Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Yoda Shirt It Is

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I know I still need to update about our move...and I will...but I've been busy tie-dying things. My project for last night and this morning was a Yoda shirt for Elias. Well, one for Oliver, too, but his didn't turn out as well.

It didn't come out exactly as I wanted it to, but it's close enough. Here's a tutorial in case you want to try it yourself. (Hint: This also works great with Mickey heads!)


  • T-shirt(s)
  • Dye and any necessary chemicals (I got mine from Dharma Trading Company)
  • Computer and printer or an ability to draw shapes
  • Pencil
  • Dental floss
  • Sewing needle
  • Rubber bands
  • Squirt bottles, and a small funnel helps
  • Newspaper
  • Paper towels
  • Latex gloves (or similar)
  • Cookie sheet and cooling rack (optional)
  • Saran Wrap
  • Measuring cups and stuff, if necessary for dying chemicals

Start by washing and drying your shirts.

While you're doing that, go online and find the shape you want on your shirt, or draw it if you desire. Remember that it will be a silhouette, so the interior details don't matter. You also want to make sure it's something that will be recognizable from just the outline. I chose these Yoda-heads because they were the most symmetrical ones I could find. Resize as necessary based on the size of your shirt.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

When your shirts are dry, decide where you want your images and trace the shape onto them with a pencil.

921dd8fe, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Next, thread some dental floss onto your needle and make a loose running stitch all around your outline. I think my stitches were about 1/4" apart.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Once you've done that, it's time to pull the dental floss tight so you get a little poof.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Next you want to place a rubber band tightly around the dental floss. Try to get this as exact as possible. In this case, you can see the little Yoda ears popping out. Ideally, your whole image will be on the inside of the rubber band, and the rest of the shirt will be on the outside.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Now it's time to soak your shirts in soda ash, if your dye calls for it.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

While your shirts are bathing, prepare your dye and set up whatever surface you're going to be using. I planned on doing it outside, but it was raining. So I lined some cookie sheets with newspaper and set cooling racks on top of them. This worked out perfectly.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

When your shirts are done soaking, take them out and form them into a big spiral with the Yoda head in the middle. This is actually a very important step, and the one that's hardest to photograph when you're by yourself. If you don't know how to do it, there are a bazillion videos on YouTube. Just search for "tie dye spiral." Important: Make sure, after you have rubber banded everything, that your Yoda head sticks up out of the middle.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Time for dye!

Hold the shirt upside down and very carefully saturate the Yoda head in your chosen Yoda color. Get the entire Yoda head, but nothing more than the Yoda head.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Next, Take one of your spiral colors and dye half of the circle, trying not to get any dye on Yoda. Take your time and get into the little crannies.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Then, do the other half with your other color.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Lift up the shirt and wipe off your cooling rack with a paper towel. Flip the shirt over and stick Yoda between two of the slats. Repeat the dying process (minus Yoda) on the other side.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Wrap your shirts in Saran Wrap or a plastic grocery bag, and let sit. My dye directions called for letting the shirts sit for 4-24 hours. 

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I can wait 9 months to find out the gender of my children, but my shirts only rested for eight hours before I broke down and opened them up.

When you unwrap your shirts, rinse them in cold water until the water runs clear, then wash according to directions.

8dfbd754, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I was fairly sure early on that Oliver's shirt wouldn't turn out too well. As soon as I bunched up the dental floss I realized that Yoda's head was just too tiny and wouldn't show the definition very well. His sort of looks like a giant green eye.

With Elias's, I wish Yoda didn't have so much white space around his head. I was surprised by that because I thought I did a good job getting down into all the grooves, but maybe not.

I also wish Yoda's head had been lighter. The dye was Sage, which was much more Yoda-colored on the website when I ordered it. It wound up being much darker in person.

But Elias likes his shirt, and Oliver's too young to care, so it's all good.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The End of an Era

Last we left off, I think we had just decided to put our house on the market. We were hoping to avoid a short sale but had pretty much resigned ourselves to a long, drawn out process and the fact that a short sale couldn't be avoided. We were sort of looking forward to living rent-free for a few months.

That's why we were shocked two weeks later when my agent/friend called to say, "I regret to inform you that we got you full asking price for your house." Now, full asking price still means that we walk away with absolutely nothing. In fact, we have to pay a couple thousand out-of-pocket to cover fees and whatnot. Our down payment and everything we've put into this house are gone, but our credit is in tact, so I suppose that's something.

Suddenly we found ourselves in a rush of paperwork and a scramble to figure out where we were going to live. Would we stay around here for the next year, or would Steve pull the plug and retire early, meaning we could head out to Illinois or wherever the hell we're eventually going?

At first things didn't look promising. There weren't a lot of rental houses in our immediate area within our price range, and those that existed were kind of scuzzy. We wound up increasing our radius, though, and found a very nice little house on an extremely quiet cul-de-sac in Laguna Hills. The landlord was pleased with our great credit, and we're moving in...tomorrow!

We have a lot of emotions--mainly sadness--about leaving this house, which I'll probably leave for a separate post later on, when I feel like thinking about it. Right now we're pretty much in denial.

Must get back to packing...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Infamous Date

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Anyone moderately familiar with American history knows that Franklin Roosevelt, in announcing war with Japan, described December 7, 1941, as "a date which will live in infamy." People are less familiar with another infamous date, also related to Roosevelt and Japan, and the subject of our most recent camping trip.

Seventy years ago today, February 19, 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the government to remove residents and citizens of Japanese descent from their homes on the west coast and imprison them indefinitely in internment camps. Ostensibly this was done to "protect" them from prejudice and retaliation, but in reality, this WAS prejudice and retaliation.

More than 100,000 residents, two-thirds of whom were citizens born in this country, were given mere days (if that) to sell their homes, businesses, and belongings, and to pack two suitcases to take with them to...somewhere. They were then placed in hastily and inadequately built camps as close as Southern California and as far as Arkansas. Due process was thrown out the window.

I had always been interested in the internment camps, and a couple months ago, after studying about Pearl Harbor, I introduced the topic to Elias. It's a hard subject to explain to a kid, but I had a couple children's books on the camps, which made it as approachable as possible for a 7-year-old.

A couple weeks later, when deciding where we should go on our next camping trip (Oliver's first!) I decided we should visit Manzanar, site of one of the internment camps, located in Middle of Nowhere, California.

We hadn't yet visited such a somber location as a family, but I felt it was important to see, especially while Elias was so interested.

So last weekend, we packed up and drove the five hours to Lone Pine, just a few miles from Manzanar. The drive was long and took us through landscape that can only be described as desolate. It was easy to imagine the bewilderment of Japanese-Americans trying to make sense of where they were being sent after having been forcibly removed from their homes.

Today, not much remains of Manzanar, yet it was an enriching, if sobering, experience. Manzanar is now designated as a national park. An auditorium built toward the end of the internment period now houses a modern, interactive, and informative museum. You can follow a driving tour of the grounds. A few structures remain, and some others (a guard tower and a couple barracks) have been recreated, but most of the former buildings' locations are marked with just a plaque. The government plans to eventually recreate more of the camp, but for now, it consists largely of overgrown brush. An obelisk in the cemetery area stands in honor of those who died in the camps.

If you live in or are visiting Southern California, Manzanar is definitely worth a trip. It's history that more people should know, and that we should never forget.

Here are some photos from our visit.

Site of the ironically-named camp newspaper:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Home plate:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Anna and Elias in a reconstructed barrack:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Moving On...Again?

Wow, it's been a while. (Seems like I start every post that way now!)

If we're friends on Facebook, you might have seen that a couple weeks ago I alluded to big news, so here it is:

We're selling the house again. Hopefully. Again.

As you may recall, things didn't go so well last time. Perhaps I really should have taken the freak-summer-in-Southern-California-thunderstorm-while-signing-listing-documents as an omen. We kept lowering the price, but eventually it got to the point that we weren't going to be able to sell it for what we wanted.

So, what has changed? Can we sell it for what we want now? Hahahahahahaha! No! But we have determined that if we sell now, we might be able to avoid a short sale.

See, our most recent plan was for Steve to retire around this time next year, at which point we would rent this place out and move somewhere else, likely Illinois. Then I was talking with a friend of mine who is very up on the real estate market and other financial stuff, and he said that unless we were making money on the house, it wouldn't be worth it. I said that we would probably lose money, but we would have additional tax write-offs and whatnot. He said it would take so long to get back to the point we want (basically, what we paid for it), that we would be crazy to hold onto it. He said we'd be hemorrhaging money to save what's already lost. That's when I had my a-ha moment and realized he was right.

The market also isn't showing signs of recovering at all here, so, as I said, selling now means we might avoid a short sale. Waiting a year almost guarantees we won't.

The house has been on the market for a week now, and we have had a lot of traffic and positive comments. If we sell for the asking price, we will just about exactly break even after commission. Our down payment and all we've put into the house will be gone, but at least we won't continue to lose money on it.

If we don't get our asking price, then we're looking at a short sale that could drag out for months.

Our next step is still up in the air, and depends a lot on how soon the house sells. We might rent a place around here until Steve is ready to retire, or Steve might become ready to retire sooner than he planned. In any case, we will likely be gone from Southern California by or around this time next year. It likely will not involve full-time RVing, but might involve some significant part-timing, depending on how things go. Of course, things rarely go as we plan, so who knows.

In other news, we took Oliver out for his first camping trip in the Jupiter Too last weekend. I'm going to work on a write-up of that in the next couple days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's a boy!


Sorry I haven't updated for a while.

We did take another trip since the last time I posted--to Visalia/Sequoia and Valencia. I meant to post about it, but since I haven't yet, I probably won't. You can read about my fear of plunging off a cliff in Sequoia in my post at, though.

We also took a trip (by plane) to Illinois in August, but the rest of our time was spent waiting for the new baby to arrive.

I'm pleased to announce that baby Oliver made his appearance on September 21. He was born (as planned) in a pool in our back yard, surrounded by flora and fauna. Hey, maybe he'll be an outdoorsy type!

So far (knocking on a huge chunk of wood) he is a very easy-going baby. He rarely cries, and although he wakes up a few times a night to eat, he falls right back asleep. Elias and Anna adore him, too.

We don't have any trips planned for now, but when we do, Oliver will be ready with his vintage-trailer blankie (pictured above).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another Madonna

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Steve is on a little adventure without us or the Jupiter Too right now. He's in Arizona helping with media relations for the big wildfire they have out there.

His trip does tie in with our blog, though.

Last night, before Steve left, I jokingly asked him if he wanted to take my "WPA Guide to 1930s Arizona" with him. It's a book I originally read for my aforementioned American Highway course in college, but which I've held onto and which has inexplicably been sitting on a counter in our living room for the past several months.

See, during the Depression the WPA commissioned travel guides for various states, and some of them have been reprinted. It's neat to read about what places (especially sparsely populated places) were like back then. Or at least it is for me, because I'm a huge nerd.

Steve declined to take the book, but I did look up the city he was going to--Springerville--in the index. Sure enough, there was a write-up.

At the time, the population was under 600. (I'm not sure what it is today.) Most of the write-up was about a guy who caught some horse thieves, but when I got to the last paragraph I squealed with delight: Springerville is the location of one of the Madonnas of the Trail statues!

Steve said he'd be sure to go by, and he took the above photo on the way to his briefing this afternoon. I'm a little sad I can't see it myself, but given the circumstances it's probably for the best.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stuck in the Sand

Last week we took the Jupiter Too up to Solvang, the quaint little Scandinavian town on California's central coast.

Other than eating pancakes (very, very good pancakes) and looking at European kitsch, there's not a whole lot to do there, so we also spent some time exploring nearby areas.

One afternoon we found ourselves at Pismo Beach, the only beach in California where you can drive on the sand. I didn't really get the appeal: Why would we want to drive on the sand? Moreover, why would one want to be on a beach where others were driving on the sand? But Steve wanted to try it out just to say he did it, so I went along for the ride, so to speak.

It actually was kind of neat. It was also unbelievably windy.

We drove near the waterline on the wettish, compact sand until we got to the end of the vehicle area. At that point we got out and snapped a photo.


About 30 seconds after Steve took that photo, the wind ripped that frisbee-like thing out of Elias's hands (or so he claims). It spun like a wheel on that yellow outer rim and rolled away past the "No Vehicles Permitted" sign. We told Elias sorry, it's gone. But he started crying, which is unusual for him. Luckily the frisbee-thing then lodged itself against a fence just outside the vehicle area, so Steve said he'd go get it.

Since we had to get back in the truck anyway and because it was so windy, we drove the 200 or so feet over to the fence rather than walking. Steve retrieved the toy then got back in and...discovered we were stuck.

I told him to put it in reverse because I know in snow you're supposed to rock back and forth. But snow tends to compact whereas sand tends to bury you deeper, plus the truck wasn't moving in any direction. Steve got out and discovered the sand was up to the running boards, thanks in part to the powderiness of being farther from the water and in part from the wind blowing so much of it against the tires just in the short time we were stopped.

Steve got out to contemplate our situation while I googled "vehicle stuck in sand." About then, a guy in a red pickup truck came driving up and started talking to Steve. The guy--who turned out to be a firefighter, too--told Steve the same thing I had just discovered in an eHow article: We needed to let air out of the tires.

So Steve let air out of our two front tires and the guy hitched us up to his truck. A minute later and we were back on the compact sand, and we had learned a valuable lesson.

Now that we know how we're supposed to drive on sand, we might even go back sometime...with the trailer! (They allow camping on the beach, too.)

As for the other stuff we did:

I found an absolutely awesome playground not far from the touristy section of Solvang. It had amazing wooden play structures, misting stations (though it was too cool to need them), swings, slides, a pristine baseball diamond, etc.




In Arroyo Grande (about an hour from Solvang) we went to a great ice cream place called Doc Burnstein's. They had some really neat flavors, like a coffee ice cream with ground-up espresso beans, Birthday Cake (Anna had that--and it did taste exactly like birthday cake), Merlot, and the one I liked most: Marzipan!

Also, while our truck might have been stuck in the sand, at least our heads weren't! Yeah, that's a really lame segue into the other highlight of our trip: feeding ostriches and emus at an ostrich farm.


Here's video of Steve feeding the ostriches. (The kids each fed the emus instead, because they were a little more tame. The emus, that is, not the kids.)

Our campground was really nice, too. Lots and lots of grass for the kids to play in.


The only downside is that it was so windy we couldn't have a campfire any of the nights we were there, which meant no s'mores and no pie-iron pies (more on that another time).