Creativity Corner: Stuffed Fishy

Like me when I was once young, my niece Amelia loves fish and fishy things. I was obsessed once upon a time, owning somewhere around 11 plush killer whales, seven dolphins, eels, various other whales, lobsters, crabs, sharks, penguins, other fish, walruses … you name it, I probably had it in stuffed form.

Since I’m trying to force myself to tap into my creative side a bit more, I decided to make Amelia a plush fish for Christmas. I knew she had some of her own from other places, but I thought a handmade gift from her aunt might be pretty cool.

So, I went through my fabric, picked out two (one for the body and one for the fins), drew a very basic outline of how I wanted it to look … and went from there.

This fish …

– is NOT from a pattern
– is entirely hand-sewn (no sewing machines over here)
– took me way longer to make than I thought

That last point brings me to why I’m actually posting about this now – I finished the damn thing about two weeks ago. Oops.

Still, I’m pretty proud with how it turned out. I may do things differently in the future regarding the attachment of the tail and top fin, and maybe buy buttons for the eyes as the sequins are probably not the most permanent choice. In any case, Nicole (my sister-in-law) has told me she loves it, so that’s the most important thing.

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Side one.

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Side two. As you can see, the side fins aren’t quite uniform …

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Tail detail.

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Head detail.

Shinedown: West Coast Tour 2016

What, another Shinedown concert post? I know, I know … I feel like they’re the only band I go see.

In the post I wrote after the Saints and Sinners Ball, I commented, “I’ve seen this band three times … and I’ve essentially seen the same show three times. If the show I’m going to see of theirs in March (hopefully) is basically the same show again … I may not want to go see them anymore because I don’t want to spend my money on the same. exact. show. over and over again.”

Well, they came to Colorado Springs on March 13 and it so happened that both Brandon and I were around to see them. I decided to give them one more shot and see how it went. The show was part of a small West Coast run, which is probably why they came to the Springs as opposed to Denver.

I worked that morning, went for a run (oh, Ironman training …), realized that yes, I was getting sick (as was Brandon), but screw it, and headed down to the Springs early. We had high hopes of getting a dang guitar pick this time, so we wanted to get to the venue early in hopes of getting close to the stage.

We grabbed a (should have been) quick(er) dinner at Denny’s and then got to City Auditorium about 4:45 (doors opened at 6).

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The line, when we got there, was just around the corner. By the time the doors opened, it was well around the block. When we got into the building, we split up – Brandon stampeded the stage to get a spot and I high-tailed it toward the porta-potties.

This was successful. We were about three or four “rows” (as rows is a very fluid thing on the floor) back and next to a really nice couple who we chatted with to pass the time until the show started.

The opening act was the Virginmarys. They were … okay. Sounded a bit familiar despite never knowing about them before this, but when I heard the lead singer talk and realized he was British, it made sense. This is going to sound a bit crazy, but all British rock bands have a similar sound. It might be a chord here or there, but there’s teeny tiny little similarities, from these guys, to Oasis, to Blur, to whomever.

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I could tell this Shinedown show was going to be a bit different because there was no swath of fabric blocking the stage between sets like usual. Which really just meant we could see the roadies set stuff up, but you know.

The set list was also vastly different …

Fly From the Inside
Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay-Boom-Lay-Boom)
If You Only Knew
Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide
The Crow & the Butterfly
Through the Ghost
I’ll Follow You
Cut the Cord
State of My Head
Second Chance
45 (acoustic snippet)
Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover; acoustic)
Sound of Madness
(thanks to

“Unity” was different as an opener, but I liked it – upbeat, happy … it set the tone for the rest of the show. “Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide” is something they haven’t played live in several years, so it was a nice treat to hear that. “Through the Ghost,” likewise, was amazing and I pretty much cried through the whole thing.

“Amaryllis” was played due to a Twitter request from a fan (who played it at his wedding); another song I cried throughout.

I was a little bummed once again that they didn’t play more off of “Threat to Survival,” but I really have no complaints. The guys interacted with the crowd the most out of any of the three previous shows I’d seen and it was the least scripted, as well, which I really loved. I felt like they actually cared about we, the fans, as opposed to some of the other shows of theirs.

And of course, my close-up spot afforded some pictures …

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Both Zach Myers and Eric Bass (pictured) had guitar picks on their mic stands and I loved the way the light reflected through them.

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(I think I like this one more for the cell phone in front of me …)

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So Brent Smith parted the crowd and hopped onto the floor to talk to the audience … and as a result, we moved up a row or two on the floor.

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For the “encore,” Zach came out in a Peyton Manning jersey. He’s a Titans fan, but is a general fan of Manning’s from his days at Tennessee.

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Ahh, lens flare …

Also of note:
– Brandon caught a water bottle tossed by Brent Smith – twice.
– WE FINALLY GOT OUR GUITAR PICKS!!!! We got two – one of Eric’s and one of Zach’s … and should have had at least one more. One came right near me; I turned on my phone flashlight to find it … and some guy next to me used my genius against me. Boo.

In closing: Shinedown’s music is amazing; we know that. They sound good live; we know that. But when the guys put out a personality during the show … they’re really hard to top.

SoCal 2016, Day Two

… way later than I wanted to get to this, I’m back for the second day of our baby trip to Southern California.

We spent the night in Santa Barbara in a Holiday Inn Express, but the building used to be a different hotel and is on the National Register for Historic Places.

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We ate a bit of the hotel breakfast (yay pancake machine!) but wanted better coffee so we left the hotel and walked down the main drag in town. We couldn’t really find a good local coffee shop, so had to settle for *siiiiiiigh* Starbucks. It’s okay, though, because we bought a “You are Here” LA mug for our friend Jeremy who collects them. After coffee, we were apparently still hungry and stopped at a local restaurant, Joe’s Cafe, for second breakfast.

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I had this breakfast sandwich, which sounded really good on the menu, but was actually quite underwhelming. Good breakfast is hard to find for us, because we have kind of mastered breakfast in the kitchen …

After that, we left the hotel, drove around town for a while so I could see the places Brandon went when he overnighted there a few years back, and then back on the PCH to head back to LA.

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Stopped on the Pacific Coast Highway.

We decided to do this trip on the complete fly and not plan for it – completely NOT like us at all – and while it kind of worked on day one, it failed us on day two. We ended up back in LA not knowing what to do at all
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(though we randomly did find ourselves at the home of Jeopardy! …). I wanted to see Rodeo Drive, so we drove through through the hills to get to Beverly Hills. We didn’t actually stop to browse Rodeo (though maybe we should have), so no pictures from that.

From there, all Brandon knew was that he wanted to get his toes in the sand, so we randomly headed to Hermosa Beach.

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Enjoyed the sign on this place.

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Feet in the water.

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Brandon looking out over the water.

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I wrote in the sand.

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Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

After beach time, we found a hotel pseudo-near the airport in Long/Manhattan Beach, chilled out for a while … and then went to probably one of the worst possible options for dinner …

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Yep, Sizzler. Neither of us had eaten at one in, geez, probably close to 20, 25 years?, and after a very … adequate … dinner, we decided we don’t need to go back for at least that long again. See ya, Sizzler, see you again when I’m in my 50s. Maybe.

Since dinner was, shall we say, disappointing, Brandon found us a local ice cream shop. They didn’t have my standbys, unfortunately (coffee and/or mint chocolate chip), but they did have a killer chocolate that worked quite well.

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Ice cream consumed, back to the hotel to sleep and then off to LAX the next morning to head back to Denver.

SoCal 2016, Day One

About a week or so ago, Brandon and I decided we needed to get the hell out of dodge (that is, Denver) and go on vacation. Okay, truthfully, we decided that quite a ways back, but we actually only managed it in late February. Brandon had some days off so I just decided to take them as well. We also figured, hell, we have the airline benefits, we may as well use them!

My criteria were as follows:
– warm
– no more than one time zone away (sorry, east coast/alaska/hawaii/world)
– flight preferably no longer than two, two and a half hours.

We ended up narrowing it down to northern California, southern California, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Arizona (probably Tucson). We really didn’t want to do the latter two, as we always go there. About a week out, Brandon started keeping an eye on flights and we decided on SoCal.

Early Wednesday the 24th, we hopped a flight to LAX and started a mini vacation.

Our first stop, since we were kind of hungry? LA icon, Randy’s Donuts.

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We split two doughnuts – a glazed twist and a chocolate frosted.

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Super sugary and super delicious. We’re still partial to Donut Maker here in town, but they were definitely tasty.

After Randy’s, I remarked that I’d never actually seen the Hollywood sign live (or close enough to get a picture of it), so we decided to go somewhere we could see it. The internet said a great viewing spot was actually on Hollywood Blvd, so off to play tourist it was.

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The old 7-Up machine caught our eye; loved this old motel.

We found a meter off Hollywood Boulevard and then it was off to explore some. As we’re not the most hip when it comes to pop culture, we completely spaced that the Oscars were that Sunday, so a good chunk of the Walk of Fame was blocked off for show setup.

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We were still able to access Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and see the hand/foot prints in cement, though, which was totally awesome.

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Harry Potter!

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Concrete panels. Plus Bogey’s message is hysterical.

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R2D2 and C-3PO’s “foot prints” cracked me up.

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The “Rocky” nerds in us enjoyed Sly’s message.

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I chose to unrealistically put myself in Donald’s webbed prints …

The internet was also accurate in that the shopping center there did have a great vantage point for viewing the Hollywood(land) sign.

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After that, it was looking at all the stars and finding some of our favorites.

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Not a star, but loved the sign.

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Best. Graffiti. Ever.

I’m not sharing all my star photos, but the ones I snagged were Sylvester Stallone (Rocky!), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones is my spirit animal), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy! for life), and Al Michaels (Do you believe in miracles? YES!).

At that point, we were pretty hungry, so off to In-N-Out it was. I think the dinosaurs were more excited for it, though …

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After lunch, we decided on something slightly more high-brow and headed to the La Brea tar pits. Thanks to our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership, we were able to get in for free (much like the Natural History Museum in Vegas we go visit). Hooray for reciprocity!

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Flowers in bloom near the pits.

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For some reason, “Asphalt and People” cracked me up. However, this also shows an atlatl, which are freaking cool as hell.

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Husband pulling up metal rods through the asphalt.

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Cross-section of the pit.

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Active dig site.

After La Brea, we made Santa Monica our next stop.

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There was a tiny, cheap aquarium at the pier, so we stopped in.

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If it’s on a pier, is it really the last burger *on land*?

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After that, it was off to the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Barbara for the night.

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Sunset in Santa Barbara.

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On the pier.

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Not dinner, but loved this place aesthetically.

We did end up eating at a place called Longboard’s Grill, also on the pier. It … was okay. The clam chowder just reaffirmed my decision to not eat it outside of New England (or maaaaaaaybe San Francisco/Seattle). Brandon’s swordfish
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was over peppered. Really, good swordfish just needs a bit of lemon (and perhaps a dash of butter) to be delicious. My lobster roll, well …
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… I’m realizing how important the proper bun really is for the enjoyment of a good lobster roll. Longboard’s? Did not have it.

After that long day, back to the hotel …

(day two coming soon.)