Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day Madness (Yummy Recipes)

I think I hinted, a couple days ago, that I might post my Thanksgiving Day Culinary Adventures here.

This time I figured I'd skip the Play-By-Play and just wait til the damn thing was done (and confirmed "Delicious") before I posted the recipes.

I did kinda half-heartedly snap a few pictures (with the Crappy Droid Cam). Not sure if they're worth posting. If I decide to do so, they'll be in a separate post.

Look, I'm not touting myself as a "Foodie-Blogger" or anything. This is just my place to yammer about whatever, right?

In fact, right now I am in the Tiki Shack o' Perpetual Summer (Thank Gawd I've got a space-heater out here!), enjoying a margarita ("En las rocas, con sal!"), covered - head-to-toe - in white clay dust (Why-oh-why do I wear dark clothes out here??!!). I just finished making a couple of wine-glass-holder/snack trays, a handful of Chile Pepper holiday ornaments, and am contemplating glazing the rest of my Hurricane Cocktail holiday ornaments (so I can run another glaze firing this weekend)...

And, I figured I'd take a few minutes to schmear some white clay dust on my Netbook and post the "Successful" recipes from yesterday's feast...

Hell, I have absolutely NO business being a Foodie Blogger - given the sheer quantity of weight I *need* to lose! And, being diabetic, after spending just over a week in the Land o' Carbohydates (Mexico), and returning to the START of "Stuff Yourself Silly Season." Good Lord!!!

Okay, okay... Back on track here!

Da Boyd: I bought a Fresh, Organic, Range-Raised, Zen Buddhist, Birkenstock-Wearing, Granola-Eating, Tree-Hugging, Turkey Breast for a princely sum. Since it was minimally-processed, I figured I'd better brine it so I used Pioneer Woman's Recipe for brine here.

I am absolutely not claiming this recipe as my own, but I did make some minor adjustments. First, I halved the quantity of ingredients since, I suspect, her recipe would handle a 20# bird and ours was just a 9# breast... And I did some other "tweaks" as I went along... Nevertheless, this is definitely Pioneer Woman's Creation! (No plagiarism or copyright infringement here!!! No Sirree Bob!!!)

So anywaaaaay,,, the afternoon before Thanksgiving, I brewed up the brine, following Pioneer Woman's most-awesome recipe *almost* to the letter.

When I threw everything into the pot, I realized (once again!) that I didn't select a large enough pot for ALL of the ingredients, so I simmered everything with just 1 quart of water (figuring I'd add the remaining 3 quarts when I stuffed everything into the brining bag). I also added a handful of fresh sage to the brew - simply because my sage plant was begging to be pinched back (I'd say it was probably about a Tablespoon of fresh sage).

Pioneer Woman's Turkey Brine
Ingredients (modified for my 9# breast and "reduced sugar" mandate)
  • 1.5 C Apple Cider
  • 1 Quart of Water
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Rosemary
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Sage
  • 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 3/4 C Sea Salt
  • 1/2 C Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (as opposed to equiv 1 C Brown Sugar in the orig. recipe)
  • 1-1/2 Tbs Whole Peppercorns
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • Zest from 2 Oranges
Combine everything in a medium-ish pot. Stir until the sugar/salt are dissolved. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cover. Let it cool.

Here's where I started to get creative. Let me tell you, this brine smells positively HEAVENLY and I thought "Gee, that might be a good 'base' for my injection marinade!"

So I reserved half-a-cup of the "condensed" brine and stuck it in a jar in the fridge.

Then, once everything was cooled, I poured the brine into a 2 gallon ziplock baggie (in my largest pot), then added 3 quarts of water and stirred it up well. Then I plunked (more like wrestled!) the turkey breast into the brine, sealed the bag and crammed it into the fridge to soak for 24 hours (or thereabouts - might've only been 18 hours - whatEVAH!).

Thanksgiving Morning, I kinda wrestled/rolled the turkey around, a bit, in the brine bag - since the "top" wasn't getting *as* brined as the rest of the bird. Then I started prepping other stuff...

I spent a fair amount of time working on a modified Coconut-Yam/Sweet Potato/Whatever-Casserole. It "sounded" really interesting. And it was. "Interesting." But not in a good way (not BAD, mind you. Nobody got rushed to the hospital for severe gastritis or anything), but it just wasn't good enough to share.

I think I've decided that we just aren't "Yam People." Last year, I baked the yams (in their skin) and served them like potatoes - only with butter and brown sugar. Those were actually pretty good but DH didn't seem impressed. I tend to "shun" traditional candied yams with mini-marshmallows (I was traumatized, as a child, when the mini-marshmallows caught fire under the broiler in my mom's oven many-many-many-many-many years ago!).

Okay... Next up: The injectable marinade... I nearly swooned over the aroma while the brine was simmering, and I snuck a taste of it. Dayum good (albeit - quite salty!). Originally I was gonna go with a pre-made mild Cajun-Butter Injection Marinade (I've used it in the past, and it is quite tasty), but I decided I wanted to stick with the more "citrussy" end of the spectrum. Along with butter (Hell YES we gotta have BUTTER!). So here goes:

QT's Citrus-Herb-Butter Turkey Injection Marinade
(Okay, I *am* gonna take credit for this one!)
  • 1/2 C PW's "condensed" Turkey Brine (recipe above)
  • 1/2 C Chicken Broth (I think I'd go with un-salted*, or at least "Low Sodium")
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) Melted Butter (again, un-salted* would be preferred!)
  • 3 TBS Lemon Juice (I squoze a fresh lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder ("Perish the Thought!" but it had to fit through the syringe!)
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Finely Ground Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Rubbed Sage
  • 1 Tbs Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
*I ended up having to add about 1-2 add'l Tablespoons of White Sugar (:::GASP!:::). Unfortunately, I did not have un-salted or low-sodium butter or chicken broth and the marinade came out a little *too* salty. The sugar took care of it, but you'll definitely want to taste the marinade before you call it "done!"

Anyway, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well-blended.

And as it was cooking, I again, noted how WONDERFUL it smelled and I thought "Gee, this might also work well as part of the 'base' for my Stuffing!" So, after it was done, but before injecting the bird, I reserved about half-a-cup of the marinade to incorporate into the dressing!

But I digress (yet AGAIN!!!) You pretty-much want to inject the bird about an hour (or so) before cooking, so the marinade has a chance to soak in throughout the bird.

And - since there's an awful lot of butter in the marinade - well, you need to time things appropriately because if the marinade cools too much, the butter wants to separate, then solidify!

So - about an hour before cooking, I removed the turkey from the brine, then soaked it in a sink full of clear water to get the excess salt off. Then I had to re-heat the brine - just nuke it for a few seconds in a narrow-deep container (tall coffee cup). Then inject the hell out of the breast.

I try to avoid poking too many holes in the bird (since "where it goes in" is also "where it can ooze out!"). So I load up the syringe, poke a hole in the bird, go deep and inject (pulling back as I depress the plunger so the marinade gets distributed throughout). I don't pull the syringe out completely (or if I do, I try to re-use the same hole), then inject a different section of the breast, utilizing the same pull-back/inject technique. I try to hit 3 different "sections" with each hole.

I think I ended up with only 8 holes in the bird (4 along the "top" centerline of each side of the breast). It's tough to explain, verbally. If you've never done an injection marinade, Google-it, there are tons of instructional videos out there (and it really is an awesome way to prepare a bird!).

Then let the breast "rest" in a roasting pan for about an hour before cooking.

For roasting, I used my "Big Easy" propane oil-less turkey fryer. Love-Love-Love it because it frees-up the kitchen and you can (mostly) "Set it and Forget it" (other than checking the temperature, periodically, 'cuz our "Remote Sensor" doesn't work through the window-glass for some odd reason) (and it was raining outside and I didn't want to stand out there all friggin' day!!!).

I have NO idea how long it took, but I wanna say it was roughly 2 hours to get up to 165* internal temp (in the middle of the breast). Once we got there, I removed the bird, stuck it in a disposable foil roasting pan, covered it with foil, then wrapped it in a towel (in the house) to "rest" and finish cooking...

Next up: Stuffing (The VERY BEST part of Thanksgiving, I think!)

Unfortunately, I didn't keep super-close track of what all I did, but I'll recount the general jist of it:

I freely admit that am a TOTAL cheater: I started out with two boxes of Stove Top Turkey-Flavored Stuffing. BUTTTT... I amped it up, okay??? (and GAWD was it good!!!)

First, I heated up my reserved marinade in a smallish saucepan. Boiled it and let it simmer for a few (maybe 5 minutes), then poured it into my big pot.

Added 1-1/4 Cups of Apple Cider and 1-1/4 Cups of Chicken Broth, and a stick of butter (Yeah!!), and heated it up. Then I dumped in the two packages of Stove-Top Stuffing Mix. Followed the package directions for the stove-top method of stuffing-making (which I have, since, forgotten, but it's a No-Brainer) (although - BTW - I omitted the water b/c I was using apple-cider+brine+chicken broth).

Then, in the smallish saucepan, I browned a 12 oz package of fresh Maple Breakfast Sausage (Flavored with REAL Maple Syrup). Once it was brown, I tossed in some chopped red onion (1 medium onion) and chopped celery (2-3 stalks). Swished em around - on medium heat - in the sausage grease 'til tender. When that was done, I transferred everything (grease and all - Arteries be damned!!!) to the Stove-Top Stuffing Pot.

Then I added a couple handfuls of Craisins and a couple handfuls of chopped Pecans (maybe 1/2 cup of each? No clue how big my handfuls are!). Stir it all up and transfer it to an 8x8 cake pan and toss it in the oven @ 350* about 20-30 minutes before dinner so it gets crispy and brown on the top (actually, it made WAAAAAY more than an 8x8 cake pan could accommodate, but I tossed the excess into a storage container and just stuck it in the fridge for later noshing!).

This dressing was THE BOMB!!! (I'd never made Sausage Stuffing before. Now "I'm a believer!!!")

Last up was the Gulliver's Creamed Corn - which is almost embarrassingly easy to make, yet indescribably delicious. I didn't change a thing in that recipe.

Other Stuff: Rolls from a Tube (Courtesy of Pillsbury!); Mashed potatoes (No Brainer) and Pumpkin Pie ("Like, duh!") - although I cheated and bought a pie from the Snob Hill Bakery...

Truth be told: We were both so stuffed from dinner, we didn't have room for dessert!

It really was a wonderful Thanksgiving Meal (and we've got leftovers up the gazoobie!)

Oh, and the Million Dollar Turkey Breast? It was *quite* delicious. It had a much "firmer" texture than the overly-processed turkeys I've made in the past (in fact, I was nervous that it wasn't quite "done" when I pulled it out of the cooker). But it was most definitely moist and utterly delectable! Yes, I'd probably do another Free-Range, Organic Turkey again...

Happy "Black Friday" to one and all (and NO! I did *not* participate in ANY of that Madness!!!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Uno Mas

...and the view from D's Terraza....

How I spent my day...

...about a week ago...

Holy Cow - Where did the time go???

Jeez, get back from vacation on Sunday... Greet the Hounds (Piddle-Frenzy)... Get unpacked... Ignore the Metric Ton of Laundry that has suddenly materialized... Take Monday off (to "decompress")... Make the mistake of checking work email on Monday Afternoon (150+ emails - Good Gawd!!!) Skim through them and attempt to concentrate on the "most recent" stuff...

Suddenly realize that THANKSGIVING is this Thursday!!!! AAAACCCCKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!

Thankfully (or maybe not) - "Family" has been reduced to DH and me - so that simplifies things considerably!

But still! Can't do Thanksgiving with what we've got in the fridge (about a quart of questionable milk and a few bags of squishy/fuzzy vegetables in the crisper!) so a trek to the Grocery Store is in order. I managed to cobble-together a list and made a trek to the store on Monday. I didn't want to do a "whole" turkey - now that I've discovered Turkey Breasts (Now that just sounds weird, doesn't it?!). I also didn't want to do a "Frozen" bird - I really wanted something Truly Fresh and Minimally-Processed.

I think I blogged about our Adventures at the San Benito County Fair about a month ago (at least I hope I did!). I actually would have liked to have purchased a fresh Turkey there except that A) They had to be taken home "ALIVE" (and I'm not about to slaughter a turkey at home) and B) They sold for almost $1,000.00 apiece!

Anyway... I consulted Google to try to determine where best to purchase a "fresh" minimally processed turkey and finally settled on getting a Diestel Turkey. Local, organic, range-raised, minimally processed and - as it turns out - ridiculously expensive.

Whole Paycheck - err Whole Foods carries 'em. But I figured Snob Hill might, as well. Yup. Snob Hill had 'em. I got a 9# Diestel Turkey Breast for just over $40.00 ("Ouch!"). But - I reminded myself - that's LESS THAN $1,000.00 *and* I didn't have to slaughter it myself!!!

So now I've got a Turkey Breast brining in the fridge; I've dusted off the cobwebs from my "Big Easy" Oil-less Turkey Fryer; And I think I've gathered together enough ingredients to put-together a halfway-decent Thanksgiving Feast (from which there will be leftovers a-plenty, I'm sure!).

For the brine - I totally "stole" Pioneer Woman's Recipe (but I "halved" the recipe and "added" some fresh sage - since my herb garden is still hangin' in there). I also tweaked the preparation, slightly, because I didn't have a big enough pot - and I reserved some of the brine so I can incorporate it into an injectable marinade tomorrow...

I am also going to make Gulliver's Creamed Corn. It is abso-freaking-lutely AMAZING! One year I made it with a mixture of peas and corn - that was fantastic, too. This year, I'll just stick with corn.

I hope to post a more detailed break-down of the Holiday Recipes tomorrow - once I figure out what I'm doing!!!

The rest will be more basic T-Giving Fare: Mashed Potatoes (I cheated and went with pre-made/nuke-able!); Sweet Potato Casserole; Stove-Top Stuffing on Steroids (I add a bunch of stuff to boxed-stuffing so it ends up tasting more home-made). Canned cranberry sauce ("Sacrilege!!!").

I actually bought a couple bags of fresh cranberries, but I want to dehydrate them with Splenda so I can have low-sugar Craisins! And/Or I might get all crazy and try to make Cranberry Jam - after T-Giving!

Anyway... Like I say, I'll try to post more detailed recipes tomorrow.............

And in other news: I think I alluded to the South Bay Canning Club. P came up with the awesome idea to have a bunch of Canning Friends get together to "swap" stuff. The swap was supposed to have taken place back in October (when my yard would have been fine for hosting a party!). Well, schedules just didn't line-up properly so The Exchange got pushed out to November. This coming Saturday, in fact. My yard is a FANTASTIC place for a Get-Together. My house? Not-so-much! But I volunteered.... Sooooo....

Add THAT to the pile of things to Freak-Out about - Heh! Well, sometimes I *do* need incentive to straighten-up a bit. And, thankfully, Aida is coming on Friday to clean-house. I'll make sure to let her know I am hosting a party and I'm sure she'll do a "better than average" job!

So I cleared-off the bar between the kitchen and living room. Figure we'll serve hors d'ouvres there (out of the dogs' reach!), and I hauled a bunch of crap off the coffee table - we can put our Jam-Exchange Stuff there. Still not sure how many people are coming (I'm guessing - maybe - 4-6 ladies. Mostly P's friends, but I could stand to make more friends!).

I will be serving Tortilla chips, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and maybe a bean-dip. And, of course, Sugar-Free Margaritas (and Diet sodas). We'll see if others bring more "finger foods" and we'll make a party out of it!

DH will be off, playing on das boot on Saturday, so the ladies can have their Hen-Fest without fear of offending Hubbie's Macho Sensibilities!

Anyhoooooo.... I thought I'd be blathering more about Mexico, but I've gotten sidetracked again :::sigh::: Hopefully I can go back to reminiscing about that in the days to come....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aventuras en México

Well, we're back! After a 9-Day Sojourn in Mexico.

We left on 11-11-2011 and came home on 20-11-2011 (How's *that* for some Funky Numerological Krep?).

As we were departing San Jose Airport, I was hurriedly attempting to download some English-Spanish Translators onto my Droid (only to discover that most required an Active Data Connection!). I did end up finding a couple of "Offline Translators" (which was a Very Good Thing since data cost something like $20+ per Megabyte!!!).

My Spanish is "passable" in the Resort Areas of Mexico ("Otro mas Margarita en las rocas, por favor, y un cerveza para mi esposo!"). Not-so-much en El Corazon de Mexico!

Anywaaaaaay.... We arrived, a bit disheveled and travel-weary, in Guadalajara at around 7pm, and had to do the whole Customs Thing. When you arrive in Mexico, they've got this push-button thing where, if you get a green light, you breeze right through. But if you get a red light, they have to paw through all of your sh*t. And we were *not* traveling light!!! (9-days + Scuba and Snorkel Gear!)

Well, Hubs decided to to the "hit the button" thing and, well, he has utterly craptastic luck and we got the RED light. Damn! So they had to search our bags :::sigh:::

Not that we were carrying anything questionable (although I was worried that my ceramic creations might've gotten broken in transit!). Between us, there were 4 suitcases and two smaller carry-ons!

Well, they looked through almost all of the bags and then I hefted my Big Bag onto the table - only to discover that the zipper on my bag had gotten completely destroyed in transit. The ONLY way to open it would have been to slice it open with a knife (And Gawd-Help-Us - we still had to drag it outside and load it into D's car). They wanted to search my bag and pushed it over to me to see if *I* could open it. No such luck!

I attempted, in my best broken Spanish (along with hand-gestures) to explain that we needed a knife or scissors to open my bag. "Lo siento! No abierto!" :::Big Frowny Sad Face:::

Well, the only "questionable" item they had encountered in the search, thus-far, had been 2 cartons of cigarettes in DH's luggage. They questioned me about that and I admitted that I had a 3rd carton in my luggage. "Dos para mi esposo - y uno mas para mi!"

They ended up just waving us through ("Thank Goodness!")

Anyway, we survived that ordeal, then wandered out to meet D. Thankfully, she had parked her car (since I didn't know what it looked like - other than the fact that it was a Toyota Matrix Weenie-Mobile - a HUGE step-down from the Porsche 911 she *used* to drive!). And I am soooooo glad we didn't have to slice my luggage open at the airport, 'cuz it was a bit of a trek to get to her car! (I'm envisioning my undies flying out of my suitcase as we attempted to haul it over the curbs leading to the parking garage!!!).

She had emailed me the night before our departure to confirm that she was picking us up. Thankfully, I did warn her that we weren't traveling light so she left her husband at home! (I honestly don't think we could have ALL fit into her car - with our luggage!).

Anyway... She picked us up and drove us to her home in Jocotepec - probably about an hour outside of Guadalajara.......

Oh. My. Gawd! What a BEAUTIFUL home they have!!!! They are on a mountain-side, overlooking Lake Chapala ("Million Dollar View" in the US - More like $350K in Mexico). I think she said her house was appx 3200 square feet. "Open Concept" with the kitchen open to the Great Room. The Great Room has vaulted, boveda ceilings (kinda like brick "arches"). 3 BR/2 BA. The Master Suite is separate from the other bedrooms (and overlooks the lake). Abso-freaking-lutely STUNNING!

All done up in Terra-Cotta Orange, Warm Yellows, Bright (almost neon) Greens, with Cobalt-Blue accents. I was sooooo thrilled to see that my gifts A) Survived the trip and B) Actually *matched* her house (although the spoon rest was more "orange" than Terra-Cotta).

I'll post pictures in a separate blog entry...

It truly is an amazing home. The house is set on a steep hillside, and they've built out the Terraza so that they've got an outdoor dining room and second, outdoor, living room with sofas and a firepit. And the most amazing Mariachi Sculpture... And potted plants hanging everywhere... And wrought iron-work... And Terra-Cotta tiles on the roof... And gorgeous Mexican artwork throughout (including a simply amazing, larger-than-life Don Quixote sculpture attached to one of their stone walls)... And Black, punched-tin, 3D Star-light chandeliers (one big one in the entry hall and one multi-size/multi-star chandelier over the dining table). Abso-freaking-lutely AMAZING!!!

The amazing thing is: Their lot is actually pretty small, yet they have essentially 6 "yards."
  • There's the "front yard" (which I am attempting to help with Landscape Design ideas).
  • The main Terraza, which overlooks the lake (Did I say they had an Amazing View of the lake? Oh GAWD!!!).
  • They also have an upper "side yard" (mostly gravel) which is where the dogs "do their business,"
  • Then they have a lower yard with grass (Same purpose, I think!)
  • Then there's a "Garden" side-yard, where D is maintaining a "Kitchen Garden." It's smallish and buts against the neighbor's house (very close - but you don't "feel" it - at all). The Garden-Yard also has a built-in gas BBQ grill and fish-pond( That's where we spent most of our time b/c their neighbor had unsecured WiFi - Plus we were able to smoke out there!
  • And lastly, the Guest Room has it's own Private Terraza (Smoking okay - but no internet access!)
Freaking AMAZING!!!

I attempted to take a "panoramic video" of their terrazas (but it's a little jittery! No Motion-Stabilization on my cheesy El Cheapo Big Lots video cam!). I'll try to upload it to YouTube and post a link here (later!)

I'll post a bit more about our Adventures, later. I've gotten side-tracked with "Catching up on Reality (UGH!)" But I'll try to post more later...

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Firing!

Ya know, I haven't blathered much about my Ceramic Artistry Endeavors in awhile... Perhaps we should switch gears, yes???

I *did* blather, rather endlessly, about the Construction of the Studio (in fact, I recall that my "rants" were rather minimal - comparatively speaking!), but I haven't yammered much about what-all goes on INSIDE the studio, since it's been built.

Of course, that's probably because I haven't spent NEARLY enough time out there. But, now that - ahem - WINTER is upon us (and I freaking HATE winter), I intend to change all of that!

Because it's ALWAYS Summer in Nan's Tiki Shack, dammit!!


Earlier this year, my College Bud, D, came to visit. She's the one who retired early (at age 39!). She and her husband sold their house, bought a new one - for cash - in Laka Chapala (just outside of Guadalajara), Ex-Patted to Mexico, and have been living a Life of Leisure ever since, right? ("HATE HER!!!").

Well, while she was here, we discussed the whole idea of us flying down to stay with her for a few days and... If we did... What kinda "Hand-Crafted Artistic Krep" would you like, right? And what "colors" are your house/bathroom/kitchen/yada-yada?

Now mind you - she's very close to Ajijic - which is another HUGE Ex-Pat Community with all kinds of Artsy-Fartsy Folks (to say nothing of Mexican Pottery, in general, which *I* happen to think is really pretty nice). But she did tell me that her house is decorated, mostly, in Terra-Cottas, Yellows, Greens, and Cobalt Blues... She originally expressed an interest in a spoon-rest for her stove. Then later mentioned that she'd like a vase to stand on her fireplace...

Now, I'm not much for "commissioning" Artistic Works ("I can't take the PRESSURE!!!"), but I figured I'd give it my best shot!

And, we are getting ready to fly down to visit her, very soon....

So I made her a Spoon Rest:
I kinda liked how it ended up with almost a "Flame" vibe -
given her last trip out here when she got to Ride B*tch on Roger's Harley!

In the meantime, I also started some Holiday Ornaments...

Every year, I make Christmas Ornaments for all of my colleagues at work. Not everybody exchanges gifts (beyond the usual "White Elephant"/"Gift Exchange" at the annual Holiday Party), but *I* like to give everybody some kinda little hand-crafted, off-beat Ornaments - 'cuz that's how I roll!

Last year, it was Mini-Margaritas Chartreuse (Lime) or Red (Strawberry)...

This year, it'll be Fru-Fru "Hurricane" Cocktails!

Those skinny stems are gonna be problematic, though - so I made some "other styles" as well (in case I experience too much breakage!)

I also 'slabbed-out' some other trays/bowls for selling, or giving, or whatever...

These were all "molded" from bowls acquired from the Dollar Store!

Some of the "other" Holiday Ornaments I made (in case the Hurricane Cocktails break!)

Then I figured I'd get all Fancy Schmantzy. D sent me an email telling me about the empty space on her fireplace mantle, and how she'd like a vase to set there...

I *thought* we had some extra lengths of PVC pipe, stashed in the backyard, and I sort of got a "vision" of a teardrop shaped vase, molded around a PVC pipe.

But when I sought-out the PVC pipe (which I *thought* was stashed behind the shed!), I came up empty-handed :::gasp:::

But, that very afternoon, I found a Wiffle-Bat - on sale - at the Grocery Store. So I used *that* for a mold, instead.

I came up with this:

The "daisy" impressions came from a sink-mat I'd picked up @ Lowes

So, I got to work on the "Wiffle Bat Vase" and figured it'd end up okay... But, unfortunately, it kind of wanted to "split" along the seam where the edges of the slab met. Grrrr!

I tried, unsuccessfully, to repair it while it was still "leather hard," but the crack kept re-appearing.

I came *this close* to smashing the damned thing, in frustration - but then I decided to take a hack-saw to it (while it was bone-dry) and hacked about 2" off the top of it. In the process, it cracked in a rather artistic way:

"I meant for that to happen!!!"

I ended up coating it with Yellow LUG (Liquid Underglaze)...

Anyhoooo.... Over a period of several weeks (maybe a couple months), I ended up accumulating enough "stuff" to justify my first bisque firing...

Mind you, I'm still maintaining a "Membership" at a local studio, and my intent is to complete my bisque firings (which take appx12 hours), up there... But I'm "breaking in" my kiln, so I figured I'd complete my first bisque at home...

First Bisque Firing - Complete!

First bisque - unloaded...
I think I need to do some glazing!

Wiffle-bat vase. I brushed some blue LUG on top of the yellow, and sponged it off
(to give more "definition" to the daisy impressions)

Then I coated it with clear glaze - and gloss cobalt glaze on the inside... It still looks like it wants to crack, but I am being "guardedly optimistic!"

Glazing is Messy Work!
(I wish I had enough room for a sink in The Shack!)

Glazing my "Dollar Store" Leaf Bowl

Actually, this last weekend was a bit "harried" as I was trying to complete all of my glazing so I could load the kiln. We are getting ready to fly to Mexico - later this week - and I wanted my stuff DONE!

First Glaze Firing - Kiln is loaded!

First Glaze Firing - I'm feeling a bit "paranoid!"
"Better Safe than Sorry!!!"

So I ran my first Cone-5 Glaze Firing yesterday. I was alllll kinds of nervous. "Will I burn the place down? Will my stuff come out okay? Will the Wiffle-Bat-Vase topple over and destroy everything else in the process? What about 'overhangs' at the edges of the kiln shelves? Will my stuff warp? Will the glaze drip on my other pieces? Will I destroy my kiln shelves - or worse - my kiln???"

Yes. I *am* neurotic!!!

Well, the kiln ran for just over 9 hours (I had allowed for a 200* pre-heat with one-hour "hold" because I had brushed-on a fresh - and not totally dry - coat of kiln-wash). It finished up last night.

I checked it this morning, and it had cooled from 2175*F to 166*F. Not *quite* cool enough to open - yet...

I did the whole "Work Thing" - but the kiln was lingering in the back of my mind... "When can I open it? I wonder if everything survived? What if it SUCKS?!!" Yada-Yada

Again, yes, I *am* neurotic!

Around noonish, I wandered out again...

Temp had dropped to below 100*...

Time to open the kiln (Eeeeeeeeek!!!!!).........

Happily, everything SURVIVED!!!
Yes, I think I *even* did a Happy Dance!!!

First Glaze Firing, unloaded...

I am Really-Super-Happy with my "Dollar-Store" Leaf Bowl

The Spoon-Rest came out "Okay"
But I wish the yellow hadn't faded so much into the orange...
And the Wiffle Bat Vase came out mighty-fine!

So I am Super-Thrilled that my first glaze firing came out okay. And I'm very happy that I'll have appropriate "gifts" to bring when we go to visit my friend, D, in Mexico later this week.

And I am all-kinds-of-thrilled with my kiln and am eager to start making even MORE sh*t - now that I've experienced a good, solid dose of "Success!"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Buh-Bye Summer Yard :-(

Well, as I whined-about mentioned yesterday, I freaking HATE winter!!!

Today... Well, most of the day anyway, looked pretty "decent" outside. Of course, WORK (:::gasp:::) prevented me from being able to go outside and *appreciate* it! But I digress!

When I finally *did* manage to wrap-up my workday (4:00pm - a full *hour* late for the dogs' dinner - and don't think I didn't hear-about-it from the Canine Crew!), I couldn't help but notice that things, outside, had gotten extremely gray and blustery!


I went out to bid adieu to my "Summer Veggies:"

"Adios, Amigos! And Muchas Gracias for a simply AWESOME Summer Harvest!"

And I yanked-off everything "salvageable" from the vines...

One over-ripe cuke (How did I miss that???), one slightly under-ripe cuke
and several 'Maters (in varying stages of ripeness)...

Then I moved several other "marginal" plants over against the "behind-the-Tiki-Bar" East-Facing wall...

And shrouded 'em in a bed-sheet

Boooo!!! I am "Officially Sad!"

There was NO Tiki-Bar Lazing, nor poolside Margarita-Sipping - dammit! In fact, while I was enshrouding the Plumies, there was *water* falling from the sky!!!

I did manage to stow ONE of my thatch umbrellas in the shed (the Tiki Bar umbrella is just too heavy for me to wrestle!). I also managed to drag a couple of potted palm-trees *under* the gazebo. I haven't, yet, dragged ALL of my "marginals" into the greenhouse. In fact, I haven't even rigged-up the heater, nor thermostat, in the greenhouse - YET (Oooops!). Nor have I dragged the majority of my "stuff" into the shed.

I think I might require the assistance of "Rent-A-Son Services, LLC" this coming weekend, to complete my Winterizing Efforts. I've sent a txt message to C (aka "Rent-A-Son-Services"). I'm hoping he can show up on Sunday to assist....

Man, I freaking HATE winter!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blah-Blah Winter Blahs....

Okay, true to the Blog-Name, I will Ramble Randomly today... Prob'ly no pics or nuthin'!

I'm kind of in a Funk right now because... Well... Winter is coming (ain't no stoppin' it!), and I freaking HATE winter!!!

It's not like this Winter-Thing is a surprise or anything. Well, actually, it kind of IS - because we've had a simply LOVELY October, with utterly PLEASANT afternoons, and - in spite of the fact that my workload has been positively freaking INSANE (and don't get me wrong - I *love* my job and *love* working from home! But it *has* been nuts, lately!) - I've managed to squeeze in a fair amount of Tiki Bar/Rita Time...

This is actually "pretty normal" and, in fact, *usually* between Oct 31 and Nov 1 (like clockwork!), "The Powers That Be" grab hold of the Celestial Thermostat and immediately crank it down from 80*s to 50*s, like, overnight!

Well, today is November 1 and it is still in the mid 70's (late afternoon). But the weather prognosticators are predicting an Alaskan Storm-front, along with our FIRST FROST tomorrow - and possible showers!!!


Now I *should have* taken advantage of the utterly pleasant October weather to start "packing away" the backyard. But, alas, I didn't! ("Just call me Cleopatra 'cuz I am the Queen of De-Nial!!!")

Actually, that's not entirely true. I did start packing away some of the summer lounge-chairs about a month ago. But there's still TONS to be put away. The thatch umbrellas need to come down and get stowed in the shed; the outdoor dining table needs to get covered; the Tiki Bar also needs to be covered... And sh*t needs to be moved so that plants can be stowed in slightly-safer locations!

(And summer veggies need to be ripped out... And Cool-Season veggies need to be planted... And yada-yada, yada-yada!)

Yesterday, I did manage to move the Bar Fridge and Sink over to the front porch of the shed (under an eave so they are semi-protected), and I did move my Plumerias up against the house. Need to move my Lime Tree, too...

Irony there: DH bought me a greenhouse for my birthday several years ago. 2007 to be exact!

The purpose of the greenhouse was to protect my "marginal" plants over winter. And, for the first few years, it did a damn-good job! (well, except that by the end of winter, the poor plants would be utterly infested with aphids and spider mites - who seemed to love the warm, dry conditions in there!). Well, it did *such* a good job that my Plumerias have grown into bona-fide TREES and are now too big to fit through the door of the greenhouse!


So now I have to move the Plumies next to an East-facing wall (can't get to the south-facing wall, unfortunately). And on those nights where frosts are predicted, I have to cover them with sheets!

But annnnyyyywaaaaaayyyyy... I've moved the Plumies to the East-Facing wall - behind the Tiki Bar. And I've stuck ugly stakes into the pots (so the stakes can support the bed-sheets on Frosty nights!).

I've still got quite a bit more to do - but I think I'll try to tackle it tomorrow (when it's cold and I have no choice but to let-go of my denial that winter is coming!!!). For this afternoon/evening, I intend to sit out at the Tiki Bar and enjoy another Margarita....



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