Friday, August 31, 2012

Zucchini bread and slip tests

Had my zucchini bread for breakfast and used great restraint in not buttering it! This morning is for making a batch of 20 double margaritas for tonight's barbecue at our sons place.  Right now I'm waiting for the lemons to come to room temperature since I read that they release more juice that way. 

As soon as I get those squeezed, I'll head to the studio for the day. Yesterday I got about 5 hours of studio time weighing, mixing and applying a couple of white slips to over 40 test tiles. Today I need to weigh out the Linda Arbuckle slip. That will take care of the white slip tests; and then I'll use the rest of the tile for a couple of the colored slip tests. Both slips made and applied (Ayumi's and Pete's forgiving), seemed to dip nicely. The Pete's forgiving slip didn't have an opacifier and it's grey, so it will be interesting to see what it looks like under some clear glazes. If I get time, I may weigh out another version of Pete's with some zircopax.

This batching and testing is going to go on for a while, in between all the household and garden chores that I have to deal with until after the first frost and all the contractors are finished with all the fixes in the house.

Now that I took care of some of the over abundance of zucchini, I have to deal with the over abundance of eggplant. I see more roasted eggplant appetizers as well as eggplant parmesan in our near future.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chris Staley video on creativity

Here's a short, very nice video with Chris Staley doing a bit of demoing and sharing his insights on "can you teach creativity".

It's been another busy, at home morning. Last night, after dinner we drove to our sons place and I harvested some zucchini and since I was running out of fridge space for all this abundance, I figured that this had to be the morning for making zucchini bread.

I just took two loaves out of the oven and as soon as they cool a bit, one will go in the freezer and one will stay out for this week. We love it with boiled eggs. The whole house smells cinnamon delicious at the moment!

A couple of Facebook friends gave me some other easy and good ideas for cooking zucchini. I used to make a veggie casserole with zucchini slices, sliced onion, chopped tomato, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, a little sprinkling of olive oil between the layers and topped with a parmesan bread crumb mixture (about 2/3d bread crumbs, 1/3 grated parmesan) that I lightly drizzle with olive oil. It's a nice side dish. It could easily be a main course if you added some sauteed ground beef or chicken. I'll have to try that some time.

There will be a few hours of studio time as soon as I get the bread put away. Since I have leftovers from last nights Thai veggie, soba noodle dish and only have to cook a bit more soda noodles to stretch it a bit, I'll be able to work until 5. These last two Thai dishes, the pork omelette and the veggie soba noodle salad about both keepers.  I also like them because I can do most of the prep in the morning when my energy is high and the actually cooking or putting the salad together at  the end of the day is quick and super easy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An afternoons work

Here are the two clay bodies that I'll be testing. The really red one is the new Vortex red from Georgie's and the other is R2 from Laguna.  The Vortex doesn't contain red art, but it's so red that it's like throwing with Red iron oxide. I prefer the R2 so far. It seems to feel better throwing and I certainly like the color better. That bright red iron was a mess to clean up. The firing color, how each work on the flat slab pieces, and how each respond to the glazes will determine which one I decide to use; but I'm definitely leaning to the R2.

Yesterday was a good day - morning chores included getting most of the night's dinner prep started, then I had afternoon studio time throwing some tests tiles and rolling out some slabs for more earthenware tests. My slab roller lost some parts and screws during the move so I had to spend time trying to get the rollers up and down and finally gave up and just used pliers to adjust them. I have to pick up some small screws today and hopefully that will do the trick.

I got these containers marked and ready for the slip and glazes tests I still have to weigh out.

Studio work stopped around 4:30 right before when electrician came. He got the last of the lighting fixtures installed. Big yeah! Since I did most of the dinner prep early, I just had to get some rice started a bit before making the omelets. I find that I'm pretty tired by the time I have to come in from the studio to start dinner, so either making a very simple, quick dinner, or getting a lot of the pre-dinner prep done in the morning works best at my age. I won't be able to do that today, so I'll have to stop work at 4 since the soba noodle, tofu salad I'm making tonight takes an hour from start to finish.

Last night's Thai pork omelet was a huge hit with Jim, so I'll be making that again.

 I got the slabs and tiles uncovered this morning and I'll finish them this afternoon and get a couple of white slips batched and applied. This morning was for house and garden chores, and now I'm heading out for a few grocery items and lots of ingredients for margaritas.

Our son has another barbecue party Friday night and I've been asked to make my margaritas. Figuring that half  the people might have 2, I need to get a great deal more lemons and liquor than I keep on hand.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Busy morning and now off to the studio

We had a great drive up to Fish lake yesterday - lovely lunch among the pines and then back home. Some packages of buckets for the studio and the last of our light fixtures (two wall scones for the dining room) had arrived and had to be unpacked. We were so relaxed from the drive and time at the lake, that I never made it to the studio other than to put the buckets away! By that time it was time to feed the animals and think about dinner; but this morning is another matter.

I was up early got all the regular morning chores done, harvested the days gifts from the garden,  and got tonight's Thai cucumber salad pretty well finished. Just have to wait another twenty minutes while the salt works it magic on the sliced cucumbers and  then they get rinsed and put in with the dressing. I'll be making egg and ground pork Thai Omelettes (Kai Tord Gup Moo)for dinner - something I' ve never made before; but Jim loves eggs, and I think I'll be OK with the recipe since it has fish sauce, garlic and cilantro in the mix (things to mask the taste of eggs which I barely tolerate).

My goal today was to be in the studio by 10am or close to it and I'm on schedule - just have to take those after breakfast vitamins, grab my Ipod and head out.

After an early dinner we'll go down to the river and I'll harvest whatever is ready at our sons place, let Bodhi have a big run (one of his newest  favorite things) and if I'm not too tired from this busy day I may just bring my fishing pole and cast a few!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Interesting tests with zircopax versus tin on stoneware body

Tony Hansen posted this on Facebook and it's a valuable comparison test between tin and zircopax. The zircopax wins in this case and the 10% zircopax works fine. Putting in 50% more with the 15% addition doesn't make it 50% brighter, so it could be a big saving with these expensive zircon based opacifiers.

Time to set the TV to tape the US open tennis in case the weather clears while we're off to the lake for lunch. There should be time for the studio this afternoon.

I had an early meeting with the handyman about building me two large raised beds - 8 ' long X 4' wide and 2' deep. That along with 3 earth boxes should give me plenty of space for growing veggies next year along with a little space I have on the east side of the house which provides enough sun for kale, beans and chard. 

Tim our tile guy  called and asked it we put put off re-grouting the tile floors till next week, which is fine with us since we're not expecting more company for another six weeks. He gave me the name of the builder of our house, so hopefully I can track down the paint colors used on the house, since a sample of the stucco can't do a proper reading using the computers and if we can find the right color it will save us a lot of time and money having to paint all the trim. Sometimes I think we could have built a new house in as much time as it's taking us to make everything right in this one!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An at home day

It's been an "at home" day - morning chores in the garden, email, snail mail and cooking.
There's some fresh baked nutty fruity bread for tomorrows breakfast, and a ratatouille type sauce with veggies and herbs from the garden, which is going over linguini for tonight's dinner. A friend is coming who is on a no fat, vegan diet, so I managed to make a rather tasty salad dressing using orange juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

There's been no time for the studio the past several days due to family time at our sons place, grand child baby sitting and other chores around here. Half of one day was spent in search of the right Japanese maple tree!

For some reason the previous owners planted a crab apple right next to the driveway and after cleaning those apples off the driveway for the past week, Jim emphatically stated "that tree has to go"! So we found a decent sized, Japanese maple replacement which will hopefully be happy in that sunny spot after it settles in a year or two. There were a couple of the same species at one of the nurseries that looked great even though four of the five nurseries didn't recommend it for a sunny area. We were cautioned though, to keep it well watered if it's going to be in a southern exposure, which seems to be the secret, so we will definitely make sure it's never thirsty!

The tile people have now promised to be here Tuesday or Wednesday (they were supposed to be here last week), so we're going to make tomorrow a half a play day and drive up to the lake district with our friend Sybil, for lunch. Sybil is home alone this week due a  family health issue which has taken her husband out of town, and due to a recent health issue herself, she can no longer drive. So we're all going to play hooky for half a day.

I should have plenty of studio time the rest of the week now that the family has gone back to LA for a few days. They'll be back for labor day weekend, so I'll have to make it a point to get a lot of studio time before then. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ah comfort


Finally got the heat and air conditioning unit installed yesterday afternoon!

After spending 3 months (and continuing), of getting settled in, finding worker to fix everything indoors and out, and still not finished, we're close enough to the end of getting these things done that I'm actually making time to do things for myself - like getting my eyes checked this morning. It's been 4 years since I got new glasses and it's long overdue. There's also been time to do some studio supply ordering - like some helmer kaolin which isn't available here. I only ordered 10 lbs along with about 6 pint plastic jars for some oxides and stains and the shipping costs almost as much as the order!

The tile people have not called (they were supposed to be here this week), about removing and replacing all the old grouting, so when we get back home. That job and finding a painter who can match some of our exterior stucco trim are the only two big, "have to" jobs that need to be done. George the handyman is eager to build me two big raised beds, so I'll measure the ones at our sons place later today and get that project started.

And, thanks to my new air/heat unit, I'll actually be able to get in the studio for a few hours this afternoon after I tend to my toe, and put the cleared slab roller table to work rolling out some of the earthenware clay for slip, glaze and under glaze tests. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A day of rest

My jolly green toe at rest! First thing this morning I had minor surgery on my toe. I had  3 color choices for the wrapping and chose green - supposed to be a healing color. The other two choices were bubble gum pink and bright blue!

Since I've been ordered off my feet for the day, there won't be any studio news to report other than that the heating/cooling people will be here this afternoon to install the dual heat/air conditioning unit in the studio/garage. The electrician was here last night to do the preliminary electrical wiring for it, so I will soon be enjoying a much more comfortable working environment as soon as it's hooked up.

This is a good time for me to catch up on the pile of unread newspapers, magazines and other snail mail, as well as the ever mounting email.

I've got some nice spinach and cheese ravioli in the fridge, so I'll just open a jar of marinara sauce and it will be a super easy, quick dinner. Jim will open a lovely bottle of Villa Antonori and we can have some chocolate for dessert. By then the anesthetic will be starting to wear off, so the wine with the extra strength Tylenol, as prescribed, should make me pretty comfortable. :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grandparents day

It's harvest time so yesterday was a day to do something with a couple of the eggplants. I roasted them and they've been marinating overnight in a garlic vinaigrette with lots of fresh basil and oregano, for an appetizer on warm, crunchy baguette tonight. Later today I have to figure out what to do with some of these tomatoes. I have more than I need for fresh eating and not quite enough to make a tomato bisque which we both like.

Today we're baby sitting one of our grand children. Aidan is eight years old and recently he's taken an interest in rocks and fossils, so we're surprising him with a visit to a local rock museum, then taking him up to lake country for his favorite lunch - a cheeseburger!

Yesterday I got some more studio time just putting things away and going through my notebook of earthenware slip and glaze recipes and getting them on work sheets so I'll be ready to start on them as soon as they install the air/heat in there, which they've promised to do tomorrow. This morning I was in there unpacking the Skutt kiln and spent a little bit more time on the endless job of putting things away. I cleared the slab roller and it's  now ready to roll our some slabs for those earthenware slip, glaze and under glaze tests. I just have to find time between dealing with all these workers, doctors appointments, cooking and garden work.

The gardener is coming again today and he still has to do work on getting this watering right, both in the lawn and bedding area and in all my containers. He's had at least 4 visits and still not finished. In the meantime, I'm still spending a great deal of time hand watering twice a day - time I'd prefer to be spending in the studio.

My other time consuming job yesterday was more cooking and planting. There are only a couple of more small pots of herbs and flowers to plant and I'll be done for the season. Hopefully I can get to those when I get back from my early podiatrist appointment  tomorrow depending on what he does with my unhappy big toe toe. I'm not looking forward to that visit at all!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Big week ahead

Finally got the studio/garage attic insulated a couple of days ago. It hasn't made much difference as far as the coolness goes but mid week they'll be installing a dual heat/air conditioning unit and I'll finally be able to spend a lot more time in there.

It was cool enough to get about an hour and half in there this morning, before it started to feel like a sauna. I got all of the recently purchased raw materials, other than some soda ash in buckets and bins; and of course, as things would have it, one of those unscientific laws of the universe bit me: the one bag that would create the worst mess when emptying it, was the Redart and of course that was the one that spilled over as I tried to empty it into a bucket.  I must have spent about 20 minutes sweeping up, cleaning my shoes, and then wet sponging that part of the floor! I also got a bunch more pottery and other tools hung up, put more things away, and  setup a couple more flexible lights in my jewelry area.

This infected big toe is being handed over to the podiatrist Wednesday, since my self treatment as well as one prescription of antibiotics has not stopped the problem of the nail cutting into me and causing pain and bleeding. I'm not looking forward to the visit, because I think they may have to pull off that nail, which means a few more days lost in the studio and garden time not even considering whatever discomfort that is going to entail. Knowing that I might be out of commission for a few days after Wednesday, I've been trying to get some of these studio and garden things finished in the next two days.

Now that I got all the raised beds planted at our son and daughter in laws house, I'm focusing on getting the last of my own things planted. Today I got about a bunch of parsley plants and a mum planted and plan to get out tomorrow after some pre-breakfast studio time, to plant a six pack of kale, bunching onions and the rest of the herbs . At the rate this planting has been going,  I may just get it all planted before the first frost!

This past week has been for family, parties, and cooking, now that all these great veggies are coming in, as well as dealing with house and garden repairs and installations that are still not quite done . After 3 gardener visits this week alone, the lawn and planters watering system is still not working 100 %; but hopefully by the end of the week that job will be done, as well as the re-grouting all the tile throughout the house which is scheduled for mid-week.

If those jobs and the studio heating/air gets installed, that will finally be the end of all the construction and repair jobs we've been doing the past 3 months, and we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the summer and just enjoy having our house and time for our selves; and I will finally get some longer days in the studio.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

This year the new veggie in my now tiny garden is the Spanish pepper Pimiento de padrone. These little peppers are a very popular ingredient in a super simple tapas dish which I made for lunch yesterday and again as an appetizer for dinner. I had to buy some plants from in the spring and now they are producing like crazy. Basically, your fry these in a bit of olive oil till they brown and get soft, drain, sprinkle with coarse salt and eat with bread. I dipped  the sourdough bread in the cooking oil which took on the flavor of the peppers. The fascinating things about these peppers is that genetically, they will produce mild and slight hot pepper so biting into one is always a surprise! The cherry tomatoes were just topped with some mozzarella and basil, and drizzled with olive oil and salt and peppered. Next year I'm only going to plan one cherry tomato plant.

In addition to cooking the rest of my day was spent running around town for some food and garden shopping, and a bunch of other stops including Lowe's where they just couldn't match the paint for our stucco trim, so I'm giving up on the idea of being able to just spot touch up those areas and we'll have to get professional painters in here to do all the stucco trim in our atrium. I'm hoping we can get all these house and studio jobs done by labor day; but something new like the broken garage door panel, seems to come up every week!

Some time today I have to make ratatouille since my garden has given me eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and tomatoes. It will depend on when the garage door people come to replace that panel, and then I have to go pick up some more pottery supplies. That one pug of earthenware has finally arrived after a six week wait!

This week I've got to finish up some gardening. The fall veggie starts are in and I have a flat to plant at our son and daughter-in-laws house.   I was hoping this new automatic watering on my containers plants would save me a lot of time but with these 100+ degree days (it was 103 at 4pm yesterday) I've had to hand water as well, so I need to get the gardener to increase the water on those. First thing yesterday morning I got 3 more new pots planted with ferns for near our front door. A fountain for that area is on the way and that will complete that area for this year.

The handyman did not do the insulation in the studio attic space the other day, but did  finish up a few other things in the studio and the house. He's coming at 7am Wednesday to do the insulation. Let's hope he means it this time. :-(

I've decided to not wait to see if that insulation works with keeping the heat down in the studio, and I'm going to bite the bullet and get the dual heat/air conditioning installed. I've been waiting long enough to get in that studio to get to work.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Red Menace

Another blogger yesterday was referring to his current working with earthenware as the "red Menace", which make me think I may be having an interesting time when these two different pugs of red clay arrive next week. Georgie's has a new red earthenware which has just been released for limited sales, and the other one is a Laguna body.

 I've never worked with terra cotta other than a young child digging it out of my grandparents garden during my summer stays with them in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, so I have no idea what to expect. The new Georgie's body has no Redart and has some iron bearing fireclay and is supposed to be pretty plastic for an earthenware, so we'll see.

The gardener was here yesterday and got about half of my containers set up for a drip system and will finish the others tomorrow. It only took me 20 minutes to water this morning and I'm hoping that by the time I get home mid afternoon, I'll find everything looking healthy and well watered!

Breakfast is done and time to get going to Lowe's for more buckets for the studio, then on to the clay supplier to pick up the things I ordered about 6 weeks ago, which have finally arrived from Georgies in Eugene. They didn't have the new red clay, so I'm getting that directly from the Portland store. The shipping was more than the clay, even in a priority box, but driving 5 hours each way would have cost a lot more!

Then we're off for a pub lunch and home. Tomorrow the handyman is coming to finally get the studio attic space insulated. Lowe's has not gotten their machine for blowing in insulation fixed, so he's going to hand distribute some of the bags and do the rest with the more expensive insulation. By Sunday I should know if that, and an open side door make that garage/studio cool enough to work in the heat of the day. Once that's determined I can get the heating/cooling people out here to do whatever they have to to get that space warm enough and cool enough if necessary, so I can get to work. If all goes as planned, and all workers come when promised, most of the studio and house and garden fixes and installations should be done by the first week of September.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A cooking day among other things

Here is her highness "Bonnie" on the left and his lordship  "Bodhi on the right"; and we thought we put these chairs in the bedroom for us!

 I had one set of intentions for the day but the day quickly shifted on me. Eggplants said "pick us now!", so I've got some marinating now and after grilling they'll go back in the marinade and be an appetizer on toasted garlic bread tonight. Our daughter in law gave me more peaches, so I made a peach crisp. The house smells great!

We had some strong winds last night which knocked over one of my big tomato plants which is planted in a plastic growers bag. So I had spend time cleaning that and all the messy leaves and debris that blew onto our concrete covered back yard from neighbors trees..

There were phone calls to make and some research to do and finally an antibiotic prescription have filled for this infected toe which just wasn't healing with my do it yourself remedies. I also spent time looking for a podiatrist just in case these antibiotics don't take care of it.

It's amazing how the day just flies by with all these little things. Now it's time to feed the cat before I grill the eggplant and maybe I'll have time to get an hour in the studio before dinner.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Smorgasbord kind of day

After a busy day I managed to get a nice dinner made - mushroom ragout over polenta with home grown zucchini and cherry tomato saute with fresh herbs. I'm always looking for vegetarian recipes that Jim will more than tolerate and this was a big winner with him. If you want the recipe, just google  Mushroom ragout Lidia Bastianich, and you'll find it.

Our day started at 7:30 with the arrival of the tile guy. He has all the tile cut and laid and will do the grouting and finish tomorrow. Yeah!

After breakfast I headed to the studio and finished the cleanup from last week mess. Today mainly involved some heavy mopping and wipe down. I also emptied a couple more boxes and moves a lot of stuff around, and labeled and filled a few 2 gallon buckets with raw materials.

Jim took my wood list and got the wood for the box I want to make to hold some tools for my slab work. Lowes hardware would only make some of the cuts, so I'll either live with the 9" height of the box I want to make, or I'll have our handyman when he shows to do the insulation, to make those 4 cuts for me. My work day is done, so I'll check that out tomorrow. morning.

An old glaze group friend came by late morning with some raw materials I was buying from her, as well as some freebies. Those materials were some I sold or gave away to her 12 years ago!. So I got some old Spodumene, and some of the old blue Cornwall stone , some of my old wood ash that I gave her,  some calcined zinc and some freebie Lincoln 60 fire clay, and some talc. It was a good arrangement for both of us.

Then it was time for an hour in the garden, followed by doing some early dinner prep. Now I'm enjoying a nice, light, Kenwood red wine (good value and very good!), with the last of my peach pie.

After blogging and catching up with email, I'll be heading to the bedroom for a night with the Olympics. It's been a full, productive, good day. What more can one ask! Life is very good!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A days work

Finally got a bit of studio time after breakfast and garden work. I put some things away and hung the rest of the tools near my wheel. The wedging table is cleared and I got the wire and turnbuckles installed. It wasn't too hot in there today, so I was able to complete some things and sort through a lot of stuff.

The tile man finished all the prep on the hall floor and now he's cutting and laying the back hall tile. The rest of the tile in the living areas is a mess because the original grout was thinned too much and some is popping off. On top of that the previous owners had some of the areas re-grouted but the new grout is darker than the original, so the overall effect is that it makes the floor look dirty. :-(  Hopefully by the end of the week this new tile job will be done, other than replacing and painting the baseboards, and maybe they can fit us in to dig out and replace all that old grout.

The gardener was supposed to get my drip system installed today on all my container plantings; but he just called and had to cancel because someone has an emergency with a broken irrigation pipe. So I'll have to hand water a few more days.

I thought my Lowe's hardware shopping was done for a while, but the box that sat on the shelf of my slab roller went walkies in the move, so I have to build another one.  Right now the slab roller it filled with many of the things that belonged in that box.

Our daughter-in-law is trying her hand at Indian food for the first time, tonight.  I know it's going to be delicious, not only because she's a great cook, but she's using a couple of my favorite recipes. Life is very good!