Monday, January 31, 2011

Help, I need a title for it...

I finished, well- almost finished - an art project today.

I've been a potter, a ceramic artist, for thirty years. Clay is my art medium. I've done very little with brushes and paints and am in no way a painter. But I have been out of my pottery studio for almost a year now and have had a niggling need to do something besides bake and decorate cakes. So one day I bought myself some paints and started playing around with them. Around that time I read the newsletter from the gallery where I have been showing and selling my pottery for the last fifteen years. I saw that the February show is an open show with a theme (of square art) and I decided to use it as an excuse to experiment a bit. This is what I came up with in my spare time.

Samuel came into my studio tonight and I asked him for a comment on it. All he said was "I don't know what it means." 


How does he think that art should "mean" something? Mr. Dirtywrench looked at it, cocked his head and gave me that look that I knew meant I don't know what it means...

Okay. Listen. It doesn't mean anything. I am not going to scrape together some pretensions and come up with a high-fallutin' meaning for it. It is first of all a painting exercise and secondly a project that I did just for fun. It's a project that doesn't need me to labor in a cold studio with hazardous chemicals. I don't have to submit it to flames of intense heat and lose sleep over whether the results of my hard labor will be good or terrible. I get instant gratification with this project.

There is nothing original about the idea at all. This kind of thing has been done in fabric, in tile, and other media. I simply spent some time painting 12 x 9" canvas papers, I cut them into two inch squares and spent several days arranging them. The gallery might very well tell me to get that thing outta here. 

If they do let it stay in the gallery it needs some kind of a title. I need some help here. Does anyone have a good idea? I have one day to come up with something.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Kitchen the Boulangerie

Whenever my daughter comes to visit everyone anticipates indulging in her hand-made crusty sourdough bread. She gets enlisted for the task of crafting it very soon after arrival.

Making artisan sourdough bread is a skill she has honed and perfected at home. She has read about and researched the science and techniques of it on her own and taught herself through the trial and error of baking countless loaves.

She makes a number of varieties of bread with the sourdough and uses it for pizza crusts and cinnamon rolls. Her brother's (and other's) favorite version is the jalepeno and pepper jack cheese loaf.

A couple years ago she conducted a sourdough bread making class here in my kitchen for me and my friends. I blogged about it here if you are interested in seeing the step by step process.

Though I learned to make it, I have not honed my skills because with all the practice it would require, I'd weigh about 400 pounds by now from eating the test loaves.

So every time Katie bakes these breadful beauties we find ourselves taking pictures of the process and the products.

Katie impresses me every time with her understanding of the science of the bread making process. You would think she learned her skill at a boulangerie in Paris instead of her own humble kitchen in Michigan. My sourdough starter had been neglected and her method of revival was to add water to the starter that had been used to soak organic raisins. This water had captured the natural yeasts found on the raisins and rejuvenated the dough sponge. Whoda thunk it?

Katie has been here only about ten days and has already baked twelve loaves of this bread. I ate about eleven of them. Not really. Only nine.

Yesterday she made a whole wheat variety and added flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the loaves.

I've decided my daughter is a keeper.
She's staying. I mean it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boy Stuff

Number One Grandson has been having some fun at Grandma's house too.

He didn't grow and change quite as much as his little brother did since the last time we saw them.
He's the same endlessly curious, questioning boy who loves scientific and historical play exercises.

What's really fun for Jonah is that when he comes to his Grandma's house he has playmates. Not his cousins...

....his uncles!

How many uncles and nephews get to play together as little boys?

Ten year old uncles can make pretty good baby entertainers too...

...introducing them early to the boy need for perpetual noise and motion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Did I mention that my grandsons are in the house?

I think if you take a look into these beautiful blue eyes, there will be no need to elaborate on how much we are enjoying having this little guy around.

Why do babies have to grow as fast as a bad weed?

I have always said that you have to squeeze the babies more to slow down their growing.

I'm squeezing. I'm squeezing!

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Do You Spell I Scream?

Continuing in the tradition of bribing the kids to do well with their schoolwork... scholars finally earned themselves another ice cream cone by getting perfect scores on their spelling tests. The only way to earn the ice cream is for every student in the school to get an error-less test. This ensures that they root for and help each other to achieve success.

Even in January our small mountain town sells ice cream.

I thought about getting myself a double scoop of ice cream doused with fudge and caramel in an effort to lose some of the weight I put on while exercising in the lap pool but I decided that would be too much effort.

This little ice cream shop has two display walls with photos of the unique class of people that enjoy black licorice ice cream....

...and the effect it has on their smiles.

I'll be happy if the ice cream continues to have an effect on the spelling test scores around here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surprise Wedding

I had a fun wedding cake today.

The flowers were very simple. Just roses and orchids. The florist showed me what she was doing with the bouquets which included gold pins in the rose heads.

This wedding was a surprise wedding.

Everyone- all the family and friends- knew about the wedding.....

....the surprise was for the bride!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unusual Behaviors

The boys were so excited about going to the airport to pick up their sister, brother-in-law and nephews that they displayed unsolicited exemplary behavior for about twelve hours before. When they discovered that they still had to do school work on airport day, they got the books out and cheerfully did the next day's work before they went to bed! When they went to bed the night before the trip, they didn't get up even a single time for a drink of water. I didn't have to tell them once to stop talking as I usually do four hundred times every night. They were anxious to go to sleep so that the morning would come around as fast as possible.

And now we are having fun getting to know the newest addition to our family who has grown and changed so much in the six months since we last saw him.

Of course I spent a lot of time snuggling and holding my precious baby grandson but I was continuously untangling my hair out of his grasping fingers. I finally just put my hair up to keep it out of his hands. Turns out his mama has to do the same thing. But it doesn't deter the baby.

When Evan is tired he comforts himself by sucking his thumb. If he is being held he reaches around with his other hand to get a strand of hair of the person who is holding him.

I think it is sweet. Where do these behaviors come from?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are You Smarter than a 12th Grader?

Wordly Wise Book 8, Lesson 7

Alyssa's vocabulary lesson today. How many do you know?

1. apothecary

2. colloquial

3. curate (noun)

4. dissemble

5. epilogue

6. eviscerate

7. exorcise

8. genealogy

9. impecunious

10. lave

11. merino

12. panegyric

13. potentate

14. recant

15. scion

16. temerity

A Touch of Spring for $2.99

I love it. I need it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The River is Wild

My camera has been recovered.

It was at Ikea and I need to humbly eat my words that I would never see it again if it was left there. That place is such a well-oiled machine. Despite the hundreds of people shopping, the scores of employees working and the miles upon miles of furniture covered acreage, my little ol' camera was located, documented and waiting for pickup when I called inquiring. I am very impressed by the efficiency of Ikea and thankful for the camera's return. I need to implement their recovery methods for lost items in my house.

It will be several days before I can retrieve it from the city so in the meantime I used my daughter's camera to record the events around here today.

We are experiencing some very un-January like weather with temperatures pushing 60 degrees. Of course all of our snow has melted as well as massive amounts of snow high on the mountain. Downpours of heavy rain for days have contributed to gushing water rushing towards the Columbia River from every elevation.

Our little fork of the Hood River looked like this two weeks ago.

Today it was a churning cauldron of murky water.

As we stood on the bridge looking down at the rushing water we could hear the rocks and boulders beneath the surface hitting each other like bowling balls. Our house is less then half a mile from the river and we can easily hear its rumbling roar as a background soundtrack to our days and nights.

Two weeks ago this water inlet didn't exist.

The river left its banks last night and washed over our road.

Since today was a federal holiday, there were no road crews about. The water was coming out of an area where there is a log house hidden in the woods. A few years back, after the last flooding, the homeowner had the house raised up on stilts.

It's a good thing. This was the driveway to the house. It is the new river inlet.

Many rivers in Oregon are currently in this same state of overflow. There is more rain to come in the next few days.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Pictures

I just went to find my camera to make the next blog post and discovered that I don't have it.

This is a problem of epic proportions!!

How am I supposed to survive without my camera? A camera has been at my fingertips since I was about thirteen years old! I have always had a camera to photograph both the important and mundane happenings in my life. What am I going to do without it? The next two blog posts were on that camera! I might as well shut this blog down without it.

I think I left it in my son's truck. I hope and pray I did because if I didn't, I don't know where it is! Egads, I can't even think about where I may have left it!

Today I spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my twenty-four year old son, Neal. We were shopping for his new house. He needed ideas for how to turn his half empty house into a home that feels warm and welcoming. We had a great time and accomplished a lot. He found two rugs, some chairs for his dining table and a piece of furniture for his TV as well as a display shelf. We also tossed around a lot of ideas for the rest of the space. I really felt privileged to help him with this task. Next we'll explore paint colors to complement the rugs he got. Who would have thought a guy his age would be interested in interior decorating and home accessories? But he is very proud of his acquisition and is anxious to make it a home.

The last photo I took today was of Neal and his plate of Swedish meatballs at the Ikea cafe. Please, please tell me I didn't leave my camera in Ikea!! I'll never see it again if I did.

My grandsons are coming in four days.  I need my camera!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Food is Love

Twenty-four years ago when our third child was born we received a special gift that I have never forgotten and that has inspired me all my life.

This birth was the first time that we did not have my mother staying to take care of us for awhile because she lived far away in Oregon (we were in Michigan). Mr. Dirtywrench stayed home from his business for a few days to feed and clothe the two preschoolers we had while I slept and snuggled our new baby. He went back to work when Neal was about five days old and instructed me to not worry about dinner that night assuring me that it would be taken care of. I had many questions that he would not answer which was endlessly frustrating for me.

When Mr. D. came home that night he brought with him an entire home-cooked meal. It came from one of his customers that wanted to do something nice for him and his family. She wanted to be sure that the meal would come on my first day back on duty alone.

This completely blew me away. First of all, I had never met this lovely woman and I was astounded that she would cook for us. Secondly, she did not just send some food, she sent a complete and lovingly-made meal, from salad and entree to dessert.

My mouth remained open in astonishment as I saw how carefully she prepared this feast for our family whom she had never met. Lasagna with no garlic or onion (thinking of a nursing mother and newborn baby), a fruit salad made with homemade yogurt,as well as a vegetable salad, gorgeous bread AND dessert!

It surprised me so because I had never before received or given such a gift. I know that this kind of loving charity is a common tradition when there is a death, birth or sickness in a family, but growing up my family had never received this kind of gift. I had never participated in the giving of such either. I was very deeply touched at the generosity and love of a stranger.

I eventually did meet the gracious lady and it turned out she was a homeschooler, the first one I ever met. She and her husband were both certified teachers in the public school system but they kept their four children at home to teach them.

Over the years we have been the recipients of other meals, most notably when Mr. D.'s father passed away and our home became flooded with lovingly prepared food gifts. We have also received meals when other babies were born, but that first special gift stands out in my memory very brightly for the feelings that it stirred in me. I still get those same feelings of joyful gratitude and amazement when someone cooks for us. I think it is a better gift then money or even flowers. There is so much love in the gift of food.

I have since tried to pass those feelings on to others by doing the same in kind whenever I have the opportunity, as I did today. It gives me joy to know that the recipients are unexpectedly receiving something necessary and comforting during their difficult times.

Have you ever been the recipient or the giver of this special kind of gift? I'd love to hear about it!

I hope this tradition never dies away.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Random Rumination

#1  It's January and I think lots of people must get engaged at Christmas and New Years. I am currently answering emails and phone calls from brides, MOBs and wedding coordinators. With three consultations and two elopements already scheduled this month, the 2011 wedding season has begun!

#2  I am aggravated by the number of things getting broken around here. The framed water color that I got as a Christmas gift. A lid from one of my pottery sugar canisters and then the glass lid from the extra large flour jar too! Several pieces of the set of dinnerware I made have been broken, including another dinner plate tonight! We aren't going to have much of a set left soon. I will have to get back in the studio just to replace the stuff in my own kitchen! What is it with the butterfingers around here? (Of course it has nothing to do with the granite tile that replaced that bouncy blue laminate on the countertops, right?)

#3  With the removal of a large piece of furniture that is getting a facelift, I had to (finally!) clean out the collection of VHS videos that have been stored for a hundred years. (What else is January for if not cleaning things out?) Now, what do I do with 49,000 VHS videos? It seems like some kind of crime to just put them in the garbage can. Is there a recycling system for the billions and trillions of VHS plastic in the world? And what about the family home videos recorded on these things? How do I convert the really special ones to digital? I have spent a bit of time viewing some of these gems. Today the little boys saw some vintage family footage from 1987. Samuel made my day when he declared, No wonder Dad married you- you look really cute! Yes, back in the day...

#4  Speaking of how I look...since starting my regimen of lap swimming twice a week (70 laps = 1 mile) two months ago.....I have gained weight.

Someone just shoot me.

#5  I'll tell you a secret. I bought some paints and brushes. The kind for painting pictures. Today I allowed my inner wannabe artist self to emerge and started a painting project.  We'll see where it goes.

#6 After spending a year trying to teach the boys to play the piano, I decided to spend money on a "real" piano teacher and drag the kids to lessons every week. They love their teacher and their playing has improved by leaps and bounds. Having a lesson in town motivates the daily whine-free practice time and hearing the music in the house makes it so much easier for me to write the check.

#7  The best news of the month, of the year.... that my dearly missed grandbaby boy is coming to see me....

....and he's bringing his brilliant, inquisitive and charm-filled big brother with him.
And his mommy and daddy too.

We're going to have some good times here very soon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Simple Life

A Sunday in January.

Fresh snowfall...


Baby Love...


A reminder that summer will come again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Aim Low for Success

We did an art project.

Hey, that is a monumental statement.  Even though I am a occasional, some-time wanna-be artist and crafter, we don't very often get at the children's art projects around here. I know. Shameful. I have no good excuses except that by the time we finish the reading, writing and 'rithmetic I seem to be out of time and energy to break out the clay, paint, glue and plaster. And that excuse really isn't a good one.

We did do a couple craft projects during Christmas break. The boys made a gift for their grandmother. I learned a lot during that project. I found that again, these two boys are as different as night and day. Samuel put his heart and soul into the project and Peter began lamenting and gnashing his teeth about five minutes into it. Clearly Samuel has the arts and crafts genes flowing in his body (do genes flow?) and Peter favors the other side of the family that does not. Eventually Peter persevered with it and they finished the gift and had that nice sense of accomplishment. But I learned that complex projects that take two days were not going to be "fun" from beginning to end.

So our art project this week was just a teeny, tiny one of low expectations that required nothing but art paper, crayons and some oil. The boys had fun with it nonetheless. It was inspired by our history reading of the colonists building their first settlement homes. The book described that the windows in the early homes were covered with oiled paper. We talked about how inefficient such window coverings would be and decided to try oiling some paper ourselves.

This art project was a bit more do-able then say, cutting down a few trees, hewing them into square-sided beams with an adz and constructing a colonial style building. I've heard or read about homeschoolers who do this kind of learning in their schooling. Is it possible that these homeschoolers really exist? If so, I bow to to their superior educational dedication.

I found some heavy art paper (used for acrylic painting projects that, um, someone somewhere does...) and used a sharpie marker to draw on a stained glass style design. The boys then rounded up six crayons from the bottom of the pencil box and proceeded to coloring on the smooth side of the paper.

When their designs were finished they used a cotton ball to rub mineral oil onto the rougher side of the art paper.

The paper immediately began to get more translucent. They buffed the paper with the cotton ball, rubbing the oil in taking care not to use an excessive amount of oil

We let the papers dry over night. The next day they were completely dry and not the least bit oily or tacky feeling at all.

As window art this was a surprisingly successful project!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Water from the Rock

The Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade mountains have some very unique and interesting geological features.

One of those features is the basalt rock which was formed during ancient historic volcanic activity. The towering cliffs of basalt line the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River. The igneous rock protrudes through the ground in my backyard. Mt. Hood itself reveals its basalt bones when the snow melts off in the summer.

The winter here so far has been unusually cold, consistently below freezing. The Columbia Gorge is normally quite temperate with only occasional snow or ice.

The extra cold temperatures have brought out an interesting feature of the basalt rock that borders many of the roads in the area.

The rock is constantly seeping water.

This phenomena is mostly unnoticeable in other kinds of weather. If it is raining the rock is wet anyway. If it is hot summer, the water coming out of the rock is quickly evaporated. There are many mini waterfalls to be seen but the impression is that they are formed by streams of rain run-off and snow melt and many of them are that. In spring the waterfalls flow in abundance.

But what this cold weather has revealed is that this water is not run-off but is coming directly out of the rock. Of course, if the water source was traced back to a source, it would be rain and snow run off but the layers of rock above the basalt layers do not have water or ice on them. This water has been in the ground and is now coming out of the rocks.

This water is probably the most delicious and clean water available. It is filtered by the best natural filter there is.

Isn't our natural world endlessly fascinating?