Monday, September 24, 2018

Of Pumpkins and Pops - a visit to Everett

Every Halloween I add to my glass pumpkin collection, which I display for at least the entire month of October. This year I decided to get my act together in August so that I could get a space for a "make your own" glassblowing experience at the Schack Art Center during their annual Schacktoberfest. (Seriously, if you don't sign up within a day or two of the start of registration, you will probably be out of luck!)

I've blown glass before -- a small, very solid pumpkin many years ago, a couple of ornaments at work team building events -- but I had been wanting ... and failing ... to create another pumpkin.

Wil and I drove up to Everett, a city about 30 miles north of Seattle. Mine was one of the first slots of the day, so we milled around outside with several other people, before going in and heading to the hot shop.


I signed in and was introduced to my glassblowing guide, Ty. Our first task was to choose what color pumpkin to make. I had hoped to make a purple one, but that color wasn't available.


So I went with Wil's request: green with speckles.


Ty set up my workspace with the glass powder and the larger pieces for the speckles (you can see this in the picture below), and then walked me through the steps we would be taking -- but without a lump of molten glass on the end of the blowpipe!



Here's where to put your hands -- always behind his...


and here's how we'll roll the glass back and forth to pick up the color...


then you'll take the glass and -- always rotating the pipe -- put it into the glory hole...


I just tried to stay calm while he was explaining all of it. And then he went to get the first lump of glass onto the pipe, and start shaping it. 


He's got the glass on the pipe now, and is carrying it to a workbench to shape it a little. Note that I am trying to stay well out of the way of anything hot!


Then at his bench he shaped it a little to get it ready for me to work with... and then it was my turn.


He brought the glass-laden pipe over and we rolled it back and forth in the green crushed glass.


This melts into the clear base glass, and colors it green.


Then into the glory hole to soften up the glass again ... this is the scariest part, as I felt I was going to drop my glass ... it's soft and melty and you have to keep turning the pipe ... without spinning the glass off the end. Clearly an acquired skill!


Then out for another roll in the green glass. 


... and another visit to the glory hole ... during which the green powder was quickly put away (see, it's gone in the image below):


... and then back out to roll in the larger chunks of yellow/orange, which would melt into "spots" on my finished pumpkin.


it's pretty satisfying to see how we picked up all of the speckles as we rolled the ball of glass.


Then back into the glory hole, and then Ty shaped the glass so it would fit into the mold -- which was ridged to produce the "ribs" on a pumpkin.  Note how I am doing all I can to keep my hands very much away from hot glass. 


That's Ty putting the glass into the mold, while I am holding a rubber hose that will soon be attached to the blow pipe. 


Ty blew the first bubble -- just to get it started.


Then it was my turn to huff and puff, while Ty shapes the glass and keeps the pipe rolling.


and puff.. and puff...


At this point he told me to "blow blow BLOW BLOW". I think I'm turning purple.


And then it was time for one last trip to the glory hole to soften it up a little:


Look! It's still pumpkin shaped!


Then Ty took the pumpkin over to another work table, took it off the pipe, and shaped it:


and then added a stem while the other "student" in my time slot and a lot of folks looked on.


I love that it's so hot that it all looks orange -- you really can't tell what color it's going to cool down to be:


The pumpkin then goes into a holding space, where it can cool down slowly for 48 hours.

Since we were up in Everett, we decided to go to the Funko flagship store. If you're not familiar with Funko and their omnipresent Pops, well, they're freakishly cute vinyl figurines of pop culture icons from Jimi Hendrix to Hermione Granger to Tigger to the Hulk. And Funko has a massive HQ and store that is seemingly always busy.


The store is huge, with various themed sections featuring different products... and lots of giant Pops for shot-ops.




Perhaps more amazing was the number of shoppers on a Sunday afternoon ... and that everyone had baskets full of products. You can even make your own Funko Pop.

We managed not to load up a basket ... though I did struggle not to purchase the tiny Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart Pop ... and headed home.

Now, I know what you're thinking... HOW DID THE PUMPKIN TURN OUT???


LOVELY!!! I love how the speckles look, and I even love the swirly green stem. I'm very pleased. I set up my little "pumpkin patch" (why, yes, that *is* a Halloween tree!) and set it out next to my first glass pumpkin:


It's fun to think that I made these guys over the space of 15 years or so:


Did I mention that Halloween is my favorite holiday, and autumn is my favorite season???

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Butterfly Stitch-a-Long, part 4

We've just returned from camping in the North Cascades -- staying at Newhalem, our favorite campground. So this stitch-a-long update is a quickie!

I wish I could tell you that I have finished my little butterfly project -- no, but I *am* close... and my mom's birthday is still a week away, so I think I will be able to get it done in time!

Apologies for the wrinkles, I've just pulled it off the frame so I could see all of it. There's a little backstitching on the rest of the butterfly (lower wings and body), along with a few more Chinese characters on the sides, and I have to make some cords and attach them. But I'm definitely in the home stretch!



As an offering for not writing more about this project, how about these lovely forest pics from the weekend?

The path to the walk-in campsites:

Almost there!


Our little private path:


Our weekend home!


My fellow stitchers have most likely done MUCH MORE on their projects -- check them out and get inspired by their beautiful work!
We'll be back in three weeks, on September 30, when I will have finished -- and presented! -- this butterfly project ... and chosen my next one from my great big box of UFOs... and hopefully gotten it set up and ready to go. 


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Butterfly Stitch-a-Long, part 3

This summer has been so crazy! We haven't even been away on holiday apart from a long weekend in Montana last weekend ... but every week has been chock full of adventures. Great for us, but not so great for my butterfly project!

Here's where I was last time, when my "red panda" had turned into a beautiful butterfly:


And here's where I am now:



Clearly I've gotten some work done, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. And now this "quick project" is stretching out too long. Here's hoping I put needle to aida in the near future!

 My fellow stitchers in this stitch-a-long are all working on projects that will completely inspire you ... so go along and check them out. Here's a hearty welcome to Connie, who has rejoined us. Fancy joining in, too? Reach out to Avis and she'll get you hooked up!

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

Our next check-in is in three weeks, September 9. We'll be camping that weekend (hooray!), but I'll post something before we go. And I sure hope to have this finished before then ... it's meant to be a birthday pressie for my mum, and her birthday is September 16!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Michigan, here we come!


It's been a Very Long Time since I have attempted to earn another state. A combination of injury and, let's face it, unplanned unemployment meant I didn't venture out to keep my project moving along. But since we PAID OFF OUR MORTGAGE, which was a huge milestone for us, I decided it was time to kickstart the project again.

The Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon has been on my list of dream races for a long time. An international half -- starting and finishing in the United States, but swinging through Canada. And one that features both a spectacular river crossing on a bridge (which happens to be the high point of the course) and an "underwater mile" -- a tunnel under the same river to cross back into the US... well, that's pretty amazing. 

I told Wil I wanted to run this race, and he decided he'd like to join in. So it's not until October, but our race entries are secured, our flights are booked, and our schmancy hotel is booked too. I'm excited to visit Detroit and run this race, even if we'll only be in the Motor City for about 24 hours. 

I'll write more when we're there, but I'm excited to have arranged to run in Michigan, aka state #37!!!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mermaids, Pearl Jam, and Big Smokey Skies - long weekend road trip to Montana

It's been a busy week, thanks to Wil and these guys:


But I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual.

On Wednesday we went to see Pearl Jam at Safeco Field. One huge highlight for me: we rode the light rail down to the Stadium station and, as we were still in the tunnel, someone started singing "Better Man". A few people joined in, and then by the time he got to the chorus half the train was singing along. Then he went into the second verse, and by the time he got to the second chorus the entire train was singing along. As I am a sucker for singalongs, this may have been my favorite point of the evening.


Which isn't to say that the show wasn't fun and good and all that. We had arrived early, and spent time wandering around Safeco before the show, drinking "Home Show Lager", eating garlic fries marveling at the growing lines outside, and enjoying the energy. We got a great view from the front of the 300 level as the crowd was filling in:


And were excited when, after the sun had dropped lower in the sky, they rolled the roof open. Here's the view from our seats:


When the show did start -- later than even the delayed start planned, as there were so many people still trying to get in -- the sound was great, the crowd was fun, and I enjoyed myself despite not knowing many of the songs.


Always nice when people do the "flashlight" thing en masse:


The final encore was played with the bright stadium lights on -- fun to see everyone dancing and cheering:


We even managed to get home pretty smoothly -- we squeezed onto a #5 bus and just walked down the hill from Greenwood.

Wil actually also went to the show on Friday, which ran even longer than Wednesday's show, and didn't have the same good luck getting home. But regardless, on Saturday morning we loaded up the car and were on the road heading east to Montana before 7am.

Why Montana? Well, we were going to see Pearl Jam again in Missoula on Monday .... but our weekend destination was Great Falls... where I had wanted to go for years. Why? Well:


MERMAIDS!!!!!

We arrived at the hotel a little before 8, and then went upstairs to the fabulous Sip 'n Dip lounge. Fun fact: though the hotel was constructed in the 60's with the pool windows behind the bar, the mermaids were only added in 1996. Till then it was just a bar with a view of the swimmers in the pool!!!

Wow, I'm ahead of myself again...

En route we stopped off in Wallace, Idaho, for "brunch" (okay, a very late breakfast!) and a visit to the Center of the Universe:


Then another stop in St. Regis, Montana, where we fueled up the car, as well as ourselves with a huckleberry shake... and a photo opp:

An onlooker said to me, "He's very patient, isn't he?"
Eventually, we arrived in the weird setting sun that looked like a fireball due to the smoke, checked into our room, and headed immediately up to the Sip n Dip. We lucked out and got good seats... and waited. "Are the mermaids swimming?" "They were earlier ... the lightning scared them off... but hopefully they'll be back." In the meantime we ordered a large tiki drink in a "souvenir fishbowl", and waited. And, suddenly, MERMAIDS!!!


It's rather embarrassing to say, but I was pretty overwhelmed by it all. I mean, sure, it's a small hotel bar in a small town... but ... mermaids! And the mermaids did a super cute thing of "blowing kisses" underwater, with released a big bubble against the glass. Honest, it was effective!


We drank, we watched the mermaids, and we watched the crowd... many of whom weren't really watching the mermaids at all! But it was really fun, and we spent over an hour just relaxing from the drive, drinking sugary, fruity cocktails, and watching the mermaids. It was Worth It.


Oh, and at some point the maids were joined ... by a MER-MAAAAN!


After a while we left the bar and wandered around Great Falls ... a surprisingly large town. We had simply been sitting too long -- I mean, it's more than 10 hours of hard driving from Seattle -- so we needed to get some air and move our legs a little. 

The next morning we got up and had a MASSIVE  breakfast at the 5th Street Diner, former Woolworth's luncheon counter turned into a free-standing diner. Great food, really great service. The perfect way to start the day!


Real eggs, real cheese, and real potatoes. Real good. 


We should have gone for a long hike, but with the smoke and the heat (did we mention it was 103 degrees?) we decided to walk along the river in town for a long walk to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Passing the Great Falls was one of the most difficult stretches for the Lewis and Clark expedition... it took them nearly a month to portage around them. For us it was much easier... we walked along the Rivers Edge Trail, a volunteer-built and -maintained trail along the river.




I was surprised that this was the Missouri River, which I think of as being much farther east... but this stretch of river has multiple dams along it. It makes it difficult to appreciate how challenging it must have been for L&C to move up it, but I do love the built environment more than most people! This is the Black Eagle Dam ...




The path was surprisingly quiet, though we did see the occasional cyclist or runner. But for the most part, we had the path and the river to ourselves.


Oh, until we met up with this lot.


"We need to keep going that way. That's a pain."



Eventually we arrived at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center ... which we *wanted* to love, but was just okay. 


We did like this painted buffalo, however...


We couldn't face a long, hot walk back... so decided to grab an Uber back to the hotel. As we waited, I proposed that we get in our own car and drive out to an overlook to see the actual "Great Falls", since we hadn't seen that. A nice drive in the country, a little walking, and BAM.


Wil: "If I hear 8 short blasts, I will probably also evacuate my bowels."


It's still pretty overwhelming even with the dam, but, DAMN, can you imagine coming up to this???


We drove back to town, got our cozies on, and SWAM LIKE MERMAIDS. Well, we swam in the pool and wondered if anyone was in the bar to watch us.




Tiny highlight: finding a "mermaid scale" next to the pool:


We dried off, cleaned up, and then headed out for a "night on the town"... a mini pub crawl of sorts, stopping in at the Mighty Mo Brewing Co (nice beer, nice staff)...


... and then out to the MacKenzie River Pizza Company for dinner. No, no pictures. Hell, you know what pizza looks like.

We then walked out to Ford's Drive In, which we had spotted on our way into town the previous night. Glorious neon ... and a delicious chocolate malt...



On the way back into town we stopped in at the Celtic Cowboy, a handsome Irish pub where we somehow had 2 pints for $10. Then back to the hotel, where we poked our head into the Sip 'n Dip, but the mermaids weren't swimming, so we just went back to the room to relax.

The next morning we had breakfast in Clark & Lewie's, the hotel restaurant. On Sunday we'd seen
that is was packed, with a waiting list -- nice to see a small business with three separate revenue streams: the hotel, the bar, and the restaurant!

Then we headed off to Missoula... a pleasant drive along highway 200, where I made a special stop in Sun River to see the public scale sign I had noticed on our drive in to Great Falls. Seriously, this sort of sparkly arrow sign nowadays denotes a hipster bar, so it's a real treat to see:



Finally, Missoula. Where we attempted to get PJ merch (crazy! no!), and then checked out the amazing range of ciders at Western Cider.


Then we checked into our motel, went for a walk and bought random things for the garden, then had a nap. Oh, and a photo op... more special since the M Trail was closed!


Turns out our friends Jeremy and Karina were RIGHT NEXT DOOR! We had a quick drink with them, then headed out. We got to the stadium -- much smaller than Safeco, despite being a football stadium -- and wandered around for a bit before the show.



We were pretty close, though I kept drifting back...


Eventually I decided to go find a place to sit ... I was just too tired to stay standing anymore. I found a good spot on the side ... the sound was good, even if I couldn't really see the band all that well.

I could, however, still spot Wil in the crowd, dancing wildly:

isn't it funny how easy it is to spot Wil, even in a crowd this large? 
It was actually a pretty great spot from which to watch the action:


Eventually the show finished, I found Wil, and we made our way back to the motel. We reconnected with Jeremy and Karina, had a nightcap, and went to bed.

The next morning we were up early and to make the long drive home. At Karina's recommendation, however, we stopped briefly at Soap Lake for a dip in the healing waters .... and s smear of the healing mud. I keep thinking about a random weekend trip there so we could really soak it all in!

Our only other stop was at Ellensburg to stretch out legs ... and visit Dick and Jane's Art Spot, of course!








The weekend was fun, if tiring -- and the longest "trip" we have taken since going to AFRICA last year.

Am I a converted PJ fan? No, not really, though it was fun to go to a couple of big shows and see passionate fans. Would I return to Great Falls to see the mermaids? Oh yes.