I've been up since about 3:30 am this morning because it was

You know how you tell how much oil is in your oil tank?  You take a ten-foot long stick and stick it down in there...  like the dipstick in your car's engine compartment.  But unlike the oil dipstick in your car, this stick doesn't have any markings on it.  You just found it in the pile of renovation project leavings in your shop.  If you don't know the size and shape of the oil tank that is buried in your yard, this method can tell you only two things: 

You Have Oil 


You Don't Have Oil

I'm learning so much in this new house.

When I got up, freezing, my first thought was of that thirty-year-old furnace we worried about when we bought this house and the many discussions we had about how we knew we'd eventually have to replace it but would try to get through at least one winter with it first because: we poor now.  My second thought was, "I wonder how cold it's going to be today."  So I looked up the outside temperature on my phone.  Twenty.  Then I looked at the forecast for the day.  No higher than thirty.  And then my third thought was, "Yep, that sounds about right."

But then my fourth thought (this is starting to sound like a Steve Martin routine) was about how my kids' piano teacher bitterly complained all last winter every time her oil company let her tank run empty despite her auto-refill contract, and I thought, "As much as I'd like a new furnace, this is not a convenient time to have that problem, so let's pray it's the oil."  It was, so now I owe God a cheeseburger and a game of skee ball.

We spent the morning building blazing fires in not one, but two, fireplaces in hopes that that would keep the indoor temperature stable enough to prevent the pipes from freezing on the outside walls of the house because we had Not A Single Clue how quickly the oil company would send a guy out.  As it turns out, it was Pretty Quickly and now I am regret-less about the Very Large Sum of Money we will be paying them this year.  As I type this, the oil tank has been filled, the furnace has been restarted, we popped out to buy an air filter the furnace guy recommended to better push the air around the house, and it's risen to fifty-six degrees in the house, so I'm feeling downright toasty and decadent.

It's been bitterly cold this year in the D.C. area and the first person who sarcastically says to me "so how do you like that global warming huh?" gets a snowball thrown at them. The reality is that extreme weather patterns are an indicator of global warming, so this cold snap does more to support the case of global warming than refute it.  If you wanna have a discussion about the causes of global warming, then that's maybe a debate to have, but we should probably also debate whether a snowball can have a Twitter account.

Throughout the winter, and with the exception of this morning, I've actually been sweating like a racehorse more often than not.  The KingofHearts gave me a glass blowing class for Christmas, so while everyone else has been shivering in the cold, I've been standing in front of an eighteen-hundred degree glory hole.  (That is actually what they call it, I swear.  But please do not Google that term if you are faint of heart and naive.)

I took an intro to glassblowing class years ago.  I learned the basics, I made a snowman (which was really just an exercise to teach you how to use a tool called jacks, two misshapen cylinders (which, I believe we lost during the '11 earthquake), a couple of paperweights, and this, my crowning glory:

It looks a lot better in the picture than in real life, but I'm still really proud of it because I've watched a ton of glass blowing demonstrations and, dude, they make it look easy. It is not easy. I have learned how to attempt a reasonable facsimile of every one of the skills that man demonstrates in that video link  but despite that knowledge, I cannot make things even a fraction as beautiful as he does.  I am here to tell you, it is not easy.

But I learned a lot more and got a ton more practice with this class, partially because there were only four of us, so we basically each got a private lesson from one of the two teachers each week, got to assist for the other person, and made about two pieces per class.  Many of my pieces ended up on the floor, especially one colorful goblet I was particularly in love with -- I got all the way through that project to the end, only to have the bottom break apart as I was taking it off the pole to put it in the annealer. 


But some stuff didn't break.  Here's a random sampling.

This was the first thing I made in this class.  It looks like an interesting water glass, but when you realize that it's destiny was to become a vase, you'll understand just how remedial my skills are.
This odd little guy was also suppose to become a vase, but I had a lot of trouble getting him to grow into a real boy, so he's now what I call my creamervase.
This is my favorite piece from the class.  That oddly shaped creamer from before was trying to look like this.  It's called a handkerchief vase.  This came out unbelievably well and I have no business saying it is my intentional work.  It was luck.
This was my attempt at Mexican glassware. This, unlike pretty much everything else, was planned as a glass and not a vase.  My vase teacher was very patient with me.  Or he couldn't care less what I made.  Either way.

I love this little bud vase because it was totally my design, although you can't really see it from this picture.  It's a three-sided vase.  This was a bunch of fun to make.

Here's a better view of the tri-corner aspect of it, but not a better picture.  It turns out it's kinda hard to photograph clear glass, ya'll.
This guy fell off the punty before I was finished with him.  Once that happens, your piece is telling you it's done, whether you happen to think you were finished or not.  My quick-thinking teacher snatched it up off the floor and tossed it in the annealer while I stared at it, mouth agape, sitting there like a slug.  It was my only defense. I was just starting to work on the neck when that happened so you can see it's totally unfinished, but I'm still pretty happy with the round-ness of the base.  That was hard, people.
The last piece I made was a pitcher.  I learned how to put handles on and was pretty good at that skill, but they can go wrong terribly quickly and my class partner right before this had made a gorgeous pitcher which was aesthetically ruined by a handle placement gone awry. I was too afraid to mess up the perfectness of this piece (all my others definitely have a "stance" and this was my only piece from the class that was somewhat symmetrical) to attempt the handle so I chickened out.

Next class: bowls.  Or balloon animals, I can't decide.