Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Redux Part 2. This is nearly December?

 I don't know if I will *ever* get used to the fact that in this part of the world (where, I will add, I have lived in one place for longer than I have EVER lived anywhere else) a person can go outside in the winter without a jacket.  Or... I shudder to say... go out in a BATHING SUIT and not suffer instant cold damage, or lose a toe.

I guess there's a part of me that got cold-acclimated as a young thing, and some switch was triggered in my brain that says "Just before Halloween, you'd better be putting away ANYTHING that says 'summer', and pulling out any and ALL garments that will protect you from the coming arctic blast.

So this past weekend, when Kelly said "Let's go to the beach", my first thought was "Sure, but make sure you bring WARM CLOTHES!"

Hence the fact that when she and her friend Lauren were playing on the beach and with the butterflies, they were wearing long pants, and Kelly was giving me these sad-puppy looks that said "I wanted to bring a swimsuit, and you are SPOILING ALL MY FUN"

So, on Sunday, when the weather looked OK, I suggested we re-visit the beach with another group of friends.  Anyone who was in town, as a matter of fact.  Within an hour or so, after church, she had accumulated a car load, and we headed south again.  THIS time, with swim wear, and boogie boards.

Though in my brain, I was thinking "You're planning on going INTO THE WATER?  Are you CRAZY?  It's ALMOST DECEMBER!"

First, a trip through the butterflies.

(I brought a longer lens on Sunday)

Then a side-trip to the duck-weed pond.

And the bendy tree.

But we couldn't take TOO long there.  The girls had ONE THING on their minds...

Seriously, I get goose bumps just THINKING about that icy cold water.
It's not warm water.  Really, it isn't!

I think Kelly nearly sucked in all the air around her with that gasp as the first wave hit her knees.
But did that keep her out of the waves?

Honestly, I had to go put a sweater on just looking at this shot.

Of course, it *WAS* freezing, so they didn't stay in the water ALL afternoon.
They popped out for a bit, to warm up in the sunshine.

...and play with stuff that had washed ashore.  Like a long piece of kelp.

And I always make them jump, when I get a group together.  When they're old and grey, they'll be saying things like "Remember how EVERYWHERE we went, your mom made us jump so she could take photos of us in the air?" and they'll all laugh.  Or they'll say "What?  I can't hear you.  Get off my lawn!"

"The sun, it burns my hand!"

A great group of friends, my daughter has managed to collect.  I hope they're always this close.

Bye bye, again, beach.  see you soon.

Thanksgiving Redux. Part 1.

 So, we had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend.

Didn't cook hardly at all.


Ate Thanksgiving dinner with 250 of our (new) closest friends, and was buoyed by watching our kids step out of their comfort zone and serve others. I think I may have seen our gardeners at one table, and the neighbor's cleaning crew at another.  It makes you think.  Maybe it's time to approach our gardener and ask if we could give his crew a raise.

Friday, I got some pretty stinky news about an old friend that we'd lost contact (apart from facebook) with, and it made me realize how precious our in-person, face-to-face time with our families and friends really is.
Saturday, Ken had his usual last-Saturday-of-the-month board game extravaganza that he went off to, taking the boys, so I grabbed Kelly and a girlfriend of hers, and we went on an adventure.

Hello, Santa Cruz.  Nice to see you again.  This is one of the main groves on the Monarch Migration Route, and it was high season.

The girls enjoyed the butterflies, but I think they had more fun just hanging out together.

Oh, and did I mention that this butterfly grove is just a few steps from the ocean?

And pretty soon, people were giving us a wide berth.  I guess two crazy girls singing along to a cell phone doesn't draw the crowds that they thought it would. :)

And did I also mention that we stayed there for a long, long time?

Fun with the sun:

It was a great fun day.  They were sad to leave the beach.

Good night, butterflies.  Good night, beach.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Glass Class Part 2. The pumpkin

 The artist took the girls through their paces one at a time, and soon it was Kelly's turn.

She'd had a chance to watch a few of the girls make their items, so I was hoping that she'd know her way around the studio a little bit before she went up to start working with the glass.  A mom worries, you know.
And she did fine.

To get a feel for the bar, and for working with hot stuff, you start off with a small blob of feeder-glass on the rod.  You roll it on the frame, to get it symmetrical before adding the main amount of glass.  And the artist handed out these gloves, just in case you got your hand too close to the heat.  Anywhere the steel is discolored, that's where it's hot, hot, HOT.  Don't touch that part.

It's really fascinating to see how the glass just drips and flows.  It's like molasses that becomes thicker and thicker, quicker and quicker.

Here, she's just laid on the layer of glass that will take the color.  You've gotta keep that glass spinning, but not too fast, or you can flick off bits like a dog shaking after coming out of the lake.

Here, she's laid on a layer of color, and is heating the glass again, so the color (just tiny chips of colored glass) can melt onto the base, and become as fluid as the base.  While it heats (man, that furnace is HOT!) she keeps spinning the rod evenly, to keep the blob symmetrical.
Then the teacher says "Hey, I've got an idea"

For the color, he's going to lay on a stripe of a different colored glass.

And then, once it's hot again, swirl the colored stripes around with a metal hook.

Right about now, Kelly got a little distracted, and when she went to roll the metal rod, she touched it too close to the glass, and burned her first three fingers.  Whoopsie.  But she just bit her lip, and kept going.  didn't want to ruin her project...

Once the blob was all swirly, and hot again, she dropped it into this cast iron mold, to make it all fluted.

Now, it's getting to be more pumpkin shaped, and so Kelly's job is to make the neck of the piece narrow.  She uses a tool called 'jacks' (because they're jacks of all trades) to squeeze and pull while the glass is still hot, going back into the furnace when the glass gets too stiff to pull.

Closer up:

The end closest to us is where the top of the pumpkin will be.  Where she's pinching will eventually be the bit that is the bottom.

While it's still hot, it's held aloft, so that the pumpkin can fall back on itself to make the divot at the base, and also so that the artist can poke in the 'top' of it, to make it a little bit more pumpkin-shaped.

Now it's pumpkin shaped, but it needs a little something...
Like a stem!

Stem applied.  Kelly is spinning the pumpkin, and holding the wire that's coming in from the left.
While she holds the pumpkin still, and brings in the wire, Doug wraps the hot stem around the wire, to make a curly stem.

The final step is to put a tiny bit of water at the point where the piece will cleave from the metal rod.  That makes the cleavage point brittle, so it will break cleanly.

We're crossing our fingers that it'll just pop off of the rod, into the bucket full of asbestos towels:

And then it was into the finishing oven for overnight cooling.
The finished pumpkin?

I'm very impressed, and now I want to go make some as Christmas presents.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Glass Class. Part 1.

 Back when Kelly had the cast on her arm, we'd visited a glass studio out on the coast, and I'd told her that when her cast came off, she could have a "Cast Away" party with some friends, and I would take them to the studio to work with hot glass.

The day finally came late last month.

There was a bit of a goat rodeo going on with one of her friends in the days leading up to the party, but apart from the mild annoyance that was partly caused by a miscommunication on my part, which I am going to Consciously Shake Off Now, things all worked out amazingly well.

Kelly had three of her friends stay over, and then a fourth friend joined them in the morning, and we headed over to the coast as the sun shone bright and early.  We were worried that the roads would be a parking lot, as it was the last weekend before Halloween, and the coast is THE place to go for the perfect pumpkin, but we beat the rush, so that was all good.

We got to the studio with 10 minutes to spare, and looked around before the class started.  The artist turned out to be an EXCELLENT teacher, and had a very easy way about him, which is a very good thing when you've got 12-year-olds whipping around red-hot metal rods tipped with molten glass.  I'm happy to say, too, that nobody got injured... except for Kelly.  And that burn has already healed.

He did a little demonstration at first, explaining all of the ins and outs of working with glass.  It was really informative.  Here he's showing the girls the first blob of hot glass that makes up the core of their item.

The girls all got to choose something to make from a little display case.

I was amazed that these intricate pumpkins were one of the options.  I couldn't imagine how one might even begin to make something like that.

The artist gave a demonstration, making a heart, as that was something that two of the girls wanted to make.  He had the two heart-making girls come into the 'zone' to help him out.

It is seriously hot where they are standing.  It's about 70F in the studio, but it's closer to 100F standing where they are.
The glass is so hot when it comes out of the furnace, that it makes the air shimmer.

but within moments, it's changing color, and not so hot.

This piece eventually ended up being purple.  You'd never know it, looking at it, though.
Once the core (with colored glass) was formed the way he wanted it, it was time to go back into the pot for more clear glass.

...and then quickly, before it lost it's fluidity, the blob was flattened on the metal table.

It's the bottom of that blob that will be the finished 'top' of the finished item.

A little more shaping, and it's starting to look heart-like.

Cut with a knife, the lobes of the heart 'fall' around the knife, to make the two bumps of the top of the heart.  Then the pointy bit is pulled with pliers.

He then holds the piece aloft, so it cal fall back on itself, and create a more natural divot near the metal rod.  That's where the piece will eventually be cleaved.

A bit more shaping, and it's done.

And then the piece is held in a finishing oven at 900F for some number of hours, and then gradually cooled overnight.

It was really cool to watch.

Next entry, I'll show you the girls going through the process. But now it's time to pack it in.  Tomorrow, we'll be serving at a Thanksgiving Dinner at a local church that expects to feed between 200 and 300 people.  I'd better make sure I have my white shirt and black pants ready.  The kids are nervous about helping out.  Do they (have to) wear nice clothes and (get to)  help at the tables, or do they (get to) wear grubbies, and (have to) wash dishes in the kitchen.  Decisions, decisions...