Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bottoms Up

I was digging around in the back of some shelves and found this mug I made a long time ago, back when I was just starting in ceramics and thought making mugs was a cool thing to do. The shape isn't bad and the blue glaze is interesting. However, gripping a handle that looks like an alligator's tail is not exactly what I want to do with my morning cup of coffee. Not to mention the fact that the glaze job is pretty pathetic on the inside. And I had to ego-trip my intitial on the bottom, prompting Susan to say it would be my job to wash it anytime I used it. It has become a give-away to my green-thumb friend, Maria, who will plant something little in it.

We did get a blast of rain last week but it wasn't enough to keep us from having our drought alert and burn-bans extended through all of July. That means no more raku firings for me unless we get a heavy-duty load of rain and the burn-ban is lifted. I don't know what this bush is, but every summer it comes back to our front courtyard-- it seems to like the heat.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nichos Again

I'm back to making nichos but I'm not sure why. Maybe I need to feel enclosed? Maybe I'm in a box? Maybe I just need to ponder my bellybutton some more.

The nicho above is After cleaning up from raku firing, this picture below is Before cleaning up from the firing. All the nichos shown here were raku fired which involves lots of smoke and hot fire. Unfortunately, we still have a burn ban in effect due to the drought we are having so there won't be any more raku firing done until we get some rain.

Susan speaks:
Robyn thinks our oven is clean. Ha! The myth is greater than the reality. The oven is pretty bad (see picture) but is easy to clean because it has a self-cleaning feature. You just set that option and a few hours later you wipe out the ash reside and your oven looks like Martha Stewart cleaned it with her q-tips. One problem however -- the odd odors from the self-cleaning cycle set off our smoke detectors! The alarm blares, the alarm company calls us to tell us the fire department is on the way, and we run around like idiots trying to shut the alarm off. Note to Self: Ripping the back-up battery out of the control box is not a good thing to do. The only way to do the cleaning without having cardiac arrest is to open all the windows, have several fans blowing and alert the alarm company before you start. As a result of all that hassle, I just let the oven get really, really, really ugly before I clean it. After all, it's not like I'm eating food off its surface.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

All About Me. And Food

Nothing much happening here but we did get a little rain the other night. To alleviate my boredom Susan told me to make some bread while she was out running an errand. She promised it would be easy and it was. One hour, self-rising flour, sugar, some melted butter and Yes! A bottle of beer. We had a few chunks warm from the oven and smeared with butter. She had also promised it wouldn't taste so great. She was right. But the birds and raccoons aren't as picky as we are. Next week she promised to upgrade me to a fancier recipe.

I took the video on the bottom with my iPhone. Can you tell I've been listening to FoodTV? Rachel Ray would be proud of me. Susan spent about an hour trying to figure out how to make it look better (other than my cheesy narration) on YouTube and determined that:
1) I should have filmed it sideways,
2) she wasn't going to mess with it anymore and
3) she had no idea how to fix it. (Any ideas?)
What you see is what you get.

To sum it all up, I can serge and I can bake bread and I am the Champion of Napping!

To atone for the crummy video we'll give you a recipe for a pie that's like the one pictured. Promise yourself you'll only make it once a month. (OK, once a week.) Promise yourself you won't eat the whole damned thing in one day (OK, it was the two of us). Totally ignore the aversion you might have to buttermilk because you won't taste it. I promise. Totally ignore the fact that Cool Whip is fake stuff because once you taste the pie you won't care. Totally ignore the fact that this pie is just a highway to junk-food hell because once you taste it you'll be asking for the express lane.

Velvet Pie
Dump a package of Jello French Vanilla Instant Pudding mix in a bowl.
Pour 1 cup of buttermilk over it.
Whisk it together quickly until it looks smooth.
Fold in 1 8oz container of Cool Whip.
Plop it into a graham cracker pie crust.
Chill for a couple of hours.

Sounds too bland? Not!
Consider doing the same thing with White Chocolate Pudding mix and a chocolate cookie crust. Or try a different pudding like lemon or butterscotch or chocolate.
Too decadent for you? Wimp! OK, use the fat-free pudding and fat-free Cool Whip and low-fat pie crust.

One last tip: For us, the treat part is the crunch of the pie crust. So we buy 2 crusts. The first crust is the pie bottom and gets half of the mix plopped in, then topped off with some broken pieces of the 2nd crust (about half of them). Plop in the rest of the mix and top it off with the remaining chunks.

You aren't getting a picture of our pie because we were too busy eating to stop for a photo op.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Hot Is It?

It's hot. I don't obsessively check the thermometer anymore but I can tell you yesterday was Day 16 in a row of days where we've gone over 100 degrees. For the record, today is the first day of Summer. It's gonna be fun...

How hot is it?
I now know that a seat belt makes a pretty good branding iron.
How hot is it?
I can drive with only 2 fingers on the steering wheel.
How hot is it?
The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
(always my best move)
How hot is it?
I'm doing minimal yard work at dawn and I start sweating before the sun actually comes up.
See photo above for my suffering plants that I have been watering, but we are also in drought conditions so I can only water twice a week.
How hot is it?
My biggest fear while riding my bike is "What if I fall and get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
How hot is it?
I now know that asphalt has a liquid state.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's A Guy Thing

Feats of Clay here in Austin is a great place to shop for ceramics -- and some of my metal sculptures. Judy, the owner, has a great garden area on the side of her shop where she manages to grow stuff despite our drought and heat (102 today). She generously lets me display some of my metal yard art Guys there (all about 3 - 4 feet high) and I am hoping someone will decide to take one home with them.

Some of the sculptures are anatomically correct - Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games

We are reading The Hunger Games trilogy (now into the third book). In this case it is actually Listening, not reading, because they are from Audible.  A book that is read to you gives you an entirely different connection to the story and a good reader will help you stretch your imagination as you visualize the characters and the scene.  These books are considered "Young Adult" but it confuses me as to why they aren't considered Adult books. Yes, the main character is a teenage girl but so what? The theme of the books is heavy-duty morality, the future, death, violence, manipulation, deceit and so on. The movie (of course) is being shot now and Jennifer Lawrence is the main character, Katniss.

So how does this tie in with the movie Winter's Bone? Jennifer Lawrence (shown above) was the lead actor in this movie and her performance was achingly, hauntingly perfect. A good movie is one that has you thinking about it the next day, mulling over the scenes and wondering about the characters. In this movie it was very interesting to realize at the end that the strongest characters, in terms of how they faced life and dealt with hardship, were the women, not the men. Recently we watched The King's Speech and gave that a five-star rating. Winter's Bone gets six stars.

How does that all tie in with the picture of the antler pieces at the top? They came from Kervin, my barber. He hunts a lot and does a lot of gardening, too.  In The Hunger Games they hunt game for food, in Winter's Bone they hunt game for food.  You may think hunting animals is a bad thing but consider the fact that in Austin our local Caritas organization accepts venison donations from hunters and uses it to provide food to families in need.

The antler pieces are in the process of being worked into some ceramic sculptures - or at least that's the plan.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Man With A Mission

I wanted to have some definitive texture on the clay slabs I rolled out so Susan begged some spare canvas from an artist friend and we bought some other pieces of canvas and burlap at HobbyLobby. I cut them into pieces a little bigger than some plywood boards I had and I'll wrap the boards and staple-gun the cloth into place on the back.  I need several boards covered because I use both red and white clays and sometimes they get pretty wet from the clay.

The pieces I cut were all raggedy and had lots of loose threads on them so I asked Susan if she could fix the edges for me. "No problem! Let me get out my serger and we'll see what we can do." Notice the word "we" in her response to me.

Ten minutes later I was a serging fool! I like the serger -- it's has a sharp edge that can whack your fingers, it goes really fast and is loud. It's just like guy power tools!

Friday, June 10, 2011

For Everyone You Love

I have a lot a scars on my body. Too many. I've been blessed by having a wife who nags me and over twenty years ago an alert doctor caught my first basal cell carcinoma before I even knew what it was. I now see my dermatologist, Dr. Colby Evans, every 3-4 months but basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas still continue make their way to the surface. The frightening part is not how small the spot can be, but how large the area is that the doctors cut out.  I have a scar on my back that looks like a knife stab that I like to joke is where Susan stabbed me. If only it was that simple. Watch this video, please.

If you aren't sure why that small funny spot won't go away, go see a dermatologist. The longer you wait, the larger the scar will be.  That picture at the top shows you how much might get cut away - the inside circle is what goes out along with the bad spot. The outside circle shows you the cut lines the doctor makes so as to close the skin over the hole you just had whacked in your skin. There will be stitches. Gruesome, yes. So use sunscreen and forget about having a "good tan". There's no such thing.

Today is our wedding anniversary -- 44 years. Dr Evans is helping me make sure there are more to come.

Note: Go here or here to see what I usually post on our anniversary.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Savage Beauty, Now Lost

On our last day in New York City Susan told me we were going to the Metropolitan Museum specifically to see a special exhibit of works of a young fashion designer who had died recently. OK, I had been wrong about Bye Bye Kitty but this idea was a deal-breaker. N-O-T interested. N-O-T going to see it, would go to the Hall of Armor instead and see some definite guy stuff. Do I need to tell you that an hour later I was walking into the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit?

There are times when you see an artist's work and you are just stunned by the vastness and depth of their creativity. There are times when your preconceived ideas are so wrong that you are totally humbled. This was one of those times. The dresses, the videos of the shows, the shoes, the acessories, everything ... everything was amazing. For me it wasn't about fashion or clothes, it was all art. And I do understand the difference between runway clothes and real-people clothes. He knew that if he threw art at you, you would be able to pare it down (sadly) to be just clothes.

 Alexander McQueen supposedly had a tattoo on his arm of this quote: " Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind." Perfect. Our short trips to New York City are always expensive but this one exhibit alone was well worth the whole cost. Go here and take the time to see more.

We went in early, just when the museum opened but the exhibit rooms were still very crowded and we had to shuffle along and wiggle around to get up close enough to read the signs. When we came out we saw a huge long line of people standing in line waiting to get in, as they had started controlling the number of people in the exhibit rooms. The wait was estimated to be 45 minutes! What?!?!  Why didn't they come earlier?

We took a break and had a cup of coffee at the American Cafe and then went up to the roof top exhibit where we saw over 30 people standing in line just to buy a drink. What!?!? There had been no line at the  Cafe. What is with the people in New York who will tolerate standing in long lines for food? Our friendly City native politely pointed out to me the fact that these were obviously tourists standing in line, as true City natives stand on line.

Well, in Texas we draw a line in the sand and choose to step over it.

Note: The Alexander McQueen show has turned out to be so popular and so crowded for viewing that the museum has extended the dates of the show and is now allowing special viewing times when the museum is normally closed. The ticket for this viewing time is $50. If we were to go back to the museum I would gladly pay that. And I'm basically a cheap guy. Yes, the show is that good.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facing The Blank Canvas

 I can't seem to get that painting urge out of my system so Susan decided to have me channel it in another direction - on to canvas. Yikes! I've never done that. What the hell do you do with a blank canvas? She found me four very small canvases and told me that it would be very simple. I was to paint four new "faces", just like the ones I've already done in clay.  Stay tuned because it might just happen.

In the meantime, another reject ceramic piece might need painting.