Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's Cookie Season…...

It's been nonstop around here and I don't remember the last time I had a full day in the kitchen.  After an hour I realized I built myself a pretty good kitchen and stocked it with some pretty great stuff.  I miss my pretty great stuff and I had a pretty great day, in my pretty great kitchen…… and some day I will get around to finishing this pretty great kitchen.  Tomorrow…... as today I have cookies to bake. 


This morning as I walked out the door to check the kiln, at zero dark thirty, a chill slapped me upside the head.  Whoa, where did that come from?  It's been in the 60's around here, not very conducive to cookie baking or any baking.  I unloaded the kiln, reloaded the kiln and went back in the house, still dark.  The wind picked up and the coffee poured hot.  Commence flour flinging…… the Kitchen Aid was dancing today! 

The plate of cookies at the end of the day. 

Starting on the left; shortbread cookies.  Moving up to the top: gingersnaps.  Sitting pretty at 3 o'clock coconut dream bars.  Holding the plate down at 6 o'clock: pecan carmel bars.  And sitting in the middle;  melt in your mouth strudel.   I might add a lemon fluff bar because this is all sweet and buttery stuff.  A bit of citrus is needed to cut the sugar….. or maybe bacon? 

Carmel Pecan Bars
(these fly off the plate and freeze well but lock the freezer) 
Crust:  1 cup of butter,  3 cups flour,  1/2 cup brown sugar packed,  1 egg
Filling: 3 cups pecan halves, 1/2 cup honey, 3/4 cup butter,  3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup whipping cream
To make the crust, combine all ingredients until blended, using an electric mixer or food processor.  Press evenly into a 15 x 10 x 3/4" jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

To make filling, spread pecans evenly over crust.  In a large heavy sauce pan, melt the butter and honey.  Add the brown sugar.  Boil 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly until it's a rich caramel color.  Remove from the heat, stir in the whipping cream.  Mix well and pour over pecans.  Bake 15 minutes longer.  Cool; cut into bars.  Freezes well.  Makes 4 dozen.

Melt in Your Mouth Strudel
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter 
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 pound ground walnuts or pecans
powder sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until well combined.  Add the flour, mix well.  Shape into a ball, cover and chill 1-2 hours.  
Cook sugar and milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until the milk boils and the sugar dissolves.  Stir occasionally.  Add the nuts.  Remove from the heat and cool until spreadable.
Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface to form an 18x12" rectangle.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Spread each with nut filling.  Starting from the long side, roll up each strip, jelly roll style. 
Place seam side down, on ungreased cookie sheets.  Cut into 1/2" thick slices without separating.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 15-20 minutes or until done.  Let cool slightly.  Remove and cool on racks.  Dust with powered sugar.  Separate slices into cookies.  Cover, refrigerate or freeze.  Makes about 60 cookies. 

Coconut Dream Bars
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups coconut

Combine flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and butter in the food processor or mixer, until particles are fine.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9"x13" pan.  Bake at 350 F. for 15 minutes.  
Beat the 1 1/2 cups brown sugar with the eggs, just until blended.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Spread over the partially baked crust.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.  When cold, cut with a sharp knife.  These are really sweet!  

And  since everybody has a good gingersnap and shortbread recipe I'm not going to post the recipes.  The shortbread recipe I use is from Ina Garten and I like it the best of all the recipes I have tried over the years.  Cheers Ina! 

Figured out a while back that a good Christmas present is a pair of mugs and a plate of homemade cookies!   So find a local potter and get baking!  

I've inhaled enough flour dust today I'm gonna have a case of pastry lung! 

You bet there will be cookies at the opening tomorrow night!  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas…… Le Sigh…..

Its time for my yearly blog on Christmas.  When four people who truly love and like each other, descend into the madness of the holiday season.
Last year we left the compound I call Happy Acres and Butch calls Hell on a Half Acre to head off to Massachusetts and family frivolity.   I sat on the steps of my sister in laws house with a delightful 7 year old child, both crying over the insanity.  If she had been 21 we would have been smoking and passing a flask but since she was only 7 we were reduced to a stair step, blankie and candid mature judgmental conversation.  We lamented about how we just did not understand or desire to be in the environment called Holiday Spirt.  The rest of the family raced around like badgers on crack.  I watched a festive moment when someone reached for a kleenex and blew her nose in a baby diaper.  And Yes!  the family book exchange where I, who cannot read, will get a book with no pictures and tiny print called War and Peace but I will gift a kick ass recipe book on food fermentation.  Do ya see where I'm going here.  It took me 3 or 4 months to find my groundedness again.  On the trip home I vowed, "I am not leaving the compound for love or money next year!"

Fast forward 365 days and I am humming John Denver's all time hit:  "Leaving on Jet Plane".  I woke up in a cold sweat four times last night.  Get to the airport and someone hits my car.  Get to the airport and stuck in traffic, missed the flight.  Get to the airport and forgot the backpack.  Get to the airport and forget the tickets.  I walked down and checked the kiln 4 times, returned to bed and had another airport fantasy.  I used to love to fly but don't anymore. I have no desire to take off my shoes or have a TSA agent touch my stuff or wave to the security cameras or be herded onto a plane and wedged into a seat sized for elves or have the elf in front of me jam his chair into recline invading my space.  Besides the way this year has gone I'm pretty sure I would be sitting next to the underpants bomber.  Yes, I support your right to blow your balls off so you can get to those 72 virgins awaiting your arrival but I am now 60 and in pagan terms hoping for a beach and a drink and since I'm already dead a cigarette. My friend emailed last night that while waiting to get his car serviced there was  an elderly man waiting for his car.  The elderly gentleman got up and walked into a broom closet thinking it was the restroom then asked my friend if he was east of Geneva, he could have been talking about Switzerland.  My friend was laughing until the geezer leaned back and showed him his concealed gun.  So friends we are surrounded, whether you stay home or fly.  It's not the terrorists, it's us.  #1 gift request from the Santa list this year, a bullet proof vest with Hello Kitty on the back.  

Sooooo we are driving, to the mountains of Colorado; 1556.6 miles or 23 hours and 13 minutes.   Originally I was going to drive and Butch would fly, this was a banner plan!  Alone in my car belting out tunes to AC/DC and munching on baby carrots, choking occasionally because I am singing Back in Black so hard. I was taking my tent and sleeping bag I was excited.  When I explained this plan to Butch he said:  That is great plan!  I'm coming too and will be in the lodge. I will pick up you up at your tent in the morning so we can eat at the breakfast buffet in the lodge.  But what about camp coffee?  It's in the lodge, he smiled back. Our trip would have been timed perfectly, arriving at the Denver airport just as his flight landed (stop laughing we have done this before).  Together we would continue driving the 4 hours into the mountains to see our darling children who will be waiting with anticipation.  Our darling children have already told us to stop at the first Walmart and pick up tire chains for our car before heading into the mountains.  So much fun…… 

I am now referring to us as the Donner Party because I'm pretty sure I'm going to kill him around Iowa.  If you see this man on the side of the road…… 

Today I am headed to the library to look for books on CD.  I'm not sure I will find a book that has financial planning, adventure and romance packed into a riveting storyline.  Is there a book titled: Who Needs Retirement?  Make a million fermenting bean sprouts in your golden years or Romantic Mushroom Foraging while working for MI5, British Intelligence.  

I will be leaving the security of my sea level home to travel to the mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado.  Elevation: 12,162 feet but the base is 9375 feet so no worries.  Yes, I get altitude sickness like it's my job.  Face down, blinding headaches for about three days…… 
There will be none of this……

I will be under the bed sipping gatorade and eating ibuprofen like tic tacs.  And remembering the sanctity of my kitchen…. forget deck the halls, I will just be decked.  

Yes, darling daughters I am so excited to see where you guys live, work and frolic and I will put my best holiday face on for you guys as yes; WE ARE DOING THIS…… 
 because we miss you and love you. 

I am packing the car with 5 pounds of bacon, a wheel of cheese, smokies from the Slovenian butcher shop, smoked sardines, and 5 gallons of water to hydrate in the thin crisp air of Colorado. 

One more opening Friday night at the gallery and Saturday morning we hitch up the wagon and head west.  Merry Christmas…… again.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Heading into Home…….

I'm still walking out the back door every morning at dark thirty…… just because.
My bare feet on cold patio stones make me know I am still alive, the stillness makes me know the chickens aren't.  It's been another weekend…..
When you hit the bed at 9:00 pm you tend to hit the floor around 3:30 am…. 
I love when people tell me their favorite thing to do is sleep, it's like they are speaking in tongues.  Longer than 7 hours and somebody better check for a pulse!  

Finished up a cranking weekend at the
Fans and air conditioners were abuzz in 70 degree Ohio temperatures.  But because it's Ohio and it was Dec. 12 & 13th some came decked out in winter coats and sweaters, sucking on candy canes, sweat rings duly noted around their collars and pits. While others donned shorts and t-shirts.  So confused over this crazy weather!  The weather brought the crowds out in droves!  It was a steady crush of people and them came to shop!  Fun seeing old friends, new friends and canine friends, you bet there are still those die hard, art lov'n dogs!  And because it's Ohio the candy bacon on a stick sold out by noon on Saturday.  He said he brought double what he did last year, Food Truck Crush!  Rachael remarked on her trip home last month, she could pick out the people flying into Cleveland because they were the only ones who could take off their shoes, get through security, produce boarding passes and never put down the donut.  Shut up, it's a skill! 

Since I have been off the road the past year I have not had a good dose of craft fair patrons.  I sure do miss the fun.  Like the very pregnant woman crying at my wrap table after 20 minutes of trying to decide which mug to buy….. they were exactly the same mug.  I desperately tried to help but I just kept handing her kleenex. She confessed through a tear stained face, blinking back tears… I just went through this over a candle.  Go Home; I said.  We had a refreshing conversation with a Republican woman while she bought an elephant pitcher and grieved for her party. And God I miss the screaming kids…. Excuse me, the food truck outside the building is offering bacon on a stick!  I on the other hand continued to fill my bloody mary glass through out the day, stoking with fresh celery, whatever it takes, just sip slowly.  I made a gallon of bloody marys.  The bloody mary fairy appeared and shared freely with my studio mates; I drank the rest. 
I never left my booth, not for the bathroom, not for food, not if someone had yelled fire.  There was never down time.  My great neighbors from across the hall stopped over to check how things were going and we never had much time to chit chat.  We compared what was selling.  I was rocking the $20 mugs and he was rocking the beer bottle candles.  That stopped me thinking I might work on translucent porcelain candle cups.  Drink the beer, cut off the top, sand the sharp edges and add wax, now that takes an MFA for sure!  People couldn't buy them fast enough.  Know thy market!
I managed to get out and do a quick walk about on Saturday before we opened.  So much jewelry and does the world need one more bead stringer?  Put the shiny things down! (ok, I apologize for the last remark there was just so much it was overwhelming!)  I watched an older guy, walking past a jewelry table grab a pair of earrings, hand them to the artist (never looking at them once) asked how much, paid her with a credit card and mumbled it's a gift for his wife. Theres a happy marriage, what a prince!  I spotted his wife at the wine table……  

The hours of this show are grueling: Saturday I arrived at 8:30 am and got home around 11:00 pm.  Sunday the show started at 10:00 am. But the hamster had a blowout at our local power plant leaving me to make camp coffee, toast a piece of bread over the gas flame and a cold shower (damn you Painesville Power!) arriving in 10:30 am snit.  Home by 7:00 pm to Chinese take out. 

By Sunday night I had run out of bags, boxes and almost all wrapping paper.  I closed the door early and walked around the hall of booths.  Checked in on my neighbors, everybody was a little bleary eyed and tired.  Barb the soap maker and jeweler was going down on Saturday.  On Sunday when I checked in and asked; Hey, where's Barb?  She was home for the count with her dogs.  Rest up Barb, one more show to go, next week!  

The beauty of the gallery, no pack up!  Turn the lights out, lock the door and go home.  I watched so many pack and load.  Up and down flights of steps, it's like the Iron Man Triathalon of craft fairs.   

Fellow shop mate Jeff stopped by Sunday morning and said Hey try this stuff!  
A new bloody mary mix!  I'm on it!  Thanks Jeff! 

Fellow artist, and gardener dropped by Sunday morning with a package of rosemary and lavender shortbread cookies that were so good I forgot to take a picture before consuming. Thanks Libby!!

This morning at 4:10 am, I walked around the carnage of my studio.  Pots still sitting on their fire bricks from an afternoon of raku firing so many days ago.  

The remains of last Thursday…. I still haven't had any chicken. 

Next week is Third Friday, the last show of the year for this potter. Then we can crawl off to our studios, lick our wounds, sleep soundly and hopefully have a bit of seed money put away to do it again next year.  

For everyone who came to the Craft Fair Crush last weekend…….  a million thank you's! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

I don't even know how to write about this……...

The days have ticked by, the hours of daylight grown shorter and life a little crazier.  This morning is the first day I woke up in three years and didn't walk out to the coop to let the chickens out.  I walked onto the dark patio in my bare feet with a cup of hot coffee and heard …….. nothing.  I walked in the house, looked at Butch and said: I have no reason to get up in the morning.  

Yesterday was the day…..  three years ago I bought a bunch of chickens, refused to name them, gathered eggs, let them free range through the yard and the neighbors yard and they added to this urban homestead, immensely.  The manure for the gardens alone was exquisite and was the initial reason to get the chickens.  Three years ago, this day was in the grand plan, it just arrived faster than planned. 

The gals had stopped laying around the end of Sept. I waited patiently to see if one would poop out an egg to save the flock but nope.  By November it was pretty plain there would be no more eggs.  I was so hoping there would be a mother daughter bonding experience when my darling daughters came home for Thanksgiving but we ran out of time and the chickens got a reprieve.  Cant believe they would rather go back to the mountains of Colorado than kill chickens with their dear old Mother.   Then the gallery kicked in, finals at school started and we were firing kilns daily, time ticked away.  I watched them intently and I thought I will know when the right day comes and you know what was shocking, I did know.  I watched the chickens, I watched the weather and we had a window.  It was the last day of the moons full cycle, the farmers almanac referred to this as the Full Cold Moon.  It was time, I took the day off work. 

Thank God I had gone to Blue Pike Farm and good old Carl showed me how to kill and process chickens.  YouTube worked for the kitchen remodel but there is something about hands-on  that jogs the brain into reality.  

I started the night before, sharpened my knives, fabricated my killing cone, as my genetic cheap ass Hungarian/Scottish heritage took hold.  Making my own cost $8, buying one was about $28 - $40 plus shipping.  

I told Butch nothing as he had offered to pay big bucks to hire someone to kill and process.  As my pottery life got super busy, I must admit I looked around and found no one!  Then I had a long talk with myself.  I feel pretty strongly about the food chain in this country.  I raised these chickens and felt a responsibility to see them out to the end.  I started this adventure with 10 chickens.  One was a rooster and was dispatched early on, I learned to butcher chickens on that rooster.  Then one fell ill last summer and keeled over.  Then I lost another one last week, it literally bit the dust.  Keeled over while it sat in the opening of the coop and hit the floor.  They are buried under the holly bush in the way back.  Seven birds remained.  I never fell in love with these chickens but they had their place on this half acre.  It was comforting looking out the studio window and seeing the gang of 8 strolling through the yard, eating bugs, checking out the cat, digging up flower beds and chatting amongst themselves.  These birds had a great life.  Through two hard Ohio winters they lived at club med with heat lamps, water heaters, fresh clean straw daily to keep their feet warm.  Then every once in a while I had the thought;  Wow, these are dinosaurs without teeth.  They proved to be smarter than I thought they were. 
All in all deep down, I know I'm gonna do this again….. 

I started setting up around 7:30 am and there was a bit of hunting and gathering to get everything set up.  I always knew I would be doing this and last summer I was so excited to buy a stainless steel turkey fryer on Craigslist that was almost brand-new….. the woman's husband had almost burned the house down during a Christmas turkey frying event and just wanted it gone.  I couldn't buy it fast enough for $20!  It even came with a thermometer!  (It also worked for canning tomatoes.) Just about the time I hooked up the propane, the water heating nicely, I stirred with a small canoe paddle while watching the thermometer intently.  From the edge of the studio, standing behind the evergreen; Butch, very quietly said; "You ok?" I'm off to work but I can change and help you."  This is the guy who stopped a massive concrete pour on a nuclear power plant because there was a butterfly in the bottom of the pour site.  He might never recover from this morning….. but he offered!  Wow, he must really love me!  I yelled back;  "Nope, got it covered, go to work, thanks"……. and he did.  I read the thought bubble over his head; Thank You Jesus, gotta go!  

  Now to catch the chickens….. I suck at catching chickens, especially all dressed up and running late to an opening in Cleveland.  I let them out and lured them down to the end of the run, fencing them in.  This worked pretty well.  I caught the first bird and as I walked back to the table….. my brain kicked and said; Whoa, you're really doing this and my breathing accelerated and my hands were a bit shaky.  I lowered the first chicken into the cone and I didn't make the opening big enough for the chicken to pop through the bottom.  Damn!  Suspended her upside down on the canoe hook; upside really is the most humane way to keep the bird calm.  Grabbed the tin snips and cut the opening back wide enough.  The bird slide down and popped out the bottom.  Phew!  I had learned at Blue Pike on the day we processed 40 birds to make a cut behind the ear and bleed them out.  It takes a few minutes and I walked around keeping the pot of water at 140 - 150 F, checked the table and did everything but look at the chicken.  Finally it was done.  Donning purple rubber gloves gave her a quick dunk in the hot water, plucked the feathers, propped up my iPad so I could see step by step instructions for gutting the bird.  Used my good Felco pruners for cutting off the feet and neck.  Done, submerged her in an ice bath and had a shot of bourbon at 8:30 am…… 6 more to go. 

Puurfect timing, the neighbor cat Rufus stopped by to hangout and see what was going on. 
He sat on the raku kiln and watched, jumped down, rubbed up against my leg, around to the other leg, looked in the tub with the chicken on ice, batted an ice cube around and left.  Thanks Rufus…. it is good to have an animal around.  He stopped back several times and I found in him in the coop walking around with the chickens.  

The next chicken I lowered into the cone, held her head in my hand and with the other cut off her head.  One clean stroke, she was gone in seconds.  It was much better than bleeding them out.  It's quick, fast and much less traumatic for all involved!  I will never bleed out another chicken, no matter what the chicken whispers say.  The first place I read about bleeding out was in Joel Salatins book (he is a god in the small farm movement).  It made sense, the chicken isn't under stress and he made it sound like the chicken just falls asleep.  Nope, not like that; not when we did it at Blue Pike and not yesterday.  I apologized to the first bird profusely and the rest went swiftly and smoothly. 

I did thank each chicken for their eggs and just being part of happy acres for three years.  I prayed they go quickly and quietly and most did……. except for one who bit the hell out of my hand and just about beat me to death getting her in the cone.  Another shot of bourbon and I was fine……. 
Every single chicken was bagged and tagged by 11:30 am.  

They were big, they were unbelievably fat and incredibly healthy chickens.  They were well tended over their three years and they will keep us warm through the winter with soup.  I am so grateful I did not turn this over to someone else to do.  I am also grateful for bourbon.  I also understand my childhood a little better……. the men always drank when we butchered pigs, chickens or once a cow.  This is not an easy thing to do and we have done since we have been eating.  I wonder if beer came into being around the same time we started killing stuff?  

Now what to do with the left over feed……. 

Rufus should be laying in eggs in about a month…… 

I came in the house, ate a warm lunch of ramen noodles and broccoli.  Had a cup of coffee and decided to finish off firing those 5 raku pots that have been staring me for a year.  

I will be weaving all winter as they were big pots….. 

Butch walked in the door around 8 pm and asked how I was doing.  Told him I was really pretty good and felt pretty happy and content, the freezer was full.  He said:  "You know when I looked around the corner and saw you stirring that pot, adding eye of newt, I knew you'd be fine…. "  Yes, my family knows I am a witch :) 

Back to reality, the gallery will be open all weekend for Bizarre Bazaar.
Grueling hours:  10 am - 9 pm on Saturday 
11 am - 6 pm on Sunday

Going down to the gallery today to weave and be still…….. 

Picked up a new display cabinet at Ikea last week…… Sweden could rule the world with an allen wrench and pictograms…… and who is allen?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Eeeeck, They Are On There Way……..

The season is officially on and the Chick-lets are making their way to our door.
We are preparing…… 

The soup is on, the paleo-pumpkin custard has been baked, the elf has started the decorating insanity (he just loves) and I am drinking…. 
Bloody Mary's are the drink of the weekend here at happy acres.  By the time I got to three-sies I was riding the vacuum.  

Since the last post the dust settled, the wires have all been tested and the clean up has started.  We are panic cleaning per usual as it's been a whacked out week ……. again.  We hit the floor yester-morn with mops, buckets and dust rags.  Butch hit the downstairs and I started up.  The Chick-lets had left their rooms in pretty good shape after the last visit so I carefully calculated 2 hours tops and then out to the studio.  Time to do the Mom thing and strip the beds, dust and spramp things up a bit.  Filtering down through the long shadows of daylight, I watched dancing snowflakes through the grimy window panes, hmmm guess it's time to take out the air conditioners.  Finding the screwdriver, easy cheesy and lugged them downstairs to the back door where they will be bagged and tagged for next year.  Upstairs I ripped a pillowcase off the bed and stood back gasping.  Holy stink bug heaven.  There was a whole army of stink bugs between the pillows!!!  GROSS!  I ran for the hand broom and swept them up in a dust pan, dashing to the bathroom and giving them the swirly flush-o-rama ride to eternity!  Ran back to the bed and pulled more pillows, more stink bugs than the last pillow.  They were between the pillowcases, sheets, mattress pad and mattress, every nook and dark cranny in that room had stink bugs.  There were hundreds of the stinking little bastards.  At one point I abandoned the the hand broom and scooped them up with my hands, running to the bathroom screaming.  Then in a flash of panic I grabbed the vacuum.  OMG, I am brilliant and sucked them up way faster than the hand broom!  As I sucked and danced; singing Die Another Day (thank you Madonna)  And then I gasped and chocked a little, when they hit the dust cup and are pinned to the side of the cup by the cyclone force they exploded sending stink fumes into my breathing space.  Wonder if Mr. Dyson considered stink bugs when he invented this vacuum?  I don't think I even have words for the 2 hour cleaning job that morphed into a day and a half.  Every curtain washed, all bedding, mattresses flipped, chairs flipped, closets turned out and vacuumed.  Wow the upstairs is clean!  The weird part is we live here and once fall hits we see one or two walking down the wall but that's it!  When you looked in both the rooms they looked clean, no sign of stink bugs and no smell until they get riled up and tossed around.  We have had two HARD winters, apparently it's doesn't bother the stink bugs.  The room next to magnolia tree was the absolute worst!  No branches touch the house but they fly, like B52 bombers, landed on the air conditioner and apparently sent up a flag to their fellow stinkers. 
They entered the rooms through the vents of the AC window units.   I'm gonna have nightmares tonight.  This is the same room that had the fleas….. it will now be referred to as the infestation room. 

I don't think I was home one night last week and things got down right cranky by Friday.   School has been crazy!  It's the last final weeks of class so firing every day has commenced.  Kiln shelves scraped, as fast as the kilns go up, they come down are unloaded and repacked.  Then it was time to run the tests on the new Laguna clay 614 to see if it's compatible with our glazes (remember that 4,000 pounds in my office)  .  And then I had to mix up 6 or 8 or was it 12 new tests just for fun…… 

and about the time I was getting really cranky the Audit students popped in my office/storage closet and surprised me out of my socks.  A great bottle of vodka, a gift card for a fancy restaurant and the nicest card ever, thanking  me for the hard work.  Well bowl me over and pour the vodka!  Makes you work a little harder and with a smile.  The Audits, all five of them just rocked my world last week and it could not have come at a better time, when I was pretty bitchy.  Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Wednesday we had an Northern Ohio Clay meeting.  We had a fantastic lecture by the new guy at Kent; Peter Christian Johnson I could have listened to him for another hour.  His lecture was followed by Seth Nagelberg, Asst. professor and new chair of the ceramics dept at Cleveland Institute of Art.
So good to see a big turn out, see old friends and new friends, and of course see a table full of amazing food made by potters and served in pots made by potters!  We rock!  
And thank you Valerie at the The Brick for hosting! 

Thursday there was a faculty exhibit at the college and I dashed up to see the work. I'm not faculty so no work from me.  I'm great standing behind a counter greeting people in my gallery but honestly this schmoozing and small talk crap makes me nuts.  I am a fish out of water and please don't ask my opinion because you're going to get it and you won't probably won't like it.  I'm old and I'm honest. 
 I made a loop, said Hi to my boss and a few friends, saw Mary and left.  Home to pack for W78th. 

Friday another Third Friday Opening at the gallery!  I made room for Mike Taylor's work this month.  Mikes work will be on display until Christmas.  Mike founded in 1994 and I like his pots…… a lot! 

The ferns and lanterns have been moved and the new plates and platters are a nice addition. 
I am not hanging one christmas ornament until the day after Thanksgiving!  And I don't want to hear one Christmas carol until the day after Thanksgiving!   I'll be open for 
Black Friday from 3pm to 7 pm  INFORMATION …...

I am the mug queen, Friday night I sold over 25 mugs in two hours.  I should have run back to the studio Saturday to make mugs but instead I was sucking up stink bugs.  I did get a few pots made though….. 

And it's time for me to be mixing my own glazes.  I have this thing about blue glaze, I don't use it.  Every potter makes something with blue glaze.  Not me, ever.  It's a hard line in the sand I have drawn about blue glaze.  I hear floating blue and drop to my knees screaming.  
I have a cone 8 icy green, almost blue glaze the works pretty well on porcelain but it's green!  My bucket was almost empty so I mixed up a 7500 gram batch.  Spent a day glazing and fired the kiln.  Came home from work and opened the lid to unload.  Are you kidding me?  Apparently I was little heavy handed with the cobalt, just like I was with the vodka this morning.  

I was ready to smash the whole load but it's porcelain and it's carved so I packed it up for the gallery. 
I have pale yellow dinnerware that has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust.  Guess what looks great with pale yellow ….. these blue dishes!  Hammer put away…… 

And here the biggest news of all!  Daughter #2 has declared loudly over the years…. I HATE NATURE!  Abby, let's go fishing!  I'd rather walk on fire to get to the mall.  Her Victoria Secrets catalog keep showing up here …… its a comedy catalog for me!  Anyway out there in the mountains of Colorado she had a come to Jesus moment last week.  She asked her sister if she could teach her to fish.  I got a phone call immediately!  Hey Mom, I'm taking Abby fishing.  Why?  She just figured out if she is ever going get a date up here in the mountains she better learn to fish.  So it's about dating, not fishing, right?  Right, but I'm taking her fishing.  

Hahahaha she's hooked!  Her first fish and she almost wet her pants and then she cried a little.  
Ok this makes me crazy because I now have two daughter who love to fish and fish more than I do!  All the years they were at home and I begged them to come to the river with me they thought it was awful.  Ten years later I'm still in the river, fishing alone!  I predict fishing trips in the near future! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oh boy the holidays are coming…..

Hello Blog…… 
Update from Paine Falls…… the car has a magic button on the steering wheel you have to press exactly 4 times to make the weather alert stop.  Phew, now looking forward to winter again! 

Home today and it's a Monday.  Very odd not to be at work but as we all know the holidays are right around the corner so it's time to start construction.  It was supposed to be a small a job, again.  There is no such thing in an old house.  Everything morphs into dust, horsehair plaster, old growth sawdust filtering through the sunlight on this beautiful November day and softly landing in every crack, light fixture and glass surface.  It's makes the holiday season seem exponential festive.  I would never know any holiday is right around the corner if this house wasn't  in some sort of mayhem.  
It started at 8:00 am.

When we are done we have will have 7 new three pronged outlets, junction boxes and alert the chipmunks, new wiring!  This is the last of the wiring to be done in this house!  I am backwards counting to next Monday when the girls arrive from Colorado.  Hyper cleaning, cooking and steelhead fishing to come! 

Every room will need to be hosed down and linens washed.  I just wrote, wash me, on the upstairs bathroom sink, in the dust.  My dear husband felt this was so import ……. I'm not sure why as we have lived here 30 years.  The mystery of marriage. 

The studio is busy!  Firings are going pretty well.  

I have decided to photograph this work tonight and get it up on the website.  Somewhere in cyberspace is an esty account with my name on it, I am contemplating resurrecting it.  Still on the fence over that decision but I have a lot of pots at the moment…… 

There are alway some surprises.  The warping on this platter is ridiculous! 
This is a first for me, have never had a platter warp to this extent.  It's Standard 211, which I have been using about a year now.  It's ok, not thrilled with the clay body but the supplier is right down the road and it was easy to get. It does throw well. 
 Our local supplier just started carrying Laguna clay so I am onto testing Laguna 614 and 612.  We will see……. 

On the white clay body, I have abandoned my old Standard 240 white stoneware for Tucker Mid Smooth Stoneware.  It throws like a dream and I had used it 10 years ago but could never plan ahead enough until I was down to my last box and then hit the panic button.  The supplier was right down the road and thought I really did not want to abandon the Tucker stoneware, Standard fit my lifestyle and I made it work.   Well it's been ten years I guess I have matured a bit and think I can plan ahead so I'm back with Tucker. Everybody stop laughing….. 
 Love the company and the clay loves my glazes.
Lots of changes in the studio….. 

Love, love, love the end of a cycle!  The glazing is pretty much done, the messes has been made!

When one cycle ends it's pretty hard to start another one without a good super clean! 
Today was the day.  After loosing control in the house I thought I could gain control in the studio, Break out the mops, music and disco ball! 

And yes it's that time of the year…. Honey pots, jam pots, pate' dishes, batter bowls 
and the utensils to go with everything.  Tie a good recipe on the handle, pair it with the proper pot and it's a nice gift.  These little things sure help sell pots! 

The weather here for November has been just stellar!  I have 5 raku pots that have been waiting on my table for a year.  I see them every time I walk in the studio.  My raku kilns are right out the back door, burners are right there and ready to be hooked up to the tanks.  Three tanks, I need three tanks.  Last year I bought three new tanks because mine were expired.  I store them next to the kiln with a plastic pail over the nozzle and out of the elements.  I can fire at a moments notice!  Unless your other half uses one on the grill and takes the other one to his sister to grill hot dogs.  Really?  Another mystery of marriage and one he could die from…..  
Between tearing up the house for more electricity and now absconding with my propane tanks his stocking is going to be full of coal! 

And if you are still reading…… I tasted the sauerkraut!  I watched it on the sink and it watched me.  It bubbled and fermented away.  On the 5th day I couldn't stand it any more and put it in the fridge.  Every morning in the dark kitchen I opened the refrigerator door and it was like a religious experience.  The blinding light would pour forth and instead of the milk I would see two quarts of sauerkraut.  I couldn't bring myself to eat it.  Too many childhood memories…. Sunday I downed my coffee and thought;  Don't smell it just taste it.  I took a small fork full from the middle of the jar, held my nose and ate it.  OMG!  It was delicious!  I couldn't believe it!  Butch walked in and I said: Hey, wanna taste the sauerkraut?  It has microbes for your gut!  He looked at me funny because he had been watching this stuff on the counter too.  Just taste it!  He did and said;  This is not sauerkraut because I like it!  
So we both really like this stuff and now I am making Kraut Crocks with weights and lids so I don't need to see it bubbling.  Think I'll try carrots next…… and yes, always the pickles!!
How much sauerkraut can one eat before one eats too much.  The power has been out in the house all day and so far I've had my bowl of Raisin Bran for breakfast, a half quart of sauerkraut and an apple with peanut butter.  Do you see where this is going….  Thank god it's the electricity that's out and not the plumbing!  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Stop telling me what to do…….

It's Thursday and I am home, happy dance!  More like happy crawl, yesterday we unloaded 4000 pounds of clay and 15 bags of chemicals, all tucked and stored in my office.  100 test tiles extruded, two kilns unloaded and reloaded, more test tiles thrown on the wheel, office vacuumed and 11 new glazes tests mixed, logged and going up in the glaze firing.  But alas I have been waiting to rant…. it's a short rant but still a rant. 

Apparently we have become a nation of blithering idiots and don't know when it's cold or hot or where we are going or, or, or…..

We have a new car, why?  Because the clown car has 251,000 miles on the odometer and Butch thinks he can get another 250,000.  The shocks are gone and if I ride more than 100 miles the chiropractor gets a call as my ass has been scraping the pavement for 95 miles.  But the Versa keeps going and Butch is the eternal optimist and he is Finnish.  Love my truck but it gets 15 miles to the gallon and has 150,000 miles, I am Scottish with a bit of Hungarian thrown in, a tight wad pessimist (great combo package there)  We needed a back up.  The car and truck are bare bones, no power anything.  The Versa has wonderful fold down seats and I have made a lot of deliveries in this car over the years.  35 miles to the gallon, it's a winner!  We shopped for cars for over a year and finally landed on the Nissan Rogue.  We wanted cruise control because we are road warriors!  But you have to buy the package so we got unwanted power crap; windows, auto lights and other stuff I don't even know about yet; I still have not figured out how to program the clock or the radio.  The owners guide reads like the phone book.  It's in the looming pile of "too be read immediately" next to my chair, and it has no pictures……

Last Sunday when we ventured out on that awesome 3.5 hour hike, we took the new Rogue.  We left the house at 8:00 am everything was running normally.  We drove 20 minutes south, a higher elevation and the temperature dropped a good 10 degrees.  The Rogue sounded alarms, flashing lights and an annoying bell, which isn't annoying when hearing it once or twice; after 20 miles I was ready to throw myself onto the pavement but oops, power locks and child restraints.  It was announcing the temperatures outside were dangerously low and we should be on alert for driving conditions.  Then it flashed all four wheels tire pressure.  Words failed me, we just looked at each other as we were held captive because of those great power locks.  I cannot tell you how many times we have sat in the driveway trying to get out of this car.  The doors unlock when you pull the keys out of the ignition, thanks Nissan because I am an idiot.   Thankfully we got to the park and hiked thinking after 3.5 hours the temps would rise appropriately and the Rogue would come to it's senses.  After 3.5 half hours of hiking my body temperature had risen quite a bit and I could be responsible for a bit of global warming.  Hopped in the car and all the alarms still went off.  We set off down the road with the windows open to cool our large perspiring selves and to hear wind whooshing instead of alarms.  After 10 minutes we had to close the windows and started pushing every damn button we could find to no avail.  We rode home and cursed the car.  The temperature rose and the Rogue shut up and we did what all good people do….. forgot about it.  Until last night…….  I know it's chilly, I know it's raining, I know it's windy, I have a weather rock!  I don't need my iPad flashing a weather alerts in the dark kitchen either. 

This morning the coffee pot is flashing red in the dark kitchen, I guess the iPad needed company. I am standing on a cold floor with bare feet and an my empty coffee cup, there are no glasses on my face.  But I know red flashing anything probably means bad things.  Your coffee pot needs cleaning, so does the floor but it's not happening at 5:30 am.  I unplugged it and made french press.
The computer has alerted me to low mouse batteries and I have a million emails needing to be answered. Shutting it down I walk away into the inky blackness and onto the backyard patio.  Wearing no glasses on my face or shoes on my feet but alas by the time my night shirt blew over my head I knew it was gale force winds and since my ass was wet it was probably raining.  Even the weather rock might be a little high tech for my taste.

I entered an elevator last week and it talked to me the entire time.  Told me what floor I was on and when to get off. Just kill me…….. 

My new kiln beeps when there is power outage, tells me how many times I fired it and how much it costs.  I can see why so many are returning to wood fire kilns and maybe that should be in my future. 

My dear friend Keith just ordered a temperature controller for his crockpot so he can perfect yogurt. 
Here is my temperature controller.  

 Remember that knee surgery and they made me buy cold packs for some outrageous amount of money?  Well they work as heat packs too.  One on the top and one on the bottom of my free styrofoam shipping container, layer in towels and walk away for eight hours.  Keith I know you will love your temperature controller and you probably don't want this styrofoam box on your beautiful kitchen floor but for me it's LOW tech and I can handle it right now. 
  Go to the studio talk to your kiln or just make pots for 8 hours.  Presto, yogurt and nobody said a thing.  Before the heat packs I used a wool sock filled rice and nuked for a minute.  There is something that holds heat like no other gadget I know and it wraps around my neck on cold winter nights.  Kind of like a cat but without a litter box and it doesn't demand snacks. 

rant over back to work……. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sunday I played hooky …….

After sitting in the gallery blogging, not much walk in traffic on a Friday.  I closed up the gallery at 5:00 pm and like all urban lemmings headed out to Happy Hour at Don's Light House, just down the street from the gallery.  We started this Happy Hour ritual about six months ago (the girls are coming home for Thanksgiving, we are getting is shape) and if I never make a sale in the gallery and it closes I will be attending the Friday ritual of Happy Hour!  I have drunk drinks I would have never imagined drinking, why because it's Happy Hour and they are dirt cheap!  Favorite place is LUX for pizza and drinks, under $20 for two people. I would never put lavender in vodka but they did and I drank it and it was good!   At Don's Light House I had my first martini and a bowl of mussels and really great sour dough bread for dipping.  In the land of booze we are not very hipster drinkers so when the server asked Butch if he wanted his plain vodka martini on the rocks he said Yes.  I opted for no rocks, and the pomegranates. I figure I have enough rocks already, I really don't need anymore and I wanted something healthy like pomegranate.  Our drinks were served immediately; mine in a traditional fancy schmancy martini glass and his in a short stout glass with ice….. and immediately the whining started.  Hey why did you get yours in a fancy glass and I got mine in this one? How come yours is pink and mine is clear?  Because you ordered plain and rocks!  It's the same drink with ice. But yours is pink.. Fine, do you want to trade so you can have the fancy schmancy glass and get healthy?  No, I'm fine…….. then the two huge plates of mussels appeared with a plate of sourdough bread and we forgot about the drinks…..  
We ate, we drank and all for $20 plus tip.  

We stopped in the Waterloo Arts district for the art walk.  I feel in love with praxisfiberworkshop  and then walked down to the Brick Ceramic + Design Studio  Love Love Love this place and wish them so much good. Cleveland really needs a place like this! 

Ran home to put the chickens up for the night before the night stalkers were out and about.  Landed in the driveway around 7:15 pm all was safe!  They are all molting and there are feathers everywhere, I never know if one has been a snack for the rowdy raccoons or just dropping feathers.  This time it was feather dropping,  they look awful and told them they should be ashamed.  Yes, I have sunk to chicken shaming. 

Ran back in the house and dashed upstairs to grab a sweatshirt, made the mistake of laying down on the bed for two seconds.  I never got back up, 11.5 hours later I woke up in my clothes at 6:00 am!  Next to me sawing logs, in his night clothes, Butch fast asleep! It could have been Big Foot I would have never know or cared.  Never heard him, never heard the elephants in the attic either.  After a week of sleeping with a flashlight, one martini, and late nights of pottery making I crashed! Crashed and burned! Found my work clothes in the dark, swore off martinis, made coffee, let sleeping giant lay and I felt pretty good.  Out in the studio by 7 am.  Loads done in the studio, worked until 11 pm that night, a few breaks along the day.  

 The elephants final got bisqued, now if I could just get them out of the attic! 

Sunday morning I never made it back to the studio and instead spent 4 hours hiking the local park and doing food prep for the week to come. 


We are sooooo camping out here as soon as we can get away! 

Fall in Ohio is just beautiful! 

Who knew deer loved to play volleyball when nobody is looking! 

First batch of sauerkraut is bubbling on the counter!  I cannot believe I made this as I have nightmares of the stuff in my folks basement.  Crocks of bubbling stinking stuff, it was at my Grandma's too.  
I'm not even sure I will like this but after reading the virtues of lacto-fermentation and apparently my gut needing this wild bacteria or yeast or stuff just floating around and landing on random cabbage I thought I would try it. My gut also needs a pair of suspenders.  I used the leftover whey from the yogurt which I usually feed the chickens.  One more day and I can taste it…Ooooo I can hardly wait. 
And everybody has bad sauerkraut story……. just ask them! 

We also picked up a Sunday paper and took the time to read it!  I can tell the holidays are coming, has anyone else noticed that you can buy a pallet of toilet paper for $6.00?  What a great way to tell me the relatives are coming…..