Looking at the Art

The fall session of the ceramic studio has ended. The kiln tech has been doing multiple firings in an attempt to clear the backlog of pieces waiting to be glaze fired. To that end I got 5 pieces back on the last day of the session. There are still 3 pieces in the queue waiting. The studio offered 2 and 3 week extensions to the session but since I’ll be visiting family it didn’t make sense to sign up for those. But with the extensions there will likely be enough finished and glazed work to do a final firing before the Christmas holidays – I just might get my last 3 pieces back before the end of the year!!
This is an orb representing Alisphaera unicornis, a coccolith found in the Western Mediterranean specifically the Alboran Sea. The clay body is white stoneware glazed with Mamo Yellow with red iron oxide stain as an accent.

This piece is another coccolith, Coronosphaera maxima found in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a mixed clay body of 80% white stoneware and 20% porcelain glazed with that same Grape glaze that had been diluted. Because the shape of the surface was slightly cupped the glaze pooled much better.

This is another of my virus orbs representing the Fijivirus, the only reovirus in plants. It is spread by insects such as the leaf hopper. This is a white stoneware clay glazed in Semi-matte Blue with red iron oxide stain on the rings around the filaments which are unglazed.

This one was an interpretation of the hydrangea flower. Someone switched the lids on the glaze buckets (though the name was on the bucket proper). I made the mistake of not checking the labels on the buckets and ended up using Super T glaze instead of the intended Oribe so the color is not the muted green I was aiming for. It is still a great color as it came out very vibrant on the white stoneware.

This last is a Puffball fungus spore. These are microscopic spores that are released by mature puffball fungi and appear as a “smoke” that emanated from an opening on the top surface of the puffball (thus their common name). It isn’t flashy but I had done one of these way back in the late 1990s and it was broken in a cleaning accident. I figured it was time to reprise it! It is a mixed clay body – 50% white stoneware and 50% brown grog clay. It is glazed in Yellow Salt with red iron oxide on the protrusions.

Looking Black

Today is “Black Friday”. That is the day after Thanksgiving where stores used to have all the big sales to kick-off the Christmas shopping season. It was so named because it was often the day where the stores finally moved from running a deficit to making a profit. The pandemic has decimated the brick and mortar stores. Although many were moving to online shopping, the pandemic forced the hands of a large number who were ambivalent or hesitant to shop online. It pains me to admit that much of my shopping this year has been online. But the biggest pain is the leftovers I’m dealing with.

It used to be different. When the boys were young they were bottomless pits. They could eat a big meal and be hungry again in an hour. They have grown up and their appetites have slowed down. Due to restraint and moderation, I’m left with a ton of leftovers. I have to figure out how many ways I can use turkey. I’ve decided to freeze a large portion. That still leaves me with plenty to work with. I’ve planned to make sloppy toms (kind of like sloppy joes but with turkey, dressing and gravy), turkey tikka masala, and turkey roll-ups (turkey and cheese placed in crescent rolls and baked). But Sparky is a fanatic for soups and stews and is lobbying hard for turkey stew – and I’m thinking “ewwww”! Which triggered a little Thanksgiving monorhyme!

Black Friday Menu
Transient moue
Holiday residue
I eschew
Turkey stew.

Looking Closely at the Feast

By popular demand I’m posting a little food porn. The Thanksgiving feast is pending today and the food has not all arrived. However the pies are looking delicious.
I have to say that my pumpkin pie is very creamy. I played with the recipe and it uses 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves. It is one of Sparky’s favorite pies. The apple pie is son#1’s favorite. He is an apple snob. I can only blame myself for creating a monster. I try to use a variety of apples in my pie and this one is no exception. It calls for 6 apples and I used 2 Macintosh, 2 Empire, 1 Gala, and 1 Fuji. The only thing that could possible make this better would be to use Mutsu apples in place of the Gala and Fuji. My secret ingredient is ground Cardamom. I sneak in 1/4 teaspoon and it really makes the apple flavor pop!

This is the new entry into the pie rotation – a Fig-Cranberry pie. I got this recipe on Sheryl’s WP site and it is definitely a keeper. I was a little skeptical that a mere 8 ounces of dried figs would be enough. But they cooked up beautifully. The addition of the lemon juice with the cranberries made me question my sanity (only one cup of sugar to 2 cups of cranberries, I was sure it would be too tart to eat) but I followed the recipe and after pouring the filling into the pie crust, I licked the spoon. It was perfect and so good! I can’t wait to cut this pie and dig in!
The Sweet Potato Casserole is Son#1’s recipe that he modified from several he found on line. For those with an appreciation of this pretty root vegetable I give you his version:
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes                         1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs                                                             1/2 stick butter melted
1/2 teaspoon salt                                            1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract                            2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup brown sugar                                       1/2 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons melted butter                           1/3 cup flour
Peel, cube and boil the sweet potatoes in water. Drain and mash. Mix the potatoes with the white sugar, eggs, salt, melted butter, milk, vanilla and bourbon. Mix until smooth. Pour into a greased baking dish. Combine brown sugar and flour. Stir in melted butter. Add pecans. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over potato mixture. Bake for 30 min at 350°F

A double batch just before going into the oven! It smells so good even before baking!
I’d post a photo of the turkey but it is too big to pull out of the oven just for a photo op and once it is done it is a choreographed dance to get it carved and the gravy made and everything onto the table. Because I’m headed to “crunch time” I need to post this now or never!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Looking for the Gravy

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA. I am making all the preparations for the feasting that will take place. The turkey, a massive bird of 26 pounds, has been thawed. The required pies (an apple cranberry pie, a cranberry fig pie and two pumpkin pies) were baked yesterday. Son#1 has prepared the sweet potato casserole (complete with the pecans and bourbon sauce)and it too is poised to go into the oven tomorrow. I’ve selected and washed the potatoes that will become mashed potatoes. Various family members will provide the green bean casserole, stuffing, fruit salad, and rolls. All is in readiness for the cooking frenzy that will begin at precisely 9:00 AM tomorrow. I’ve made this meal (with slight variations) for 38 years. In that time Sparky declares that this is hands down his favorite meal. You see he adores a roasted turkey. When the boys were young he made the mistake of declaring that he LOVED turkey. The boys responded, “If you love it so much why didn’t you marry it?!” This has become a joke in the family.

The first Thanksgiving as a married couple was spent with Sparky’s parents and the assembled clan. His mother made a turkey. And sweet potatoes, and three bean salad (which no one would eat), and everyone brought a dish. I made pumpkin pie, his brother brought his signature fruit salad, his next younger sister made her famous potato rolls, the 2 youngest made strawberry Jell-O salad and chocolate chip cookies. There was no gravy! There were no mashed potatoes! I had never in my life had turkey without gravy. Sparky would consider it grounds for divorce if I made a turkey and didn’t make GRAVY!

The most essential element according to son#1 is the gravy. He loves gravy so much that his online player name is “Gravy Master”. His brother is very fond of the potatoes and his online name is “Smashed Taters”. Needless to say it is required to have both the potatoes and the gravy. Son#1 will assist with the production of the gravy, mostly in a Quality Control capacity. The key to making good gravy is having the right stuff for the bird. That is, I bake my turkey breast down and I fill the body cavity with a whole bottle of sweet white wine. It makes the gravy good enough to drink! I’ve got the wine. I’ll boil the giblets in seasoned water (a couple sticks of celery, a bit of diced onion, parsley, a little sage, and some pepper). That broth will be added to the pan drippings to make the gravy – about a half gallon total. If past years are any indication there will be very little leftover! Now all I need to do is find my gravy boat, well really it is a tureen, since a gravy boat is way too small to hold all the gravy that will be required!

Looking Crafty

I was nudged to do some crafts by an artist friend who does collages on old playing cards and then attaches poetry. I’d been contemplating this since last winter. I gathered magazines, posters, junk mail, you name it and I collected it. I assembled my supplies – patterned scissors, small sharp scissors, X-ACTO® knife, glue sticks, Elmer’s glue, rulers, embossing tools, corner cutters, punches for decorative shapes, and an assortment of senyru poems written for this very purpose. Then it was time to begin.

And I waited through the summer months being unmotivated. I revised the poems. Then I spent weeks gathering the words. It was almost impossible. I had to revise again and again. Partly because I was dissatisfied with the poems but also because I couldn’t find the word conceive, or marbled. As hard as I searched I couldn’t locate pre-printed words – ache, paltry, cattail, berry, or kiss. (Since my printer is defunct, I didn’t want to go print them at a cost.) And all this time I was collecting magazines. I had a huge stack of professional magazines but the words tended to analyze, standard deviations, biomarker, and a regular alphabet soup of acronyms that were useless (except for the occasional “s” or “a”). I finally amassed some Family Circle, Country Home, Martha Stewart Living, Fitness, Prevention, Shape, and Allure magazines. Along with the old atlases and some church bulletins I was ready to make art and add some poetry.

And then I started second guessing what I really wanted to do with these cards. Initially I figured they would be made with a specific person in mind. I’d have a poem that reflected that person in some way and images to compliment either the poem or the interests of the person I intended to give the card to. Finally I realized that that just wasn’t working. Writing poetry is hard enough without trying to make it specific to a single audience.

And that was the breakthrough moment. I started making the cards for myself! I put together poems that spoke to me. I created images that sparked my imagination. I made things that I liked. Without further ado I present a few of the Art Card collection.

Master the new skills
The actor best learn his line
Nature measures him
Welcome these beautiful lives
Let your palm open
A tool of passion
What cost for your company
Somebody loved you
Intent held power
Not identifiable
Utterance of God
Sometimes popular
Views birth genuine concern
Through simple science

Looking Lumpy

I change the bed linens on laundry day. I put the special sheets on the bed. Yes, I can hear you wondering what special sheets are. To answer: They are made of a special cotton that is supposed to wick moisture away and keep you cool (because he is like a charcoal briquette when he sleeps). I have no idea if it is true but Sparky thinks so (can you say placebo effect?). The mattress is older (maybe 25 years) and is in fairly good shape. I say fairly because we routinely rotate the mattress and flip it and have it hermetically sealed in an allergen repelling cover, with a memory foam topper and a special mattress cover that goes over all of that too. Well I informed Sparky that it was time to do the whole rotation routine. After a lot of effort and huffing and puffing the job was completed and the mattress cover and pad and memory foam were replaced. I managed to get the sheets on all by myself. As I was smoothing down the fitted sheet my hand encountered a lump. I was not pleased as the lump was on my side and would be in my way. So I did a little trouble shooting (peeled off layers to find the origin of the lump). I discovered that the lump is INSIDE the mattress!

Because Sparky had left for work, I took it upon myself to turn the mattress so that the lump would be at the foot instead of the head of the bed. It is a queen sized mattress of the ultra deep variety. I nearly did myself in. But I got the job done. And everything back in place. The bed is still lumpy just not as obviously. As I was stuffing my pillow into the case I realized that my pillow is getting lumpy too. Sparky likes his pillow to be “subdued” meaning pounded into a shapeless blob. I’m pretty sure that he’s been abusing my pillow. Since his is past its prime, I gave him my pillow and I pulled out a new pillow. (I get a new one every 6 months or so due to allergies).

I’m not so delicate as the Princess and the Pea but I do need a good mattress. I think it is time. Well, it will be at Christmas. I’m thinking this year will be the “Year of the Mattress” since both boys mentioned that new mattresses would be good gifts. When son#2 moved, I gave him his Christmas present early. Son#1 opted to wait for a sale. So we snagged one and had it delivered on Labor Day. The holiday shopping is going to be very easy this year (everyone will have stocking stuffers and sheet sets!!

Looking Death in the Eye

Creeping coldness swallows daylight
Pinprick lights pierce highest heaven
Heavy heart and heavier eyes
The restless mind cannot find peace
Silence reigns in velvety night
Counting heartbeats to eleven
Whistling breath and exhaled sighs
Waiting patiently for release

Death come without regard for might
Some live lives without leaven
Worry and toil yet cannot rise
Selfish man his wealth to increase
Sees his life as an uphill fight
Fails to forgive seven times seven
Hopes heaven’s entrance when he dies
Richman’s chances at death decrease

The approach of winter always makes me keenly aware of the eventuality of death. All the green of summer has turned brown and died back. The insects have become dormant, many birds disappeared south and so too the wildlife has sought refuge in hibernation. I feel as if part of me has shriveled and died too. Living in the cold of the north, I feel my blood thicken and slow. The days become grey and the sun is hidden behind thick clouds. Now is the season to consider the reasons for the grasping at wealth, striving for acceptance, thirsting for connection. I look inward and then outward trying to connect the dots; dots that sparkle like stars. And still I hope that even if death comes I have amassed the right coin for the tollway to heaven….

This poem is a Pantun Enam Belas Kerat which is the longest form of a Pantun, a poetry form of Malaysian origin. This long form is composed of 2 octaves where each line is a consistent syllable count between 8 to 12 syllables. The rhyme scheme is: abcdabcd, abcdabcd. The first octave is the “shadow” and may loosely allude to the second octave which contains the “meaning”. The shadow often has metaphor and references specific to the individual(s) it was intended for.

Looking Geometrical

The kiln has spit out some more of my ceramic pieces and thankfully they all survived. I was playing around with the idea of viruses and the instructor issued a challenge to several of us – make something that has a geometrical component. At first I ignored it. I mean, all my orbs are spherical and that is very “geometrical”. That was my reasoning. Then she came over to me specifically and asked if I couldn’t do a piece that incorporated triangles or rhomboid shapes. With furrowed brow I scanned my favorite databases for a coccolith, fungus, pollen, or virus that had a some triangular aspects. *sigh*

I chose to model my orb off of the group of viruses called Iridoviridae. this virus effects insects (mosquitoes and isopods) and causes blue to bluish-purple iridescence and a shortened lifespan. As you might guess their capsid shell has a series of rectangles that form an isohedron. These occur in a variety of ways either as regular or irregular forms…

This particular orb is glazed in Super T which with the red iron oxide stain has a very striking contrast. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is a white stoneware clay body fired at cone 9.

Before the challenge I was working on a virus orb of a Reovirus. These viruses are associated with upper respiratory infections, enteritis, fever, and the symptoms of the common cold. So not as horrible as the coronavirus but still bothersome.

This one is again a white stoneware clay body glazed in Shaner Gold with red iron oxide applied thickly to give a dark metallic sheen to the portions protruding. The Shaner Gold went on a little thick and obscured the textured details on the background. Still it is a favorite glaze and came out looking good!

Looking for Deer

In the cold
The hunter
With gun waits

Early snow
Shows deer tracks
They will come

Buck walks near
Wait for doe
Can’t eat horns

It will be deer season for firearms in Indiana starting in a couple days. My former and sometimes still current coworker, Mr. Fudd, has been talking about deer hunting. He now has 2 of 3 kids old enough to take part in the youth hunt. He is a very conscientious hunter. “If you aren’t going to eat it don’t kill it” is his mantra. His other oft repeated words of wisdom are, “You can’t eat antlers.” He put in for the lottery to get a slot for a reduction hunt at a county park – he didn’t get picked. In fact he put in for several lotteries and didn’t get chosen. He is now negotiating to hunt on some private property. He would go to the public areas but not with the kids – too many overly zealous trigger happy drunks. Anyway he is hoping to get at least 2 deer this year. If he gets more than 2 then I just might be the recipient of some venison! To that end I’ve been clearing out a small area of my freezer…

The above poem is a TriCube poem. It is a form with some very rigid rules. It must have 3 stanzas of 3 lines each. The lines must have 3 syllables each. Fortunately there are no rules for meter or rhyme!

Looking Hangdog

Sparky wanted another dog so when a friend was looking for a home for her dog I said yes. This is the same dog we almost got earlier when she was looking to move to North Carolina. When her daughter got wind of it she insisted that she would take the dog. Even though she is a college student living in an apartment with 2 roommates, she refused to entertain the idea of letting her mother’s dog be adopted – even to people she knows.

So fast forward, seems the college student needs to do her student teaching in a town about 2 hours away from school. She will be teaching for one semester and must find accommodations beginning in January. All the apartments insist on at least a 9 month lease. All the rooms for let have very strict rules about pets which are basically NO PETS PERMITTED! The panicked student called her mother and wanted her to take the dog back. So we got the call again. It was all arranged. My friend would drive up from Nashville to visit her daughter, pick up the dog (and the daughter), drive to my house and drop off the dog, and then take her daughter to visit her father and brother (who she hasn’t seem for about a year) who live nearby.

Then things went sideways. Seems the issue wasn’t that she couldn’t keep the dog. No. She was trying to manipulate her mother into making a choice between her (and the dog) and the boyfriend. You see the only reason the dog needed a new home in the first place was that the boyfriend is sensitive to short haired dogs and breaks out in a rash (though he is fine with longer haired dogs and cats and rabbits). There was a big argument. The daughter confessed that she only took the dog because she was sure the relationship wouldn’t last. She then stated that she’d take the dog to the pound if her mother tried to come get her!

It was late at night when she called. I missed the call. The voice message was heart-rending. My friend was sobbing and apologizing for getting Sparky’s hopes up. I texted her early the next morning. All is good. She was so upset and was sure that this development was going to end our friendship. I assured her that her daughter’s actions wouldn’t change anything between us. Still, breaking the news to Sparky was hard. He didn’t cry but he was very subdued all day. He’s better now. On the upside, he completely straightened out the basement and organized things, tossed some stuff that he had been hoarding (empty cardboard boxes – why do men need empty boxes?), and even straightened his desk! He vacuumed and it is now a very clean space so it wasn’t a complete disaster. As it turned out, she drove up to visit her mother and son, and we were able to get together and have a wonderful visit! In fact she is planning to come back into town around Thanksgiving so we will be able to catch up again!