Saturday, November 29, 2008

Watching the weather network

Besides knitting, that is my latest hobby - tuning into the a few times a day. I'm keeping close watch on my route north through Idaho and Montana because I am getting ready to head back to the Kootenays for an extended stay over the holidays. The kids and I were planning to leave later in the week to drive back to Nelson, but it looks like there is a system moving in and our best bet to avoid crummy weather on the way back is to leave earlier than expected.  

I can hardly believe it's that time already. The first semester of Robin's MFA program nearly under our belts, that means we are 1/6th of the way done. Hallelujah! He has his final crit on Monday and some finishing up to do with his TA classes and then the official school business will be complete for '08. His plan is to stick around for another couple of weeks here in Logan and crank out some pots for a few gallery orders and an exhibition that he has coming up in January. We were able to get a cheap flight for him from Salt Lake to Spokane later in the month, and I'll drive down from Nelson then and pick him up and do any last minute Christmas shopping. 

With our departure date just around the corner, Robin has been around quite a bit these past few days (perhaps he's anticipating missing us, just a little bit). We've enjoyed a few walks together and more playground time this weekend. Tonight we even went for a dip in our neighbor's hot tub! The weather here is still uncannily pleasant, it's been difficult to get in the mood for Christmas while people are still mowing their lawns and jogging by in shorts. We do have some snow on the tops of the mountains, but is sure seems hesitant to make its way any further down into the valley bottom. 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks America!

Today is the American Thanksgiving Holiday. I now have experienced first hand how the celebration of this holiday is exactly the same as it is in Canada, down to the turkey trimmings and the great company to share the feast with. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year mostly because it has not been commercialized to death and as consumers there is only the expectation to buy food not gifts. I love the element of celebrating a meal with friends and family for the sake of giving thanks. Because really, we have so much to be thankful for. I am particularly thankful this year that I was able to feast on turkey twice, first back in Calgary a month ago for the Canadian commemoration of the day and then again tonight at our friends' Wyatt and Chris' place. 

It was a lovely night out. We shared a fabulous meal, a few bottles of wine and some great conversation with two other families. I was especially grateful that Robin didn't end of firing this weekend and was able to make it to the dinner party.   

While we adults shared stories around the table after supper, the babies played and the kids saved Christmas! Jackson, Finnegan and Isla spent a good part of the evening dressing up in all sorts of climbing gear, helmets and outerwear, on a mission to find Santa's missing reindeer. 

Once the reindeers had all been accounted for, and the babies seemed sufficiently played out, we called it a night. But not before I managed to make off with the bird carcass.  Tomorrow I plan to whip up some turkey soup to keep this turkey tryptophan effect going. No wonder my kids went to bed so easy tonight. 

Thanks Wyatt for the feast and friendship.  


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hot pots!

Robin crawled into bed on Sunday night at 2 a.m. (technically it was already Monday) after a 48 hour firing. Here he is 36 hours later peeking into the kiln, anxious and excited to get his hands on those hot pots (literally) and check out the results. 

Many thanks to our friend Kate who offered to watch the kids this morning, I was able to join Robin for the unloading and lend a hand. 

This kiln is called a train kiln, the design is also referred to as a coffin kiln. And that's really what it looks like. The chamber is about 6 or 7 feet long and about 4 feet deep. The pots are stacked in the kiln from above into the coffin space and then a massive door is lowered down when it comes time to fire. This design works well for loading the large jars that Robin has been working on this semester. Here is a view of the floor of the kiln with the larger work all lined up. 

It can be a little tricky getting that bottom row of pots out of the kiln, especially if you are over eager and the temperature is still around 200 degrees. It requires a good set of gloves and a bit of a balancing act. Here he goes.

Almost there.
"I think I got it." 
Robin was mostly pleased with how the firing went. Some gems, some disasters. But at least he'll have some work for his final critique next week. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A few knitfull nights

Since Robin was at the school firing for most of this past weekend, I set myself up with a few knitting projects and now I'm an addict. I finished the toque for Bobby (for a pottery trade) in just two days, then I jumped right into a pair of baby socks for Took. 

Friday night I spent the entire evening on the couch, with the phone tucked into my left ear, gabbing away with friends back home and the klackity klack of my knitting needles as background noise.

Saturday and Sunday were more of the same, although I continued my knitting frenzy during daylight hours. Isla had to even remind me at one point that it was time for me to make her lunch and that I should put my knitting down. ACK!  

I brought along a big bagful of yarn when we moved down to Utah. Various skeins, some full and others just remnants that I figured I could turn into something at some point. So now I'm frugally trying to come up with knitting projects that I can utilize all my tag-along wool. Truthfully, all I really want to do is head down to the knitting store and buy copious amounts of new yarn, but I have to excercise some restraint. Christmas is coming afterall.   P.S. Everyone is getting knits for Christmas. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Salt, Wood, Wood

That is the order of kiln firings that Robin is doing back to back this week. It seems to be crunch time. With his final critique coming up on December 1st, he wants to get as much of his work fired as he can. Throw in a Ceramics Department Holiday Sale and there isn't much time left to do anything BUT practically live at the studio. 

Despite the craziness, he has been trying hard to fit family into his chaotic schedule. Yesterday while I slept in, he and Isla (still in her pj's) headed over to the school at the crack of dawn to check on the salt kiln that he had been firing off. She came home rosy cheeked and excited to tell me all about her morning with daddy. 

I had a chance to check out the Christmas pottery sale last night, after the kids had gone to bed and Robin had hit an REM state just as soon as his head hit the pillow. Feeling confident that they would all remain sleeping, I snuck out of the house and headed over to the university to scope out some of the student wares. 

With only intentions to look and not buy, I snickered to myself when I left the sale with three pieces wrapped up in craft paper. You wouldn't think that we need any more pottery around our house, and I am stricter than Robin is about bringing more pots home to a house that already has hit it's pottery saturation point. But since I anticipated there would be some collecting of pots happen over the next few years while we are here, and I was ruthless about bringing only what was absolutely necessary in the first place - I figured a couple of pieces wouldn't hurt.   

Besides, they were practically giving the stuff away. Sadly the value of pots here is not what it should be. Not sure why that is, but apparently this annual sale has a reputation for getting something for nothing. I don't really buy the excuse that the students are just trying to get rid of the stuff, and will take whatever someone is willing to give them, just for a few bucks in their pockets. For the prices most of the pots were marked, some of them are hardly even covering their materials costs. By underselling the work, it only gives the general public an ill conceived notion of the real value of the work, which then they come to expect the low prices. 

In all, our bank account didn't really suffer. I purchased one pot, was gifted another and did a fair trade for the third pot (for one of my knitted toques).  Best get knitting.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Go Fly a Kite

For the past week I have been waking up each morning, expecting there to be a turn in the weather. But I look out my window to see sunny, calm, cloudless, blue skies and by mid-afternoon it is practically t-shirt weather. 

We've been lapping it up, spending most of our waking hours at the playground or out walking. Yesterday I actually even mowed the lawn! AND IT'S NOVEMBER? 

But this morning we woke up to the sure signs of something blowing in. The wind today was incredible. It seemed to blow at a constant all day. At one point I had to go out and pick up our garbage bins because the gusts coming up the canyon had blown them over. The temperature seems to have plummeted and it definitely was a toque and down coat day, despite the misleading sunny sky. 

Bundled in our warm clothes, we headed over to the school fields to try out our new kite that we found at a garage sale. I was trying to dig into the recesses of my terrible memory to pull out some childhood recollection of kite flying, but I came up with nothing. So instead, I decided that it would be a 'first' for all of us. Isla seemed pretty into it at first, running up and down the field giggling and squawking while Roscoe watched on from the stroller with a certain amount of amusement.  She was having a great time, that is until the kite dive bombed her from 20 feet above unexpectedly and she promptly declared that it was time to go home. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Far from home

I am feeling especially far from home today. Last night I received the upsetting news from my sister that our brother Chris had been in a skiing accident and has seriously injured his back, with a possible spine fracture. Thankfully it all turned okay. He had a long day of being transported by ambulance to another town to have further tests done. All measures taken were precautionary in case he really had broken his back. But he didn't, thank god! 

He's now back at home, pretty sore, but okay.    A lucky coincidence is that my mom is still in the country, after having spent the last week in Nelson, and is able to hang out with him for a couple days.  He also has his most wonderful girlfriend at his side, who spent her entire day chasing his ambulance.  Thank you for being there Sarah! 

It is times like these that bring you careening back into reality, faced with all the ugly "what if" thoughts. Especially being so far from home, and feeling so helpless to react. I'm so relieved things turned out the way they did, and have never been so happy to hear his voice this afternoon when he called to tell me so. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

NCECA show

NCECA stands for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, a non-profit organization offering resources and support for ceramics artists worldwide. Currently NCECA has over 4000 members, made up of potters, sculptors, educators and students. Besides offering services such as teaching tools, a community clay directory, access to scholarships and awards, a database of calls for entry and ceramic events, NCECA is likely best known for its annual conference that is held each year in the spring somewheres in the United States. 

This year the conference is in Phoenix, Arizona, close enough for USU graduate students to be eligible to apply for the 2009 NCECA Regional Student Juried Exhibition. Robin was encouraged by Trevor, another graduate student to apply for the exhibition, and surprise - his work was accepted! Of nearly 300 works submitted for consideration by 165 different artists, Robin's piece was one of 53 chosen. His large jar will be shown in the graduate category with 2 other USU graduate students.   

Mommy's night out

Last night started out like any other night for me and the kids. We'd been out in the late afternoon for a walk around the neighborhood and a pitstop at the playground. As the sun started to set, we headed for home and began the dinner making process. Isla and I danced around the kitchen to Mason Jennings, while more and more ingredients landed themselves in the stew pot and Roscoe looked on with delight from his highchair.

Then there was the bath routine, a good scrub behind the ears and a chance to play with the new floating blocks that Isla received for her birthday. Into their pj's and several books later, Roscoe went down like a dream and Isla waited up patiently for her daddy to arrive home from a productive day at school. With his arrival, all I had left to do was brush Isla's teeth, tuck her safely into bed and sneak out the backdoor!

With a bottle of wine tucked into my jacket, I made the 5 minute walk to my friend Wyatt's house for a girl's night out. There were four of us that enjoyed a fabulous evening of scrumptious food, kid-free conversation, belly laughter and wine consumption. I teetered home around midnight and slipped into bed, somewhat worried about how fast the morning would arrive. My luck continued and Robin got up with the kids and let me sleep in this morning. Thanks to the dada and to my new friends for a fun night out. 


Friday, November 14, 2008

Cafe USU!

The mug is the signature pot for most potters. They are made by the dozens to fill small spaces in the kiln and to occupy that smaller price point, making them accessible for almost anyone to buy. Often mugs are gifted by potters to other potters, to hosts when travelling abroad, and at firings the mug trade almost always happens on unloading day.

But I would still argue that the mug's most important function and purpose is for coffee. 

Coffee isn't something that is taken lightly around here at USU. Despite being here in Utah where coffee is not a permissible beverage for the predominant culture, coffee is the drink of choice for the art department. Last week a shipment of 120 lbs of freshly roasted coffee arrived after a long waiting period of drinking mediocre blends. 

These people are serious coffee drinkers. Line blends have even been done to perfect the mix of beans. Line blending is a process that potters use to mix and test clay and glaze materials to find the correct ratio for a particular desired result.  So it seems suiting that these potters would apply this particular process to their coffee to come up with the most desirable cup of coffee, wouldn't you think?

At the beginning of each semester the ceramics department puts out a call for its students and several adjunct coffee drinkers from the art building to pool their money for the big coffee order. Seeing that the grad studio kitchen can go through a pound of coffee a day,  there is good reason to order in bulk. 
Maybe it is the long hours that the ceramics students put in, or that they feel the need to put all those mugs to good use. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm not shy

I don't consider shyness to be one of my character traits at all. More often than not though, my outgoing personality usually works in my favour. Tonight was one of those times. 

I had heard about a knitting circle here in Logan that meets at a local yarn store and  had been invited to go along with some women that I know through the art dept. I was all ready to go with my first knitting project of the year in hand when one of them called to say that she wasn't feeling well and had decided not to go. Being that Robin had agreed to watch the kids and put them to bed tonight, something that doesn't exactly happen too often, I wasn't about to not go out. 

So regardless of the cancellation, I left behind a messy kitchen, and Robin and the kids at the dinner table and headed off into the dark. I always know that winter is upon us when I can't shake the itch to stitch. I'd picked up my knitting needles about a week ago and had started knitting a toque for Took. I had made it too short around his ears and wanted to try to alter it so that the time I'd invested already wasn't a total waste, but I was totally winging it, making up the altered pattern as I went. I figured that there would likely be some experienced knitters at the circle that could help me out. 

I found the address easily and soon found myself knitting up a storm amongst a large group of retirees and grannies. They all seemed a little shocked, perhaps even slightly unnerved by my participation in their close knit (pardon the pun) group. It reminded me of when I first moved to Nelson back in 2004 and joined an acapello singing group - again all grannies. Lovely group of women, but just not the social scene I was looking for - I did however hold out with that choir for almost a year, all for the love of singing.  Tonight's experience was very much the same, I was there for the love of knitting. By the time I left, I'd sought out and found someone to help me with a tricky stitch, I'd been given two complements on my hat and my knitting bag (both recycled fibre objects from back home) and I'd signed the guest wall with a big black sharpie! I'm not shy, I just have strange hobbies. 

Oh and I finished the toque too! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Isla turns three

Today my little girl woke up sweeter than sweet, with a smile from ear to ear. She snuck into our room without a sound and nuzzled into my face, eager and ready to start her official birthday.

We had already celebrated on the weekend with a birthday party, with three of her little friends, Tamias, Arianne and Anna. 
All the kids played really well together. The first hour of the party they spent consumed by the helium balloons. Then they crafted a donkey's tail each with stickers and sparkly glue - for a good old game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. 

Isla made her mom proud and was very gracious about opening her presents. The hit of the party was the tube from her Auntie Kie, Uncle Mark and cousins Fraser and Sophie. I think that Roscoe enjoyed this gift most of all. 

The kids then got to decorate their own cupcakes after we sang in the cake. Turning three, Isla told me later, was much better than being two. She insisted that we have another party the very next day again, so that she could continue celebrating (and eating chocolate cake). 

Today's events were a little more low key, but we were happy to get so many phone calls and messages from loved ones - thank you! Isla finished her big day as sweet as she started it, with a cuddle and no fuss about going to bed at all. Maybe I should be feeding her chocolate cake more often? 

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Week Without the Web

I can't believe it has been a whole week since I've been able to blog. Actually yes I can believe it, because I've been experiencing web withdrawl for the last 6 days. We've been having some "issues" with our internet connection and have to find a new wireless provider. Don't worry - it is the first thing on my to do list. 

Thankfully, we have had our most wonderful friends the Elders (Sue, Krispen, Tamias and Foster) visiting from back home (Slocan Valley) this week to distract me from my web woes. They arrived last Tuesday, just in time to watch the election go down and make history. 

They were here visiting for six days in total. It was fabulous to have them come and stay and our little house didn't seem little at all, accommodating both families quite easily. They have two small boys, Tamias (3 years) and Foster (15 months). Isla and Tamias, being very comfortable with one another, fell quickly into sibling roles, with only a few minor sharing issues to deal with. Roscoe watched his buddy Foster toddle around the house, envious of his superior mobility. I am sure this might spur on some early walking for Roscoe. Sue and I shared our days and parenting duties and of course several bottles of wine. And Krispen was ever so helpful and willing to let us girls decide the days events. For that he was rewarded a bike ride in the Utah mountains behind our house, and a night out to see a ski flick. 

We did celebrate Isla's third birthday on Saturday afternoon with a party. Chocolate cake, pin the tail on the donkey, presents - what more could a kid ask for.   Her actual birthday is tomorrow, which for Isla, that means more cake! Hurray. 

Here is a look at our week with the Elders in photos:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Would the next President please step forward....

I started this post at 8:30 p.m. this evening, before the polls were even closed on the western seaboard. And as I typed and retyped what exactly I thought would be appropriate, I couldn't help myself from surfing from website to website, totally absorbed by the red and blue map that kept changing before my eyes. 

And at the end of this important historic day, all that seems appropriate is to send out my congratulations to Obama and to the millions of people that voted for him, and sigh a momentous sigh of relief.  

Monday, November 3, 2008

First Grad Exhibition

Tonight we got all dolled up and went off to our first art exhibition here in Logan. The exciting part was that Robin was part of the show. It was the graduate student art show, mostly consisting of ceramics it seemed, but there were a few printmaking, photography and sculpture pieces. 

Robin had three of his large jars in the show. He spent a good part of the weekend helping with set up. The graduate exhibition is an annual show, featuring the work of incoming, current and outgoing graduate students from the art department. Ceramics is typically heavily represented, likely due to the faculty's commitment to building up the department and program over time - it seems to get more attention and more students than the other departments.  This year's show is titled Passages. 

Exhibition openings have different rules here in Logan. Being that we are on a 'dry' campus, in a nearly 'dry' town - means no booze. We've grown accustomed back home to mingling around the refreshment table at openings, sipping wine and snacking off of cheese platters. Last night the cheese was there, they even had grapes, but no vino. I had to chuckle at the large punch bowl that served up the thirst quenching ice water with a side of lemon.  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And the rain came down

Yesterday may have been our last glorious sunshiny day here in Logan. We spent most of it outside playing in the leaves and soaking up the warmth of the afternoon sun. I even went down to the hardware store in the afternoon to buy a rake, after much procrastinating about getting on with the fall yard cleanup. But we never did get those leaves picked up. 

And now they are soaking wet. It must have started raining in the night sometime. This morning we woke up to a valley full of fog and drenched streets. The weather forecast is for more of the same for the next few days anyways. I suppose I can't complain. It has only rained twice since we arrived in August. 

The weather sort of matches our mood this weekend. Our hearts are heavy for my sister and her family, especially for her husband Mark, whose father passed away yesterday. We are thinking of them all and wishing we weren't so far away during these times.