Before and After

Do you remember these "faceted" mugs?

This is what they look like now, hot out of the kiln.

And this plain jar that I dressed up with some sgraffitto on the lid?

I had some fun with the glaze technique on this and thought it came out well.
It'll hold a good dozen or two of cookies.

I did a post showing how I made these textured rims on plates and bowls.
I used a piece of bath mat!

I think they would look well in a country cottage kitchen.

I made a number of vases with carved surfaces.

They kind of have an ancient or native feel to them.

The vase on the left ended up with tooling all the way to the bottom.

And this is how it looks now. Just a simple white glaze.

I love this view the best. I would display it this way if it didn't roll off the table.

Please tell me what you think- did you enjoy seeing the process of how pottery is made?

gym treats

It's their reward for going to the gym with me. Their choices are a whole-fruit popsicle, a brown-rice crispy treat (yes, they are as yucky as they sound...sorry Trader Joes, but it's one of the few things I don't like that you sell, BUT my kids love them), or a small amount of melted milk chocolate that they dip like 20 strawberries in.

Today, they chose popsicles.

Not much. You?

The kiln didn't reach temperature until 4:00 a.m. after which I got four whole hours of sleep. Needless to say, I was dragging my tail all day yesterday. Came home after a coffee date to find that red Ukranian egg dye had been spilled on the wood floor. I proceeded to ignore it so that I wouldn't have a nervous breakdown in my sleep deprived state.

Today is a new day.

The baby goat kids are hopping, skipping and jumping in the goat pen. Those critters are so stinkin' cute.

I'm warming the oven to bake some jalapeno cheese sourdough bread. I'm trying to perfect the artisan bread technique. Surprisingly, no one seems to complain about all this fresh bread in the kitchen.

After bread I'm going shopping. I need to find some Easter clothes for the boys. Nothing like the last minute to get things done.

When I get home from shopping I'll see if the firing was a disaster or a success. Film at eleven.



What are you doing today?

Story time with Author Conrad Storad

What a fun Kids Activity Day we had last week. A well known local author, Conrad Storad, came to read two of his books and sign some of his books. It was a beautiful day out and we enjoyed listening to him read his new book "Rattlesnake Rules". We then had a fun question/answer session with his snake puppet. Afterward he read "Don't Call Me Pig" his most well known book. After the story time he signed books for the kids and showed us many more of the books he has written.


  • Shad and I were at Target the other night, actually on a date come to think of it. We go on super exciting dates. Usually it's a toss up between Costco or Target. After we go out to dinner of course. Has anyone else noticed how there are no good movies out lately? Anyhow, back to my point, we're at Target, a place Shad doesn't spend nearly enough time at. While I'm in the baby aisle, Shad informs me that he's going to take a look at the toys and comes back with two HUGE Nerf guns in his cart . He wanted to buy more, but he bought the last two. He said they are for Tanner, Kate and him to play with at night. I eyed him with a look that asked, "are these really for the kids, or for you?" He smiled. However, they have played with them every day since he bought them. They set up forts and run around the house hiding and hunting each other down. No one is aloud to shoot Kate though. She'd flip out.

  • Has anyone see Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? Holy smokes. If you want to gag and never want to see a chicken nugget ever ever again, cry at the crap we feed our kids even though we live in the most prosperous nation, and yet be inspired to more tears at his mission, watch this show. He rocks. Even if you're not into this, you gotta watch just to hear his voice. His London cool.
  • Time Warner upped our cable bill to $67 a month. We were paying $29 a month. What the crap? Over a 100% increase in one month? I know we were getting a good deal before, but "cable prices have gone up across the nation" is hard to buy. We're thinking of dropping it. We're so into our Desperate Housewives on Netflix, I think we'll be okay. I will desperately miss Modern Family though and now Food Revolution. Shad and I got really bored with The Office and 24 this year. Two of our favorites. What happened this season?
  • Last Saturday morning, Shad and I wanted to sleep in. Of course we have 3 kids, five and under, so that makes it a bit tricky. We bribed Tanner and Kate with frozen yogurt at Costco later in the day and went back to bed. An hour and a half later, Kate comes running in with ice cream all over her face. From forehead to chin. Tanner however, is perfectly clean. Out in the kitchen is a melted container of ice cream. We ask, "Did you guys sneak ice cream?" They both enthusiastically with smiles on their faces, answer, "No". Hmmmm....I ask again. "Did you have ice cream?" Again, they say, "No". So I go into the whole "it's worse to lie than to tell the truth even if you did something bad..." I ask again and they confessed. It was hard to be upset though, because we did get a good nap and what can we really expect when having a 5 year-old babysit his 3 year-old sister, when there's forbidden ice cream in the freezer?
  • We've been going to the gym. It's my life saver and I am loving it. I get 45 minutes of uninterrupted time to workout and maybe even go pee all by myself without a child sitting on my lap. Pure bliss.
  • This one is in no need of a caption...

  • Kate is such a girlie girl yet wants so bad to be like her brother. For instance, she is obsessed with her "golden shoes" and wants to wear them everywhere. She will want me to wear my "golden shoes" too (metallic ballet flats), so we can match, "cuz we are both girls Mom". Yet, she LOVES playing with army guys, Batman and Robin. If Tanner is ever at a friend's house, she is occupied the WHOLE time by sneaking and playing with all of his Batman toys and Dragon Castle. She loves it. With some of her birthday money, she bought a bucket full of green army men.
  • Tanner is obssessed with looking up which toys he wants to buy on Amazon. We finally had to put a password on the computer to keep him off of it because it's all he'd want to do. It drove me nuts. The only problem with his whole "chores = money" plan, is that he has majorly forgotten the "chore" part. He only wants to look at the toys and talk about them. It's like pulling teeth to get the kid to actually do a chore anymore.
  • Elle is a dream baby. She is so good. The sleep could be better (or a lot better), but she's only 7 weeks, so I'm content. She smiles all the time. She looks just like Tanner did as a baby. It's like his face with Kate's hair. She's really strong. She's tried to hold her head up since birth and is always trying to stand up on her tiny legs. I'm still not sure how she's still in one piece. Tanner and Kate love her, smother her, squish her, lay on top of her and rub their tired faces all over her face. I'm mostly worried about her little arms being pulled out of their sockets. She puts up with it all.
  • I'm back to Weight Watchers. Of course it's a good thing and I'm excited to slim down and be able to fit into my clothes again, but I'm having a really hard time not day-dreaming about Cadbury mini-eggs and Reese's Peanut Butter eggs. Yumm. I know I could eat a small portion and be alright, but that's not what I want to do. I want to sit down with a whole bag (not an individual size) and eat as many as I want. Dieting is a bummer always. But especially at Easter time.
  • Here is my cute new family (minus me of course):

  • Here's a yummy recipe I made for my dinner group today:


* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
* 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 cup frozen corn kernels
* 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,

3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

**I added chopped cherry tomatoes and avocado.

If you haven't ever used quinoa...give it a shot. It's good stuff. Major superfood. Kate loves it.

baby elle, 7 weeks

I was looking through Tanner's album of his first year of life and there must be hundreds, if not thousands of photographs of him from birth to 7 weeks. Usually there are about 20 shots of one facial expression, and you can't really tell the difference between each of the 20 shots, but as a first time mother I just couldn't part with any of them. Elle is a whole other story. I try to take pictures, but getting a spare moment to do it, is close to impossible. But here's to you baby Elle. We quickly snapped a few this morning, before all hell broke loose between your older two siblings. Love you sweetie, more than you'll ever know.

Firing Log

Note: I will be updating the firing log throughout the day as the kiln fires.

6:30 a.m. It's just getting light and it's raining. Kristin and I (still in my p.j.s) head out to the kiln studio to light the kiln. Kristin has his camera with plans to make a video of the firing process. I place the cone packs in position in the kiln. Using a candle and a book of matches I light the "ring of fire" that lights the eight burners under the kiln. The burners will not stay lit. After several attempts we notice the thermocouple for the safety shutoff is out of place. Even after repositioning the thermocouple, the burners will not stay lit. After consulting with Mr. Dirtywrench we determine to replace the thermocouple but have to wait until the hardware store opens at 8:00 a.m.

8:12 a.m. Kristin returns from the hardware with a new thermocouple. He installs it for me (what a good son!) and I attempt to light the burners again. The wet breeze from the hard steady rain extinguishes every match. Finally, with my very last match, my candle stays lit and I light the ring of fire again. With a whoosh, the burners softly pop with flame. I wait a few seconds and let go of the safety switch....success!! The burners stay lit. I adjust the propane gas pressure as low as I can make it, prop the kiln door open and let the kiln warm slowly for an hour. With this late start it's going to be a long day and a late night.

12:30 p.m. This firing isn't starting out very well. After shutting the door and slowly warming the kiln to take it easy on the cold kiln bricks and furniture, I turned up the gas at 10:30. By 12:30 I was still only at 500 degrees F which was no change in an hour. I should be getting a 200 degree increase per hour. What in the world is going on? I don't know if it is the weather or something with the gas or what. I turned up the fuel gauge again and the temp jumped 60 degrees in five minutes. I had to back it down because we don't want to go too fast.

It's a rainy day and I've been told the barometric pressure on a rainy day is right for a good reduction firing. My experience is that the best firing I've ever done was last summer on a clear, sunny July day. I'm so ignorant and inexperienced that these things really frustrate me. At the rate this firing is going I'll be up with it until 2:00 a.m.

7:30 p.m. Finally, the temperature has reached 1600 degrees F, the first cone in the pack is down and the kiln is ready for body reduction. At this point I slightly close the damper on the flue to restrict the air going into the kiln. This air reduction causes the fuel to be starved for oxygen and to look for it elsewhere. The atmosphere inside the kiln begins to build pressure and to draw oxygen molecules out of the clay bodies and glazes. Drawing oxygen out causes color changes in the clay and glazes. For instance, a reduction atmosphere changes copper from green (oxidized) to red (reduced).

The firing is a good three hours behind the usual schedule. Two hours are due to the delay this morning, the other hour due to a really slow advance of temperature all afternoon. At this rate there is no doubt this firing won't reach final temperature until 3 a.m.

Not happy about that.

Week one report

Down 3.5 pounds. Booyah!

Enjoy this upbeat little ditty. I dare you not to whistle. Mondays need more whistling, for sure.

Pottery: Cone packs

I've been working long hours in the pottery studio. I finally made enough pottery to fill my kiln, bisque fired, made the glazes, glazed the pottery and loaded the kiln. I'm ready to fire!

I've been experimenting with textures and carving patterns in the surface of the clay. The vase on the left became this...

....after the bisque firing (the low fire that hardens the clay for glazing).

Do you remember these?

I glazed each one in a different color.

Glazing these carved and textured pieces was a challenge. I had to make educated guesses about how the glazes would look. It will be exciting to unload the kiln and find out what the fire does to the glazes on these surfaces.

To find out how the loading of the kiln is done, check out another post I did when I was preparing for a firing.

When I fire the kiln to 2380 degrees, I rely on pyrometric cones to help me know what is happening inside the kiln.

Each cone is made to melt at a very specific temperature.

I make "cone packs" with a lump of clay to hold the cones lined up in the order that they will melt.

I place the cone packs behind holes in the kiln door and I watch them melt during the firing.

At the end of the firing they look like this. The lowest temperature cones melt into puddles. The later melting cones bend in the higher heat. When each one begins to bend I can determine the temperature of the interior of the kiln. When the last cone bends it is time to turn off the kiln.

I also have a digital pyrometer which measure the kiln temperature but these cones tell me much more than the modern technology of the pyrometer.

The challenge is to see the cones during the firing through the peep holes in the door.

The firing takes fourteen to sixteen hours. Stay tuned for a video of the kiln firing.
After cooling the kiln for two days, I'll be able to unload and see the results!

Weekend Timeline

Friday evening: I attended a pet expo with the kid. We collected a lot of junk. A lot of the booths had "spin the wheel" games and of course my daughter had to spin every one (usually a buck a spin). She won everything from a stencil to a throw pillow. Since I knew a lot of people there (friends from various rescues), I had to stop several times to run my mouth. Every time I turned around, the kid had something new in her hand or in her mouth (candy giveaways). She may or may not have stolen a plastic chick full of dog treats. I never did figure out where it came from.

Friday night, just before midnight: I got up to use the facilities, and slammed my foot into the step stool in the bathroom. The stool (which is actually a heavy, wooden, two-step affair) has been in that bathroom since last July, but I guess my foot forgot. When I got up the next morning, my toe hurt but did not appear to be broken. I decided to go to Weight Watchers and then to the gym, but figured I'd do a lighter work-out than usual. As I walked briskly on the treadmill, all I could hear in my head was a staccato "ow ow ow ow ow" with every step. My toe proceeded to turn various shades of red and purple as the day wore on. You have no idea how much you use and need all five toes until one of them goes out of commission, let me tell you.

Saturday morning: After completing my session at the gym, I headed to Target to do secret stuff in preparation for the Ectr Bune's arrival. I then hid the goods in the trunk of P's car. I'll almost be disappointed to see Easter come and go, because then I lose a bit of leverage with the kid. ("Do you want me to call him right now? Do you?") When I returned home, I quickly realized how big a mistake I'd made that morning when I'd told P, "When the kid gets up, you can just let her pick something to wear." (Normally I lay out an outfit for her.) What I came home to: Punky Brewster. Naturally, both P and A thought she looked just fine and could not comprehend what I was talking about. Skirt on sideways, top that didn't match the skirt, leggings, tennis shoes, and a headband that matched nothing. This was no fashion misdemeanor - it was a full-on felony.

Saturday afternoon: P took Nyquil (yes, the nighttime stuff. yes, in the middle of the day) and fell into a coma on the couch. I took the kid to see a local comedy troupe - I have friends who are in it. They were having a special event and raffle to benefit two local charities that serve families stricken by cancer. I go to this event every year, but have never won anything. The highlight of the event was when my daughter bent her Sprite-filled straw backward, and then let it go, so that Sprite was catapulted into the air and rained down on the man in front of us. He couldn't figure out where it came from, but I made her apologize to him anyway. He had Sprite all over the back of his shirt and his neck. For the next ten minutes, I was transfixed by a gigantic bead of Sprite that held its place firmly on the back of the man's closely-shorn scalp.

Saturday at around 4:40 p.m.: Used the facilities (without maiming my toe this time) and noted that I'd been wearing my drawers inside out all day.

Saturday evening: P and I went on a date. We dropped the kid off with a babysitter and then began the ever-popular "I dunno - where do YOU want to eat?" debate. We finally decided to try a Mexican place we hadn't been to before. The food was so-so, but the prices were very reasonable. After dinner, we went to see Hot Tub Time Machine. Yes, the humor was sophomoric and there were far too many penis/sperm jokes, but I thought it was funny nonetheless. John Cusack still makes me swoon (the combination of dark hair and dark eyes . . . me like). After the movie we stopped for a drink. We would have stayed for a second, but then we remembered that we are parents. The vaguely responsible kind.

Sunday morning: My toe was now well on its way to purple. I took the kid to church with me. We had a very interesting speaker who covered a weighty topic indeed: science and religion. Oh, and I got a text message from my friend Nancy informing me that I did indeed win something in the raffle! I won a basket full of dog treats and toys. That may be only the third prize I recall winning in my 40 years on the planet.

Sunday afternoon: I invited one of A's friends over for a play date. She'd been asking to have this friend over since September, so I finally decided to issue the invitation. Telling her "but you see that kid every day at school!" wasn't proving very effective anymore. All I heard for three hours was . . . actually, I have no idea what they were saying. I heard a lot of screaming. Once the play date entered its third hour, the girls were bursting into tears at random intervals. So, the party was over and the friend was escorted home.

Then I was met with the aftermath. You know the pink aisle at the toy store where they stick all the Barbies and other girlie stuff? It looked like that aisle threw up in my daughter's bedroom. I gave her multiple chances to clean up the room, threatened to call the Easter bunny, and finally cleaned up most of it myself. There were a few small trinkets left over, so I gave her one last chance to clean them up and when she didn't, I tossed them in the wastebasket. A threw her body over the wastebasket, broke into sobs, and started yelling, "Why? Why?" over and over - just like that scene from Mommie Dearest where Joan Crawford screams at Christina for having a wire hanger in her closet and Christina sobs those same words to herself. Much drama.

Oh, Ectr Bune, is it bedtime yet?

I know a young woman

I know a young woman with beautiful brown eyes and a head full of music and auburn curls. She has birthed two little red-haired boys, and loves them fiercely. She is a wonderful mother, always striking that balance between letting the boys incur a few scraped knees while still keeping them out of harm's way.

She is a free spirit, unattached to material things for the most part. You might call her a hippy chick. She's happy grooving to music (made by offbeat indie bands) on satellite radio and has even been known to beat a tribal drum (literally).

Edicts like "a place for every thing, and every thing in its place" hold little meaning for her. If something explodes in the microwave, she will probably just leave it there. I visited her in her dorm room once when she was in college. "Oh, don't step over there," she instructed me, pointing at a tile on the floor. "Ramen noodle spill."

As a child, she was day-dreamy and thoughtful. On family car trips to Myrtle Beach, we always had to check and make sure she'd made it back into the car after a rest stop. She'd get lost in her own world and not say much for long stretches at a time. We'd tease her about some of her eccentricities, such as the time she cut off her eyelashes. Or, when she'd take the plastic bags in which the Washington Post was delivered to our home, fill them with water, tie them off, and hide them in her dresser drawers. To this day she will not say why.

She is tender-hearted, sensitive. A long-time vegetarian, she cares deeply about animals and is always the first to offer to take in a needy dog, chicken, or goat.

In college, she earned a degree in English, and her offbeat sense of humor comes through in her writing. She writes about her mud-loving sons, her goats, and the music she digs.

A few years ago, she married a man who seemed to love her but then started to bury her bit by bit. He first moved her far away, and then systematically isolated her from everyone who loves her. He canceled their joint bank account and then opened a new one, in his name only. Then he started to chisel away at her self-esteem with a running critique on everyday tasks. Over time she started to forget how smart she is, how creative, how beautiful. She turned her angst inward and wondered what, exactly, had happened.

My baby sister, she worries me so.

Sherried Tomato Soup

I'm in charge of making and serving a luncheon on Saturday for the artists and board of the Gorge Artists Open Studio Tour. About 35 people. The menu is soup, salad and bread.

I just made Pioneer Woman's Sherried Cream of Tomato Soup.

Wow. It is DIVINE.

If you love tomato soup you will swoon over this easy, delicious, semi-homemade version!

Next up- Curried Chicken Potato Soup and Asagio Cheese Sourdough Bread!

A Voice from the Past

Five years ago I went to Michigan to be present for the birth of our first grandchild. After that important event had come to pass my daughter and I, with the new baby in tow, made a few fun little trips around the area. One of the places we went was a large antique store. The store had a wall size old library card file. This large wooden piece had many rows of small drawers. In the drawers were old postcards that had been cataloged according to their subject. Food, flowers, cars, tractors, fishing, hunting- any subject that had ever been on a postcard were in those drawers. There was also one drawer for each of the fifty United States. I spent a lot of time digging in the Oregon drawer and ended up buying nearly every card in it. I think I bought forty or fifty Oregon themed antique postcards. I took them home and sold most of them at a local gift shop for twice what I paid for them.

But I did keep a few special ones for myself.

This is a picture of our valley, a view we see nearly every day.

This is the Hood River bridge that crosses the Columbia River to Washington state. We've driven over this bridge countless times.

This is a scene just up the road from our place. It's a paved highway to the mountain now.

The famous Multnomah Falls, before the development and bridge...the postmark on the back of this one is 1906.

...and another from after the walking bridge was built.

This is one of my favorites, but not for the picture of the gorge and the well known Crown Point on the front.

I kept it because of the sweet love letter on the back. It was written by a lonely soldier during World War II who was stationed in the Northwest, far from his midwestern home where his wife waited for his return.
3-29-42 11:30 a.m. Sunday

(Notice this is almost exactly 68 years ago!)

My Darling Mummie, Just a week ago today is when I received the letter you wrote on the 22nd. Gee Mummie I get awful blue, when I don't here from you. Mail don't mean much if you don't write. I walked Guard 8 hr a.m. awful tired, got off at 9:00 ate + shower + shaved + was in church at 10:00 was a splendid sermon, was thinking of you Continuously was praying for all + especially you my Darling Wife. They have silent prayer + Mummie, I prayed you'd be O.K. + we'd get together safe soon + never be parted again. I Love you Darling true blue as can be. Later in the week, you'll see why I went to town. I couldn't buy anything, but sure sent my Love and Kisses with what I did. I received a letter from "Al" I sure was surprised, but I thought it was from you, when I heard I had one I came off guard + looked up the sgt. and was disappointed it wasn't from my Mummie.

Such aching emotion. I'm sorry I don't have the card that was written following this one that may have had his name.

Pottery: Mixing glazes

Pottery making is so much more than sitting at a wheel throwing clay into shapes. The steps from raw, wet, malleable clay to finished functional bowls, vases or birdbaths are many. The work can be back-achingly hard, dirty and even dangerous. There is good reason that the occupation of potter has traditionally belonged to men. In the old days clay was dug from the ground and refined before use. Glazes were likewise procured from the earth and kilns were fired with cords and cords of wood over many days.

Thank goodness for modern advances!

But even with electric wheels, ready-made clay and digitally monitored kilns, the work is still hard and dirty and even dangerous.

Don't ask me why I do it. I often wonder myself.

Oh yeah. I'm addicted to clay.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon on one of the back-aching, dirty chores. Mixing glazes from raw chemicals.

It starts with a glaze recipe or formula. This is where I always lament that I didn't do better in high school chemistry class. Glazes formulas are calculated by gram weight. If I want to decrease or increase the amount of glaze I have to watch my numbers. Each raw chemical or element serves a very specific purpose in the glaze- opacifiers, fluxes, colorants, etc.- and each is present in very careful percentages for certain effects. It's a science. And I'm a kindergartener.

Elements in their raw, powdered state are a health hazard. I have to be careful when I store and use them.

Plastic containers with lids work best.

Nevertheless, safety equipment is a must when mixing glazes.

I have an ancient gram scale on which I weigh all my chemicals.

I weigh out each chemical according to the recipe....

This iron will color this glaze a nice brick red. Iron strongly influences colors in glazes from blue to green to brown to black.

I put all the chemicals together dry in a bucket...

...carefully stir them together without creating too much dust...

....and add them to warm water. I do this outside to avoid the hazardous dust it creates.

After mixing I strain the liquid glaze a couple times through a strainer. After a day of mixing and carrying buckets of water and glaze around, my back starts to complain. I've learned to not over-do it. Someday, maybe I'll have a studio assistant for this stuff. Yeah. Right.

After mixing half a dozen glazes and straining the others that had frozen and thawed over the winter, I'm ready to glaze a kiln load of pottery for the next phase of production.