Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Saturday mornings

For Christmas, Kev, Joycie & Sam gave me a gift certificate to Space Studios for a 4-week pottery class. This is what I’ve been doing with my Saturday mornings now, and I am lovin’ it. I’m working with red clay, and I’m “building” pottery, as opposed to throwing pottery on the wheel. I’d like to try the wheel sometime in the future, but I’ve done it before... way, way back in high school, and it’s difficult.

Before going to my first class, I got some ideas of things I’d like to make. My first effort was a box pot. I wanted to make one to keep wooden matches in, something pretty to sit on the counter instead of a cardboard box of matches.

The class is just going there, having the owner or someone else, show you the ropes, answer your questions and guide you. You can make whatever you want. At my first class, I explained I wanted to make that box pot, and that’s when I learned I had to get all the pieces of it ready, but couldn’t assemble it until the following Saturday because the clay had to harden a little bit to be workable and maintain it’s shape. So after I prepared all the pieces, I left them on a board and wrapped them up in plastic sack so they wouldn’t dry completely. The class is three hours, and that only took about half of my class. I then started on a balloon pot, which is draping clay around a blown-up balloon. I got this idea from a photo I saw of one, and I thought it seemed kind of easy. It isn’t. It was satisfyingly difficult. I spent a lot of hours on that, and it’s finished and drying, getting ready for the kiln. I’m making it for Kevin, so I’m not sharing the details here yet. After my second Saturday, last weekend, which I spent finishing my box pot and then working on my balloon pot, I was so excited, that I went Monday evening and finished up the balloon pot.

The “4-week” gift certificate is really for four 3-hour sessions, which I used up in 3 weeks, with yesterday being my last session. I started a set of candlesticks and worked on another small item yesterday... then signed myself up for 8 more sessions. I love it, and it’s addictive.

I saw the building being built last year because I would drive by it on my way into work. It’s a really neat building, and this photo doesn’t do it justice.

The interior includes a gallery, as well as a huge pottery workroom on the ground floor, with an office and a painting studio on the top floor. Lots of windows and light. It’s a lot brighter than my photos show. This is the pottery workroom.

And another view of it. It’s a super nice set-up. The 2 large, blue machines near the windows are for rolling out your clay into slabs, which I used when I made my box pot. Very handy.

The center of the room is where the wheels are located. I work at the center table area, and I enjoy watching folks using the wheels.

Part of your “class membership” includes an assigned storage bin, used to keep your work-in-progress. I’m No. 43. It looks empty because both my projects are over on the drying racks, and it’s holding only my bag of remaining clay... but by the time I left yesterday, it was full. And as I’m writing about this, I can’t wait to go back! Did I mention it’s addictive?!

I totally forgot to photograph the kiln area, but here’s a shot of my box pot drying. The owner, Kathy, handles all the firing, and she likes all the projects to dry very, very slowly. She does some beautiful work in pottery; there are a couple of masks hanging on the wall that she’s done, and they’re very interesting and unique.

My little, plain box pot doesn’t look like much sitting there, but it took a lot of work, and what I plan to do with glazing is going to take a lot of work, too. I’m looking forward to the glazing part.

I decided from the first not to stress out about perfection, and that’s part of why I’m enjoying this so much. It’s very relaxing. And it’s nice to get my creative juices flowing. If you have any urge to work with clay, however tiny, I strongly recommend you find a studio in your hometown and go for it. Pricing is very reasonable. For the eight 3-hour sessions I just paid for, I get those 24 hours of studio time, 25 more pounds of clay (and I still have almost half of my original 25 pounds yet!) and all the firing and glazes you need for whatever you make out of your clay. You can make one huge project or 50 little ones, doesn’t matter. The clay comes in 12.5-pound bags, and you can choose white or red, mix it up however you want. The studio has every tool imaginable available, and the owner and her employees (on-site artists) are super nice and very knowledge... and good teachers. Not everyone who is knowledgeable about something has the talent to teach, but so far, everyone I’ve worked with at this studio does. It’s a bright, clean, well-organized studio, and I enjoy every minute I’m there. All that for $6 an hour. That’s a great deal.

Did I mention it’s addictive?...

All good things...

You know how something is going along just great, everyone's having a good ol' time, but then some asshole just has to go and put a blight on the fun... Such is the case this morning at the bird feeder.

Earlier this morning, before real daylight, there were so many birds at my feeders. It had snowed during the night, so I could see what was easily a hundred birds. Small, medium and large dark birds against the white snow. I recognized the usual visitors, but there were some I couldn't identify. So exciting! (This is what passes for excitement at my home at 6:50am... that & a fresh cup of coffee.)

New arrivals recently were mourning doves this past Thursday afternoon.

I've always loved mourning doves. As a kid, I used to call to them and they'd answer me. I still do that.

And the female downy woodpecker's counterpart came back.

Early yesterday morning, a cardinal finally arrived. I took so many photos, and they were all horrible, so I give you the least horrible.

Isn't he beautiful? He must be a young bird since he is so very red. I can't remember where I learned this, but I think the older the cardinal, the less bright red are his feathers. As I write that, I'm now wondering if that's true... sounds like a research project, huh...

I've sat outside on my stool trying to get photos of birds, hoping they'll get used to me. I've left my stool sitting out there, so they at least get used to it. My brother, Jim, made this stool for me out of rough sawn oak from trees off our property. I've had it for more than 20 years, and it's as sturdy as ever. I keep it on our front porch as a table between our Adirondack chairs. This old stool is one of my favorite possessions, and I think of my brother all the time when I see it or use it. Here's a photo of it that I took while trying to photograph the male downy woodpecker. The birds have all gotten used to it... if one can judge familiarity by quantity of bird poop.

I've been wanting to get a photo of a junco, but those little, dark birds are wary and quick. When I'm sitting out on my stool, it takes them a very long time to venture back to the feeder area, and even then, they will alight on a branch and stay for just a couple of seconds. It's frustrating. Here's my best effort so far, and I don't even want to tell you how many photos I've taken of them... half end up being nothing but branch or snow with no bird. Look at his little feet curled around the branch.

I would also like to get a photo of one particular tufted titmouse who has been at the feeder quite a bit lately. He’s recognizable because he has somehow lost his tail feathers. He looks so odd, like a fat, little blob. The lack of tail feathers doesn’t seem to affect his gracefulness, though, because he flits from branch to feeder and back just as well as all his other tail-feathers-intact friends. I’ve tried to photograph him from inside, but no luck, and he’s not been around during my stool-sitting sessions.

So... back to all good things... and how they must come to an end. I’ve been working at my computer and drinking coffee this morning, enjoying watching the birds and the snow come down. When it began to get light out, the squirrels arrived. I’ve liked the squirrels. I noticed one that finally figured out how to get onto the feeder... Stupid me felt sorry for them, so I put on a jacket and went outside to fill up the feeder and sprinkle some black sunflower seeds on the ground for the squirrels, blue jays, and others who like to peck at the ground instead of up at the feeder. I was able to get within touching distance of that squirrel pigging out on the ledge of the feeder before he noticed me. And, boy! did he take off once he became aware of me. Cracked me up!

Now, he ain’t so damn funny... having learned how to climb the burning bush branch near the feeder until it bends down enough...

to leap to the wild bird seed feeder...

then leap from that feeder to the wooden one that holds the sunflower seeds...

then do the upside down acrobatics to get a comfortable position on the ledge...

while all his friends make do on the ground with the snow-covered meal...

he enjoys the best seat in the house...

And now he won’t stop doing it. I’ve opened the window and scared him out of there, along with every other creature at the feeder, at least a dozen times while I’ve been writing this post. Grrrr..... Very irritating. Not so funny now. Damn squirrel.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How to enjoy the sunshine on a cold winter's day...

With the one you love, of course...

More birds at the feeder

Today is a beautiful, sunny day. Cold, but sunny. It was a bit cloudy this morning, and we got a little more snow. But now it's sunny and 21 degrees. I've been working at my computer since Kev left for work this morning, around 7am. (Working on some spreadsheets for my job, not "fun" computer work.) I have been enjoying the birds at my feeders all morning. They started to arrive as the sun barely started to rise.

New arrivals on Friday were goldfinches, wearing their winter browns. I haven't been able to get a good photo of any of them, though, nor of the juncos. Now and then, I've been sitting on a wooden stool on the sidewalk near the feeder, freezing my butt off while sitting as still as possible. I have gotten a few nice photos that way, and I think the birds are starting to get a bit more used to me. Definitely the chicadees... a couple of them almost landed on my head. Earlier this morning, I sat out there, but only for about 10 minutes. Too cold. Needed coffee.

I got a couple of nice shots of a nuthatch.

All the larger birds stay away when I'm out there, though. I filled up the feeder before I headed back into the house. The red bellied woodpecker came back right away. He landed on the feeder and proceeded to do what he seems to do best at the feeder.

I took that photo from inside through the window... all those little black specks on the right side are black sunflower seeds flying out from the feeder. That woodpecker stayed there for the longest time just flipping and flipping seeds out of the feeder onto the ground. I think the bluejays made a deal with him or something, because they loved it.

It was funny to watch him. He would look at me watching him, wait a second or two, then flip, flip, flip. Look up at me, back to flip, flip, flip.

A downy woodpecker landed on the other feeder and stayed there quite a while, but I couldn't get a nice photo of her. (No red patch on her head, so it was a female.)

Only one sparrow out again, but I got this photo of him when I was sitting outside.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I don't carry my camera around with me all the time, but every once in a while, I get in the mood and take it with me, even if I'm just driving Sammy to school then heading into work. Sometimes I see something and dearly wish I had it with me. Then, often when I do have it, I see nothing that makes me want to grab it and turn it on. One morning this week, though, I was glad I had it. So I took a photo of this brick wall.

Can you see the words? I've noticed them before, and I'm surprised they're still there on that wall. They always make me wonder... what scenario occurred...?

Dude 1: OK, whaddya wanna write?
[In my imagination, the writers of graffiti in our town obviously are young men who call each other "dude."]
Dude 2: Nothin'.

Dude 1: Dude, nice. That says it all.
Dude 2: Yeah, dude, that's everything.

Dude 1: C'mon, write somethin'.
Dude 2: K.

Basically just a couple of destructive young teenagers with not much to say. Or... are they? What if I were to tell you that the brick wall is right next to a very cool coffee house where our town's equivalent of young, hip artists hang out... coz it is. Which makes me think the graffiti-artist (yep, now the dude's an artist) is probably trying to make one stop and think by those 3 words on that wall...
Nothing... Everything... Something...

Unless, of course, you're heading in the other direction on that sidewalk, in which case, in the end, you get "nothing."

Deep, dude.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Both of my kids have been looking forward to today for a while now... Sammy because he got a nice gift to give to Beth, his girlfriend, and Joycie because of Kyle, her boyfriend. I'm happy for them both because it's nice to have a sweetheart on Valentine's Day. I have a sweetheart, too, but like I told my friend, Sandy, yesterday... after so many years, for the 2 of us it is basically just another day in February. I'm not sad about that at all, there are more important days for us than February 14th. Like our wedding anniversary (24 years this April!), our kids' birthdays, our birthdays...

But when you're young and have a sweetheart, this day is pretty nice. Joycie's Valentine's Day actually started last night at about 8:30... Joyce was upstairs in her room, I think she had been practicing on her violin, all comfy in her pajamas (she skipped soccer practice because she wasn't feeling well; she's been fighting a cold), and Sammy was up in his bedroom reading. Kev and I were watching NCIS on TV when all 3 dogs started raising a ruckus. It was Kyle at the door, surprising Joycie with a dozen red roses.

And was she ever surprised... and oh, so very happy.

A dozen beautiful red roses, delivered in person to her door.

He certainly made her Valentine's Day special. Ain't love grand?!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Reilly, Reilly, Reilly...

It's all about our Reilly...

Steam on a cold morning

Funny photos...

Sammy's sweet feet

My hay knife hanging on the wall

Sexy Kev on a cold morning

Sunday, February 11, 2007

This day's for the birds...

A couple of weeks ago, Kev set up 2 birdfeeders right outside of the dining room window so that I can see it when I'm sitting at the computer. This is the view of it from upstairs, Sammy's bedroom window.

For the first week, I didn't see one bird at it... but I suppose they've now grown comfortable with it, and the birds started to arrive. Just a couple of birds the first day, and now there are a lot of visitors. Mostly black-capped chickadees. Chickadees in abundance. I love the adorable chickadees.

Chickadees are always the first to return to the feeder when the birds have been scared away for some reason...

Also, many, many titmice. The tufted titmouse is a much more timid bird than the chickadee. Most of the photos I took through the windows from inside the house, but I spent some time outside today trying to get some nicer shots. The chickadees complied, but the titmice were wary. Vocal, but wary.

All the other birds stayed away while I was outside. From inside the house, I got several shots of blue jays. They are the pigs of the birdfeeder, gobbling up as much as they can. I know some people don't like them at their feeders because of that, but I like them. They're a beautiful blue against the snow and the gray trees, and I like their loud squawks.

Another bird finally starting to show up is the white-breasted nuthatch. I love to watch these birds creeping down the maple trees upside-down (headfirst).

Earlier today I saw a downy woodpecker at the feeder, in the smoke bush that's right next to it... but it was too quick and I couldn't get a photo. I did get a shot of this red-bellied woodpecker, though. He's been hanging around quite a bit.

I saw only one sparrow, this tree sparrow.

But then while I was typing this post, I noticed about 4 of them at the feeder, along with several dark-eyed juncos that have just turned up. I'm hoping that we'll get more and more birds showing up at my feeders. Just hopefully not any damn turkeys. We eventually quit feeding the birds at our old birdfeeder because we couldn't keep the turkeys away, and they would eat all the food and keep away all the songbirds... along with leaving great big globs of turkey poop all over. I don't think the turkeys are brave enough to come up this close to the house where we have my 2 new feeders. They're only about 4 feet away from the house and situated between the house and our sidewalk... hopefully far too much activity for the turkeys.

But not the squirrels. I had almost as much fun watching the squirrels today as I did the birds. At one point there were three of them vying for food. This big, fat one was the Top Squirrel.

He (or she) would chase the other 2 away whenever they ventured too close and/or when he wasn't too busy stuffing his fat cheeks to notice them. One squirrel would go up the smoke bush every time he was chased by the other.

Then he'd go back for more. When I went outside to take photos, one of them ran up the maple tree and chewed me out. Loud little bugger. Cute, though.