29 December 2009

Happy holidays! And other tales of adventure

I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday season so far! We have had a pretty good Christmas, with some interesting adventures along the way. As usual, our family spent Christmas in Florida along with my grandparents and cousins. Getting there was quite eventful.
As everyone knows by now, the DC metro area was hit with the biggest blizzard ever this December. With a record breaking 16.4" officially, the "Blisaster" really crippled the nation's capital. The snow started falling Friday the 18th, late at night. It snowed and snowed all day Saturday. We kept the news on all day in the background as we packed and cleaned in preparation for our flight Sunday. [On a side note, isn't it amazing how every year we say that we'll be more prepared for the last week of school before winter break, but every year we seem to be less prepared? Really, must work on that for next year.] Luckily, T and I dragged our sleep-deprived selves around Friday afternoon and evening to get all possible errands done. So we could enjoy the beauty of the snow falling and pack in the warmth of our apartment.
By Sunday, the major roads like the Toll Road and the beltway were cleared, the semi-large arteries like 123 and route 7 had seen a few plows, but no chemicals or salt. The smaller roads were lucky to have seen a plow. Fortunately, our apartment complex had plowed a few times, enough that we were able to get out and onto the Toll Road with little difficulty. We got stuck turning onto Mom and Dad's street, which had not been plowed except by brave (or dumb) SUVs. We "parked" in the street, picked up my grandparents and headed to Reston Town Center to wait for everyone else to make it out in the Navigator.

Arriving at the airport, we were greeted by the effects of a full day's worth of grounded planes; hordes of people. Joining the United Premiere line that looked like a regular day's economy line, we decided to split up. T and I left with my gps to get through the enormous security line to the gate. With 15 minutes to the scheduled take off time, we made it to the gate listed on the ticket only to find that the gate had been changed. We scrambled to find the new gate, in a different midfield terminal, while everyone else was still waiting in line to check bags! By the time we arrived at the correct gate, 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time, Dad was calling to say they were not being allowed to check any bags because the plane had left. We saw no plane at the jetway, but saw an entire flight crew crowded around the gate desk. I talked to a man who turned out to be our pilot and discovered that the plane was not there because the ground crew was trying to clear the jetway, but the snow plow was stuck. The plane would be delayed at least 45 minutes. Fantastic! That should be enough time for Mom, Dad and company to get bags checked, through security and to the right gate! But the data at the front desk listed the plane as already departed. A few phone calls later, including a personal call (which may or may not have helped) from our pilot, Dad calls to say they're on their way. The snow plow is towed away, the plane is delayed another half hour or so, but all 5 bags get checked in, and all 9 of us people get on the plane (gps even get an upgrade to first class!).

A little over 2 hours later, we land in Florida and proceed to the baggage claim area. We split up again, some of us sitting with the carry-on luggage while others go to claim bags. Half an hour later, the bag claimers return with only 1 suitcase. The rest seem to still be in DC. Oh well, United says they'll put the bags on the next flight down and will deliver them to us. Our group of 9 happily proceeds to the Hertz Gold area to find 1 Camry where there should be 2. Nine people, 5 seat belts. Dad goes to inquire. A mistake; the agent thought it was a double booking, would we like a Caddy instead? Sure! And we're off on our way to Naples. Another half hour later, we pay a toll to go to Miami. Miami? Toll? We've never paid a toll before. 20 miles later, we make a giant U turn at the only exit on this one way highway to Miami. At 7:30pm, we finally reach our destination, 11 hours after T and I left our apartment that morning.

And our luggage? It arrived 4 days later, by way of snowy Chicago and who knows where else. But it arrived in time for Christmas, and really, who needs clothes (and tooth brushes) when you have family?

03 December 2009

Homemade knifty knitter!

I just made a Knifty Knitter! Basically an easy to use knitting loom, Knifty Knitters are a great fine motor and concentration activity for children (and adults, too!). Ever since I saw this post on Craftzine, I've been thinking of ways to make knitted wrist warmers with my Lunch Bunchers at school.

Whenever it rains, I bring an indoor project for us to do together. It's gotten to the point that the children actually hope it will rain, and rejoice when it does, so we can do another project together. I will have to post some photos of our past activities. One of the first things we did was finger knitting. Only involving yarn (I chose some variegated acrylic to make things more interesting) and your fingers! The children loved the project, though they only made "bracelets." Since then, they occasionally ask me if I will teach them "real" knitting. I only have an hour in which to teach them a project, start to finish, including clean up time. So, I'm not sure we're quite at the point where I can teach them knitting with real needles. But Knifty Knitter, or loom knitting, we can do! I bought a GIANT skein of fun coloured, variegated yarn and am going to split it into equal balls so the children can make little wrist warmers for themselves. I'm more than halfway into my first one, and could barely stop to write this post! I think they will really enjoy this! Best of all, including the fantastic yarn, this project will cost only $1.25 per child. If you'd like to make your own knitting loom, here's a basic tutorial. I will post photos when I make the rest for the children.
Make your own Knifty Knitter
(for child size wrist warmers)

Materials (to make one loom):
5 Low temp glue gun sticks (the oval kind, about 5" long)
1 pvc pipe "hub" (hunt around at your hardware store, it's with all the elbow shaped sections, only this piece has no screw threads, mine 2.5" in diameter and about 1.5" tall)
duct tape (coloured would be fun!)
Glue dots (optional, but quite helpful)

Here's what you do:
  1. Cut the glue sticks in half so you have 10 sticks, each about 2.5" long.
  2. If you are using glue dots, evenly space 10 of them along one edge of the pipe. This will be the "top" of your loom.
  3. Stick one glue stick half to each of your glue dots, leaving about 0.5" space at the bottom, so that about 0.75" sticks up beyond the top of your loom. These are the pegs around which you will wrap your yarn, so don't make them too short or your knitting will easily slide off. Of course, don't make them too long either or it will be difficult to actually knit.
  4. Once the sticks are held in place by the glue dots, use the duct tape to hold them on tightly. I pressed in the edges to really prevent any wiggling. Align the edge of the tape with the top edge of the loom. You will only have about 0.5" to wrap under the bottom edge.
  5. Wrap a second piece of duct tape around, this time aligning the edge with the bottom of the glue sticks. This will generate about 2" of tape hanging off of the bottom of your loom. Cut slits in this tape to allow it to fold nicely into the inside of the loom. Stick down each of these "flaps."
  6. Make sure the tape is all stuck down so it won't catch on any of your yarn, and you're DONE!
If you make a loom, I'd love to see it and photos of what you make!