Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fires stil raging

This is one of the fires that have been causing all the heavy smoke in our area for the past couple of days. Many residences in the path of these fires have been evacuated. I hope they can save those homes. This Douglas  fire had expanded to 21,000 acres by early yesterday. There are more than 75,000 acres on fire in Oregon as of two days ago and today I see two new ones on the map, one north of us and other one much further away to the east. The Douglas and three others are due west and south west of us. A fire map shows us basically in the center of a semi circle of these fires.

Yesterday I had to check our son and daughter-in-laws garden and the smoke was so bad I had to put my shirt over my face to make breathing easier.

Smoke or no smoke, we had to do grocery shopping yesterday, It took three stores to get all the things I needed for my planned menu for the next few days. Since my hernia surgery is only two weeks away, I also loaded up on things I'll have to eat the first couple of weeks after I get home - cream soups, pudding, broths and juices. That limited diet should definitely help my dieting along.

I need to get my dinner prep done early so there will be studio time this afternoon. There's salsa and guacamole to make and other veggies to prep for tonight's taco dinner. Since we're trying to eat many more non meat dishes, I'm making the taco filling using a vegetarian meat substitute called ground round. And of course, there will be margaritas on the menu as well.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Great book on color combinations

Taking a break after a day of cooking, with this really neat book of amazing color combinations.

I still had some beautiful ripe peaches from our son and daughter-in-laws orchard, and a peach sorbet seemed to be the easiest thing to make for dessert.  It's in the freezer finishing what the gelato machine couldn't or wouldn't do; and the chicken is marinating in the peanut, ginger, garlic, citrus sauce. After this break I'll husk the corn and get the chicken on to skewers. I've also got some leftover potato pancake mix from yesterday, so I'll fry  a couple of those even though they they're not a great match for the Asian skewered chicken and the corn on the cob. Oh well, it's certainly has an International vibe! 

The gelato manual was no where to be found after practically taking the house apart, so I need to dig deeper on the Internet and see if there's a website where I can download one. So far, I've had no luck finding the manufacturers web site. Fortunately I was able to find a couple of hints and basic "must do's",from one or two forums; but I really need to find the manual which also had some good recipes. Where do these things disappear to when we move. I'd sure wish someone could tell me how this happens. Is it the moving gremlins or is it deeply hidden away is some dark, unexplored corner or folder. Maybe a prayer to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost objects is in order. Lord knows I've tried everything else! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Feeling the blues

Finally got around to firing this bluebird mug that's been sitting in the studio for the past month or more. Who knew it would be this blue!!! I should have positioned him a bit higher on the mug. Also, there was no decoration on the backside, and it looks pretty bland. In future, I'll put a smaller leaf decoration on the back to break up that mass of white.

These early tests are certainly showing me a lot of what I want and don't want. I still need to go heavier on the application on some colors and lighten the color on some with white. Good thing I just received a large jar of white underglaze. Next round of tests will be to try some clear, pale honey/amber glazes over some of these slips to see if they quiet down some of these underglaze colors. The bisqued tiles were in this firing, so I just have to get a couple of  small glaze test batches done in the next couple of days.

I was looking for a bright green as a liner. The one on the left it great with an apple green stain from U.S. Pigment, but I was hoping I could get something similar in an alkaline glaze with chrome (the one on the right). It's better where thinner, so I might redo it with a little less chrome. This one has 0.5%. Maybe a mixture with a touch of copper might work; but that will have to wait another day.

Today is a play day. Jim wants a burger at the lake, so up to the mountains we go for a few hours. It was 106 degrees here yesterday, and will be a cooler 102 today. The mountains will be about 10 degrees cooler - oh joy! By the time I get home it will be time to start on tonight's potato pancake dinner, so I might be able to get an hour or so in the studio to batch one or two of those glaze tests.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Best ever peach cobbler recipe

Finished these test tiles yesterday in between entertaining the nine year old grand kids for a few hours. We played pick up sticks, they swam and took delight in using the pool tool to skim the leaves off the top of the pool, got a dulcimer lesson and played with Nana's crystals and other goodies in my meditation room - mainly the noise makers - drums, mini cymbals, tuning forks, flutes, penny whistles etc. After skimming the leaves McKenna announced that I should have the neighbor cut down their offending trees. Ah, the innocence of youth!

McKenna also helped me finish up sieving one of the slip tests. She loves doing craft work and I think she's may enjoy working with me in the studio in short sessions when she gets back from summer camp. I'm not sure how long a nine year old's attention span would be in a working studio; but then, there's always the pool, all the musical instruments, games and the TV as an alternative source of amusement and wonder.

Our daughter-in-law Nicole, got my dulcimers tuned using an app on her cell phone. Who knew!! She also downloaded it to my iPod touch, which is a good thing since I couldn't find my old electronic tuner.

After we had lunch and they all left for home, I  organized a few things in the studio, like getting some bags of stains in nice jars and marked, and doing a bit of cleanup. Later we all met up at the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Boy, was I ready for that weak but every so cooling and satisfying grande margarita.

It was a fun filled and productive and also tiring day. Nine years old have a lot of energy and assume that nana (me), has it as well. I could only wish that were so; but I held up pretty well.

This morning I need to cut down my potato plants,  which allows the potatoes to harden.  In three days they be ready to harvest. I also need to fertilize some of the veggies and then I'll be off to the studio for a day of organization and some cleanup. These latest test tiles need to dry a bit more, but should be ready for firing tomorrow. With these 100 degree days, they dry pretty quickly in the sun.

One of the blog readers asked for the recipe for the best ever peach cobbler, so here it is if anyone else wants to give it a try. It's an easy, no fail recipe if you follow the simple instructions; and oh so delicious!


1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 full cups of fresh peach or nectarine slices  - peeled and cut in wedges about 3/4" thick at the widest part.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional) (I gave a light sprinking of cinnamon on top).

  • OPTIONAL: you can also add some chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds if you like some added crunch.  
    1. Melt the butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
    2. Combine flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened, and no more. Pour the batter over butter (do not stir).
    3. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; then pour over batter (do not stir). If you choose to use some nuts you can sprinkle them over the peach mixture now. Sprinkle with cinnamon, or nutmeg if desired.
    4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.
    You can serve it with some ice cream on the side, but it really doesn't need it. It's an excellent cobbler without it.

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    It's peach time

    Our daughter-in-law brought over some great looking peaches from their orchard, so it was time to make a peach cobbler. I tried a new recipe and it turned out to be the best cobbler we've ever had. Jim went back for seconds and we had it again this morning for breakfast!

    The slip tests from the last little firing did not give me what I wanted, so it was back to work on those yesterday. That Buttercup stain as high as 20% in one of the slip tests, was just beige, so I weighed out a glaze with it yesterday to compare it with another I did with an older batch. There were other tests tiles to make and slip. That job will continue today. I also want to test one of the honey/amber glazes over some of these slips, so I'm putting them on a couple of larger flat tiles so I can do a side by side comparison of what they look like under both clear and honey/amber glazes.

    I also made up another black slip test and got it on a flat tile with the others. I'll put 2 clear glazes over them and one amber. Hopefully this will give me the true black I'm looking for without using 30% or more oxide additions which some recipes have - crazy. 

    My morning chores are done, time to hit the shower and get to work. The grand kids are coming over to swim in the afternoon, so I want to get a few hours of studio time in before their fun begins.

    Friday, July 19, 2013

    Day at the Jackson County Fair

     We've been either playing or resting from play or watching the grand kids play the past couple of days.

    The afternoon at the fair was fun - a break from health food, viewing the exhibits and watching the 4H'rs competing with the hogs they've raised. Viewing the animals is my favorite part of the county fair. The 100 degree heat was so debilitating, that we both just faded when we got home.

    Yesterday was time with the grand kids who came over for a swim,  Nana's special home made popcorn (their term for non microwave, stove top buttered popcorn) and lemonade, and some TV watching - a special treat when visiting Nana and Papa. After Nic and the twins left, I finished my dinner prep.

    It was Cajun night, inspired by watching a great Anthony Bourdain show on the Louisians Bayou. I made a very, easy, simple chicken drumsticks etouffe which Jim raved about with each bite. The Cajun rice with peppers and onions went well with it, along with some simple green beans from my garden.

    Now that all morning household and gardening chores are done, and the studio should have cooled off, I'll try to find my mojo and get out of play mode and into work mode.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Painting outside the box

    Always loved this song, but someone put it together with his (Van Gogh's) paintings and it makes a wonderful presentation.

    I was up at 4:30 and turned on the little test kiln and went back to bed for an hour. There are ten slip test tiles in there that I did yesterday. Included are new tiles with the three black slips, this time on the raw clay since the only tiles I had for the last test were those with white slip on them, a few with the new Buttercup stain, a pea green and one unknown stain. The blacks should be stronger on the red clay.

    Yesterday I also got in some early gardening to plant more parsley, and a couple of perennials and annuals, and then it was off to the studio for six hours. A hungry husband interrupted my work day and suggested we go out for an early dinner, so being the compliant wife that I am, :-) I cleaned up and headed out for some Italian food.

    I also got a few of the stain packets in containers and labeled. While putting them away, I found another pint container filled with stain marked Buttercup yellow; but it sure doesn't look like the color of Buttercup that I just got from Sheffield. So either the Sheffield one is wrong, or I mis-marked that  container. I just finished going through all my saved receipts and I can't find any receipt for that amount of yellow stain. There's a U.S.Pigment stain receipt that I can't find, which may be the one I'm looking for. Where do these things disappear to. AARGH! And of course, I've deleted all the order confirmations from the computer. Sometimes efficiency is not a good thing!

    Now I need to go through all the yellow slip tests I've done and see if I can figure out what that is. I have a test in the kiln that has a slip with 20% of that unknown yellow, so maybe the fired test will help me determine what it is. I only have one Buttercup test fired and that's a glaze. Hopefully the fired color, once glazed, will help me identify it when compared to all the previous yellow tests I have on hand.

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    This is not a bird

    We have a new visitor to the bird feeder. I've named him Ratatouille. Jim is freaking out and I'm saying leave him alone, he needs to eat too. He is kind of cute and I'm certainly not ready to bring him into the house and make a pet of him. I told Jim if he want to get a big, live trap and re-locate him to the country - fine; but I'm not ready to end his young life just because he's eating a few bird seeds a couple of times a day.

    Got my early hand watering done and after breakfast will plant a couple of things. It's going to be around 100 today and after planting I'm retreating to the studio for the rest of the day. I want to batch a couple of yellow slips tests using the Buttercup stain and decorate and glaze some more pots, so I can fire the tiny test kiln tomorrow.

    After work, I just may jump into our pool. We've been here over a year now and I've never been in the pool or the spa. It's time to jump in. It's a lap pool, only 4 feet deep, so I don't think I can dive in!


    Sunday, July 14, 2013

    Keeping this one for myself

    Decided to keep this one for myself.  This is from the last soda firing in my small, Olympic gas kiln that I initially used for tests and clean up firings. Now, it's my only soda kiln - pretty limited but better than nothing.

    The past few days have been for family time and dealing with two broken irrigation pipes which have finally been fixed. Yesterday was an all day cooking marathon for last nights dinner party. I started prepping around 6:30 am and was at it all day. It was an African cuisine night - hummus and fried black eyed pea cakes with spicy sauce for appetizers, Moroccan vegetable stew and couscous , and macerated strawberries in orange liqueur, sugar and balsamic vinegar over sorbets. The only non African item on the menu was the margaritas.
    I am wiped this morning and my screaming hip has given me orders to sit as much as possible today, so  I'll actually get to read the Sunday paper on Sunday. There's also a book "Proof of Heaven", that I started reading a couple of days ago, so I'll get some of that reading in as well.

    Other than morning hand watering, breakfast and lunch prep, I'm not moving from this sofa. Fortunately there's plenty of leftover batter and spicy topping from last night's appetizer that I'll make for lunch and leftovers for dinner. There's even leftover margarita mix. Oh yeah!

    After a day of relative rest, this hip should be ready for a day in the studio tomorrow. Now that I know that the greyish pinkish powder is actually the yellow Buttercup stain, I'll test it in a slip. I liked the color in the glaze test so I'm going to have to do a shot in the dark test with more stain and hope 15% which is 50% more than I used in the glaze test, will give me the color I want. The 10% in the glaze was too much color and more of an orange than a buttercup yellow when double dipped; but it was perfect warm yellow, in a single dip, so 15% should, I hope be enough to give me that lovely buttercup yellow.. On second thought, I might just do another test with 20% since I'll have room in the test kiln for both.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    Couple of mugs

    Emptied the minute test kiln first thing this morning. First mug - underglazes very good - last one, too thin on the green underglaze on the foot. I've been concerned about applying these too heavily, but obviously needed to go a bit thicker than on this mug. It's not quite as pale as this photo shows, but definitely paler than I'd like it to be.

    I love this mug and the simple design so I will make some more of these.

    This apple green is nice and I'll play with it as a liner glaze. It's not quite the avocado, lime green I was looking for; but it is suitable for now.

    The other slab tests of mixed underglazes did not give me anything exciting - mainly, just some nice, softer greens in this group. I'll have to make some fresh tiles today just for the black slips. I put them on a bisque tile over white slip which isn't giving me a true color. That will be one of today's jobs, as well as batching the darker yellow slip which I didn't get to yesterday. The grandkids came over for swimming and we all had a great time. Then it was time to harvest some basil and make pesto and salad for dinner, leaving the only studio time to firing the little test kiln and nothing more.

    I'm running late this morning, so I need to quickly get my watering done, get a quick, cereal breakfast and into the studio for the day.


    Tuesday, July 09, 2013

    Smorgasbord kind of morning

    Turned the little test kiln on before 6am and got a couple of small packets of stains into more sturdy plastic containers. Since I've been on a weight loss mode lately, my lunch, more times than not, is four small pieces of pickled herring; and those plastic containers are great for the studio. So that may be my top choice for lunch for a while.

    We potters definitely look for free studio containers when food shopping; or at least I do. Those huge pretzel jar are great for batches of terra sig and other things. My best glaze buckets were the ones I got for free from the pool supply company. They held chlorine and were super sturdy and had sturdy, screw on lids. I need to find some of those around here if I can, since I gave all my glazes and slips away when we moved cross country.

    Our water problem reared it's ugly head yesterday and I had to spend a very long time in almost hundred degree weather,  hand watering the entire back yard of potted and in ground plants. Mercifully, the re-attached pipe worked for today's first, morning watering; but yesterday that lost time cut into studio time, as well as my energy. I did manage to get the couple of glazed pots cleaned off, the new apple green glaze test batched and on a tile, and the black slip tests done and on tiles with a bunch of underglaze combinations, and glazed, and loaded my miniscule test kiln.

    The one thing on yesterday's "to do" list that I didn't get to, thanks to the water crisis, was batching the darker yellow slip, which I will do before the grand kids arrive. I stopped work at four so I could start last night's dinner prep - lamb chops, oven roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary,  a tossed salad and a lovely cabernet.. No wonder yesterday was a "no loss" weight day. It was more of an eating day. Between dinner, and breaking my lunch pattern and having a hummus, tomato, avocado, salsa stuffed pita I should have not been a surprised to what the scale showed this morning.. Back to herring today!

    Our daughter-in-law is bringing the twins over after their tennis lessons, for some cooling off, pool time, and since they're all allergic to cats, I had to vacuum cat and dog hair off the floors and furniture. Time now to turn the kiln up again,  mop  these tile floors and tidy up my living room. Right now it's looking more like an office than a living room.

    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Battle of the bowls

     Here's a link to the battle of the bowls - a juried show/competition of bowls.

    Now that all the holiday partying is over, it was time to get in some studio time which I did yesterday. Got a few pots glazed and batched a couple of black slip tests.  I had some very old Pemco black stain on hand - enough for a test and a small test bucket of slip if the small test works. Since it takes 15% stain for a slip, and stains are so pricy, it would be nice to have the oxides test work just as well.

    Today's studio to do list: weigh out a rich, warm yellow slip and a small test batch of a bright green liner glaze, now that I found the apple green stain that I've been looking for on U.S. Pigment. That company is a great place with excellent prices for oxides, stains and a few other materials. The quality of their products is high. I've used this company for years and highly recommend them.

    But the first job of the day will be to clean up the few pots I glazed yesterday and get them in the tiny test kiln. I put the glaze on a bit thinner this time (still getting to know this clear glaze of mine), and then glaze the last flat test tile. I have two of these with some combination tests of under glazes and the two new black slips.

    Since I couldn't find any information of the oxide contents of this old Pemco black, I didn't want to risk a whole bucket full, so I just batched a couple of hundred gram test using 15% of it which is the percentage I used with a Mason stain I had on hand. That test came out great, but I just didn't have enough of that stain left and it was time to use this old Pemco that I bought at an estate sale way too many decades ago. It's  been taking up shelf space, as an unknown, far too long.

    Saturday, July 06, 2013

    More wildlife on the Rogue

    As you can see, I'm really enjoying this new camera. This was taken in front of our sons house on the Rogue River. The heron comes every afternoon searching for his dinner; and he's come to the right place, because there's a big salmon hole right near these falls, and there's also plenty of trout, steel head and cut throats.

    Our holiday partying continues for one more day - barbecue today at our friends place, also on this beautiful river. Dieting will resume tomorrow! It's a good thing we don't live on this river because I don't think I'd ever get anything done. In between eating and sleeping, I'd be sitting by the river watching the salmon jumping, and the beautiful array of bird and other wild life, contemplating my navel or fishing.

    After breakfast, email and necessary garden chores,  I will actually be able to get some studio time to today to do some glazing. There's a lot to finish up before next months surgery, which is going to put me out of commission for about 5 -6 weeks.

    Friday, July 05, 2013

    Osprey and her chicks

    We've been watching this Osprey for weeks and with my new camera and it's great zoom lens, I was able to get a good shot of her in her nest atop a power pole. You can see one or both of the babies tail feathers on the left. They're flying already, but were resting when I took the photos around five o'clock yesterday afternoon.

    Today's been a day of dealing with yet another water problem, which is now temporarily resolved. A pipe separated under the pressure and the water went everywhere but on my plants. I'll just have to keep a watchful eye on it till James our lawn guy comes back with a proper fitting for it. Meantime, I've had to do a lot more hand watering.

    We've been glued to the TV the rest of the time with these men's Wimbleton semi finals. Looks like this second match is also going to be a good one. It may be hard to beat the earlier Djokovic and Del Potro match.

    For some reason Adobe Photoshop won't recognize this new camera, so I had to put the memory card in the computer to download the shots and video I took yesterday. Guess it's time to go back to the PDF manual  trouble shooting section.

    Thursday, July 04, 2013

    Mug in use

    My grand daughter McKenna picked one of my new earthenware mugs yesterday and her mom sent me a photo of  McKenna's morning hot chocolate with a very generous topping of marshmallows.

    Got the new camera put together and at least figured out how to set it on automatic, took a couple of pictures of our furry kids to see how well the zoom works (works great), and learned how to view what I just shot. That takes care of the most basic steps. Next job is getting that pdf file on to my desktop so I can print it out and get my highlighter out and mark the highest priority things I want to learn at this point.

    As soon as the Wimbleton match is over, I'll get on with the rest of day. I'm off to the mall to buy a baby present for a friend. I'm not a mall person - wasn't even before the old bones got arthritic; but there are times when they are the only choice. One of my life's philosophies is that no place with fluorescent lights (malls, airports, etc.), are places I want to visit. I'm ancient enough to miss all the small, neighborhood shops.

    Wednesday, July 03, 2013

    The waiting game

    I've been waiting all day for my new camera to arrive. As of 4 o'clock it hadn't arrived, so I checked the tracking.  It's on the truck to be delivered today. A digital camera in a hot truck, in 100+ degree weather for 9 or more hours is a bit of a concern.

    It's been a bit of a cooking day. Got most of my dinner stuff prepped other than coating the oven fried chicken cutlets. I'm also making roast cauliflower, corn and a taste of home grown fava beans. I picked those this morning; and you certainly don't get many beans once you've double shelled them.

    I spent the morning looking for some low fat recipes, or at least those using the good cholesterol, like olive oil. Jim is grumbled a little when I put mustard instead of mayonnaise on his turkey sandwich; but with a little, loving, prodding, he succumbed to the healthier choice. This diet change is going to be challenging - not so much with finding recipes, but with dealing with the moaning and groaning from the male member of this partnership.

    Our son and daughter-in-law are having a Fourth of July barbecue tomorrow, so I'm sure Jim will be wearing his happy face for  the next two days. Friday is pizza party at their place, so he'll have two days in a row without having to suffer through my new, healthy cooking regime.

    Time to pre-heat the oven and get my chicken cutlets coated. After dinner I have some new library books and DVD's waiting to peruse. I'm looking forward to the DVD on Tai Chi for Seniors - sounds like it will be more up my alley than the last Qi Gong video with all the deep knee bends. That's for much younger, less worn knees than mine. If I bent that deeply I wouldn't be able to get up!


    Tuesday, July 02, 2013

    Here fishy fishy


    Our son Sean caught this humongous salmon today and I get a free "no cook" night; but I did take some of my pate out of the freezer as my contribution to dinner.

    Since our blood work showed we both have cholesterol that's a bit too high (we've been eating a lot of my pate and cheese and other goodies lately, so it's time to behave ourselves.) With house guests twice in a month, I was serving some of their favorite recipes - like my butter rich pate, croissants, and heart attack breakfasts at our local grease and grits breakfast place - you get the idea.

    Fortunately my good cholesterol is also high which helps, so I'm just going to change my diet. - therefore lunch was turkey sandwiches with mustard instead of mayonnaise. Jim is opting for the drugs; but I'm opting for basically, a Mediterranean diet -  most of the time.

    After our doctor appointments we had three grocery store stops to stock up on organic meat, fruit and veggies. It's too late to start on any studio work so I'm going to watch some of those you tube "missing manual" videos for my new camera which should be here tomorrow. I have a little notebook ready to jot down some of the missing information.

    You would think if a company like Panasonic could make such a great camera that they could make a decent, hard copy manual. Instead, they opted for a flimsy incomplete one and a PDF one which is also a convoluted mess according to the all user reviews I've read. Oh well, I'm always up for a challenge. You tube  - I'll be there in a minute!