Friday, December 26, 2014

For the Shino lovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My soap whoops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Touching base

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Checking in post Thanksgiving

 Hope all who celebrated, had a great Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Suds and mud

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Green tomato popsicles

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

BRRR Frost on the pumpkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

If at first you don't succeed

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday morning eye candy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Post Halloween morning and question for soap makers

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another home run

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Biding my time

Aidan with his Saturday steelhead catch. HIs twin McKenna caught one just as big, but her photo got lost in cyberspace!

I'm biding my time after a busy, social weekend. Our son and family were up from L.A, so we had some lovely family time. The weather held for parts of the weekend so the twins could do some fishing with their Dad. Saturday night's dinner  was the planned wood fired pizza with Sean doing his usual great job as pizza master, as well as the steelhead and salad. One morning Sean went duck hunting with a couple of friends, using the newly built duck blind at the new pond and was in 7th heaven. He has always been more of a country boy.. I helped Nicole a bit with her garden cleanup and helped her harvest some more veggies which she took back to L.A.

Sunday, Sean and Nicole's friend Alan took Jim and I on a tour of his new property. Years ago it was a dairy farm and he's loving the idea of  using part of the old barn, which is also being refurbished for goats and making goat cheese. It's an amazing piece of property right at the foot of one of the table rocks with amazing views in every direction. The 100 year old stone house, great barn and out building are going to be quite a show place after all the additions and remodeling. It has a nice pond with bass, which are in low supply due to two otters who are also living in the pond, soon to be evicted. I'd probably be prone to leaving them, since they are such playful creatures who would, I assume, give many hours of viewing enjoyment.

I'm going in for a barium cocktail and some X-rays Thursday morning, so hopefully they'll find out what the problem is. It could be that the hernia surgery undid itself, or I got a second hernia or Lord knows what else it could be. In any case, I'm still avoiding starting any long terms projects till I find out what's up with this body. So I've just been keeping busy with the never ending computer work and little organizing jobs. It seems like my life has been on hold so much the past 3 years and it just doesn't stop. Thank goodness I always have other little, time consuming things I can and need to do to keep my mind busy and my body somewhat active.

Yesterday I decided to go into the studio to at least put some of the recent soap supply purchases away. My soap supplies have now exceeded the space I allotted them on two studio shelves, so I spent time yesterday moving all the scents, oils, colorants, and fats in the house is an area of a flat back cupboard space in the mudroom which makes them easily accessible to move back to the studio or the kitchen. I got my soap notebooks organized, updated my inventory list, and spent time on Pinterest and You tube refreshing my memory of basic soap making techniques. There is so much to learn and remember, therefore lots of note books and to do lists.

Today I found another good soap blog site with some some free pdf downloads for labels, soap recipes that are slow to trace which is very good information since you don't want soap to set before you can do all those lovely swirl patterns. I also download and copied the prep list, and a couple of other charts. I don't know why but she suggested waiting an hour after children or animals were in the soap making area before you make soap. I have no idea about why this is the case.- I also found a recommendation for a soaping magazine. I should have guessed there would be one. It's not available in print, just in pdf files, so I subscribed and ordered an old issue from Etsy that I could download immediately. It has photos and instructions on how to do all those fancy tops on soaps. Modern soap making has become quite an art - quite a change from when farm wives just make soap once a year with wood ash and the lard after butchering a pig in the fall.  I've been adding a lot more information to my soap notebooks all afternoon. After dinner I'll run some recipes through a soap calculator and get an idea of how they will work.

With the family up and doctors appointments and household chores, I never did get around to making the melt and pour soap; but at least all my supplies are nicely and newly organized, my electronic devices now have working emails, and JCloud continuea to back up my computer after one or two bad starts.

After buying several soap fragrances I found that some of them don't last very long, but also found that you can purchase something that will keep them from losing their scent too fast. So now I have to find out who sells it and order some. Who knew vanilla scents can turn the soap brown! I know now and ordered some guaranteed to not do that. I found out that  some colors bleed, so I have to check the ones I have and see if they are suitable for the swirl and other soap designs I want to make. Maybe I should just stop reading before I find more things that have to be adjusted or added! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

3 D printer creates a clay house

 It's amazing what these 3D printers are capable of creating. Can't wait to see more such projects as this technology grows.

As for me, my own creating lately has been solely in the kitchen. The rest of the time has been spent on garden and household things and the never ending computer chores.

The garden is still producing enough to keep me busy in the kitchen so I made a tomato based vegetable soup for lunch with our tomatoes, summer squash and broccoli. Dinner was crab cakes with my easy Remoulade sauce, tossed salad and macaroni salad. The freezers are pretty full and the fridge is beyond filled. I don't think I could squeeze one more piece of food, no matter how small, in there right now.

Our weather has still been warm during the day, 75 today and in the 80's a couple of days ago, but it looks like in another couple of days,  with rain coming, we'll be going down to more normal late October days with temperatures in the 60's - soup and bread baking kind of weather.

Two of my stand alone hard drives are definitely deceased, even though one shows that it's healthy but says I first have to format it, but repeated attempts at formatting only bring up the dreaded  Windows can't complete the format". On top of that the two smaller capacity, working ones won't back up using Norton, so I've given up and started backing up files on floppies, and am also using JustCloud which is a joke. After 3 full days of transferring files (that' 24 hrs a day), it's only transferred 26 Gigabytes of files. At this rate it will a month to download everything! So I am probably going to have to give in and buy another stand alone hard drive, but it won't be a Samsung or a Toshiba, both of which died only a couple of months of using them.

I spent another two days dealing with the problems following the downloading of the latest Apple software for my iPad and two other devices which totally messed up my emails, and made it almost impossible to re-sign up on my iPad or to re-synch any of my devices. So it was another couple of days tearing my hair out over that problem and of course there was no way to revert back to the older software. Mercury retrograde has definitely been  doing a number with all these devices, so I will wait till it's well over before I even consider looking for another stand alone hard drive.

On top of the ever failing computer hardware, I've had some health issues which have to be checked out. I finally found time yesterday  to make an appointment with my doctor next Wednesday.  Since I don't know what I'm dealing with, I'm not planning on getting involved in any studio work or any other projects that I can't complete  in a day or so until I know what the cause of this pain is

Since I've pretty well done as much as I can with all these back ups at this point, maybe I can make time to try my hand at soap making using the easy melt and pour soap I bought which looks pretty simple. All I have to do is add my own colors and a fragrance. I've got the push up containers to use for making my own deodorant and I'd like to find time to do that as well. It's been a few weeks since I read all those instructions so I'll have to go back to square one and read those notes and watch one of those very helpful videos on you tube. I used to think that Google was the font of all wisdom, but I'm thinking You Tube is a close second!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Lovely Monday morning eye candy

I've always loved David and Margaret Frith's work and was happy to find this to share this morning

Jim and I are off after breakfast to do some shopping and other things this morning. I have garden chores at our son and daughter-in-laws place - mostly harvesting some veggies; and our larder needs a bit of re-stocking, so we're off to the organic grocery store, with a couple of other stops along the way.

It's October and we're still dealing with hot days It's going to be 90F today! So my own garden chores at home are just going to be hand watering some things and harvesting a few veggies. Then it will be time for a lunch break. Hopefully after lunch, I'll have enough energy  to get my photo setup back up in the guest bedroom. It's a pain to have to take it down every time we have a house guest, but it's the only place I have to set it up. If I'm too tired, which I suspect may be the case, then the plan will change and I'll taking a nap instead. Periodic naps have definitely become part of this retirement lifestyle.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Patia Davis video

This was a lovely clip to watch with my first morning tea. Love the idea of making buttons from the leftover, slip patterned, slab pieces - really nice.

We had a wonderful time with our daughter Erin's visiting this past week. It felt like we were having an in house vacation - lots of lovely meals and wine at home and out, lots of little shopping trips, and relaxing evenings at home with good food, good wine and good chocolate. We discovered an amazing shop with home made chocolate - to die for. We will definitely be going back there again, but not too often. It's expensive and could easily become addictive!

Erin left this morning for L.A. for a couple of days before flying home to Munich, and now we have to get back to our quieter, retirement pace. The house already feels empty without her beautiful, bubbly, presence. :-(

My old HP laptop has been warning me that I need a new battery, so I ordered one after breakfast and am keeping my fingers crossed that this is the only problem. Once Windows 9 comes out early next year, it will be time for me to buy a new laptop.

My plan to do more work in my office got put off when my friend Kay called and asked me to go look at a house with her. She's been renting and has been informed that the owners will be putting the house up for sale and she has less than 90 days to move. That would be a strain for anyone but it's going to be particularly stressing for an eighty year old widow. She doesn't want to rent again and even if she wanted to, none of the current rentals in our area will take a tenant with pets. 

Both gardens are still producing tomatoes, but they're definitely slowing down with the cooler evenings, which is good because Jim says he's sick of beans and tomatoes. Other than some kale and  lettuce seedlings that came up this week, I haven't planted a fall garden because I want to be able to get back in the studio as soon as I put these gardens to bed after the first killing frost.  The lettuce will be fine till about mid December with my heavy remay cover, so Jim may be getting sick of salad by December.

There's no room in the fridge and the kitchen counters are loaded with tomatoes, so it time to cook them and put them in the freezer. Maybe I'll make some stewed tomatoes, or just make some more pizza sauce - decisions, decisions.

Friday, September 26, 2014

John Glick selling contents of his studio

John Glick is selling the contents of his studio. He's moving to California to be near family. Here's a link to some photos of some of his equipment and ontact information:
John Glick
Plum Tree Pottery
30435 W. Ten Mile Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48336
Plum Tree Pottery

We finally got some very much needed rain the other day. It was an all day rain that gave us an inch of water - enough to put out a lot of those fires.

With our daughter visiting for the week it will be like a little vacation for us as well. There will be lots of shopping for things she can't get in Germany, lots of home cooking and dining out, and a lot of good old down town enjoying each other. We had dinner at the Mexican restaurant last night. Evidently Germany doesn't have any decent Mexican restaurants. Erin told us that the first time she ordered nachos there, she was served some plain taco chips with what looked like Chinese sweet sauce. There wasn't a speck of cheese to be found anywhere on the plate. That was the first sign that it wasn't going to be a pleasing dining experience! So we will go back for at least one more visit to the local Mexican restaurant before she leaves.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Clay of the gods

I'd love to get my hands on some of that local, Turkish clay that he's using. I'm a bit doubtful that he and the other potters at this pottery could do that with any of our over processed, commercial clay bodies; but I could very well be wrong.

After morning house and garden chores, I changed focus to electronic chores, and solved the problem and got my iPod touch to send emails. First I had to fool it by typing in a wrong email address, which was the only way to get the screen to pop up and give me the option of either IMAP or POP. I never would have figured that out for myself, but Googling the problem, finally, turned up this solution. Thank goodness for all those computer geniuses out there in cyber land.
Next job was to read the booklet on the new dvd/vcr player recorder, so I could test dubbing. Unfortunately, it turns out that it won't work with the current HDMI cable setup. It has to use the conventional cables that came with the unit, and of course, it says that you also need an  RCA component cable that doesn't come with the unit. So I'll have to put that chore off till I can either buy one of those or see if I have one in my huge pile old old computer and boom box cables and connectors. TIme to head to the office and dig through all those old cables. Maybe I'll get lucky this time.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lovely Clive Bowen video

Clive">">Clive Bowen 'Born, not made' - film about British slipware potter
from Goldmark">">Goldmark Gallery on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>
Goldmark gallery also has a show of his work right now and there are some wonderful pots on that page. Here's a link to that show: Clive Bowen show at Goldmark gallery

As for me, I'm dealing with computer stuff. Spent the past two days figuring out how to get around the problems of the new ITunes software so I could sync my iPod. Then there was a full day of changing passwords, since the card with the new passwords, mysteriously disappeared from the only place I keep it. I tore the bedroom apart, to no avail, and since I didn't know if it made itself in someone else's hands, I had no recourse than to change all the passwords. Fortunately, I had saved many of them and remembered a few.

After breakfast and my own garden watering chores, we have to drive to our sons place to harvest veggies, since these computer issues made me cancel that job the past two days. Then I'll have to process all those beans when I get home. With our daughter arriving Tuesday, I'm also behind in getting the house in shape. Fortunately, the house is clean and not a total disaster, I just have to tidy up my books and papers and finishing clearing some of the stuff on the kitchen counters.

Time for breakfast, watering and then off to the river. With Jim driving, I'll use the car time to re-set my iPod touch, which is only offering IMAP instead of Pop, which is what is causing the problem of me not being able to send emails from that device, so I have to fiddle with it. I think last time this happened I had to delete all email accounts. Sometimes I long for those days without computers. I wonder if it's too late to become a luddite!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unique way to alter a rim

Here's another nice video click from Ceramic Arts daily of  unique way of altering a rim.

Our daughter Erin is coming in four days so I'm trying to get this house in shape as well as dealing with the usual garden and kitchen chores. Our kitchen island right now looks more like a potting shed, with a lot of garden stuff taking up half of the working surface, so this afternoon I'll be re-organizing our small garden shed to hopefully find space for those things.

Since she's going to be going home with a suitcase full of my pots that I've yet to photograph properly, one of the things I want to do is get my photo setup back up in the guest bedroom. I took it down a while back when we had to do some work in there. Unfortunately, it's the only place I have room to set it up so the setup is always going to be a temporary thing, being removed when house guests arrive. Ah, the joys of cutting down!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fires continue and getting worse

The Gold Hill fire has grown to over 3,000 plus acres in the past two days and the Weed one is over 10,000 acres. Over 150 houses and structures have burned in the Weed fire and thank God, no lives have been lost.

It was too smoky to work on the kiln yesterday. My lungs had taken in enough smoke during morning  gardening chores at two gardens, so I retreated to the safety of our air conditioned house and found enough kitchen and other chores to keep me busy for the rest of the day.

I checked the pilot orifice on the Olympic kiln, and re-drilled it just to make sure it was correct. There was a bit of resistance which was probably because it needed a bit of clean up. That and going through some cone 6 soda slip and possible glaze recipes and making a bunch of notes topped off the evening chores. I still have more paperwork to do with that little job; but it's not a rush chore since I have a lot of cone 10 pots still to fire one of these days.

Mark Knott shared some of his recipes with me a while back and I needed to write those down and compare them to the same recipes I have. Some recipes were the same and others seem to be modifications for cone 6 or other versions. I also went through some of my glaze recipes books to find some cone 6 versions of temmoku, oribe, shinos and a few other likely candidates. Looks like I'll be batching a lot of cone 6 soda slips and glazes this winter.

 Time to solve yet another computer problem - downloaded the latest iTunes software yesterday which then removed an important file and so far I haven't found a recommended fix that has worked. And now I'm getting an error message trying to update the software on my iPod touch as well as having problem synching it. Good thing I have leftovers for dinner, so I'm free to waste my afternoon on Apples software problems. Oh joy - not! Maybe I manifested this so I won't have to do an over do clean out of the vegetable bin in the fridge. :-(

Monday, September 15, 2014

Clary Illian interview video

Looks like today will be as busy as yesterday. After morning garden chores and breakfast I'll be working on finishing up the plumbing on the little Olympic kiln. Then once George the handyman finishes the staining on parts of the fence, and after our leftover tacos lunch I've got to drive to our sons place and do some garden work in the vegetable garden. The newer planted beans are coming in full force now and the tomatoes although slowing down, are still coming in abundance between both gardens.

On the way home it will be a quick stop for a couple of things for tonight's dinner and a few birthday cards.

I might take a nap when I get home, since my body in recent weeks has decided that napping is a good thing to do, and then it will be time to start on tonight's comfort food dinner of Salisbury steak with a mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and of course, green beans.

Well, that's it for another busy retirement day. Lately I've been thinking about retirement communities. Maybe it's because some neighbors are making that move in a few months, or maybe I'm just a bit more tired than I'd like to admit.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday a day of rest?

Sunday so far has not been a day of rest. Since George the handyman woke up to a dead battery in his car, my morning was now free to do some garden cleanup after breakfast.

When George and his now working car arrived around noon, we took the little Olympic gas kiln off the stand, and he went off to the other job of power washing parts of our fence and our outdoor table and chairs while I wire brushed  the pilot bar and some of the other piping, ground down one of my trim tool points and cleaned out every hole in the pilot bar and put the kiln back together. Afterwards, I realized that I could probably handle the weight of those kiln sections by myself, since it was no problem to put it back together alone. So, next time it will be a one woman job.

Tomorrow morning I'll install the new thermocouple and turn the kiln on for a bit to make sure that the baso valve really is bad, before I iremove it and nstalll the new one.It's just too hot out there right now to deal with it and besides,  it's time to get some early dinner prep done. It's a taco and margartia night, so I've got to get started making some salsa and getting the toppings and filling made.

I've replaced the dead dvd/vcr player recorder and  have been solving some of the problems which the TV guy couldn't fix. It cost $150 for him to pronounce the old unit dead, and then proclaiming this new one "dead out of the box" because the video tape wouldn't play. Seems it's a bit fussy about following a sequence before it will play, which I discovered; but just in case it wasn't just a fluke that I got it to work, I have another ten or eleven days to return it to Best Buy. Now I just have to free up some time to test transferring an old video tape to a blank dvd.  Don't tell Toshiba, but at this point, I'd be happy if it just played those old video tapes and dvds!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's a chicken little couple of weeks.

It's not exactly that the sky is falling, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did the way things have been going the past couple of weeks. Part of the  strangeness we've been dealing with is what seems like all the mechanical things failing or dying in our house. First it was the leak in the pool heater, then two of my three stand alone hard drives dying the same day, then the air conditioning going out (the repair man is here right now in the hot attic replacing a coil). Then the leak in what we thought was the one year old water filter/alkalizing system turned out to be the garbaretor and that was replaced two days ago. Then  two nights ago when we went to watch a dvd, our two year old Samsung dvd/vcr player wasn't working and after a phone consultation with the repair man he said that it  looks like, his words, that the  player has gone south. But Jim being ever optimistic wants him to come and look at it just in case, so we're expecting him today or tomorrow for confirmation. And of course, let's not forget the occurrence that started this non stop sequence of failures - the baso valve dying in the middle of my soda firing week before last. And of course, my own body seeming to go south with a bad gash and intestinal virus which thank goodness, seem to have slowly decided to not live her anymore, plus a return of the problem I had with reflux which the surgery had cured and is now back; but since I still have the medication on hand, I'll wait a while before getting that looked at again.

The replacement baso valve and new thermocouple arrived yesterday. And the day before, the plumber, after installing the garburetor, made time to remove the kiln burners for me. He also found that the pilot burner was not sitting in there properly, so that may have been why I was getting all that back burning from that burner.

I wrote Olympic and got the information on the right orifice sizes for the main burners and pilot burner and they seem to be fine, so now I just have to get the whole thing cleaned up and put back together.

The handyman should be coming over the weekend, to do some power washing and staining on our fence, which the homeowners association has just informed us needs doing, but first, I'll have him help me lift that kiln off the stand so I can wire brush the pilot bar, clean out the holes, get the pilot burner back on and the new baso valve installed. Since we're still looking at a week of 90 degree daytime highs, I'm not in a rush to fire an uncovered, kiln on the south side of the house. In the meantime there's plenty of garden and kitchen chores to deal with until then, and keeping my fingers crossed and hope that the universe doesn't have any more fix it or replace it projects in our near future. We've had enough of this kind of excitement and check writing for a while!

For now, I need to get my hand watering done and be ready for write a check for the air conditioning repair man.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Down time activities

Taking a post gardening, pre tomato sandwich lunch break. I've been feeling crappy for over two weeks so I've been behind in my plant feeding which I finally made a big dent in this morning.

I've been using this down time dealing with the loss of two of my 3 stand alone hard drives. The Samsung is totally kaput (no sign of life at all), and Toshiba says I have to format it but won't format and gives me other drive error messages and so far, can't find a fix for it. It's a bit suspicious that this all happened at the same time of some windows and other updates. I'm tired of these badly made, stand alone hard drives and maybe it's time to step it up a notch and spend a bit more money on something with a better track record. How come they can made hard drive for computers that last 3 years or more and can't make stand alone ones that barely make it through a year or less! I might take the Samsung apart and put the drive in a different case and see if I can get it to work. It's never boring with computer hardware in ones life.

I've also been going through glaze books and test tiles and starting a Facebook group called Soda and Salt firing. In two weeks the group has had well over 200 people joining, so I've been putting a lot of soda and glaze information in the folders on the groups Timeline page. Starting this  was prompted with me giving up my paid web page a  couple of weeks ago, since they no longer support my software, and the fact that I'm not getting any younger and wanted to get a lot of this information out there for others to use and share while I'm still on the planet. So it seemed a good idea to put it somewhere where it could be easily accessed. Other members are also contributing glaze, slip and other soda and salt firing related information which is really great.

I have a similar group on Yahoo that I started several years ago, but Facebook is much more accessible. In fact it was one of the members of my Yahoo group that made the suggestion that I start a group on Facebook. I also like the fact that when a member puts  a photo in a post, Facebook automatically puts it in a permanent group, photo folder. And every member can also create perssonal files and folders. It's a good system.

We have no big plans for this somewhat lazy Sunday.  I took some of my gumbo out of the freezer for dinner, and we're planning on watching the US Open women's final, and enjoying this laid back Sunday.. Next week I need to batch a couple of cone 6 recipes that I want to test in my little electric test kiln. I'm hoping to find a few that would work as well in cone 6 oxidation as well as cone 6 soda, just in case, I want to continue to do a couple of soda firings a year in that small Olympic kiln.

A couple of days ago I went through all the cone 6 tests tiles that I took with me when we moved; and I was surprised by how many of them seem to be possible candidates for soda firing because of their high calcium, magnesium, barium and/or boron content - the materials that will repel soda if the amount of one or a combination of those is in the 15 -20% range. Of course, the colors will change in the soda, but that's why we test, tweak, and test some more.

When we moved to Oregon, I discarded all of my Cone 10 Reduction and most of my soda test tiles and all of my glaze test batches, so I need to start weighing out new ones. This week I'll get some cone  6 clay and throw new test tiles. I have a few bisqued cone 6 test tiles, glazed or with flashing slips ready to fire, but those are mainly slips and celadons for soda and reduction, and most are on clay bodies not available locally.  I'll  get some Cone 6 B mix in the next day or two, which seems like the most likely clay body candidate that's available here. The only other one is a P5 porcelain, which probably wouldn't make it to cone 6 -7, and wouldn't be as good a throwing body as the BMix.. The reason I want one of these porcelain type bodies, is that I found that porcelain  and porcelain type bodies like BMix and Loafers Glory which I some times used in North Carolina, give the best melt and  color response with flashing slips at cone 6 and 7. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

What a difference a clay makes

I posted this photo on my Facebook Soda and salt firing group this morning, to show just  how much a clay body affects the color of slips and glazes. This is the same cone 10 soda slip fired in the same kiln. The tile on the left is Phoenix, a buff stoneware and the tile on the right is Helios porcelain.

The porcelain one has such a lovely finish that I think this might be a good candidate for cone 6-7 soda firing.

Unfortunately, I left most of my cone 10 test tiles when we moved west and now I wish I had kept more of them. At the time the cost of paying sixty cents a pound to ship test tiles that I didn't think I'd ever need again, just didn't make any sense. I did think I had saved more than the tiny group I found this morning, but have not found them anywhere. So either they went missing as did some other things in our move or the trickster gnomes or fairies or whoever makes us mortals scratch our heads when things go missing, have hidden them in places yet to be revealed.

This morning I'm sorting the test tiles I do have on hand - a few cone 10 soda/salt tiles, a small group of cone 6 soda tests and later I'll go through my old cone 6 oxidation tests and pull out some likely ones for future use and check the recipes and  pull some likely candidates for cone 6 soda firing.

This morning is  a good time to do this sorting job since it's a bit too cool yet to do my morning hand watering and harvesting, and  I can't do any studio work until the parts arrive and the soda kiln plumbing gets done and those soda pots get fired and out of the studio.

Well, time to think about breakfast and test tile sorting and note taking before the air conditioner repair man arrives. The afternoon is for cooking. It's either going to be a tasty, comfort, biscuit topped chicken casserole or lamb shanks for dinner; but I think I'm leaning toward the chicken tonight. It feels like a biscuit kind of day.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Still waiting

Just got an email from Olympic kilns that the baso valve and thermcouple I ordered about a week ago were just shipped and wont' be here till the 9th. And since I'll have to get a plumber out here to work on the kiln plumbing that's frozen, it will be a while before I can get this little soda kiln fired. Guess it's another good opportunity to practice patience - not my strong suit!

It's probably just as well (trying to see the glass half full), since I'm needing to spend a lot more time in the kitchen processing all these veggies for the freezer. This morning I'll be making another batch of pesto sauce and after lunch I think I'll skip the creme brulee and make an apple crisp since there's no room in the fridge for these ripe apples!

The rest of the day will be for more cooking and working on some glaze chemistry to see if I can re-formulate some cone 10 soda glazes to cone 6-7. It's a good job to do while half watching the U.S. Open tennis.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Kitchen and garden days continue

Waiting for the water to boil so I can get a few tomatoes skinned and processed for another small batch of  pizza sauce. Yesterday I made the stewed apples and they're in the freezer; but there are still more apples to use up, so if I have the energy when we get home from our son and daughter-in-laws place, and a quick grocery stop, I might make an apple crisp for tonight, since there's no more room in the fridge to store them! The creme brulee has to wait for tomorrow since I don't have enough eggs and cream on hand.

Jim didn't groan when I handed him another tomato lunch yesterday - a thick slice of a Brandywine tomato, salt and peppered, then drizzled with olive oil, topped with a generous slice of mozzarella with another drizzle of olive oil, a couple of drops of Balsamic vinegar and topped with baby basil leaves. Today I'll give him a tomato rest, since I've harvested enough padrone peppers for a light, tapas lunch. The Spaniards are geniuses with so many of these simple and so delicious tapas foods.

As you can see, with all these veggies and now fruits coming in, cooking is taking most of my spare time and energy at the moment. I'm going to be very happy when fall arrives and these gardens can be put to bed. The Farmers Almanac says it's going to be another very cold winter, so we might get an early freeze this year - something I usually dread, but not this year. It would be very welcome!

Time to make the pizza sauce and get some beans processed for the freezer.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Play days

Sometimes you just need a play day or even just a half of a play day. Yesterday was a half a play day with our son taking me on a guided fishing trip on the Rogue. I met him at 6:30am and shortly after we were on the river with the guide. It was a lovely, coolish morning for fishing or just cruising down the the beautiful Rogue, through the gentle rapids at times and enjoying the enjoying the scenery, and alone time with my beautiful son.

We fished with bait, plugs and a few other setups with the aim being,  to catch steel head and salmon. The fishing wasn't great for us and didn't seem to be for others we passed on the way. We caught a few cut throats and trout but no keepers and nothing we used could tempt a single salmon; but the day and river awarded us with wonderful sightings of some herons, many ducks, and several osprey as well as the usual, exquisite views in and around the river and of course, the great weather.

The guide dropped us off at our sons boat ramp around 12:30, where Jim and Bodhi were waiting to drive me home; but first there was some fruit to pick. The pears and apples were ready for harvesting, so I picked just enough for us to eat some fresh and some for  cooking and left the rest for others to enjoy.

After morning watering chores and breakfast,  I'll be making some stewed apples for the freezer. I'm not sure what I'll do with the extra pears - maybe make a creme brulee tomorrow with poached pears on top with a sugar threads topping for the pears, or maybe just cook and freeze them tomorrow. I also have to figure out what to do with these ripe tomatoes - maybe another small batch of pizza sauce for the freezer with some and some beefsteak slices with mozzarella and fresh basil with a bit of vinaigrette for lunch.  Jim has just about had it with tomatoes this time of year, so it's time to freeze more or get more creative.

With all these pears and apples available to me, I was wishing that I hadn't given away my fruit dehydrator a few years ago; but on second thought, I was relieved that others will be able to process much of this fruit.

I was wiped after over five hours of fishing and wound up taking a 2 hour nap when I got home. This body is still not where it should be energy wise, so I've decided not to fight it and just let it rest as needed till it makes up it's mind to re-join the living.. Or maybe this is just what it's going to be from my mid 70's on.  My friend Kay sells some very good supplements and since she's going to be 80 in about two weeks, and a dynamo (the perfect advertisement for her products), I'll start taking some of those supplements today that are supposed to make me feel like 20 again. Frankly, I'd be happy if they just made me feel like 70 again! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Funk isn't just a ceramic movement

So many people in a funk lately, including two of my favorite bloggers, so what the heck is going on! I haven't blogged for the past 11 days because I've been dealing with my own funk. The way the past 2 weeks have gone, I feel like the guy in the old joke, who stands up in the filled stadium and says, "ten thousand people and the bird had to shit on me!".

Of course it could be worse. It always can be; but the past two weeks have made me want to stop the world and get off. Kiln shutting off at 700 and then almost 1000 degrees, and having to abort my soda firing, unloading it next day and re-wadding everything, then getting a deep gash on my pinkie trying to deal with frozen kiln plumbing. I switched gears fast, put a double bandage on the ever bleeding pinkie and glazed enough earthenware pots to  fire the electric kiln. Next day was for unloading, pricing and packing and going off to the yearly luncheon show that was a total dud. So far, no positive change in what the universe was sending my way.

It doesn't help to sell anything to a group of retired women with houses already filled with stuff, and it's especially not conducive for people to want to look at members work, when one member of the club has a stroke in the middle of lunch. The poor dear passed away the next day. Well, at least this 74 year old, well worn body was still moving; but barely.

Next morning I woke up feeling like someone had sucked every ounce of energy out of me and I spend all day sleeping on and off dealing at the same time with intense stomach pains and a low grade fever and wondering "What now!". After three days of that, it seemed to be leaving but I was still darined. Self diagnosis, made it pretty clear it had been an intestinal virus. Evidently, they last 3 days, so I figured I'd better get back to living.

The past few days I've been dealing with catching up on food shopping, dealing with garden maintenance and the  abundance from two gardens, making pizza sauce, marinara sauce and today, a tomato based vegetable, macaroni soup. Yesterday was the first day I felt like my energy was coming back, so now I'm checking out the weather report for the next ten days and starting to think about firing that little soda kiln as soon as the replacement baso valve arrives and I can get someone to deal with that frozen kiln plumbing. I have one, still a bit store, scarred pinkie to prove that some things are best left to the professionals!

PS: I did make some good use of that down time. I started a Soda and Salt firing group on Facebook that now has about 140 or more members.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Good the bad and the ugly

The firing is kind of what I expected with a couple of unpleasant surprises, which is why the blog today it titled "the good, the bad and the ugly!

 The best pot, or my favorite in the firing is this tiny test cup. Like Mary Poppins, it's practically perfect in every way. I love the color and design combination and will use it on larger cups and bowls as soon as I can throw again.

 Jim and I love this bowl which I made for us since my only big bowl met it's demise a month or more ago when it become at one with the kitchen tiled floor and broke into enough pieces that only a mosaic artist could appreciate. I'll put a big price tag on it and that should keep someone from buying it tomorrow. I love how brushing the slips with the intent of having some of the red clay show through works, so I'll be doing more of that. My pea green mason stain, used in a low percentage is a slip color I will keep. I love it and it works well with the gold.

  • Since I no longer can have chickens, I'm enjoying putting them on some pots. My real ones always made me smile, so hopefully others will enjoy seeing them on some of this work.

The bad:

One of the bad ones is this bowl with the Axner red under glazes crawling, pooling and running; and I have no idea why this happened.


Another bad puzzler is why the bisqued slip and well dried glaze jumped off this pot in the firing. It is certainly a puzzlement. It happened on a couple of the pots. I'd love to know what caused this so I can avoid it in the future. I'm just grateful that I made a lot of small experimental pots at this early state of my working with earthenware. It certainly is a different experience than high fire and soda fired work.

I will spare you the ugly!  Actually, there was only one ugly - just way too much of a good thing because I didn't know when to stop decorating! All was well until I decide it need a bright blue center. Bad decision!

When I opened the electric kiln to see how the firing went. I already knew that there was a problem with the Ayumi slip on many of the pots. I slipped some of those at the pretty hard leather hard stage and when bisqued, the slip crazed. A lesson learned on this earthenware journey. But, I wasn't expecting to see the other problems that showed up in this firing. It was definitely a WTF moment looking at some of these pots.

Some pots as one example shown above, had little chunks of slip and glaze pop off.  I glazed yesterday, dried the pots outside and then fired with a 6 hour hold at 100 degrees just to make sure they were dry, and continued with a slow firing after that.I was sure that would work, and it did for most of the pots.

Some under glazes crawled and even ran on a flat plate in one instance (like the bird house pot above). The pots were clean, and sponged before glazing, so why did this happen on some of the pots? Was the under glaze applied too thick, or is cone 03 too high for them? But probably not the temperature since some others were fine fired at the same temperature. It's a mystery to be solved and re-solved.

Some of the under glazes applied to bisque and glazed over, were dry. Another WTF moment, since the rest of the pot was fine but the handle or knob on one pot not. These pots were dipped, so why was the same color under glaze dry on one part of the pot and not another?????? It's all a mystery right now.

The colors on the  test tiles were awful, but I wanted to test a 2% black iron version of a honey glaze on top of various slip colors to see how they would modify the colors. They did modify, but not only didn't offer anything, but made them look dull and brought in some funny speckling from the black iron on a few. Another good learning experience.

I'm eager to get back and make more pots now, since I do not give up easily  on anything; but this very injured pinkie has to heal before throwing, so maybe my initial attempt at soap making will come sooner than this fall. The swelling is down a bit more this morning, the purplish color is still present, but looks a bit more faded than yesterday. There's no pain and it doesn't feel like there's any nerve damage, so all is good. My only problem now is to figure out why those under-glazes acted the way they did. Hopefully some readers will come up with some helpful reasons and solutions for this under glaze problem. Please feel free to offer all opinions!

Monday, August 18, 2014

What a difference a day makes.

What a difference a day makes isn't just a line from a song! I thought I'd be useless yesterday after the finger trauma, but I perked up enough to get a couple of little test earthenware cups in the mini, one cu. ft test kiln And since my finger seemed to stop the heavy bleeding, and was no longer hurting,  and the clear glaze was made, I decided to start glazing and doing a bit of decorating on a few pots. The finger is still very swollen, and the purple, black and blue on the whole thing is starting to fade into a more softened version of the color combination, bordering more on light gray, and lavender. LOL

Since it wasn't made long ago, I didn't re-sieve the clear glaze, but mixed it well with my good  turbo mixer and am hoping for the best. It was time to take some calculated risks and short cuts if I have any hope of having pots for Wednesdays show. Over the years I've learned to not make the pots so precious that I'm not afraid to lose them.

As I glazed the pots, they were put in the sun and with it, along with a little help from my heat gun, I felt comfortable loading them after dinner. Checking the weather, and getting an all clear, I decided to fire overnight with a very slow firing just to make sure they were as dry as they seemed. So a first ramp of 100 degrees an hour with a 6 hour hold, and then proceeding a bit normally after that seemed like a good choice.

At 2:30 am I was awakened by the sound of thunder and then saw the flashing of lightning coming through the bedroom window. So much for the clear weather report. A short, sense of panic arose not just for the electric kiln but the gas soda kiln.

Jim had covered the small soda kiln with a tarp, but couldn't wheel it next to the house (he didn't know I had locked the wheels). So there I was in the middle of night risking getting hit by lightning while unlocking the wheels and pushing the kiln against the house. Good thing, because I noticed a tear in the tarp and it was right on top, so I got a big bat and put that over the tear. The storm, so far, wasn't bringing any rain (it's those dry storms that cause these August fires on the west coast), and the electric kiln was still going, so I decided to let it continue firing, since it seemed the thunder and lightning was moving west and on it's way out, I hoped!

The kiln was still going this morning and is now 1070 degrees. So far so good. The little test pots in the tiny kiln were not great. I fired them to cone 03 and that might have been too high for that glaze. All three had the same amber glaze over black slip; but two had pin holes and one was perfect. There's only one small cup with this glaze in the larger kiln and the rest of the clear glaze, so I'm hoping the pots will be OK with the longer firing and a 15 minute soak at the end. It's time to cross the fingers and maybe ask for some heavenly help!

With summer starting to wind down I'm hoping that I can get a bit more on top of this earthenware. I've certainly learned a lot with just a few firings, and have a long list of to do's and not to do's, and add to the list with every firing. The Ayumi slip I'm using doesn't seem to like being applied to firm leather hard pots (got cracking on drying on the thinly applied slip). Also learned that you have to be very careful slipping pots and be very thorough cleaning the slip off unwanted section, because even a slight shadow of remain slip will show through under the clear glaze over the red body. These clear glaze want to be quite thin (not sure I have that one done pat). In the current firing I dipped some and brushed some. It will be interesting to see how this first attempt at brushing glazes went.

The rest of my day is going to be spent with cooking after morning garden chores and breakfast. I have a lot of eggplant and other garden produce that I should be cooking today and the next couple of days. Since we have leftovers tonight, I think I'll make an Italian marinated appetizer with one or two of the eggplants and save the others for eggplant parmesan on another day. Our daughter-in-law sent Jim home with three packages of mozzarella that she didn't get to use while they were here for a few days, as well as other garden veggies I gave her, so the eggplant parmesan and pizza will definitely be on this weeks dinner menu. Somewhere in there will be cucumber salad or one kind or another.

The garden awaits!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Never too old to stop dreaming

Decided to not get this deep gash stitched up, so I sat up with my hand above my heart till bedtime to slow down the bleeding; but added three more band aids to protect the sheets. This morning I cut off the band aids and cleaned the area. It's still oozing a tiny bit but I think it will close on its own in another day or so. The swelling hasn't gone down and the  black and blue from being traumatized is now on the whole pinkie, but it feels a whole lot better than it did last night and the cut area looks a lot better.

Needless to say I didn't get to say goodbye to our son and his family. Jim drove our grandson home and brought back some lovely brownies our daughter in law made. Fortunately I had a mac n' cheese in the freezer and a lovely big beefsteak tomato that I harvested in the morning, so we managed to have a comfort food dinner and finished off a lovely bottle of Seghesi Zinfandel with it all.

Our daughter-in-law has left us a leftover dinner care package of pulled pork which we'll pick up this afternoon so I get a dinner kitchen break tonight.

Since it looks like I won't have to sit with my hand above my heart today, I'll get my morning hand watering done and after breakfast get back out to the kiln and continue spraying the liquid wrench, which is what I started doing before I got attacked by that concrete brick the size of a double hard fire brick. Hopefully the liquid wrench application will help the plumber remove those burners so I can clean the orifices and also get that bar that they are attached to unscrewed, and moved so that the burners will sit upright and be centered in the ports.

Jim, my sweet husband said "just get a new kiln". That would be nice, but Olympic is the only company these days making these small gas kilns which is the only kind I can have here. If circumstances were different, I would build another soda kiln, but since they're not I just have to deal with what I have to finish firing these bisqued soda pots and probably just focus on the electric kiln after that.

These hobby type, small Olympic gas kilns with the upward facing burners and insulating firebrick won't last long with soda firing. I think it will last long enough for me to get all these pots fired but who knows. If it lasts that long and goes even longer, then I'll switch to cone 6 soda. My other option would be to look for a free, non working, larger electric kiln and set it up with a single, quality, powerful burner  coming in from the side, and hitting the center of the floor placed target brick to disperse the heat and flame. I could probably use the current stand which I put on rollers, to hold it - just might have to put a piece of steel slightly larger than the stand to hold a larger kiln. I guess there are always options. Another possibility is to use the current stand, put a heavy steel plate over it and build myself an updraft  IFB kiln, first spraying the bricks on five sides with ITC 100, and use an ITC 100 treated, high alumina fire board for a lid  At my age and life circumstances, it may all be wishful thinking; but I figure that you're never too old to stop dreaming.