Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post Christmas especially for the foodies who follow this blog

We still have New Year's to go but I think we feel that we've celebrated enough this past week for a lifetime! After a great Christmas with our sons family, wonderful food and wine that our son and daughter-in-law provided and cooked, (our daughter-in-law is a fabulous, creative cook!), partying with other friends, our son and daughter in law, her mother and step father, and Jim and I, drove down to Napa, for a few decadent days, which I will need at least week to recover from!

We ate and drank like royalty (no exaggeration), and even found some time in our short visit to shop at some of the great stores in the valley. I brought some goodies home from the kitchen supply shop at the Culinary Institute of America, Dean and DeLuca and another local upscale grocery store. Dean and DeLuca and the local bakeries are awesome. I indulged myself, with Jim's urging, to a fabulous wooden platter, made from an old wine barrel that they sell at Dean and DeLuca. It has the most wonderful reddish tone from the red wine having been stored. It's will be a solid, treasured memory of this awesome trip. I'll have to take a photo and post that another day.

Friday night, our son and daughter in law treated us to dinner at the French Laundry in Napa, which is probably the best restaurant in the country, if not the world. Reservations are about a years wait. It's that kind of place - not just a restaurant, but a food happening. Recipes, service, presentation, wine pairings are all taken to another level of high art. It's not merely exquisitely, and creatively prepared dishes. It is art on a plate, using the best, most expensive ingredients available - like the fresh, imported white truffles, and then being very generous with shaving them over an amazing risotto. This is the first time I've ever seen a truffle as big as a grapefruit!

Before serving the truffle, they bring  the temperature controlled box of truffles around the table, ceremoniously opening the box for each diner, in turn, to experience that first whiff of the intoxicating, aroma, and then choose whether they want the lighter or darker truffle. The truffle smell which seems to have captured all of the aromas of an ancient forest floor - rich, woodsy, smoky and pure heaven all combined, is the best description I can offer.

The well trained staff is a show in itself. When a customer hits the staircase to ascend or descend, any employee on the stairs, even if his or her hands for full of a food, immediately rushes up or down to clear the staircase for the customer.

When each course is brought to the table, there's a server for each person and the dishes are set in front of each person simultaneously, and just as simultaneously, the covers on the dishes are removed, revealing small, intriguing mixtures of food you may have never seen, or at least, never seen in that combination. It's like a well trained group of dancers all moving elegantly and in  unison to reveal the treasure in each, covered dish. One dish reveals a hot, bisque, another tapioca topped with baby oysters and caviar. One after one they came - each a surprise and more intriguing than the last.

The first thing we were served was a mini ice cream cone (the sweet,dark, crunchy version), the base filled with creme fraiche, and topped with salmon tartar. I've had this before during prior visits and was happy to see and taste it again.

The food and wines kept coming and at various points some of us said "I'm done". My son and I were the earliest quitters but the heartier eaters continued, on to a cheese course, which we skipped. It was not any cheese course I had ever seen - no selection of cheeses on a plate at this table. The melted cheese was hidden under other treasures, topped with a perfectly fried quail egg!

 I opted to skip the dessert, but was given one anyway: but even after sharing some of it with Jim we still left half of it. There just wasn't another more room for one more bit of food or sip of wine.

You can blow up the menu and wine list I posted above and get an idea of the type of food we were served. We had other things not on the menu and the wine list is the list of wines we drank. All diners get their own typed out menu and wine lists, based on what they ordered. One of the dishes not on this menu, was an amazing pumpkin bisque served in a two layers cup that had hot water in the bottom to keep the  soup at the proper serving temperature. It looked more the color of a lobster bisque or a tomato bisque, but the flavor was definitely pumpkin, but perhaps there was some tomato in there, or maybe they used a very reddish pumpkin; whatever the ingredients it was superb!

This was a meal of a lifetime, a very generous Christmas gift from our son and daughter-in-law. And to top off the evening, we were given a tour of the kitchen. That would be a whole other blog message. Suffice it to say, it was run as efficiently as the dining side of the restaurant. We left with a shopping bag filled with the menus and some cookies in special metal cans from their famous bakery, and priceless memories.

The other part of our gift was a case of wine of our choosing for us and Nicoles parents. We only visited two of our sons and our favorite wineries - Frank Family and Bremer. We were even priviledge to have a barrel tasting of the 2012 cabs at Frank Family. On top of it all, we were blessed with great weather while there and good travel days, which aren't always the case this time of year, when coming back through the Siskiyou pass.

Today Jim is going to find places for our 18 bottles (we bought some extra ourselves). Once I recuperate from all this partying, I will be making some special dishes to go with these great cabs, chardonnays, pintos and sangiovese wines.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another baking day

After a great cheese blintz breakfast (thank you Costco!), I had to get out to the store to get a couple of cans and plates for gifting cookies. Then I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon rolling out and baking the sugar cookies and decorating them. I also made Czechloslovakian cookies with raspberry jam centers, which I love, and have put together these few gift cans and plates of cookies.

There are still gingerbread men to decorate but I don't have time or energy to get started on that project right now. There are also other cookies to make tomorrow. Once those are done, I think I will call it a day with cookie making this year.

It's party time with friends tonight and I'm hoping  I don't fall asleep after the first glass of wine. I am definitely pooped! So I'm going to close my eyes and meditate to recharge.

Santas helpers have been very busy

It looks like Santa Claus has adopted the Walmart business model of keeping a lot of local warehouses stocked with  their merchandise, because he's been sending a lot of his presents to our house to be picked up at a later date. Or maybe he's just being merciful to his reindeer and lessening their load Christmas eve! In any case, our guest bedroom and half our garage, looks like some spaces on that hoarding reality show.

As for me, other than answering the door several times a day, I've been doing some holiday cooking. Today, in addition to normal meal prep, I made a pate, as well as a batch of sugar cookie dough, which I'll bake tomorrow. I even found time to re-do all the tabbed, separator cards in my dessert recipe box. The old ones were about 50 years old and falling apart. They should have been retired long ago but it wasn't until yesterday that I found some at Office Depot that would work.

 The local stores didn't have the meringue powder to make the Royal icing for the gingerbread men, but when I got home, my order which I was told wouldn't be here until after Christmas, had arrived.  I guess the package made it through the mid west  the day before the storms arrived - lucky me!

Our son and family flew in to town tonight, so the next week is going to be family time and baking time The studio is just going to have to be put on hold until after the holidays.  There's fudge and popcorn balls and more cookies to be made and decorated and presents to wrap in between animal care and other household chores.

Time to say goodnight and finish watching yet another version of the  "Christmas Carol" - this one stars Patrick Stewart who is a very good Scrooge. All versions are so good in various ways, that I can't decide which, of any of them, is my favorite; but maybe the Alistair Syms portrayal has a slight nostalgic edge.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blowin in the wind

The wind that caused us to cancel my birthday dinner in Ashland, is upon us this morning. The remay is barely hanging on over my raised beds, so I'm going to have to get out there  as soon as I'm out of my pj's and re-do it all.

My birthday wound up to be a shopping and cooking day because of the impending bad weather. Dinner plans changed twice; but I finally settled on steamed clams which I found at Costco. Jim opened a great bottle of Cake Bread chardonnay and I heated up some sourdough and we feasted on 5 lbs of clams steamed in wine, garlic, butter and herbs.

None of the stores had the ingredients I needed for the royal icing to decorate the gingerbread men, but the heavens blessed us and when we got home from all that shopping, the package arrived with that meringue powder. Two days ago an email from the company said due to weather conditions countrywide, I wouldn't be getting delivery until after Christmas. Thanks goodness they were wrong. So sometime Friday or Saturday I'll be decorating those gingerbread men for the grand children.

It was too late by the time we got home from all that shopping to get into the studio. Groceries had to get put away, more Christmas packages had to be opened and stored, clams had to get soaked, animals fed and walked, and on and on.

Time now to get dressed and re-cover my raised beds and hope that my winter broccoli and cabbage haven't turned into popsicles from the cold and wind. Then it's going to be an oatmeal breakfast, finish email, and  studio time for a few hours. Somewhere in the day I need to make that banana bread. The bolognese sauce that I planned as a dinner substitute last night, before I found the clams, is defrosted, so I'll be making that easy, pasta dinner tonight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another busy retirement day

Got my paperwork together and weighed out 6 new glaze tests yesterday; but stopped because I was just about out of containers; but it was already 4 o'clock and time for me to get started on our usual, early dinner. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I got on line and ordered about 50 more pint sized plastic, take out containers. Meantime, Jim went to the store to see if he could find me some of those lightweight, inexpensive, 1 pint round, ziploc containers. But they didn't have that size and what he brought home were larger, square containers. So I'll use those later today for some slip test batches which don't have to be weighed out  - just a cup of slip and teaspoons of oxides.

I also have to throw more test tiles for the glazes and slips. It's a big "to do list today", but not sure I will get it all in. If I have time, I also need to make banana bread. The bananas are at just the ripe stage of being very ripe, which is how you want them for banana bread.

We've had some bad weather in the area and more coming in tonight. There was a 60 car pileup in the Siskiyous yesterday and although we're not going over the pass, we were planning on celebrating my birthday with dinner in Ashland. But we've decided to cancel that for another day since Ashland which is higher altitude than Eagle Point, where we live, tends to get more ice and snow and night time driving in those conditions is something, at our age, we try to avoid. Instead, I took some bolognese sauce out of the freezer and we'll have a comfort, pasta and salad, home cooked meal.

We have to get out in a bit for some chores. A trip to Costco may be a place to find some of those plastic containers and maybe some birthday dessert. :-) I also need to stop at the grocery store because an email yesterday said that my order for the meringue powder and other things I need to finish Christmas baking, probably won't arrive until after the holidays due to bad weather. Evidently Colorado is a hub where a lot of these packages go through, so I'm hoping some of the other, larger grocery stores in Medford will have what I need, or at least have a substitute. Those gingerbread men are going to need Royal icing in a few days before I deliver them to the grand kids. There are also stops to be made at the post office, library and Office Depot - another busy retirement day!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's only about a inch so far, but still snowing, and sure looks pretty! Good thing I don't have to drive anywhere this morning because it's pretty slippery out there.

I have some paperwork to do this morning and then I'll be heading to the studio. Jim didn't get back till mid afternoon yesterday, and he arrived with a pile of mail and packages that I had to deal with so it was another no studio day; but there's nothing on today's agenda after the paperwork and ordering some vitamins, so I will get in the studio after breakfast, after I get the slip and glaze recipes written out.

My aim was to have all these tests weighed and on tiles before Christmas and it looks like that will happen, even with all the holiday preparations and other delays. Dinner is going to be super easy tonight - ham steak, sweet potatoes, corn and applesauce, so I'll be able to get a full afternoon in the studio.

This retirement pace is working pretty well, especially the "no work" evening part, which is compatible with my energy these days.

Monday, December 17, 2012

One thing leads to another

Got the gingerbread made yesterday morning and managed to rearrange the freezer space to make room for them. Since the kitchen was already messy from earlier baking, I decided to forgo studio time and continue with Christmas baking, so the whole afternoon was spent making and frying these Chruschikis, which I haven't made in years, because the dough is the hardest dough to roll. These don't have to be frozen; but store well in this tin can, so freezer space was not a consideration. My mom used to store these in a cardboard box under the bed!

Before I started on these, I checked you tube, to possibly see how others handle this dough and I found the solution - a pasta machine. Voila! That was the anwer. I still had to do a bit of preliminary rolling of each piece, but it was so much easier with the machine.

The Chruschiki's I make aren't the light weight, very thin versions that you see most of the time. Our family's recipe is a heavier version which resembles the taste of a stale donut and gets drier and harder the longer it's stored. It's kind of like bakery hard tack! In any case, there's a large tin can (you know the type you buy loaded with popcorn or chips), filled with them. I just fried the last of them this morning and did half the cleanup and and will do the other half after I rest this very sore hip.

My sour dough starter and furry kids have been fed, the days baking is done and the floor is vacuumed. Since the freezer is full,  the rest of the baking is going to have to wait another four to five days.

Jim is off to the doctor, so I have to hold the fort and stay out of the studio because I'm expecting a delivery. The studio is warming up and I will get in there as soon as Jim gets home. Dinner is salad and cheese fondue, so it will be easy.  Meantime there's cooled frying oil to be put put away when it's cool, a very greasy stove top of clean and salad dressing to make. So much for retirement!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Woman plans, God laughs.

Yesterday I made a batch of gingerbread dough to make gingerbread men, which I was planning to freeze after I made and baked them today. A short while later, a neighbor came by with several pounds of frozen salmon fillets. He does a lot of work for some of the Indian charities and each year they give him 50 lbs of salmon! So, by the time I got my heavy cleaver out and cut the frozen fillets in half, cleaned up the mess and got them packed up, I had the head scratching job of trying to find room in the freezer for them. Fortunately I was able to, but now I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to put these cookies when I make them.

The plan was to bake and freeze the cookies and decorate them a few days before Christmas, when the family arrives. I thought I was so clever to pace my Christmas baking! So much for planning. LOL

So, gingerbread men is all the baking I'll be doing the next few days. I have the studio heating, so after the cookies are done, maybe I can get in there to do something. The tragedy in Connecticut just devastated me and I was in no mood for the studio. I didn't think that tears and clay would be a good mix.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blowin in the wind Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's Blowin in the wind

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Playing with sgraffito

Here's another sgraffito test plate. I do like having a job I can bring into the house when the studio is too cold, as it was yesterday. It's been interesting testing different tools for the sgraffito; and testing different stages of the drying. Yesterday I did a leather hard plate and if that one sample is any indication, I think I prefer waiting till the slip is dry. Next I'll try it on freshly applied slip.

My last stain order arrived from Seattle Pottery supply; but I'm still waiting for the last under glazes which should be here any day.

A couple of sgraffito plates and some cleanup is all the studio time I got yesterday. With Christmas so close by, I spent the morning yesterday pulling out my Christmas cookie and bread recipes and making a shopping list for this morning. With the grandchildren here for the holidays, I'll be making lots of Christmas cookies.

By mid afternoon I had to think about dinner, since I was roasting a couple of rock cornish hens and making a rice, mushroom, almond and raisin pilaf. After dinner I continue the search for colored slips and found a good source, so hopefully, when I get back from grocery shopping later this morning, I'll start weighing out some of them. If time allows I'd also like to test one of more of the stains in glazes.

It's a non cooking night since we're meeting friends at a Pan Asian restaurant we discovered recently, so I'll be able to get a little more afternoon studio time than usual.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sgraffito effort

Since I'm still waiting to get all my stains and under glazes, I tried to sgrafitto a couple of the test pots. I solved the cold studio problem which occurs when Jim needs to open the garage door - I bought this lap, work table for about $5 at Michaels a couple of days ago, and retreated to the warmth of the living room to do the sketching and sgraffito on a couple of pots.

I got a bunch of older Duncan under glazes on ebay at a great price. Seems I was the only one bidding on them. They're in the mail, so I need to throw a bunch of small cups in the next couple of days.

Since I'm still not sure what direction my earthenware decoration is going to go, I'm going to try a bunch of different things and see how it feels and looks. I love the idea of a lot of color like Matisse's painting and post modern work. Since I really can't draw much of anything, but think I have a good sense of balance, I'm hoping that the under glazes will be the direction that will appeal to me the most. Doing the sgraffito was fun, but I can't imagine wanting to do this on every pot!

Other than harvesting some veggies and cooking a couple of meals, it's been a day of this and that.

Our mulch was delivered this morning and applied - thanks to the younger gardener person. Jim is off to the dentist again, and I've been tied to this computer getting emails down below 700, and doing a lot of computer filing and cleanup up, updating my ipod touch before Itunes crashed. After a re-instal/ repair, that job is continuing and then I'll do the Ipad. Listening to Christmas music has kept me from screaming. I hate this computer cleanup/filing business; but it has to be done. I just need to quit saving recipes, photo, articles and other things that take up my time. The problem is that they all look so good!

The furry kids are fed, and, more household chores await - the vegetable bin needs a major clean out. I took some pesto sauce out of the freezer and I'll use it on linguine. That and a salad will be a nice, easy dinner. After bacon for breakfast and chicken salad for lunch, it was time for a vegetarian meal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A smorgasbord kind of day

Halleluijah! Yesterday I actually got to do everything on my studio "to do list". The slab roller got cleared of glazed, waiting to be fired, soda pots. Other studio and non studio items that were also, temporarily residing on the table got cleaned and found new homes. The table didn't stay clear for long, but at least now, it's only a temporary housing for current pots that are drying before getting bisqued. f

I re-arranged my only ware cart to make room for those soda pots, and got my white slip re-mixed, checked the specific gravity and dipped a couple of test pots, threw the lid to replace the glass one that I broke on my antique, glass, flour jar, and another shallow bowl to for more testing. I think the slip was still too thick.  And last studio chore of the day was making notes of which pots had that thicker slip.

Dinner was later than originally planned because Jim had an emergency dental visit due to a broken crown. By the time dinner was over, I was too tired to do the computer job I had planned for the evening, so I just caught up with email and did some computer filing.

Before breakfast this morning, I looked through some of my pottery books for slip colors; but didn't find quite what I was looking for, so I'll continue that after dinner. If I can't find what I'm looking for, I'll just have to do a bunch of testing on my own. I want a medium dark blue; but not the Noxzema variety, so I'll probably have to test some cobalt with modifiers like iron and manganese. The greens should be easy, and same for some of the other accent colors.After breakfast and some household chores, we headed out to do some shopping for Christmas baking supplies and a few other groceries. By the time we got home and put groceries away, it was time to make lunch. And there went half the day.

I managed to get a few hours of afternoon studio time to slip and sgrafitto a couple of pots. After adding some more water to the slip, and re-weighing it, I found that I made it a bit thinner than I wanted; but I went ahead and used it on the interior of shallow bowl and the exterior of a bowl I slipped yesterday with the thicker batch tomorrow, it will hopefully have settled a bit and I'll pour off a bit more of the water and try to find a thickness somewhere in the middle between the too thin one today and the thicker one from a couple of days ago. I'm not sure what other slipware potters do when they get a blob of thick slip, but I sanded a few of those off. This is going to be a bigger learning curve than my super thin soda fire, flashing slips! I also realized that I want to make a thicker batch for brushing, since it took about 3 or 4 coats with wait time in between, using todays thinner slip.

A couple of deliveries of very large boxes of Christmas presents,which had to go in the garage, put a stop to studio work because the garage door stayed open long enough to make it too cold to stay in there and I retreated back to the house to turn the oven on and do some dinner prep.

I got the roast chicken re-heating and just when I planned to continue researching those slip colors, a delivery of 4 or 5 boxes of essential oils arrived which have to be opened and checked and turns out we are missing some of our order, and on top of that, they shipped me an order meant for someone in Tahiti! So first thing tomorrow I need to get on the phone to straighten that out. It has definitely been a smorgasbord, multi tasking, kind of day.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Studio morning

I'm fortified with a high protein, not very healthy, breakfast (egg salad sandwich), and have my studio "to do" list for the morning, and my grocery list for this afternoon. I figured that I'd better get my Christmas cookie making ingredients this week, because experience has shown that if I wait too long the grocery store shelves will be pretty bare in the baking section if I wait too long.

With the grand kids in town over the holidays, I'll be baking a lot more cookiies and gingerbread men.

Since I've been mostly doing anything and everything else in the studio, but make pots, because of lack of space to store any more, on today's "to do list", is the job to see if I can tighten up the storage room by re-arranging what on some of the shelves by stacking things that can be stacked, and clearing off the slab roller which at this point has become a temporary spot for storing non studio things like the pot rack we removed from the kitchen, among other things.

Once the slab roller is clear, I can start thinking about doing some slab work. 

I will throw one thing today- a new lid for an antique advertising jar that's I've had for over forty years. It's my well used, flour jar. I broke the glass lid a couple of days ago and decided to throw one with the new earthenware clay and glaze it blue to match the blue "Borden's" lettering on the jar. I'm not sure what that jar was orginally for, but I suspect it may have been for dried milk, or????

Since I have enough leftover margarita mix, and we've had enough meat the past few days, tonight's dinner is going to be quesadillas, guacamole and margaritas. After dinner the plan is to do some computer work. The job I've been putting off too long, is to transfer all my document, music and photo files from the stand alone hard drive to my smaller laptop.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Here are the last two photos of the village under our Christmas tree. The bakery in the top photo is one of my favorite pieces and Jim was happy to find this pretty church this year. I found him an old Barclay pastor, lead figure to put in front of the church. The whole village looks even better this year since Jim took the trouble to light up all the buildings.

Yesterday's studio plan changed when Jim suggested we put up some outdoor Christmas lights. Hauling out the step stool, and then finding out that we couldn't get it in a good, stable position because of other shrubs near by, we wound up teeter tottering (me) on a very wobbly stool that wanted to sink into the over saturated soil, with Jim trying to keep it and me from keeling over. We just threw the first group few lights as high as could be reached. We got the lights on half of the evergreen tree only to find that the male plug, would not fit into the next two sets of older lights which only have two small female openings. Because it was too cold and getting late, we decided to deal with the problem today.

This afternoon Jim removed those lights and put them on the adjacent, weeping cherry tree, and I used the other two sets on the Japanese maple we had planted this fall. Just those few sets of clear lights on opposite ends of the front yard, really brightened up the house for Christmas.

Cooking a roast chicken dinner and some computer filing and email, took up the rest of the afternoon.  Now it's time to relax and finish watching the original "Miracle on 34th street.", and afterwards I might even have time to read some of the Sunday paper. It's been a good day.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

More Christmas village photos

Here are two more shots of our under the tree village.

It's been a computer morning, trying to figure out what stains to buy. Different sites, showing the same Mason stains, had color charts that did not match. So, I was checking a lot of sites, and googling the numbers to see if I could find a consensus. I finally gave up and ordered a few yellows and greens and will hope for the best. 

Once my hair dries I'll get to the studio. Meantime, I'll get some dinner prep done. It's a Saturday night Nachos and margaritas menu, so I just have to chop serrano chiles, grate the cheese, dice the tomatoes and make a batch of margaritas. With all that done, dinner will be quick and easy.

Even with the studio heat on for two hours, it was still cool and very damp in there yesterday; but I managed to get the new under glaze test tiles glazed with 2 different clear glazes, and a third one with is a 3% rutile version of one of them, and got up to date with the glaze and slip notes. I also did some pot sketches. Things are going very slowly, but at least they are going, even if it is at retirement pace!

Friday, December 07, 2012

More Christmas village photos

Here are a few more of Jim's under the tree village scenes.

It's been a busy morning of email, cooking a big breakfast and doing some sketching and now I'm heading to the studio for a couple of hours to glaze those latest under glaze tests, and maybe slip a couple of pots.

After lunch we have to go out to buy some Christmas lights. We've decided that the 3 wreaths we put up outside, are not merry enough, so we want to get at least one (I'm opting for more), set of lights to put on some of the landscape shrubs to perk up our outdoor Christmas decor. Like some of our other elderly neighbors, we're not prone to getting on roofs or ladder anymore to decorate for Christmas. We leave that to the younger neighbors.

By the time we get back and set up the lights, and if all goes quickly, I should get another hour in the studio before I have to start on dinner. Tonight's menu is pork cutlets pounded thin and coated with flour, dipped in egg/milk mix and panko crumbs and fried, candied sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli - maybe with a cheese sauce if I have time.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Another under the tree photo

Here's another section of our under the tree village setup. I love the cold frame (a gift from our daughter Erin last year!). Jim does a great job with this every year and so far, Bonnie kitty, has not been too tempted to jump on the table!

My studio time has pretty well been almost non existent the past couple of days. We've just been too busy with other things like Holiday and other shopping, a great dinner at a local Pan Asian restaurant, a visit and lunch with a friend and getting started with her help on all these essential oils Jim and I have started taking, cooking and household chores.

The craft store Michael's usually has a 40% off coupon every week, so it was a good time for me to buy another decent brush for the studio. The good ones are pricey and I was tired of cheap brushes which lose hairs every time I use them, so I've been slowly buying a good selection of decent brushes.

With all those other activities filling my time, the only studio time as an hour yesterday morning trimming a couple of pots, and another hour,  the day before doing some sgrafitto on a couple of pots. But, I have spent some time doing some pot sketches, so I wouldn't feel so guilty about not being in the studio.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Jim finished the village setup under the tree and it looks great, even though it's on our smaller kitchen table; but I think next year he may follow my advice, and use the bigger table. :-) This year he managed to get lights working inside all the buildings and it's really a lovely sight, especially at night.

The last under glaze tests are being bisqued. I loaded the tiny test kiln last night and turned it on at 6am, so it should be done around dinner time; and I'll be in the studio all day. There are test tiles to clean up, slip to weigh (hope the specific gravity is finally right!), and throw a couple more test cups and plates.

Since I pretty much have the whole day for work, I think I'll spend some time putting more things away; or more specifically, trying to find garage space for non studio items that are taking up valuable and limited studio space!

The bisqued soda pots are taking up a lot of available space, but we haven't had 3 clear days, which is what I need to start those firings,and it looks like
he next ten days are no different than the past couple of months! I might just have to pack up some of those pots since they're taking up my one and only ware cart, as well as valuable space on my slab roller, which is my only work table!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunday dinner and studio time

Yesterday I got some decent studio time and prepped a bunch of new under glaze tests ready for bisque firing. The tiles on the upper shelf  have already been fired to cone 04 and I want to re-fire them later to cone 03; but first, these new tests on the near shelf have to be bisqued in my tiny test kiln, then glazed and fired. Then I can re-fire all of them to cone 03.

After sitting a few days and testing the specific gravity, my basic white slip still wasn't thick enough , so I made up two more small dry batches, added them, re-sieved and still I'm a bit off. It looks quite thick but doesn't meet the 720 gram weight per 50 ml that Ron Philbeck recommended. I'm not far off so hopefully a day or two with the cover off the bucket it will be right. At this point, I'm wondering if he adds some Darvan 7 to thin it a bit for pouring. HMMMM????? 

After cleanup, and unpacking and setting up my new studio clock, it was time to call it a day and cook dinner. The clock is a self setting atomic one. It was really cool watching the hands automatically go around setting itself.

This morning has been spent on kitchen and other household duties; but tonight's dinner is all prepped (meatloaf, pan roasted potatoes and honey and ginger, carrots). I'm finding that doing this early dinner prep works really well with meals requiring a bit more time; and then I have most of the afternoon for the studio, to make some more test tiles.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's been another everything but pottery day, other than unpacking a 120 mesh sieve that arrived from Bailey this afternoon!

After morning tea and a shower, we were out and about all morning - first to breakfast, then drive to Mdeford for some shopping, home to put away groceries, pick up mail, and get right on the computer to search for what the store didn't have. Then I had to feed our furry kids, and water the planters that are under the eaves. Even with all the rain we've had and more and worse on the way by Monday, those plants have to stay under the eaves because they're shade ferns, a Japanese maple and other low shade plants.

About an hour later,  after putting in some orders at Amazon for a few things, it was time to start on dinner.

It took over 3 hours to make the classic French Onion soup gratinee and a simple chocolate pudding. Now I'm going to finish my wine and go through the rest of  my snail mail, and call it a day with a Sherlock Holmes mystery before an early lights out.

There's nothing on the agenda tomorrow, to interfere with studio time, other than quitting around 4 to start on a Fettucine with ham and mushroom dinner. I'm not sure what to do first in the studio; but I think I'll get those new under glazes on to the last of the bisqued tiles, and maybe roll out and throw a few more test tiles, because I'm not sure I have enough for the amount of under glazes in this latest order. If I get all of that done, I might just throw a couple of small test cups to test the slip if I can get the specific gravity right. After a test a few days ago, it was too thin, so it's been settling out so I can remove some more of the water.

Jim started on the under the tree village a couple of hours ago and I think he's going to push off finishing it till tomorrow. His back, like mine needs an overnight rest! Have I mentioned that we're old and well worn! LOL

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Everything but pottery

 The new Christmas tree arrived two days ago and it took till yesterday morning for us to figure out how to get the dual lighting system to work.  A call to the company yesterday morning finally clarified what the instructions didn't bother to mention! The lighting operates off a remote control and you can either have colored or clear lights or both; but trying to match the lines and plugs was challenging because of incomplete instructions; but all worked out on day two and the little tree looks happy with its Christmas finery.

The rest of the day was spent getting the decorations in the house and decorating the tree. Today, Jim will start his part of the job of  setting up the village under the tree. That's the bonus of being allergic to real Christmas trees - you get to set an  artificial tree early and can leave it up as long as you want!

A friend came late this morning to talk with us about essential oils, which sound miraculous. I couldn't stop smelling some of them, they were so intoxicating. Amazing product that I can't wait to start using.

Afterwards, we all headed to our local Mexican restaurant for a big lunch, so for dinner I'll just re-heat some leftovers and maybe just do popcorn for myself.

My Dell, wireless keyboard finally died this morning, so buying a new one was on the after lunch "to do" list. This time I got a Logitech with a mouse, not realizing that my Dell mouse was still working. So, at least I have a backup if one of them goes.

I'm expecting this laptop to go any minute. It seems to be dying in degrees - first the the cd rom drive died, then the wireless keyboard this morning, and the regular keyboard is acting like it's possessed - letters or numbers jumping up two lines, or jumping back a couple of words, or replicating themselves wildly with no way to stop them. Yep, I think it's possessed! I'm just hoping it will survive till after the holidays when prices will drop and maybe the new generations will be out. From what I've read, Windows 8 is a disaster, so I may be considering an Apple next time since even Windows 7 doesn't work well with a lot of my old software.

Time to do finish the days email, get into some cozy sweats and sit back and enjoy the brightness and cheeriness of the Christmas tree on this dismal, very rainy day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I was asked how I made those slip trailers, so here is a material list and assembly instructions:

Shopping list:

1 box bicycle inner tubes, (I used Sunlite, schrader valve 26X1.95-2.125, which I got on depending on how many trailers you want to make.  Using a scissor, cut off the section of each tube on either side of the air valve. Then cut in pieces that you feel comfortable with (remember that you'l be folding the back end with the clip, twice.

1 box Acco binder clips as shown at the back end of the trailer.  (you can use larger ones that I used. When the inner tube is laid flat, is slightly less than 2" wide. I don't know how many sizes they come in; but 1 3/4" would be fine, if they make that size.

graduated corks 1 1/4" diameter at the widest. Amount depends on how many slip trailers you want to make; but definitely get extras because sometimes they will crack as you drill, because you'll always get one or two as I did, where have natural split areas right where you would be drilling the center hole. If you want 6 trailers, I'd order 8-10 corks for insurance.

a package of inexpensive, thin, Bic ball point pens.You can buy a while package with multi colored tips for a few dollars.

1 roll of waterproof, reinforced tape (as shown in yesterday's blog photo).

1 package of thin, stainless steel wire.


Pre drill holes in the center of each cork, first using a drill bit to make a pilot hole, quite a bit smaller that the size of the pen. Then drill with a size that will work with the pen; but don't go too big. You want a very tight fit.

Remove the insides of each pen. (you can use the ink cartridge by itself or discard it).

Insert the pen through the hole of the cork, starting at the wide end, and push it through till it comes out 3-5" or whatever you'd be comfortable with . (I think I should have made mine a bit longer.) It helps if you twist the empty pen. Remember, you want a tight fit. If it's too tight, and twisting isn't getting you anywhere, remove the pan, and drill again, moving the drill bit around the hole to remove a tiny bit more of the cork; but only go to a bigger bit if absolutely necessary.

When you have the pen extending out of the cork at the length you want, then use a hack saw or cut off the excess pen flush with the other end of the cork.

Once you have your pen in the cork, insert the cork with the pen tip through one of the cut sections of inner tube. Have part of the cork extend outside the tube. Then, using the stainless steel wire, tightly wrap  the wire around the outside of the inner tube to secure the cork inside, and keep it from slipping. (I wrapped it a lot!). Twist the ends, well, and lay flat.

Then tape the wired area with the water proof tape. You may have to do it it small sections, which overlap, to get a tight fit and allow for the graduated size of the cork.

Lastly, fill with slip, make a double fold at the end and clip shut

Hope this is clear!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Home made slip trailers

This is my studio job of the day - finishing these 6 slip trailers. I would have had a couple more, but two of the corks split when I was drilling them.

Studio time was cut short because I had to do some on line banking. Jim reminded me that we had a lot of points that I needed to redeem now! We accumulated a lot of bonus points this past year thanks to an expensive cross country move and all the new appliances and furniture we had to buy; and after an hour of looking at all the merchandise I could have used the points for, I just gave up and had them credit our next months bill. They had a huge selection of merchandise, but none of the models of cameras, or printers were what I was looking for.

We had close to six hundred dollars to redeem because of all the money we spent this year for the move. I'm so glad that we put the moving costs on our charge card! So instead, we're going to have a great dinner out and buy some really good wines! As our good friend Jim's late father told him "life is too short to drink cheap liquor". :-)

By the time I finished that chore, it was time to start on dinner. Yesterday we came home from our son and daughter-in-laws with a lot of perishable groceries and leftovers, so I didn't have to cook last night. So tonight I finally made the pasta with with toasted walnuts, crispy sauteed fresh sage leaves with a butter, oil and parmesan regianno sauce. Jim loved it, so that's another recipe to add to the keeper file.

Time now to close down the studio and have another small glass of wine. Life is very, very good!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wish I had a better photo; but my little Canon digital camera doesn't do well in close ups - as is obvious in this photo! This is the dinosaur bone that I made into a cabochon for my grandson Aidan. Up close, it looks like a red, oil spot glaze!

It took me a while to cut and make the cabochon, since I had to dig through various boxes of lapidary materials to find all that I needed, and then set up my machines. There was also a flaw in the raw material which showed up on the last bit of polishing and I had to start over by making the cabochon smaller.

I did get to drill a couple of corks for the slip trailers; but my cordless drill batteries are just about dead, even after re-charging, So I need to switch to my non cordless Makita. It's pretty hard getting the drill bit to go through the center of the corks! First one came out fine; but second one came out at an angle, probably because the drill just wouldn't work when I drilled straight down and would only give me some power if I held it sideways! AARGH!

My final order of under glazes arrived yesterday, so tomorrow I'll get those on to test tiles. I've been holding off the firing of the other tests until these can be included in the firing.

Our son and his family will be flying back to L.A. this afternoon, so we're going over to their house right after breakfast. We have to do a bit of grocery pick up shopping after we leave there, and when I get home it will be time to start on dinner, which is going to be the dinner I planned for last night. At the last minute, I realized I didn't have any fresh sage which is a large component of that pasta dish, and that late in the day, we just weren't up to driving to the store for one ingredient. I have every other herb in my garden and have no idea why there's no sage. Either I totally missed the mark or the plant died! I planted some at our son and daughter in laws house this spring, so I'll harvest some there. In fact, they have 2 plants, a mature one my daughter-in-law planted among their landscaping, which I didn't discover until after I had planted one in the veggie garden. So I think I might just dig up the one I planted, since one mature sage is more than enough for the average household.

I'm so looking forward to a lot of uninterrupted studio time tomorrow!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we have had our fill of leftovers, it's time to think about other chores and Christmas. The living room mantle has it's Christmas swag; but there's a lot more to do; but not today.

We have to get over to our son and daughter-in-laws house after lunch and I promised one of my grandsons that I would polish a piece of petrified dinosaur bone for him; and since I haven't set up my lapidary area yet, I need to do that first. I'll cut and polish a large oval cabochon if I can get all my machinery setup and working.

When the family went on a dinosaur dig last summer, Aidan found a very rare dinosaur bone. That was the good news, but the bad news was that it had to go to a museum. I was able to find this piece of petrified dinosaur bone at a member sale at our local Rock and Gem museum, and thought it might be a small consolation for his loss.

I'm still waiting for the studio to warm up. It takes a couple of hours in this weather for it to be just bearable!

After I get the cabochon made, I'll drill those corks for the slip trailers. That will be it for studio time.

By the time we get back from our sons house, I'll have to start dinner. I have a new pasta recipe with portabello mushrooms, toasted walnuts, and crispy sage leaves in a buttery sauce. I hope it's as good as it sounds.  At some point I'll have to pick some lettuce. Living in one zone higher than we had in western North Carolina really extends the growing season about a month, especially with the help of the remay covers.

One of the consolations on such a cool, dreary day, are the beautiful leaves with various shades of gold, orange and rust that I can see from our neighbors trees, whose branches generously flow into our space. Since those trees, which are green the rest of the year, and are very messy, it's nice to see that we at least get rewarded for a couple of weeks in the fall, which this amazing burst of color. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't do justice to intensity of color in person.

On this post Thanksgiving day, we took it a bit easy and unpacked some Christmas decorations. I got a couple of areas decorated  including the living room mantle. We also got the 3 outdoor wreaths up and since we no longer have a staircase, I have to see if  I can use that staircase greenery elsewhere. I don't think it's long enough to fit around our taller than normal front door, so I'm going to have to think about that one. The new tree is in transit and it will be nice to have the rest of this Christmas decor finished before it arrives.

The smaller corks for these hand made slip trailers arrived today; and they're a perfect fit, so tomorrow I'll drill them and get the pens, minus the ink cartridges installed. The thin, empty pens will be the tips of these home made slip trailers.

We're now winding down our day, in bed, watching the National dog show on PBS, after having some post  Thanksgiving time and leftovers with our son and family and friends. Time now to  enjoy the National dog show on PBS -  a  nice, quiet, wind down ending to a very good day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, gobble, gobble.

It's that one day a year where we don't have to apologize for over indulging on food and other libations - or at least that's my take on Thanksgiving! :-)

This antique platter has served me well over the years, but this year it is going to be empty, because we are having Thanksgiving at our sons and daughter-in-laws house; and the only contribution I'm making is my home made pate. It's time to the be the guest and I don't feel one iota guilty, after 54 years of cooking Thanksgiving dinners.

So on this special family holiday, we are going to play with the grandchildren, eat our daughter-in-laws fabulous food, drink our sons amazing wines, and enjoy the company of family and friends in a beautiful river front setting, in the warmth and glow of a wood fire and all the good feelings and sense of gratitude that Thanksgving brings.

Hope all are having a wonderful day of Thanksgving with family and friends. I know many are still dealing with loss this Thanksgiving and my thoughts and prayers goes out to all all with the hope that next year will bring them joy, peace and abundance.

I just ordered a 120 mesh sieve, which a couple of the slip ware books recommended.  That should be here later next week. It was the  last item I needed to get started on this earthenware project.I have just about every size sieve but 120 mesh! When I get the specific gravity of the slip (it's settling now), right, I'll see if I can get it through a 200 mesh sieve. The Talisman sieve, which is one of my favorite tools, should make it easier. If that works, I'll throw a few small test pots for sgraffito, while I wait for the rest of the parts for the sip trailers.

This is one Thanksgiving I won't be cooking. We're spending it with our son and his family and friends. It's time to start a new family tradition, with the younger ones cooking. And since our daughter in law, Nicole is a great cook, we know it's going to be a fabulous dinner. My only contributions were making my pate, and helping our son shop for groceries yesterday. I've also offered my services as a kitchen slave if needed. There are a lot of sit down chopping and peeling chores I can do while my hip calms down.

I could barely walk after yesterdays marathon shopping. We loaded two full carts with over $600 worth of groceries; and we both still have more food shopping to do today, for some of specialty cheeses and breads and other things that the local grocery store didn't have.

It took forever to shop because we had four pages of recipes, with the ingredients for each dish in it's own  panel on the right. Had I seen that the night before, I would have made up a proper shopping list. As it was, there were things like onions, lemons, breads, etc. on several pages, since several recipes had similar ingredients, so we were flipping pages constantly while trying to figure out how many or how much we needed. If I hadn't offered to help, I think my son would have been in that store for two more hours!

By the time I got home I was too pooped and sore to do anything more than peel more potatoes and do some computer work.

From now till Sunday, when they fly back to L.A., it 's going to be family time, and time to do some Christmas decorating.  I ordered the tree, which is going to take a while to get here; but in the meantime, and our son took down all our boxes of decorations, so I'll be starting on those over the weekend. Right now I have to get out to do a bit of my own shopping. There's no way I want to be in any stores tomorrow and Friday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interesting weather day

The only studio time I got was to decant the terra sig a bit more and check the specific gravity of the slip, which needs to sit another day or two to thicken up a bit. I checked the new corks against the slip trailers and they are way too big. I ordered them before the inner tubes arrived and went by the inner tube measurement from the manufacturer, which was based on the circumference of the inner tube and not the diameter. Now it's going to take a week for the new corks to arrive.

We are having very interesting weather here - very, very windy, overcast with ominous looking rain clouds,  and around 60 degrees! I had my raised beds covered with Remay and held down with rocks and the 35-40 mph gusts blew off the Remay. I managed to get it before it landed in the pool and then went around looking for more rocks to hold it down. So far, so good.

I'm still harvesting lettuce, thanks to the weather holding above freezing at night and the remay. We're having dinner at our sons. A rancher friend of his is contributing steaks, I have the salad made, and some huge, stuffed baked potatoes thanks to our local gourmet butcher shop who has a local people making some of their goodies.

After a day of looking locally, and not finding a suitable sized and quality tree, I spent some time on line today reading reviews and looking at various sellers and finally found a nice little, 4 1/2 foot tree. Those higher quality artificial trees are heavy and a 4 1/2 footer is as big as we want to deal with at this stage of our life and it will look nice sitting on a table, and Jim will have plenty of room to set up his little village underneath.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Here's my little batch of terra sig, nicely settled out. The plastic box works, but a big glass jar would be better for this amount.

Today was mainly a cooking day - baking bread in the morning and getting all my dinner prep done early, and making beef stew in the afternoon.

I did a bunch of computer work including ordering more underglazes. Jim went to the pottery supply to get me a box of cone 02 cones, so I'll bisque a couple of test tiles to 02 when my terra sig tests dries in a couple of days.

Ron Philbeck has been hugely helpful with some information today, as always. I'm using his clear glaze and Ayumi's white slip which he also uses. Ron bisques and glazes at C04, which I did with my initial tests and he said that he doesn't have to glaze the bottoms of his pots, which was great to hear! He uses Stan's red, an east coast earthenware body and I'm using Laguna's R2, so I will have to test it. Now that Ron has told me what the specific gravity of the slip should be, that is going to save me a lot of  hit and miss testing. I am soooo grateful for his generosity not just today, but with all the information on his web site and all those wonderful videos he regularly puts on you tube.

I got in the studio after dinner just to siphon off some of the terra sig. I got impatient after the first few pumps, and thought that maybe I had the siphon in backwards , so I reversed it - big mistake.  It stirred up the top two layers, so now I'll have to wait for it to settle down. Fortunately I had siphoned off a lot of the water layer first, so it's not too bad; and I did siphon  enough to test, before I muddied the waters.

The Clayfolk show and sale was really wonderful - such a great selection of varied, well made,and well designed work. Since our daughter and son took all my big, soda fired bowls, and I'm a long way from making fresh pots, I decided to order a nice big bowl from one of the potters from Eugene. I just couldn't resist the big rooster painting inside the bowl. Since I had to give up having real chickens a long time ago, I've replaced the real thing with a bit of chicken and rooster kitchen decor.

The Clayfolk show has grown so much since we moved east over twelve years ago. There were lines of people holding their pots waiting in several check out lines, at several tables, to pay for them. Everything was beautifully organized. Throughout the show, they had tables set up as holding areas, so people didn't have to carry their pots around until they could check out. And to make shopping easier, they had plastic baskets with handles for the shoppers at the entrance.

Walking around the show, I got a flashback of  the work I did in years past, working on a committee, and all the hard work getting ready for that and other shows, packing pots, setup and working the show, taking down displays and re-packing etc.etc.; and I realized that I just don't have the energy for that any more, and it didn't feel bad coming to that realization! This is a new, and more relaxed time of our lives and we're really enjoying our time together and I'm enjoying the freedom of living without have to's. but doing what I want, when I want. Life is very good!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Clayfolk annual show and sale starting today in Medford Oregon

It's a cooking morning. Right now I'm waiting for my Bolognese sauce to finish cooking and then I'll be heading to the studio for a couple of hours.

When Jim gets back from his doctor appointment this afternoon, we'll be going to our local clay club "Clayfolk's" annual sale at the Medford armory. If you're in Southern Oregon, this weekend, they have a great show with over 70 potters from all over the state and Northern California, with demonstrations, etc. If you want to check on the schedule of the weekend events just check out the webpage:

You'll have to copy and paste the link since I can't figure out how to get the link to open up. I tried several things, but nothing showed in the blog preview.

Yesterday was an Ashland day for a wonderful lunch at The Lark, with an old friend we hadn't seen in about 15 years. There were a lot of years to catch up on and it was a deliciously long lunch. It was our first time at The Lark, which is in the Ashland springs hotel and the food was fabulous. We will definitely be back and maybe for dinner next time. There were a few shopping stops afterwards and then home in time to start on dinner - a very good day!

This week we're in search for an artificial tree to replace the one we gave away when we moved. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any in the 4 foot size, which is what we need, because Jim spends more than half a day setting up a village scene with all our little antique leaded figures, and there would be no way to keep the furry kids, Bodhi and Bonnie kitty from knocking it all down if he had to set it up on the floor, under the tree. If I didn't have allergies or didn't mind killing a live tree to decorate the house for a couple of weeks, we could get a live one; and if I had room to plant one, I'd buy a live, baled one; but there just isn't any room for another tree on this tiny suburban lot.

So, the plan is to continue the search tomorrow, and if we don't have any luck, I'll be looking to order a newer version of our old one on line.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The bicycle inner tubes arrived today, so now I just have to get some inexpensive ball point pens, and wait for the delivery of the corks and clamps so I can make these Hannah McAndrew slip trailers, which someone shared on one of our clay groups. Hannah uses wire around the tube to secure the area holding the cork, but I think I'll try using those plastic tension ties instead. I got the same tape the other day since it was the only strong, waterproof one my local hardware store had, and it turns out it's the same one she uses. You can check out her videos on you tube to see these slip trailers in use, as well as her amazing, traditional slip ware.

Yesterday was an out and about day with my doctors appointment, lunch out and some shopping. We're really enjoying having a Trader Joe's in the neighborhood - maybe too much!  I stocked up on some of gluten free bakery items, their boxed tomato soups, some cheeses and a couple of other goodies. I went in in there for a couple of items and came out with three full shopping bags!

We didn't go to the restaurant we had planned, because I was in and out of the doctors so fast, that the restaurant wasn't going to be open for another 40 minutes. Jim suggested we try a new restaurant that locals rated highly, for down home, diner type food, so we had our big meal of the day early, and save our Chinese leftovers for tonight. It was fun to find old timey diner food, made fresh, with large portions and inexpensive to boot.

I'm pretty much at a standstill in the studio, as far as making anything goes, till all these tests are finished and I get my tools made. But there are other glaze tests to make while I wait for the last under glaze to arrive, and there's always more studio organizing to do..

After lunch Jim and got out and cut down and pulled out some of the sad looking annuals and trimmed some shrubs. We haven't had a had freeze yet, so we left the rest for another week or till after a hard frost.

This morning I batched a boron frit version of the best of the clear glaze tests. I'm hoping it will work, because I hate the idea of dealing with ghastly borate and the problems that material brings. Time to get back to the studio for a couple of hours to batch a rutile/honey version of the same base, and weigh out one more test which describes it as having the look of a traditional lead glaze without the lead. One can only hope!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mercury retrograde curse

When mercury is retrograde, I should just go sit in the closet with a good book! After making a nice breakfast yesterday (French toast and bacon), taking care of morning email and other chores, I headed to the studio to make a Redart terra sig. Breakfast went OK - no mercury retrograde curse there; but when I was weighing out the terra sig, I added too much water - not that much, but enough to put a halt to my next plan of weighing out more earthenware glaze tests.

So I had to leave the bucket sitting on the digital scale until after dinner when it settled enough for me to remove that extra water. In the meantime, I shifted gears and decided to put the little cone 10 test kiln back together. That took a while since I kept dropping the tiny screws, searched for a broom, because there's a law of physics that when you drop anything it immediately takes cover under the nearest piece of machinery or furniture! Eventually, I got it put back together; and decided I wouldn't change the switch, since that was changed not very long ago; and I think the current problem was just the melted sensor rod, which is what I replaced.

After that I decided to finish up some glaze notes and found that I had totally screwed up a sequence of numbers in one of my glaze books, so that was another "fix it" job of the day. After dinner I was able to weight out two more batches of the Redart terra sig, with no problem.

We have to go out this morning for my last, post hang nail surgery checkup at the podiatrist. What did people do before podiatrists? Did hang nail infections cause an early demise??? In one sense, it feels really silly to have to go to a specialist for this (3 visits), because the human body didn't know where toenails are supposed to grow!

Since we'll be out and about, we'll try a new Pan Asian restaurant "Bambu" for lunch, then a quick stop at Trader Joe's for some of their good gluten bakery products and home. We should be home by mid afternoon, and maybe I can get a couple of those glazes weighed out before our leftover Kung Pao chicken dinner, as long as the mercury retrograde curse, doesn't strike again!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Terra sig and glaze tests on the days agenda

Yesterday I got a few versions of a majolica glaze batched and on to tiles. Before I knew it, it was 5:30     - long past the time I usually call it a day,  close up the studio and start dinner. Since it was later, I quickly changed my original dinner plan and made a quick and easy,  Fettucine Alfredo.

Today I need to batch up a red terra sig now that I found a suitable container. The old sun tea jars I've used for terra sig in the past, were given away before we moved and of course, this time of year, both new and used ones are no where to be found, so I had to settle on a two gallon plastic container which should do the job.

There are a few more glazes to batch today as well. I'm looking for some pastel tones, so it's kind of a shot in the dark method of guessing how much stain to use. I still need to order a couple of stains which I'll do later today. I thought I had more than one yellow, but the only one I had was a praseodyium yellow which is a more lemony color than what I'm looking for in a slip or glaze. What I want is a very pale buttercup, probably a titanium based.

With all the cooking and baking I've been doing this week, trying to use all  the of the gifts of the garden this time of year, there hasn't been much time or energy for the studio; and now with those veggies slowly getting used up, I'm seeing a bit more light at the end of the tunnel. It's always a balancing act between studio time and trying to feed us well as well as tending the garden and other household chores. What I really need is a wife; but since that isn't possible, Jim has at least agreed to bring home some Chinese takeout for dinner.                            

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Batching majolica tests today.

Breakfast is done, and most of my studio glaze and slip notes are updated, and the days "to list" is made out. Just need to finish a bit of email while I wait for the studio to heat up. I googled some cork places and saved those urls so I can order the corks for the home made slip trailers as soon as the bicycle inner tubes arrive and are measured. Before I do that I need to check some corks I have on hand. Before we moved, I gave the bulk of them away, but did keep some.

I'll have to break up studio time to come in to make some soup for lunch. I'm still trying to use up the last of the harvested veggies. Yesterdays' soup was one of my  favorites - stratiacelli, which is chicken stock (I used boxed which I always keep on hand in a pinch), 2 eggs beaten in for about 3 1/2 -4 cups of stock(think egg drop soup), and some chopped spinach (a2-3 good hand fulls of cleaned, stemmed, shredded) and 1/4C parmesan cheese, plus more to pass around. That used up the latest picked spinach. Supposedly, you can use frozen spinach which would make it even quicker, but I've never tried that, because I love the bright green color of fresh spinach cooked just to the right stage.

Today I'll do a tomato based soup with onion, garlic, the last of the zucchini and carrots. I just put a large can of whole tomatoes in a blender with some onion and garlic, then put it in a pot with any one green and one orange vegetable along with some tamari instead of salt and some oregano and basil. It's super easy. If you want, you can sprinkle some parmesan on it  and/or add some elbow macaroni and beans for a more filling, minestrone type soup.

Once the soup is made I'll get back to the studio for another couple of hours. I want to batch up a Courtney Murphy majolica glaze and a couple of  pastel colored versions as well, since I still have a few more bisqued tiles on hand. The studio list is never ending. I still need to get that little kiln repaired now that I have the parts, but it's not a rush, other than the fact that's it's reminding me to get to it, as the unscrewed kiln sitter sits hanging away from the kiln, crying out to be repaired! Why is it that I can ignore house dust, but not something like this! I dunno!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Research day

I've been doing a great impression of a couch potato all day, spending lots of time on my glaze notes and research. Part of that research was watching a lot of you tube slipware videos, and taking notes. Initially I was looking for more detailed information on the hand made slipware trailers pictured in the Mary Wondrausch book, and as seen in the Hannah McAndrew videos. And, I think I have the design pretty well figured out - just have to get all the materials for the project.

I just ordered some of the bulldog clips and I have an order of bicycle inner tubes, which are used to hold the slip, on their way. There will still be some corks to order; but I can't do that until I see what the exact opening is of the inner tubes. Both these ladies use old ball point pens (insides removed), inserted through a cork, as the tips for these hand made slip trailers.

After watching all those videos, I have to say that slip trailing looks like it could be a lot of fun once you get it down. I'm not interested in copying 17th century slipware, but it should be fun exploring versions of that as a decorating option.

Email, cooking and animal care pretty well filled out the day. Now I need to do my snail mail and wind down the day with a meditation and some PBS travel shows and Brit coms.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Slips and pate

If you love traditional Korean pottery, or if you just love beautifully made, classical porcelain, make a cup of tea and sit down and watch this video. Yi dynasty Korean pots are my favorites and so many of these pots from this 9th generation Korean potter are so much like those pots from the forms and down to the great brushwork.

Got in the studio yesterday to weigh out the last black slip tests, and finish off a few tests tiles I made the day before. My order arrived with the last black Mason stain ,so I have three different black slips batched and on one flat tile.

I poured the slips try to get an idea of how thick they should be. All three were different pouring  - first one too thin, second maybe a bit thin and the last one too thick. I tried to make the last one heavy cream consistency, but obviously heavy cream is thinner than that! 

I went through a couple more slip books that  arrived the other day, and the John Pollex book had a good  hint  about testing slips - when trailed, you should be able to get a long smooth, continuous line. So I'll try that next, after the thin one settle and I can pour off some of the water.

In the 80's I did a technique of applying thickish white slip on plates and platters and then removing some of it with foam stamp designs. It worked very well on shinos and rutile glazes Sometimes I just dipped the stamps in slip and applied them to the pots. I'll have to try that direct stamping on the earthenware, since I still have all those stamps. If it works it would be a simple way to get an over all pattern and certainly less time consuming than sgrafitto. Other than that, my only other slip experiences have been with flashing slips which are applied very, very thin. So I'll have to play with these slips a bit more to find out the right dipping an pouring consistency.   

Because of the impending bad weather, we decided to have Jim's birthday dinner in Ashland two days early. It was a great dinner and we even have a little bit of leftovers, including a couple of the beignets for tonight. Since there isn't much, I decided to make a couple of batches of pate for Jim's birthday at home tomorrow and we'll have a little bit of that as an appetizer tonight.

I spent all morning and into the afternoon making those two batches of the pate. It's very time consuming but well worth the trouble; and best part is, I have plenty leftover for the freezer - a large one to bring to our sons for Thanksgiving and a couple of smaller ones for us besides what we'll have tonight and tomorrow.

The parts for my little Cone 10 test kiln arrived and the teeny tiny allen wrench I need to repair it is missing. I had it taped to the cover of the kiln sitter manual and it seems to have gone walkies. :-( So, as soon as I order some outdoor furniture covers,  I'm off to the hardware store, with the part in hand to see if they have, what must be the smallest allen wrench made!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Oxford Ceramics show video

Steve Booten shared this wonderful video of the Oxford, England ceramic show. There is an amazing array of great potters and outstanding work here and it's worth more than one watch and with  lots of pauses. Steve's work is here, along with Ruthanne Tudball, Lisa Hammond, Clive Bowen, Nic Collins, David and Margaret Frith, Phil Rogers and many more!

It's another foggy morning, so I'll continue with paper work until breakfast, then get some studio time until it warms up and then I need to do some garden cleanup. I did some cleanup at are sons place yesterday and will try to get back over there this afternoon to finish up.

Yesterday, as seems to be the pattern lately, was a "woman plans, God laughs" day. I did get studio time to make up a couple of black slip tests and roll out a couple more test tiles just for these slips and some terra sig in a few days. I'm waiting to get another black stain, which should be in the mail, so I can do the last black test this week, hopefully. I'm also still waiting for those parts for the tiny electric test kiln. They should have been here by now.

I didn't get the soda kiln checked out. It was on the days list, but when Jim checked the weather and it said that there's a chance of rain tomorrow, that puts that project on hold; but next week the forecast is for better weather; and by then I'll be done with these earthenware tests and have the two glazes, clear and honey weighed out and ready. It's a bit of a juggling act with this earthenware testing and trying to get the last of the soda pots glazed and fired and out of the way so I can then concentrate on shifting to the Cone 04 work. Meantime, there's enough other studio and garden work to do right now, so putting that soda firing for yet another week is not a problem; but it would be nice to get some done and up on Etsy in time for Christmas. I haven't even had time to check out some of the local galleries since we've been here; but I will have to do that before too long, because I'll soon be inundated with too many pots and no place to store them.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Need help on thickness of slip for dipping and pouring

This morning I've been reading more of the Mary Wondrausch book "Slipware" and making some notes. There are some good hints in there as well as a wealth of information on classic, antique, slipware. I also ordered another book that she recommended - found a used library edition on Amazon for something like a dollar and a half.

Yesterday I made a batch of Ayumi's white slip, after a bad start botching the weighing on the first batch and spending way too much time trying to remove excess material. It was all a lost cause and I finally just grabbed a new bucket and started over. I think I made it too thin for pouring, so I could get it to go through a 100 mesh screen, so I will have to do some trial and error to test the correct thickness. After much searching in available books, you tube videos and googling articles, I haven't been able to find out what the specific gravity should be for pouring or dipping this slip. All I could find was the specific gravity for casting slip. If anyone knows how thick these slips should be for dipping or pouring, I would certainly appreciate your input!  Otherwise it's going to be trial and error.

On my "to do" list today is to make up a couple of black slip tests - one with a mix of oxides and another with black stain. I also want to just slab a few test tiles. As soon as it warms outside, I need to uncover the small soda test kiln and check those burners. I drilled them out so they would work with natural gas. If all looks good, I'll load it and fire tomorrow - a day later than I thought; but the weather still looks good for a firing tomorrow. They're forecasting the first freeze later in the week, so I need to get this done if at all possible.

Repair man just finished adjusting my range top burners, so it's time to grab my notebook and "to do" list and head for the studio.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Under glaze test results

Here's a lopsided photo of yesterdays Cone 04 under glaze tests. All the under glazes are Amoco velvets or Lug. I have no idea why a right side up photo, suddenly gets turned sideways when I post it to blog spot. Anyone know how to correct this? There doesn't seem to be any option once it's uploaded to turn it. :-(

This morning I realized that the solution to my not finding any metal to build a wind shield the other day, might be to use some of my advancer shelves instead - at least until I can find a metal fabricating place to cut me some pieces. So this afternoon, I'm going to turn that little Olympic kiln on and see how it's working. I drilled out the orifices to get the burners working with natural gas, so I'm hoping all be OK. now that it's on natural gas. If it is, I'm going to load it and try to fire tomorrow if the weather permits.

I think I'm also going to leave these under glaze test tiles in situ and re-fire them to Cone 03 tomorrow. Replacement parts for the Olympic cone 10 test kiln have yet to arrive, so I'm going to forget about being green for another day and fire the kiln again with only one shelf of test tiles. It's time to get on with making some pots.

Since I want to get to the studio now, and make the most of the day, dinner is going to be easy, comforting and mundane - hot dogs and beans.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


 It doesn't look very pretty, but it tasted great (yaki soba noodles with garden veggies and mushrooms).

The test tiles are firing after two false starts. Kiln is up over 525F. I have no idea why I got the Error 1 messages a couple of times; but on the third try it seemed to take. Since moving, and getting the kiln hooked up, this is the first time I'm firing it, so I really had no idea what to expect. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that it will finish with no glitches.

Four replacement bricks arrived yesterday but I need to get someone in here to install them for me since neither Jim nor I can lift those sections off by ourselves; and it might be a few more days till I can help anyone else lift them.

It's another damp, cloudy, morning and I'm going to take it pretty easy today. The rib I banged a few days ago when loading the heavy bottom shelves in the kiln, has gotten worse the past two days, so it's time to rest and read some backed up pottery magazines, continue sketching pot ideas, work on my glaze notes and save the rest of the time for checking the kiln and cooking.

Yesterday was a busy run around day. I got the shellac for resist, trip to a metal salvage place, and a stop at the grocery store for ammonia to clean the shellac off the brushes. The trip to the metal salvage place was a bust. We think we may have found it after a few runs around the industrial area, but it was closed, and seemed only to have large metal chunks in the yard. At least we think that was the place since no address numbers could be seen and nothing else in that block came near to resembling that kind of business. So I need to see if I can find a metal fabricating place to cut some pieces for me. We then drove to our sons place and I picked a couple of bags of veggies. The peas are producing like crazy! The zucchini is finally slowing down and same for the beans. I cut some broccoli and cauliflower so I have veggies for the next few days. I used some of the snow peas and zucchini in last night's yaki soba dinner.

Tonight I'm just doing some fried clams for dinner. I fed the sour dough yesterday, and since I can't do anything strenuous, I think I'll start on a loaf of our sourdough nutty fruity breakfast bread now, so we can have it tomorrow. Times like this make me super grateful for my kitchen aid mixer!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Ron Philbeck's neat technique video

Ron Philbeck is using a new shellac technique on his earthenware and it looks like a great tool to replace the more labor and time intensive method of scraping away the slip, which is what he has been doing to create his fabulous, whimsical designs. And since I'm going to be using slips with the earthenware, the one thing that concerned me was the dust and the amount of time needed to do do all that painstaking scraping. So today I'm going to get some of that amber colored shellac  and ammonia for cleaning the brushes, to have on hand once I get past this testing phase and start making actual pots.

Went to bed with a headache and woke up at 3am with my head and back still in pain, so I got up and hit my paper piles, made the days "to do" list and fed my sourdough starter and got the overnight email done.

After a big pancake and sausage breakfast yesterday, Jim called 3 very ripe bananas to my attention, which is his way of saying "it's time to make banana bread". Baking, other cooking, yard chores and glaze notes took up what was originally going to be actual studio time.

It always amazes me how one thing just leads to another, unfolding into a day that looks very different than the one I planned. It also makes me wonder why I even bother to make my "to do" list every day; but I still do

So, today's list includes meeting with the gardener this morning to find out how to change the settings on that watering system, and afterwards, going over to our sons to harvest veggies (which didn't happen yesterday because Jim came home too late). Then there's Walmart and hardware store stops for a few things and hopefully I can find my way to the scrap metal place in  White City for some lightweight metal pieces to create that wind barrier around that little soda kiln.  If I can get that today, I will be able to fire sometime in the next week because currently, the forecast is looking like I might have a couple of back to back no rain days to get in a firing.