Looking at Laundry

I spent last weekend doing laundry. If truth be told I spend lots of weekends doing load after load of dirty clothes. Laundry is not may favorite activity. I’d still rather do the wash than dust but that’s another blog post. When the boys were home, I’d have at least 7 loads per week. They’ve been out of the house for 4 going on 5 years and I still have too many loads of laundry waiting for me. I think there must be some curse placed on my laundry room. Sparky produces an inordinate amount of clothes that require processing. He has his daily workout clothes which includes shorts, shirt, underwear and socks, and a towel. Then he has 2 jobs – one requires a dress shirt and slacks (dress socks required), the other is a jeans/cargo pants and flannel shirt kind of place. He is making up for the boys moving out! To top it off my washer and dryer are eating my socks. I have a drawer where I toss the odd socks. It used to be that one would get left behind in the washer and would show up with the next load. I’d pair up the socks in the drawer and all would be right with my world. As of this weekend I have 7 black socks (none of which is a mate to any of the others) and 2 white socks.

I imagine that God
To do laundry
So satisfying to get
A stubborn spot out
Everything white
Looking like new
Jesus is the new improved
Gets even the most
Soiled souls sparkly
If only he could
With the missing socks

Looking at a Wonderful Life

Thanksgiving has just passed in a blur of gluttony and conspicuous consumerism. Many of my “friends” on Facebook had been posting things they were thankful for daily on the lead up to the holiday. I am not that dedicated to post daily (though at one time I did). Instead I’m giving you a haiku and a little backstory.

Mark the exact time
A pushpin on life’s road map
Life begins and ends

This last week (November 13th) was my father’s birthday. He would have been 86. He made it to 76 before death caught up to him. And I’m thankful – not for his passing but for his living. He was strict. He was stern. He had a sense of humor and he could laugh! I remember his laugh even though I can’t quite hear his voice after 10 years. (I’m fairly certain that if I heard it I’d immediately recognize it.) He lived well and he instilled in me (and my sisters) certain life lessons that have stood me in good stead. He stressed being financially responsible (setting money aside in savings). He insisted on honesty. He loved books and passed that on to me. He enjoyed a good slapstick movie or the physical humor of Saturday morning TV cartoons. He reveled in Wile E. Coyote’s constant antics that always backfired. To this day I can’t see a Roadrunner cartoon or the word Acme without thinking of my father.

So that brings us to the second portion of this post. I am very thankful for all my family and friends still kicking around on this side of the turf. I have been so busy running in circles that I’ve neglected them. I realize that I need to slow down and interact with them on a more regular basis. This will look like lunch with a former coworker and friend (we haven’t seen each other since her daughter’s graduation party in June). I need to Facetime with my mother hopefully that will have already happened by the time this post is read by anyone. And I need to do it on a more regular basis. I need to call my sisters. I should talk to my fashion consultant (we see each other often but cancer treatment makes it all the more important). I must get together with my “other sister” to go geocaching before the weather gets nasty (We went to the “Messiah Sing Along” last Sunday but it is hard to visit when I am struggling to sing an alto part). Anyway all these people are part of what makes my life wonderful.

Looking into the Soup Bowl

It has been awhile since I posted a recipe. With the colder weather I’ve been in the mood for soup. Growing up my mother would make soup and I really didn’t care for it. (I’m being kind since she reads this blog.) It seemed that her favorite and my least favorite was homemade beef vegetable soup. With that in mind I rarely make beef vegetable soup. In fact for many years the only soups I made were lentil and (when I had a ham bone) ham and bean soup. If I dared make any other kind son #2 would moan and groan that we were having “poup” for dinner. I suppose it was karmic payback. Anyway, after the boys left for college I rediscovered soups much to my husband’s delight. I have been trying out recipes from various sources. All have been good but a few are outstanding.

This is Sweet Potato – Chicken Corn Chowder. The recipe serves 8 if you have small bowls. If you want big bowls it only serves 6.

4 medium to large sweet potatoes – peeled and cubed
32 oz Chicken broth – low sodium works best
2 c. water
2 Telma Chicken Consomme cubes or 1 cube chicken bouillon (the Telma is much better)
1 t. onion powder (NOT onion salt!!)
1/8 t. black pepper
2 pinches ground sage
2 cans cream style corn
1 large or 2 small cans chunk chicken – dump the whole can in (DON’T drain it)
1 cup milk (or milk substitute)
2 T. cornstarch

In a large pot add broth, spices, water, chicken consomme cubes, and cubed sweet potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender. Use an immersion blender and pulse blend until there are only small chunks of potato. Return to the heat and add the corn and the chicken. Bring to a simmer stirring to avoid sticking. Stir corn starch into the milk until dissolved. Pour into the soup stirring constantly until soup thickens. Remove from heat and serve.
This is a favorite and I made a pot of it for Sparky while I was in Baltimore. Needless to say there wasn’t any left when I returned. I’m just glad I got a bowl!

Looking at Life Phases

I just might have to reuse this title in a couple of months. Today however it is just for this very narrow and specific topic – coccoliths. I have been making ceramic interpretations of coccoliths for nearly 10 years. I admit it has been an obsession. There are many different coccoliths in the waters around the globe, currently in excess of 24,000 images have been recorded in the biodiversity database. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that my beloved coccoliths are shapeshifters! To clarify, cocoliths start out with one form and shift to another. Many have ended up with 2 names – one for the motile form and the other for the non-motile form! Who knew?!?! Anyway here is a coccolith that I did previously in another form with another name, Coronaspheara mediterranea. Now it is Zygosphaera hellenica in this form. This has opened up more possibilities. I’m not sure if this means there are fewer different coccoliths or if has potentially doubled the opportunities for more coccoliths. It boggles the mind!

This is Zygosphaera hellenica from the Western Mediterranean in the Alboran Sea. I made it with a clay body made of half porcelain and half white stoneware (I was trying to use up the last of the porcelain and also to reclaim some old white stoneware). It is glazed with Oribe on the discs and Blue between. It was high fired in a gas kiln. I am very surprised that the blue came out a dark green but the Oribe did run just a bit…


Looking at the Horizon

I find that I spend so much time looking at the minutia of life that I forget to look up and scan the horizon. This is a life long problem. I’m near sighted visually and to a lesser extent spiritually. I’m very comfortable in my present situation. I’ve held the idea that no matter how bad things get, they will eventually get better – the pendulum swings. I’m not a quitter and I’m not a coward. I have toughed things out for many years at work. And now I’m re-evaluating my options. I look at where I’ve been and I’m focusing on the horizon. It is hard to see the future clearly. I can’t make out the changes that are just over the rise of the road. I feel undecided and uncertain, like a hitchhiker on the move without a set destination. It is a restlessness to move on, to crest the hill and discover what I’ve missed.

Where do you want to go he asked
Anywhere but here would be good
I was running from my recent past
Over river, valley, and wood

With a gruff voice and steely eyes
Where do you want to go he asked
Mute I stood under darkened skies
Deciding where I answered fast

Looking at the night sky so vast
Take me to any far off star
Where do you want to go he asked
My shaking voice answered “East Barre”

He frowned as I got in the car
That’s not a town I’m going past
Then take me to the moon afar
Where do you want to go he asked

Looking to Enter

Every year I enter the student/faculty art show at the museum. A long time ago you could enter 2 pieces, now you are restricted to one (1) piece. I’ve decided to circumvent the restrictions by entering an “installation piece”. I have been hemming and hawing over the title. The group is three orbs. Of course they are all coccoliths thus from the sea. I had to have it at the museum by 4:00 PM last Saturday.  I selected the following titles:
Three Kelpies
The Melusine Sisters
Sisters of the Undine
Nereid, Limnad, Naiad
I really wrestled with the choice. I took input from Sparky, coworkers, friends, and also from my fashion consultant. I decided on The Melusine Sisters.

This is the group that I’m entering…

Cross your fingers that I “win” something this year!!

Looking for Love

This is my offering for Hélène’s Photo Challenge – What Do You See?

Unrequited Love
My prayers and supplications
Father did as he was bade
I marvel at these limbs
I am wondrously made

This rescue from romance
Failed his love deter
Rooted among the flowers
The sun’s love still stirs

He calls me Laurel
I refuse to respond
I am Daphne in my heart
His reach I’m beyond

Blossoming where I’m planted
Ignoring his persistent plea
I revel in my form
A lithe and limber tree

Looking at Tiles

We are remodeling the boys’ bathroom as a Christmas gift. They bought a house 5 years ago and it doesn’t have a shower. Son#2 really liked the house and son#1 went along with the decision even though he wanted a bathroom with a shower. Well, here we are 5 years later and we are about to make the shower a reality. Son#1 is giddy with excitement. We went shopping and he bought the toilet. Not just any toilet, no this is the American Standard toilet that is advertised as being able to flush a bucket of golf balls. I have it on good authority that this quality is a necessity at their house. He also selected the vanity and sink. Then it was time to choose tile. He looked at a ton of different tile – at Menards, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the Tile Warehouse. We finally came up with a pattern of white tile with 2 stripes of a dusty blue subway tile. Between the stripes of blue tiles will be a single row of 2″x 2″ patterned tiles. The big problem is the bathroom window. It needs to be removed and replaced with frosted glass bricks. The problem is that the window is a little low and a bit too wide to provide the kind of privacy required. I was thinking we should remove the window altogether and just tile over it on the inside. The contractors don’t agree, son#2 doesn’t agree and Sparky doesn’t like it either… So we are now weighing our options. So far son#1 suggested we put glass bricks in place of the window but cover the bottom half with tile (just like the rest of the shower). Son#2 suggested installing some sort of water resistant shutters over the window (which I am adamantly opposed to on the basis that it will be hellish hard to keep clean and mildew/ mold free). Sparky suggested getting some sort of paint and just painting the bricks. That might work but it can’t be just any paint. The regular enamel paint will scratch off and besides it will look trashy. My thought is to paint the bricks with stained glass paint to match the geometric pattern of the accent tiles. So the whole demolition starts Saturday. The boys will be showering at our house for a week. The contractors want to get the floor in ASAP and install the toilet so the boys will have a functional toilet by Sunday. It is an ambitious plan. We just need to buy the glass bricks, paint for the walls and the flooring!

Looking Somber

In recent weeks we’ve had mid-term elections, recounts of votes, calls for gun control, wild fires, shootings, states of emergency and the list goes on. Today is Veteran’s Day (observed), and  is  a reminder that our freedom is a fragile thing that must be nurtured and protected. The newspaper had a 2 page listing of events for Veterans, everything from high school performances of bands, orchestra and/or choirs to addresses by elected politicians or dignitaries. There are wreath laying ceremonies, a drive to collect suits for veterans, and a canned goods drive. However there wasn’t any mention of the local grocery store chain where son#1 and son#2 work. I suppose it was so well known that they give away hot meals (fried chicken meals – 2 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, biscuit, and another side) to veterans that there didn’t need to be any advertising. Although it is officially Veteran’s Day today, they gave away meals on Sunday in alignment with the Treaty of Versailles signed on November 11 at 11:00 AM that ended WWI.  It is such a big deal that son#1 worked in the kitchen making chicken (he is so good that people will call in to find out if he’s cooking). He said they gave out over 200 meals at their location from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It pains me to think that our military veterans are not being accorded the assistance to heal from the trauma of combat, reintegration to civilian life, and assistance with finding good paying jobs. Which brings me to the startling fact that the children in school now are too young to remember September 11, 2001. Seniors in high school weren’t born yet in 2001! The college students were too young to even remember the horror of seeing the World Trade Center fall.

So why am I talking about September 11 now? It is November and I should have been posting all this on September 11th, right? Well, the reality is that I went to Baltimore and saw this:

This is a chunk of the World Trade Center. It is a twisted and compressed piece of the interior steel skeleton of the tower. It sits on a marble pedestal outside the Baltimore World Trade Center. I walked past it on my way to a dinner. I was walking with 2 women (one from San Diego, CA and the other from Pittsburgh, PA). We had discovered that we were all going the same way and since it was dark we decided to walk together. As we passed this monument, I paused to read the plaque and take a photo. They patiently waited for me. As we walked away one asked me why I was taking a photo of the “modern art”. I explained that it was a piece of the World Trade Center. She stared at me blankly. I realized that both were probably only 25 at the most and the event that is seared into the minds of most adults is but a historical footnote to her generation. For them it is the reality not of foreign terrorists but gun violence in schools like the Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL in 2018. Seems the memory of the twin towers is dimming and being replace by other unspeakable tragedies.

Looking Under Water

One of the highlights of my trip to Baltimore was going to the Baltimore Aquarium. This was an after hours event just for the attendees of the conference. I have to tell you that of all the aquariums I’ve visited (and I’ve gone to plenty of them), Baltimore’s was very well done. It isn’t the largest and it doesn’t have the widest variety of animals but they have one of the very best in terms of visual display, education, and layout. I was impressed.
The saltwater area has some stunning anemones. These are the pink/salmon color ones (with a couple white ones in the mix). I wanted to include a photo of some of the others but the angle resulted in mostly a reflection of me instead of the contents of the water. I’m also fascinated with brain coral. I’ve done a couple ceramic orbs to mimic brain coral but they pale in comparison to the real thing. In the last photo above you can see the tiny corals that look like fluff on the branches. I wish I could have gotten a close up. They were so delicate!

I have no idea about the names of these fish. Really. Fish are not my deal however I couldn’t help but be attracted to these fish. The first one was a lovely blue and yellow with a bright blue mustache that reminded me of Salvadore Dali. The second was a beautiful white fish that had dorsal and ventral fins that extended the length of its body and undulated like a ruffle. I was mesmerized. The last one was such a vivid yellow – the photo does not do it justice.

The stingray is a very poisonous fresh water ray found in South America. I think it is called a Potamotrygon henlei or Bigtooth River Stingray or Tocantins River ray. Either way it is beautiful. The last two photos are of fresh water turtles. I really liked the nose on the one in the middle. It made me laugh.