Jul 20, 2014

Graduation Day at Wonderland Preschool

   Today our girls had their graduation day ceremony at the preschool they have been attending here in Sosua, Dominican Republic. They aren't being bumped up a grade or anything, it was more simply a reason to celebrate our little ones, to put them centre stage and watch them shine. And shine they did. We were so proud of our girls. The kids perfomed many different songs that they had learned throughout their time at this school, and Arias was the "star", lead singer, for three of those songs.

   Her first song was "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and it was pretty histarical watching Ellia trying to keep up with the lyrics of the song by doing all the movements. At least she knows her toes. Then Arias, Ellia, and their friend Greta got all dressed up in their princess dresses to perform "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen. It was so cute, and Arias belted out that song like no ones business! Arias and Ellia had been amping up for that perfomance for weeks and telling anyone that would listen that they were going to sing Frozen. Lastly, one that surprised us, Arias sang "We Are The World". You know that old song recorded in like 1985. Yep, that one. And she knew the words. It made for a funny perfomance having Arias sing with her backup singers of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and so on, on the tv screen. Throughout all the songs Arias did pretty good at holding her notes, she had good tone, and if she keeps practicing she will be one talented little singer one day.

   Then came the graduation gowns, hats, and certificates. Our girls were so proud of themselves and have every right to be. And you cannot end a party without cake. They had the cutest little cake made for everyone. Unfortunately Eben and I had to run when cake time rolled around, we had to make sure our volunteers made it on to their bus to the airport as the girls' graduation day coincided with the volunteers' last day here. But it all worked out, the girls stayed for cake, we went and said goodbye to the group, and then went back to fetch our very tired girls.

This was the cake, with each student mentioned

They sang, "If you're happy and you know it" but this version had a "If you're sleepy and you know it take a nap", and Ellia decided to act it out!

"Let It Go" from Frozen

Here it is, the performance everyone has been waiting for!
(Ellia jumps in around minute 1:03)

"We are the world" solo

the back up singers to her solo

Ellia rockin out to her sister's song

Arias' Number 1 Fan
Let's Graduate

Jul 17, 2014

T Shirt to Tank Top: DIY Fashion On The Cheap

   The DR has been more than harsh on our clothes. The washing machines have stretched out most of the collars on our shirts, and turned most of my tanks into nightgowns. This means that our family will have to be making a shopping spree stop at Old Navy some time soon, to restock on everything. But in the meantime I have found a way to convert my tshirts into tanks. 

   The "boyfriend" tank has been all the rage this year, which is great for me because it is so simple to turn an old tshirt into a tank in this style. The shirt makeover requires no sewing at all. Double plus for me. Because I don't see myself pulling out our sailrite just to make some tshirt adjustments.

   These tanks are great to wear over bathing suits, bandeau tops, or any sports bra. And they let the air circulate freely through your shirt, another plus in this insane Dominican summer heat. To make one is pretty easy, but first you have to get over your fear of cutting. It took me a long time to get the balls to actually cut into one of my tshirts. My fear was that I would mess it up and have wrecked a perfectly wearable tee. But I went ahead anyways and I am glad I did. 

   I put together this step by step tutorial on how to get your Tshirt from just that, to a "boyfriend" tank, and then one step further into a "workout" tank. 

1. Get a tshirt and a pair of scissors. I chose a tshirt that was 1 size bigger than what I usually wear because I wanted it to fit baggy.
2. Cut the neck line off under the seam.
3. Cut the sleeves off so the seam remains on the sleeve not the shirt
4. Try it on and see how you like it. I wanted to make the collar wider and arm holes lower.
5. Make cutting adjustments where desired. (I flipped my shirt inside out to cut so I could draw on it with a white crayon (all I could find!) for a visual cue first. You can cut the bottom seam off if the shirt is long on you, I left mine since the length fit me well.
6. Et Voila, a "boyfriend" tank

If you want more of a "workout" style tank, continue on:

7. Cut the back of the collar into a V, make sure to keep your strap size the same width down the V. 
8. Use a length of cut off scrap material (from sleeves), bunch the back straps together and use the scrap material to wrap around the two straps, tying them together.
9. Et Voila, a "workout" tank. 

I love fashion on the cheap!

Jul 15, 2014

Playing the "What If" game

   As many of you know we are very much the "go with the flow" type when it comes to life planning. We have a hard time to plan anything beyond six months into our future, and even when we think we have come to a good decision it often takes a turn for the unexpected before that 6 month plan is up. But that doesn't stop us from playing the "what if" game. 

   Just last night Eben and I were discussing how it would be nice to build our own house, and what the criteria for that would be. We agreed that it would be somewhere tropical, because much of our "dream home" concept is open-air and warm outdoor spaces. Thanks to living on the boat we know that we do not want to live ocean front, salt water in the air ruins too many things. And being on or near a mountain with lots of outdoor space would be ideal. That didn't really narrow down where we may build this home, but it was nice to dream and imagine the place.

who knows, maybe Eben will soon be doing this, but building a home for us instead

   We also often discuss the possibility of returning to the boat. We don't know for how much longer we would sail, but Eben still has the desire to do one last hooray. The way we see it right now is we have three options. 

1) Sail down island towards Grenada, island hoping the whole way. This would mean short hops, and reuniting with some great sailing friends, Windtraveler, Mirador, and the Luppy 8. And Grenada has always been intriguing to me. We also think that these islands are only something we would visit if we were by boat, we don't see ourselves ever flying to the Virgin Islands. The downfall to this plan, the cost. These islands are not cheap, they would actually be in the most expensive of what we have sailed. 

2) Sail the boat back up towards Georgetown, Bahamas and do another regatta season there. You either love or hate the regatta there. We love it. We have made so many friends in that area, and so many sailing friends that we know will return there as well, that it would be an awesome reunion. It is also a very family-friendly place. We envision that if we did this, at the end of that season we would then sail the boat to Mexico and spend some time there. But that is way down the road! The downfall to this plan is that we have done the Bahamas before, and again, it is not cheap. 

3) We sail the boat the 3 days across the large expanse of water that would bring us to central america. There are plenty of places there that we are keen to explore. And I would love for the girls to keep up with speaking spanish because they are doing really well already. The downfall to this plan is that it is a larger jump, and then once there we would most likely be doing a lot of traveling by land, not boat. In any of these above plans, the preferred outcome would be to enjoy our sailing trip as it may be one of our last, and possibly find an area where we would like to build this above mentioned dream home.

Or is this the life more for us?

   Today I was discussing all of this with a friend and she laughed and asked, "what about here?". Yes, lets not forget, even though we had never even really planned to come to the DR we have now been living here for a full year and this country has found a special place in our hearts. We have really loved the work that we have been doing with this non-profit and the beautiful communities that we have been working with. We have also loved being non-nomadic enough to have made friends that are here, to stay, not sailing away. And the Dominicans, they are so welcoming and loving, we feel that we have made so many great friendships here and that we are wanted and loved here. (or at least our blonde gringitas are!)

The DR has been good to us.

   So we could very well end up sailing, or traveling, or staying put. Right now any of those options are complete possibilities and we are totally ok with that. What do you think? What should be in the Stolz's near future?

Jul 9, 2014

Shopping For A Cause: tanQ

   Continuing on with my mini-series about Shopping For A Cause, which is about all the great companies out there that are creating apparel and accessories to make us look good, but are also using their profits to do good, this week's social enterprise that I wanted to highlight is tanQ. Their slogan explains them well, "1 tee, 1 month, 1 good deed". 

   Judy Tan had a successful and established career, designing apparel for some big wig companies, but she still found herself unsatisfied and unhappy. But when she took a step back, her life problems seamed meagre in comparison to what other less fortunate people were facing in the world. She wasn't homeless, or starving, or sick. The more she focused on these things the more she wanted to be thankful and create a change in this world. She did so by creating tanQ.

   Every month tanQ choses one organization that they wish to help with their fundraising endeavours. They choose organizations that they believe in, as well as trying to time their choices with whatever the monthly charity fundraising is (ie. September is Cancer month so they supported a cancer related charity). Tan then designs a shirt to reflect the mission of the non-profit, and 100% of the net profit is then given to the chosen group.

   All of her work, and that of her "co-workers" is purely volunteer or donated. They are just really cool and doing it for the good in it. Judy believes that "Kindness is contagious. The start of tanQ, to bring people together and closer than they have ever been. I hope this humble act will travel like a wave, washing over thousands of people, nudging them towards happiness and charity, like a ripple effect of kindness".

   My personal quirk that I love about this enterprise is their name. tanQ, a witty play on words, is a combination of Judy's last name (Tan) and her middle initial (Q), but also resembles "Thank You". It makes me smile every time I think of it. It's smart. But also because Ellia, our littlest, has a hard time pronouncing her "TH" sounds, so her thank you's come out exactly sounding like "tanQ".

   tanQ makes really neat shirts with fun and unique designs. And since they are solely made for the fundraising of one non-profit, once they are sold out, they are out. We received their "Go Fetch" tee and tank, supporting Guide Dogs For The Blind, as well as 2 "Spoon Me" tees, supporting the Spoon Foundation, feeding orphaned kids around the world. Their shirts cost no more than you would spend for a regular shirt but the money goes somewhere good. So once again, you have to clothe yourself so why not spend your wardrobe budget somewhere useful.

   Thank you tanQ for putting the effort in.

ok, maybe theirs are a bit big

Miscommunications: The Funny Kind

   It's not rare that we have to use the line "no entiendo", meaning "I don't understand". We are living in the DR. Spanish is not our first language, and quite often they are not even speaking spanish to us but instead they are talking "Dominican". Like every other language, some of it gets broken down into local dialect, and here is no different. So yeah, it happens a lot that we don't understand. And neither Eben nor I are ashamed to ask someone to repeat something, once, twice, or how ever many times are needed until we finally "get it". And sometimes we still don't get it, even after all the repetition and have to look to someone else for help. But like I said, we don't care if we look foolish. We are learning the language and we're ok with that.

   The funny part is when you think you are understanding, or that the other person has understood you, and what you get as the end result is totally not what you expected. This is miscommunication at its best. Where you get a good laugh out of it.

   A comical one happened to me a few weeks ago. We knew that in the upcoming week we would be moving out of our hometel to relocate to a nearby hotel for a two week period. One night over supper one of the chefs came out and I asked him, in my awesome spanish, when would be the next time they would be serving their Tiramisu for dessert, since its my favorite dessert that they make here. He smiled and assured me it would be before we left. I was happy with his answer. Happy that I would get to indulge one more time before we moved. I thought we had understood each other quite well, and went on with my supper.

   The next day, our friend and waitress Genesis, that works here and speaks really good english, came and asked me if it was my birthday. I laughed and asked why she thought it was. Ends up the chef I had spoken to the night before thought I was requesting a Tiramisu cake be made for me for some special reason. Genesis only assumed the logical, that if I was asking for a cake it must be my birthday. That evening, when we arrived for supper at the buffet, another one of the chefs comes to our table with a full Tiramisu cake made just for me. I was embarrassed and happy all at the same time. Oops. A clear example of miscommunication. I felt bad that they had gone through all that effort to make an extra dessert for that night because I had "requested" it, but I was also secretly happy to get a little bit of the cake before I left. Maybe a full one wasn't needed though.

   Eben and Liam spent the rest of supper teasing me about this massive cake that sat at our table. They also slightly ridiculed me for the ginormous piece that I cut out for myself before returning the rest of the cake to the buffet dessert table. It is my favorite cake here, why not enjoy what's mine! So I had a big enough piece to store in my fridge and enjoy it for the following three nights.

Jul 4, 2014

Circus Show

   Arias is becoming quite the little performer. A couple of weeks ago they had their season finale show for her circus class, and this upcoming month she was asked to perform in her school show, singing Frozen's Let It Go (with Ellia as backup!), as well as doing a ballet performance. The funny thing is we never signed her up for ballet, she was invited by the teacher that does classes, with older children, in the evenings at her school. She thought Arias was mature enough to take part in the "Big Kids" class and so now she gets to tag along. Having spent most of her years on the boat, it is nice to see her getting into so many different activities, and attacking them fearlessly.

   Her circus performance was impressive. She is the youngest of the entire troop. Her, and her friend Gaia, did the opening act. Both girls had their own silks/tissues that hang down from the ceiling, and did a routine to the length of a full song. Their routine involved them running around the tissues and then swirling through the air hanging on by only their hands. Then they moved on to pulling themselves up into the tissues and doing a series of hands-free moves, with only their tiny bodies to balance themselves. Legs out,, arms out, swirling and twirling, and finishing off with both girls hanging from the material upside down. Even having sat through all their rehearsals, seeing the performance live, with costumes and make-up to boot, made us so proud. It was the most focus we have ever seen the tiny duo. They were true mini circus performers. And good at it too. I think we were the loudest cheering section there.

Arias and her performance partner Gaia

pre-show stretching