Friday, May 29, 2009

some more celadon

As you can tell from some of the comments, Wolf is not a fan of the celadon glaze I chose for the most recent group of pieces I made...  I, on the other hand, think it's one of those glazes that is a lovely canvas.  Francine uses the celadons for most of her stuff and does a great deal of embellishment.  I'm not one to adorn the piece as much as use the piece for the right thing.  For instance, a vase is meant to hold flowers, I like them simple so that they cooperate with the flower to make a pretty combination.  Peonies are my fave flower and I really think they ae lovely with the blue green of the vase.

Here are some photos of my latest stuff...

 All this and a big Happy Birthday to Louie today!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Peonies in Bloom

No special title today, but I wanted to share some new photos.  Linus shared an idea a few months back that was a short, shallow dish with a metal frog in the bottom for flowers...  the frog helps the flowers stand up straight...  so when I was working I wondered how successful I'd be at making a pot with a lid, a lid with a single narrow hole that would hold the flower up...  These are not at all what Linus suggested, but I'm pleased with how they came out.

I have been calling them my "peony pots" for a few months now and was getting rather worried that I would not have them in time for when the peonies bloomed and yet (thanks to Francine and some cooler than usual weather) I got them just in time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crack! It's what's for dessert or "Oh, Crap!"

When I heard that we were putting together a surprise birthday party for Johnny Schenks for his 40th I was all in.  I declared that I would make the cakes.  After much thought, questioning and consideration I decided to make a white cake, a carrot cake and a chocolate cake.  (Stand in awe of my creativity!)  OK, I admit it, they were some very safe choices, but in my own defense I have some fantastic recipes for some very basic cakes...and let's face it, the classics (which are classic for a reason) are so poorly done these days by the mass producers of baked goods that a really good classic is almost like coming home.  Come on, if it isn't angel food cake then it shouldn't be light and airy, it should be dense and moist...  I labor on, but you get my point.

I'm still enumployed so I spent Wednesday fetching everything I needed for a major bake-off on Thursday.  On Thursday I made my cakes...  they were all perfect.  Once they were cooled through to the core, I wrapped them up and stored them away in a cooler that we got a few years ago.  The cooler is big enough to bury a Jr Hi kid in and was just the right place for the cakes (someone bought a side by side fridge that isn't big enough to put a turkey in).  The cakes were safe and sound in the cooler.

Friday came and I began the ordeal of decorating.  I started with the dark chocolate ganache because it takes over an hour to set-up (if it sets up too quickly it's to hard to frost a cake with and has to be eaten with soup spoons - this isn't a bad thing, but I didn't have the ingredients for two batches).  Then the cream-cheese icing, into which I put crystalized ginger chunks (a nice addition but to be honest the punch of the ginger was not strong enough to compensate for the fact that it looked like there were boogers in the icing).

Cricket was running errands so I asked for a box to put the white cake in and a board to carry it on.  I got just what I had asked for, but it wasn't until I put the cake on the board that I realized it just didn't rise high enough to slice and add a layer of lemon curd (which I was already in the process of making).  I had borrowed Louie's half sheet layer cake pan and used a double batch of white cake to fill it...  So, I made another double batch of white cake to create my second layer.

I made the dam of icing around the edge of the bottom layer filled the dam with lemon curd and then stared at it trying to figure how on earth I was going to plop the second layer on top without causing the lemon to squirt out the sides...  In Classic Cricket style the response was simply, "Gee, I don't know..."and I promptly found myself alone in the room.  What to do???

Now, on a separate occasion my mom had suggested that I cut a cake in half to facilitate the ease of moving and manipulating it once it was iced no one would be the wiser.  I thought this was a terrible idea, because it seemed to me that the cake would pull apart when it was moved, but now that I had all this cake to work with it seemed like a great idea.  I cut the cake into two pieces, managed to find a way to lay them in the appropriate spots on the filling without it gushing out and pulled the icing from the fridge where it had gotten as hard as a rock.

I'm a stickler about icing so I'd used a block of butter and almost five pounds of powdered sugar to make a vat of butter cream (I have an easy recipe that never fails me and tastes pretty good) [sometime I'll tell you about the time Linus, who knew I was bringing to a party a batch of cupcakes with my white icing, made a white cake himself with his own white icing just to see whose icing would win in a taste competition]  So, I had two Gladware containers full of icing that I had to get to the right temp to be spreadable on a freshly baked, mostly cooled cake.

I iced it.  It was good.

I piped a turquoise border around the cake.  It was pretty.

I wrote out the lettering with a meat thermometer and then piped it in.  It was nice.

I took the bottom out of a styrofoam cup and used the cup as a funnel/stencil for small circles of colored sanding sugar on the top of the cake.  It was finished.

Of the completed cake Cricket said, "it's gorgeous..." , and it was.

We loaded the chocolate and carrot cakes into Cricket's SUV,  I packed up a triage kit in case I need to re-pipe some of the stars around the egde of the big cake, and I climbed into the car holding the cake, on a board, in its box, on my lap...

...and I'm in Jersey...

...and the pot holes are monstrous...

and as we drove I watched the cake.  Sometimes resting it on my lap, sometimes serving as a shock absorber, I carried this thing...

..and I watched it happen, just like I would have guessed that it would happen.  First the icing appeared to have been stretched on the far side of the cake, then it split and the gap began to open.  the blue stars on the far side of the cake began to sink into the crack.  "Birthday" became "B    irthday".


Cricket looks over.

"I can't believe it..."

Cricket looks over.

"Surprise, for your birthday you get an all expense trip to the Grand Canyon."

Cricket laughs.  "Can't you fix it?"

I began to wonder why, if Cricket was so blind, I was not the one who was driving. "NO!"

"Well, it will still taste delicious."

"Great!  Close your eyes and blow out your candles and keep em closed until I have a chance to cut this mess into squares."

I had worked the entire day on something that would "still taste good".  Oh, Yea! for me...

We got there as the continental divide happened on Pangea.

I brought the cake to the kitchen in the basement and stared at it.  Louie responded to my distress text and said I should just fill the crack in with icing...  I said that I couldn't fill the grand canyon with one truckload of dirt... 

I came up with a Plan B and decided that I wouldn't stress, but enjoy the party.

As we stood in line for the dinner buffet Wgeoff bent over (he's 6'8) and said to me, "Did you see the cake down stairs?  What a mess!  they spent all that money on a cake when they could have had you make one that would probably have tasted better; even if it wasn't decorated as nice."

Call me crazy, but this was one of the highest compliments of the night; he had mistaken my cake for a professional cake gone wrong!  I couldn't have been happier...

When it was all said and done I piped a big "40" on the carrot cake and called it "decorated" - thats' where the candles went and it was lovely...

...and Cricket was right, even with a crack right down the middle, the white cake filled with lemon curd and frosted with white lemon butter cream icing was still delicious.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Don't put words in my mouth or "even my phone punishes me for having fat fingers"

The thing that I find most amazing about texting with my I-Phone is not simply that I can do it, which is a miracle on so many levels.  Truly, it is a miracle both that there is a device I hold in my hand which will send a message to my sister deep in the woods and because I (the techno-challenged) have actually figured out how to do it.  Nonetheless, what stuns me is that my phone tries to figure out what word I'm typing as I type it.  Every text is like Wheel of Fortune as I start the letters of a new word l-i-t-e (it guesses "lie", then "little" and finally "literature")... and that is just the word I'm sending.  (Ok, so I don't send the word "literature" often, but you get the idea).

My niece has mastered this on a phone that does not give her a key board (something my I-phone has).  Like most texters she uses the numbers to somehow send a message and they get there...  ...and she knows just how to push a couple buttons so that the phone can guess what word she wants to send.  I am amazed.  Her texts are not only decipherable; they are coherent.

And so it is that late last night I received a message from my friend Schmi saying, "I'm dirty I didn't come to your show."

...then a follow-up message saying "OMG I mean sorry"

This kind of thing used to be called a freudian slip, and to be honest, had she been standing and talking with me saying aloud that she was dirty that she didn't come to my show (only to apologize that she meant sorry) , I'd have thought something along the freudian lines.

...but I know this, Schmi also has an I-phone.

You see the I-Phone will guess words as you are typing and if you don't tell it specifically that you don't want that word it will simply over-ride you.  One might think that with D being next to S Schmi typed D instead and I-Phone started looking for D-words, but that's far too simple an explanation.

It's really gremlins with a two-fold purpose.

Their first purpose is to completely humiliate us by sending words in messages that make no sense whatsoever.  Schmi caught her mistake - I never ever catch mine.  Most often when I text the receiver wonders, not that I have two masters, but that I even have all my marbles.  the classic response from Wolf is.  "Um what?"

The second part of their purpose is to lull us into a world where we do not have to talk to anyone.  I have friends with whom I chat regularly, but to whom I have not spoken in months.  They don't pick up the phone (answer), they retrieve my message and send a text. "Sorry you're so depressed, hope it's better soon"

On Saturday I received a text from my niece who was coming to my show.  She needed directions.  I started a text back and sent it both before it was finished and before it was proof-read.  So I started another text with directions and the most amazing thing occurred to me - I could actually call her and speak the directions - this method worked beautifully; she got lost, but that wasn't my fault.  


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saturday's show

Cricket came home last night from pottery class (lessons are at the studio where the gallery is) and said that a woman who came to the show on Saturday stopped back last night to buy the small casserole dish (if it hadn't already been sold).  


What a success the show was.  I didn't keep track of the number of people that came through; the crowd was mostly made up of friends, tho a few people who saw a note in the local paper's calendar section stopped in to check it out.

I asked any of my friends who purchased pieces to leave them for the duration of Saturday's show so that those who came late could see my work.  We marked the bottom of anything that was sold with a sticker.  At one point, a guest complained that everything she picked up and looked at was already sold.  To ease this frustration, Cricket ran around and put stickers on the rim of everything that was sold - it wasn't until then that I realized just how many pieces had sold and it actually caused some of the folks that had been hanging with us for the day to grab the pieces they wanted.  A neighbor walked around with a bowl under one arm and a vase under the other.

Francine, my pottery teacher, was there and it was a special satisfaction to have her see and compliment the show.

-You know what this means, she said to me.

-What's that?

-Now you have to make more!  

We laughed. (I actually do have half a dozen stoneware bowls in the works already.) 

I couldn't have done it without Cricket who worked so very hard all day!

Here are some pictures: 

the three free standing shelves that I filled comprised "the show" 
there are also some shots of groups of the pieces
one funny thing to remember is that everything is glazed in the same glaze

it really was a great day - most of the work sold, which completely shocked me.