Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joss Whedon Rides Again!

If you haven't already seen this, you have no idea what you're missing. It's "Dr. Horrible's Singing Blog!" Neil Patrick Harris stars in this online-only short, and it's fabulous. I've been watching it incessantly for days.

There are three acts. Felicia Day stars as Penny, the love interest. Nathan Fillion is the nemesis - Captain Hammer, corporate tool. It's the funnest 42 minutes you'll spend in a while, so check it out!

Some of my favorite quotes, from the first ten minutes...

"The world is a mess and I just... need to rule it."

"I'm just trying to change the world, okay, I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka."

"just a few weeks away from a real... audible connection!"

"Bad horse, bad horse, he rides across the nation, the thoroughbred of sin..."

Sunday, August 23, 2009


What's inside this little metal box is more valuable to me than diamonds, and probably only to me. This is my grandmother's recipe box. It's stuffed full of memories, and not just mine.

I've learned that the woman may have been more compulsive than I - nearly every recipe in this box is neatly typed on an index card.

The first recipe - Dode's Date Cake - is from my grandmother's sister, who died before I was born. The next is a treasure indeed - Ruth's Chocolate Cake. Ruth was my grandmother's best friend for more than 70 years. Her chocolate cake was prized, and fought over with increasing energy as she lost her sight to glaucoma as the years went by. Her daughters don't have this recipe, but the cake is legendary at her women's club. Further in, Grandma Lee's Cottage Pudding. Grandma Lee would be my great-great-grandmother.

The true prize, though, is finally having her nut bread recipe. She made it for Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and Easter, and my birthday, and other special occasions for as long as I can remember. It makes two loaves, and it is wonderful sliced warm. It's even better spread with cream cheese. I don't know what you're having for dinner, but I'm having nut bread.

The recipe calls it "Mrs. Baus's Nut Bread" and I'm sad now that I have no idea who Mrs. Baus is. This is, and has always been, my grandmother's nut bread. So, sorry, Mrs. Baus, but...

Jayne's Nut Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 and 1/2 cups nuts (we use walnuts, chopped)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Bake 45 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Think of her, please, when you eat it.

I'll be eating nut bread, and listening to her big band music while I find places for her things to live amongst my own. Here's to melancholy days - sometimes, they hurt just right.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mostly Typical Saturday...

I'm back home after another Saturday in the studio. There was a kids' class in there this morning, so P and I spent our time doing other things, waiting for them to leave. I FINALLY dropped my cat cross-stitch at the framer's - it's very handy, there's now a framer in the art supplies store that also houses the studio. I usually frame them myself, and I was a bit shocked at the price. Holy smokes! It was $123, after the pay ahead discount! Methinks it may be time to buy another matcutter! Of course, the speed at which I cross stitch means that I won't have to pay often... We'll see how it turns out - it should be ready for pick-up on September 1. Anywho, picking the perfect mat color - twice, since it's double matted, and the perfect frame took me a considerable amount of time so the kidlets were gone by the time I'd paid, keeled over from sticker shock and recovered.

Last Friday (when I should have been driving...), I trimmed some things. I got a couple of them underglazed and ready for the bisque fire today.

In a fit of optimism, I made a wine glass (cup, mug, call it what you will) for Friday nights at the studio. Last Friday, I trimmed it and added grapes. Today, I got it back from the bisque fire and glazed it. (One nice thing about these kids' classes - they're doing bisque and glaze firings every week.)

I also trimmed these last week, and put them into the bisque firing. As usual, I ran out of time before I ran out of things to do, so these are not ready for the glaze fire yet. Today, I dipped them in black. My plan right now is to make them the same dark blue as some of my other bowls. P took a squeezy bottle today and made some really cool dippy-splatter things on something of hers - I may copy that on these somehow. We'll see. At any rate, these are at the bisque stage. My hope is that the dark color will help hide how very lopsided they are.

I also finished the painting on my birdies. This is them as of last week, before I did the black outlining. I think they're going to be really cute, but I'm still trying to figure out what color to paint the little vase itself. Decisions, decisions!

This is the way my fuschia vase turned out. I'm a bit disappointed with the clear glaze - the butterfly darkened until it's practically invisible and there's a glob of glaze on the left of the flowers. I'm going to try to sand that off - wish me luck.

This is my first mug ever. I'd forgotten, until P reminded me, how much this poor thing has been through. First, I scratched scribbles around the middle, and under glazed it in a couple of colors, decided I didn't like it, used a dark blue underglaze to cover the first colors, fired it, dipped it in clear glaze, fired it, didn't like it, re-dipped in a light blue shino and fired it again. Now, I'm happy with it. It's kind of hard to see in the pictures, but it looks kinda like denim - light over darker blue.

*sigh* I wish the studio was open on Sundays. Of course, then I'd get NOTHING done, but I'd be happy about it. :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Possibly The Worst Weekend Ever

I survived the weekend!

The chaos started when my best friend called on Wednesday and told me that her mom had died. And then she cried... which she doesn't do, ever. But her family is very close, and her mom is the glue that holds them all together. She was diagnosed with stage 4 (I think) ovarian cancer four and a half years ago, and told she had three months to get her affairs in order. She fought, and won small battles, but cancer won the war.

My friend, M, is a bit of an odd duck and she doesn't have many friends. She didn't ask, but it was pretty clear that she needed me there. So I rearranged my schedule a bit to be home in Ohio for the funeral on Saturday. My original plan was to leave around noon from work and hit the road for home immediately. It's a 10 hour drive, if you don't dawdle around, and it's very hard to not start stalling getting back into the car after about hour six. Of course, when I left at nearly one, I was in such a foul mood from work that I literally didn't trust myself behind the wheel of the car for very long. So I went to the studio, and ended up spending nearly six hours playing. It was SSOOOOOO nice to just relax and spend time with people I can be me around. Then my friend P brought my asshole boss in to tour the studio. Nice. I have scads more pictures, but that's another post.

This was the highpoint of the drive back: a tanker of coffee! I nearly followed him wherever he was going! Then I realized it was gasoline, and the coffee was a lie and I continued off in my own direction after recording it for posterity, of course.

The point is that I finally headed out for Ohio at around 8:30 Friday night. I got to my aunt's house around 6:30 Saturday morning and crashed into bed for a couple of hours. By 10:30 am, I was at the funeral home, and then the processional to the church started about 11:00. M's mom was devotely Catholic, and the ceremony reflected that. It was a beautiful service, all three and a half hours of it. Then we all went across the property to their community center thing and had lunch there. I was SO glad that another of M's friends managed to make it or I would have been distinctly alone.

M was raised in a very close, very strict Catholic home. Then she went to live on campus for college, where freedom was a very heady thing. At break, she'd go home, and her parents, especially her dad, tried very hard to cram her back into the same strict mold. After weeks of total freedom, and doing what you want when you want to, it's very hard to go back to a 9:30 curfew. Her parents, for all that we don't agree on practically anything, did a very good job with her - her rebellion was very tame compared to most. But somewhere along the line, her parents decided that I was the sole reason for their daughter's unwillingness to toe the line. They hate me. At one point, I think her mom truly believed that I was the anti-christ, here to tempt their daughter from the path of righteousness. I have a feeling that M let them think that a lot of stuff was my fault, or idea, because I made an easy fall guy and it saved her from some of the confrontation.

So when her dad hugged me at the funeral home, I knew that the stars were definitely out of alignment. At the church after the procession, we were all kind of milling around and a woman came up to me and asked if I was Ericka. Um. Yes. Turns out the lady was M's aunt on her dad's side. She was a very nice lady, and she made of point of saying, several times, how important it was to M that I was there. Clearly, this was even more important to her than I realized.

After lunch ended, around 4:30, M, her brother and her dad went back to the funeral home to pick stuff up and I headed over to M's house to let her dog out. Shadow is mostly black lab, which something drooley mixed in for good measure. After the morning, playing with the puppy was very good. *sigh* Shadow is aging - her muzzle is grey now, and she struggles with the steps but she's still a very enthusiastic lap dog once she's off the staircase.

She had to go back over to her dad's later so I didn't stay long. I felt so bad for her, and then she said something about wanting to be done with sadness for the day. She just wanted to sit on her couch with me, drink wine and watch Spongebob. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen this weekend, but it's a date for later.

After I left her house, I went back to my aunt and uncle's place, changed clothes and then headed out to mom and dad's... where I met their surprise for me: Max. Mom picked him up at the pound last week and surprised dad with a dog! The vet thinks Max is three or four. They found him wandering and picked him up. He's now fixed (as of the day Mom picked him out) and current on shots.

Very late, I stumbled back to my aunt's to sleep. Finally, blessed sleeep. Then Sunday, I met mom and dad over at my grandmother's house. Mom's getting ready for the estate sale, and it's a good thing Grams isn't around 'cause if she saw the house in the state it's in right now, she would kill my mother. There are stacks of boxes everywhere. Mom assures me that there is an order to it. I wish mom would just have a service do it, 'cause Grams had a lot of really really nice stuff and mom has no clue about that sort of thing. She can identify a bird or a flower from 50 paces heading the other way, but Avon and Tiffany are indistinguishable to her. I know mom's doing it herself, and she gets overwelmed but there's a lot that she just gave up on going through and shoved it in the 'sell' stack, which I think is a mistake. Also, she's dumping glassware together in plastic bags and then dragging it around. Maybe it's the gardening or something but she's just a bull in a china shop, slinging stuff around - a lot of it is all the ceramics that Grams made, and completely irreplaceable. You'd think she's be a bit careful.

So that was a fun five hours. Dad and Max came too, and were bored stiff. Max got many walks. Mom says nothing is wrong and they are fine, but she's got a tone in her voice when she talks to dad that makes me very tempted to hit her. And dad didn't manage an entire sentence without her interrupting him. After he tried to say something and she interrupted him four times and he took the dog for another walk and she said something snippy about him leaving, I kinda went off on her about it. She claims that she didn't know she was interrupting him. My response was something along the lines of, "so you aren't listening to anything he says? nice."

Between the smoking, and the fighting between her and dad, and mom and that dog competing for "biggest klutz, glass division" I was an exhausted ball of tension by the time I finished packing the jeep and we left. Also, total sleep deprivation and forgetting to eat equalled headache from hell. And my brother is in an apparent state of denial - he won't go over or take anything from the house, so mom's just boxing it up to get rid of. Some stuff, it's too late - she's already given it away. But now that she's got this tag sale idea in her head, everything is going into sell piles so there's still a chance to save it. So in addition to the things I cared about (And gods, I feel like such a vulture, picking over Grams' stuff. She should be in her house, with her stuff. This is horrible.) I am also scavenging for my brother. I'll put them away for him and when he's ready, I'll haul it back out.

From there, we ate then went to mom and dad's. Mom had most of Grams' jewelry packed up to send to me, except for the stuff she forgot in a drawer, so I went through all of that, got to see Scott briefly and then left from there to head back here around 8:00 pm. The Garmin continues to conspire against me. A case in point? This was on a major highway:

I drove through to North Carolina, then pulled into the welcome center and fell asleep for a couple of hours. I was awake in time for my 8:00 am conference call this morning. After I arrived here, I unloaded the jeep, showered and then headed into work. *yawn* I'm very tired, and my entry is trashed - piles of stuff everywhere...

One thing - I found a clock that I'd never seen before. Who knows where/when Grams got it, but it's a beautiful Seth Thomas mantle clock. It needs love - the nut that holds the hands on is gone, as is the pendulum ball but it's going to look great once I find someone to help me with it. Know anyone that's good with old clocks?

In the meantime, I'm so tired that I can barely move. Off to bed with me, and I hope your weekend was better than mine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

One Step Forward...

A friend's grandmother passed away last week, so Saturday morning was spent in a church for the service. The choir was talented, and it *only* lasted an hour and a half and it meant a lot to her that we went (yeah, I dragged P with me) so it could have been worse. Still, I was quite glad to finally make it to the studio.

This weekend was the get-ready-for-school tax free weekend, and somehow they made it apply to stuff at the studio so I picked up more glaze and more clay. Yay for colors! I spend some time glazing, of course, and some time on the wheel. I still haven't decided if the 4 things I threw are worth keeping.

I escaped work tonight and headed over to the studio. Some progress was made. My fuschia vase is heading into the kiln today, so I should have it back on Friday.

Here's the progress of a couple of other things.

The birdies are a stamp, so don't be too terribly impressed there. I carved around the stamp, once it's dried I'll paint it before the bisque fire. We have a dipping glaze called 'rhubarb' that is a pinkish melon color. I may leave the birdies black and then use wax resist and dip in the rhubarb.

The red pot will probably be a give away - the white border isn't even and it'd drive me nuts if I paid too much attention to it.

I worked on trimming, and am done with two of the four from Saturday. I haven't decided if I'm keeping them yet, and I may add handles so they went back into the greenhouse to keep for the weekend. All tucked in:

I may have mentioned that we had a handbuilding class a while ago, and made baskets. Mine is probably going to end up crashing into a wall some day soon - I'm not terribly fond of it. It's been sitting on my shelf for ages while I debated with myself. I did have it bisque fired and there it sits. Whatcha think? Live or die?

Other progress made: Sophia has claimed the cherub chair.

Hope your week goes well!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Danger: Unfair Generalizations Ahead

Jen's post made me think of a conversation I had with a friend/colleague the other day. He is actually the quality manager at my main supplier, and he's currently going in the midst of a situation with the hr assistant at work.

She is on a major power trip and has it in for him, and therefore all of his employees. So she went out onto the factory floor the other day and started berating one of his quality inspectors on the length of her finger nails, in front of the entire floor, while wearing a thin tank top that very (very) generously displayed her... assets. The inspector eventually lost her cool and made a remark about her falling out of her top if she bent over to inspect said nails and things went downhill from there. He (let's call him Q) was worried 'cause she's the sort to sneak around behind your back to try to make trouble. I said something about her trying some sort of harassment suit, and he starting reciting the law, chapter and verse, on harassment. Turns out a lady at a previous company, who was a friend of his, freaked out when she didn't get a promotion and sued the company, naming all of her male friends and a couple of female ones, as having been harassing her. He went through the deposition and the trial and ended up testifying for a couple of hours... so he's quite familiar with the laws on this matter.

Then he turns around and tells another story about another company he worked at before he was married. The admin was older, but very attractive and quite friendly, and also married. So he flirted back with her, at work. Then they started going to lunch now and then. Then she started showing up at the grocery store that he usually went to - on the other side of town from her house. And taking her kid to the park across the street from his house. And staring at his house whilst pushing her kid on the swings.

He did not get involved with her, but he didn't say anything to her about backing off 'cause 1) he was single and 2) she was pretty. She started pushing enough that he emailed her and asked her to back off. Then he forwarded this email to the boss and had a conversation with him along the lines of "don't do anything, just be aware." Her idea of backing off was putting a g-string in his pocket before their morning production meeting. Some days of this - him emailing her to back off, her pushing harder, him sending things to the boss, the boss finally telling her to back off and one fine day, the boss finds her in Q's office, sitting at his desk. He chases her out, goes to his office and finds that mysteriously, all emails from Q are missing. Q still had them, as well as her rather explicit emails and she ended up leaving the company that day.

My thought then was that one of the differences between most men and most women is that had she been male and he female, her showing up at the grocery store would have set off "STALKER ALERT!" warnings in his brain and the next day (or close to it), steps would have been taken to start distancing. He wasn't thinking "stalker," he was thinking "Nice rack. I could get some of that." and the situation escalated far further than it could have.

Another difference between the sexes - men will fight and then it's over. If it's between a couple of guys, and they end up with beer, they may very well end up best friends before it's over. Women, at least some of them, will then do their level best to completely f*ck your world. I know - I've watched it happen. That, however, is a story for another day - it's already too late to go to bed early.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rainy Days and Sundays, Redux

It's thunderstorming again. We've had some kind of rain nearly every day this summer, but it has allowed us to catch up from several years of drought. I've gained a new stoicism for the process of drying out after being soaked by an errant cloud.

Today, though, is a good day. My house smells of cinnamin candles and hazelnut coffee, Billie Holiday is drifting through the speakers, Sophia proved willing to spend some quality time cuddling on the couch and my house is nearly clean. Once I'm finished with that, I'll curl up with and reread Jacqueline Carey - "Kushiel's Avatar." Yay for Sundays!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Works In Progress...

I spent another lovely day at the studio today. For something that I'm not particularly good at, it's amazing how much enjoyment I get from it. I spent time on the wheel, and yet more time dabbling in the glazes.

My plans to leave work yesterday at 4:00 to go play were foiled. (Again. You'd think I'd learn.) My friend P called me on her way home from the studio to tell me that my little fuschia vase was the talk of the evening - it came through the bisque firing very well and I'm appparently rather lucky that it was still there today. (I try not to be too bitter that her job is such that she can leave at 4:00. *mutter*) All that's left is the clear glaze. I applied it today, but I plan to fuss with it some more, so it's sitting on my shelf drying.

After I threw it on the wheel and trimmed it, I let it dry to the hard leather stage and then carved the design into the side. Then I let it dry completely and applied the underglaze. Most of the colors, I mixed myself since the ones we have weren't quite what I was after. After it dried completely, I touched up a few places and put it in for the bisque fire.

The last thing that I spent this much time on went boom in the kiln, so I decided to get pictures now, just in case. So, this is what it looked like this morning:

This is what it looks like now:

And this is the picture in the book that I copied:

Another work in progress - my little squirrel. I didn't do anything with him today so he's still sitting on the shelf waiting. Maybe Monday... Anyway, this is his current state:

And the pictures that I used:

I actually got one mug glazed and ready to go. I think it'll turn out pretty cool. When it was greenware, I stamped flowers and butterflies on it with black underglaze and painted the handle with rose underglaze then I fired it. Today, I put more rose on the handle then painted the whole thing with transparent yellow glaze. It's sitting on the shelf waiting for the next glaze firing.

I fooled around some more with my very first mug too. I had underglazed it with a dark blue then glazed it in clear and I wasn't thrilled with the way it turned out. The blue got darker so it's almost black and it's not as smooth and glossy as I'd like either. You can reglaze, so the other day I painted it with Elmer's white glue to help the glaze stick. Today, I dipped it in light blue shino. It's sitting on my shelf waiting for Monday while it dries. Touchups may be necessary.

My time on the wheel was mostly well spent - one little pot was actually centered! And even! Not lopsided! Even a little! This is very unusual for me. It's still on the bat since I didn't have enough time to trim anything today. So, the first step is a ball of clay. This is the second:

I'm counting my chickens before they hatch on this one, 'cause I still have to remove it from the bat and trim it before I can play with the decoration but I can already see it finished in my head so I hope I don't screw it up. I like its shape. I was going for mixing bowl shaped and changed my mind mid-stream. Unexpectedly, it didn't collapse.

P makes darling little tiny bowls, and I keep trying to do them too. Mine don't work out nearly as well. The one I attempted today may end up as a stemless wine glass for our Fridays in the studio, depending. Or I may scrap it. It depends on how well the trimming goes. It's funny to me now - four months ago, in the midst of my class, anything I managed to not destroy on the wheel got fired and now I think I reject more than I keep... I know I can do better, and they aren't good enough to save. They told me I'd get there, I just didn't believe them. Maybe someday, I'll manage lids...

And to keep me from getting too cocky, one thing just a total failure on the wheel. I had a horrible time getting it centered and then I clipped an edge and that was pretty much that. Aw well, I dumped it into the bag of clay to try again later. Maybe next time, it'll be more cooperative.

While there was another auction today, and we had every intention of going, we ate first. We ran past the grocery to forage and then took our finds to her house to eat. She got suchi, I got a rotissary chicken and potato salad. We made it to her couch, and fizzled so instead of the auction, we watched "Mamma Mia!" It was goofy but cute. I'm going to have Abba stuck in my head for the next week.

So, so far, my weekend is going very well. Hope yours is too!