Tuesday, August 28, 2007


My computer is, I believe, permanently out of service. In short, the power cord melted itself and in the process I think something inside the computer was damaged as well, since my back up power cord won't work anymore. Initially, this was really bad news. I really liked my computer. It was always incredibly reliable and problem-free. But, it is about five years old, and lets be serious, thats up there as far as a computer's life expectancy goes. And I'd be lying if I said it didn't have its little quirks. So, yes, I really liked my old reliable computer and it stinks that I can't use it (now Mike and I have to share), but I can see this situation for what it really is, a chance to upgrade! I have my eye on an an iMac, and hopefully after a bit of money saving, I'll get to 'switch'.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Throwing Again

Tonight was my last night in an eight week pottery class I've been taking. And since after about six weeks I couldn't imagine not going to pottery class on Monday nights, I already signed up for the next session. Its been four years since I've been at a wheel, and I didn't realize how much I missed it. I really enjoy it. Really really enjoy it, more than any other thing I've studied or learned or tried. The whole process just makes me happy.

This past session, the focus was on Raku firing. Raku is a form of Japanese pottery in which you fire a glazed piece and then remove it from the kiln while its still glowing hot. Using the original Japanese technique, you'd take the piece out of the kiln and put it directly into water. We used the 'Western Technique', the main difference being that you put the glowing hot piece of pottery into some kind of combustible material to create a 'reduction chamber' around it. Its a lot to explain with words so I'll just show pictures.

First. Put your glazed stuff in the kiln and fire it up. Raku firings are usually around 1450 to 1800 degrees Farenheit.

After about an hour (by comparison, stoneware firings usually last about 16 hours), open up the kiln, but don't look at it! The first picture was taken only a few seconds before the second.

Take stuff out, put it in a pile of sawdust. Wait a few seconds for the sawdust to ignite, and then sprinkle more sawdust on top.

Then cover it all up with the 'Reduction Chamber' (trash can) and wait for about 10 minutes. Then put all the pottery into buckets of water. After a few minutes, you can pick them up and see what you have.

The glazes themselves are special Raku glazes. Originally, lead-based glazes were used. Today thats not the case, but because of other reasons, Raku fired pieces are not food safe. A good thing to know when choosing which pieces to fire. The glazes are a lot of fun, and usually (but not always) do one of two things: be metallic or be crackly. They are always (not usually) a surprise.

Some crackly (surprise! pink!):

Some metallic (surprise! blue!):

The surprise:

I don't know what happened on the left side of that bowl. Its a surprise. Maybe there was too much oxygen, I don't know. One of the Rules of Raku is to never fire something you love because if it survives the thermal shock and isn't dropped, who knows what the glaze will end up looking like.

Oh, I also made a little votive holder. Its a metallic surprise glaze, but when in use, you can't see it anyway.

And in addition to all this fun Raku stuff, I also brought home a big batch of regular stoneware tonight. But I'm pretty sure I'm over my length and picture limit, so I'll save it for another time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Claire's Doll House

Another project I'm marking down as finished. The inside has yet to be decorated or painted, but for all intents and purposes, this doll house is finished. It was quite a project, so it feels good to say that. I really wish I had a picture of the 'before' because it came completely unassembled in hundreds and hundreds of pieces down to the individual shingles for the roof and unassembled windows and porch railings.

Jim and Teresa bought it for Claire, and assembled the body of the house when they were visiting earlier this summer. After they left, I finished up the gluing (not a nail was used in the whole construction), stained the roof, and last night I finished painting the exterior. Even on a doll house a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference.

I enjoyed picking out possible color combinations with Colorsmart at Behr.com. I think I had about five possibilities that I showed Claire, but once she saw there was a purple option she didn't consider anything else. And then last night as I did the final touch-ups, she sat back and said, "This is exactly what I wanted!"

Friday, August 10, 2007

another storage makeover

Up until last night, Claire's dresser was a $10 garage sale find that I let her paint when we moved in last year to keep her busy. It wasn't a very attractive to look at, and I finally got sick of it. Last night we painted it white and purple, naturally, (Claire helped again, she's improved her technique since the last attempt) and added some new drawer pulls that I found while browsing around Company C with Teresa last summer. I wasn't sure what I would ever use them for, but at $.25 a piece, they were the only thing I could afford in the entire store, and they were cool. Just like the paintings in the kitchen, these 'big blue diamond jewels' have finally found their place.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Storage Solution

I was standing in the kitchen the other day, and I realized that when we moved in, we just put stuff where ever it fit, intending to move it to a better place when we had the time. So its a year later, and stuff is right were we originally put it. It works, of course. The things that need outlets are by outlets and so on, but its just not as efficient as it could be. One of the problems is that there isn't a ton of counter space, and thats what I chose to focus on when I started my Super Sweet Kitchen Storage Solution. I've finished Stage One: Above the Stove. Before, it was a blank wall above an ugly stove:

And right in the center was this little door that opens to reveal an exhaust fan since there is no hood overhead. We've used it exactly once when I opened the door saying "Huh. I wonder if this thing works. Oh look, it does". So I didn't hesitate to put stuff in front of it. Stuff like three stainless steel utensil canisters, to hold utensils, of course. I rigged them up on an aluminum pole I found at Home Depot (Claire and I were at Home Depot a few days ago when it started down pouring. We wandered around while I considered different, less ideal options for this part of the plan, and stumbled on this pole, which was exactly what I wanted, and for just $3. I had no idea such a thing was even made). Then I added a narrow silver shelf above it to hold the stuff I use most often when cooking, stuff that was taking up counter space. And finally, I hung paintings of sage, bay leaves, and basil. I painted these months ago and they have been sitting in a box in the closet. I think this is the spot they were waiting for.

So, Stage One is finished. Everything is perfectly on-hand.

The second part of my plan will have to wait until my dad comes to visit in a few weeks since it involves wiring new outlets. I can't wait.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rhode Island

This past weekend we went to Rhode Island so Mike could participate in a tennis tournament. We had a really good time. Mike played well, and it was fun to watch him in an organized sport again. Maine's most popular sports seem to be alternative sports. Its not so easy to go watch Mike ride his road bike, so tennis was nice. We were also able to check out the Providence Children's Museum and the EcoTarium. They both were lots of fun for all three of us (the EcoTarium had a fantastic planetarium show), and it was a great way to break up the weekend, especially for Claire. I think it was much easier for her to sit through a tennis match when she knew we were going to a children's museum afterwards.

Gotta love "The Big Lady". Sometimes, children's museums a strange item or two hidden in a corner.