Thursday, October 31, 2019

Adventure 38/50 : I love a challenge ... or two!

October has been busy -- as usual -- but I've managed to focus some of my creative energies by taking on two unrelated challenges.

Today is the last day of Blogtober!

Including this post, I have managed to publish an article on this blog every day in October -- nearly doubling this year's post count! I liked the discipline of putting together an editorial calendar, choosing stories to feature, gathering assets, and writing up the pieces. It's been a great way for me to wrap up memories of our trip to Japan, and to FINALLY write up my decade-old notes from our Carros de For trek. It has also inspired me to start a "Travel Tuesday" series so I can write up other older content, including my Thames Path walk from nearly TWENTY years ago. So watch this space. 

Today is also the last day of the Witchy Stitchy Challenge. 

I've been in a stitch-a-long group since February 2018, and it has really helped keep me motivated while working on some large stitching projects. I completed the fox pillow:

a butterfly cross stitch:

the craft that dare not speak its name, the swans pillow:

and some Japanese-themed odds and ends, including some great sashimi:

But I had fallen into a habit of stitching around the check-ins that happen every three weeks. We'd get an email from Avis the organizer, reminding us to post our updates and link to the other stitchers. I'd then frantically stitch for a couple of evenings so I had something to share (ha!), write a post, and then maybe stitch a day or two after.

We often joke about this in the SAL, so I know I'm not the only one!

But I wanted to get into a more regular practice of stitching. So when I saw that one of my SAL buddies was participating in something called the Witchy Stitchy challenge, I was intrigued. Could I actually be disciplined enough to stitch at least an hour a day for 13 days, and post an "accountability photo" on facebook every day?

Well, yes. Yes I can!

I started the challenge by working on the stitching on my sashiko bag kit... which I finished on day 6. Here are my before/after daily collages all in one place
Day 1:

Day 2:



Day 5:

Day 6:

On Day 7 I switched to the cherry blossom kit:

Day 8:

Day 9:

Day 10:

Day 11:

Day 12:

Day 13! Still far to go, but I've started on the blossoms:

I am someone motivated by deadlines and accountability, so both of these projects really resonated with me. As with blogging, I don't plan on stitching an hour every day, but knowing that I can make time to do so is pretty satisfying -- especially in the winter when the evenings are so long!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Adventure 37/50 : Travel Journaling Workshop

If you read this blog you know I do a lot of journaling when I travel. But I have always wanted to add sketches to my journals... despite not feeling like my sketches are "good enough".

Several months ago I attended an adventure writing workshop with Charlotte Austin at the Mountaineers Club in Seattle. Amusingly, I had first met Charlotte the previous year when she was a speaker at a "Learn About Climbing Mount Rainier" talk at REI. See, Charlotte spends half the year as a mountain guide (and badass climber -- she climbed Everest earlier this year!), and the rest of her time as a freelance writer. She's funny, smart, a great speaker, and a great writer.

So when I heard that she was leading a Travel Journaling workshop with artist Claire Giordano (that's her work in the poster above), I signed up.

The evening started with a brief history of travel journaling, showing examples through history. I especially loved this image from the journals of Lewis and Clark of a sage grouse.

image of "Sage Grouse" from

What's so lovely is that, well, it's not a great drawing of a bird, but it was still valuable, and still part of observing and recording what they saw.

We also saw examples of Claire's work, and photographs of her working outdoors. I especially loved her "Glacier Portraits" images of her painting glaciers on Mont Blanc.

We moved the tables into three clumps, with each clump being taken through a mini workshop for about 20 minutes. My group started with writing, and specifically "the question" -- part of Charlotte's "formula" for developing great stories. See, rather than writing "nature is pretty", writing "how does spending time in this landscape help me get over my grief" is much more interesting. Likewise "an essay about sherpas" is much less interesting than "how western climbers outsource risk by hiring sherpas to carry loads up and down the Khumbu Icefall".

So we were challenged to think of an experience, and ask questions about it... so our hiking the Carros de Foc led to these questions:

  • How did we get here?
  • Why didn't we come up with an exit strategy?
  • How did the circuit get created?
  • What expectations did we have? What didn't we have?
  • What did the experienced hikers think of these inexperienced people?
  • How did we change over the course of the week? What did we learn?
I think asking those sorts of questions during the writing process are useful; and I think that asking more questions while I am in a place is also useful... questions such as:
  • What does it smell like?
  • What can I hear?
  • What textures can I feel?
I don't do enough of that while I'm in a place. 

We moved to another station and did a mini-workshop on sketching, where Claire led us through a lot of activities, all very quickly. This section felt really rushed -- I would have liked a little more time to play with these. Note the spectacular 15-second blind contour sketch of my hand on the top left; the 30-second blind contour sketch of a neighbor on the bottom left; a 15-second semi-blind contour sketch of my pencil case on the top right; and a 5-second gesture sketch of the room on the lower right. Note that I did not ask permission to post the sketch of my neighbor, but I figure he is unrecognizable. But I should point out that in real life he had both a nose and a chin...

But my favorite section -- which was also the hardest, I think -- was the watercolor station. Paintbrushes, cups of water, watercolor palettes, and pieces of watercolor paper were laid out, with these instructions.

I chose a photo from the crater rim on Mount Fuji and decided to give it a try.

I decided to zoom in to just a part of it... and then realized that I probably haven't painted with watercolors since, oh, preschool... Though I understand colors and how to mix them, I didn't really know how to make anything lighter ... so I struggled with a lot of the colors. But I enjoyed making a little sketch in pencil and filling in some of the spaces with color ... and trying to capture colors and mix them.

For the record, no one would think these were the same place. But it was still really enjoyable:

It makes me want to get some watercolors and brushes and watercolor paper and do some more playing. So many crafts, so little time!

I left feeling like I will at least add sketches in my journal, and make time to do the sketching when I'm in situ. And I had the chance to play with watercolors for the first time in forever. And both of those things made for a worthwhile evening.

Charlotte often teaches workshops at the Mountaineers, there's already one scheduled for February 2020.

You can also learn more about Charlotte on her website,

And see lots of Claire Giordano's work on her website,

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Adventure 36/50 : SUP life!

Last summer we tried stand-up paddleboarding for the first time, and even though we struggled mightily in bad weather, we really enjoyed it. At the time I wrote "headed home... already talking about buying our own boards".

Well, it took nearly a year, but one day we were at home and an offer popped up on the Amazon Treasure Truck... a stand-up paddleboard bundle:

We looked at each other and quickly snapped up a pair -- even though it meant we would have to drive up to Lynnwood to get them.

We brought them home and played with them, making sure we knew how to inflate them -- and that we could actually get them inflated! Then the next weekend we took them out to Lake Washington for their first voyage.

We inflated them next to the water...

We paddled a little ways away from shore

and stood up! And paddled!

The day was lovely, and the water was pretty calm -- much different than the first time we got on the water.

Our first day out on our own boards by ourselves had been a success, so we celebrated at a nearby cafe... Perhaps I should mention that it was probably only 10:30 at this point, and all the other patrons were brunching. But we had ALREADY BEEN OUT ON OUR PADDLEBOARDS!

A few days later -- on the 4th of July -- we took the boards out to the lake again. The weather wasn't as nice...

but we enjoyed paddling around. For a long time we just sat together and floated...

We also watched a pair of bald eagles circle overhead, which was pretty to see... and very 'MURCA on Independence Day. 

Then a few days later we drove up to Panorama Point campground for a paddle on Baker Lake ... another gloomy day, but still fun to get out on the water:

But our best time out on the water, I think, was a glorious day up at Baker Lake. We put in at the day use area again, and spent a long time paddling around.

Sorry about the water on the camera lens!

Mount Baker looking perfect...

The day was nearly perfect!

Sadly, that was the last time we were able to get on the water this year; I had to have eye surgery and had to keep water -- especially non-sterile water -- out of my eye for weeks. (My eye healed really well, thanks -- and we were able to go to the hot springs in Japan!) But writing this post really makes me look forward to getting back on the boards next summer!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Adventure 35/50 : Glass fusing workshop

I've always loved glass art, and we live in a place full of beautiful work. For the last several years Wil and I have been slowly adding to our "glass tree" in the back yard. Some pieces are art glass, others are bottles we've collected from around the world. But apart from a couple of brief glass blowing experiences like the pumpkin I made last year, we've never made our own glass art.

Schack Art Center up in Everett is a visual arts center with gallery space, a working glass hot shop, and an amazing gift shop. Every September they hold "Schack-toberfest" where they have a glass pumpkin patch full of thousands of glass pumpkins for sale of all sizes and colors. They also offer seasonally themed glass blowing experiences and a variety of hands-on classes in a wide range of media year round.

I had long eyed a class called "Art in the Garden: Fused Geometric Plant Stakes" because I knew they'd look great in our own "garden of glass". Each student would make three glass panels that would each be affixed to metal rods. Here's the sample photo:

Lovely, right? Well, I'm happy to report that ours turned out just as pretty ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Wil and I both signed up (we would make SIX STAKES!!!!) and headed up to Everett one morning. We met in the glass studio and Anita, the instructor, showed us the glass we would we using, plus showed us some examples of work done in previous classes for inspiration. Then we were off!

We selected our bases, and then stacked pieces of glass on top. We "affixed" (very tenuously, I thought) the layers using tiny drops of hair spray. Some people were told they were using "way too much" and had to wash their glass and try again so as not to leave too much residue. We didn't get that feedback... which made both of us wonder if we were using enough. But on we went, cutting pieces as needed and putting them on the stakes.

The class was three hours long... but Wil and I were happy and done in just over two. We cleaned up our space and sorta looked at each other ... and decided to go.

We turned in our pre-fused pieces on parchment-paper lined baking trays, with an arrow noting which side was the top (in case it mattered for when the rods were affixed). Here are Wil's

And here are mine:

A few weeks later -- when we got back from Japan -- we went back to pick up our finished pieces... first Wil's:

and then mine:

It was funny to see how the glass softened and flowed, while mainly holding their shapes. But I love that the little thin strips just look like lines, and my pieces kept the jazzy deco feel I was hoping for.

The stakes are happily placed in our garden now, and when the weather gets better (probably next spring, sigh), we'll get to admire them more.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Adventure 34/50 : Curling!

Every four years I obsessively watch the Winter Olympics, get nerdy about curling, and think "I want to try that one day."


Seattle is home to the Granite Curling Club, reputedly some of the "best ice in the United States". And a few times a year they host open houses, where for $25 you can visit the club, learn about curling, and even play a little.

We walked in nervously, turned over our waivers and paid our $25, and moved to the windows to wait. We could see some other newbies, but also some very good players on the ice.

We were given our "grippers" -- rubber overshoes so we wouldn't slip on the ice. Stylish!

Then we headed out and learned some terminology. Each space is a "sheet"; and Cascade has 5 sheets. The target is called the "house", and the house sits between the "hog line" (marked in red), and the backline. The teams both throw from the same end, pushing off against a "hack" which is in the center of the sheet but behind the backline. Okay. 

We noticed that the ice surface is rough, or "pebbled" -- that's what helps the rock slide. We then went to the sides of our sheet to try and get comfortable with the sliding position. This is another group but I assume we looked pretty much like this:

Then at what felt like very soon, it was our turn to slide. First we slid using "crutches" in both hands... placing the foot we would be dragging against the hack, with our sliding foot on a sliding plate, and pushing off. Most of us wiped out at least once. I fell and hit my left knee so hard I felt woozy (it's purple as I type). I looked at Wil, wide-eyed, and he said, "We can stop whenever you want."

But we moved onward, starting to slide with the rock. The great big, granite curling stone. There's no definite weight of a curling stone, but there's a range between 38-44 pounds. The stones come from Scotland, where there's a particular quarry where a particular sort of granite comes from. It looks like Granite Curling Club had done a fundraiser where members could sponsor a stone, and those who did would have their names and a message engraved on the top. One of the women in our group noticed the rock she was playing with said "I love cats"; I noticed mine said, "Like curling? Try square dancing!"

Then we were introduced to sweeping, and why curlers do it. It's to make the rock slide faster -- or keep sliding, anyway. I assume you're smoothing the ice to create a faster path?

Then we were split into two teams and we played two ends. Each of us threw two rocks... and did some sweeping, and some yelling, etc. None of us were very good, but Wil's stone gave us a point in the first end, and then I was "skip" for the second round which meant I was calling the shots. This made me laugh and laugh, because I know that we weren't actually able to AIM...

In the end, we tied. Traditionally the losers buy the winners a drink, but I don't think we were really up for it...

We did head upstairs to see more of the club. They have a nice upstairs area, complete with a bar, great sears for viewing the action, a couple of pool tables, and THREE MIRROR BALLS. I wonder if non-curlers can go to the club to just watch?

Amusingly, on the middle sheet there was a very good team playing another very good team. We quietly admired their custom shoes, nice brooms, and matching outfits. Apparently they're hoping to go to nationals...

So, are we going to take up curling? Nope. But I'm so happy to have tried it as one of my 50@50 adventures. Now I'm going to get a fresh ice pack for my knee...