other way.

This tent is just like our other in terms of basic shape and set up. It's a bit taller, which I didn't find necessary, but overall the features are very nice. 

The first time I set it up with a four year old which is essentially by myself and it worked fine.  The fly is high up, so it took me a couple tries on a windy day, but at last I succeeded. I sealed all our seams and became familiar with the nice features such as netted compartments everywhere, great windows and air flow.

At the campground, everyone helped set up the tent and it was even easier. I can see how it might be a struggle on a very windy hilltop without at least two adults, but I'm sure it would work out, staking along the way as necessary. 

We did have rain, in fact all night on and off. Everyone stayed dry and we still had plenty of air flow too. Night two was a chilly night and we left the windows open some again. I think due to the higher ceiling, it kept us cooler, but that will be helpful on hot summer nights. Also, I could have closed up the windows more to keep the heat in better. 

We had space for each of our duffle bags and a corner for shoes.

Beebe Hill State Forest Fire Tower Climb

As we planned our trip to Beebe Hill State Forest and surrounding area for the Empire State Mountain Unicycle Festival, I looked around at what I might do with the kids.  I found one trip report from 2010 of a hike up to the Beebe Hill Fire Tower.  That sounded perfect for us.  However I am always directionally challenged and wished for a map.  The above link also has a lot of history about the area and the Fire Tower.

When we arrived for day 1 of the Muni Festival, a park ranger was in the parking lot.  I asked him about the hike and where we should start.  Of course I asked about a map too, but he didn't have any.  After a few minutes in his truck, he brought me a hand drawn map, complete with color coding!  Thanks, Chris!  It was a big help!

We crossed Fog Hill Rd to reach the closer parking lot for the Fire Tower Hike.  There was a small kiosk and two trails.  The Fire Tower trail is to the left, further from the kiosk.

Bartlett Pond

Fire Tower Trail starts here

Blue Trail
First we followed the blue trail.  There were a couple bridges and streams.

Along the trail there was a place to register and a sign telling us it was .1 miles back to the parking lot.

Soon we needed to make a decision and knew we had to go on the red trail to reach the Fire Tower.

Towards the top we found Opal Pond.  It was pretty swampy.

We didn't notice a lean to or see the Fire Tower until we hit the clearing.  Perhaps when the leaves aren't on the trees it's possible to see the tower before reaching it.

Locked up Cabin
The tower is 60 feet.  There is small fencing on the walls of the tower.
Beebe Hill State Forest Fire Tower

Under the Tower

The view

In the tower out of the wind for a snack
At the top of the tower it was very windy!  The tower itself seemed very secure and didn't feel like it was swaying or moving at all.  Unfortunately the little one did feel scared so high up and needed reassurance staying up there and getting down.
Looking down!
We hiked up, had a snack and looked around at the cabin and shed, both closed up.  Then we walked back down the same trail.  It took us about an hour and a half total.  The hikers consisted of a four year old with short legs, a ten year old, a thirteen year old friend, a fourteen year old and myself.  The four year old needed a few rides from the teens, but did pretty well.  The ten year old did trip on the trail and needed a bandaid.  The trail does have a lot of rocks and exposed roots.  I noticed a fair amount of poison ivy as well.

Fox Hill Campground in Spencertown, NY

When planning our camping trip for the Empire State Mountain Unicycle Festival, it was hard to find any additional information on the Fox Hill Campground in Spencertown, NY beyond a phone number and a review here and there. One person talked about stopping to swim at the beach, which was helpful to know, but lacked any photographs. It was then that I decided I would at least document things from our perspective. 

Fox Hill Campground is about seven minutes from Chatham.  We went into Chatham for dinner after setting up and found a few different restaurants that all seemed pretty busy.  Finally near the turnabout there was a small sign for a restaurant called the Eatzzeria and even smaller signs for what they served:  burgers, wraps, salads, pizza, and subs.  We tried it out and had a nice chat with the owners.  They had just bought the shop and have only been open about seven weeks.  Our family had burgers, a wrap and a salad with chicken.  Everything was nicely made with good portion sizes.  There is an area to sit and eat with 3-4 tables.

At the campground everything is done on paper.  We had "reservations" but it was simply our name jotted down on a sheet of paper.  We filled in our registration on a paper ledger and were able to pay with a credit card.  It was $25 a night.  There is a small store with inexpensive treats for the kids such as 2 cent Swedish Fish, 10 cent mini candy bars and 10 cent pretzel rods.  Wood is sold too and one staff member offered us the Mule of wood for $40 and thought it would be perfect for our group.  There is also a small laundry facility and bathrooms at the office.

Near the office is beach parking and a small sandy beach on a pond. It is life guarded sometimes, but open for campers to swim at your own risk. There was nice sand and a grassy area near the sand.  It was chilly, so no one went too far out in the water.  My kids had a ball in the sand.

The playground is small and almost always occupied with the campground kids.  The playground has a teeter totter, swings, basketball hoop (bring your own ball) and chin up bar.  We didn't spend too much time there.

The majority of the sites here are permanent sites complete with fancy decking, some sheds and lawn ornaments.  We noticed one empty site and then there was the tenting area where we would stay.

Tenting Area Fox Hill Campground
The tenting area was very nice for a group tent area. There were trees and lots of shade. The corridor between the woods was rather narrow, but we made it all work. The bathhouse is right near the tent area and also the only place to park your car. The sinks had warm and cold water and there were flush toilets. The soap didn't appear to work so I left an extra bar of soap in there. Because most campers use their RVs, we had the bathhouses to ourselves. The showers were coin operated. 25 cents got you about 5 minutes of hot water. 

Each campsite had a picnic table and fire pit. They all seemd rather unused. For our purposes, we had one big fire furthest from the bathhouse.  If you we had been camping at one of the tent sites and other sites were also occupied with people we didn't know, it would have felt like too close quarters. But for our group, it was perfect. 

Empire State Mountain Unicycle Campers

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Car Garbage Bag

The hooks on the backs of my car seats are just too far for a Wegmans bag to reach.  The last garbage bag was a perfect one from Nike that had a drawstring handle.  We have access to far more Wegmans' bags, so I wanted to make something that would hold them.

Starting with a Wegmans bag as a guide, I cut a 16" x 16.5" rectangle out of a waterproof nylon.  I added a 9" piece of 1/4" elastic to each side seam and buttons on each side about 5.5" from the top.  I boxed the bottom corners at 2" in and left the top edge raw.

Threading the elastic though the bag handles and bringing the bag handles down to the buttons holds the bag in place.  So far so good.

Stuff Sack Tutorial

We are planning a camping trip again and will be bringing along too much stuff.  In an effort to condense some stuff, I made these stuff sacks.

Last year I created these sleeping mat toppers that made sleeping in the tent quite nice.  They are cut from fluffy memory foam which takes up a lot of space.  I stored them in garbage bags, two to a bag.  I thought a stuff sack or even a compressible stuff sack would help out.

After looking at available products and considering some dry bags we already own, I created my own stuff sacks.  Fortunately I had all the materials I needed at home.  I started with PUL waterproof material, leftover from diaper making.  Another option would have been to use nylon.  The 1" buckles I had leftover from baby carrier making days.  For the strapping, I only had a small amount salvaged from something.

To test sizing, I tried out a half sized pillowcase I had made.  It was just right when I rolled the memory foam up.


Cut two 14"x 24" pieces of PUL
Cut two 2.75" one inch webbing
one 1" buckle
1" webbing or ribbon, 28" long

Stitch 1" ribbon/webbing along one short edge of each 14" x 24" piece of PUL.  Because PUL doesn't fray, I didn't finish the top edges

With right sides together, insert buckles and webbing into each side seam at top

 Stitch both sides and bottom edge

Pull out corners into triangle and sew in 1.5" to make box corners (Or it could be left square)

After boxing both lower corners, the bottom should look like this

Flip stuff sack right side out and top stitch where the webbing attaches to the side seam, this encloses the raw edges and gives it more stability.

Finished stuff sack

The memory foam topper folded and then rolled

Because I only had ribbon available for the top edges, I don't feel these have quite as much stability as if I had used webbing.  However the ribbon is much cheaper and what I had available.  The ribbon does keep the PUL from stretching.