Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday Finish : the T-O-R-E-N banner

Ever since our little neighbor Toren was born, I had been playing around with the idea of making a banner of nautical flags spelling out his name, since his parents are boaty people.

I did a little research into which flags represented which letters, sketched out the dimensions on paper, and bought some felt. I did, however, struggle with one thing ...


I mean, if this flag was the T:

and you were hanging it horizontally... would it actually look like this?

So I referred to West Marine -- a nautical supply store with locations nearby and a well-designed, very user-friendly website. Here's their image for the T flag:

I decided that that teeny strip of white on the left edge meant that's where the "hanger" is. 

I also discovered that the flags don't have to be square -- that if you wanted them as rectangles, you just stretched the design. 

Thus reassured, I got to work, and finished the flags the day before the birthday party. One final thing -- and to be honest I'm not sure I was right.

Does this banner read T-O-R-E-N (which, if you read the flags from left to right, it does...), or, if the string of flags was hanging from, say, a mast, would it read N-E-R-O-T? #askingforafriend

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Swan Stitch-a-Long, part 4

Hi everyone! I'll just come straight out with it -- I haven't done much stitching on the Swans project these last three weeks. It's been pretty crazy, including our holiday in Beijing (so great! travelog posts to come!!!), the Thanksgiving holiday here (and, as an e-commerce manager, the Black Friday / Cyber Monday madness around it), and spending most of my stitching time working on my Super Secret Project ... with a December 24th deadline...

However, some progress *has* been made, and I am pretty happy with it!

I finished the last big of edging of the lower leaves, and have filled in a lot of the satin stitch on them. I also decided to do one little bit of the light blue background just for a break. That's the nice mindless stuff that I think I'll work on a bit more in this next three weeks. 

Here's something odd I noticed: in the bottom banner, the scallop shapes are really weirdly uneven. That is going to drive me crazy in a finished pillow... so when the time comes to stitch the edges, I think I'll just chart out something similar... but EVEN. 

I am sure that the next three weeks will result in little progress... but one stitch at a time, eh?

My fellow stitchers, I am sure, have been much more productive, and I look forward to seeing all the amazing work they're doing -- click over to their blogs and have a look for yourself!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Tony, MeganCatherineDeborah,  Connie, and Clare.

Our next update will be Sunday, December 23 -- can you believe how fast the year has gone by?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

December OMG : the semi-secret project is in the home stretch!

It's December, so it's time for another OMG! November wrapped up very well -- though I didn't achieve my goal of all the double-strand stitching, I did manage to get 75% of it done, and really feel like I have turned a corner. And I PROMISE that at the end of December I'll be able to share what the project really looked like!!!

For December my goal is to finish the stitching *and* actually finish making up the piece. So there's some double-strand stitching to do, a bit of single-strand stitching, and (gulp!) the beading. But I can do this -- I've got 24 days, and no odd travel plans. So here we go!

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts; you can see all the monthly projects on the December Link-up Page.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Swan Stitch-a-Long, part 3

Hi everyone! It's been a busy three weeks -- sometimes I really think it can't possibly be three weeks since the last check-in, so I go back and look... yep. Three.

I did get some key stitching done, but it still feels very empty... I stitched the "ground" sections:

I've done most of the outlining on the central leaves:

And done some of the feather outlining on the left swan:

Next steps: finish the feather outlining. Fill in the leaves. Start filling in the pale blue background. Just keep moving forward!

At the risk of sounding WAY more jet-set than we really are, I'm writing this post a bit early as we'll be en route to China for a week's holiday on November 11. So apologies if I'm missing any last-minute changes!

When we return home, I look forward to seeing all the amazing work my fellow stitchers are doing -- but you should take a peek now!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Tony, MeganCatherineDeborah,  Connie, and Clare.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The semi-secret project continues: November OMG

It's November, so it's time for another OMG! Of course, it's still a little complicated by the fact that I can't actually show the project or describe it because it's a gift, and the recipient reads this blog! So again, apologies for this being a really plain and boring little post.

In October I got my One Monthly Goal done: to just get the project started by prepping the fabric, getting it on the frame, and stitching the center section.

For November it's a little more of a stretch -- I want to do all the double-strand stitching, so that in December I can just do the single-strand accents and beading.

It's extra challenging as I am about to go on holiday for a week, and can't bring my project along. But I do like an interim deadline to keep me moving forward!

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts; you can see all the monthly projects on the November Link-up Page.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Tunnel to Viaduct 8K

Long time readers will know that I love running where pedestrians usually cannot tread. I mean, I love nature, hiking, forests, wilderness, etc.... but I also love the built environment. Tunnels, bridges, highways, you name it. I love running on it.

Ever since I knew they were building a tunnel under Seattle's waterfront I have hoped that -- before the opening -- they would allow a run through it.


I don't look at Facebook very often, but today I randomly had it open at work, and noticed a local running store adding an event... the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K Packet Pickup.... we were going to have a race!!!

And not *just* a run through the new tunnel ... it's also a final run across my beloved Viaduct!!!

The race is scheduled for February 2, 2019, and registration is available now. Registration for the race is $35, which includes a t-shirt. Medals are available for an additional $12 ... which, yeah, I ordered one. There are free packet pickup options, you can pay to have your packet mailed, or pay to pick it up on race morning.

Come join us! Learn more about the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

October OMG complete: the semi-secret project, part 1

At the beginning of the month I joined the "One Monthly Goal" link-up -- which provides group motivation by encouraging you to focus on... you get it... One Monthly Goal. Like many stitchers, of course, I have multiple projects on the go at a time... but this is a way for me to set a mini goal on one time-sensitive project and still work on my big project. In theory?

It's still the case that I can't actually show what I'm working on -- so apologies for the boring, low-image post!

My OMG for October was to get the project started, prep my fabric, get it on the frame, and stitch the center section. I'm pleased to report that the center section is stitched, and that as of today I've moved the frame to one of the sides. There's still a lot to do, but I'm off to a good start.

If you participated in the October OMG link-up, don't forget to post your triumphant finish. Especially if you can actually, you know, SHOW what you're working on!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon race report

Getting to the start line was the hardest part. So I was just happy to be able to run in state #37: Michigan.

The day was dry, but bitterly cold. I knew that chances were good that I'd be walking more than running, so I bundled up: thermal tights, a short-sleeved top, a long-sleeved thermal top, my insulated running vest, and my waterproof running jacket, plus gloves and a hat. Oh, and my race belt with my PASSPORT inside!

We headed down to the starting corrals, noticing that everyone was huddled against buildings rather than standing in the windy corrals. Luckily we only had about 20 minutes to wait before the first corral set off. The corrals were well labeled and neatly divided; there didn't seem to be the corral shifting you often see in races. At 6:45 the Canadian and American national anthems were sung, and the wheelers were sent off at 6:58. The start was really well organized, with countdowns and the corrals moving forward on schedule.

Then it was our turn -- and because the corrals were well managed, we weren't crowded, even at the very beginning. Nice job, race organizers!

We started off with a straight shot toward the Ambassador Bridge. Not a lot of support on the course -- hey, it was early, dark, and 36 degrees out. We turned in toward the immigration plaza and ran through a few dozen US border patrol agents, dotted around and across the route. They kept repeating "WE NEED TO SEE YOUR BIBS", which meant I was looking down and adjusting my jacket so make sure my bib was visible and I ended up colliding and then sliding across the front of an agent. Yeah, smooth. 

It seemed a little haphazard; though we had read that you wouldn't be allowed to bring a backpack into Canada (unsurprisingly), we saw some people get their bags confiscated, while others ran through without being stopped. Of course, the real question is -- WHO RUNS WITH A BACKPACK?!?!

Then we corkscrewed up and onto the bridge. Now, you know I love a good bridge!

Seriously, this is a good looking bridge... and IT STRETCHES BETWEEN TWO COUNTRIES!!!

We had 2 of the 4 lanes of the bridge to run on, with a "buffer" lane monitored by bridge staff, and then a lane where traffic was alternating and slowly moving across.

From the bridge we could get a nice view of Detroit:

and the lovely parklike town of Windsor, Ontario as we crossed the river. Hello, Canada!

Eventually we looped off the bridge, welcomed by super friendly, high-fiving Canadian border guards, who were keeping up a constant chatter with the runners via megaphone. Oh, Canada. 

The route along the river on the Canadian side was nice and quiet, with a park on one side and sweet, modest houses on the other. Too soon it was time to return to the US, passing another Canadian checkpoint, more high fives, and then down into the tunnel.

I expected the tunnel to be bigger, somehow -- just two lanes? It was hot and humid, but we ran our underwater mile...

Okay, we stopped to take this picture:

Coming back out of the tunnel there was another gauntlet of US border agents ... at least a few of them were smiling, saying welcome back, and a couple were even HIGH FIVING!!!

Then more running, running, running. Okay, a lot of walking. But that's okay. We just kept on keeping on. Hey, I didn't realize how many Stanley Cups the Red Wings have won:

The last miles just slowly ticked by, then we turned into the home stretch, held hands, and ran across the finish line. 

As with everything at this race, the organization was top notch. Good signage meant no half marathoners missed the turn. (Big props to the marathoners who had to essentially pass the half marathon finish line and then go on and run another 13.1 miles!) Medal distribution was fast, and we were handed a bag of snacks rather than the weird "buffet style" that moves so slowly. 

Great things about this race:
- Excellent communication before the race
- Nice merch at the expo
- Nice layout at the expo
- Good swag in the bag: nice shirt, custom "buff", temporary tattoo, sticker, and a bag of Haribo
- Great corral management
- Unique course
- Plenty of signage / mile markers
- Plenty of well-organized water stops
- Handsome medal
- Free race photos!

I honestly can't think of anything I would change about this race -- this is going to go down as one of my all-time favorites. 

Post Race: We headed back to the hotel, had HOT SHOWERS, got changed, checked out, and wandered around Detroit checking out the sights. And then we had a smooth flight home. Phew!

KAWS' "Waiting" statue

Aretha Franklin Way

Tokens for the People Mover

Waiting for the People Mover

fist bumping with the Joe Louis monument

Wil taking one on the chin from Joe Louis

the Fist

the Spirit of Detroit

Shroom Burger and Cheese Fries at SHAKE SHACK
Thank you Detroit, and that's State #37 in the bag!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Neither rain nor hail nor lightning

Saturday was supposed to be simple. A four-hour flight to Detroit, landing at 2:30, would give us plenty of time to get to the expo for the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon before it closed at 7pm. We had to go in person because we needed to show our passports (!!!) as the race crosses into Canada and back into the US.

The timings were good -- we got up early, got to Sea-Tac, cleared security quickly, and then got on the plane to Detroit. The flight wasn't bad, I read my book about Harley Earl, design director for General Motors, and the time passed quickly.

About an hour before we were supposed to land, we were told that it would be bumpy going in to Detroit, so they were going to clear everything and seat the flight attendants early. So we all got our seat backs upright, our tray tables locked, and our electronics unplugged. ("There's a blue light in the aisle that we can see if you have something plugged in.") Then we hit the turbulence.

At first it was just some wobbles and sways. But then it got worse and worse. The plane got super quiet -- even all the kids were quiet, which was a pleasant surprise for all of us. The fight attendant came on the intercom to say that there were "little white bags" in the seat backs in front of us. I thought, "Well, I won't need one; I don't get airsick." Five minutes later I thought, "Well, it would be good to at least find the bag so I know where it is." And five minutes after that I thought, "Let me just get that bag and hold on to it." And five minutes after that I thought, "I'm gonna get that bag open and ready so it's there if I need it." Luckily, it didn't come to that. But I've never been so close to needing it.

The flight attendant also told us that turning on our vents would cool the air around us, which would also help -- which made me and half the plane reach up and turn on the vent. I even ended up taking off my long-sleeved shirt because I was really heating up as the plane lurched and shuddered.

We were circling Detroit for a long time -- and it seemed that we tried to make three descents. On the third one there was a very bright flash, and the captain seemed to accelerate quickly and climb. We had been struck by lightning -- but, apparently that happens at least once per year to most planes. Just a first for me!

Then we flew and flew and flew. Over big water for a while. And then we started to descend… this time too it was really rough, and the actual touching down felt like we got one wheel, started to tip, skid, and then righted ourselves. When we were rolling smoothly, the entire cabin burst into applause, and you could feel the tension release. It was about 3:30.

A flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, as you can tell we have safely landed. What some of you can tell is that we are not in Detroit… and I'm not sure where we are. When the captain tells us where we are, I'll let you know." Cue half the plane firing up their phones and looking on maps: we were in Toledo, Ohio.

Now, I don't know much about Toledo, apart from the phrase "Holy Toledo!" (etymology fuzzy); that Corporal Klinger from MASH was from there; and their minor-league baseball team is called the Mudhens. I have just learned that in 2016 the Mudhens played a game wearing a special "Holy" jersey. Bless.

Turns out that Toledo Jet airport isn't a big airport … it's shared military, private, and the occasional commercial flight. But they seem to have only one gate big enough for a 737, and it was about to be used. And they didn't have staff ready to handle an unexpected plane … so we came to a stop and just sat. And sat. And sat. For 45 minutes. While we waited for someone to be able to guide us somewhere out of the way. I suspect it would have been a longer wait except they had a plane coming in, and needed the runway. Seriously.

So we were moved to a space near the private aviation building, where we sat some more. Wil and I pondered our fate. Do we try to get off the plane, get an Uber, and rush to Detroit? Do we hope the plane would refuel and take off and try again to land in Detroit? Will they come with buses? What might our options be?

The sleepy little airport eventually sent someone out to give us some information. We could take the little shuttle bus to the terminal, but it only seated 12 at a time, so it might be a while. We could also get off the plane and get picked up at the private aviation office. Wil and I -- and a couple of other runners on the plane with the same idea as us -- got off the plane and ordered up an Uber. It was 4:30.

We met a nice woman named Semida and the three of us got picked up about 10 minutes later by Jason, our Uber Superhero. The four of us chatted and laughed at Jason's #UberHumor -- my favorite was when we were talking about how many races we'd run, how many states, etc., Jason said, "Umm, haven't you guys ever heard of cars?"

Despite some stormy weather, Jason deposited us safely at the COBA center a little before 6 -- plenty of time to spare! So of course we took this team photo:

We hugged everyone goodbye -- I mean, we had been THROUGH IT -- and then went in to the very well arranged expo. A big space to pick up your bibs and packets, all well signed, then a nice race merchandise area where I bought stickers and a pint glass.

Then the way to the exit was a nice, wide zig zag. No short cutting, but it meant that you had to walk past every booth to get out. This is my favorite expo arrangement. A one-way system with plenty of room.

We were still buzzing from the day we'd had, so set out to walk the half mile or so to our hotel. A few feet away from the conference center it started to drizzle. Wil wisely made us stop and Gore-Tex up … and then a few minutes later there was lightning, a thunderclap, and a sudden hailstorm. WHAT'S NEXT, FROGS?!?!?!

We dove into the first open establishment we passed -- a Ping Pong bar (?!?) -- shaking piles of hail off our shoulders and hat brims to the astonishment of the other patrons. A quick rum and coke later and the storm had passed, and we eventually arrived at the Siren Hotel.

Housed in the former Wurlitzer Building (who knew?), the Siren is in a "soft opening" phase. Guestrooms, a bar, a coffee shop, a bar, and a barbershop … but more is on the way. We were staying in a "Chamber" -- a very small room, but nicely appointed, and with a beautiful terrazzo-tiled shower. And I'm not the sort of person who either sleeps well in a hotel or waxes poetically about sheets, but WOW, that bed was comfy and the bedding was glorious. Seriously.

We went around the corner to Wright & Co., a buzzy "gastropub" -- which really is a restaurant with a big bar running along one side. But we took seats at the bar, got some spectacular cocktails, some great food, and clearly timed it right because the bar got RAMMED about 15 minutes after we arrived.

After dinner we walked around Detroit a little bit, admiring the architecture, and wishing we could have spent the afternoon there.

Back at the hotel we wanted a nightcap at the Candy Bar in the hotel; we're both still fuming a bit at the mediocre drinks, frankly terrible snacks, and poor service we totally overpaid for. But lessons learned.

Back up to the room by 10:15, and in bed at 10:30. Race day the next morning!