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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Photographing your pottery

Here's some helpful information on photographing your pottery from Dmichael Coffee, along with photos of his setup. Here's the link:

]https://dmichaelcoffee.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/shots-of-pots-on-the-cheap-and-low-tech/

Several years ago I took a workshop on photographing ones work given by Joy Tanner and John Britt at his studio, and learned how to make my own light box, reflector cards, etc. It was a huge help.

These days I'm working hard at creating a vegetable garden and a flower garden at my new residence here in Ashland, Oregon. I'm still trying to deal with too much stuff, but hopefully by summer I'll have the heaviest of garden work finished, and be ready to sort and get rid of a lot of it. I've hand dug and made 7 raised beds so far, planted or transplanted about 50 strawberry plants, herbs, winter veggies, and now working on digging trenches to plant the rest of the asparagus. I've also planted several raspberries, transplanted a couple of blueberry plants, two grape vines and a couple of climbing roses for the arbor that leads into my secret vegetable garden.

All the beds are planted and I'm going to have to figure out where to put my bean pole and find a space to plant potatoes, the artichoke seedlings that are under a grow lamp in the kitchen, as well as onions, leek and squash.

The flower bed in the garden area right behind the house is almost fully planted with perennials now and I think there's only room now for some warm weather bedding plants. In fact, I should probably think about starting some cosmos in the house now.

The basement where my wheel, pug mill and shelving are stored, waiting I had hoped, to become something resembling a studio, is a dark, dank, cold, damp mess! A couple of weeks ago I went down there looking for a needle nose pliers among my jewelry tools and found a box of very rusted tools. Not fun! So now I'm waiting for delivery of a dehumidifier to set up and lessen the damage. Once the weather warms and the heavy garden work is done, I'll be spending time down there with a lot of rust remover!

I'm going to sell my little used larger cone 10 digital electric kiln that was only fired about a dozen times, mostly to bisque pots for a few firings of my large soda kiln, and the small Olympic gas kiln that I only used twice to re-fire some soda pots and some slip and glaze tests, and my big electric slab roller that's only had about an hour of use as a slab roller over the years and used only as a work table. It's too big to get into the basement, and even if it could fit, there's no room for it!  I might be able to find someone with similar but smaller slab roller and smaller electric kiln of the same model that I can do a trade with. I just don't have the space for them and I need to clear the garage and the work shop next to the garage, so I can get my car in there by summer.

If I can clear that garage workshop section, I may just move my wheel in there. There a spigot in the basement but not drainage and it would be expensive to put in a drain system that pulls the water up and out. For the little bit of work I'd be doing in the future, and that's if I decided to make pots again, I figure I can just bring some water into the barn area.

We have a place in town where you can rent studio space and get pots fired, so I will be exploring that this summer. I'm thinking I  can throw and bisque pots in a small electric kiln at home, and bring pots there to glaze and fire.

Well that's it for now. Time for my yogurt and blueberry breakfast, then on to paperwork and getting some tax papers ready for the meeting with the accountant in a few days.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I'm still up to my ears with all the paperwork and now I have a big packet (looks like a book!), of tax information I have to fill out for the accountant. So I will try to get caught up in my other paperwork over the weekend and tackle the taxes next week. Thank goodness Jim has all that information in one huge, accordion style folder.

Last week I had to go down to the dark, low, cold basement (maybe my future pottery studio), to find nail cutters for my do Bodhi's nails that were out of hand, and while there I unpacked one box of bisqued pots. That was it! Hopefully it will be more comfortable down there in the spring. The ceiling is very low, but high enough for me to stand up, so it may be doable. There's water coming in through a spigot but no way to drain it out unless I want to invest in an expensive system that basically draws the water upward!

Since any pottery efforts at my age and with health challenges that seem to be coming at a fast pace, one after another the past year, or two, I suspect if I can get back to it, I'll only be making pots for the family, and I'm fine with that.

When I get this paperwork and taxes out of the way I'll be looking to sell my big cone 10 Skutt which has been fired less than a dozen times, mostly bisquing pots for my soda kiln; and my large electric slab roller or at least finding someone who wants to trade for a less wide one. Even though I've had it for years, it was only used about an hour for slabs, since I quickly found out that I didn't enjoy doing slab work, but it made a great work table for other things.

My largest and best ware cart is too tall for the basement studio so that will have to go as well.

The garage is still stacked with some antique furniture and boxes, so a garage sale is planned for spring or early summer unless I can find a local antique dealer who will be happy to buy those pieces.

Well, time for my liquid protein breakfast. My latest health challenge, diverticulitis is acting up a bit after eating normally yesterday. Guess I should have skipped the sake with the Chinese take out!



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Free printable shrinkage rulers link

Here's a link for downloading and printing your own shrinkage rulers. They have several for various clay shrinkage rates.

free printable shrinkage rulers

I've been so busy dealing with paperwork after my husbands passing and I'm still not done. Either I'm up to my ears with paper work or on the phone with Social Security, AFTRA union pension office, etc. etc. I figure that by spring I should be done with this and be on some kind of a regular routine in my new life.

The kitchen remodel is done and most things are put away; but I still have boxes from the old house that I have to deal with and that's not counting all the studio stuff. Our weather has been too wet and cold for me to get into the unheated basement to do more unpacking of my pottery stuff; but there's plenty in the house to keep me busy.

It took me all day yesterday to figure out what Jim was doing with the checkbook; but late last night I finally finished it after going back a couple of years to achieve a balanced checkbook.

We had some big winds coming through last night and at 7am as I took the garbage cans out for pick up, I saw that my lovely grape arbor way lying in the driveway. Hopefully the gardeners who are coming tomorrow will be able to set it back up. I can't see if it's down because it's rotted at the base or just the winds combined with the heavy top of the grape vine and the trumpet vine which occupies the same space, was just too much for that wind.

I cleared the driveway of all the fallen evergreen branches and made three piles which hopefully, the gardeners will take away. It's always something!

At some point today I need to get on line with apple again - this time with a higher level of tech support since I can't access some things because every one of my electronics things (iPad, iPhone, Ipod touch), won't let me change my email address without typing in the old address and password, but since that old account has been closed for almost seven months, the old email and password are not accepted. The only place I've been able to change it is on iTunes. AARGH

This is what I've been doing the past couple of months - putting out little fires like this. I'd like to buy a new iPhone but don't want to risk spending that money and finding I have the same problem!

Between it all I did find time to make one batch of soap this month, and I did get all my seeds ordered for spring, took and passed my Oregon drivers written test on the first try, got my few Xmas decorations put away, and found out that I'm strong enough to set the rat traps in the barn and deal with the success of my efforts.

So that's what I've been up to in the 2 months since Jim passed away. Family and friends have upped their calls and visits to ease my loneliness. Life goes on. I don't know where I'm going, but I'll be taking it one day and one step at a time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Planning the day and hoping for a January thaw

Just wanted to say thank you for your prayers and condolences. I was amazed at how much press Jim got world wide. He retired when he was 55 and I never expected the flood of flowers, cards and letters, and tributes that followed . It was very moving to hear from people we never knew, but who were touched by him and his work over the years.

I'm still trying to catch up with all the paper work and unpacking. The kitchen is organized and now I have to figure out what to do with all the surplus stuff!
Much of the excess furniture is now living at my son and daughter-in-laws Oregon house and my cleaning lady's house.

I've been using our local Freecycle to give other things away. It's a great resource that I continue to use as I go through all the surplus kitchen items, books, etc. etc.

My son and family are in town for the holidays and Bodhi, my Jack Russell and I spent a couple of days over Christmas at their ranch on the Rogue River. It was good for me to get away from the house and all the work still needing to be done; and my daughter-in-law prepared some amazing meals and Sean, as always shared some of the best from his wine cellar. That rich food brought a flare up of the diverticulitis I was recently diagnosed with, but a couple of days on a liquid protein diet and using the Edgar Cayce castor oil pack seems to have taken care of that problem at the moment.

This is the first year I haven't had a Christmas tree. I just wasn't up to it; but I finally just put a string of white lights on my bamboo tree in the living room. Before Jim passed away last month, I put up a swag on the fireplace and got out his favorite Christmas lead figures and set them up on the mantle. That and a wreath on the front door was all of my Christmas decor.

Last night I actually took time to draw out a temporary veggie garden plan for spring. Looking at the current seed cataloges threw me for a loop. Some packets of seeds were five and six dollars. Luckily our local farmers market has one grower who has a large selection of teeny blocks of seedling starts that they sell for 50 cents a piece, so I'll be able to just buy a couple of brussel sprout plants and other varieties I'd like to try without have to store all those seeds or give away the excess plants in a six pack.

The grand kids are skiing at Mt Ashland today with their new ski gear and the family will be stopping by afterwards. So time for me to retrieve the morning papers, and get on with my chores. It's too cold for me to go down to the unheated basement and work. That studio to be will just have to wait till the January thaw or whenever the universe sends some warmer weather our way. That's going to be a monumental task that I'm not looking forward to. Meantime there is plenty to unpack, sort through and organize in this little cottage.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Life can change so fast

I should be dealing with the huge pile of paperwork waiting for my attention; but needed a break and thought I'd visit my blog and read some of the blogs on my blog roll; and I'm glad I did. It was like visiting friends I hadn't seen for a while.

My husband Jim passed away three weeks ago, after a five year bout with cancer, and life right now seems so empty other than all the necessary busyness I have to deal with. We were in the middle of remodeling the kitchen, which desperately needed better working, modern cabinets, and were both looking forward to it's completion. I so hoped that Jim could make it to see the end result; but that wasn't to be.

We were here two months when Jim had to be placed under hospice care at home and at that point, his care was my top priority and it took most of my time and energy.

Our children were and are my rock during this journey. They've gone back to their lives and their families now, and I need to learn how to live without the man I have loved so deeply for over fifty six years. At the moment I have so very much to do that is both overwhelming as well as  a blessing. I trust that eventually I will get all this paperwork done, phone calls made, get the house unpacked and organized and eventually make choices about what direction I want my life to take when all of that is done.

Monday the cabinet people come back to finish the cabinets and counter top installation. Then I'll have the job of completing the filling of the cabinets, and finish the unpacking I haven't been able to do the past few months.

With Jim's health deteriorating so rapidly right before we moved here this summer, I didn't have time to get the house settled. The garage is filled to the max with antique furniture I need to sell, as well as some pottery equipment that's too big to fit in the tiny basement space I can allot to pottery making. The large Bailey slab roller and table will have to go and so will the larger cone 10 Skutt kiln, as well as my ware cart that is too tall to fit into a hundred year old, low ceiling basement. At this piont, I'm not even sure if I will go back to making pots, or at least making them and firing them at home.

There is a studio/gallery here in town that has rental space, and gas kilns, etc, so I may just save my wheel and pugmill, throw at home and fire pots there until I can figure out if I want to set up a studio in my small, low, unheated basement. If I do get another electric kiln it will be a much smaller, front loading one that I can fire more frequently. It doesn't seem likely it can fit in the basement so it will have to go in the workshop section of the garage. I'll have to explore all these options this spring or summer.

Once I get all this banking and other paperwork organized, I need to clear out that garage of the furniture and pottery equipment that needs selling, so I can get my car in there. The next few months are going to be spent thinning out everything!



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Living not wholly out of boxes

Well, all the moving boxes that were in the bath tub are gone - just have a few last straggler items from the last box that was in there, to put away.

Yesterday the plan was to try to plant something - anything! But, my sole, little shovel was no where to be found so I wound up spending that time organizing all my cookbooks and getting them into the flat back cupboard which is now living in the kitchen.

After that and other chores, I headed to Ace hardware for a new shovel, a heavy duty hanger for one of our prints, and a hanging basket for some of the flowers I bought the day before, My days gardening chores were watering the many potted plants and putting together a basket of four fuschia plants and getting that hung on the front porch.

Now that I have a shovel I will get in the garden after breakfast and plant some of the deer proof (I hope), plants like marigolds, heliotrope and cosmos where our resident deer love to tread in the back yard. I'll plant roses and veggies in the future secret garden once we can fence that section of the back yard.

I haven't seen our very pregnant resident doe for two days, so I'm assuming she may show up in another week or so with one or two fawns.

It's so lovely living in town and seeing the deer browsing their way through the neighborhood, Three of them were hanging around our house a lot and sleeping here at night; but with all the activity and construction noise here lately, and a resident dog, they may be finding other sleeping arrangements in the future. Time will tell once the construction noise from the new combo laundry room/powder room is finished.

After that project is completed I'll have to address these ancient kitchen cabinets. I'm hoping I can just reface them and add a couple of new ones; but I'll only do that if they can put proper roll out hardware in the existing ones. Unless I can get someone to start that project immediately, it will probably wait until I've recovered from the hip replacement surgery which is in another month.

Unpacking continues, albeit very slowly. I still haven't found my gas kiln, so I'm hoping it's buried at the back of the garage along with the freezer full of food that the movers assured me was plugged in. In another week or so I'll try to hire some of the young moving guys to come in and move everything out of there and put things where they should have been in the first place. There's furniture in that garage that needs to be sold or given away, but I can't even reach it for all the boxes and other things blocking it.

They put all my garden shed contents in that garage instead of putting them back in the shed, And there are household boxes in there as well. I'm just hoping I can be a lot more organized in the few weeks I have left before the surgery.

My old handyman and new one have both been unavailable due to illness and accident, and that is also slowing things down a lot.I know it will all get done, but it will probably take the whole summer before we can feel settled.

The garden awaits, so time for our bagel, smoked salmon and cream cheese breakfast, and then I can finally get my hands in the soil! I definitely need a break from unpacking.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Still inundated with moving boxes and construction mess

A bit of advice - if you decide to move into a charming 100 year old cottage that's less than half the size of your old house, get rid of your excess stuff before you move! In my case it just wasn't possible. With the condition of Jim's health and my surgery next month, it was imperative that I get us moved and settled as quickly as possible into a smaller place.

We put our old house on the market last Wednesday and it sold full price the same day. Guess the universe is supporting this move in more ways than one.

It's been a couple of weeks, and boxes and furniture and much needed kitchen and other items are buried so deep in the two garages that I would have to empty the garages fully to find most of them! The movers put my full freezer in the back of one of the garages and then loaded the garage to the rafter with boxes and other things. The only good thing is that they said they did plug it in. Time will tell is that was the case.

They put kilns, slab rollers and big glaze materials bins in the wrong places, so we will have to hire a bunch of guys in a few weeks to move a lot of that stuff again.

I've been giving away clothes, furniture, kitchen items, etc. My cleaning lady and our son and daughter-in-law are benefiting very well from our lifestyle change. Simplifying is hard work!

Today I've been dealing with the Larry the tile guy who is laying tile in what will be the new, small but efficient, combo laundry/powder room. The gardener was here with two other guys for a few hours doing a major cleanup, tree pruning, some tree cutting, etc. Hopefully they will rototill what will be my little, planned secret garden soon. Today one of the guys cleared a short area enough to plant the four raspberry plants I came home with yesterday.

All my potted plants from the old house are scattered in the back and side yard and hopefully in another month most of them will be planted. They'd better be because of July 23 I go in for my second hip replacement surgery.

The new range is in but I still have to order the vent and cover. The second air conditioning company was here yesterday and promised an email bid today, which still isn't here. It will take at least 2 more weeks once we select which company will do that job. Meantime, one of the subs furnished us with a lender portable air conditioner for our bedroom. We had a couple of those 100 degree days without one and are so grateful to be able to sleep in some comfort.

The deer are still coming around, even with all this activity. One of the does looks like she is going to go into labor any second. Two days ago she was within a couple of feet of our bedroom window munching happily on some shrubs. I won't try to keep our resident deer out of the property, except for my secret garden which is going to be for veggies, flowers and herbs that deer would love to dine on. We do love seeing them in the yard. One of the males now has a rack that seems to get bigger with each day. He and Bodhi got in a bit of a scuffle a few days ago when Bodhi lunged at him. I pulled him back right away, and I'm sure he'll think twice about doing that again!

Well, that's a bit of update on the Perry, scaling down, lifestyle change move. Even with the mess and all the work ahead of me, we are feeling very good about being back in Ashland again. There are a lot more and better shopping choices and a many more services as well as very good restaurants that deliver and have take out menus. That is going to be particularly useful when I'm recuperating from my hip replacement surgery late July and August.

Hope everyone is enjoying some lovely summer weather and making lots of pots! Right now I'm off to get the car washed and pick up a couple of fill in groceries. With no garages free to park the car, living under the huge evergreen tree next to the driveway makes for a very dirty, messy car.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We now have a pet deer

My life this week has been packing, driving to new house for meetings with painters, handymen, contractors, gardeners, man to spray whatever that green stuff is on the roofs, etc. etc. Yesterday I spent a long time taking exacting measurements of the two garage spaces and the basement, aka my new studio. The property has been rented for years and obviously the renters weren't gardeners so the place looked like a jungle of ivy and other yet to be named species; but the gardener and crew have been pruning like mad. It's only a hair under 1/4 of an acre  but seems so much bigger.

It is now official. We have a pet deer, who I will name Elsa. She also has a friend, I'm told but I've yet to meet her. Bodhi and I first saw her a few days ago, in the back yard. Yesterday she was in what is one of her usual spots, left of the driveway among all the wild growth. When I told the gardener that I saw a deer, he replied, "Oh yeah, she lives here!". She's pretty darned tame - didn't run away when I was about ten feet from her and spoke to her. Bodhi didn't bark, he just stared! It was only when I opened the car door that she turned and headed toward the neighbors house next door.

So now I'm printing out some googled information on deer resistant plants. I wanted to plant one of my Japanese maple trees in her favorite resting place. She and I are going to have a  serious talk about what she can't eat! But in case she doesn't listen, I found there is a spray I can use on my special plants.

Today is a packing in the morning, Lowes in the afternoon for new range and a few other little things. Handyman George was a no show yesterday afternoon to make another truck load  run to the new house with more of my potted plants, so I need to touch base with handyman friend Patrick who should be at the house working on cleaning up the cobwebs in garage and basement and filling the gaps in the garage walls (I'm kindly calling them gaps!), with the 3 sheets of plywood I bought for that job a couple of days ago.Hopefully he can water the potted plants since I don't think I can get there today.

The painters were finishing up yesterday and just have to remove a large, ancient and blackened mirror above the fireplace and they'll be done. Contractors people will be in at the end of the week to start on creating a combo laundry room powder room in an available space near the entry way, so things are moving along well. Aleida my cleaning lady will be here for 3 hours and she can fluff up the sheets in the dryer that I haven't been able to get to since Friday! I'll also have her start packing my big metal cabinet in the studio with all my studio miscellanea, and then start on packing up a whole cart of kiln posts, gloves, etc.

While she's doing that I'll be off to Walmart for some of those "put together yourself" paper saving boxes. I find they work well for books and other heavy things. I hope they have freshly stocked them. I need a LOT!

I'm exhausted, but just putting one step after another forward. We ate dinner at 8o'clock last night - a roast chicken cooked by Walmart and some fresh corn, and macaroni salad also, thanks to Walmart. The chicken was moist and good and the salad not bad. I loaded up the car with TV dinners thanks to Stouffer and Marie Callendar and told Jim that last nights dinner was the last one resembling  home cooked that he's going to get for the next week. 

Time now for a cup of tea while I wait for good, first, morning light so I can take photos of some of the antique and other furniture for our daughter-in-law to peruse. She is going to relieve us of the burden of having to move some of those pieces and store them. You can't fit almost 2,500 sq ft of living space into an 1100 sq ft. one unless you're a family of sardines!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

A good news day

This is the kitchen in our new, little Craftsman cottage. I was very happily surprised to see this size kitchen in an  1,100 plus, square foot house. Even the painters remarked that the house appears much larger than it's actual square footage.

Yesterday was a great day! Felt terrific after 8 hrs sleep as opposed to 3 the night before.Unfortunately, I'll be dragging today after only 3 1/2 hrs last night; but what can you do!

They're  continuing with the huge cleanup pruning/clean up at the house and after the first day of trimming yesterday, I discovered a hidden wiseria vine on an arbor. It was being shrouded by an ancient evergreen; but they trimmed the tree up and there it was. I was also happy to see a beautiful, big, healthy peony bush near the front, right corner of the house.

There was good news from Matt the contractor that he will not only be able to put a combo laundry room/powder room and that he has one of his team that he may be able to get on it right away. I love that!
A bit of not so good news - we can't put a drain in the basement; but since I'll only be washing clay water down the sink, he said he could just break through the concrete and let it drain there. Glaze material cleanup will be relegated to large buckets.

Another good news of the day, was that the ugly area in the rear garden, filled with dirty looking gravel isn't a  septic of anything I have to deal with. It's an old, make shift  fire pit! So I will be making that area a small patio for either our outdoor table and chairs or our two loungers and our portable fire pit. It will be great for watching those late August meteor showers. He said they'll just fill it with sand as part of the prep before laying a flagstone patio.

This morning I have a meeting with the mover. Since we want them to pack, I'm readying myself for a case of sticker shock. After an early lunch, then I'll be driving to Ashland to finish the measuring I didn't get to yesterday. The contractor checked a lot of things for me and made some excellent suggestions.

Bodhi and I got a huge surprise from an unexpected visitor. As I was walking Bodhi toward the back yard, he turned the corner before me and pulled so hard on the chain that I thought he might have spotted a bunny; but when I turned the corner, there stood a full grown doe. When she saw me she jumped the 6 foot fence. Bodhi was so excited. It just made his day and got me thinking I have to rethink what I plant at that house. Looks like a lot of irises and hostas, or a bigger fence!

When I told the gardener, he said there are two deer to come and sleep inside the property every night. Oh joy!

Since I've been up since a bit before 4am, I gathered some of the treasured pots from my collection and layered them with kitchen towels and pot holders. I'll be taking them over to the new house with the other box of bisqued pots I packed yesterday, and whatever delicate things I can get in the car. I figure I'll load up the center island with them and go then switch to kitchen things I won't need for the next 12 days and get them into the cupboards at the new house.   One the painters are done I can start bringing in pictures and paintings. I met with them yesterday and they'll be coming in to start painting Saturday morning instead of the late afternoon which was their initial projected start time.

If I didn't have to show the gardener the things he has to remove from the basement, I'd be staying home and trying to nap later; but I need to stop at Lowe's for flagstone tiles to create a new hearth and get some locks for the basement and garage doors, and a lot of packing tape. This kind of busyness is going to be the norm for the next month or more.






Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things are moving fast


We just decided to move a couple of days ago and I been busying, measuring and calling people. I have an appointment with the mover tomorrow morning, who said he could move us on the 25th, met with the yard man yesterday who is cleaning up the property (a gift from our generous son and daughter-in-law), as well as the handyman. The painters picked up the paint samples and will start painting Saturday afternoon.

The handyman will start on some things tomorrow; and this afternoon I have to measure that basement so I can make a plan for placing studio equipment and the our other fridge and freezer. I'm also meeting with the contractor about using an existing space for a combo powder room/laundry room, and someone is coming at the same time to remove the working washer and dryer and fridge because I have newer ones that will be going in those spaces.

Jim's physiotherapist left a while ago and while he was here I managed to get two boxes of bisque ware packed. The plan is for me to get a lot of those delicate pots, painting and mirrors moved myself in the next eleven days before the move.

Yesterday I found out that contrary to what our 6ft 5 son said about the basement height, it will work for me. It's a few inches taller than me. So all my pottery and soaping things, other than the gas kiln, should fit down there. I didn't see a sink, so I will have to put one in.

Tomorrow there will be a clean up crew there for the yard. There's some heavy tree and shrub and rose pruning to do as well as a lot of under brush to clear out of the part of the yard I'm calling the secret garden. That is where my veggies will get planted. It gets eastern, some southern and western sun, and after the heavy pruning I think I'll be able to grow just about anything I want  there. The back of the garage that helps create the secret garden will be a perfect place for clematis and honesuckle vines.

I'm taking all my potted plants with me, and most of those will get in the ground in the next couple of months. The secret garden idea has been on my bucket list for ages, along with a koi pond. I want to get a nice arbor as the entrance to the secret garden. there's already a short, wooden fence there, that needs work. I haven't looked too closely about how much work it needs. If it's a lot, I'll replace it with a bit higher one and plant some rambling roses next to it which can happily cascade over it. I'm excited about getting my hands in the garden and know it's a challenge, so I'll just have to do a section at a time. Patience and planning will be the key.




Monday, May 11, 2015

Stop the world I want to get off

It's going to be a crazy month or two. We are moving to Ashland, Oregon as soon as the painters can paint the interior of the house and the movers can pack us up.

Here's the new, scaled down digs - a lovely antique craftsman house our son and daughter-in-law have made available to us.
This is a huge scale down for us since this darling cottage is only a bit over 1,100 square feet. It's 2 bedrooms and one bath, decent size kitchen and and a good sized living/dining room space. It has a lot of windows a lot for a craftsman house of this age. The one bath has to be addressed, so we will put in a powder room/laundry room in what I hope is an ideal existing, unused, small space in the house. It will probably have the smallest sink every made; but should work.

The house is very close to downtown and the beautiful Ashland park, and we will no longer be so isolated from the services and goods we need right now. There is great food shopping in the town, including a once a week farmers market about 6 months of the year, and a lot of restaurants that will deliver; or those that don't all close enough by, so I can call and pick up whatever I need and be home while everything is still hot. Even the local Taj Indian restaurant delivers!

With Jim not being well, and me having to now do everything as well as care for him, it's all been just too much. With this new place I won't have to walk Bodhi, he'll have plenty of established trees and shrubs in the fenced yard to make his mark. We just have to alter the garden gate which has slats too wide. He'd be through those in a shot!

The three hundred plus square foot garage is just going to be a repository for all the things that won't fit in the house including all my pottery supplies until I can deal with them. The garage is really not suitable as garage since I think it's a small barn/shed that someone put a big wood door on to use as a garage with a dirt floor - very rustic. So we'll build a car port in front of it if zoning permits.There's natural air conditioning in that garage with all the holes and spaces in the boards, so needless to say the only time it could be used to make pots may be between May and September, so if I want to get back to pottery in the future, I will have to make some changes either in the building or find some studio space elsewhere in town, if such a space exists. I may in the future tighten up part of that garage so I can extend the time I can work in there.

That's the update for now. If the painters get in this week and we can hire movers this time of year, we will be moving in a couple of weeks. Our son and Jim have convinced me to have the movers do the packing  and this time I'm not resisting. Once we're out of here, we can get this current house ready to be put on the market.  I'll only get do enough unpacking to get the house itself organized and then take a break and plan on a huge garage sale late fall or next spring.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon about a new hip replacement, hopefully late July or early August if they have an opening then. That will be time enough for me relax for a few weeks with our daughter-in-law and daughter here during that time to tend to Jim and I until I'm up and around and back in the kitchen.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Checking in briefly

Just another quick check in during this busy spring planting time among all the other things on my plate right now.

In the blog roll to the right, I have a probably boring, long post in my Plant, Harvest, Cook blog about what's going on in the garden.

Between garden work, getting all my soaping notes and materials organized (I'm almost there on that job after a few great rolling storage carts), as well as being the sole responsible person for all household, cooking, shopping, driving, animal care, etc. etc. chores these days. I don't even have time to check my favorite blogs daily like I used to.

Jim is on some new medications so he is eating again. Since he spends most of his time in the bedroom or his leather chair in his office, I moved my studio TV and receiver in there today, since it's not going any good in the studio since I haven't had time in months to do any studio work or make any soaps. I made him a very happy man today. When he saw me carrying it in there, he said "you need to get an electrician to do that!"; and I replied "I'm the electrician"; and I got it set up with no problem so he could watch the basketball game.

Jim has a new walker and he's able with my help to get outdoors a bit some days while I get some gardening done. Life goes on; but it's all so very different these days.

I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon in another week, and I'll see if I can schedule my second hip replacement early August when both our daughter-in-law and daughter will be available to help out with Jim, the house and animals while I recuperate those first few week. It's going to be an interesting summer.

Hope everyone is well, making lots of great pots and enjoying the spring weather and early gardening. It's going to be a very hot summer if this spring is any indication. I may finally get to use the pool after 3 years!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Still on the planet

Just thought I'd check in to let you all know I'm still on the planet - a bit beaten up but like the energizer bunny, but still going.

These days there's no time for anything but taking care of my husband, pets, house and garden.- barely on the garden part. I did manage to at least plant some new June bearing strawberries, lettuce, arugula, parsley, peas, shallots, kale and  fava beans. The normally filled with hardy annuals containers are sitting abandoned at the moment; but I'm hoping to find time and energy to brighten things up in the coming weeks.

The only fun, exciting thing I've done in months was to get some new electronic toys - a video camera, and another gizmo to watch more non network, non cable TV for which I have to pick up a HDMI cable today to get it working. These days we only go out for hospital and doctors visits, so TV has become the source of entertainment and distraction from the pains and perils of old age.

Yesterday I setup the new Samsung laser, wireless printer and now I don't have to walk to the far end of the house, laptop in hand, to use the printer. With me now being responsible for all the chores, I really have to be stingy about how many footsteps I take in the day. Bodhi is almost used to me taking him for very short potty breaks. When he gave me one of his forlorn looks yesterday, as if to say, "dad took me on long walks all the time", I told him that he should have adopted a younger family!

Our oven died and since the other ten plus, year old appliances may have soon followed,  we now have a brand new S.S. Fridge, dishwasher, oven and microwave. Jim pushed me to replace them all. In his words "what are we saving it for, the worms?" So I did my homework, and called Lowe's. With sales, and their veteran's 10% discount we saved a lot; and a charity has two, still working well, appliances. I put the old fridge in the garage and have no idea how I found space for it. Of course now, I have to find space for the work table I pushed aside to make room for the fridge; but that, like so many other little chores and projects will just have to wait.

Between his failing health and my bad hip and my  recent fall causing a badly sprained, maybe broken foot, I feel lucky that the fall caused the injury on my bad hip side, so I could still hobble around with my cane. Jim's care is the top priority these days and my new hip will just have to wait. The studio sits like a memorial to what used to be and I haven't even had time to make any soap since December.

On the plus side, we've had our daughter and son-in-law visiting and helping out for a week; and our son has been an amazing help as well, flying up every 3 weeks and getting someone to do things like grocery shopping, etc for us. Jim's sister and husband were here a couple of days, then off to California for a couple and will be back tonight for a goodbye visit before they leave Sunday. I promised them margaritas and pizza; but ran out of time yesterday to make my pizza dough so we'll just have to settle for guacamole and nachos tonight! 




Friday, January 30, 2015

Nature's Eye candy

  https://www.youtube.com/embed/FiZqn6fV-4Y

I've always thought that nature was the best designer and this video is an amazing look into the world of nature's creativity. Enjoy!

My creativity lately has been cooking - at least that's been the case this week. Tonight I made a great rack of lamb with a dijon mustard coating and then topped with  a coating of herb and garlic bread crumbs drizzled with butter, and my own take on cottage fries (cooked in a frying pan since my main oven is kaput and the repair man won't be here till February 7).

This week has been dealing with car problems. My car is now at the shop after getting hit by a driver who suddenly decided to put her car in reverse on the exit road from our local Costco, and did  a great job of scraping my front bumper area which will now be getting replaced. They called today and said it would be ready on Monday Her insurance company gave us a loaner ( good to have had a willing witness and a guilty party acknowledging guilt) ; but I'll probably be returning it with a full tank since I did grocery shopping the other day on the way home and am all set for dinner menus for the next few days. So their SUV loaner will safely sit in our garage till I take it back on Monday before picking up our repaired car.

 Superbowl Sunday is just going to be classic wings and a bit healther potato salad to balance all the fat in the wings.

I may just pick up a small watermelon for dessert  to balance all that fat. Life these days is all about balance - at least most of the time. 




Sunday, January 25, 2015

Another Clayart archive

Here's a link to the original clayart archive with messages until mid to late 2012. This archive is the one I tend to go to for information since all the information is in categories. If you're looking for a certain type or color glaze, or certain cone, it is in it's own directory. You don't have to scan thousands of posts or many years to find what you're looking for. http://www.potters.org/categories.htm

Finally went in for the endoscopy the other day and seems the paraesophagela surgery last year caused a new mini hiatal hernia, as well as shifting of the mesh they put in there. There were able to stretch the bottom of my esophagus, so maybe now the food will go down and stay down! It's not totally fixed, but so far it's an improvement. The good news was everything looked good otherwise, so that's a blessing.

On another note - I've decided to sell my brand new, never used Brent extruder with all the lovely dies. With this new hernia, I'm just not going to risk it getting worse by using a hand extruder. I can't ship it, but if anyone in my area of Southern Oregon is interested, let me know. I'll have to check the price and probably sell if for $100 less than I paid for it and throw in all the lovely dies and hardware.

With Jim's health challenges as well as my own, there isn't time or energy for the studio. My hip has gotten very bad and I can't get a new one for a few months, till Jim is done with his treatments, so I'm hobbling along with my cane and spending a lot of time sitting down and reading in between cooking and other "must do" household chores. Old age gets more interesting every day!  

Time to check on wall ovens. Ours died a few days ago. It won't unlock after the self cleaning and I can't even figure out how to get it out of the cabinet! So as soon as mercury retrograde is over in a couple of weeks, I'll be replacing it. Thank goodness for my little toaster/convection oven which is doing a great job for most things - just no pizza for a while though. 




Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Clayart archves now available

 A new page for Clayart archives is now available:

http://www.clayartarchives.com/

This archive, unlike the old one separates the years. My preference is the old one which has all glaze recipes, and like related subjects in files. This archive will require a lot more time to search for information unless you know which year, of at least 15 years archived, to check.

Finally got to the right medical office yesterday after months of being shifted from one doctor to another; and on the 23rd I go in for a endoscopy procedure to hopefully fix this problem, of my lower esophagus that has pretty well closed as a result of last years para esophageal surgery. Now that that problem is set to be taken care of, I now need to get started on getting another hip replacement, hoping I can do that in March.

This hip has suddenly gone south and I now have the cane nearby all the time. Yesterday Jim noted that most of the entries in our calendar these days are medically related! Old age is certainly interesting time.

Once they patch up this body, it should be in time to be garden and studio ready. One can hope!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New directions

We took down the Christmas tree yesterday and the handyman is coming in a half an hour to put all those heavy boxes up on the hanging storage grids in the garage. The house always looks so naked with the Christmas decorations down which is why I tend to leave them up so long!

I'm in a bit of limbo still waiting for answers on what's going on with my body. Two doctors have now taken about 2 months to finally get me to see an gastro enterologist; but my appointment with that office tomorrow is only for a consultation with a nurse practitioner. Lord know how long it will take to get any answers. Meantime I'm taking medication and living in the land of the unknown for a while longer. And my hip has gotten worse but I can't look into another hip replacement until I get this other problem dealt with, so these days I'm doing a lot of things that require sitting and not much too much walking.  


My time is being spent on cooking, reading about soap making, ordering soap supplies and organizing them, and making some soap molds out of core plastic. I also started a soap blog a few days ago: www.ladyjunesoap.blogspot.com

Once the rest of my soap supply orders arrive, I'll make more soaps and other bath and body products for family and friends. That will keep my creative juices going until I can get back into the studio. Frankly, I haven't even missed working in clay, probably because I wasn't thrilled with working with the earthenware, and was facing having to start all over with oxidation fired stoneware as my only other choice. So it will be interesting to see how I feel once I can get back to it.  Life sure gets interesting in your 70's and 80's!


Friday, December 26, 2014

For the Shino lovers

Here's a link to Great glazes, featuring Malcolm Davis's wonderful carbon trap shino recipe and a very long list of techniques to use with this glaze. I also found it interesting that the person posting the article says that they have been firing this glaze very successfully to cone 6 R as well.

 Great article on shinos and long list of how to use this amazing glaze.

Like so many others, we've been celebrating the Christmas Holiday with a lot of rich a lot of abundant, and not so healthy eating. So today, we've all decided to take a break and choose some lighter fare for lunch and dinner.

The grand kids had a great Christmas. Santa was very generous with new bicycles and new musical instruments - yukele for Brandon, mandolin for Aidan and electronic drums for McKenna, a beautiful new Yamaha upright piano for their mom, and a large assortment of other gifts. Present buying was easy this year because we gave them money toward their new Apple computer funds, as did the other grand parents.

Jim and I were going to go out after breafkast to do a bit of shopping; but I realized that there are going to be a lot of people on the road and in the stores returning Christmas presents, so I think we will stay put today. I have a couple of days worth of news papers to read, as well as some magazines that have been sitting here for a couple of weeks.  I also  want to dig out my begonia bulbs if they're still showing signs of life and mulch my jasmine vines which didn't make it through last winters unusual cold that gave us temperatures around 7 degrees for a week. That intense and long cold spell killed a lot of everyone's shrubs.

 It's going down to 30 tonight and the in 20's in a couple of days, so winter has begun in earnest. Time to see if I have some hot chocolate and mini marshmallows in the pantry.








Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My soap whoops

This is my latest soap, a feathered mantra swirl. I love the colors and the pattern came out very well; but I inadvertently left out the lavender essential oil, because it had spilled and I didn't know it. I have now idea how a tiny mis en place cup could tilt enough to empty about 90% of its contents then right itself up! And of course, I could smell the oil, and seeing the almost empty cup I assumed I had added it. It was only when I was removing my several layers of paper at my work station that I noticed that the oil had spilled! So now, I have a pretty, but unscented soap. My friend Kay's daughter and grand daughter are allergic to scents, so I'll have someone to give some soap to, and I'll enjoy it without the scent.

I'm eager to try this one again but I'll have to wait a couple of weeks to get a proper separator for my larger mold, since the supplier's Etsy chop is closed till the 20th and maybe longer. For making this soap in my smaller mold I made my own separators out of cardboard. It worked well enough but the spacing wasn't exact, so I wound up with not enough white to fill the mold as much as I would have liked. That's why I used the larger portion of colored leftover with the little bit of white leftover and poured it into a couple of oval  guest sized molds and did a spoon swirl with my chopstick. Lesson learned!

Yesterday a couple of friends and I went out shopping for Christmas presents for  several children from a few  disadvantaged families, and today my hip is needing a rest after all that walking on hard floors for a few hours. Our women's group is doing a great job making a nice Christmas for many local children. 

I have plenty of paperwork and computer work to do, so all is good, and I may be playing mah jongg if my friend Kay is going. She's in the middle of packing to move in a few weeks and may opt to skip it this week, and I may do the same.

I'm having a weird glitch in my computer that I need to find a fix if I can figure out how to do it. When I open my Adobe elements program, a message comes up that I have files to burn on one of my drives. And since that has happened, the program won't open correctly. It's bizarre! When I put a blank cd in to try to copy some of those files I get another error message telling me there isn't enough room even when I only try to copy a single, small file.  I'll try a different type of disc and see if the problem still exists. Even when I put a music cd in that drive, the list of files that it says I need to burn shows up as part of the contents of that music CD! And part of that problem is now the Adobe Elements won't recognize my camera, and a whole new page shows up on my desktop that only allow me to download my most recent files, and if I get out of it, next time they don't show up and my only other option is to download every photo on my camera to another folder it creates. So now I have to delete that folder because my C drive already needed a good cleaning and that made it worse! 

Computer clean up and fixes will keep me busy for quite a while as well as some kitchen cooking time.  It feels like it may be a  good night  for some New England clam chowder, or as Jim is suggesting, going out for Mexican food. Right now it's time to make some oatmeal.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year

We're definitely getting into the spirit of Christmas. The tree was decorated before Thanksgiving, only because neither Jim or I could get the boxes of decorations down from the rafters in the garage or get them back up after I decorated the tree; and since we had the handyman in to do some other things, I got the tree done early and Jim completed the village at the base of the tree a couple of days later.

Big winds are upon us along with a lot of heavy rain. They're saying that elevations over 6,000 feet may get up to 4 feet of snow! Our power went out just after I got up this morning and the winds knocked all of our outdoor wreaths down. Our power went back on after a half an hour or more but it's still out in other parts of the valley. One of our big wreaths wound up in a neighbors yard! It looks like these winds and rain are going to be here for the rest of the day and maybe into tomorrow. Some places here and in N.California are getting hurricane force gusts. Jim said a part of one of the neighbors fence looks like it's going to fall down.

Today is going to be a cooking day for me. Yesterday I mistakenly took out 4 lbs of ground beef instead of two, to make a meat loaf for dinner and didn't catch it till the meat was half defrosted. So, I'm making a bolognese sauce for pasta with half of it and if the power is still on by later this afternoon I'll make the meatloaf and put the bolognese sauce in the freezer.

Yesterday I had planned to make soap, but got invited to the Mah Jongg group as an observer and to learn a bit more. I got some clarification on some of the Mah Jongg card information, and  I think I have the basics down, so Mah Jongg is going to be one of my brain exercises, keeping myself sharp, activities for my old age. I've even ordered my own set so my friend Kay, who got me into this and is also a newbie, and I can play/practice together.

Pottery is still in limbo as I await the surgeons call about his analysis of my Xrays.  As of Monday, they were supposedly still analyzing them - translation "they're at the bottom of a pile that they haven't gotten to yet!". My doctor already told me what the problem is, so I just need to know what, if anything, the surgeon is going to do to fix it.

So I'll keep busy with cooking, maybe some holiday baking next week and soap making. It's Thursday and I just finished going through the Sunday papers. Jim keeps saying "we're supposed to be retired, but we're always busy". No kidding!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Touching base


Here's my first cold process soap. Soaping is currently my creative outlet out of necessity and choice as well. I created the base recipe; and this soap was made just for guys in the family and a few friends. I was my first swirl recipe. Next time I'm going to add a piece of dowel to my coat hanger which I used to make this swirl design. That should give me a bit more spacing of the swirled colors.

Next on my list will be a lavender soap, which II'll be making as soon as my wire cheese/soap cutter arrives. Cutting with the old miter box didn't work , nor did the free hand cutting, even though I measure well.

After a merry mix up between doctors offices, the surgeon finally go  my Xrays last Thursday.. I called yesterday and they're still analyzing them. I think it's more that they're down the line in the work load!

Our son and daughter-in-law were here with a group of friends who all flew up from L.A. to celebrate our son  Sean's 50th birthday. It was one big celebration over a long weekend. Sean pulled out the best from his wine cellar to share (some incredible, serious collector Bordeaux's ).. We ate and drank incredibly well - too well!

Besides indulging in great food and wine and celebrations this past week, I've also been working on more soap recipes, ordering supplies, getting everything catalogued, moving  my soap making from studio/garage to the kitchen which necessitated re-arranging some kitchen cupboards.

My friend Kay who got me into playing Bunco with some of the ladies of our Eagle Point Women's club, now has gotten me into Mah Jong. I've had my first and am studying a little every day. I even ordered my own Mah Jong set. There's a lot to learn . Seems that after 5 years one is still considered a beginner, so I think this will be a good exercise for these aging brain cells.

This is a new phase for me, and a big change from my preferred  "nesty" way of living and working. But after two and a half years of pining away for my North Carolina friends and lifestyle, it was time to find some outside activities and get  to know, and play with some of these lovely and interesting women.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Checking in post Thanksgiving

 Hope all who celebrated, had a great Thanksgiving!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and post Thanksgiving leftover dinner thanks to our amazing daughter-in-law Nicole's efforts and talent in the kitchen, and our son sharing some of the best of his cellared wines! Nic cooked for about 25 guests. So tonight Sean is taking the family to the country club for dinner and give Nic a well deserved kitchen break and the rest of us another treat.

All my interior Christmas decor is done, and the handyman is coming Sunday to do the outside lights for us. Neither Jim and I are in shape to get up on ladders these days, so we're ever grateful to George to help with that chore.

The family heads back to California tomorrow, so if the rest of my soap supply orders arrive I'll be making more soaps next week. I've ordered a shredding tool - meant for veggies, but great for grating and shredding soap, as well as more colors and fragrances. My soaping education continues thanks to the several soap forums, books and generous you tube videos.  My first cold process soap continues to cure and may be ready by the end of December. I used my own recipe and it needs a long cure because of the high percentage of soft oils. It still smells good from the Nag Champa fragrance oil.

I've been busy creating more recipes that I think will be suitable for us, friends and family. Other than our three grand kids, most of us are in the 50 and older range , so my recipes are geared to nourish dry, aging and aged skin. It's been fascinating learning about the chemistry of soap and I know there will be a lot to learn from future soap making wins and more from the failures. 

Originally I planned to do my soaping in the garage/studio area; but that necessitated keeping the soaping oils, butters and fragrances in the house. It would also kick up  our heating and cooling bills to a ridiculous level. So a couple of days ago I reorganized a couple of cabinets  in the kitchen  and moved  all the soaping tools and ingredients into the kitchen, which makes more sense. For safety sake, I'll only have to lock up curious, Bonnie kitty when I'm soaping. Another bonus is that our powerful kitchen range vent will also come in handy to exhaust the lye fumes.

Monday I have to call and find out why I haven't heard from my doctor or the surgeon and see if there's a fix for this post hernia surgery problem. It's been over two weeks since they sent the x-rays to the surgeon . Guess they've been on vacation or one office expected the other office to call me.  Meantime medication is cutting down symptoms. Ah the joys of aging!

Until I know what, if any plan there is to fix this post surgery, narrowing of my lower esophagus, I'm not doing any pottery for fear of making things worse. Fortunately, soaping and cooking are things I can still do to satisfy my creative urgings at the moment and I'm really enjoying it. 





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Suds and mud

Here's my first Cold  Process soap which is now in the curing stage for about a month. It's my own recipe (I've spent a lot of time the past few weeks studying the chemistry of soap making and I'm hooked!). The rose clay made it paler than I hoped and found out after the fact that the titanium dioxide I put in it tones down color. Always something new to learn.

The mangled bar on the far right was my impetuous self, forcing it out of the mold while it was still too soft after 48 hrs in the mold. Found out later that sticking the mold in the freezer for a half an hour to an hour, will make them pop out easily. It did it for 45 minutes and out they came with just a bit of gently pressure. I had a lot of soft oils in my recipe, because I wanted a recipe that would be slow to trace so I could have plenty of time to mix various colorants to do some more complex swirl techniques.

These smell great thanks to the Nag Champa fragrance oil I used. Some of these oils are amazing. I got a couple of new ones today -  Egyptian Musk (for soaps for the guys; but frankly, I think it's really a unisex scent. I cannot tell you how much I love this scent!  There were two other fragrance oils in this order - Blackberry Vanilla and Pomegranate - both, smelled good enough to eat. I also got cupcake soap molds which are for down the line when I have a lot more soap making experience under my belt.

Today was for cooking and some early tree decorating. I know, I know. It's early, but we had to have the handyman in yesterday to get all those heavy and bulky boxes of  lights and Christmas decorations down from the garage  rafters and help me take down all the tomato cages, beans poles, etc. and help with stage one vegetable garden cleanup. And since he has to come back at the end of the week to put the boxes back on the rafters, do some painting and finish up some other fixes, I promised to have the tree decorated by then. Soaping will have to wait an other couple of days which is fine, because I have an order coming with something to help harden my soft formula soap in these silicone molds, so I don't mangle any more bars.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Green tomato popsicles

I peeked out at 6am and could see frozen eggplant leaves - so sad. :-(  Looks like I'll be starting post season garden cleanup in a few days after this Arctic cold front moves on. That freeze hit hard last night and I know there are a lot of big, green, tomato popsicles on the vine! I know you can make green tomato pickles, but not once they've been frozen.  I'll have to Google " green tomato recipes.". to see if there are any recipes for stewed green tomatoes.

This morning I downloaded the professional soap making software. That's going to keep me busy for a while, since I hear it's a bitch to learn. It has a lot of features that I probably won't be using unless I want to go into soap making as a business, but I will use the soap recipe calculations and inventory and costing features for sure.

After breakfast I'll be heading to the studio to tidy my pottery supplies, since I won't be doing any pottery until I know what they're going to do to fix this post hernia surgery problem. Until then, this is not a time for heavy lifting and throwing, so soap making and cooking will be it for a while.

Found out yesterday that my Nag Champa fragrance oil can be used to scent soap and that's the one I want to use for the first soap I make for Jim and I. We have always used Nag Champa incense for meditation, so it will be lovely to have it in our soap as well. This fragrance has vanilla in it so I will have to use the vanilla stabilizer that arrived the other day. It will prevent the vanilla in this and so many other fragrances, from turning the soap brown. This first batch of Cold Process soap will be a test for one of my theoretical slow tracing recipes. I need a base that will be slow to trace (thickening), so I can do more multi colored swirl techniques which necessitates a soap base that will allow you to mete out portions of the liquid soap, then add the various colorants that you will be layering before you begin creating the swirls; and it has to allow you the time to do all of this before the soap starts to thicken too much.

As you can tell, I'm very excited about soaping; and of course the whole family is eagerly awaiting home made soaps. Now I have to learn this new software enough to put in a couple of my theoretical recipes and see what kind of feedback I get from the software. As long as it doesn't kick up a photo of a skull and bones, or say na na na na na na, I think I should be able to start making my first batch of Cold Process soap by Friday.






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Been busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs

One of my emails this morning started with "I have been busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs y'all!!  That gave me a good chuckle, because that was so my day yesterday.

I had a smorgasbord "to do" list and managed to get it all done; but I was running all over the house and garden, and  by the end of the day  my arthritic hip had me limping badly, to the point that Jim said I should spent all day in bed today; but that isn't going to happen. I will spend a lot of time continuing my soaping studies, though, so I will get plenty of sit down time in between the few things I have to do today.

First thing yesterday morning, I fed my sourdough starter. After breakfast I got the last bit of melt and pour soap melted and poured and did the cleanup. There was email and snail mail to deal with and then mid morning I finally got a call about the results of the upper G.I. X rays. Seems that after the surgery, the lower part of my esophagus has narrowed, which my doctor says is probably the cause of the pain and acute gastritis symptoms I've been experiencing the past two months, so he's sending the xrays to the surgeon for his input. I'll have to wait to see what if anything can be done about it, other than keeping me on these two medications which I was able to stop taking after the surgery, or having to undergo another surgery. It will be what it will be - just have to keep moving forward no matter what life brings you.

After lunch I got my breakfast bread started, then went out to the garden to harvest what I could before the expected freeze (it was 32F at 6am); but don't think it lasted long because I didn't notice any wilting of the tender tomato leaves). I eked out a couple of cups of basil which had pretty much gone to seed, so I'll make a batch of pesto sauce after breakfast. After dinner I baked the breakfast bread and got into the studio and cleared the large section of the slab roller so I can move my soap making tools on there today and get it ready to make some Cold Process soap in a couple of days. My working day ended a 9pm and then I spent another hour on email before lights out.

In my down time I continued my soaping education. With Google's help, I finally found a site that lists the various acids and their  percentages in the many oils and butters used in soap making, as well as the positive and negative things they contribute. That information is a very good first step in learning to create my own soap recipes. At least now, I will understand some of those acid percentages that pop up in the free lye calculation software.

I've decided to bit the bullet and get the professional version of the soap software that some other soap makers have recommended. It will take a lot of time to set it up and learn. Before you can even start using it you have to spend a lot of time entering basic information. That will definitely give me plenty of time of rest this hip! 

This morning our son asked when to expect his first bar of home made soap. Jim naively said, maybe by Thanksgiving - maybe next Thanksgiving Jim, but definitely not this Thanksgiving for Cold Process soap which has to age about four weeks. Christmas is definitely possible; but first I have to create a recipe for slow tracing soap, and make sure the fragrance I use doesn't accelerate trace, so I can jump right in after a one lb test batch of soap to test how long it will take to trace with the fragrance oil I choose. If that goes well, then I'll bite the bullet with a three pound loaf and  try one of the two or three color swirling techniques. I figure there will be a lot of failures whether I go the easy route or  attempt a bit more challenging project - just have to be well prepared and go for it.  So after my days small "to do" list is complete, I'll be working on creating, I hope, a good starter, slow to trace recipe. I have a couple of slow to trace recipes to use as a starting point, and I have all the ingredients listed in some of the recipes, so that's my big, sit down job today.Wish me luck. There's a good chance I'm going to need it! :-)






Monday, November 10, 2014

BRRR Frost on the pumpkins

We got our first bit of frost last night, and there's a freeze warning for tonight, so I think we'll be having some fried green tomatoes tomorrow night with our leftover steak.

It was Jim's 81st birthday yesterday and our usual routine is for the birthday person to pick a place for dinner; but this year, with his back bothering him so, he said that what he would really like would be for me to just buy a couple of steaks. So I found some prime steaks at Costco, made a Caesar salad with home made garlic croutons, and stuffed baked potatoes with sauteed pieces of mushroom and onion mixed in. Those steaks were beautiful, melt in your mouth like butter quality, and had no taste, even though I rubbed them with garlic, and salt and peppered them. I hadn't tried their steaks in well over a decade, and sad to say they are still tasteless. Guess they just don't age them enough, or at all!

The rest of my day was busy with my new passion - soaping. I didn't make any soap, just spent a lot of time trying to create recipes, watching soap making videos, reading old messages on the soap making forum and putting away and cataloging two recent orders of colorants, oil, etc. I'm still waiting for the order with the vanilla stabilizer so I can make my first Cold Process soap.

I also, finally found a embed mold source for making those cute little embeds that are used as part of the inside of the soaps or as topping. That supplier had pages and pages of them; but I used a great deal of discipline and only ordered the smallest raspberry mold.

Watching those soaping videos on You tube is how I found the source for those molds, as well as the name of a soap software that I want to check into a bit more. They sell both hobby and pro versions.  The pro version will analyze your recipe; but the hobby one doesn't have that feature. You would think the hobbyist or newbie would need that more than the pros! The pro version also gives you a product cost breakdown/profit amount, inventory tracking, as well as lye and fragrance calculators, etc. etc. I just need to see if anyone on the soap making forum is using this or has a used copy for sale, or maybe some other software suggestions. My reasoning for purchasing this type of software, is that having a really good software that will analyze my theoretical recipes, can save me a lot of time and money spent on ingredients. It will also be a good learning source.

Meantime, first thing this morning I fed my sourdough starter so I can make some breakfast bread this afternoon, and then, I set up a folding table in the guest bedroom to hold my over wintering plants. Unfortunately, the window shade isn't working so after breakfast I'll have to move the table into the dining room. Then I want to re-melt my leftover melt and pour soap, and get that poured.

This afternoon I'll be out in the garden harvesting whatever I can, and bringing in the lemon grass, cilantro, etc.. If I have any energy left over, I may just get in the studio and get all those wadded soda pots back on the ware cart and clear the slab roller and move my Cold Process soaping tools to that table so I can make my first batch as soon as my other orders arrive.

Dinner is going to be easy, vegetarian Indian - a welcome change after some heavy eating yesterday. Jim says his weight is up two pounds this morning and I'm sure the Eggs Benedict birthday breakfast didn't help!  I didn't have Eggs Benedict, but I'm still not going to get on that scale today!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

If at first you don't succeed



Finally made a little bit of soap yesterday. Unfortunately this photo doesn't show the true color of the bar soaps, which is a lovely, pale turquoise/mint color; and I couldn't figure out how to adjust the color using photo shopping software.

My suspicion about the soap failure the day before, was that I just didn't get the soap hot enough, was correct,  because the re-melting worked fine when I got it hot enough.

I was hoping to make soap again today, but wound up dealing with computer stuff again. Either I need a new modem or a new Internet service. It's a pretty bad router (third one they've sent me in two years) that doesn't allow me to get a connection in my bedroom. Yet, I can pick up three or four neigbhors Internet service showing up on my Internet access list, in any part of the house; but not my own; and even when it does show up, it almost impossible to get it to connect on my iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.

Tomorrow I'm off to the hospital to drink some barium so they can take some upper G.I. snapshots, so there won't be time to make soap because I want to take advantage of what is going to be the warmest (around 68F) day in the foreseeable future, to get some garden work done in the afternoon. We've yet to get a frost and some of the veggies are still producing, but I think it may be time to  think about harvesting some of those green tomatoes and bring my lemon grass and a few other things indoors for the winter.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday morning eye candy



I love starting my morning with my first cup of tea and watching someone like this Korean potter demonstrate his skills. Lovely.

Well, yesterday I finally got around to the soap project and my first effort was a disaster. The melt and pour soap just wouldn't work right. So after a few attempts, I high tailed it to the soap making support site that I joined a couple of days before, shared my plight, and within a couple of hours I had a lot of generous responses. Seems everything I did was correct, according to one member, but that sometimes melt and pours soaps can be a pain the arse! Who knew! Melt and Pour was supposed to the easy, no fail way to make soap.There were also several suggestions to use better quality melt and pour soaps instead of the ones I bought from Michaels. So next time I buy melt and pour soap it will be from Brambleberry, which got the most recommendations, or one of the other ones also recommended.

The problem I had was that soap was hardening, even before I got around to adding colorant, so it's possible I should have added those the minute the soap was melted. Someone suggested having a bowl of warm water to set the container of melted soap in, to keep it from solidifying so fast, so I will definitely follow that suggestion today and in the future.

I have a larger pack of Michael's melt and pour soap as well as the other pound from the first, smaller package, so I'll try again after breakfast.. Everything is set up - colors mixed with glycerin, scent mixed, soap re-cubed, etc. so I just have to see if I can get yesterday's soap re-melted. If not, I'll start with the other pound from that box. I'm glad that I was a bit timid and only used half of the soap.That was enough of a disaster to deal with. So disappointing!

After lunch I will either have a few bars of soap to enjoy, or I'll have to go back to square one. If that's the case, I'll just lick my wounds and keep at it with the Michaels soap I have on hand, until I get it, or till I have a lot of back soap to throw it in the trash.  In the future, I will definitely be buying a better quality melt and pour soap.

This melt and pour method was supposed to be the easy way to make soap which is why I started with it instead of the cold process which involves dealing with lye, and then there's a crucial timing thing related to the level of trace, which you have to learn to recognize in order to know when to safely stop mixing and get your colors and scents added and start pouring, before the soap get so firmed up that it can barely be poured.

So if this Melt and Pour works today, my next effort will be to take the plunge and try to make a batch of cold process soap when my other orders of colorants and vanilla stabilizer arrive. Seems that soap fragrances with a lot of vanilla will turn soaps brown, and after checking the vanilla percentage of some of my fragrances, I'd have a lot of brown soap on my hands in the future unless I use the stabilizer. So much to learn!


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Post Halloween morning and question for soap makers

Good thing we bought a lot of candy. Jim figured we had about 200 trick or treaters last night. We had a lot of mummies and zombies (a lot of zombies and fake blood), lots of little princesses (one corrected me and said she was Rapunsel!), there was a butterfly, fireman, bat man and one mother came as bat lady, a lot of Harry Potters - male and female, bunnies, etc. etc. I thought one was a skinhead (shaved head, earring in ear), but no, he was Mr. Clean! It was a lot of fun and we should recover by lunch time!

Jim was the main greeter and candy distributor and I joined in for a bit. Most of the time I was in the bedroom trying to keep our dog Bodhi from freaking out, and our kitty Bonnie from sneaking out of the house. I also spent some time in the dining room seed saving, a job I'll finish at some point today.

Tonight's dinner party guests cancelled due to illness, so I'll have enough Beef Bourgignon for today and tomorrow. I've decided that after lunch I will delve in and made some Melt and pour soap. It dawned on me that I don't have to do a whole loaf. Instead, I'll just melt a pound of soap and add color and fragrance and pour it into some single bar and guest soap size molds I have. That will be a good beginning test of the fragrances hold, and colors. Now I just have to figure out what scents to use. Nag Champa was going to be my first choice but I found out that even a smallish percentage of vanilla content in fragrances turns the soap brown, so that fragrance will have to be set aside until the Vanilla Stabilizer arrives in another week or so.

Reading reviews of fragrances at the various soap supply sites has been very helpful. Now I just have to look up the reviews on the other fragrances I have on hand, and make a chart on the pros and cons, amount to use and other mixtures that soapers have tried that work.  A question for potters who are also soap makers.  Have you used the Titanium Dioxide and/or kaolin that you use in pottery in your soaps? I put off buying these from the soap companies since I already have them in the studio.

Time to get back to soap research with the Masters Semi-final tennis matches in the background. Looks like Raonic has learned to do much more than just serve. He just won the first set easily with Berdych, after beating Federer in straight sets yesterday. Very impressive!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another home run

John Britt has hit another home run - this time with his just published "The Complete Guide To Mid-Range Glazes" - Glazing and Firing at Cone 4-7. If you loved his Cone 10 book, (and who didn't!), you are going to love this one. You won't ever have to buy another cone 6 -7 glaze book. There are hundreds of glaze recipes in here and the oxidation glazes shown, are not the typical, flat oxidation glazes we all poo pooed for years, because of their lack of depth, dull surfaces, etc. This is a whole new generation of cone 6 glazes, both oxidation and reduction. There are recipes for ash glazes, oil spots, shinos, crater glazes,oxidation celadons, oribes, iron reds, copper reds,  temmokus, clears, and every other color you can think of. There are also firing schedules to try, glazing instruction, glaze problem solving, and so much more.

In just a quick scan, I can see a lot of things I can incorporate. There's a photo of a cone 6 electric fired pot that looks like it came out of a soda kiln - fantastic! Can't wait to explore that and a whole bunch of other recipes. Here's a link to the book on Amazon. Treat yourself. You deserve it!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Guide-Mid-Range-Glazes/dp/1454707771/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414790932&sr=8-1&keywords=John+Britt

On a personal note - never did get to the hospital for my tests. Seems the machine for my barium x-ray upper G.I. scan broke, and the re-scheduled next day appointment was also canceled since they couldn't fix it and now they have to wait for a new machine to be flown in from Singapore. So my next appointment is Wednesday.

Those cancellations suddenly freed up some time and I decided I would finally make some soap. I had my prep list made out, all tools on hand and decided to double check my colorants and got hit with the curse of Mercury retrograde again. Most of my beautiful powdered colorants will not work in melt and pour unless I don't mind the admonition that those colors will fade in 3 weeks. They have to be kidding; but they aren't! So it was back to square one, ordering some other colorants, glitter and another soap fragrance, and sit and wait some more.

In the meantime I went back and watched many more You Tube, soap making videos and I think if I feel up to it, I might just tackle a batch of the cold process soap which requires a bit of skill and critical timing for success. At least I have all the tools and ingredients on hand for that. With Halloween tonight and a dinner party here tomorrow night, my maiden soaping session will have to wait till Sunday or Monday.

After watching all these videos, I feel pretty confident that I won't screw it up too bad (she says with the confidence of one who has never dealt with the possible horrors of mixing lye, soap batches seizing, fragrances accelerating trace, and everything else that could go wrong in the world of soap making!) It may not be pretty when I am done, but I feel confident and hopeful, that it will be usable soap. It might be what they term in tennis an "ugly win" - you played horribly, but you managed to come through with a won.  In my case, since I am going to attempt a 3 color hanger swirl,  which may turn out to be the ugliest mess you've ever seen, it may turn out to be an ugly win - a useable soap that lathers and cleans well, smells good, and is ugly as sin! Or maybe I'll just have beginners luck and come up with a winner.