Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Telling

I won't tell if you won't tell. I made these at three different times and tried to make the glazes all the same but didn't quite achieve it. Maybe the guys just got different suntans.

Moving along in the world, I now have an iPhone. Susan's breaking point was the $49 price tag. Don't call me because I don't know how to answer it yet. Or how to make a phone call. I don't even know my phone number. I don't like to talk on the phone because I had to talk on the phone a lot in my previous life, so after I did some heavy begging, Susan disabled the ring and message tones for me.  And I know Susan really loves me because she put Angry Birds on it for me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Pots

I've been working on these guys, I call them "Raven Heads".  They will be fired soon and then I'll think about what kind of glaze for them.  The heads lift off and each pot is about 9" high.

Last night I watched the movie "Thank You For Not Smoking" - I'll give it 3 stars (out of 5).  My latest Audible book is "The Likeness" by Tana French. So far it gets 5 stars, mainly for elegant writing and a story that is slowly pulling me in. Susan just finished "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey" by Walter Mosley and gave it 5 stars.

If you read the Wall Street Journal this Saturday you'll have seen a long article about Austin. Although I'd like to think it makes us seem really "hip", I give it a D+ for accuracy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christopher and Caitlin

We have a nephew. He has his Aunt's (and father's) wicked and warped sense of humor. These two managed to have an easy-going afternoon with us (and other family) without constantly looking at their phones.

He's smart and is studying Music Education. His girlfriend is smart, too. She's studying biology and wants to be a doctor.

There is hope for our future.

In a totally unrelated pivot, we've been catching up on our Netflix lately:

5 Stars to The Girl in the Cafe and to Welcome.
1 Star to Italian for Beginners , which we didn't even finish.
2 Starts to The Deep End. We got this one because of Tilda Swinton and her performance in Michael Clayton (5 Stars). Her performance in this was okay but the story was preposterous and homophobic.

We've also been reading:

Me - The Book Thief
5 Stars - I love it and don't want it to end.
Normally I listen to audio books (much easier to cope with for people with dyslexia) but Susan insisted this one had to be read because of the illustrations on a few pages. Perfect decision.

Susan - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
3 Stars - Good story, stereotyped characters, easy-to-guess bad guy, iffy writing style and/or bad editing.

[Susan insists on speaking:

I don't care if the author is living in Mississippi, I've lived in the south and "y'all" is written with an apostrophe to indicate the omission of  the "ou"' in "you all" (or, if you are prissy, "all of you"), and thus the formation of the contraction.  

As everyone south of the Mason-Dixon Line knows, "y'all" can be both the singular and, most commonly, the plural of "you". As in "Y'all coming along, Billy Bob?" or "Y'all ready to eat now, folks?" To further confound y'all, there is a plural - "Y'alls coming to the movies with me?" and a possessive - "Is that y'all's dog there?" Moving along, there is the inclusion of everyone present with the "Are all y'alls ready to go?" And so on.

To write the word "yall" implies we Southerners don't know what we are saying. Get it, y'all? ]

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Baby Pots and Pancakes

Baby Pots because Baby, it's cold outside!

I am an oatmeal fan and a pancake fan so I really enjoy cold weather as an excuse to have those for breakfast. Not both at the same time until now because Susan has found a recipe for oatmeal pancakes that are even lighter and puffier than the Bisquick Melt-In-Your Mouth ones (recipe on the box) we've been making. Up until now she only tolerated oatmeal in cookies but these pancakes have won her over.

Oatmeal Pancakes
Mix in a bowl:
1/4 c. flour
1 c. quick-cooking oats (the 1-minute kind)
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
a dash of salt
optional: 1/4 t. cinnamon (we don't opt)

Mix in another bowl:
1 c. nonfat buttermilk
1 large egg
2 T. melted butter

Add the wet stuff to the dry and stir just until mixed.
Cook on your lightly oiled (or not, if teflon) pancake griddle or in a pan, turning when tops are covered with bubbles. These might looked browner when done than normal pancakes.

If you are of the decadent type you can do what we do: Fry up Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. Crumble it into little pieces. Sprinkle them on the pancakes before you flip them over to finish cooking. When you serve them, serve them sausage-side up because then there are all the little spots to trap the syrup.

If you have extra pancakes left over they will reheat (about 10-20 seconds) in the microwave the next morning. If you are like us, there won't be any left over and after breakfast you'll just go lie on the floor for an hour or so.

For the record, I can cook and I can make these all by myself.

Late edit by Susan: Angie's Comment includes a similar recipe, but you have to plan ahead and soak the oats overnight. By using the quick 1-minute oats you can avoid that advance planning. We've tried them both ways (regular oats, soaked overnight and quick oats not soaked) and we can't tell that much of a difference. In our house the pancakes are usually a spontaneous decision so the quick method has become the Go-To recipe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Better Start

Last year during the break between semesters I was very unproductive (see here and here), which resulted in Susan's desperate attempts to motivate me (see here). This year I was very productive, as shown in my "30 Days of Creativity" door in my garage studio. The circled dates (a total of 4) were days when I didn't do anything creative.

I painted this door several years ago, it's to the right of my work area; in the spring and fall I leave the door open and sometimes get wrens coming in to visit.

One thing I worked on off and on was my collection of Pod People.  The tallest are about 6" high and all of these still need glazing of some sort of another. Or maybe they'll just stay like this.

A conclusion, sort of, to the Toto toilet problem (see here). Definitely we have a Gravitation Push/Force Flow issue which can only be resolved by tearing down our house, ripping out the concrete foundation, pouring a new one with reworked pipes and then rebuilding the entire house. Not going to happen. The only way to resolve a Gravitation Push issue with a government-mandated low-flow flush toilet is to flush at least 3 times.  No further discussion on this issue.

However, on a bright note (as if there would be one when discussing toilets), Susan, in a fit of anger about the whole mess, desperately called the Customer Service number she found for Toto. After fumbling through the options (Press 2 if you need a toilet, Press 3 if you want to unstick your Barbie from your toilet, Press 4 if you can't figure out how to flush your toilet, Press 5 if you want to know what fanny-ribbon is....) she got an option for Technical Assistance For Your Toto Toilet. 

I know you aren't going to believe this, but here it is:
A real, live person answered the phone.  Brian.
A real, live person, Brian, here in the United States, who was NOT reading off a script.
Not only was it a real person, Brian, he let her rant and rave and then calmly walked us through about 10 different checkpoints - the two of us peering into the tank and trying not to drop the phone in the toilet as he helped us confirm everything was working correctly.  In the end it it only cost us 1 penny to find out that the toilet was working correctly and I only had to make one trip to Lowes for a new part (for which he gave me the exact SKU number).  And.... he gave her his phone number to call back if she had more problems! Susan spotted a mechanical part that wasn't aligned correctly, it's been bent back into place, the flapper is happy and the Toto flushes with a gurgle. We'd prefer the old-fashion whoosh but sometimes you have to take what you can get.

We still hate the damned low-flush toilet, we hate that if you have a problem a plunger will not fit in the tank correctly, and we hate that we have a Gravitation Push/Force Flow issue (yeah, I know, Let the Force Be With You). We now know that changing to another brand of toilet won't solve anything and that Toto is about as good as we can get.

Thank you, Toto, for having a real person provide Customer Service, we are still in awe that you did. And how sad is it that we are shocked to find good Customer Service?

Susan speaks: He's back in school starting today. Or, as I call it, Adult Day Care.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Dream

Today we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. He gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech about the struggle and quest for racial equality in 1963. Most people remember the "I have a dream" phrases but when I looked over the text of it today, these phrases seemed to jump out:

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."

We may be a little closer today to racial equality but we seem to be dragging ourselves down as a nation, regardless of race, with our "jangling discord", our political intolerance, and our collective incivility.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Baby Pots

These guys are real small, only about 4-6" high. You are seeing them in their unglazed, naked glory. I do have a habit of really messing up good pieces with bad glazing choices and sloppy technique but Susan keeps reminding me that those become "teaching moments".  I have a lot of moments....

I'm working on more of these pots. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm Talking To YOU!

I just bet you think this is a test tile where I experimented with various glaze colors. Possibly. But more than likely it is a depiction of what I was saying (and is much calmer than what Susan was saying) to our elegant and expensive low-flow Toto toilet. Or, as they say in the plumbing business, our Commode. Whatever. It's 5 years old, the handle has broken twice and the flapper has been replaced once and needs replacing again. We won't talk about the fact that a standard plunger won't work on it but Toto doesn't care about that because it believes that its toilets will never have a problem. Never mind. It's finally working, barely, now.

I'm terrible at math but I think that a low-flow of 1.6 gallons (the Government-mandated requirement, stand back as Susan curses) multiplied by a minimum of 3 flushes means our low-flow toilet uses 4.8 gallons of water each time time a human being makes a visit.

Enough said.  I tried to appease Susan by going to Home Depot and buying 20 regular 100-watt incandescent light bulbs that she can stash away. In case you weren't keeping up, our Government is requiring manufacturers to phase out production of incandescent bulbs so that eventually only CF bulbs will be are available. You know, those CF bulbs that contain mercury and no one has figured out what to do with them when they burn out and you want to throw them away.

Let's see, what else is the Government thinking about sticking their fingers into? How about requiring military veterans and their families to pay higher health insurance premiums, when they had been promised, as a condition of enlistment, they would get it at a fixed low rate. Yep, they're poking around at that as a possible money-saver. Picture this: You enlist in the Army and are promised health care for life. You are trained to defuse IEDs (improvised explosive devices). You leave your family and go, more than once, to Afghanistan. You survive, come home, leave the Army and go to look, unsuccessfully, for a civilian job. "What are your job skills, son?" And now your grateful Government wants to take back a benefit you were promised? I don't THINK so.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna (here and here) used to say, "It's always something!"

And so on and so on. This is about the extent of the ranting and raving we do. At least we listen to what others have to say, without interrupting and without screaming, as opposed to those raving talking-head idiots on TV.  Civil discourse seems to have disappeared from our nation, along with sanity, as shown by the events in Tucson. A 9-year old girl? We have lost our way if we think this can be explained away.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gifting and Giving

This is Mr. Scrubby, made of some kind of ecologically wise material. I usually do the dishes so Susan gave him to me and we decided he was too cool to use so he just watches me from the window. We had a fairly quiet holiday. I am listening to an audio book, Unbroken, a terrific book that makes me realize I am a total wimp. Susan is reading a library book, The Passage, and insisting we leave the lights on all night long. Here are more books that we gave each other:

We aren't big gift givers - if we really want something expensive we decide together, if it's not expensive and something we really want, we just get it. Or rather, we wait a week or so and then get it. Which means often times the urge has passed ("If it's meant to be, it will happen"). Unless, of course, it's books and as far as that goes, Amazon should have sent us a Christmas card. Susan has over 130 books on her Amazon Wish List, but just to balance that out, there are three Reserved books waiting for her at our library.

We made Portuguese Soup for our Christmas Eve dinner and finished off with some Pumpkin Cake Roulade we'd held back from the one we took to her sister's that afternoon. We also held back some of the Black Russian cake from the same gathering. Susan usually only makes those cakes once a year so I insist on cutting some quality control samples before they leave the house. Wouldn't want anyone to get some bad cake.

Finally, here is the last of my batch of Nichos, for now anyway.

Here's hoping you had a happy holiday break.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Charlie Ferguson: Wasted Expressions

I love this guy's photography (Charlie Ferguson, here). We caught this show near the very end; if you live in Austin you have a chance to run over and see it at the L. Nowlin Gallery (here) before they take it down.

These are all pictures of dumpsters. The same damned dumpsters I see every time I ride my bike in Austin. The same damned dumpsters I totally ignore. But not anymore.

I like to think that "art" is anything that makes you look at your environment with a little more focus.  Charlie's photos are beautiful art. You can't tell me the first image doesn't look like a magical night sky.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Best Doctor You Could Ever Hope For

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... Don't waste it on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; it's like saying you extend the life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of fruity bits so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A:  Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No pain...good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU ARE NOT LISTENING! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they are permeated by it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?!?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain a whale to me.

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Did you have a Happy New Year? Did you plan to start a diet? A new exercise program? You can thank me anytime for this thoughtful advice that, if followed, may save you a lot of time and ease your pain at the feeding trough.

The Tooth

Susan calls this piece "The Tooth." The old faded silk artichoke from Michaels' was the perfect finish for it. It's about 7" high.  The base is a piece of cement. When Celeste put this piece in the kiln she thought the glaze might run off so she put it on a chunk of cement so it wouldn't mess up the kiln shelf. The glaze did run and stuck the "Tooth" to the cement - and I really like it. 

Celeste is the Lab Technician, aka "Kiln Goddess", where my classes are held (Julie is my Other Kiln Goddess at the other location). She is very helpful and supportive, as is Julie, and if it wasn't for my Kiln Goddesses I wouldn't have been half as successful in achieving the looks I want for my pieces.  When they come out wrong, it's the Kiln God's fault, not the Goddess.  (Susan's response to this piece of information: So, what else is new?)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Color. Colour. Significant Eye Candy, However You Spell It.

Eye Candy, to start off your New Year.

No, I don't have a Canon printer, no affiliation, etc.

Go here for more about these videos. Go here to be totally blown away by more of these incredible images.