Saturday Morning

Has spring arrived for real? I hope so. It's beautiful outside and we're really enjoying it. Hatches open, the birds' songs are the only music playing today, and our pooch is soaking up the sun and watching boat owners slowly arrive back at the marina after a looong winter. Hope spring is here to stay.

Just realized that I caught the pooch, mid-lick. Funny.


One great thing about living aboard is that we can take our home most anywhere. We can travel by water and visit varous inlets and towns, and marinas. Visiting a marina across the bay last weekend was enjoyable; and, being myself I was very excited to see how lovely the bathrooms were. A big shower with a huge supply of hot water is wonderful.

The rest of the marina was just as lovely.

Docking Happens

It takes 25 times doing something new before it becomes habit (or, so I've been told by very smart people). Such is scary when I apply this principle to docking a boat (25 times!?!). When the time approaches to bring our boat into a slip,  my heart begins to race, my palms sweat, and I feel like crying. Docking is one area of liveaboard life that definitely makes me feel like a fraud. Living only at the dock is no fun, so docking inevitable. And, it's something I need to practice... often.

This past weekend we took our boat out for the first time since bringing her home in November.

We had a battery charger that needed installing, and a marina across the river has a reputation for excellent maintenance. We chose a sunny, 50-degree day and enjoyed our time motoring over.  We viewed the birds, the huge houses on the shore, time with one another;  then, the pilings began to appear. First, the red and green guideposts into the channel, and then those at the marina from which flags waved to us, calling us in (and taunting me a bit).

Wind blew and gusted in from the northwest, which would end up being our port side when we would be bringing our boat into the slip. Gusts of wind are tricky, as they push the boat in the direction of how the wind is moving; usually, directly into pilings, or another boat. My patient husband instructed me on my job, which was to lasso one line over top of the center piling to our port side. This would prevent our boat from being pushed, by the wind, into the finger pier to our starboard side. Having that center line would keep the boat steady and we could easily secure the additional lines.

On our first attempt, the docking was easy. I successfully quickly secured the line (yay) and then sadly we realized that the slip wasn't long enough for our 36 foot boat. That's okay, we reversed and chose a second slip. Again, (was I suddenly a docking goddess?) I easily slipped the line over my target piling. Yet, we weren't incredibly sure about the width and length of the slip, so reversed out we did again. No problem, though (I was thinking), two times means I'm getting this and I could do it over and over again.

Not so fast, of course. Any time the ego gets to feeling good, the universe puts him/her in his/her place - right?  As we made our third docking attempt (and when a big gust of wind decided to move through) the boat couldn't get close enough to the center portside piling for me to slip the line around it, and I wasn't quick enough to grab the boat hook behind me to aid with the job. Missing the piling was a major fiasco because with the wind, and not having a center secure line, the boat was moving in its own direction which ended up almost sideways in the slip. The huge 60-foot powerboat two slips over was evil-eyeing us because there was ample opporunity for our boat to slide right over there and smack the side of that vessel.

We tightly held on to the lines that we could secure, took a few minutes to calm, and then redirected our plan. I honestly looked at my husband for his guidance as I was clueless (and a bit spooked). We were able to get the boat right (and, I do not remember now what we did!), we then backed out of the slip, and we talked about what had gone wrong and made a new plan. The fourth docking attempt proved to be successful and after adjusting the lines,  a huge wash of relief and pride washed over me (along with a light stinging on my palms because of pulling on lines so tightly for so long).

Our group of liveaboard friends say, Docking Happens. When I began sailing with my husband, he always said that you can tell a lot about a couple by how they communicate when docking their boat. This is probably why in the beginning of our sailing days, he many times told me to relax and sit down while he did everything (to cause awe on the onlookers on the pier). Over time, we've learned how to communicate, and I really owe that to my husband who is incredibly patient, level-headed, and calm in the midst of chaos. Maybe it's his seventh-grade teaching experience, or that he's just a really good captain and person. It's likely a mix of both.

A big accomplishment for me on this trip was staying calm, paying attention, and not only focusing on my one job but what was happening elsewhere on the boat.  I watched what was going on around me and made quick decisions. My husband once told me that my greatest skill is how I consider and think; but, he said, it's also my biggest downfall. With the boat, he's said that I will take time to think instead of just doing - even though I know what to do I second-guess myself and then the time lost allows bad things to happen. This time, I acted and through acting, gained some confidence which will surely aid me in many docking experiences to come.

Beauty Aboard

There are common questions that liveaboards are asked often. How do you stay warm? Do you have a television? Do you have a bathroom? How do you shower? What do you do during storms?

We do have a bathroom (er, head it's called on a boat) complete with toilet and shower.
Being a female, one of the other questions about boat life is things concerned with beauty, clothes, shoes, etc. There are considerations a working female has to make (in my opinion) when moving aboard that a male neccessarily does not. Keeping clean for my handsome husband really can be wet wipes, soap, and shampoo. That's it. If he skips a shower one day, I honestly can't tell. But with me, skipping a shower means that the oil well on the top of my head has exploded and I'm a greasy mess. I require a daily shower that includes multiple products.

On or off of a boat, when it comes to keeping up with beauty, beauty is not (nor has it ever been) my strong suit. I miss the mark on current fashion trends, my makeup is minimal even on date nights or work days, and my husband tells me I look cute when I'm in jeans and a fleece top.

I do try my best, though, to look nice. Being a thirty-something lady, I have entered the mysterious realm of anti-aging creams and potions. When we moved aboard last November, I hadn't realized when packing how many products I had collected. I had moisturizers, night creams, eye serums, masks, etc. I organized all of those "must-keeps" in the head; my husband asked if I really needed all of them, to which I replied, "yes". With those purchases I had secured promises that my skin would stay youthful and I would retain whatever beauty that I currently possessed.

Yet, as I've noticed how much space beauty items take up (and how many I actually use and like), I also started looking into what was in the products that promised forever beauty. Most of those that I was using for wrinkle prevention and correction contained an astounding amount of chemicals; many of which have been linked to really serious health issues. I realized that with the promise of beauty, there's a compromise of one's health. Maybe not immediately, but over time a build up of toxins can negatively affect the body.

One way I began to notice this was through using the EWG Cosmetics Database. This site allows a user to type in the name of a beauty product (shampoos, makeup, cleansers, etc.) and the database reveals it's level of toxicity (a green 0 means safe) and then one also sees a listing of the toxins included in the product and the associated effects on the body and its systems. With the EWG site, I found that my purchased anti-aging products smoothed wrinkles and also delivered: organ system toxicity, endocrine disruption, cellular level changes, cancer, and even something called, ecotoxicology (yikes). 

Most everything that is advertised on television, in print magazines, and worn by millions of women in our country, is toxic. Studies have been done and show that almost immediately, toxins absorbed through our skin by wearing makeup and beauty products find their way through our systems and pass through the body when we urinate. Think of the paths these chemicals take (and the interactions/effects they have) in order to make that complete journey. What we place on our skin (our largest organ) doesn't stay there - toxins are absorbed into our body.

I think back to watching the Michael Keaton Batman movie (note, the best Batman movie, I think) when the Joker was messing with cosmetics and making them deadly. I see in my memory the newscasters without makeup. Knowing how toxic common cosmetics and other products are doesn't quite make me want to stop using them altogether (it wouldn't be pretty, literally), but it make me want to think about how to make better choices.

I didn't have enough money to completely scrap everything and start over, but I was able to start looking for better alternatives (and for companies that more valuable receipients of my money).  Through the EWG site, I did find some great companies that offered non-toxic products, but I'm super excited about finding the Green Grab Bag .

The Green Grab Bag is a monthly box service that ships subscribers a variety of eco-friendly, organic, and non-toxic beauty products. Each month, I receive a little sample of products that I can try; and, for those that I like I can buy a full size supply from the website. In the boxes so far (I've subscribed for about four months) I've amassed a nice collection of soaps, shampoo, face moisturizer, masks, toner, makeup, and oils.

Each month I add what I receive to a collection that resides in my shower bag so they are always with me when I walk up to the marina shower house. I can reach in and decide which products I want to try that day. I believe that I've saved money by spending only the little bit it costs for the monthly box, in comparison to purchasing full size products. And, it's enjoyable to try something different each day if I choose to do so. And, getting a gift box in the mail each month - super fun!

Most importantly, I feel that I'm conciously making a healthy choice that is good for me, the planet, and grealty assists in devleoping small companies that are working hard to do good in our world. Good, non-toxic products may not fix all of my beauty blunders but they do leave me feeling incredibly beautiful on the outside. And, of course, that's more important.

Easy Pillowcases

Sewing room in our old house
Sewing space was a consideration when looking at new boats. I absolutely loved having my own sewing room when we lived in our house. I could escape up there with a project and it was my own space for storing all of the items that were absolutely neccessary for a successfully crafty life.

Our current boat has a drop-down table that is wide and long enough for both my sewing machine and rotary cutter board. I also have a small side table that works perfectly for setting up my roll-up ironing pad. 

One of my recent projects was a pillowcase fashioned from a t-shirt. I volunteer with my local Hospice House, and one of our clients wanted to do something special with two of her late husband's t-shirts. T-shirt pillowcases were the perfect (and quick) option. (I like the easy steps from the Southern Institute.)

I forgot to take pictures of the t-shirt pillows before I delivered them; but, the Southern Institute provides great pictures of how these pillows end up looking. It's a great project to keep around beloved shirts that one cannot or has grown away from wearing. A t-shirt quilt is another great project, but more time consuming and expensive.

With t-shirts, it's best to use fusible web so that the t-shirt fabric doesn't stretch much when sewing. Stretching will make for incorrect measurements, and a sloppy finished project (in my opinion). I buy fusible web (when I am planning for multiple t-shirt quilts or pillows) by the bolt, and that's a good bargain. Also, it's easy to store, up and away on a shelf, behind my sewing bin.

To ready a t-shirt or other clothing for sewing, here is my process (with an 18-inch project), with 1/4 inch allowance.

1. I cut the t-shirt apart into its pieces: front, back, sleeves. There should be four separate pieces of t-shirt. For the t-shirt pillowcase, you'll use the front and back t-shirt pieces..

2. I would cut a 19.5-inch piece of fusible web for the front of the shirt. (The Pellon fusible web, that I use, is usually at a width of 20-inches, so even 20 x 20 would work.) These pieces should be bigger because you'll iron them onto the t-shirt pieces before cutting the pieces to size. Once the t-shirt is fused, it will make for a cleaner and more accurate cut.

3. Iron on the fusible web to the back of the t-shirt's front side (or the back side, if that is where the main graphic is - the graphic that will be used for the front of the pillow.)

4. Cut big piece of fusible web to cover the entire other side of the t-shirt. I cut the lenght of the fusible web right at the beginning of the shirt's hem at the bottom. That is ironed on, as well, and gives you a big piece of fabric to use for the back of the pillow.

5. With the fabric fused, you can now cut it as you would regular fabric. For a 18-inch pillow, the front piece should be cut to 18.5 inches square, with the graphic nicely centered in the middle. (I take a lot of time centering up the graphic with ruler and rotary cutting board.)

6. For the back pieces, I start with the side with the hem and cut a piece that is 18.5 x 12.5 inches (I subtract 6 inches less than the pillow size). Then, I hem the end of the other piece, and cut a piece that is 18.5 x 14.5 (4 inches less than the pillow size).

7. Now, all pieces are ready to be sewn together using the Southern Insitute's process. I sew with an 1/4 inch seam allowance. Once the pieces are sewn together, remember to cut the corners so you will be able to push the fabric outward to make pointy corners. Make-it Love-it does a great job of showing you why you should clip corners, and how to do it.

Using the same process as the t-shirt pillowcases (minus ironing-on the fusible web), it's easy to recover a dated pillow or make new pillows. I like this process because it allows for an opening in the back of the pillowcase for easy removing of the pillow, so the pillowcase can be washed. If you are similar to me, dogs and husbands like to lay on them and they are destined to get dirty. Being able to do a quick wash is great. My plan is to make a few pillowcases from the fabric that I chose for our boat curtains (that project, TBD), and my husband kindly reminded me that I needed to get started on those curtains soon - so, look for updates on those : )

Weekend of Good Food and Friends

This weekend was a big one. Lots to do, many people to see, and much fun to be had.

Our marina, picture taken by my hubby.
Sadly, Friday began with a funeral for a close family friend. An Air Force veteran, life-long farmer, past community leader, and dedicated husband and father - his farewell was impressive and so honorable. We are blessed to call his family our friends, and being able to be there to talk and laugh and ease some of the hurt, I am grateful for that.

Saturday was a wedding celebration for another set of close friends, who are set to marry in May. A couples' shower it was and the food, desserts, and company was wonderful. Late into Saturday night there were laughs (and dancing!) - so much excitement for the big day to come.

Pastry plates from our local pasty shop - Yum!
 And, Sunday, after sleeping in (and wearing off all of the fun had the night before) we ended up back at the party house for oysters (caught fresh by a local young man) and party leftovers. Living in the country has many benefits, but one especially is the kindness of our neighbors. The young man mentioned is a favorite person of ours. In the winter, he calls us to share his extra venison and in the warmer months, oysters are plenty.  Trying to set a price with him is difficult. On the phone, my husband said, "We'll give you $40," to which the young man replied, "Ah, how about $10?" My husband laughed, telling him that he is negotiating the wrong way. At the pickup we gave him $30 and he took it only because I told him that he should use it to take his new girlfriend to the movies. This young man would give us an abundant amount of food and services without ever thinking to ask to be paid - his kindness is incredibly generous. One example of the values that still do exist in families and it warms my heart.

So, food! On Sunday we had oysters baked with onion, cheese, bacon... and then all the leftovers from the party. I did make the majority of the food for the shower at the host's house earlier in the day; however, these all can be made aboard. The food is easy and so tasty - honestly, on Sunday, the food tasted better.

Skinny Shrimp Salsa is by Gina at Skinny Taste. This salsa is easy and fresh and is a perfect companion to tortilla chips. On Sunday, we warmed corn tortillas, filled them with leftover salsa and topped with some sharp cheddar cheese. Yum!

My 5th loaf of bread using the WryGrass recipe - So good.
To go with the chili, I made three loaves of the Easiest Bread You'll Ever Make, which was posted by Candice over at Wry Grass. So good - I'm always wanting to make bread but I trip up in the process (not sure what I do wrong). My fears were conquered with this recipe - you simply use flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and then mix with 12 oz of any beer. Bake for 40 minutes and enjoy. Each of the three loaves that I made were made with varying beers; the different tastes were unique and enjoyable.

Another appetizer was Alouette's Spinach and Artichoke Crab Dip. For this, using soft spinach and artichoke cheese with the crab makes for a sweet dip. A bit thin, I think using fat-free milk is what caused the lack of thickness; but, warmed up the following day, broiled with some sharp cheddar on top, it was wonderful. A really good dip (just use the full boar milk when you try it).

Thankful for a great weekend with family and friends; in light of the passing of a close friend, we are even more thankful for the days we continue to have with our friends and family, the liveaboard life that we so enjoy each day, and for the health that enables us to do all that we do. Now, as I sit and down multiple cups of chai tea to get ready for a new week, I hope that anyone reading this has a wonderful week and may you each capture the blessings that each day brings to you.

Out Like a Lion

"What?" My husband asked.

"Out like a lion. You know," I said, "If winter goes out like a lion, spring comes in like a lamb". He had not heard of that saying but it's one that I remember from my elementary years growing up in lower Michigan. We had crazy winters some times and then sweet springs; other times, it was an easy winter and spring raged in its arrival.

Last week, we were slated to get up to five inches of wet, heavy snow where I live in a mideastern state. Yet, no white ever came; just, hard cold wind and a lot of rain. Due to the direction of the wind, our tides were high and our piers were underwater.  Luckily, we did our "dog duty" before I was trapped on the boat at a height too high to jump from.

We rocked all day; at times, I had visions of Old Man Winter fiercely blowing his winter breath directly on our port side. My wonderful husband considers storm maintenance a "blue job" so he braved the wind and rain when he would head outside to check and adjust our lines and other boats on our dock.

The dog has learned to position himself out of the way and peacefully slumber through our storms.

Power remained on until around 5 pm and that's when we used our backup heat - Mr. Buddy. He's a wonderful friend that warms up the entire cabin. He glowed all night as we read, listened to our NPR station on the radio, and feasted on chips and dip and Paula Deen's Hurry Up Chicken Pot Pie - so good. (Note: I make the recipe without the eggs or butter and I use any leftover chicken we have as well as any canned or frozen veggies.)

The darkness aboard is skilled at making us incredibly sleepy so we bundled into our aft berth at around 8 pm. Mr. Buddy remained on and we pulled the dog under the covers with us (without power, he's a portable mini-heater). The Mr. Buddy heater has an oxygen sensor on it, so at 11 pm when the propane tank had been used up, we were unsuccessful at lighting the heater with a new canister. The oxygen in the cabin was too low to allow the flame or heater to ignite. No problem, though. We just bounded back into bed and slept warmly and soundly until our wake up at 5 am, when the heater did work again.

Now, spring seems to have sprung and we're enjoying the sunshine and open hatches; even the dog is liking being able to sun himself in the cockpit, smelling (I imagine) all the spring critters that are moving about.

After the storm, we've had some high tides as we  hear the wind direction is still one that is pushing water up into our surrounding river and creek.  But no, problem - life aboard in the spring, to me, is the best place to be.