Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Skies

Christmas Eve was very windy as a front blew through. From one spot in my yard, I could see many different skies, just by turning around. Here are a few of those images.

click below for more Skywatch

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Gift

Found this on the Internet and had to share. Enjoy your holidays, wherever you are!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Four and one half hours

That's how long it took me to get home last night. A trip of 25 miles, that normally takes me 45 minutes, took four and one half hours.

It started with freezing rain, at evening rush hour, complicated by holiday traffic. I turned onto a four lane major state highway and crept along till my turn onto a smaller state road. My lane was full of cars and the surface was just wet, but I could see that the opposite lane was pretty icy. My turn onto a windy, hilly side street was thwarted by an accident.

I turned around in the parking lot of a veterinary clinic (a colleague, so I didn't think he'd mind) and started back. Ahead, I saw a set of brake lights. There were two vehicles stuck behind a Camero jammed into the guard rail, and a sports car slipping and skidding down the slope toward the mess. I waited at the top of the rise, then gradually released my brake pedal one delicate touch at a time and worked my way downhill.

I was pretty proud of myself, keeping it under control, until I neared the bottom. Then my back end started swinging around to my right. I applied the brakes gently, turned the wheel and ended up stopped behind the other cars, still on the road and (mostly) in my own lane, but at a 45 degree angle. Well. This is interesting.

I put on the parking brake and sat there, sussing out the situation. I reasoned if someone could stop the on-coming traffic, the rest of us could work our way around the Camero. I watched for a break in the flow. No good. The other cars aren't going to be going anywhere because of the first accident. I figured the police should close the road until the two obstructions we
re cleared.

I called 911 to report the problem and asked for someone to direct traffic. I can hear you all laughing - of course, there was no one available for such a minor snafu. Every officer was out on more serious calls.
I called my sister for comfort and moral support.

A woman in an SUV went by. She blared her horn, shook her fist, and made ugly faces at me while (apparently) shouting vile words. What in the world? Did she think I liked being stuck sideways, with my nose in the other lane? I didn't do this on purpose, "lady." Have a little compassion, can't you?

The salt truck went by, and a good portion of his delivery landed right under the front of my car. Good! That should help the slippery patch where I am sitting {sideways}, if I ever get a chance to move. I sat and thought.

It was time for the people to take matters into their own hands. Two Good Samaritans got out of their cars and began directing traffic. Those of us stuck behind the Camero were able to get out around him and move forward. I didn't slide one bit once I started moving. I found a different route and aimed towards home again.

At this point, I had been on the road for about one hour, and had gone less than five miles. The situation was not looking good. I was supposed to be at the Christmas party at the pottery studio. I called them, reported my delay, and told a friend who lives near the vet hospital to just stay there, not to try to come home just yet.

Things were looking good; traffic was heavy but not unreasonable, the roads were merely wet, not slippery, and I began to have positive thoughts. Till I turned onto another four lane state highway. This was my major east-bound route, and there was no other safe way back home. This road was not slippery at all, but for 12 miles, we just crawled. There were no accidents and no reasons I could see to be going this slowly, but there you have it.

I called my sister, and we talked for an hour as I went 3 miles without touching the gas. I kept my foot on the brake and lifted it on occasion, proceeding forward on "idle" alone.

As I neared the studio, I called them again, planning on stopping by, not to party, but just to take a break. I needed to get out of the car, stretch and relieve some tension. I turned on the country road that leads to Scarborough Fair, only to find traffic at a stand-still. Again. I turned around in a drive-way and headed for home, calling my instructor to tell her what was happening.

Everything was fine, slow but fine, till I turned south on the last leg of my journey home. The smaller state route was slushy, icy, slippery - it was no damn fun, to be exact. I watched the cars ahead of me, trying to anticipate conditions. A salt truck went by me - Hurrah! On one hill that I was particularly concerned about, someone had scattered a load of sand, which made the climb much easier.

I pulled into my driveway at about 10:40pm. I had left work at 6:10pm. I had been driving, without a break and under tension, for 4.5 hours. I was tired, stiff, and more than just a tad anxious. My commuting companions, Holly and Grace, were bored. They had been champions throughout the long, long drive, but they were ready to get out of the car. And, to be honest, we all needed to pee!

I gathered up all the things I had toted with me that day - purse, spare clothes for pottery, water bottle, left-overs from my lunch, the Scottish shortbread and peach wine I had for the party - and started for the back door. I knew the sidewalk would be slippery, so I stayed on the grass for the most part. At one point, I had to cross the walk. When I planted both feet on the concrete, I began sliding sideways, downhill, towards my garage. I waited, assuming I would hit a rough patch and stop. As I picked up speed, I envisioned this situation ending badly, but could not figure out how to prevent it. Finally, I went down on one knee, in a kind of "controlled fall," then picked myself back up and finally made it into my house.


This morning, as I listen to the rain on the roof, the weatherman tells me it is 45 degrees. I will miss having a white Christmas, but that's OK. I'm not in a hurry to repeat that drive in the near future.


Monday, December 22, 2008


I bought this big dog bed for Holly and Grace for Christmas, since they insist on sharing a bed that is really only big enough for one. Look at who is sleeping in it first!

Trust a cat to find the most comfy place in the house.

"What's your point?"

Edit, Dec. 24:
The dogs have recovered their bed.

Note that it took 150 pounds' worth of dog to move one 13 pound cat.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pottery Field Trip

One of the things Peggy does for the potters and students of Scarborough Fair Pottery is to arrange field trips. Saturday, five of us visited Jason Parsley at his studio/gallery, Parsley Pottery in Cincinnati.

Beyond the festive windows and through the door, your first view of Parsley Pottery is the small gallery packed with beautiful pottery on display (and for sale!)

But, for us, the magical part of the visit was the trip behind the scenes, to see the work area where Jason and his employees create these treasures.

This potter was mass-producing mugs, his skill and rhythm allowing him to recreate the same size and shape over and over. I'm so jealous!

Here is his morning's work, row after row of mugs resting on the drying rack. Here they wait until they reach the "leather hard stage," when they will be ready for the next step in the process.

Further back, a rack of plates are drying on forms used help retain their shape and symmetry, as well as to prevent them from warping.

Once they dry completely, these pieces will be bisque-fired in one of Jason's five electric kilns. Here are three of them, safely confined behind a heavy steel door in a concrete-block room. This decreases the risk of fire, and I imagine it helps keep heat down in the rest of the work space.

After the first firing, the pottery moves to the glazing area. This is where Jason's proprietary glazes and signature slip techniques are applied to achieve the unique look that says "Parsley Pottery."

Glazed pottery awaits its turn in the kilns.

Special pieces are fired in the gas reduction kiln that Jason hand-built in his studio.

In most small pottery studios, pots are fired using an oxidizing process. Reduction uses different glazes as well as a different type of kiln, giving the work this unusual look.

For more information on reduction versus oxidization, go back to your high school chemistry books!

All these resources and hard work creates this:

Parsley's Signature Glaze Trail line
seafoam green with flowers

lower: floating blue with flowers
above: sandstone matte

Standard line, Harvest Sage pattern

An award-winning display, with Jason's new red glaze
[click on any photo to enlarge and see the details]

And here is the man himself, Jason Parsley, behind the counter of his shop.

With such shapes, colors, and patterns, is it any wonder people love pottery so much? Peggy has asked Jason to do a workshop for us next spring. I can hardly wait to learn from such a talented potter!

Friday, December 19, 2008


No, it's not my age or my weight, you smart-alecs! It's not my shoe size or my I.Q. It's not even the total number of birds on my Life List, though I am working towards that goal. No, 400 is the number of posts I have put up on this blog.

Can you believe you have wasted so much time here? As a reward, here is a recent photo of four Blue Jays at my ground feeder - one for each of the one hundred posts I have done.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Production Potter

It has been a while since I have shared any pottery photos or stories with you, so let's catch up.

I don't think I ever showed you the shallow sun bowl I made to go with my sun-moon mug. Now, I just need another piece with a moon stencil and I will have a matched set of ... something.

While trying to throw a spherical shape (I am aiming for "piggy" banks shaped like bluebirds) I ended up with this pot. Don't know quite what it is for, but it's pretty. I like the throw rings.

chun plum

Messing around one night with the last of my brown clay, I ended up with this short, wide pot. To me, it looks like the perfect place to store your scrubbies next to the
kitchen sink. The glaze is a new one for me, called Sandstone Shino. The shino glazes, by Coyote, have this nice habit of "breaking" to a brown color, especially when used over brown clay. You will see more shino colors later in the post.

One of the things I love about attending pottery classes is the phrases I have learned from my fellow potters. When something is irregular and messed up it is not ruined, it is "organic." When something is lopsided, someone will assure you that "symmetry is over-rated." And, when you try and try to make a matched set of something and you can't make two in a row come out like the image in your head, a kind soul will remind you, with an air of superiority, that we are not "production potters."

Despite knowing all of the above, I was determined to make everyone on my staff a wheel-thrown pottery pump dispenser, for hand lotion or liquid soap, for Christmas. I started last winter, nearly a year ago. I had a few mistakes, a few keepers, and then a long run of "every pump dispenser I try to throw goes to hell." A couple of months ago, I realized I had to step up production if I was going to make my Christmas deadline.

These are some of my earliest efforts. The glaze on the right is called Grape Jelly. The one on the left, just for the sake of confusion, is also called Grape, but they are from different manufacturers. As you can see, the colors aren't the same.

I was very disappointed by my glazing on the next piece. This is my old reliable Blue Rutile, which I used on this pump specifically because I had stamped a pattern in the wet clay, and I thought I would get that lovely denim blue with brown accents showing up in the impressions. Unfortunately, I wasn't liberal enough with the glaze application, so all I got here was the underlying brown. A thicker coat of glaze would have brought out the blue (but too thick and this glaze runs. Got to get it "just right.")

This pump is glazed in Forest Satin. I find I don't care as much for the matte finish of this glaze, so when it's gone, I won't be replacing it. I also like it better on brown clay, and this piece is made of white.

Now, this color I really like. This is Textured Kiwi. The pump on the left is of brown clay, the one on the right is white clay. You can see some subtle differences in this photo, but they are more apparent in person. This color I will keep.

Here are two more of Coyote's shino glazes. We last saw them on the mugs I made for the Flock and took to Cape May. On the left is Sunrise Shino, on the right, Goldenrod Shino. I really like the effect of the brown flecks showing through.

The goldenrod pump is one of the last ones
I threw, and I think you'll agree my form is improving.

Finally, another pump in Grape Jelly. With this piece, I have finally achieved the shape I have been envisioning for the last year.

I had to scramble, but I finally ended up with nine decent gifts. Just when I thought I was done making pump dispensers, we hired a new employee. And, it is a guy in our all-female workplace. Wonder if a guy wants a lotion dispenser? Well, he can give it to his mom or his girlfriend if he doesn't want it. I hope everybody likes them!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12 Degrees

Aahh - today was a rare day. It is my Saturday off and it is "Second Saturday" at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Every month, on the second Saturday, CNC schedules a whole day of events - programs, exhibits, and of course, an 8:00am bird walk. I have been planning for this day all week. My alarm was set for 6 o'clock. I was going birding.

Until I woke up this morning, that is, and heard the weather report. "It's eighteen degrees and windy," said Cheerful Weather-lady. I snuggled deeper into my blankets and debated the wisdom of leaving such a warm place. It is a 45 minute drive from my house to CNC. If I am going to the bird walk, I have to start getting ready soon. Is this really what I want to do this morning? Perhaps I should sleep on it.

My thought processes were disturbed by a small, anxious whimper. Dog owners know that
sound. It's a certain whine, the tone of voice that says, "I'm not kidding, Mom. I have to go potty RIGHT NOW!" I got out of bed to let the dogs out. I looked at the back porch thermometer:

Twelve degrees. It is only 12 degrees outside. And dark. If I am going to make it to the bird walk, I have to start rushing around, putting on all my warmest clothes and finding my birding gear. Maybe I will stay home and watch the birds at the feeders. I looked out the windows.

Technically, I looked AT the windows, since looking through them was impossible. The windows were frosted over. That settles it - I am NOT going birding today. After all, it is only 12 degrees out there.

After messing around at home, filling my bird feeders and feeding my mealworm colony, I got up the courage to put on some clothes and head outside.

I spent most of the day traveling around shopping, with some random birding thrown in. I saw a female Purple Finch and a Pine Siskin at the feeders at CNC, but missed the Fox Sparrow and Red-tailed Hawk. I ran into three fellow birders, who wanted to know why I hadn't been at the early morning bird walk. (A bit like being caught at the mall by your boss when you have called in sick to work that day.) I saw a total of 5 American Kestrels along Clermont County country roads, but came up empty during a stop at Mehldahl Dam to look for the Peregrine Falcoln.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day to bird.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hey, Nina - We're in the paper!

You may remember my post and Nina's about our recent birding trip to East Fork State Park with the Cincinnati Bird Club. This was the trip where we saw the Glaucous Gull, and also, coincidentally, the trip where we were joined by a reporter and a photographer from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

They took lots of pictures and made lots of notes and asked our names and home towns, but I didn't really expect that anything would ever come of it. Today, "our" article is on the front page of the Entertainment and Leisure section, complete with photos.

Of course, between the multiple layers of clothes and the angle, you can't tell who anyone is here. I know which one is me, the person in front with the unzipped blue coat over the grey hooded sweatshirt. The person to my left, on the far right of the picture, is Nina.

The article was fairly well done, and I have only a few minor quibbles. One caption under a photo of Bill Stanley, the trip leader, said he was listing all the birds "banded" that day. (The quotes were used in the caption.) In fact, we had not banded any birds. I think that came about because Bill was making his notes using banding codes, as many birders do, and used that phrase when explaining his shorthand. The reporter must have thought that "banding" was a term for counting or viewing.

In addition, the article had to include the obligatory reference to the birder stereotype as a goofy old guy in a hat. The unfortunate title of this otherwise nice write-up was:

You can read the entire article here.