Friday, February 8, 2019

Adventure 4/50, and Always Be Learning: We took ukulele lessons!

In December Wil and I were in a guitar store and while he was testing and shopping, I wandered over and looked at ukuleles. I was especially taken by the Fender ukes because they look like tiny Fender guitars. And that's just funny.

image from
Santa must have been listening (he's ALWAYS WATCHING...), because I received a lovely Fender uke on Christmas morning.

One problem -- there seemed to be something wrong with it. There was an odd rattle, like it had a loose wire vibrating inside. And no matter what we tried -- restringing, retuning, etc. -- the rattle stayed. So Santa's elves at took it back, and we went back to our local guitar store and bought me a beautiful Kala KA-T tenor ukulele:

It's a little bigger, but the sound is really rich and lovely.

But perhaps I should back up a little.

I've never played a musical instrument. When I was a kid, every student in 4th grade (aged 8 or 9) learned how to play the recorder. Except the year I was in 4th grade the school funding levy failed, so there was no money for music programs. And I just never learned anything else.

Fast forward 40 years ... and it seems like every kid is playing a ukulele and riding a unicycle. So my interest was piqued. And of course, there's this guy, George Formby:

One of the biggest movie stars of the mid 20th century, when George Formby died in the 1960s over 100,000 people took to the streets to watch his funeral procession. But for me, it's his strumming of the ukulele (and, often, the banjolele), paired with his gently saucy tunes. Much to Wil's dismay, I can listen to George for hours.

Originally I had thought I would maybe follow some online lessons... but a friend told me that another friend had taken classes through our local music store, Dusty Strings, and as luck would have it, a set of beginning uke classes was about to start in a week. So we signed up and hoped for the best. Having felt a bit burned by our pottery "class", I resolved to stick with the 5 weeks regardless. I also swapped "take ukulele lessons" in for one of my original "always be learning" 101 in 1001 goals projects.

Imagine 11 anxious adults, 1 eager child, an instructor and her friend, all strumming away. Yet, somehow, by the end of the first 1-hour class, we were doing a completely legitimate version of the first half of Rainbow Connection and I was so happy I was in tears. Seriously.

The class thinned a little, and we had some people shift from the lunch to the evening class, but we kept working away at chords, strumming patterns, and even a bit of plucking. And every week there's a moment when I realize that I'm playing a musical instrument and I am filled with joy and my eyes fill with happy tears. Oh, and we've even started turning up in aloha shirts!

class pic courtesy Susan Howell
We have learned all sorts of songs, and though I still struggle to make all the different chord shapes, I am still really enjoying it. So much so, that we just signed up to take the next 5-week set. So while I'm calling this "thing" done as far as the 101 things in 1001 days project goes, I will be continuing my studies!

Now, I'm a long way off from being able to play even a simplified version of a George Formby song -- that split strum he does is just ridiculous! -- but I'm hoping that by the end of the year I'll be able to lean how to play a very simple version of "Window Cleaner".

It's turned out nice again, hasn't it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February OMG - the Temperature Project

Hi everyone! Well, you know I didn't get much done on this project in January, so here's hoping I can GET MOVING in February!

We have had colder weather over the last few days, with the result that the piece will now have THREE colors. Welcome to the party, Dark Grape!

Of course, it's not much of a party yet -- just a bunch of skeins of wool nervously sitting in a bag, waiting for someone to pick them. The black wool I ordered a week ago hasn't arrived, and I'm still waiting for a response from their customer service about a correct tracking number as the first one they sent isn't recognized by UPS. But I have faith that, at some point in this short little month, I'll get the wool and do some stitching. Really.

So that's the goal for February -- just get started. Do a textured outline in black to break up the pattern a bit. Then get to stitching. If I can get, say, through JANUARY by the end of February I'll feel like a total boss.

It's nice to feel accountable -- so if you'd like a little nudge with your project, there's still time to join the One Monthly Goal link-up over at Elm Street Quilts. There are over a hundred amazing projects to look at to get inspired!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Swan Stitch-a-Long, part 7

Hi everyone, and welcome to our second stitch-a-long check-in of 2019! Here's where my swans needlepoint was last time:

I had just rolled the frame so I could see the swan heads and work on the upper part. And here's where I am three weeks later:

It doesn't feel like a ton of progress, but I did finish stitching the feather outlines, as well as the outline of the swan. The outlining is always a bit boring, but I know it will make the rest of the project go much more quickly.

I also stitched most of the outer background in the middle section on the left:

And I stitched the beak and the eye of left swan. This one is also pretty grumpy looking.

In the next three weeks I want to finish ALL the outlining of the leaves, figure out some sort of textured stitch for the heads of the cattails, and stitch the insides of the leaves. If I need a break from that, I'll work on the outer background.

In the meantime, check out the great work my fellow stitchers are doing -- including our two new members. If you're interested in joining and getting some serious support and inspiration for your projects, visit Avis's blog for all the details.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Megan, CatherineDeborah, Connie, and Clare... and welcome back Mary MargaretRenee, Jenny, and benvenuto a Carmela, and welcome to Jocelyn!

Our next update will be Sunday, February 24 -- let's get stitching!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Adventure 3/50 : Running the new Tunnel and old Viaduct

It is WELL KNOWN that I have an absurdly large soft spot for Seattle's aging, crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct. And that I love engineering. So is there any doubt that I was one of the first people to sign up for the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K when it was announced?

As part of Seattle's "Step Forward" celebration weekend to open the new SR 99 tunnel and say goodbye to the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, some 29,000 runners and walkers ran from the Space Needle to the Stadiums under downtown through the new tunnel, then turned back and ran along the viaduct back to the start.

The communications were excellent, and packet pickup was, seriously, the fastest, smoothest, and most efficient I had ever seen, especially for an event of this size. And even on race morning things were pretty well organized -- well marked corrals, good signage. We found corral 6 and settled in to wait.

obligatory pre-race photo

Sure, a few additional speakers would have been nice -- in corral 6, we could only hear the faintest "oonts oonts" but heard no information about why we were a bit delayed. But eventually we could see Corral 5 shifting forward, and our corral followed.

I had never really looked at the entrance to the new tunnel -- down a hill, with a hairpin curve, at least from Mercer -- so it was interesting to see.

photo from
They paused us at the opening -- we were amused that the "START" banner was facing the wrong way, but they probably wanted it as a photo op?

And then, with little fanfare, but a lot of whooping, we were let loose into the tunnel. So exciting! And, yes, I know I am a dork.

It was funny that half of us were taking pictures or videos, especially at the start. I mean, when are we going to be able to run in the tunnel again???

I think they did a very good job of organizing the corrals to reduce congestion ... even if that meant the start was dragged out a long time. Suz said her corral (9) started about 50 minutes after their predicted start, and when we finished, corral 11 was just starting. But we could hear the announcers say that they were going to keep the course open until everyone finished, and apologizing for the delays.

Also amusing to see signage for T-Mobile Park for the first time...

But really nice to have plenty of room to run, walk, take pictures, whatever. We were also amused because we had decided to walk a good portion of this race -- and yet we were surrounded by other Corral 6 runners the entire way -- no matter how fast or slow we were moving.

The tunnel itself had a distinct downward slope until we hit Madison -- the low point of the tunnel -- and then a not insignificant uphill.... as we went UNDER downtown. (Anyone in Seattle will be making the "under" hand gesture now...)

And then, all of a sudden, we were out of the tunnel.

We ran past the little stand where the ribbon cutting ceremony would happen later in the day, and then out near the stadiums. 

We were a little sad not to be running up the ramps to get on to the viaduct, and were pondering why we were going to go up the Seneca ramp instead. Until we went another couple of blocks and noticed this. Oh. 

Guess that part is already gone, then...

But then we turned left on Seneca for our last run up that ramp.

And then we were back on the viaduct, though, sadly, only on the lower deck.

Oh, viaduct. I will truly miss running on you.

It felt like everyone was pulling over to one side to the other for photos. #goodbyeviaduct

Here's how you make the Great Wheel disappear... now you see it...

now you don't....

More running and photos on the viaduct ...

And of course I had to stop to see this spot, which is probably my favorite. Then again, I am a dork...

Then into the dirty, grimy, Battery Street Tunnel for one last time -- a big contrast to the new tunnel, but how long before that clean white tunnel looks like this?

 Though I admit the lighting makes this look pretty badass....

Through the tunnel, past a pretty great squirrel graffito...

... and then into the home stretch... except... what's in those white tents? 

WHUUUUUT???? The new tunnel and waterfront... IN LEGO?!?!?!

Seriously, I think half of the runners stopped and went into this tent rather than keep running at this point. 

I especially love the "here there be dinosaur bones" area in the cross-section!

Okay, okay, NOW into the home stretch!

Wil and I held hands and ran up the little hill next to EMP to finish the run. No idea how long it took, when we started, when we finished, etc. Though we did notice as we passed over the tunnel entrance that corral 11 was just starting!!!! But the announcers were apologizing for the delays, thanking everyone for their patience, and assuring everyone that they would keep the course open until everyone was finished. So fair play to them.

We got a bottle of water, considered waiting for EMP to open, and then decided to head towards home. Had T.S. McHugh's been open, OF COURSE we would have had a post-run pint ... but they weren't so we crossed the street and jumped on a bus to get home.

Today was really fun -- fun to run a big race again, and fun to see Seattle excited to greet their new tunnel ... and say goodbye to their viaduct. We won't race again until we're in D.C. in March, but today was a great day.

Seattle Tunnel to Viaduct 8K medal

Thursday, January 31, 2019

January OMG - The 2019 Temperature Project

In January I decided to start off slowly on my 2019 temperature project... and, well, I did. Start slowly, that is! My stated "One Monthly Goal" was to "really get going", to get the canvas in a frame, and get stitching.

Well, technically I've succeeded, though without actually achieving anything.

I have attached the canvas to a frame and stitched the year -- that's it.

Part of this is because my other big needlepoint project -- which I am really enjoying -- has taught me that I love the texture of a different stitch ... and that stitching borders around the different squares would really add interest to what has started out as a relatively boring design. Why boring? Well, here in Seattle our temperatures have been so moderate that so far only TWO colors have been called for. That will make for a pretty bland piece.

Let's be clear: I am NOT complaining that we're having a mild winter! For everyone affected by the Polar Vortex, stay warm and safe!

I decided to order some black wool to stitch into some sort of raised border between the frames, but then balked at paying for shipping. However yesterday I got a 25% off code from Herrschners which essentially gave me free shipping -- so the new wool is on the way!

So, not huge success, but a slow start. Thanks for Elm Street Quilts for the inspiration! You can check out the other crafters and their January project progress here:

Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Goal - January Finish Link-up

Here's looking forward to more progress in February!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Adventure 2/50 : Climbing the Space Needle

Every year the company I work for holds a "Day of Difference" as part of their global sales meeting. Last year all the employees split up to do community service projects around Seattle, but this year we decided to come together to raise $50,000 for for the anti-domestic-violence educational charity, One Love.

Employees reached out to friends and family and asked them to sponsor them ... and those of us who raised at least $250 were eligible to CLIMB THE SPACE NEEDLE!!!!

All the employees met at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, where we met for a company photo. I got there a bit early and took some gorgeous photos in the garden. I had been there by day, but never in the dark!

It also gave me a chance to admire the Needle in the foggy morning:

Hmm.... from down here, that looks pretty darn tall... it's 848 steps, to be precise, from the bottom to the top....

After the company photo, and with surprisingly little advance notice, those of us who were climbing set off towards the base of the Needle.

In through the gift shop (of course!), into a nondescript door, and suddenly we were climbing.

Much of the next 10 minutes really just looked like this:

a tight, triangular stairwell, going up and up, around and around, with the occasional pause to snap a picture:

The stairwells are open to the elements, with chainlink fencing "enclosing" it. Because it was drizzly and breezy, the stairs were wet -- making me extra glad to be climbing up rather than heading down.

The views of the city -- and the support structure of the Needle itself -- were pretty great, through. Look, there's the tunnel entrance by those yellow exhaust pipes.

And here's the sound and the under-renovation Key Arena from a spot close to the top -- see the curve of the support?

I didn't really know what to expect -- would I struggle? Would I make it? Would I have to stop halfway up? But all of a sudden we were at the top!

And, of course, it was foggy!!! It was still pretty great to be up on the new, very glassy, outdoor observation deck. On a clear day, this is going to be spectacular!

After some high-fiving of other climbers, I headed down to the lower level, or what used to be where the restaurant was. The Space Needle's website states that they're developing "a new dining concept", but why hide the new, amazing glass floor under tables and chairs?

Oh, yeah, about that glass floor...

it's pretty amazing to see the ground waaaaay down beneath you ... as well as the stairwell we climbed up!

My favorite moment was spotting the cog that helps turn this level of the Needle -- though with the ongoing (but 95% complete!) renovation, the top of the Needle isn't rotating currently.

Is it any surprise that the organizers had a difficult time getting all of us off the top of the Needle and back to the Westin for the rest of the day's events?

Really fun morning, and quite an adventure. Also -- huge thanks to my sponsors, including Suz and Rebecca! Thanks for helping make this happen.