Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is it worth it?

6 jars of cinnamon peach jam
12 quarts of tomato sauce
10 pints of chopped tomatoes
8 pints of tomato soup
20 pints of corn
8 pints of green beans

And I've only just started.

I like preserving my own food. The peach jam is even sugar free just sweetened with apple juice and honey. It tastes so fresh. Yes, it is time consuming and no, I'm  pretty sure there is no money saved doing this. But I find it satisfying to know exactly what's in my food and where it came from. Pretty much all of our food comes from the local farmers market directly from the people who grow it. Of, course there is tomatozilla out in the back garden so a few of those tomatoes were grown by us.

But is it worth it to put up your own food? I seriously question this sometimes. Especially when I've spent hours on my feet over a hot kettle of water. But then I think that if I had a choice between Mac Donalds or a really fine restaraunt
(somebody else is paying for this :-), I'd probably choose the fine restaraunt. That's kind of how I feel about store bought canned tomatoes. They are the Maccers of my world.

But the really, very most special worthwhile of this is sharing this food with my family. My son and his family will be here this weekend and I know absolutely that homemade peach jam will be a hit and that jars of preserves will go home with them. I know my son will recall counting of "pops" as jar lids seal. The licking of spoons when jam is finished. Preserving food is family tradition and it is full of wonderful memories. Pretty worthwhile just for that.

Oh you were wondering about beads? There is a kiln chockers full of beads firing right now.

39 beads
20 acorns
23 owls
25 birds
32 pendants

I like counting things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Plentiful Sunshine

That's what the weather report for today said. We're not having just any old ordinary sunny day. We are having plentiful sunshine. That makes me smile. A day abundant and plentiful with sunshine.

What also makes me smile is that autumn seems just around the corner. When I went out with the dogs early this morning it was a mere 62F degrees. I actually shivered and thought about putting on a hoody. I love autumn. And over the last few days I have been making beads like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. Hundreds of beads. I am not entirely sure what got into me.

There are beads in sassy new shapes and textures. I can't wait to glaze these up. I am seeing corals, and pumpkin, and toasty rust colours. Maybe some blues too because I still like blue even in autumn.

And there old familiar beads. Lots of birds. I love making birds. I feel peaceful when I make them.

Now I think I will head out and enjoy some more of that plentiful sunshine before Hurricaine Irene heads into the Carolinas. Because when that happens it will be plentiful rain and wind.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The secret of the absurd tomato

Folks, that up there is my one and only tomato plant this year. It is an absurd size. Ludicrous, absurd, ridiculous. I have never ever grown a tomato this size. Peter (looking a bit ridiculous himself) is 5'11" tall, that gives a little idea how big this tomato is. And it's actually tipping over right now because not even the fence post we put in to hold it up is keeping it upright. It's the godzilla of tomato plants. This tomato is taking over, marching out into the yard bit by bit.

Just two months ago, that tomato was this size. Tiny really and I wondered whether I would ever see a ripe tomato off this wee little plant. Peter has now stopped counting how many maters have set. He stopped counting at 42. It seemed absurd to keep counting. Clearly this tomato is producing fruit.We've even had some ripen. Just this week in fact. I'd show you a picture, but, well, we ate them. Yummy.

I am pretty certain this is the secret ingredient to growing tomato plants to an absurd size. Yep, that's right. Cow poop, lots of cow poop. Miracles are made of cow poop. I am totally convinced.

Have a great weekend. Go get yourself some cow poop and see what wonders you can grow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shhhh, don't tell Peter

But I am secretly delighted that he's gone back to work. The first semester of the university started on Monday and I've had  3 entire days all to myself. Now don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed having Peter around this summer. But, sheesh, three months?

Look at that table full of bronze pieces up there. I've gotten so much done. It feels good to be able to just work away in my studio with no distractions. It's almost like a guilty pleasure. It's almost as good as chocolate. OK, chocolate is much better.

I love the way these beads look like a small army marching away in a sort of confused disorganized way.

These beads look a little like ginger snaps to me. I'd like to have a ginger snap right now. But I've sworn off sugar and I am nearly certain that ginger snaps are full of sugar.

And then I had a bead cap binge today. There is no easily understood rationale for having a bead cap binge. Except maybe that swearing off sugar, which unfortunately includes chocolate and giner snaps, has forced me into binging in other ways.

I think maybe having all of this time to myself is making me delirious. Or seriously hungry. Or both. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Art of Happiness

" I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…" the Dalai Lama

One of the things I do each day, and often several times, is to give gratitude for the things in my life that bring me happiness. Sometimes those are large things but quite often they are small things. Little things that might go unnoticed if I let them pass me by.

I finished this necklace as part of the LMAJ Art Spark this month. I started it quite a while ago. The challenge this month is to create something that expresses what makes you happy. As I thought about it, I realized that at the core of my happiness are these small pauses I take in my day to acknowledge those things around that I am grateful to have in my life.

This bead has been sitting on my work table for months. I've always loved this bead and just could never commit to putting in any one piece. It was a gift from Kelley several years ago.  I've never met Kelley except through our blogs but I've shared friendship with Kelley through our blogs just as I've shared friendship with you. This bead has found a home as a reminder of the gratitude I feel for friendship and its place in my own happiness.

I'm not sure why, but lately the small details in life are the things that give me the most happiness. Itty bitty things like noticing a finch at my feeder or the look on my old dog Bob's face when I give him a deep rub on his stiff neck, the song of the cicada, the taste of fresh figs. All small things that might pass me by.

The focal for this necklace is a bronze medalion with the mantra "om mani padme hum." I often chant this mantra as it centers me. Lord, knows, there are lots of times when I need to center myself. I don't actually do a formal meditation each day. The truth is that I'm actually rather bad at that. I do sort of spread my meditation out through the day in small pauses. I'm not sure that it matters if you call it prayer, meditation, or sauntering through the woods like Thoreau, but pausing to give gratitude has been the greatest source of happiness in my life.

This necklace is a gift to myself, it' a reminder to pause, to experience, to feel the source of my own happiness.

And speaking of happiness, we are making some progress on resolving the kiln issue.  In fact that makes me enourmously happy. Thank you all for the support you've given me when I had my little rant the other day. I've heard from lots of you and I'll give you an update soon. I've also had quite a few inquiries about selecting a kiln and avoiding this problem. I'll write something up soon, promise. Meanwhile feel free to contact me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Slaying Dragons

It's been a long, tough week. But looking up at those bronze pieces all ready to get polished up makes me happy. Makes me feel like something good got done besides dealing with dragons.

I made myself another bracelet this week. The bronze button on it was one I made a while ago for no particular reason. I'm really liking leather these days. I think it's bringing out the Xena Warrior Princess in me but minus the leather corset. I really don't have the figure for it and besides it seems much too hot a garment for the summer weather.

It's a pretty simple bracelet. Just a double strand of leather, button, lampwork bead, wrapped three times.It's a simple piece.  I think I needed a little simple.

Did you ever wonder if I might make any cermaic pieces again? Me too. That's where the slaying dragons comes in. I have this wonderful new stoneware clay. It's quite a departure from what I might normally use in my designs. I've been wanting to try out some new ideas and a few months ago decided to buy a new small kiln. A smaller kiln would allow me to do some testing and have a quicker turn around on results. I could do special orders more easily. Lots of reasons really why I wanted this.

I carefully researched kilns, firing specifications, wiring specifications, even did testing on the wiring in my studio to be sure that it met the specifications of the kiln. I decided on a model from a manufacturer who has a very good reputation. I have one of their kilns and it's been a good kiln. One that I like very much. I bought from a ceramics supplier that I use much of the time. I trusted these people.

I've lost most of two loads in my brand new kiln. It works but it does not actually fire to the temperatures that are specified by the manufacturer and the supplier. It comes close but not close enough. It's been a week of back and forth between the supplier, manufacturer, and myself. It's been pretty awful with both the manufacturer and the supplier indicating that the problem is mine. That I do not have the optimum electrical supply that this kiln would require. By the way, no one else in the US does either. It's summer, voltage drops, etc, I won't get into the specifics. The kiln does not reliably operate in the range that it should and even the manufacturer sort of admits this.

We may or may not be making some progress on this. It's been exhausting. There's been this niggling feeling that being a woman is not helping out here. Ceramics for many years was dominated by men, especially when it came to the technical side of thing like kilns. I thought we'd gone past that. But no, only when I put my husband on the phone did we begin to take even a tiny shuffle in any direction like progress. That's quite depressing. But the problem has still not been resolved. I feel like I am slaying dragons and desperately wishing that Xena might show up to give me a hand.

I could go on at length in this mini rant of mine. I don't usually rant on this blog. But just this once it feels quite good let some of this out. So thank you for taking the time to listen just a little bit.

Do you see that little bird up there on our feeder? It's a cardinal. They visit me every day. Today I'll be in my studio getting out some clay and watching for these little fellows to come by and pay a visit. They make me happy. They help me to keep life in perspective.