Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We've Dyed and Gone to Playsilk Heaven

I've shared some more about playsilks in a previous post. Now we are finally ready to dye!

I used the ideas from the Artful Parent's blog about dyeing with Kool-aid, but I changed a few things. I also have some other comments to add.

First I soaked the silks in a pot with some hot water and some vinegar for about thirty minutes.

In the meantime, I gathered up a bunch of containers. The kids put three packets of Kool-aid in each container and I added a splash of white vinegar. My rudimentary understanding is that the acid in the vinegar helps to set the color. Maybe someone who understands the process more can comment.

I kept water going in my stock pot and in my tea kettle so I had a fresh supply of hot water all the time. When I got some hot water, I'd pour it in the container and stir to make sure the kool-aid was dissolved. We didn't do that with the first one and there are some purple spots in the middle of the blue. Then we added a silk to the container and stirred and waited.

Another interesting point of information I learned is that Kool-aid will dye animal fibers but not plant fibers. So if your silks are hemmed with cotton thread, the cotton will stay white. I understand a lot of people dye wool yarn with Kool-aid as well.

Hannah had never seen Kool-aid packets until we went to a friend's house and she used drink mix packages to color salt dough we turned into Christmas tree ornaments. Upon questioning Hannah, I realized she has no other concept for Kool-aid other than as a colorant. That makes me giggle.

We left the silks to soak while we kept adding water and silks to new colors and jars. Different colors soaked in faster than others, which is something I had already read about. The lemon-lime turned a nice shade of green and the surrounding water went clear almost immediately. The lemonade was also fast. The purple and blue took a lot longer and the water became cloudy instead of clear. I just left them until the water lightened up a bunch or the color looked nice when I pulled the silk up.

We discovered the more water in the container, the more room the silk had to move around and that gave a much more even dye job. We had one orange one that didn't get stirred much and was in a small container. So I dyed it again with three more packets. It was more vibrant and the dye was the most even of the bunch.

Also, remember to have your children wash their hands after dealing with the Kool-aid powder, before they touch anything else. John helped me spread out this yellow silk with purple powder on his hands.

They are hanging up to dry in places all over the house and back porch. After an hour, the first ones were mostly dry. I can't wait to get them down and play with them. Oh, and they smell positively lovely, as well.

Here is a color guide.

Ice Blue Lemonade=Blue (The lighter blue was done with only one packet, the other one had three)
Cherry=Red (We only had two packets of cherry)
Lemonade = Yellow
Lemon-Lime= Green

Play Silks

I've heard about them for years. When I checked the prices of some ready-made play silks, I decided I could keep them in the realm of things I'd heard about. But... I kept hearing and hearing and hearing... and those silks I had looked at were absolutely gorgeous.

So finally I considered getting some and asked friends about the idea. Surely my 11-year-old son was too old for them. But then again, he had really enjoyed trying to juggle silks at a children's museum a while ago. I decided to get some as the sharing gift for Christmas for our three children (11-year-old boy, 4-year-old girl and 11-month-old girl.) A friend had mentioned you could get blank silks from Dharma Trading Company and dye them with Kool-aid. That was certainly much more affordable. Plus, I thought John would at least enjoy the dyeing process.

I ordered four 21.5" squares, two 44" squares, and two 22" X 90" pieces. It was a whopping $32 plus shipping. They shipped fast. I got them in about three days. We gathered up some kool-aid.

The children were a little confused about what they were when they opened the package. I was quick to defend them, "They look boring now. Just wait, tomorrow we are going to soak them in Kool-aid and turn them into bright colors. You can make them into all sorts of things, including forts..."

Hannah went back to her other gifts. Cote chewed on some packaging. But John rubbed some of the silk against his face for a few minutes. He hopped up and ran to his room with one in tow. He quickly tied it around his neck to make a cape and ran all over the house.

A few minutes later, Hannah attached one to her grandmother exclaiming what a beautiful princess dress she was wearing. Hannah got assistance tying one in a sash around her self. That sash quickly turned into a rebozo for carrying her baby doll.

I have high hopes for this toy, if there was this much creativity and enjoyment when they were still boring white.

I have separated the dyeing experience into a separate post. If you've heard of playsilks before, I would heartily encourage you to consider doing something more than hear about them.

Here's the post on dyeing : We've Dyed and Gone to Playsilk Heaven

Friday, December 17, 2010

Are you ready?

Theo and I had a date tonight. It was so refreshing to spend time alone together, even if we did use the time to finish up some Christmas errands. We were in the car, having a lovely conversation. We discussed our how our days had gone and our plans for Christmas travel as well as some odds and ends we still needed to pick up.

One of the gifts we have for the children is a set of blank play silks. I reminded him that we needed to pick up some kool-aid packets for to use as coloring for the silks.

About that time, he veered into the turn lane to prepare to cross three lanes of on-coming traffic. He drew his breath in sharply, grabbed the steering wheel and said, "Are you ready to dye...?"

Now you have understand this was spoken, not written. What I heard was a crazed husband about to dart across three lanes of traffic, asking if I was ready to die. I told him in no uncertain terms I was indeed, NOT ready to die.

When I realized it wasn't a death threat (not his style) or some sick joke (definitely his style), it was very, very funny. We've been laughing about it all evening.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Holidays Aren't Happy for Everyone

Guest Blogger: John Laughner

Please welcome Mr. Laughner to the blog. He has written a few stories before. You may recall the robot suit series and the misdeeds of ThunderBlot. He returns with his take on man versus nature. Please enjoy.

It was two days before Thanksgiving and Tom, the turkey, was on old McDonald's farm. Tom was afraid of being eaten for Thanksgiving, so he hid in the hay field. He was scared the farmer would find him. He was shaking and hunched down. He thought about what it would be like to be eaten.

On Thanksgiving morning, the farmer awoke to look for his turkey and he was gone. He looked in the barn, down the driveway, and under the porch. He gave up and ate sausage instead. He knew the turkey chickened out.

Tom came back when the farmer came out to get some milk from the cows. The farmer looked at Tom and said, "I really wish I could have eaten you. At least there is another family that wants you for Christmas."

The Holidays Aren't Happy for Everyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Cuz That's How I Roll

I found an activity for John and I to spend time together. It's kayaking. Actually it's quite popular in Chattanooga, as evidenced by the fact I saw 20-30 boats in a swimming pool at our university last night during our first roll class.

First we were instructed to put on these skirts made out of something like wet suit material with a large misshapen rubber tutu hanging off of it. Then we put on our PFD's. (That's lifejacket to the uninitiated.) We learned a little about different boats and drain plugs and where to put our knees inside these boats.

Then our new friend/instructor, Liz, took us to the edge of the pool and explained how we were to get into our boats. Saving the details, I'll just say getting in a kayak is not exactly like getting into a canoe. John's first attempt could be called a full immersion baptism into a new sport. I was a little more graceful. I only lost my balance on my second attempt to mount my giant kazoo.

Liz explained very matter-of-factly that our first skill to learn was called the "wet entry". Yep, that's exactly what it sounds like. Now that we had tried so hard to get into our boats, we were now going to get right back out of them. She demonstrated leaning forward and leaning to one side to roll upside down and then "pull yourself out of the boat just like you pull off your pants".

John flipped and apparently got his pants off just fine, which is a relief because he's not that coordinated about undressing on land. Then it was my turn. I surfaced, thinking that wasn't so bad, to find my long-time friend's son, row up and congratulate me for a job well done. Yes! I smiled, thinking I do a great job falling out of perfectly good boats!

Liz demonstrated, with the easy balance and coordination of a mountain-climbing Olympic gymnast, how to get back in our boats from the water. I indulged her and attempted several times even though she insisted I didn't have to. John was delighted to find I could not mount the plastic torpedo and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes trying to do something his mother couldn't.

Meanwhile, Liz moved onto showing me how to attach my skirt to the boat. That was fun and made me feel like a real kayaker. The next step, of course, was how to fall out of the boat when the skirt was attached.

Apparently, the goal of kayaking is to view the river from an upside down position. Anyway, it was again with the pulling off of the pants analogy. Only, to my estimation, this was more like tugging and yanking off your wet, skinny jeans when you are still way too early postpartum, while holding your breath. Simple, Liz, very simple.

Satisfied at my remarkable ability to fall out, we moved onto flipping over while staying in. Apparently, it's all in the hips. She demonstrated how to use the nose of someone else's boat to hold one's head up to breathe while one's boat is still capsized. This only added to my theory that this sport is somewhat akin to inverted snorkeling.

Now, I was supposed to flip my boat back to right while keeping my head resting on the nose of her boat. I'm going to call that "underwater boat yoga". When my boat was flipped, I was to once again sit up. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

John was still trying to mount his kayak from the water.

When I had sufficiently flipped my hips, it was time to discuss kayaking distress. Aha, someone involved with this sport had, in fact, figured out that too much hanging upside down from a capsized boat could be too much of a good thing.

I was instructed to flip completely upside down, bring my hands out of the water and bang loudly on my boat three times. That would alert my kayaking buddies I was finished holding my breath and needed their assistance. Then I was to rub my hands back and forth along the length of my boat.

At that point, my "buddy" would ram the nose of his or her kayak into the side of mine. I would then take hold of said boat, assuming my hands still have gripping power after a potential direct hit, and pull myself to the correct angle and lift myself to breathe and perform that little hip-flipping stunt we had already practiced.

Liz waited and smiled in that encouraging way that says, "I know what I've just asked you to do is complete insanity, but I have training and certification so I know you will do it. Plus you did sign the waiver."

I'm fuzzy on the next part. I remember banging my hands on the boat. The rest was done completely by instinct or guardian angel (I'm not sure which).

I found myself upright once more, hearing distant and water-filled sounds of "Good job. Would you like to do it again?" But all I could do was think how it felt like I had tried to Neti Pot the entire pool. I finally understood the reason behind those nose plugs I saw on other kayakers.

Liz gave me some upside-down reprieve to work on my paddling skills and tried to talk John into trying something other than taming his florescent green bucking bronco. I paddled around amidst all those kayaks feeling somewhat like a plastic toy in the bathtub of an overindulged child.

My sinuses dumped a fair amount of chlorinated water down my throat and my hearing had returned so I decided I was up to attempting the "buddy rescue" again. In my mind it should be called banging-on-the-boat-while-drowning-and-waiting-for-the-miracle-to-happen.


She had training and certifications and I HAD signed a waiver... She also had pity on me and lent me her nose plugs.

Ahh, that was much less like drowning than the first time.

John paddled around and fell in on accident a couple of times. (Why not on purpose like a normal kayaker?) But it was obvious he was ready to go. So we drained our boats and returned the rest of our equipment and got dressed.

He really thought this sport was for the birds. (Weird, swimming, upside down birds, I suppose.) But I bought him some hot chocolate on the way home and now he's gung-ho to go back next week. I am too. Right after I purchase some noseplugs.

****Update**** I've been reminded it's actually called a wet exit, not a wet entry. I blame it on losing the hearing in my clogged ears and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I recommend if you want to learn about kayaking for real, you don't do it through my blog. ****

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Laundry Update

A couple of people have asked how my new hamper system was working after my laundry post.

It's better. It doesn't take away the laundry pain completely. If nothing gets folded, it is still easier to find in separate baskets. I discovered that everyone has different time frames they need clothes. Hannah has enough clothes she doesn't need me to do laundry for a loooong time. The baby has lots of clothes but she goes through them quickly and because they are separated, I'm better about stain treating them and remember to check them over before they go in the dryer.

Theo and I hang all of our clothes except shorts and underclothing so I started doing a little presorting and just washing tops and bottoms and I realized we have enough underwear to go twice as long and get a full load of socks and underwear. And because our clothes are big...each item I hang up makes a big dent in the basket.

It also takes a lot of the emergency out of the laundry. One or more of us use to discover there wasn't anything clean to wear but I might have already had a load going. I wasn't sure if the load in the washer had what was necessary or not. I would frequently find myself in dire need of pants only to find out that the current load had three of my shirts and no pants.

It's easy to determine what needs to be washed and prioritize. I'm still not getting things folded fresh from the dryer but the piles are small, homogeneous, and they don't scare me, so I don't put them in the corner next to the bed, hoping they will magically disappear.

Last night I had a load of clean diapers sitting on the floor at the foot of my bed and a load of kitchen laundry (we don't use paper napkins or paper towels except rarely) was on the bed. I normally would have shoved the stuff off the bed and cowered beneath the sheets dreading my domestic duty.

But, I thought, eh, it's just a stack of towels and napkins. I'll see how fast I can get them done. It was less than five minutes. I tackled the diapers during the day today when I had a spare moment and it really didn't take a long time.

No, it's not perfect. But I currently have all the clean laundry put away before I need to start more. You can mark my grade card with a "shows improvement" and a big ole smilie face.