Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out with 2015 and Looking Forward to 2016!!

Well, I certainly could have done better on my 2015 wishlist -- of the 11 items I wanted to do, I did 4 1/2 -- the half being that, although I didn't actually get there, a guest blogger kindly did the strenuous hiking up Maryland Heights (it's straight up the side of a mountain). Check out the entry from a year ago to read about what I wanted to do, and see what I actually did get to go see and do by following the new links I've inserted into the post. But in lieu of my wishlist, I went to a wide variety of places this past year -- a good year overall!

This year I'm setting new resolutions to get myself out there doing fun things and exploring the mid-Atlantic region!

1. A resolution borrowed from last year, I'd like to go camping at Dolly Sods wilderness. There's a camp ground near Bear Rocks that provides still modest facilities -- it would be so cool to see the night sky from there! 




2. And for the third year in a row, see the Illumination at Antietam Battlefield. Each year, on the first Saturday in December, volunteers light more than 22 thousand luminaries at Antietam National Battlefield in honor of each casualty of the battle that took place on 17 September 1862. The 22,717 deaths that day at Antietam represent the largest single day loss of American (and they were, indeed, all Americans) lives. In fact, we'd meant to go in 2014, but the day had been a rainy, icky day so we found ourselves elsewhere. 2015's day rolled around and away we were, on a business trip NOT in Maryland.

3. and 4. In 2015 I'd put visiting out Baltimore's Fort McHenry, and we did; we even visited Fort Frederick -- both worth checking out. Now I'd also like to return to Fort Delaware (I took my young sons there multiple times) and while I'm at it, 4. just for the sake of rounding out the blog's coverage of the area's historic forts, Fort Washington as well.

5. We saw Fort McHenry, but a natural pairing is to see the Star Spangled Banner House. It was closed the day we tried to visit, but this year I'll try again!

6. Next year for the holidays, I'd like to walk through Brookside Gardens to see the holiday light display. I've been there before, and enjoyed the stroll through the gardens. And we've gone to Longwood Gardens (and that's gorgeous) and to A Longwood Christmas, but I've heard good things about Brookside Gardens' Christmas light display. It's pretty close by, so no more excuses! 

7. I'd like to ride my bike down the Mount Vernon Trail in northern VA and then park our bikes at Mount Vernon, tour the presidential estate, and then ride back. I'll have to wait for my biking friend to return from a few months in Wisconsin before I plan this daytrip excursion.




8. I'd like to see Shirley Plantation, in Charles City, VA, the oldest active plantation in Virginia and the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating back to 1614 with operations starting in 1638. 

9. I just heard about New Jersey's Island Beach State Park -- a great place to see foxes in winter and even snowy owls who've migrated that far south. Definitely high on my list!! 

10. I've all but ignored lovely Shenandoah National Park in the blog, only checking it out for annual leaf-peeping visits (in 2014 and 2015). So how about some hikes there to check out some of the great views and experiences this wonderful park offers?




11. and 12. I don't think I went to a single Maryland winery this year, and I only visited Virginia wineries once. So yeah, I'd like to visit some more Maryland wineries and 12. go check out some Virginia wineries again as well.



Keep an eye on the blog -- there'll be lots of fun adventures! More bike rides, more walks, more house museums and lighthouses. And I hope there'll be the unexpected adventures 


Happy New Year! I wish everyone safe and interesting travels!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peace, Love and Folk Art

Tonight is the eve of Christmas Eve, and I think it is fitting to post about one of the surprises and pleasures Pittsburgh offers! We discovered this place quite by accident. The morning we were due to leave Pittsburgh, our waiter at breakfast commented on a brightly colored sweatshirt I was wearing, noting that the colors reminded him of his house. We began talking and he introduced himself as Randy Gilson, artist.

He showed me photos of his house and garden courtyard, and they were amazing. He also shared his vision of love for the world he lives in, his hope that someday peace will predominate around the world, and his colorful outlook on life that is expressed in his artwork.

Because the rest of our stay in Pittsburgh had been unplanned -- I went where the day took me -- we decided to stop at his home, which he calls "Randyland," before heading home to Maryland.

Located in the Mexican War Streets district of Pittsburgh's Northside, Randyland shares Gilson's unique outlook on life, a sweeping, optimistic view that is rare to find.



And indeed, Randyland is relentlessly optimistic. Bright colors and creatively painted and placed stuff -- from old panel doors to metal patio chairs to mannequin heads -- decorate the side of his house and his yard. On the wall of his home is a colorful mural depicting normal people going about their lives in Pittsburgh. I loved it.



When we arrived, we met a mother and her three young kids who'd just enjoyed the courtyard. I wish we'd arrived a few minutes earlier, so I could have enjoyed their reactions! I chatted with the mother for a few minutes, explaining to her I'd just met the artist that morning, and I told her some of what Gilson had told me over breakfast. We shook hands afterward and parted, but for a brief moment of time, two very different people came together in enjoyment of Gilson's art.




Randyland, according to Gilson's website, is going to be a non-profit Folk Art Museum for the whole world to teach forward recycling and repurposed ideas. Some time soon, Gilson will be relocating to Spring Garden to build a warehouse home and art studio for teaching.

Getting there: 1501 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, 15212

Hours: The Randyland courtyard is open almost every day between 1 pm and 7 pm

Website: http:\\randy.land

If you enjoy this blog, please tell your friends about it!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!























Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Top 5 December Activities

Periodically (i.e., whenever the whim strikes me, I'll post my top picks. This is yet another in the continuing series of the My Top Picks posts. Links to the original posts will be embedded in the text. Let me know what you think of this new blog feature!

December is a favorite time of year because of all the cool, fun, holiday things to do! Check out my seasonal favorites!

5. Enjoy holiday lights, either on foot or via car, at one of the many holiday lights displays, such as Columbia, MD's Symphony of Lights. Keep an eye out because often there is a specially designated dog-walking night! 
















4. Check out Christmas decorations at an historic mansion. I was swept away by the holiday decorations at Hamption Mansion, in Towson, MD! Many historic house museums will gussy themselves up for the holidays, so go back to your favorite place and enjoy the festive decorations of years past!























3. Check out holiday lights and Christmas decorations at Longwood Gardens, proving that Longwood Gardens is good to visit almost year round!













2. Blow a glass ornament. Check with your local glass blowing studios, since many will do this. We went to Montgomery County's Art of Fire Contemporary Glass Studios. This was a kid favorite, but you know what? It's pretty cool for adults too!




1. Go to Christmas markets in New York City and watch the ice skaters at Bryant Park. The city is dressed in its holiday finest for the season. While you're there, swing down to 34th Street and catch the department store windows displays!



Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rivers, Bridges, and Views, Oh My!



I'd never thought highly of Pittsburgh. The city and its inhabitants were the butt of jokes when I attended Penn State, and as an adult, I'd never had the opportunity to go there. My sense of Pittsburgh was of a city clouded with coal-induced smog (don't ask, but I guess I watched one of those weather shows), so I was pleasantly surprised by a weekend stay there recently.

It really is a pleasant city. A local I chatted with called it a "small town with big buildings." 



My husband attended a Magic the Gathering tournament while I explored the city, which meant our "base of operations" was a hotel near the convention center. I left the day to chance and didn't do a lot of research ahead of time. I knew vaguely that Fort Pitt should be on the itinerary, as well as Fort Duquesne, and as I headed out of the hotel room that Saturday a.m., I was on my way to those two places.



But I asked for directions from the hotel concierge, and he suggested I take an incline to Mount Washington for sweeping views of the city below, and offered the services of the hotel's shuttle to take me there. I thought that was a grand idea, and away we went.



He brought me to the Duquesne Incline, which was built in 1877 to take folks who worked in the mills and factories in the flats along the south bank of the Monongahela River up and down the 400-foot bluff. Before it was built, they had to climb the "Indian Steps." At the time of its public opening, it was one of four inclines serving the summit of Coal Hill, which later came to be known as Mount Washington. 



Like many old things, the Incline went into a decline, but was rescued and restored by a group of local residents in 1963. Interestingly, you can visit the interior of the incline and watch the machinery while it operates. The Duquesne Incline's upper station houses a museum of Pittsburgh history, including photos and a storehouse of information on inclines from around the world. The view from the Duquesne Incline's viewing platform has been voted one of the top 10 in the world by USA Today; you can see where the three rivers come together, as well as Heinz Field. It was cool to see three barges slowly pushing their load of coal, moving from the Ohio River into the Monongahela River. 



When the shuttle driver picked me up, he asked where I wanted to go next, but he suggested that I should check out a place every Pittsburgher goes to at least once: the Strip Market, an indoor/outdoor market with food, coffee, and cool things to browse and buy. I decided to go where the day takes me, so he dropped me off at the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, in the heart of the market. I found the name of the church interesting, as I had just encountered another Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, in Daniels, MD., while writing the blog about Maryland's ghost town.



The Strip Market was interesting and fun -- a good place to grab a bite to eat and get an early start on Christmas shopping. Several street musicians regalled shoppers with their tunes, not unpleasant. Since its founding, Pittsburgh’s Strip District has been a distinctive and vital part of the community. I spent an hour or more browsing and shopping, and taking photos. With the holiday season around the corner, I noticed there were Christmas tree ornaments aplenty. But there also were vendors hawking Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins regalia, and trinkets of every sort. A variety of ethnic food choices also were available. 

This parcel of land was first owned by noted Pittsburgh residents James O’Hara and George A. Bayard. In 1814, the pair established the area naming it “Northern Liberties of Pittsburgh.” It was more commonly known as Bayardstown. In 1837, the area joined the city, becoming Pittsburgh’s fifth ward. With its location adjacent the Allegheny River and subsequent convenient access to shipping lanes and raw materials, the area soon became a thriving industrial center. Foundries, mills, and factories moved in. Remnants of The Strip’s past are evident everywhere from the old Produce Terminal buildings to the idiosyncratic widths of streets and alleys.



From the Strip Market, I walked along the Allegheny Riverfront. It was neat to see the bridges up close, and I appreciated the detail of the bridges, especially Veteran's Bridge. As I was walking along the riverfront, a long train curled along the tracks and over the train bridge, the cars clanking and brakes squealing as it slid to a halt -- quite exciting to be almost exactly beneath it! The river itself was empty -- it is November, after all. But I imagined that in the summer it would be much more active, with recreational users as well as barges and other river traffic.



After dinner my husband and I walked around downtown Pittsburgh some more (okay, I admit it -- we were playing Ingress and hacking portals and completing missions). We saw the city begin putting on its holiday finery -- trees were starting to be lit, and the wonderful pantheon of colored lights brightened up the streets. We enjoyed the walk.





We ended the evening by driving up to the Mount Washington overlook platforms to see the city at night, and were impressed by the beauty of Pittsburgh. Yeah, didn't expect to write that phrase.  










Getting there: The Duquesne Incline is located at 1197 West Carson Street, Pittsburgh. The Strip Market runs from 11th Street, across from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, to 33rd Street. The Mount Washington Overlook Platforms are located at 438 Grandview Avenue, Pittsburgh.

Hours: The Duquesne Incline is open every day of the year, Monday through Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m.; Sundays and holidays, 7:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. The Strip Market is open Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year. 

Websites: www.duquesneincline.org; Visit Pittsburgh www.visitpittsburgh.com; Popular Pittsburgh www.popularpittsburgh.com

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!



Monday, December 14, 2015

The Budget Friendly Day Trip Challenge

This added feature of the Mid-Atlantic Day Trips Blog came about through a discussion with my husband about how to enhance the content of the blog pages. We toyed with the idea of starting another blog, cleverly titled "Budget Friendly Day Trips" but soon realized we didn't want to compete with the existing blog, into which we've already invested a lot of time, energy, and yes, money.

We discovered that there are no other blogs that I could find that focus on day tripping on a budget.

We also realized that a lot of the activities we do that I write about in the blog are, in fact, quite budget friendly. That's probably why I haven't gone bankrupt while writing the blog!!

So in this new feature, which will appear once or twice a month on Mondays, I'll focus on interesting things to see and do on a budget. It will alternate with another new feature: My Top Picks, which will focus on whatever my whim strikes me!

Here are the rules -- or should I say, "guidelines," I'll be following:
  1. Gas money isn't included. That's because if I live near Baltimore and drive to Deep Creek Lake, my gas expenses will be different than for someone who lives in Pittsburgh and drives down to Deep Creek Lake. Gas prices also fluctuate, depending on the time of year (summertime prices tend to be higher) and what world events are happening.
  2. Budget friendly in my view is a day trip that, with at least one meal, costs $50 or less for two people, or $100 or less for a family of four.
  3. In the interests of my budget, I'll upcycle some material I've already covered. But I'll try to provide updated research into the costs associated with the activities. The costs will be valid as of the day I post. I'll link back to the original post if I recycle some previous material.
  4. I'm not going to depend on grouponing or other such deals. 
  5. When I mention restaurants, it'll be because they've received some decent reviews (or I've tried them myself) and there are entrees available that will allow you to stay within the budget. But the menu might also include more expensive entrees that would completely break the budget. And of course, alcoholic drinks don't count as well.
  6. Rules are made to be broken. So if a day trip comes in at $55, I may still include it in this series, but I'll be up front about that, and will let you know when I twist, bend, or break a rule.
As with the other posts for the blog, I welcome guest bloggers. Send me an email at [email protected] or contact me via the blog's FB page if you're interested in being a guest blogger. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas in NYC And Bucket List Item: Check!

I should have been home working on our kitchen reno... instead my husband suggested we go up to NYC to show a friend of his, who'd never been, around the major tourist sites. Within seconds, I had a plan in mind: Staten Island Ferry (to see the Statue of Liberty, and also, just because), lunch in Chinatown, a Christmas Market or two or four, Times Square, followed by a carriage ride in Central Park. We could do it!



There are lots of ways to go to NYC: train, bus, car... but we choose to go in on the Weehawkin Ferry, which crosses over the Hudson River from Port Imperial in Weehawkin, NY to W. 39th Street. We'd "discovered" the Weehawkin Ferry several years before on our way up to NYC for ComiCON and found it convenient and easy. The ferry runs from 8 in the morning to 1 the next morning, and parking is reasonable. The city looked beautiful coming in! We left the Baltimore area around 5:15ish a.m. and caught the ferry over and by 9ish we were headed toward the Staten Island Ferry, the first stop on our itinerary.





Our friend, Dave, had never seen the Statue of Liberty, nor any of the touristy sights of New York. Taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry -- a tip I'd read about somewhere years ago -- provides a lovely view of the lower end of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and, of course, Liberty Island. On the ferry, we ran into tourists from Wisconsin and Florida, who also had read in a blog the tip about the Staten Island Ferry. The best part is that it's free for the ride!



After riding the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back, we walked through the Financial District and past Wall Street, making a brief stop at the Christmas market in South Street Seaport as we headed to Mott Street in Chinatown. What street compares with Mott Street? Ella Fitzgerald's song, "Manhattan," replayed in my head  (in fact, I'm listening to it as I'm typing this post). We were lucky -- the sun was shining and the temperature was headed to the mid-50s, a perfect day to tour the city! Chinatown is about a 30 minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry.
























We enjoyed a quick lunch at one of the restaurants available in Chinatown, then browsed some of the shops, before grabbing a cab to Bryant Park to check out the Christmas Market there and watch the ice skaters for a little while. I found a delightful purse made out of candy wrappers, picked up a few stocking stuffers, and my husband and I picked out a pretty NYC-themed Christmas ornament to add to our tree.



After Bryant Park, it's a quick walk over to Times Square to see the razzle dazzle of all the lights -- a must see for anyone new to NYC. From Times Square it's a reasonable walk up to Central Park and this was for me as much as for our friend Dave: enjoying a carriage ride around Central Park is on my bucket list.

Charlie, our horse for our carriage ride. 


Central Park, if you don't know this already, is an urban park in middle-upper Manhattan, and is the most visited urban park in the United States as well as one of the most filmed locations in the world, so it had to be on our itinerary. It opened in 1857 on 778 acres of city-owned land. The following year, Frederick Law Olmstead -- who also later designed the National Zoo -- and his senior partner, Calvert Vaux, won a design competition and construction began, lasting through 1873. The result is the fabulous urban park you see today -- all manmade and landscaped.



Olmsted is an interesting figure in his own right. Considered to be the father of American landscape architecture, he was also a journalist, social critic, and public administrator. His work, especially in Central Park, set a standard of excellence that continues to influence landscape architecture in the United States. His second line of achievement involves his activism in conservation, including work at Niagara Falls, the Adirondack region of upstate New York, and the National Park system. Thirdly, he played a major role in organizing and providing medical services to the Union Army in the Civil War. You knew I couldn't NOT throw some history into this post!! 



There are different tours of the park -- rickshaws are popular and the tour guides will layway you about a block away from the park. This was perhaps the only unpleasant part of the day. The rickshaw drivers called out "carriage rides, rickshaw rides" but they're really just selling the rickshaw rides. Once you start talking to them, they quickly list all the reasons why carriage rides aren't a good option -- including an inflated price. They quoted $180 but the carriage ride cost $120. Still a lot but much less than they were claiming. They also claimed that the carriage rides don't stop -- but every time I wanted a photo, our driver accommodated me. Finally, the rickshaw tour sellers also claimed that the carriage drivers don't give any information about the sights we would see, and that too was blatantly false. I'm not saying to not take a rickshaw -- all I'm suggesting is talk with the carriage drivers as well before you decide which to go with. Anyway, the unpleasant part: when we insisted that no, really, we wanted a carriage ride, they became extremely rude, uncalled for treatment of a tourist spending money in your city.

The carriage tour took us pass Cherry Hill and the Chess and Checkers House. We also passed by Balto's statue (but didn't stop, and my photograph of it is blurry). We sedately drove by Gapstowe Bridge and the Carousel (not in the order I've listed here). We gazed in awe at the apartment buildings of the rich and famous and mourned John Lennon briefly as we drove past Strawberry Fields. 



Dave commented that no matter where we looked, there were people enjoying Central Park in different ways. There were joggers and dog walkers, and kids playing soccer, and couples strolling hand in hand. We passed a couple having their wedding photos taken. There were boats rowing on the lake, and bicyclists galore.



After our lovely carriage ride we got dinner, theoretically on our way back to see Times Square at night, but we got distracted when we saw the lights of Radio City Music Hall in the distance, and so we headed over to Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree, along with about 10 thousand of our best friends. It was a press! If we'd fallen, we'd either be trampled or just be held up and carried along with the crowd. The sacrifices I make for this blog! Lol. But it was pretty, and you really should see it, at least once!

















































Finally, we headed down to 34th Street to see Lord & Taylors and Macy's Christmas window displays. Lord & Taylors' windows were simply elegant and gorgeous. Macys' windows retold the wonderful Peanuts Christmas story. Other Macys' windows depicted scenes from Miracle on 34th Street. "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" The two different themes were pulled together, simply, with "Believe."



If you want to see all the windows, click here.

After the seeing the windows, we realized just how tired we were -- we'd walked 8 miles (according to our Fitbits) and seen major NYC sights, including several of the must-see Christmas sights! We caught a cab back to W. 39th Street and Pier 79, and arrived just as our ferry back to Weehawkin was boarding. It was 8:30 p.m., and we had a bit of a drive ahead of us back down to Baltimore. It was a great day, seeing Christmas in NYC.

Know before you go: Having GPS on our phones came in handy, helping us navigate the city streets.

Getting there:
Weehawkin Ferry: 4800 Avenue at Port Imperial, Weehawken, NJ
Staten Island Ferry: 4 Whitehall Street New York NY

Hours:
Weehawkin Ferry: On weekends, ferries depart Weehawkin between 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. and depart W. 39th Street between 8:10 a.m. to 1:10 a.m.

Websites:
Weekawkin Ferry: http://www.nywaterway.com/PortImperialWeehawkenTerminal.aspx
Statin Island Ferry: www.siferry.com
South Street Seaport: www.southstreetseaport.com
Central Park: http://www.centralparknyc.org/


Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!


Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!




Thursday, December 3, 2015

We Blew It!



I met Foster, the owner and co-founder of Art of Fire Contemporary Glass Studios, at the most recent Maryland Blogger Bash, in downtown Rockville, Md. Normally, glass doesn't intrigue me: I don't need any new glass pieces, in fact, if anything, I have too many. But Foster kept talking about his work and the studios, and then mentioned a great holiday activity: come to his studio and blow your own glass ornament. Great activity for groups, families, children, or couples.



Ohhhh, so I get to DO something? I was intrigued. And to my 13 year old son's distress, I immediately thought this would be a fun activity for him, a great way to create some family memories and shared experiences that didn't involve a TV, computer, or movie screen.

Do you go to the Maryland Renaissance Festival? Then you've probably already seen Art of Fire, as they have shown at the Maryland festival every year for decades.

Art of Fire Contemporary Glass Studio began in 1984 when Foster Holcombe and Theda Hansen lit their first furnace at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville. A short time later, they established a small gallery and hotshop at the Historic Savage Mill. They outgrew that space and in 1999 lit the furnace at their current location, a re-purposed dairy barn in northern Montgomery County. The barn is now home to our gallery and hot shop where they work, teach and enjoy making glass.



How it works: you call ahead and make an appointment. That way, Art of Fire Studios can ensure that you don't have a wait time. We called and made an appointment for 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. We arrived about 15 minutes early (typical of me), but I figured I could take some photos and browse. We were greeted and got to pick out the general style and color of our ornaments. My son chose green, my husband purple swirl, and I picked a bright red "vertical optic" pattern.

We were introduced to Bruce, our glass artist and docent for the afternoon. He gave us a brief tour of the studios, and some history about the furnaces and kilns. He handed us goggles to protect our eyes (if the glass breaks, it could throw out dangerous and hot shards). Bruce noted that today's glass making techniques is much the same as it was during Roman times. In fact, the history of glassmaking can be traced back to 3500 BC in Mesopotamia.



Then Bruce started on my son's green ornament. All the ornaments and glass making at the studio starts with clear glass. Then color is added, on top of the clear glass, essentially. It was pretty cool, how he dropped the metal tube into the furnace and pulled out a glob of brightly glowing melted glass, which he then rolled in a metal dish of green color shards (which I sooo wanted to touch, but I remembered his caution that there are very sharp objects around). All during his talk and description of the steps, Bruce kept the metal tube constantly rotating, to keep the bulb at the end from drooping into an odd shape.



Once he'd melted the colored shards and rerolled the glass blob a few times, Bruce got ready to start shaping the ornament. He gave my son the mouth-piece to blow into the tube, and, still rolling and rotating the metal tube, he sat down to start forming the ornament. He asked my son to start blowing slowly, then hard and steady for a few seconds. The bulb at the end of t
he metal tube bubbled up nicely. It was very cool.





























Once the ornament was shaped to his and my son's satisfaction, he brought it over to a stand and detached it from the metal tube. Then he added hot melted glass to the top to form the loop. And that was it!




The demonstration was essentially repeated for both my husband's and my ornaments, although my husband wondered idly whether Bruce could add in white to the purple swirl (he could, and did). Not to be outdone, I asked if the round ornament could be pulled into a tear-drop shape. Bruce was game to try, although he admitted it was a first for him, and getting it into that shape meant several attempts to elongate the spheric shape of the ornament before we got the shape we were happy with.



At the end, Bruce held up our ornaments so we could see them in the late afternoon sun slanting through the windows of the old dairy barn and pose with them for photos. At first I was disappointed -- my bright red ornament was a really dark dark color, almost black to my eyes. Meh -- it was still a cool and very fun experience! I shrugged.




After our photo op, Bruce put our three ornaments into the kiln to slowly cool to room temperature, a procedure that takes about 8 hours. Although it's a little disappointing to walk away with nothing, we knew that a couple days later a package would arrive with our ornaments. Something to look forward to!

When the package arrived, we all three were thrilled with the results! My dark ornament turned out a lovely bright red, just what I wanted! My son was thrilled with his clear green ornament, as was my husband with his lovely purple and white swirl.



At dinner, we discussed, as usual, what we were grateful for (a suppertime tradition) and what was the best part of the weekend. My son admitted that blowing his own glass ornament was the highlight. This is definitely something we will do again next year!!

Know before you go #1: Wear comfortable shoes. You're standing in a converted dairy barn on concrete. You also should be sure-footed -- there are some sharp and some hot, and some sharp AND hot objects around, so you don't want to be wibbly wobbly on your feet.

Know before you go #2: Yeah, this is a great holiday activity, but Art of Fire Studios are open year around. My suggestion? Go in cooler weather. Those furnaces/kilns are hot hot hot. And you're in a converted dairy barn. In the summer months? I can't imagine how hot it would feel. In November on a cool windy day? It was comfortably warm, and that's with the windows and doors open.

Know before you go #3: Call them at 301-253-6642 to make your appointment.

Getting there: 7901 Hawkins Creamery Road, Laytonsville, MD 20082

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm; please call Tuesday through Friday to make an appointment.

Website: [email protected]

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!