Looking for Ceramics

I was able to take home a couple pieces before I left on my road trip. The kiln was kind. The first orb is decorated in a paisley pattern (because I like paisley) and I was trying out a new toy that cuts out little paisley shapes. Anyway it was fun to make and I was able to finish it within a single class. Because it was the end of the session, many of the glazes were down to the last bits. I figured that was okay since I only needed a dab. Well, I should have know better after all these years. I got suckered again. Seems the last person to use the glazes decided to stretch them by adding a little water. That resulted in the glazes being weak and pale and well, not very vibrant. So although I applied the glaze in what I thought was a thicker coat, they turned out to be a pale imitation of the true glaze colors. Still it is a nice little orb made of white stoneware.
The second orb was an experiment using a new hand extruder. I used the die that made a star. Initially I was going to cover the whole orb with stars but I ran out of time.The stars were glazed with Yellow Salt, which being thinned resulted in an orange color. Not the creamy yellow I had hoped for but still an acceptable color. The swirls and streamers from the stars were glazed with Grape. This too had been diluted resulting in a splotchy blue/purple color. Not horrible but just not what I had hoped for. The majority of the orb is unglazed so it has a raw clay look and feel.

Looking into the Refrigerator

I’m sure you have all done it. That silly thing where you open the refrigerator and stare into the interior. You stand there as if contemplating a modern work of art as the cool air from washes over you. Then you close it and sigh because you didn’t find that one morsel that you were thinking about eating. Then you realize it never was inside the fridge. We started off the self imposed isolation with a packed icebox. I had come home from a mini-vacation to Arkansas with saintvi and decided to spoil Sparky with many of his favorite meals. Mostly because I love him but also because he wanted some real food. I made Rotini with Vodka sauce, Chili soup, Turkey Pot Pie, and some Pumpkin Pear Soup. Then the coronavirus came to town and we embraced social isolation/distancing. That meant no eating out and no shopping. It forced me to make some things I’d been saving for another day. For St. Patrick’s Day I did corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes. I made Thai Pho and I roasted a chicken.

With the leftover chicken I made chicken omelets and some Chicken Enchiladas (after a couple of lunches of just reheated chicken, gravy and mashed potatoes. Since I only had 6 flour tortillas and one chicken breast I think they turned out really nicely. Sparky was very satisfied and said they were excellent!

Since my Thai Pho is a real winner I thought you’d all want the recipe. So here it is (along with color commentary):
Preparation: This is the hardest part! Wash and slice thinly 8 oz white mushrooms. I just happened to have these on hand because Sparky is always making salads. Then cut one crown of broccoli into small florets (again I almost always keep fresh broccoli in the fridge). Cut ~ 12 oz. of carrots into matchsticks (or buy them already cut that way but I had to do it by hand so it was tedious). Peel and de-vein half a pound of shrimp. (I bought jumbo Patagonian Red Shrimp in December when they were on super sale for $5.99 a pound thinking I’d save them for making skewers on the grill this spring.) If they are the big ones you’ll need to chop them into bite size pieces.

Pour 2 cartons (32 oz each) of seafood stock into a large soup pot (again I keep a variety of at least 6 of these on hand during the winter because I do make lots of soup). Add an additional 32 oz of tap water. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the carrots and mushrooms. Cook until tender. Add the broccoli and shrimp cooking until the shrimp is done. Add 2 nests of mung bean thread noodles and submerge them into the boiling water. Cook until the noodles are completely translucent. Add 1 level teaspoon of yellow Thai curry powder. Stir well and allow to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve. Garnish with fresh cilantro or basil leaves (of course I didn’t have either since we are avoiding the grocery store).

Hints and Tips:
The noodles are really stretchy and kind of hard to manage if you don’t cut them into shorter lengths. This is best done before putting them into the soup. I use my kitchen sheers and cut them over the pot to corral the stray bits. Also the amount of heat you like for your soup is directly related to the amount of curry added. A single teaspoon give this a little zing but not so much that you need to guzzle water or any other beverage. Sparky is prone to sprinkling a little additional curry into his bowl since he likes the heat! Just be aware that most Thai dishes are very spicy – even when they try to make them “mild”. I recommend starting with 1/2 teaspoon and working up from there if you are not familiar with curry. I use one nest of noodles per person. I only cook the noodles as needed because if you put them into the soup and then refrigerate the leftovers they absorb all the liquid. And I mean ALL the moisture. So it is best to add more noodles as you reheat the soup.

Looking for Clarity

Day breaks and the veil is lifted
Into the darkness light is sifted
With rains the sky is cleansed
I see clearly through a new lens
From a cave I burst into bright day
The blindfold removed as I run away
Leaving behind sorrows and tears
New found courage replaces my fears
I run to the edge and leap for the sky
Confident that truly I can finally fly

There are moments in every life where in an instant you can see clearly. What we do with that truth is the measure of our heart and mind. I was driving to the university and all of a sudden I saw clearly the situation that had been hovering before me. With that clear vision I could also see the path that would lead me away from the confusion and uncertainty. It seemed so simple. However my frustration and even anger had obscured the solution. I was able to let go of all of the roadblocks and deal with problem efficiently.

I know you are all wondering what my problem was. Well, it related to my former work and the expectation by some that I was still responsible for certain tasks. I am now able to chuckle softly and respond with civility. And I’m retired and I don’t work for them and I’m not responsible for their problems… (shakes head and laughs hard in the privacy of my home).

Looking to Keep My Distance

We are self isolating and keeping a respectable distance from other humans. Sparky has been informed that the county library is officially closed. The good news is that since the budget was approved and money allotted, he will be paid for all his scheduled hours through the end of March. Not that he is making tons of moolah working 16 hours a week. I on the other hand have had scheduled studies (which end today). Even though the university is closed, some functions continue including research. The new rules however are a little strange.

1. No more than 1 (one) person in a room at a time.
2. Keep 6 feet away from all other people at all times.
3. Only wear a mask when working in BSL-2 areas.
4. Gloves are not required except when handing animals and working in BSL-2 areas.

Sounds fairly easy, no? Well rules 3 & 4 fly in the face of all the rules that I worked so hard to enforce. You see the reason for requiring masks and gloves was stated that the masks were to keep you from exposure to the animals and animal allergens as well as keep the animals from exposure to your germs (that could compromise the research). The use of gloves is imperative to protect the staff and researchers from the animals and also to protect the animals from the staff and students! So if they suspend use of either then it begs the questions:

1. If gloves and masks are not going to be required, are they putting the staff and students at risk?
2. If there is no risk to the people then why was it so strictly enforced??
3. If the risk is to the animals only, then why are they not concerned that animals with a value of hundreds of dollars each could be damaged?
4. And from the standpoint of a former compliance officer, this will make it hellish hard to convince people that wearing the proper PPE is necessary. You will have to come up with a plausible reason. Saying that it is now (since there is no longer a shortage due to hoarding) required will make them wonder if their safety mattered so little… GAH! I must repeat “Not my monkey, not my circus!”

In other news as I have been going to the university for the study, I’ve noticed a new phenomenon. People driving and really getting into my personal space with their cars. So far I’ve been tailgated both on the way in and on the way out of work. I’m not talking about following a little close. I’ve experienced the “I can see your nose hairs.” close. The drivers have been crazy. I had a guy flip me off because I dared to come to a complete stop at a stop sign! I’ve been honked at because I paused and looked both ways before turning right on red. Perhaps they have fevers and are super cranky as they succumb to COVID-19. Maybe they are frantically on a search for toilet paper. I just don’t know. Whatever it is, it makes me want to stay home even more! I guess they don’t think keeping a distance applies for driving!!

Covid versus Corvid

There is no lull in the news concerning the coronavirus referred to as COVID-19 that emerged in the Wuhan area of China. It is spreading throughout the US at an alarming rate. When I left for my road trip there were cases in California, Washington, New York, and Florida. They were supposedly contained. There are now confirmed cases in nearly every state. Those states without confirmed cases just aren’t testing. The states are pretty much on their own since our government has not responded with any clarity or speed. Here in Indiana, the schools have closed and switched to all online learning, all gatherings are cancelled, even my ceramics class has been postponed. Currently there are a few places that continue to operate – Planet Fitness, most restaurants (but they urge you to do carry out). Even the Catholic Church has closed. The Bishop has declared that there will be no Sunday obligation and no public Mass for all of March. All church events have been called off – Feast of St. Joseph dinner, trivia night, youth group, all meetings (even AA), and the soup suppers. It is a scary time. Even so, I won’t lie. When I first saw the headlines proclaiming COVID-19 linked to hundreds of deaths in China, my though was “Dang it! The crows (Corvids) are being blamed again!” Of course they are not the culprits after all. That “R” makes all the difference. I’m relieved because I like crows. They are smart. They are problem solvers and even use tools. They are social and loyal (mating for life) and they believe in family. The knowledge of one generation is passed on to another. It includes what to be afraid of and who is a friend. They will even thank humans who feed them by leaving trinkets. For 27 years I walked into work at the same time every day. Most days the “Crow Boys” as I named them, would caw a greeting from their perches on the roof peaks as I walked to the building. There were three of them and they would fly down to look me over when I’d wear a different hat. They recognized my chipmunk, rabbit and bear hats. One summer I tossed some leftover potato chips into the trash barrel at the entrance to the parking lot. They went wild. For a couple weeks they would swoop down to sit on the fence and the barrel edge as I approached. Most of the time they would be disappointed and it would show in their attitudes and postures. But when I would toss anything edible in they were like kids on Christmas! That is the only part of working that I really miss…

Murder is in the air

Rise and fall of black confetti
Midwestern volcanic ash rains
Too big and black for cinders
Carried on currents chaff from grains

Observe sesame sprinkled clouds
I scan the sky at fading light
They sift earthward soot flakes
Swept away on windy winter night

Looking at Knots

She tied the knot in the corner of the bed sheet
A mumbled prayer dribbled off her lips
Past the woman tying knots in a hankie
Tears running off her chin to splash
Across her wedding ring
A reminder of the knot tied so long ago
She walked to the desk her stomach in knots
From anxiety and fear and lack of lunch
All the knots frayed from holding so long
Knowing that the knot holding this man
To his life was loosening
No amount of fancy rope work
Bowline, half hitch or square knot
Would tie him up and keep him here

They don’t allow it anymore. A longtime ago the nurses would tie a knot in the corner of the sheet of a patient on the brink of death. The superstition was that by tying a knot in the sheet the person would be “tied” to this life and not pass on your shift. Now any nurse caught performing this little ritual would be reprimanded and possibly fired. We as a species have a long history of knot tying. We do it all the time either literally or figuratively. When was the last time you were tied in knots or tied something in knots??

Looking Lucky

Today is Friday the 13th. To me it isn’t a big deal as it is just another Friday. In the larger scheme of things it is the day before Goodwill half price day. There is no real significance and no danger that I attach to this particular date. However I have friends who get a little nervous on any Fridays that land on the 13th day of any month. On days like today they would light a candle at the Grotto, say an extra prayer, refuse to make any left turns in the car, call in sick and stay in bed all day… My father was born on the 13th so every so many years his birthday would fall on a Friday. That meant cake for dessert (not an unlucky event to my mind). In fact there are more good things about Friday the 13th than bad:

☘ It is a Friday and that makes it a good day.
☘ Fridays are traditionally pay days.
☘ Friday there are special deals at some of my favorite restaurants.
☘ Friday high school sports – be it football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.
☘ Open Mic night at a couple venues.
☘ No cover charge at the Black Cat.
☘ They put out the new Woo-hoos at Kroger.
☘ Lenten Fish Fry nights!
☘ Fried Squid on the buffet at Hibachi Grill.

So there you have it. A lovely bulleted list of lucky things. I think today is not only pay day but date night. Maybe we will go to Hibachi Grill or maybe the Jonah Fish Fry at Church (served by the Sons of St. Monica). So the big question is whether you think Friday the 13th is a lucky or unlucky day?

Looking Belligerent

The amount of saber rattling is deafening. I remember in the past that Presidents and Congress took military actions when they deemed it necessary. It was never a popular decision especially for those families who sent sons (and in more recent years daughters) into the fray. There have been many conflicts that the USA entered because of commitments to allies or to protect American holdings. The recent past conflicts seem to have been instigated in an effort to gain access to natural resources, most notably oil. The aggressor has been America. This has been a major shift into preemptive attacks on other sovereign nations. The pattern is terrifying. First there is the building media finger pointing. Followed by threats real and imagined that are fed to our elected representatives. Legislators are painted as unpatriotic if they vote against war. Then there is the ultimatum and the threat of violence. The clock ticks and the war machine is mobilized. Soldiers are sent into battle. We don’t say 25 soldiers were killed in fighting. No, soldiers are referred to as troops and we don’t show any of them returning in caskets. But we would do well to remember that the troops are comprised of individuals, sons and daughters that could be killed at the behest of our government. War is a horrific event and as such should be avoided. The Selective Service Act states that male citizens between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register for the draft and are liable for training and service until the age of 35. My sons are soon to be past the age for conscription. That is a personal relief but only means that others will be forced to serve. In a war even the victors lose.

Below is a little free verse concerning war and the consequences that follow.

He drives the combine over fields
Engine roars as each back snaps
Death machines leave frozen stalks
As lives are harvested in their prime
An enemy attacked no surprise
Orchestrated by persistent goads
Fallow lives fallen no loss seen
For excess men employed
In war’s wearying work
This reclamation of iron and water
Spilled in battle makes for fertile soil
And feeds conflict’s enterprise
Balances grow in offshore accounts
Impoverished mothers mourn lost sons
While politicians debate the cost
Of munitions and armored tanks
The reaper laughs and begs for more
While God’s tears water the fields
Growing a new crop ready for harvest

Looking at Cookies

It is that time of year when I am able to purchase the single most sought after cookie on the planet, the Girl Scout Cookie. I personally favor the Thin Mint where Sparky is overly fond of the Caramel deLites (aka Samoas). We now have a couple boxes of each stashed in the pantry for special occasions like if the Pope were to visit. As I was looking at the cookies I started thinking about cookies and how I eat them. So there are only 4 store cookies I am willing to spend my hard earned cash on: Thin Mints, Oreos, Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers, and Almond Windmill Cookies. (All others are but pale imitations of real cookies.) A couple of months ago Oreo came out with a mystery flavor filling in their cookies. It was a contest and if you guessed correctly you could be entered into a drawing for some sort of prize. Saintvi had some and offered me one to get my opinion on the flavor. She was aghast at my method of eating an Oreo.

1. Oreo cookies (original chocolate only as the others are an abomination especially the double stuff): Without milk the only real option is to pop the whole thing into your mouth. Forget twisting the halves apart. If you eat the middle out you are not an adult. If there is milk available the method changes to submerging the whole cookie into the milk and fishing it out just before it disintegrates. Place the whole cookie into your mouth. With either method chew and swallow and enjoy the lovely chocolate flavor.

2. Thin Mints: To really enjoy these you must freeze them first. Once frozen it is imperative you have cold milk available. To consume the cookie take a small nibble through the chocolate coating and into the cookie proper at opposite sides. Place one opening in the milk and use the cookie as a straw to suck milk through the cookie until the cookie is filled with milk. This may take a couple swallows of milk. Then place the whole cookie in your mouth and mush it up with the tongue before chewing and swallowing. Follow each cookie with a good swig of milk.

3. Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers: Like Thin Mints this cookie is best with milk. Again, take a nibble off opposite corners but don’t try to suck on the cookie. The graham cracker is very absorbent. Submerge the cookie in milk and observe the air escaping the corner. When no more bubbles rise, gently remove the cookie and bite off the far end. The interior should be soft and saturated with milk. Be careful not to drip.

4. Almond Windmill Cookie: This is a crunchy cookie with lots of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. The originals have a square hole in the middle. This cookie requires concentration since to eat it you bite away at the edges until the cookie resembles a Chinese coin. Once it is the size of a 25-cent piece it can be eaten in a single bite. These tend to be a dry cookie and should be followed by a beverage. I prefer milk or hot chocolate but most folks like them with coffee or tea. The heathen will dunk them into the tea or coffee or nibble them into odd shapes like guns, boats or animals. I am refined.

So there you have it. I much prefer homemade cookies. I think my favorite is chocolate mint chip. Although saintvi makes a Pfefferkuchen (pepper cookie) that is very very tasty! But if I am going to eat a store bought cookie I’m going to do it right!

Looking at a Road Trip

I am not at home. Yes you read that right. I have flown the coop so to speak. I joined saintvi on a road trip to the deep south. I am currently on my way to Arkansas. I will be returning to Indiana on Saturday March 14th. Although I took my computer with me I’m planning on being much too busy to read and respond to your blog posts and any comments… Well, that’s the plan. Sort of. You see traveling with saintvi is an adventure, in a “flying by the seat of your pants” way. Now I have to admit that it seems to work well for her. But my OCD requires a tad bit more, um, organization. I tend to pack the suitcase in a very specific way. First I examine the weather forecast and make a list by day and high/low temps and chance of precipitation. Then I list what I plan to wear each day. All the clothes are staged and packed so that they are placed into the suitcase in order that they will be worn with the last things on the bottom. I also made a list of the shoes I plan to wear with each outfit in an effort to minimize the number of pairs to take. So as you can see, this is not a toss it in and zip it up process. It requires planning and at least 3 to 4 days. I made several lists, checked them off as things went into the bags. And still I forgot some things. *sigh* I attribute my having left a couple of things to having food poisoning on Monday night and all day Tuesday. It was brutal. I can only blame it on the pizza that Sparky brought for me. It was Hawaiian pizza and I should have just said no. He was contrite but I think deep down he hoped I’d back out of the trip. Anyway I’m having fun and will be doing some geocaching and visiting the source of all things LuLaRoe especially leggings. Not to worry – I won’t buy them at full price ($25) when I can get them for $2.50 at Goodwill!

Anyway I’m a pretty chill traveling companion for the most part. It might take me a little time to figure out the dirty clothes packing options. But other than a very strong need to have a tidy and organized suitcase I have learned to go with the flow… That’s my mantra this coming week – “go with the flow”!