Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Glass Blowing

I took a glass blowing class a couple weekends ago at Susan Knecht's studio at Lowe Mill. There were four students and she taught for about 5 hours. The first thing she showed us was to gather. Gathering is pulling a blob of molten glass from the pot. This takes a bit of getting used to - seeing as how its a might bit hot. An the only way you can tell that you're gathering is by the shadow of the rod above the surface of the molten glass since its all the same flaming orange color. The above photo is my first gather.

Sue showing us how to gather.

The second thing Sue showed us was how to manipulate glass with a few types of standard glass working tools. Here's my little flower.

The third item taught was a combination of the first two. 1. Gather. 2. Add color 3. Manipulate the glass. 4. Gather again. So here's my little paper weight.

The forth item was to see what it felt like to blow glass. So we gathered and then warmed the glass in the glory hole and then blew. Its NOT easy. I think I turned a bit red before I finally got a bubble.

The 5th was to try and make a glass of some sort. Blowing a bubble, cutting the glass off the blowpipe and placing it on another rod (or punty stick) and then heating it in the glory hole then finally using the tools to manipulate the glass and open the mouth. My bubble was offset - resulting in this rather wonky juice glass. But its still pretty darn cool.

For the last item - we could choose whatever we'd like to try. I went for a larger paperweight. With three gathers and random color.

Then Sue showed us how to make a plate -

It was incredible to see her work. So fast, so skilled. Can't wait for another class!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fell in a Hole

Still playing catch up here....Don't worry Laura - next step is the visit in JAX.

I happily fell into a hole a couple weekends ago taking a 10 hour trip in Tumbling Rock. Yes, you heard me right - 10 hours. What exactly did we do in TR for 10 hours you ask? A LOT! A speedy group of us went to visit and explore the rarely visited Wildcat Extension. Our original grand plan was to see the ext. take some photos and then go all the way back of TR to see the Teeth - but we didn't quiet make it that far. After we saw the extension (which was spectacular by the way - I highly recommend it!) and did some photo work we got all the way back to the asphalt ooze and then checked our time - realizing it'd be midnight before we got out. The "terrible tiger teeth" will have to wait for the next trip.

Jay C. followed us in to the elephants feet and then we went our separate ways. Enjoyed listening to a few historical tid-bits on the way in that I had not yet heard.

Jimmy took this photo of me sneaking a rock into Andrew's pack while we were waiting on Nathan and Andrew to come up a the rather sketchy climb. Andrew did find it - but first he hauled it around for a little while. (And I might add that Jimmy actually snuck a rock into my pack even before we went into the cave - he had it in a plastic bag and had written my name on it - so I couldn't even dump it in the cave when I did discover it! Sneaky sneaky.)

Nathan with the tools of the trade. He looks like he's got a ball of light in his hand here. Kinda cool. This was the single unblurred shot in about 15 or so photos. I'm hoping he'll post some of the photos he took on this trip soon. They're the nice ones!

I did the same for Andrew.

And then again for Jimmy. This pic is a bit of photoshoped work - merging two.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past - New Years (Part 4)

Yeah, I know, January is almost over... but I still had a few more photos of my parents visit.

I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! The candles above are an old family tradition - my Mom's Mom and her Mom before her would always burn a pair of bayberry candles - lighting them in old year and letting them burn to the socket in the new. Its said to bring good luck. They have to be real bayberry candles - not just scented. Real ones are hard to track down but there's a candle maker in St. Augustine, FL that makes them, so we're constantly buying them there. The photo is about 2 am, January 1st.

Our Happy New Year cake we enjoyed at Conant's.

Paul and my Mom and I eating black beans and hog jowls on New Years day - another (southern) tradition for good luck - to be eaten the first day of the year.

This would be Jolly Green's Bug Getter - a geocache gigantic flyswatter that now inhabits the woods at the Wade Mtn. preserve.

The next three photos were taken on the last day that my parents were in town. We all went to Unclaimed Baggage and stopped at this neat abandoned homestead and barn off AL35 for some photos.
They are redoing the tracks - the rusty rails off to the sides are the new ones which will replace the nice shiny old ones.

My Dad and the cool barn.

My Dad and what remains of the house - just a couple fireplaces...

Paul and I at Nothing But Noodles.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Part 3)

Paul and I had the opportunity to print some birthday invites for a friend of Paul's from work over Christmas break.

My Dad had these hats stitched up for us - Paul's says: Printer's Devil and mine says: Triple S Letterpress. You can see the green ink color on the ink disc on Preston behind me.

A bit of goofing off while the press was being cleaned for the second color.

One of my "new" cabinets was a bit unsteady on its feet. My Dad did an awesome job cleaning and restoring and reinforcing the cabinet. Paul even built a few new cases (type drawers) for a few of the empty slots.

40 finished invites: 5 hits of the opaque green, with blow drying in between each hit (the paper was super absobent) and then 1 of black. 1 hit on the matching envelope. Total time: 13 hours.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Hyperactive Amateur

Here's some crazy fun for your Friday "I'm so ready for the weekend" Morning!


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Part 2)

This is an ornament Christin gave me ages ago in highschool.

And a little batty ornament.

Here are some more highlights of our wondrously nutty Christmas:

My Dad and I going incognito at Lowe's. (We did actually buy one of these buckets to put the live Christmas tree in.)

This is a doll that my Mom's Mom (Mimi) made for me long long ago. I can remember snuggling up to it on many a night. Mimi got sick and never was able to finish it. Poor kid had been partially bald for at least 15 year! She finally got the rest of her pretty blond yarn hair this Christmas!

Paul was a bit jealous so she said she would share - although she didn't really think blond was his color.

Ta Da! Isn't she cute?

Paul in his totally sweet Utilikilt. This was one of my big presents I got him. He didn't really say "I want a man-skirt for Christmas" he didn't even say that they were cool...but I thought they were pretty cool - Not to mention he's got some hunky-good looking legs and he can totally pull off a kilt with me hanging on his arm. (Just don't tell his Mom and Dad!) Go watch some of the Utilikilt Mockumercials - they are darn funny!

Here's my dad staring down Christmas super...

And here's his "Happy Plate."

And then there's the dog... in a pair of my clean underwear. Paul did it. They went directly into the dirty pile after this photo was taken.

My Dad at the Birmingham Museum of Art. We went to go see the Pompeii exhibit there. It was really spectacular. They had so much phenomenal jewelry and several walls of frescos. And then the plaster casts... very very eerie. But awesome! If you haven't seen it - I highly recommend going there. Its truly a once in a lifetime exhibit!

Here we begin the Alabama fried foods section:

This is the famous Mickey Mouse okra from Gibson's Bar-B-Que.

And then we have the Christmas ornament onion ring from Soul Burger.

Here you can see my Mom and Dad discussing the highlights of the Christmas ornament onion ring.

Look for both of these fantastic food icons on ebay very soon.

(Letterpress and New Years highlights coming soon to a post near you!)

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Part 1)

Two items are needed to make Merry for Christmas (Anne here it is to answer your question...)

Exhibit A: The Christmas Stick (a stick that can be decorated with lights and various seasonal items ie. bats and pumkins for Halloween, hearts for Valentine's Day, etc. but originally picked up as a substitute Christmas tree a couple years ago)

And Exhibit B: Some goofy family to celebrate with!!

My dad getting a laugh out of his new boxers (thanks Aunt Sally and Gregory!)

Our Christmas was very very Merry indeed! (The funny thing is this is the only photo of all of us together.... my parents were here for two weeks and I didn't get another one of all of us together. I can't believe the fuzzy white-one is in it let alone actually looking at the camera?!!)

We added a real tree too - just for good measure. Cool thing is - its a live tree - in a pot - so we can plant it later on or let it hang out on the patio and haul it in next year for Christmas.

More Christmas to come!

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Not Even a Mouse

The house is oddly sad and a bit too quiet. The three inhabitants wander in and amongst the Christmas spoils piled here and there on the floor, and the bright lights on the tree and the Christmas stick glow cheerily this cold evening. But it still seems very dull, very.... over. Two weeks with my parents passed much too quickly. Paul and I had breakfast and waved them both good-bye this very morning. But now I get to tell you all about what we've been up to for the past two weeks! Stay tuned for the "Ghost of Christmas Past" posts coming soon! For now I'll leave you with a cave trip report I had meant to post just before they arrived (below).

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Doubting My Sanity

I was seriously doubting my own sanity as Brent fed the rope out, gently swinging me off and out from the comfortable Hall of Giants ledge 237' above the bottom of Surprise Pit (404')....

Saturday morning (December 15th) dawned and I grabbed kolaches at Alabama Bread Co. for everyone on survey the trip. They've become a bit of a Fern survey tradition for me - being #1. delicious, #2. really great cave food, #3 I like buying them to share them with the folks who give up their Saturdays to come survey Fern. Its pretty much my thank you for coming out to play in the mud.

Hiking up the mountain I reviewed the game plan for today. Jimmy, Michelle E. and Brent would go in by way of Surprise and tie-in the top of the land bridge with the Hall of Giants ledge (which ended up being 167 feet down in Surprise - instead of the 120/130 that was guesstimated). Once they were done with those shots they'd come in through the key hole to the Hall of Giants and find Steve P., Steve C. and I. Then we'd push a small interesting lead over by the haystack.

I went in through the Johnston with Steve and Steve at 11:23am. We made it to the Hall of Giants in 1 hour. The main floor area of the room we'd finished surveying in November. We did more surveying in two of the leads off the large room. Funny thing is the one marked "Lead #3 - Putnam" had a date of 12/15/1992. Wonder what are the odds are of coming back to the same lead, on the exact same date 15 years later? We'd gotten through a crawl and had just popped out into a cool 100' dome when we heard Jimmy and Brent and Michelle's voices. We BO'd back and forth a bit till they got closer. There's a sweet little window about 15/20 feet up on the wall in the Hall of Giants. For us it was on the floor of the 100' dome room. So Steve stuck his head down there to describe how to find us. They crawled out into our room and we talked about what to do next. We decided we'd stop a little early - so next time Steve C. sketched he could change out and go to a smaller scale in the dome room. (He's done the plan the past couple times and I've done the profile and cross sections) I think we'll need one - if not two more surveys in there to finish up the Hall of Giants area.

Steve and Steve left by way of the route we took in. Brent, Michelle, Jimmy and I checked out the tiny little lead. Gosh there was plenty of air flow! and sticky mud too... I actually had to take my helmet off and shove it ahead of me for the first part. We got in there and there were three ways to go. One got too tight fast - one I could see the end of and then the last one - you come smack up against a formation with about a 4 inch crack and you can feel the air whoshing past you. There's a little - 4 inch again - duck under off to the left that looks like it heads off and around the formation crack. The floor is mud and flowstone crust covered mud... so we dug on it for a while with a rock till we hit rock and then gave up. It definitely needs to be surveyed - seeing as how its not on the original Torode map. And it will be interesting to see the direction it trends.

My super-duper muddy-mud gear.

I headed out with Jimmy, Brent and Michelle E. by way of Surprise. You have to go through a key hole in the Hall of Giants that is filled with the stickyiest muddiest nastiest mud. Once I got on the other side my gear was so glopped and I was so glopped I was lucky to identify my gear from the floor - seeing as how we now looked like helmeted peanut butter monsters. You can hear the waterfall that drops into Surprise and see the rope in the distance - but you have to kind of skirt the pit - on a wide ledge, in and amongst a large ledge with VW Beetle-sized breakdown, and then squeeze through a tight funky mushroom shaped passage. Then you finally pop out on the Hall of Giants ledge in Surprise pit proper. As everyone started cleaning the mud out of their cams my nerves started to jangle a bit.

I'd been in Fern Sink out to the land bridge twice to toss a rock and count the seconds before it hit the ground. But seeing as how I have no real desire to do the pit - this was first time doing any rope work in Surprise. Its not that I can't do it (I've frogged plenty of 400's and even an 800' before on a pulley hanging from various trees, I-beams and cliffs), but for me there HAS to be a reason to do a big drop - like something really cool at the bottom, or more cave....otherwise there's no point. And then there's the whole mental thing of holy crap - that's 404' feet down! There isn't anything to see at the bottom of Surprise - if there was - I'd be down there. Now if/when we make the connection crawl from the Bottom Cave to the bottom of Surprise that's only been made once before - I would love to frog out. Anyway - the point is that this was the first time I'd tackled any part of Surprise and I was SUPER nervous. I knew the 167 foot climb wasn't going to be a problem - its just the whole mental aspect of swinging out off the nice solid ledge out into Surprise - 237 feet off the deck. You could literally say I was jumping right into the middle of it!

Michelle started to climb first. While I was waiting my turn Jimmy chose a nice 20lb rock and chucked it off into Surprise. (He said we have to ration them - otherwise there won't be anymore to toss in.) After a second it hit the Torode Hall ledge right below us and then bounced off of it and down the rest to the bottom. The echo seriously made it sound like the whole place was going to collapse in on itself. It sounded amazing - although I think I would have appreciated it a bit more if I hadn't been as nervous. Jimmy (he'd gone down Surprise first that morning) told Brent and I he was a bit shocked to see his feet were still 6 inches away from the ledge when he came down. After a bit of pondering he heaved his dangling pack at the ledge. He'd made contact after a few tries and was able to enough momentum going that he was able to pendulum back and forth. He said he started spinning around so he had to wait a couple go rounds to be able to get enough momentum to get himself over to the ledge - and then get up on it. (Um. Yeah. I am so not that brave/crazy.)

Michelle called off rope. Jimmy said he'd go up last - so Brent and I told each other "you could go first" at the same time. I was as ready as I'd ever be - so I said I could go - that way I wouldn't have to fret about what I was going to do. The ledge is a nice large one with plenty of room to walk around, maybe 15-20 feet deep - kind of has some flowstone step downs that get you closer to the edge. I was about 2 feet from the wall, so I VERY carefully snuck out and clipped on 10 feet from the abyss. Jimmy said something about pungee sticks and - "don't look down" and I said yeah - "Ha ha - very funny - I'm seriously freaked about this." It got quiet fast. I started to feed rope down through my croll to get some rope tension. Brent had the other end of the rope so when I got high enough for my feet to come off the ground I wouldn't pendulum out over the pit. He slowly fed the rope out so I hung straight. The rope and I twirled around a few times and my pack got all tangled up in the rope. Oh. Joy. I fritzed with that for a minute or two and then started the climb. I'd only gotten about 5 feet up when my top ascender slipped straight back down. Gulp. The peanut butter mud from Michelle's boots had gotten all over the rope and had clogged up the cam teeth and spring again. Ooops. So I took to looking up at the rope above me - wiping the mud off above my QAS before I slid it up. I took shorter strides too. It slipped about 1/2 a dozen more times, but I was a bit more prepared for it when it happened and I didn't want to completely swallow my tongue. Sure was happy to see the bottom of the rope pad.

Once we all got out of the Fern sink we bopped over to the Johnston entrance to grab my jacket and hat. I left the strings of a ditty bag wedged in the ceiling just inside the entrance, so the pack rats didn't think it was fancy new nesting material. So I literally did a complete round trip underground and above it by going back over and into the Johnston entrance! There was even some discussion as to me being one of a couple - or perhaps the only person who has ever done the route I took on Saturday. Anyone know?

So anyway I didn't fall to my death or anything otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. And now that I did it - it was actually fun. What doesn't make you completely freak out or plummet to your death makes you stronger, right? And doubting my sanity, I'd probably do it again.

Muddy leftovers at about 1:30 am on December 16th.

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