Sunday, January 29, 2012

Getting Down and Dirty

     Our chicken pot pie is ready, adorned with flower shaped biscuits (Ivory's doing), and smelling positively delicious. After waiting a solid 45 minutes for my husband to walk through the front door, I allow the kids and myself to dig in.

     Every night for the last week, I have been slipping off my wedding band, sneaking out of the house, backing the car out of the driveway and driving over the Scott street bridge to get down and dirty with some clay.

     I took my first ceramics class the same semester I met the pony tailed, bike pedal pushing, often bare foot young man who is now my wool plaid shirt and big boot wearing, might be confused for a red-neck husband. I lived and breathed ceramics for years. Loading and unloading kilns, spending late nights at the studio, falling asleep in folding chairs conveniently set up next to the belly of the warm gas kilns, earning myself the status of Ceramics Student of the Year.. and then I dropped the ball somewhere along the way. I never managed to complete a cohesive body of work or document things properly. (The primary reason being that I just never thought anything was good enough.) Adam and I got married, spent five weeks traveling around Europe and I went to graduate school for something completely unrelated. Yes, I now have a masters in Plant and Soil Science with a focus in Soil Chemistry. My last contact with clay was while I taught a Beginning Ceramics Class at the Stillwater Multi Arts Center with a bulging baby belly. After that, I wholeheartedly found myself elbow deep in dirty diapers and homemade baby food all while diligently memorizing the assumptions that underlay the chemical processes occurring at the soil particle solution interface.
     Even before I made the move to Missoula, I had spent hours looking over pages of google results trying to figure out just where I was ending up. I stumbled upon the Missoula Clay Studio website and told myself that some day, when I had figured out what exactly I wanted to do, I would rent a space there. Which is really one more way of making an excuse not to enroll in a ceramics class at all.
     So, one more baby and two moves later, I finally just did it. I made the phone call. I am enrolled in a Cone 6 Soda Fire class at the Clay Studio. I don't have a plan. I am simply enjoying the feel of a well centered lump of clay gliding past my fingertips, pulling on it gently and watching it grow into a familiar shape: New coffee mugs for Adam and I, a plate, bowl and cup set for Ivory and Sylvan. Maybe by the next time I sneak out of the house, delegating the baby and bedtime routine to my husband, I will have a plan, but even if I don't, I am not letting it stop me anymore.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Soups and Scents

     Our household has been pulsing from chaos to mess, chaos to mess, chaos to mess. For the last week we (with the wonderful help of friends) have been shuttling everything we own, including our two dogs, seven chickens and massive piles of wood, across our neighborhood with Sylvan and Ivory in tow. Figuring out where to sleep, where to wash laundry and how to cook dinner on top of the mess. The washer and dryer are finally hooked up, and while many small piles remain everywhere, I am beginning to see our new house become a home.

     All through this process I keep thinking of someone I love very much, who is day after day taking care of someone she loves very much, as he is fading away, and wishing I didn't live thousands of miles away. I have no words to offer. I know nothing of death and dying except that it is inevitable, and I often wonder what exactly we talked about in that Death and Dying class I took in college. Why is it of no aid to me now?
     I have had a flat rate postal service box laying on my bedroom floor for weeks, and now it is laying on the floor the living room of this house. I have thought and thought and thought about what to put into the box and I have finally come up with a way to package the only thing I think might briefly lighten the difficult situation: food, warmth and soothing smells.
     So, I measure and scoop, cut and sew, measure and scoop, and finally have a neat little pile of things to put in the mail only to realize that I am missing a crucial element: an up to date mailing address. So I grudgingly place all the content in a bag and hang it up, hoping it will remain out of reach of the vortex of stuff that is my living room, to be mailed first thing tomorrow morning.

Care Package Content
  1. Evening in Missoula Tea - because it is my favorite, caffeine free and tastes like a good dream
  2. Dark Chocolate with Mint - because chocolate makes everything better for a moment
  3. 2 soup mixes (I added dried onion flakes, so you don't even have to chop an onion when it is cooked)
  4. Herbal Neck Wrap - to ease pain and provide relaxation

DIY: Herbal Neck Wrap

I looked at page after page of different types of herbal neck wraps, I finally gave up on finding good instructions and took what I thought were the best features of many and attempted my own neck wrap design. Here is what I came up with:

  • scissors
  • thread
  • pinking shears
  • pins (if you want them), sewing machine, iron
  • 1 piece of cotton fabric 21” x 11
  • 1 piece of flannel fabric (one color or pieced together from scraps) 21” x 11”
  • 2 pieces of ribbon ½ ” x 11” or doubled up strips of flannel 1” x 11” and stitch together and cut edges with pinking shears
  • 3 or 4 cups of rice
  • ½ cup of flax seed
  • ½ cup of lavender flowers

1.  Fold the cotton fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew (leave half inch seam allowance) along the long and one short edge. I sewed a second seam between the first row of stitches and the edge, just to be safe.

2.  Turn, press.
3.  Mix the rice, flax and lavender in a bowl.  Pour into the fabric bag.  Use a funnel for ease.

4.  Sow the open short edge of the bag shut.  Fold over the end once, sew, fold and sew (again just in case).
5. Take the flannel piece of fabric.  Fold one of the short edges over 1/4 of an inch, press, and then fold over 1/4 of an inch again and press. Sew to create a finished edge. 

6. Fold the flannel in half lengthwise and sew along the long and short (un-hemmed) side of the rectangle. Turn and press. 

7. Add one tie to center of each side of the open end. 

8.  Slip the inside rice filled bag into the flannel sleeve and it is done. 

How to use the neck wrap:  Microwave for 30 seconds, redistribute the rice and microwave for an additional 30 seconds, repeat if necessary.  Store in a plastic to maintain the lavender scent for a longer time. Slip off the cover and wash if needed. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Better than Good

     We are four days into the new year, and I finally made that puppy chow I have been saying I was going to make for a few months.  Every time I walked into the pantry to retrieve the ingredients either my chex or chocolate chips had disappeared.  Even today, when I pulled the chocolate chip bag from the shelf, it was almost empty and I had already put the butter and peanut butter in a pot on the stove.
     Lately, I have been flailing, struggling to find my way through the chaos that surrounds me, but today I was determined not to get swept away.
     I poured the remaining chocolate chips into the saucepan, and added a square of baking chocolate.  It was in its nondescript white wrapper.  I paused momentarily, and then tossed it in.  I didn't care if it was bitter or semi-sweet, it was all I had, and it had to be good enough.

     After few handfuls of powdered sugar dusted, chocolate enveloped, nutty chex, a messy toddler and a pleasantly surprised husband it is decided:  they are good and they might even be a bit better than good.
    I am a few days behind, and am lacking my usual list of well defined new years resolutions, but my goal for the year is to take what I have, give all that I can and try to remember that even though things might not be what I expect or imagine, it will be good and sometimes maybe even a bit better than good.

so, bring it on 2012!

but before I entirely leave 2011 behind, here are a few highlights of the holiday season:

Cardamon Bread Braids/Wreath

2 cups water (warm)
1 1/2 Tbst Yeast
1/4 cup sugar

Add yeast and sugar to the warm water and let sit for 15min.  Then add:

1/4 cup oil
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp allspice (or cinnamon)
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
5-6 cups of flour

Stir all the above ingredients into the water.  When the dough gets hard to stir, turn it onto the counter and knead flour into it until it is warm and elastic and not sticky.  Put it back into the bowl, cover and let it rise for an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Turn it back onto the counter, make a dent in the center of the dough and add:

1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

knead until the raisins and nuts are evenly distributed.
If making a wreath: divided into three pieces, roll into long strands, braid and form into a wreath.  Place onto a large cookie sheet or baking stone and let rise for about an hour.  Put it into a pre-heated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes.  (tap on bottom to see if finished - it should make a hollow knocking sound)

If making into braids:  divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Divide each of the 4 pieces into 3 pieces, roll into strands and braid.  Place two braided loaves onto one cookie sheet.  Put into a pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Rotate cookie sheets in the oven for even coloration half way through the baking time. Tap on bottom of bread to make sure it is done.

Remove from cookie sheet or baking stone and cool on a wire rack.  Serve with butter or cream cheese.

Cutting our Christmas Tree

Baby Safe Fabric and Paper Ornaments

Making Butter Cookies - Stars, Hands, Rinos and one Airplane

Ginger Bread Houses

Adam opening his present - home brew complete with label

Ivory liking the dress I made her (from a men's shirt)!!!

Baby Safe does not mean indestructible.