Friday, December 30, 2011

return from the arctic

Okay, i wasn't in the Arctic, just Ohio.
There are Christmas pictures and my mom's new apartment to come, as well as my goal to pare down the queue by the end of the weekend.
Hope you all had a nice holiday and are looking forward to fabulous New Year's plans.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Turkey Hill experience

One of the very best things that happened in 2011 is that fTM Matt and his lovely wife Sara returned to the East Coast.
The first thing we did together after they arrived waaaaaaay back in August was visit the newly opened Turkey Hill experience in Lancaster, PA. For those of you not from around these parts, Turkey Hill is a dairy that makes wonderful, wonderful ice cream. They also make fabulous flavored teas and have their own min-marts.
Matt and i tried to visit the dairy a while back, but they didn't have factory tours. sad...
But as soon as i read that they had opened an off-site visitor center, i texted Matt and we made a pact to go once he was in the correct timezone.
Any place that has a giant cow overlooking a giant container of ice cream outside of the front door has got to be good, right?
Let us in!

please show some restraint

Built in an awesome old brick factory, the museum portion of the experience was upstairs. After some history of Turkey Hill and some biology of dairy cows [with Matt and Sara saying we have some of them and some of them and a calf of that... remember, Sara was raised on a dairy farm in PA] we got to the entrance

First up was the tea room where we learned all about brewing tea, different types of tea and why the machinery used in a dairy is well suited to be modified for making and bottling iced tea.
There was a fun interactive to find out what type of tea would be your favorite based on your personality; no lie, it picked the correct tea for all three of us.
Then there was the tea tasting area; you could try every single variety of their iced teas. It was fun to taste flavors that i would never normally buy.

The best place in the tea room, though, was the chill zone. Painted sky blue, there were cloud screens on the ceiling projecting a short film about Turkey Hill tea that you had to lay on your back on squishy beanbags to watch.
Very relaxing. 
Onto the ice cream discovery section we go -
right through a giant ice cream container.

This was an amazing exhibit.
Working in a museum i really pay attention to signage and flow-through and line facilitation and on-floor staff - probably more than your average guest.
I was impressed.
There was a ton of information, but all sorts of interactives as well.

First you have to make sure the milk is safe to process so we learned about microbes, both good and bad,
and then played a game to destroy the bad bacteria while cultivated the good.

After turning the milk to basic ice cream, there was a fabulous interactive on how to mix flavors. At these columns, you could emboss scents onto a card, mixing them in different ways to find ones that you liked.

Then it was time to make your own imaginary ice cream at a bank of computer terminals. Our tickets had an activation code so that once you were happy with your flavor and named it, the computer remembered it for the next station. Matt tried to recreate something like a flavor called Moose Moss that he'd had in Canada, Sara went with a coconut and pretzel mix (i think) called Quirky Lou and i created Nikilicious.

On to mixing, with a giant walk-through Disco Blender and i really hard game about the precision it takes to mix industrial amounts of various flavors. 

Time to create the packaging for our ice cream. Again, you just entered your code and up popped all sorts of designs that you could use. I'd never thought about how big the picture should be on the box or whether to have it in a bowl or on a cone. Very enlightening.

mmmmm... looks delicious
i'd buy it

As we waited in line for the last station - making a commercial for your product - i noticed a monkey sitting way up on a display. Why in the world would there be a monkey in a place all about cows?
A staff member told us that the managers place the monkey in a different place every day and the employees have to find it during the shift; so, basically all museum people are weird, not just me.
Once you were done with your commercial, there was a tasting area. they didn't have all of the flavors that Turkey Hill makes, but they had several that you could try.
There were also some mechanical cows to practice milking that were an engineering feat. Matt and Sara were both impressed that you had to use the correct finger rolling motion; I was just impressed that i managed to get it right.

Finally it was time to go downstairs to the gift shop and creamery for some treats!

All of the things that you did in the exhibit were put on a website and the address was mailed to you, which is how i have all of my Nikilicious stuff. Unfortunately, they only keep it posted for a certain amount of time, so when i went to pull Matt and Sara's things, they were gone.
But, because you've waited so patiently, here is me interviewing a cow - my hat was making me insane throughout the shoot, but you only got one take.
If you ever find yourself with a free afternoon in Lancaster, i highly recommend the Turkey Hill Experience.

it just feels reckless

Two weeks ago i went to Manhattan for a concert in the middle of the week.
Just left work and went to play for 36 hours.
Yep, i'm a rebel.
There were several new things on this little excursion, starting with the insanity of taking a trip in the middle of a work week. Who is this responsibility dodger and what is she doing sleeping in my skin? Plus, i've never gone out of town for a concert (Northern Virginia doesn't count, people; it's still in the Balto-Wash Metroplex), i stayed in Times Square for the first time and this is the first time i've taken the train. [okay, sidebar: i did take the train to MA for Kurt's funeral, but all i remember from the trip is my dad walking me to the station and meeting an older lady on the train who said the most shockingly rude thing that i have ever heard; since i don't remember the train or the stations, i'm calling this a new experience]
Let me share just a few words about the train - love it!  It wasn't too busy, the stations were cool, security took 5 minutes, the seats are huge, there's electrical outlets and WiFi and a snack car and the constant clackety-clackety-clack of the wheels. Plus, no traffic. I really, really loved traveling by Amtrak both ways and hope to do it more often.
I stayed in an old timey hotel called the St. James with a gorgeous lobby, rickety wooden elevator that i think Mr Otis installed himself and real room keys on brass fobs that you left at the front desk. It was charming, though definitely the smallest room for the largest price i've ever paid.
I had a co-worker take me to the train station directly from work and was in my hotel room by 10pm.
In the morning after not setting my alarm clock (on a Wednesday, people - a Wednesday) i asked the front desk where i should go for breakfast and they sent me to Junior's on Broadway.
It was lovely to eat my pancakes and eggs leisurely, sipping tea and trying the apple and raisin compote that came as a side dish, while watching the world hustle by on the way to work or shopping or whatever.. In fact, it was such a relaxing meal that i stopped next door at the bakery and bought muffins and croissants to take back to the front desk staff as a thank you for suggesting it.

I had intended to do something touristy like the Observation Deck at the Empire State Building during the afternoon (somehow i have never done that; crazy, right?), but this photo of Times Square sums up the weather for the whole trip:

blech, with a capital BLE
 It was cold and rainy and foggy. I generally like to enjoy my adventures and I knew it would be a long night, so instead i spent the afternoon in my wee hotel room lounging on the bed, reading a book (did i mention that it was a Wednesday? it is simply reckless to lounge in another state on a Wednesday). At lunch time I brought back food from the deli next door and lounged some more.
Around 3:00 i showered and got dressed for the 30 Seconds to Mars world record concert. It was at the Manhattan Center about 14 blocks away so i went outside to catch a taxi.
Ever tried to get a taxi in the rain at 4:00 in the afternoon in New York?
It was full-on raining and the temperature was dropping by the moment so i kept walking thinking that i'd find a taxi somewhere along the way. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
By the time i started seeing available taxis i was only 4 blocks away; after 10 blocks of slogging through a jillion people and puddles i was drenched so it seemed pointless to catch a cab. Thank goodness that i threw my umbrella into my bag at the last minute while packing.
I arrived 2 hours before the doors opened and in the pouring rain the line was already 3 blocks long.
I queued up and balanced my umbrella to read the book i brought along. I really wish i had a picture of me in the midst of hundreds of wet people, holding my umbrella in one hand and Love in the Time of Cholera in the other as i tried to read by the light of a streetlamp.
It was a different experience to be sure.
Eventually the doors opened and the line started moving slowly toward the Hammerstein Ballroom entrance. We weren't allowed to take our umbrellas in, so there were hundreds of them abandoned along the wall; it would have been a fabulous picture, but there was no time to pause as it was general admission seating and being short means you have to run for the front.

to be continued...

i want a punkin pyramid

So the weather has been really odd the last few months, right?
It snowed before Halloween and it was in the 60's in December.
But it has meant that we've been able to adventure during lunch longer into the school year than normal.
A few weeks ago TM Joey and I were in a more rural part of Maryland and as we passed an orchard stand i spotted a big pumpkin pyramid set off on the side of the road.
That was certainly cause for a U-turn, which i did while shrieking Punkins! Punkin Pyramid! because it was December and you don't expect to see pumpkins in December and it is a well known fact that i loves me some punkins.
Meanwhile Joey is like Wait... what are you talking about?
When we pulled into the parking lot of the Catoctin Mountain Orchard i was besides myself with joy and he was giving me a strange look; How did you even SEE this from the other side of the highway?
To which i could only answer How did you NOT see it?
i am on tiptoes trying to be as tall as a cheeky anthropomorphic apple;
there are so many things wrong with that
Farmer Joey
Farmer Crazy-Eyes Gonna-Kill-You

educational flip signs; YES!

though even the signs couldn't make me understand this concrete cup tree

Monday, December 19, 2011

some questions have no answers

I understand that footprints in the sidewalk are from when the concrete was still wet.
I understand that there are different types of cement and concrete.
I understand that sometimes you might patch the sidewalk.
What i don't understand is this

It is a perfect footprint in the sidewalk of a different type of concrete that is perfectly flush with the rest of the cement, as opposed to a raised patch.
And most importantly, what about my brain constantly causes me to notice things like this?

i heart girl geeks

How many of you read Cake Wrecks?
Hilarious, right?
I enjoy it, but i really love the author's personal blog, Epbot.
Jen is a full-on girl geek.
I appreciate her humor and that she loves so many things that i love, too. I've gotten a ton of ideas from her; some day i hope to turn my smashed penny collection into super-neato jewelry. That's right, not only does she collect smashed pennies, but she makes her own jewelry.
Sound like anyone you know?
Anyhoo, she and her husband John -who appears regularly on both blogs- went on a book tour for the Cake Wrecks holiday book and the third stop was about 15 minutes from my house and conveniently on a weekend so i was able to go.
As is my way, i went early cause being short means that you need to be in the front if you are gonna see a dang thing. I scored a seat in the front row. SWEET!
As soon as they arrived, Jen and John were just as laid back and personable as they seem in cyberspace. They bring their own gear and set up themselves to alleviate any last minute kerfluffles with using other people's sound systems.
well, technically Jen waits
while John sets up

There was a pre-show pre-show, then a pre-show, then the show with both of them talking about some of their favorite wrecks and writing the blog and writing the book and being on a book tour and whatever seemed to occur to them.

It was entertaining, yet comfortable. Jen and John took questions and spent a long time with the audience. Before the actual book signing, though there was a contest for the best cupcake version of a cake wreck that audience members had made.

his shirt is Boba Fetch; really
 Plus, there was a Charm City Cake done as a wreck of Jen (i didn't get a pic before it was cut); that is the head sitting on the table in front of John.
As we went through the book signing line we were given a piece of it; yes, it was delicious.

I didn't have a book for her to sign -cleaning out my book shelves is on the 40 While I'm 40 list after all- so she signed on of the Epbot pins that they had made for the tour; i've turned into a fridge magnet.
Since she does steampunk crafting i gifted her some antique Victorian lace that i've hand-dyed for my own crafting purposes (like the pin and hair clip that i am wearing).
It is great when the people you want to meet are as nice in real life as you hope they are.

practice makes perfect

With less than two months until my first jewelry show i have been cranking out designs, but haven't spent nearly enough time improving my wire work. It looks easy, but it is a mother trying to get every little loop the same size and shape. This weekend i took some pretty lampwork glass beads and made 45 pairs of earrings for the practice.
Yes, i did say 45.
Yes, that is a heck of a lot of wire work.
I couldn't feel the end of my left thumb and the nail was wrecked, but i feel more confident.
Of course, i now have 45 new pairs of earrings, of which i really would only choose to keep about 5 for myself. So then i thought to myself, Self, you should take those to work and sell them for $5 a pair; they'd make excellent last minute presents.
Then i had to figure out how to transport them and display them. I went with a vintage frame that was in my studio wrapped in fuzzy white fiber so that the hooks wouldn't slip.
Not only did i get practice in wiring, but now i have a good idea about how much time it takes to make certain pieces, a new idea for display and an idea of spacing so i can adjust my stock goals for the show accordingly.
I consider it 24 hours well spent.

ps - if you see anything you like, it's $5 a pair and i'd be happy to mail them to you. ;-) 

Hail (a really big) Mary

If you've ever been on the Delaware Memorial Bridge between New Jersey and Delaware, you've probably noticed this large statue of Mary.
TM Joey and I were at one of my favorite schools in northern DE so during lunch we went on a quest to find her; basically we found her from the highway and just drove around neighborhoods until we found the church where she lives, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in New Castle.
From the road you can't tell how she was fabricated, but up close you can see the thousands of sheets of stainless steel welded together; it is truly amazing. Because of the spot welding technique, there are nooks and crannies where people leave rosaries and medals and prayer requests:

Named Our Lady Queen of Peace, the Delaware statue is one of a series done by sculptor Charles Parks and was dedicated in 2007.

From the road you can tell she is large, but like many giant sculptures you can't really appreciate her size until you stand right next to her.
At over 33 feet, Mary dwarfs everything around her, including TM Joey.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

jewelry roundup 4

I get a great deal of satisfaction from matching my jewelry to some tiny detail in my outfit that most people wouldn't even notice.
After buying a new shade of nail polish (bought on sale with a coupon, making the bottle 88 cents) i realized that i had an enamel tulip pin was the exact same shade. I found it years ago for a dollar, but had never worn because it was an odd off-pink. I can't imagine anyone noticed since they were on different sides of my body, but it made me giggle inside all day.

While this clip earring that i slipped onto the band of a side ponytail is almost the exact pattern as the post earrings i'm wearing (you can almost see it in the picture).
Both were randomly found in the 25 pound box of junk jewelry, making the whole ensemble about 15 cents.
Love it.

This leaf pin has rare red AB crystals that makes it kinda hard to match to an outfit, so i tossed it onto the top of a side braid with my uniform. Anything can go with khaki (perhaps the only saving grace for khaki; i hate khaki).

One of my favorite pins is this heavy deco-inspired deal from the mid 80's.
It is a rather bold statement and I found an onxy ring that perfectly matches. It is really different from my normal girly choices, but i have loved it since i saw it for the first time a jillion years ago when i was a mallrat.

As the days get shorter i like to sport traditionally springish or summery pieces to chase away the cold; these clip earring have a lot going on with painted leaves, cut crystals and plastic flowers.

This pin was one of my mom's favorites in the 80's and i love feeling like she is with me when i wear it. Being so large and dangly you really have to find the right placement for it and i thought holding a traditional twist bun together highlighted it nicely.

In fact, buns that are well pinned make the perfect platform for larger, more ornate pins that could overwhelm a blouse, like this cool pearl and white circle that is a new $3 acquisition from the local thrift store.

Meanwhile a delicate wire and pink crystal pin is a better for this messy side knot.

Colored cut crystals make me so happy;

they make every day feel special and sparkly so this flame shaped single clip earring got tucked among the twists of some whimsy hair when i performed three shows for a state engineering group.

Speaking of sparkles, these flaring clips were the very first vintage pieces that i ever owned with AB crystals. I inherited them, along with a fabulous matching pin, from my great-aunts.
They are just a touch of color that match any outfit.
I made the snowman earrings from a kit to practice eyehook loops.
They are getting a lot of wear right now; here they make an appearance at my work holiday party with another inherited piece. This pin that my mom chose for me after her mother died amazes me with its needlepoint flower.
How was this even manufactured?

Looking through the pictures for this post i also realized that with the imminent holiday not only are the snowmen showing up often, so is this bulky red sweater. However, this day instead of going with a big brooch on the collar, i went with a tiny initial pin tacking down the color and this crazy necklace that i got at a flea market like 14 years ago when the uniform at work was red. I've never seen anything like its coils, beads and tiny gold drops.