Nom or Vom: Cotton Candy Balls

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Sometimes I think I should rename this column “Herr’s presents: Nom or Vom” just due to the sheer amount of times they’ve introduced something the thought of which makes my tastebuds give up the will to live. This time it’s Sweet ‘n Crunchy Cotton Candy Balls, a bright blue concoction that looks like they’ve spent some time putting the screws to a number of residents of Smurf Village.

Pros:  Crunchy is a pleasing texture, the ball is a tried and true snack delivery method, a way to get the cotton candy experience without needing to go to a fair

Cons: Blue is one of the least-appealing food colors, they’re sure to stain your tongue the color of shame, they’re corn snacks so they may taste like cotton candy with an undercurrent of corn which is somehow worse

Would you eat cotton candy balls?

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The Seattle Museum of History and Industry

seattle museum of history and industry

Ducks welcome you to MOHAI

clock outside MOHAI

The Seattle Museum of History and Industry (or MOHAI) manages to perfectly blend education and fun, which I personally believe is the sweet spot for most museums. Not all–you don’t want to risk making light of some serious topics–but there are plenty of museums that can benefit from some interactivity or lightheartedness to keep the tone from being too dry. MOHAI nails it, pumping visitors full of information in an entertaining fashion with a bit of quirkiness as well. It’s like they made the museum specifically to appeal to me–I best retain information when it’s conveyed with a sense of humor.

MOHAI interior

Each part of this display has an interactive component–some parts light up. The orcas jump in the waves. The sushi rolls down the conveyer belt. The clam pedals its bicycle. Black Bart draws his gun. It is so flipping cool.

toe truck

They also have one of the two Toe Trucks on display–the left. Where the right one is, I’m not sure, but I remember reading about the Toe Trucks way back when I bought my first Roadside America book something like twenty years ago, so it was very cool to finally see one in person.

the typewriter of my hipster dreamsThe typewriter of my hipster dreams.

They also had the best educational video I’ve ever seen. When my friend and I decided to swing back by the room about the Seattle fire when the video was scheduled to start, neither one of us expected the hilarity that was about to unfold in front of us.

strike it rich

They also had a slot machine that had a game about pioneer life in early Seattle that reminded me a lot of the one at the Astoria museum. Maybe because they both killed me off right away.

prohibition

build a railroad

if i had a hammer
When I saw this rubber mallet and the railroad spikes set up in front of a monitor, I thought it probably wouldn’t hurt if I whacked a spike just a little with one, one time. As it turns out, it’s an interactive display that requires you to pound the spikes with the mallets, over and over again, for something like fifteen minutes. In order to get through the entire educational segment about the transcontinental railroad, we both ended up hammering with a mallet in each hand to speed the process. By the time it wrapped up, I had broken into a light sweat. That is how serious they are about getting you to work on the railroad all the livelong day.

dogs in the sky for candy

Unfortunately, after the railroad, development on public transit basically stalled out permanently, which is why most of the suggestions about how to redesign the city involve transit. Though “dogs in sky for candy” would be good, too.

lusty ladyThe Lusty Lady may be gone, but the sign lives on at MOHAI!

innovate

innovation room

The innovation section of the museum is an excellent way to remind visitors of the astounding number of things that have revolutionized modern life that have their roots in Seattle. Not just $5 coffee, but computing, engineering, even the way we purchase goods! There’s something about the culture of Seattle that encourages invention, and MOHAI is right there, asking visitors what they will create to change the world. It’s refreshing and inspiring, and I resolve to introduce at least one new fart joke into the general lexicon, because that is what I can do.

MOHAI is a top-notch museum, and absolutely one of my favorites. I’d definitely recommend it alongside the Underground Tour for anyone interested in learning about the history of Seattle.

What do you do? You get the best looking ouija board I’ve ever seen and put it in the middle of our living room–explain that to me!

Sometimes, when you want something done right (or at least, large), you have to do it yourself. I had an Ouija board out at my last Halloween party, but it was plastic-y, cheap, and not the eye-catching spooky centerpiece that I was looking for. If I was going to turn my house into a proper Goth Downton Abbey in October, I’d need something grander.

Something grander started with a big hunk of plywood at Home Depot. I took the measurements of my coffee table and had them cut the board to those dimensions. (I ended up having to wander through the store for a while looking for an employee, and as the piece of plywood was so large, it looked like I was using a clever disguise to hunt wascally wabbits.)

giant plywood

home depot camouflage

Once that sucker was cut to the proper size, I brought it home and used a woodburning tool on all of the edges so they wouldn’t be so bright–I wanted them dark enough to almost visually blend with the coffee table in dim lighting. I could have accomplished this aim in any number of ways other than woodburning: stain, paint, marker, blood of the innocent…I just chose the method that tickled my pickle at the time.

workbench

After the edges were to my liking, I put a couple of thin coats of Restor-A-Finish on top to bring out the grain and darken the wood a bit. I chose Restor-A-Finish for a couple of reasons: one, I had it on hand already so it was effectively free, and two, Restor-A-Finish has only a small amount of stain in it so I didn’t have to worry about accidentally making the wood so dark that it would compete with the lettering on top.

stained

As usual, it’s at this point in the process where I got so involved that I stopped taking pictures, because I always forget about maybe blogging the project later in the heat of the moment. But it’s not like there’s that much to it, either. I wanted the board to have a creepy woodsy theme, so I used very thinned-out black acrylic paint to wash on a couple of trees on either side of the board. Thinned out acrylic soaks into the wood much like watercolor and by layering it, I was able to get the overall effect I was looking for. I found a free font I liked on dafont and printed it out huge. Using that as a guide, I eyeballed it and penciled a larger approximation of each letter onto the board. When I was satisfied with placement, I then used a sharpie to fill them in. I went with sharpie over paint for the ease of crisp lines, a generally matte texture, not having to worry about chipping, and keeping the lettering area smooth. I have zero intention of ever using it as a functional board (I don’t believe in it and even if I did, it’s too dang big), but I wanted it to look as though it could be used as one, and letters with any amount of raising would keep the planchette from moving smoothly.

planchette

Speaking of the planchette, I decided that instead of the standard heart-shaped piece of wood, I wanted something that looked sort of like a crow skull. To make it, I used a cheap monocle I’d bought as a photo booth prop for the wedding and sculpted the skull shape using apoxie sculpt around it. I love apoxie sculpt–you mix equal parts of the putty thoroughly and you have 1-3 hours working time to get it shaped it exactly as you’d like, after which it cures hard and waterproof, able to be painted, sanded, drilled, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. I find it superior to sculpey and the like because it doesn’t need to be baked to cure and I’ve found it to be less fragile as well. The only downsides are the shorter working time and higher cost per ounce, but I’m still using the one pound pack I bought in 2010, and I’ve found that if I don’t finish a small sculpting project within a couple of hours, I won’t ever finish it, so the shorter working time actually works for me in that it keeps my butt glued to the seat and focused on what I’m doing. Once the apoxie sculpt finished curing, I painted it with some acrylic paint.

Spooky, no? If I was going to do it over, I’d use a larger magnifying glass lens instead of a monocle, and I may yet do so, if only because the magnified area is so relatively small compared to the size of the letters. But for under $12 (basically, the cost of the wood, since I had all of the other materials on hand), I definitely have something that’s much more dramatic and eye-catching than the cardboard board game!

A Fall Adventure in Snohomish

Now that it’s officially fall, the time is right for a fall adventure. Namely, corn mazing, pumpkin patching, and petting farm animals. We visited The Farm at Swan’s Trail in Snohomish on opening day and were excited to see that in addition to a corn maze and a pumpkin patch, they also offer apple picking and duck races. That’s right: duck races. I don’t know how long it took to train the little quackers to speed down their trough and then fly back to their pen once the race was over, but I appreciate the trainer’s diligence, as the races were delightful. They zip through the water very quickly and adorably, and they’ve solidified for me that should I decide to raise any backyard fowl for eggs, it’s going to be ducks and not chickens.

From front to back: Big Jim, Steve, Butch, Sundance, Chocolate Thunder, Aflac, Chuck, and Moose the Goose

I rooted for Chocolate Thunder both times, and both times he came in dead last.

The Farm at Swan’s Trail has put their own spin on their corn maze: instead of doing a Halloween theme, they have recreated the state of Washington and the major roads and thoroughfares therein on twelve acres, with bits of trivia and information about each city marked on the map. You can start at one of four starting cities in eastern Washington, and the goal is to exit at Gray’s Harbor. Along the way, there are a few “road closures” so you can’t just blaze across the entire state on I-90.

Not really all that different from the real Spokane.

They even recreated Sam Hill’s Stonehenge with a corn twist!

The Peace Arch looks a little different than I remember, though.

They include three wooden bridges in the corn to simulate the real world bridges: one at Vantage, one at Grand Coulee Dam, and the one we all remember watching shake apart in physics class, the Tacoma Narrows or Gallopin’ Gertie. On these bridges, you can just barely see some landmarks peep out of the top of the corn. On some years, you see a little bit more, but it’s all dependent on the height of the corn, which grew to extraordinary heights this year. We only saw the tippy top of the Space Needle and the Peace Arch–everything else was hidden by corn.

Space needle!

When we got into the area of the corn that would roughly be categorized as our neighborhood, I sent Jason off to simulate skulking in the shadows like a teenage delinquent, because I’ve got to find some way to laugh about what’s been going on in our backyard.

I really enjoyed the Washington map maze–granted, you’re never really “lost” insofar as you know your roads, but it was also fun to visit all of the cities in miniature and learn interesting bits about their history. For instance, I never knew about the British/U.S. territory dispute in the San Juan Islands that was sparked by a pig (later dubbed “The Pig War”). I bet this place is a hit with schools for field trips!

After we finished the corn maze, we checked out the hay maze, which, as it turns out, is really only a maze for those persons under two feet tall, and ends in a slide that I feel I could have easily cracked in half with my ass…so not really for adults. But I’m sure it’s a blast for kids!

They’ve also got a petting zoo area at the farm, with a pony, a donkey, some goats, and some wee fuzzy pigs, whom I discovered don’t much appreciate being petted on their fat little piggy cheeks. Thus rejected, I went off to eat my feelings with some kettle corn, which we dubbed our “hot kettle corn baby”.

Rock-a-bye kettle corn

on the treetop

When the wind blows

you’ll fall in my mouth

when the bough breaks

you’ll fall in my mouth

and down will come kettle corn

into my mouth

Pretty catchy, no?

When we’d pumpkined and mazed and patted and kettle corned to our heart’s content, we set off to another farm stand that had advertised large boxes of honeycrisp apples for sale as well as fresh-pressed cider and u-pick flowers. I like all of those things. I especially liked that they also had sheep. Cute, fuzzy, baaing sheep.

I picked approximately a truckload of dahlias for under ten bucks, and I brought home enough honeycrisp apples to make a 10 pound pie and STILL have apples leftover, so I’m calling this a successful fall adventure!

He DOES exist!

serial lickerWhen Jason and I went on the whale watching tour, we decided that among the sights we hoped we’d see was the mysterious merwoof, terror of the ocean and merman’s best friend. After all, if there are half human half fish hybrids out there, why not half dog half shark hybrids as well?

Nature is a toothless dying hag–we are gonna save those whale babies!

Friday Harbor, located on San Juan Island, is picture perfect, especially on a sunny late summer day. With its shipshape buildings and stellar view, it’s almost too cute to be true–even its ferry terminal is bedecked with little leaping orcas. Of course, it would have to be this way: nearly the entire economy of the islands is tourist-driven, and the only ways to visit are to take a ferry*, own a boat, or hire a puddle-jumper. If they were to lose tourist appeal, the whole town could tank. This also explains why the town’s motto could be “An ice cream in every hand.” Because, seriously, there were about three types of land-based businesses: seafood restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. Even the bookstore serves coffee, with ice cream service presumably coming soon. My salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone was delightful…after all, who was I to deny their ice cream based economy?

Besides eat ice cream, there are a few things to do in Friday Harbor: zip line, sunset sails in restored ships, hiking, and a whale museum. I’ll have to go back to check out all of that stuff, because my afternoon was already booked with a three-hour tour: whale watching with Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Tours. I’d read recently that one of the resident orca pods in Puget Sound had a baby, and I was very hopeful to see the tender little 8 foot babe, whom I was certain would leap into my arms and let me give him kisses.

 

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I AM KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN!

Our one year anniversary fell on a gorgeous day, so we decided to make the most of it and drive to Crystal Mountain and take their gondolas up to the summit for what they call the best view of Mount Rainier.

We’ve been having a lot of problems with teens (and young adults) dealing and doing drugs and partying in the lot area behind our house–over the summer, I’d been telling everyone I saw back there that they needed to go somewhere else, and the reaction has been about what you’d expect: a couple of apologies, a few “old nosy bitch” remarks and that’s been that. But our neighbor has also been telling people they can’t be back there any longer, going a step further and telling them that if he saw them again, he’d take their pictures and call the police, and things have started to escalate. Our house has been egged. A package was taken from our doorstep, ripped open, the contents mutilated and scattered through our front and back yards, in broad daylight. The very next day, the day before our anniversary, someone started a fire behind the neighbor’s house, also in broad daylight. So when we left for our daytrip, we were both more than a little anxious that something would happen while we were gone, and we both began pointing out houses for sale further and further in the boonies (“A two hour commute each way isn’t so bad, is it? Plus we could have horses! I find the scent of manure really quite invigorating.”) Thankfully, nothing happened that day and with any luck, this entire thing will blow over. There are some killer houses for sale with amazing views out there, though, if we can ever figure out a way around the commute issue.

Is this the fabled double-decker outhouse?!

You’re wrong, Bill Speidel. You CAN eat Mount Rainier.

When we bought our tickets for the gondola ride, the ticket-seller asked if we planned on eating at the restaurant at the top of the mountain, The Summit House. When we replied in the affirmative, she said that since we didn’t have reservations, it’s unlikely that we’d be able to eat there, and if they could fit us in their schedule, it would be a two to three hour wait, but we were welcome to buy snacks in their gift shop and take them up to the top with us. We took one look at their dusty Cheetos and decided we’d take our chances on the top of the mountain.

I don’t know where the two to three hour figure came from, but The Summit House was able to seat us immediately on their patio, at what I would consider the best seat in the house. When you have such gorgeous views all around you, why would you want to sit indoors? The food there is expensive, which has everything to do with the location and the view and not the quality. Which isn’t to say it’s bad: just overpriced. My watermelon salad was refreshing and delicious, Jason enjoyed whatever the hell it was that he ordered, and the only regret came in the $10 mixed drink we both ordered: their “house squeezed lemonade with vodka”. On a sunny late summer day on a patio, how could that fail to be amazing? I’ll tell you: when the “lemonade” turns out to be two shreds of lemon flesh in a glass of water. I would swear on my life there was no vodka in that glass. Just water with a hint of lemon. It tasted like disappointment in a plastic cup.

What a cheeky little bugger!

Pinkies out, though. They’re not total animals.

After lunch, we lounged around in the chairs provided outside the patio and watched nature while taking in the view. The nature-watching namely involved a couple of fat friendly chipmunks we named Chubbs and Chubbs II. Sure, there were other, slimmer, more nervous chipmunks there, but Chubbs and Chubbs II were much more interesting companions. While ordinary chipmunks are concerned about their personal space above all, Chubbs and Chubbs II only care about three things: if you have food, if you’re willing to share, and if you have any more.

When we tired of having chipmunks crawl all over us like adorable rabies vectors, we proceeded back down the mountain. If the gondolas had been open past sundown, I definitely would have stayed to see the sunset. Instead, I’ll see if I can catch it on their webcam.

 

Spotted on the Roadside: …A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?

I’d been yearning over the glass diana lens for digital cameras for a while, so recently I sucked it up and bought an adaptor as well as the lens and tried it out at the UFO. I can’t decide if I think the results are just plain crappy, or crappy in an endearing Plan 9 From Outer Space way.

I WANT TO BELIEVE

…that I didn’t spend $200 to take pictures that look like this.

Landing Zone is an art installation at Paine Field Community Park, meant as a humorous spin on flight given its location adjacent to the airport. In 2010, it was selected for the Public Art Year in Review, which recognizes 40 of the year’s best public art works in the United States and Canada. But is that all it is? An art installation near a playground with a tongue-in-cheek reference that you can use for shade or a humorous photo backdrop? While looking for more information on Landing Zone, I discovered that Everett is a hotbed of UFO sightings, some of which are being reported from 85 years in the future.

I was letting my dog back in from being outside. And i noticed a white flash while the object? was moving to the right of my house. It flashed every 5 seconds. And it’s wasn’t flashing any other colors. It was bright enough that i could see it in the clouds. The flashes where not triangle or squared shaped. it seemed to be a bit roundish, Curved a little bit. The Object made no sound what so ever. I was only able to watch it for about 1 minute. It also moved slowly.

Was standing in my back yard watching for meteors when a bright light appeared directly overhead. The object did not move it just expanded in size approximately 2-3 times, increased light intensity to super bright, brighter than the super moon that was in the southeast sky, then suddenly disappeared. It was the strangest thing I have ever witnessed.

Spooky!

Spotted on Beverly Park Road in Everett, WA