Friday, September 23, 2011

The Pottery Studio is Open!

Various experimental pottery pieces
Success! I think.

Part of the incentive for permitting the building of a 3-car garage for my husband, was that I would get to park my car in it during the winter, and I could have a pottery/art studio on the second floor. Well, as with all things my husband puts his mind to - it has come to fruition. He has his classic muscle car now safely housed in the garage, and I have a functioning pottery studio (minus a few last minute touches, like water supply and flooring... But, I have two wheels and a kiln, and a hose with water (and many 5 gallon buckets for toting up and down stairs with slop).

And, now, the kiln has been fired! That's honest-and-truly ceramic bisque!! And all of it hand-made by me and a few kids in the neighborhood. All that's left is do fire it up for a glaze firing, and we'll be in business. The business of having fun, anyway.

Speaking of fun - how about those monsters? That's my daughter's handiwork (and a friend or two). They came up with some creative looking creatures ;).

I'm hoping to start a club, where friends can come and work on their art/pottery. I haven't figured out how to work it, though; the kiln firing requires me to be present, sleeping in the upstairs of the garage if necessary. I don't know yet what the costs of firing are, and it's a small kiln! I had ~15 pieces in there, and that was half of what I wanted to fire. We also desperately need a reliable source of water, drain, and water-resistant flooring (probably sheet vinyl). I could also use another table...

I'm looking forward to some quiet time to glaze these pieces, and do a glaze firing. I'm still learning about glazes; apparently there's a world of fun cone 5/6 glazes that emulate high fire glazes like I'm used to at the Columbia Art Center. Until I find a scheme that I really like, and that I want to reproduce, I will probably be buying a lot of pre-made, expensive glazes. But I'm looking forward to experimenting with some recipes soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back Garden

In Britain, they're called back gardens. I have a backyard. And a front yard, and a side yard (technically two, if you count the 3-foot strip of weeds between the house and the driveway). But for a time in my youth, I lived in a house with a back garden. It came with the house my family rented when we lived in England, and it was very nearly exactly what you envision when you hear the term "back garden" - there were orderly sets of herby disorder along two sides, a small structure for storing garden implements, and a laundry drying line, with just enough room for a few small children to play tag. And there were hedgehogs, and martins, and occasionally geese, if they wandered too close from their foraging in the farm field behind our house.

Early Summer Vigor
Well, I almost have a back garden again! Thanks go to my husband. He is a man of ideas and action, and when he thinks a thing he does a thing. We bought our house in 2004, and it has undergone such an amazing series of transformations... Anyway, among the the most recent of these is the backyard. This spring we put in a flagstone walkway from the deck to the gate, and a small kitchen garden. I went overboard with planting in that 2.5ft x 8ft space; 5 tomato plants, 5 types of basil, green onions, carrots, string beans, mint, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, fennel, dill, bell peppers, sage, rosemary, garlic, parsley, cilantro. The tomatoes and basil have been beyond heavenly, and we've had several batches of beans. As for the rest, well - I'm sure they were fine, but I just couldn't find them! The basil and tomatoes decided they were the rightful heirs to this plot, and the rest were left to their crowded corners, shaded and slightly stunted. I thinned out the herd yesterday, and found many of them still hiding. The carrot seedlings were not thinned; they are stubby little things and slightly bitter. I would be too if I'd been forced to live like that. Likewise the green onions - I have a mass of skinny white things that I don't know how to clean well enough to make them worth my while (they, too, should have been thinned). The Thai basil, while pretty in its purply ruffly youth, is now slightly bent and discolored. I gave up on the fennel, breathing it in as I tossed it into the compost pile. I'm making another batch of pesto, and have pulled off the last green tomatoes. I'll saute those carrots in lots of butter - that will give them a much sweeter disposition. Maybe next year I'll have a better sense of what to plant.

Which leads me to why were outside, doing this trimming - we finished the back garden! Mostly. In the spring when we started, we placed stones and mulch on two sides of the deck and across half the back of the house. Then came summer. (pause for time passing). Then we found just the right time to finish the job (the timing of things is very carefully considered; it has most to do with gauging the disposition of the workers involved - namely the two children and me; Mark was ready as soon as he found the conditions favorable). And now there is a back garden, in need of more planting. I think we will consider more carefully this time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beachy Freedom

This is what I want to feel like. Falling, but with purpose, style, and strength. Jumping because it's fun. Flying, for a moment, wind through my hair and the holes in the knees of my pants. Such concentration on her face! She is having fun because it's her job! Just out of frame is the quiet beach in early spring, with no one but us and the empty lifeguard tower. The other kids with us were all taking turns (or even concurrently) jumping off the tower at different stages, right into the lumpy sand. Sometimes they would roll, other times just land on their feet (always with a silent 'oomph' from Mom).

I was looking through my pictures to find images that said "silly"; I wanted to submit a photo for a photography assignment on a blog I enjoy - I could find pictures that I thought were silly, but I'm not sure the subject of the pictures would think were silly. The probably thought they were being "cool" or "serious" or "mean".
I just think they're adorable!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beavers in Western Maryland

We visited Rocky Gap, and walked around the lake. There were many trees like this, but this was the largest. I wonder how long it takes a beaver to take down a tree this size. The kids were eager to show off the beaver sign. They found cattails, and wanted to pretend they were eating "hot dog plants".

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Labor Day Camping - Shenandoah National Park

This Labor Day weekend, we joined Uncle Alec and JB, and the Lines and their kids on a camping trip in Shenandoah National Park. I have always enjoyed Skyline Drive and the park; more from a driving and OOooh! and AAhhh! standpoint. Before this weekend, I had never seen a bear outside of a cage, or a skunk... Despite a proliferation of high-powered cameras at our campsite, not one picture was taken of a bear, or a skunk. I did capture a few fun pictures of very expressive Ranger Denise at the Birds of Prey show.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Ireland with the Donovans Part 1

In January, we booked an impressively affordable trip to Ireland. Based in Adare at the Adare Manor Resort & Golf Club Villas in County Limerick in the west part of Ireland, the package included our own full house for 6 nights, a 4-door car, and flights to and from NY. So, in the months preceding, I managed to completely get overwhelmed with all the things we could do. In the end, I only booked 4 things; a pedicure for myself and Brenna, a golf lesson for Liam, a back massage for Mark, and, at the advice of an Irish friend, the day and a special dinner at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. With those activities as a framework, the only other thing we were committed to doing was finding Castle Donovan in County Cork and making a pilgrimage!

The countdown to our departure was complicated by Swine Flu paranoia. In an ironic twist, both children came down with the flu. Not *the* flu, or so the doctor said. But it was flu, and they stayed out of school all week long. We were anxiously monitoring their health in case we had to cancel the trip (for the first time ever, we actually had bought trip insurance). Thankfully, they were well enough, and with extra homework lined up, we prepared for our trip.

Initially, Mark was going to be involved in an SCA event on Saturday. Sadly, we had booked our trip to coincide with an event Mark had helped initiate; he was supposed to lead some instructional sessions on melee work. Our flight was at 6:30pm Saturday from JFK in New York; we decided to drive as it was the most direct way to get there. Mark was going to lead his session, then head straight home and we would leave by noon, anticipate arriving at 4:30, then get on the flight. We nearly always are at the airport just in time to get on the plane, so we were used to moving quickly ;). Instead, Mark opted to forgo his event so we could not feel hurried. It was well he did; while we did arrive by 3:15, finding parking and getting to the airport with kids and luggage ate up any spare time we had, and as a result we got on the plane dry and not sweaty, which is just as well for a long flight ;).

The flight itself, while uneventful, was stressful. Next time we bring eye masks! Brenna would *not* fall asleep; they left the TV on all night long and she would not close her eyes!! I was completely annoyed and grumpy because I kept feeling little elbows and knees while I tried to sleep. Liam, however, snoozed the whole time. Mark and I agreed that we would just have to let him drive first ;). It made for a rough few first days with lack of sleep.

Finally, we arrived in Shannon at 5:45am, local. We waited patiently to go through the single lane for passport control, waited patiently to get our bags, waited patiently to get our hired car. Angela at Dan Dooley Car Rental asked if we'd booked with a MasterCard World, to which I said no. After processing paperwork, I presented my card - a World MasterCard. She then said that we could waive the collision damage insurance because it was a World card. I told her I'd been informed that it wasn't covered. Then we waited patiently while Geraldine at World MasterCard spoke with her supervisor and read every manual to come up with thoroughly conflicting information: Ireland was covered. Only Northern Ireland was covered. Republic of Ireland was excluded. But Ireland was covered. ??? Angela was thoroughly confused and slightly annoyed, as they had been operating under the assumption that rentals with World MasterCard were covered, and had been advising customers they didn't need the insurance. It's a mystery I hope I don't have to solve...

We got our car! Quite respectably sized Ford hatchback. Though, if the children's suitcases had not already been undersized, all our luggage may not have fit... Anyway, Mark bravely pulled out, gear shift in left hand, and we set off for the Cliffs of Moher!

Mark decided, mid sentence, that he needed a nap. I took the kids and started the hike up to the viewing area for the cliffs. What a treat! By the way, the weather was nothing like we expected. It was sunny! And while not exactly warm, it was not in the least uncomfortable. It was long-sleeve, roll 'em up, twinset cool. Naturally, it was cooler in the winds that blew up over the cliffs, but it was still far more pleasant than not. We saw birds and flowers and amazing views. When we finally made it back down to the car, I took over driving and we pointed the car toward Adare.