Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baking day yesterday, seed planting today

Here are the 2 loaves of no knead bread I baked yesterday. It seems that most of my day was spent in the kitchen. I made a couple of pizzas for our Friday night, porch sitting with our friends Jim and Laura. It's the first Friday in about 6 weeks that we've been able to do it.

Jim fared well with the visit but this morning he's a bit achy from the fractured sacrum.

The robins have arrived, so spring is in the air even though the weather is still hanging on to winter. Even in this cold, some perennials and bulbs are starting to peek through.

I've been planting seeds this morning - Genovese basil, Italian parsley, 2 types of spinach,  artichokes (which have to be in the fridge for 2 weeks), and a bit more Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. After lunch I'll plant another savoy cabbage variety "Chieftain". My kitchen greenhouse window is almost filled to the brim and same for the grow lights in the basement. I wish I had more south facing windows in the house. I may have to clear my studio desk and put seedling on it once I've used up all the house space.

Today or tomorrow I'll need to transplant some of my Broccoli Raab and cabbage seedlings. The first crop of mixed lettuce seedlings are doing well, so far, in the basement. One of my over wintering geraniums is actually flowering under the grow lights!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pottery in Seagrove NC video

Here's a link to a short video on pottery in Seagrove, NC.

Seagrove Pottery

Between caring and cooking for Jim and taking on his chores as well as my own, there still isn't time for the studio. I have managed to get in an hour or so of garden time two days ago and have gotten some seeds started in the house. I now have broccoli, spinach, cabbage and lettuce sprouted and started some onion seeds and Red Russian kale today.

These days my time is centered on husband, house, animal and plant care and cooking. Jim is healing, but it's a slow process. The past couple of days he's been able to do some local driving to pick up the mail and today he drove to Spruce Pine to get his hair cut; but that's pretty much the extent of what he can do. He's still sleeping in the recliner because of the pain from all those spinal fractures, so it may be another month or so for those fractures to completely heal.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Latest Cinnamon Raisin bread

After a big breakfast thing morning -  fried, leftover mashed potatoes, some nice thick, hickory smoked bacon and this cinnamon raisin toast, I headed for the garden. Thanks Bonnie for tip on soaking the raisins. The bread was much lighter; but I did have to hand knead it a bit to get better distribution of the raisins.

We were blessed with two glorious spring like days that allowed me to do a bit of cleanup, severe pruning of one of the peach trees, weed a bit, dig in some mushroom compost and  plant a short row of peas today. I cut my finger on my jammed pruner which made it all take longer that I planned. It's amazing how one cut on one finger, especially one that won't stop bleeding, will interfere with planned chores!

Now I'm going to sip my wine, watch the Olympics and peruse an old Dom DeLuise cookbook, "Eat This It'll Make Your Feel Better", that I just received. I did a quick scan of it this morning and I think it's going to be a fun read.  Some of his childhood memories of growing up in the Italian neighborhood in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn are the same memories I have of a similar neighborhood of my childhood in South Brooklyn in a mainly Italian, and Polish neighborhood.

I can still remember all those exotic smells of the Italian and Polish bakeries,  Italian and Danish delis and even the live poultry market where my mother sent me every Saturday to buy a chicken. The Italian neighbors bought the more exotic things like pigeon and rabbit. The same was true for the fresh fish store. Dad loved to go deep sea fishing, so we never bought fish. In fact, dad didn't like fish. He only loved to fish! The way he would tell people the best way to cook his catch, would give the impression that he was a real gourmand; but he would rarely eat the fish. So most of his catch was given away to the nuns at school or neighbors. Dad loved seafood  though, so almost every Friday he sent me down to buy either a dozen crabs and on rare occasions, a lobster at the fresh fish market down the street. There were baskets of snails at that fish store and I always figured that the Italian neighbors bought those, although I never did see anyone buying them.

In the summer we would take the Staten Island Ferry and go crabbing. I remember one time when the entire bath tub was filled with the crab we caught. Our other trip to Staten Island was in the fall, to pick mushrooms. Dad only picked two varieties that he knew from his childhood and mom would can them to be sauteed with onions and served on top of pan fried steaks in the winter.

In the 40's and early 50's there were no supermarkets in our neighborhood other than a small A&P; but that wasn't where you went to buy meat, fruits or vegetables.  It was all those wonderful, little specialty food stores where most of our food was purchased. Walking home in winter, with a freshly, baked loaf of Italian bread that was baked in a wood burning oven, holding it close to my body to keep me warm, was one of those wonderful memories. Often the bread arrived with a few bites out of one end; but Mom never complained. :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Somebrite test tile

Here's one of the tiles from the last soda firing. It's called Somebrite and  is a well known glaze which is often used only as an accent on soda/salt pots. It contrasts very nicely with flashing slips. I won't bother to post the recipe as it can be easily found by googling the name.This tile was fired to cone 12 at 2 o'clock; but it works just as well at cone 10 and may work at cone 9 as well. This glaze has to be applied quite thin to get this color, otherwise it will comes out a deep green. My test had a hydrometer reading of 51.

Since copper carb is toxic and this one has too much copper in it to be a safe glaze for food, it should only be used on the exterior or any pots that anyone might be included to use for food.

It was snowing lightly again, this morning and at the moment it doesn't look like I'll be venturing to town. The roads look OK but our driveway is too snowy and icy, so I'll wait another day.

I've been feeding a tom cat on the front porch every day for about a week and even left food out overnight since he was making several visits a day. But two nights ago, a possum was on the porch feasting on his food, so now I'm taking it in for the night.

This morning he and Bonnie seemed to be enjoying each others company until he saw us at the window ooing and aaing on how sweet it was that they were becoming friends. I don't know if he's a feral cat or a pet who was dumped (that happens a lot around here); but in any case, he's very wary of us.

After breakfast I got another big seed and garden order written up this morning and have just three more catalogs to peruse; but I think I've ordered all that I need. This afternoon we'll be watching the Olympics while I get my veggies prepped for our roast chicken dinner.

I roast the chicken on a bed of cut up carrots, celery, onion,  apple and orange wedges (I squeeze the juice into the pan and some over the chicken), with some parsley and a small bay leaf added to the mix. I loosely fill the cavity of the seasoned bird with some of the cut up apple, a wedge of the orange which I squeeze as I put it in, a couple of cloves of garlic and a wedge of onion and a sprig of fresh thyme if I have some. Then I pour some pale dry sherry over the chicken and roast it, basting it a couple of times as it roasts. All the fruit, veggies, herbs and sherry make a lovely, simple sauce. While the finished chicken is resting, I put the pan on top of the stove and boil down the juices to thicken a bit and then strain and serve over the cut up chicken. It makes a lovely, light, tasty sauce.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another loaf of cinnamon raisin bread

Here's the loaf of cinnamon raisin bread I made again, last night, in the new bread machine. I don't know why the raisins aren't getting evenly distributed even though I'm pristinely folowing the directions! I even hand kneaded the heavy dough a bit while it was in the machine and still wound up with way too many raisins at the bottom of the loaf. 

This new snowfall is certainly bringing even more birds to our feeding station. This morning we had 8 pairs of cardinals. That's 3 more pairs than we've ever seen at one time. I think the word has gotten out! The red bellied woodpecker was also here as well as all our regulars. I'm probably going to give them several feedings again today. It must be so hard on these little guys to maintain body temperature in this crazy weather; and I'm hoping all the extra rations and suet are helping a bit.

After feeding our domestic and wild critters, we enjoyed the cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast. After breakfast I perused a sour dough bread machine cookbook that I got through inter library loan and decided it was worth buying. I found a copy for around four dollars on ebay. That was ten dollars less than the cheapest one on It does pay to shop around.

We're still working on our leftovers, so tonight I think I'll make some potatoes au gratin to go with the leftover meatloaf. The rest of the afternoon will be spent going through more seed catalogs and watching the winter Olympics and a few more outings with Bodhi before dinner.

Jim's healing is going slowly, but he is making progress. He's completely off the pain killers now and is sleeping well in the recliner now that he can move the recliner back a bit more. He's getting up and around more but I'm acting a bit like a tough  staff sergeant when he attempts to do too much. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alkaline green glaze test

Here's an non barium, alkaline copper green test tile from my last firing, on Phoenix, a light stoneware from Highwater, . I designed it for cone 8- 10 but this was in a section that had cone 12 starting. The expansion is pretty high which accounts for the crazing, which probably was increased due to it overfiring.

I love the color, so I'll be interested in seeing what this will do at Cone 10. I was hoping that it would be more of a turquoise; but when you have to add enough silica for cone 10, it tends to shift the alkaline to a more acidic environment which makes you lose that brighter, turquoise color.  I need to try lowering the expansion without losing the color - more testing to come!

It was an eventful morning with the sound of fire trucks coming down the road, only to realize they were at a neighbors house across the road. Unfortunately, it looks like the house was gutted. No one was home. If they were, the house might have been saved. The information I got from a friend is that it looks like it was a chimney fire; and it was only when the roof seemed to be on fire that another neighbor noticed it and called 911. I can't imagine having to deal with the devastation of coming home to fine your home and everything gone - too sad to even contemplate.

Our long driveway is covered with a new layer of snow, so we're going to stay put for a few days until these snows stop, which should be Thursday or Friday. In the mean time I'm pretending it's spring and ordering seeds, starting some seeds of cold tolerant vegetables, cooking and enjoying the Olympic events.

Dinner is already prepped, other than making a salad later, so I think I'll get another loaf of cinnamon raisin bread started. Somewhere in this huge pile of papers is the bread machine manual and recipes!                                  


Monday, February 15, 2010

My new copper blue glaze on a Loafers Glory test tile

Since I don't have any studio news at the moment, I thought I'd at least put some ceramic information on the blog once in a while. Here's a Cone 10 reduction copper barium test from my last soda/salt firing. The clay is Loafers Glory, a white, porcelainous type stoneware from Highwater.

I was looking for a buttery surface and this looks very promising. I'll probably use this  on small bud and ikebana vases with a white or shino liner. I got the idea of the copper and rutile percentages from an old Ruth Gowdy McKinley glaze.

Here's the formula is anyone is interested in trying it (of course be mindful that this is not a glaze for pots used for food. Barium carbonate and copper carb are toxic, so make sure you use safe studio practices when mixing, applying, etc.

June's Cone 10, Buttery BaO Copper blue #9785V2

38 Neph Sy
32 Barium Carb
17.3 OM #4 Ball clay
12.7 Silica
Add: 3% Copper carb, 6% rutile  

After lunch I started going through some of my old seeds and got a few cold weather veggies started (Cauliflower, Broccoli Raab, Cabbage, Parsley, etc.). After going through several seeds catalogs, I realize that I probably won't need to buy many more seeds, since I have plenty of just about everything.

I've got leftover turkey meatloaf for dinner, so I might use some of that kitchen time to start another loaf of cinnamon raisin bread to bake overnight if I can figure out that setting on the new bread machine!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fettucine Alfredo ala Perry

Here's the fettuccine with Alfredo sauce, and sauteed ham, onion and mushrooms that I made for dinner.  It's one of our favorites. This is my serving. Jim's was twice as much! :-) This is definitely a heart attack special, which I don't make often; but Jim opened a nice bottle of wine to counteract all that cholesterol. We're firm believers in the French paradox. :-)

It was  a cold but gorgeous day, sunny day. Bodhi got lots of walks and Bonnie kitty spent half the day outside.  I was able to get down the snow covered driveway and into town to pick up the mail after lunch; neither store got any bird seed deliveries so I'm going to have to watch my last bag so I don't run out before I can get out again in a few days.

We're expecting another 2-4 inches of snow tonight and more snow every day for the next 3-4 days, so we'll just snuggle in for the duration with hot chocolate and lots of good leftovers, and time to continue with my spring seed buying. There are too many selections in too many catalogs and it's taking me a long time to make my choices.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cold, but happy birds.

The local bird population at our feeding spot  has increased since I tripled their feedings. I've had my National Audobon Society bird book out, trying to identify some of them. We finally figured out that the pretty black, rust and white bird is a Rufous-sided Towhee. Who knew!

The birds have had a big breakfast and so did we. Now we're all curling up in our safe places till the next meal. Jim is napping and I'm catching up with computer work before I start searching for my turkey meatloaf recipe.

With another inch of snow overnight, cold temperatures, and slippery roads, I figured that this is a good night for a comfort meal of turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and watching some of the winter Olympics events.

Yesterday I was able to get to the village and pick up a few necessary groceries. I was hoping to get another large bag of bird feed but everyone was out. Fortunately I have a back up bag which should last till I can get to town again. It was nice to see that our neighbors are also giving extra rations to the the birds during this cold, snowy spell.

My other chore of the day is to continue going through these garden catalogs and get the rest of my spring seeds ordered.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Latest no knead sourdough

It snowed all day yesterday. Fortunately it was never very heavy so we only wound up with about 3 or 4 inches. It was a good day to bake a loaf of my no knead sourdough and drink hot chocolate for lunch.

The neurosurgeon has to perform emergency surgery, so Jim's appointment was canceled, which is just as well with this weather. Jim's doing much  better. In fact, he's now able to lower his recliner chair a bit more. I'm amazed that he's been able to sleep as well as he has while almost, sitting up!

It's going to take another 4 -5 weeks of healing; but at this point I think he's leaning to not even going to the neuro surgeon. The surgeon saw the MRI's and wasn't in a great rush to see him, so we're assuming that he probably agrees with our doctor and the radiologist that since the fractured vertebrae are not compressed, 8 weeks of rest should heal the fractures without invasive surgery.

 So much is on hold right now, including studio time. Hopefully by next week I'll get through the piles of mail and seed catalogs and order the rest of my spring seeds.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cinnamon raisin bread

Here's the cinnamon raisin bread from my new bread machine. It rises a bit more on the left, so I'll have to manually re-arrange the dough at the first rise next time; but pretty is as pretty does and the bread was great!

Today was a running around, doing chores day - post office, drive to Burnesville for my osteo treatment, then a shopping stop for groceries and  to pick up another prescription for  this sinusitis that's been plaguing me for almost 2 months.. I may be allergic to Bonnie Kitty; but I sure hope that isn't the case!

By the time I got home, unloaded and put away another huge load of groceries, walked Bodhi, fed kitty as well as giving the birds as second feeding, it was time to get dinner started. Fortunately tonight's dinner was leftover gumbo and hot fudge sundaes (a mini one for me!). Now I'll finish emails, take care of my Facebook farm, go through a couple of the newly arrived seed catalogues, watch some TV at the same time, give Bodhi and Bonnie some play time and finish the evening with yoga and meditation.

I was so happy that the bad weather held off till I got home. We've snuggled in with a full fridge and freezer, so let the snow and sleet come if it wants!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Experimenting with a new cookbook

I just came in from feeding the birds. Right now it's sleeting on top fo the couple of inches of snows that we got overnight. It's fierce out there! It's going to be a dismal  day with this sleet  followed by freezing rain, turning to ice. I'll be happy to stay warm and cozy in front of the fireplace the rest of the day, working on my laptop or in the warm kitchen, cooking..

Last night I decided to make one of the pasta recipes from my new cookbook ""Great Women Chefs". It was a rigatoni with sausage, mushrooms, peas and onion and a sauce made from tomatoes, 1/2 and 1/2, ricotta and parmesan. It was tasty but a little bland even though I added some pepperonici. If I make it again I'll use a small ziti, because I think the rigatoni is a bit heavy for such a light sauce, and I'll also add a bit of garlic and cut back on the amount of pasta so there's a hair more sauce.

After breakfast I have to spend a lot of time cleaning up my Verizon software. Overnight, they  mixed up all my emails and put everything in my "deleted" folder. What a mess! So now I have to go through hundreds of emails and determine which ones are truly deleted and not part of current or saved emails. Aren't computers fun!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Another no knead bread

Here's a no knead bread from a couple of days ago. I've been doing a longer rise (15 hr proofing, plus 2 more hours for the second rise). This is Jim's favorite so far, so it's the one I bake regularly. Hopefully I'll find some more good recipes in my new Bread Machine cookbook. It has 300 recipes so there have to be some treasures in there!

Today is my shopping day. I'll wait till this afternoon to make sure the roads aren't icy since I have a 25 minute drive to get to a large grocery store.

We've got a few days of bad weather coming in two days, so I'm going to do some stocking up on some groceries and other things. Jim suggested I should just bring home some take out Chinese food - good idea! After a big shopping day, by the time I get home, put away groceries, feed kitty, etc. I don't think I'd feel like cooking.

I didn't make the cinnamon raisin bread last night  because the bread machine recipe I have calls for powdered milk, which I don't have and neither does out small, in town, grocery store.. That's one more thing to add to my already very long,  grocery list.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Here's the brioche I made in my new, Kojirushi bread machine. With Jim recuperating and my being housebound for the next several weeks, I'm using this time to expand my bread making repertoire. I think I'll make a cinnamon raisin bread after dinner. Yesterday I got my bread machine cookbook. It has 300 recipes. That will keep me busy for a while!

I've also used this time to get all my sourdough starters re-vitalized. For a while there I thought I'd have to buy a couple of new starters because I hadn't used two of them for a few months; but after a day or two I was able to revive them. Now I just have to remember to keep feeding them  regularly!

It's a rainy, slush, dreary day out there. If I didn't have studio plants to water or a dog to walk, I'd be spending all day indoors with the fireplace on. Kitty Bonnie stuck her nose out the door and decided this was not a day to play outdoors. Smart kitty!

This has been a good day for some paper work.. I completed my first seed order of the season and still have a lot more catalogs to go through. I was happy to find annual artichoke seeds that will fruit the same season. It's too cold here to winter them over (I've tried before and it hasn't worked). This year I piled a  lot of straw around the plant; but I'm not holding my breath. Next month I'll start the annual seeds and hopefully we'll get a crop of artichokes this summer.  Italian style, stuffed artichokes are one of my favorite dishes.