Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Canning Jar Snow Globes

My dad has been in a huge purging mode and gave me over 100 canning jars to keep and/or sell. I haven't gotten around to selling them yet, but they are all cleaned and organized. Some I've decided to keep, but I really need to start posting these for sale. In the meantime, it seems that re-purposing them is a better use of my time.

I've already set a bunch up with markers, pencils, scissors, etc for our craft area, I plan to make some into hanging lights (no idea where I will hang them) and I just ordered pumps to make a few into soap dispensers, but this past weekend I decided to make some into snow globes.

Making snow globes is relatively easy and there are a lot of sites with instructions, but I did find that there was some trial and error with the process. If I make these again I feel like it will go even smoother.

To start with I selected four jars that didn't have a lot of decoration on them. I wanted something where I could see my creation clearly. I cleaned the jars and lids, and then sanded the lids down a little to help with paint adhesion.

In the future, I will likely use spray paint and/or wait until the snow globes are together before painting them. They got a bit nicked up during the process - mostly you can't see this since it's on the bottom, but I still like to know that it looks good.

I put a couple coats of acrylic paint on the lids and once dry started gluing objects to the lids. One site suggested using styrofoam or molding clay with canning jars to get them higher than the lip of the jar, but this probably isn't necessary if you use something like a sauce jar or baby food jar where the lip is smaller. I had styrofoam on hand so I used that, but I'd be interested in trying the clay next time.

All sites talked about gluing the items, but only one site I read mentioned what kind of glue they used and it was Elmer's. I didn't trust this would last so I used a hot glue gun and Gorilla glue. Turns out I needed them both as the Gorilla glue didn't work very well when it came to securing the styrofoam to the lid fast. The hot gun glue worked fast, but melted the styrofoam a little bit.

I eventually got all the items I wanted secured to the lid and once dry I was able to start the next step of putting water and 'snow' in the jar. I picked up a number of 'snow' items: a couple versions of glitter and fake snow. One site used grated PVC so that might be an options if you have some sitting around. I also added glycerin as it was supposed to help the snow from falling too fast. I found that two capfuls was about right for the smaller jars and 3 capfuls for the larger jars. Baby oil or corn syrup can be used for this as well. I found the glycerin in the baking isle at Michael's. I also found that the fake snow did not work well and just floated to the top. Glitter for the win! I used two different kinds as seen below and used about a teaspoon of each glitter per jar.

Now it was time for them to come together. I lowered each lid into the water and secured it with the screw top part of the lid.. and then tested it. This is where a lot of trial and error came in. This is where I discovered that the fake snow just floated to the top and that the glitter worked best. Also? The tree that I really wanted to use turned the water blue after just a few minutes. I decided to remove it since I figured it would only get worse.

I tested each jar to see if I could get away without gluing them, but they each leaked a little. I tried the glue gun here, but it didn't work so it was Gorilla glue to the rescue. BUT, I used too much and it oozed out the sides. I kept cleaning it off, but wasn't able to get it all and now I have dried glue bubbles around the edges. I think I might pick up some ribbon and wrap it around this area and call it a day.

Here the glue is curing - you can see it oozing out of the lids.

Overall this was a fun project and even though I did most of the work, my almost 4 year old was able to help a little bit. Now, to actually put some canning jars on Craigslist to sell. That, or I need to perfect my snow globes by making 97 more of them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jesse's Birthday 2013

It's that time of year again - Jesse's birthday! His birthday was on 11/11 which was a Monday this year, but we started celebrating the Saturday prior. As I've documented before, I like to do a little more than just buy a gift, wrap it up and present it to him. Past birthdays have been much more elaborate or creative - that is, until we had a kid. And really, I can't blame the kid - it's more about me coming up with fresh and fun ideas.

One thing I did know was that I wanted us to have some one on one time so I worked it out with Grandma to have Riley spend Saturday night at her house. I then left it up to Jesse to tell me what he wanted to do (movie, dinner...). To be honest I can't remember what we did at first this day. I didn't take a lot of pictures to help me remember and when I asked Jesse we had a big debate about when we went to the gym and when we went on that "really cold walk followed by yogurt" (I mean besides when we did that on his actual birthday). What I do remember is making a trip to REI before dinner. Jesse announced that he wanted a new winter hat. Little did he know that I already bought him one for his birthday. I didn't try to stop this trip because I wasn't 'in love' with the hat I bought him and also figured another hat isn't the end of the world. He ended up buying a hat totally different than the one I got him and a pair of gloves.

Also, that coat was a previous b-day gift that included a treasure hunt at REI.

With the shopping done we headed off to Naviya's Thai Brasserie in Linden Hills - something we've been meaning to do since they opened around 3 years ago. Just like last year Jesse wanted to eat at a Thai restaurant which was totally fine by me.

We are big fans of fresh spring rolls and this place did not disappoint. All of the food was delish... and spicy. On a scale of 1 - 5, I got a 1 for my meal and my lips were tingling. Jesse got a 3 and looked visibly uncomfortable at times (just the way he likes it). The lighting was a little too bright for my liking and there was a chill as if I was sitting next to a cracked door, but we'd totally got back here.

After dinner, we thought about going to a movie, but both agreed that jammies on the couch while watching Game of Thrones sounded delightful. We also stayed up past our regular bedtime and slept in until about 8 am. It was a wild and crazy night for us old folks.

The next day we went to the gym and then met grandma and grandpa at Big Bowl for more celebrations (and to pick up our kid). Jesse got an Amazon gift card (which he promptly used) and some homemade chocolate chip cookies (which Riley and I may have mostly eaten) from his mom and her fiance. This was the perfect gift for him as he pretty much orders from Amazon weekly (thank you Amazon Prime). If Amazon started selling groceries I'm fairly certain Jesse would buy all our food from there too.

This year (like most years) I struggled with what I was going to give Jesse as a gift. We had our night out the night before, but that wasn't really anything exciting. I finally decided to incorporate an idea I found on Live Inside my Bubble's blog about a gift she received on her fourth anniversary. Essentially, her husband framed 4 Google Earth photos of where the met, where they live, where they wed, and where they play. I thought it was great.

We don't have a lot of wall space left over to hang something like this so I debated about putting it in a different format, and when I eventually went to Target to find a frame I actually settled on a memory box that had 4 spots on top for pictures. 

Initially, I wanted to change things up with the 4 locations. I haven't bought Jesse a big ticket item for sometime and so I wanted to get him something more than a sentimental gift. We've been talking about one day visiting my friend in Colorado so I thought about having pictures from three places we've been, and then one of Colorado - a way to say 'hey, we are going on vacation'. That didn't really work out after Jesse told me not to get him anything big since we were about to purchase two big ticket items - a PlayStation 4 and a camera. See, if Jesse wants something he just buys it. Otherwise, I may have been able to order that PlayStation 4 for him. And that camera? Well, apparently that's what I am getting for my birthday, but it's really something both of us will enjoy.

So with that I put the following pictures in the memory box:

Where we met - we started our first date at the French Meadow Bakery
Where we live - a view of our neighborhood
Where we wed - Trunk Bay on St. John, USVI
Where we play - The North Shore of Minnesota

Inside I included pictures from throughout the years with commentary on the back. I'm not sure where we'll keep it or how often we'll add to it, but I think it was just the sentimental thing he (and I) needed. It was fun to put together and honestly made me feel more connected to him. Cheesy perhaps, but true. 

I did get a few other items for him: a new colorful winter hat (to replace the one I shrunk last year), a t-shirt (since he's always saying he needs new ones) and a yoga mat towel (which he loved, but returned as he wants to find one that fits his mat better).

After lunch we wandered around the Galleria Mall a little bit, stopping at Restoration Hardware. I love a lot of what they have, but it also depresses me as their stuff is not made for small roomed houses like ours.

And this was only 1/3 of the couch. Seriously, who needs a couch this big? Not us. 

The next day was Jesse's actual birthday. I took a half day (I worked in the morning) so that we could hang out a little in the afternoon before picking Riley up from school. Once off from work we headed out for a walk and ended up getting frozen yogurt (again). The store owner happened to be working that day and commented on our heading out in the cold for yogurt. I mentioned that it was Jesse's birthday and suddenly his frozen yogurt was on the house. Seriously, love this place.

Later, we picked Riley up from school and headed off to the mall to find her some new boots. We bought her spendy new boots previously and they tore up her ankles and she now refuses to wear them (I don't blame her). We ended up buying some cheap Ugg like boots to at least keep her feet warm. We also played a little at the mall play area and commented how Riley was probably going to end up with a cold again (we just got over mild colds a couple weeks ago), but it was me that ended up sick. Bah.

Riley also really wanted cupcakes for Jesse's birthday so we stopped at Byerly's to get some rotisserie chicken for dinner and a couple cupcakes. She selected a carrot cupcake (and really only ate a few bites - mostly frosting), and Jesse and I decided to split the Salty Dog (which was really salty and chocolaty and nummy).

And that was that. Nothing too exciting, but that's sort of how Jesse rolls. However, next year this man turns 40 so I will have to step things up. He's not a party guy so maybe we'll make that trip to Colorado after all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Belize 2007 - Part 2

From where I left off in my last post the hotel drove us back into Belize City where we caught a water taxi to Caye Caulker.

Many tourists head over to Ambergris Caye, but we were looking for a slightly less touristy feel and thought Caye Caulker would be just our speed. My friend's parents had been on the island for a day and mentioned that they thought Mara's looked like a good place to stay so we booked the rest of our vacation there. We had every intention of taking a water taxi over to Ambergris for a day, but that never came about as there was plenty to keep us occupied on Caye Caulker.

Hurricane Hattie hit Caye Caulker in 1961 causing damage that you can still see today at The Split. The hurricane opened up a passage way and then islanders hand dredged it to make a waterway between the east and the west sides of the island. At The Split you can still see concrete and re-bar that was twisted from the hurricane. This is also the only 'beach' - it's certainly nothing glamorous, but a good place to cool off. Our hotel was right near The Split which I found to be an ideal spot.

Mara's Place was nice and had it's own private dock, but I think I might try one of the other establishments if I were to ever go back - not because there was really anything wrong with Mara's, but some of the other places looked a little nicer. There wasn't an air conditioner, but there were a couple fans and I don't remember it being too miserable anyway. Also, at the time they only took cash so if you go make sure you are prepared for that.

The Split.

Our plan was to check out the coral reefs and do some relaxing while on this island and we got just what we were looking for - actually more. Again, there wasn't really a typical tropical island beach here, so if that's your thing this probably isn't your island (I hear Ambergris Caye or the Placencia have pretty good beaches). We did do some snorkeling right off The Split and it gave me a little more confidence about snorkeling and being in the ocean. I actually found myself swimming here. Well, it was probably more like floating (thank you salt in the ocean), but I was moving along and navigating so I call that swimming.

At any rate, the coral reef isn't right off the beach so you have to go on 'excursions'. We went on a half day one and then a full day one. Both were fantastic, but the full day one was OUTSTANDING. Seriously, fantastic.

We went on the half day one first and I have to admit I was totally nervous. Again, I can't swim... or can barely swim so to know that I would be swimming in an area where I couldn't put my feet down freaked me out. Big time. But I knew my husband would be there, and I was given a life jacket to wear around my waist. Plus, our guides were super professional and helpful. They knew the ocean and only put us in areas they deemed safe. We explored a number of areas including Shark Ray Alley. Being the trusting individual I am I seemed to think it was ok to jump in the ocean where there were a TON of sharks and sting rays... and it was ok. I guess this was an area where a lot of fisherman clean the fish they catch so the sharks and stingrays hang out here and are super open to human interaction... or something like that. Anyway, it was a very cool experience.

Super freaky eel. I did not take this picture (I think our guide might have) - no way I was getting close to this thing. 

Anyone remember the Rake magazine? They used to feature people who took pictures of themselves with their magazine. I'm a dork so I actually laminated one of their magazine covers and took it on vacation with us. Yes, this was pre-planned. And no, I never made it into the magazine.

Hard to miss me with that big orange life jacket around my waist.

We took a morning break and ate some fresh pineapple which I remember being the best pineapple I've ever eaten. I'm not sure if it was because of it's tropical freshness or that I was just hungry, but it was wonderful.

Since the half day adventure was a success I agreed to a full day trip. We booked it with a different company, but I'm not sure why. They might have had a better price, or maybe they just had openings, but I'm glad we went with them as they were a superb company. I'm fairly certain the company was Raggamuffin Tours, but I can't remember the first company's name.

For the full day trip we had three guides and  about seven of us travelers, I think. One of the couples were on their honeymoon and were living in Colorado, but were from Minnesota so we had a little bonding moment. Our main guide was super passionate about his job and about the ocean while the other two guides were slightly more reserved (I really wish I remembered their names), but still super nice. They took us to a number of locations during the day and made sure to let us know where the hot spots were and where to avoid. I felt really safe with these guys.

Our guide and the woman originally from Minnesota. I think her name was Val.

During the late morning we made a stop to catch our lunch. Yup, we had a chance to catch our lunch of conch and barracuda. The main guide ended up catching all the conch for some reason, but he and the other guides made a couple of homemade fishing poles and some of our fellow travelers were able to catch the barracuda.

We headed off to a tiny little island called something like 'Little Cockroach Island' which I think was owned by someone that our guide knew. There wasn't really much to it - a shack, some sand and some grass, but our guide had dreams of one day opening a restaurant out there. I kinda got the feeling that there were some after hour parties out here. We dropped off one of the guides to start cooking and we headed out to one more snorkeling location before lunch.

Whenever in the water I stayed close to Jesse and this time was no different. He headed off in a different area than the others. At one point it got a little close to a rough area we were told to avoid so we headed back. The water was deep here so we weren't really close to any coral, but then we saw the most amazing thing ever - two huge stingrays. I think they were Spotted Eagle Rays as they had spots on them. This picture doesn't do any justice, but these things were beautiful, and intimidating and the world stopped as Jesse and I just floated above them as they swam by. Seriously, amazing, but I have to admit that I sort of wanted to get back in the boat after this. It was a reminder that the ocean is a huge, foreign place and that I was a measly visitor. Plus, this was right after The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was killed by a stingray. Um, get me out of the ocean please.

Soon, we all headed back to the boat where the group good naturedly teased me about wearing the orange life vest around my waist. They said it was really helpful because they could look up and make sure I was near so they knew they hadn't wandered too far. Glad I could be of some help to others.

Once all in the boat we went back to Little Cockroach Island where the food was still cooking. We basically hung out and took pictures and anxiously wondered what sort of lunch was going to come out of that shack.

That shack that was in shambles and our three young guides provided us with one of the best meals I've ever eaten. No joke. Fish, potatoes... and I don't even remember anymore, but it was goooood. I hope these guys have opened a restaurant and are spreading the joy.

After a rest, we spent some more time snorkeling. Yes, I got back into the ocean and got a little too close to some coral, but luckily didn't cut myself. That might have been more scary than the stingrays. Again, this was a fabulous trip and I am so glad I conquered my fears of swimming in the ocean. It's still a huge beast that I will carefully navigate, but having Jesse there and guides that knew their stuff really helped.

When we weren't snorkeling we were walking around town and eating. Apparently, there is a three month period where lobster wasn't available and we went during this time. I was so bummed, but we made up for it by eating ceviche as much as we could. I'd go back for the ceviche alone. In fact, Jesse and I often talk about the ceviche we had when we were here.

Lobster traps taunting me - just sitting there.

I tried to remember all the places we ate here, but wasn't successful. I did recall some so I wanted to mention them. The Rainbow Grill had great food, but bad music. If you can sit through the music make sure to check it out. We ate here a couple times. 

I don't remember this place being called Enjoy (but honestly can't remember the name so maybe...), but I can tell it's the same place by pictures on the web. This place was right off the beach, had sand for much of the floor and swings for some of the seats. We came here multiple times for ceviche. Loved the atmosphere and the ceviche was the best.

We ate breakfast at the Happy Lobster Restaurant and Grill one morning which is where I discovered it wasn't lobster season and where I took the above picture of the lob. I remember their breakfast being pretty good even if I was a little disappointed.

I'm beginning to think that there may have been some changes since 2007 (go figure), because I don't recall this place being called Soba Las Olas (but it totally could have been). This was right down the road from our hotel and a place we visited a couple times for breakfast and lunch. Both times were enjoyable.

Oh, and we ate at Habanero's Restuarant as well. This place was a little more upscale and so worth it. We sat out on the balcony and watch the locals play basketball across the street. 

I guess it doesn't matter where you eat, because they really were all good here. I do have a slight regret of not eating at a particular street vendor here so if you go please check the street vendors out and let me know what you think.

One other thing to check out is the sunsets down at The Split. They were especially beautiful there even with the destruction of the hurricane still apparent nearby. 

Oh, and one more thing if you go. Don't be like my husband who read up about some of the bugs here. Yes, there are some rather disturbing ones and they almost turned my husband off from this vacation. Luckily, he asked some questions on a forum and multiple people assured him he had nothing to worry about. And once they found out he was from Minnesota many of them stated that he had nothing to worry about as he had it far worse with Minnesota Mosquitoes.

Anyhoo, I'm not one to do repeat vacations (unless they are local weekend getaways), but I would totally go back to Belize in a heartbeat. There is so much more to Belize than what we experienced - perhaps next time we could go canoeing, or hiking, or stay in these awesome tree houses. The weather was great, the country was easy to navigate, and the people were wonderful. Thank you Belize for a wonderful adventure.