Sunday, March 29, 2009

Protesting winter

This morning I woke up to what seemed like at least a foot of new fallen snow and blizzard conditions. Sigh! I really thought last week's storm was going to be it for winter weather, but no. I'm complaining, the daffodils and tulips that started to bloom are freaking out and the birds have all but vanished, again. 

So today, the kids and I protested winter. We chose not to shovel the driveway, not to bundle up in snowsuits, toques, mitts and scarves, nor did we venture out in the blustery weather to build a snowman or go tobogganing. 

Instead we hauled out the construction paper, glue and tape and made an "Ode to Spring" display on our massive kitchen window. The kids love this window and the shutters that go along with it. They gawk at the cars and people passing by, and today at all the churchgoers. Most mornings these shutters get opened up to let in the early sunshine in. But today they became the backdrop for some much needed images of spring. Flowers, green grass, butterflies and of course a big sun. We're hoping to send a message.  

Later while Roscoe was napping, Isla and I headed to the basement, far from being able to watch the snow pile up any longer. While Isla danced around and played with her toys, I dug out my sewing machine and fabric. My friend Kate had given me a catalog for kids clothing the other day that had some really cute and easy designs. Isla helped me pick out the fabrics from the assortment of mismatched odds and ends that I had. She was really good about playing the model and letting me take measurements over and over again. 

I figured today of all days would be the perfect day to make a summer dress. Take that winter!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Backyard photo shoot

This morning our backyard was turned into a photo shoot. Cody, the photographer (another USU art student) has chosen to do a portrait project where he has picked the ceramic students as his subject matter. He's been shooting both undergraduate and graduate students with their work in a variety of locations. We already have one photo of Robin with some of his jars that was taken in the kiln compound at the school. 

But today's photo shoot was  a little different. Instead of loading up and hauling all the finished pots that have been accumulating here at home, they decided to bring the photo equipment here instead.  Cody and Robin arranged the pots and took some photos in front of a huge white paper backdrop, while the kids watched eagerly from the bedroom window. 

I did venture outside with them eventually and Cody happily took a family shot too, just for fun. Can't wait to see how it turns out! 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baby news

No, I am not pregnant and have no plans to have any more children. (just to make that clear) 

Rather, we welcomed a new baby to the extended family this week. Robin's sister Dannielle and her husband John had a little boy on Tuesday. Auley Dennis McCallum is his name and he is already home and doing well and eliciting much curiosity from his 18 month old older brother Cian. 

I'm always astounded when I see a newborn these days, how little and fragile they seem at birth, amazed at how much they grow and develop in such a short time. Auley's birth has got me sentimentally looking at photos of my own boy when he was born, only 15 short months ago. I can hardly believe he has gone from this....

to this in a blink of an eye.....

Roscoe has always had a wonderful temperament, rarely without a smile on his face and totally laid back, happy to take on whatever is coming at him (even if it is his sister at full tilt).

I would say that Roscoe has officially graduated from the baby stage. He is now walking and climbing and communicating his wants and dislikes. He idolizes his big sister and is successfully mimicking her every move these days. He is determined to eat with a fork, sit at the big kid table, jump on the couch and push the baby stroller around and around and around and around, just like Isla. 

He's a big boy already it seems in so many ways. But as any mother would tell you, he'll always be my baby.    

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Road tripping

This pot is going on a road trip. 

Next week Robin is packing up this pot and a trailer full of unfired 'bisque' pots and driving them south to Arizona. He is participating in an anagama firing at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff with another grad, Trevor, and some potter friends from Colorado. 

An anagama kiln is a tube kiln, long and climbing with a firebox on the low end and a chimney on the opposite. Anagama kilns originated in Korea and the aesthetic achieved in these firings is typically with the intention of building ash. The pots are stacked in such a way that the pots are in the direct path of the flame.  

Apparently the kiln at NAU is massive and the guys have been cranking out large work to fill the order for a full stack. Robin will be taking at least a dozen of his large jars with him and another dozen or so pieces that are similar in size, more sculptural. Our friend Adam Field, from Durango, CO will also be coming up for the firing and will contribute several of his large Onggi vessels, another Korean tradition. Adam just spent 10 months in South Korea doing an apprenticeship with an Onggi master. 

The large jar pictured above will only be taking a pit stop in Flagstaff. It's actual destination is slated for Phoenix where it'll be part of a USU student show for NCECA, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, annual conference. Robin is participating in a couple of exhibitions this year for the conference, a regional student juried show and the USU one. Right after the firing in Flagstaff they'll head to Phoenix for 4 days of clay hype and hobnobbing. 

Meanwhile, the kids and I have a little road trip of our own planned......

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh Brother......

....I guess the flip flops might have been a tad premature. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pest control

The other evening, as Robin was heading back to the studio after supper, I decided that the bottle of wine that I had opened earlier while preparing the meal had hardly been touched and was meant to be shared. So I called up Sunshine, another one of the grad students in ceramics here at USU and begged her to come over and hang out with me so that I wouldn't have to drink it alone. And she complied! 

We had a great evening, drinking wine, chatting and making lemon bars (her famous recipe). And I learned something new that I did not know about her home state of California. They have Border patrol! Obviously at the international check points entering the state from the south, but along the eastern and northern state boundaries as well. They're called border protection stations and are set up primarily as agricultural inspection stations, meant to check incoming vehicles for commodities infested with invasive pests that might pose serious threats to California's agricultural sector. 

Being that Cali is likely the number one exporter of foods, primarily produce, in this country and to Canada, I can see why they would have strict plant quarantine laws and want to keep the invasive pesty stuff out.  

Sunshine's lemon bars were made from California lemons that she picked from her grandma's lemon tree. And they were soooooo good. She brought back a whole bunch of citrus with her from her spring break trip there. 

The inspection stations are only set up to operate one way, incoming. You can take whatever you like out of California, but you have to dump your fruit and plant products before you enter the state. I thought this was interesting and it brought to mind a story I remember about the provincial borders of Alberta and it's rat patrol....Alberta is apparently rat free.  As a kid I remember someone telling me that the province I grew up in had a rat patrol along the borders to keep out this disgusting rodent species. (I always imagined a bunch of uniformed men sitting in lifeguard type stations with BB guns waiting for a rat to run across the imaginary line.) Not sure if this is true or not - the rat patrol, but if anyone knows more, please enlighten me. Also not sure how I got so off topic, too much wine I suppose.

Anyways, getting back to the original topic - California produce. I've been thinking a lot about the food industry these past few months. Thoughts originally spurred on by a book that I've been reading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is about one family's attempt to change the impact of their own family's food consumption by challenging themselves to a year of eating only locally grown or produced food. The book is interesting for anyone that has attempted to grow a garden themselves, but also offers some valuable insight into various aspects of the food production industry and just the enormity of food that is trucked nowadays.  

Their stories and journalistic style investigations have inspired me enough to make a few changes to what our family eats. I figure I'm off to a good start with our weekly milk delivery from a local dairy, the free range eggs that we get from our generous friends here in town and all the bread baking I've been doing. And with this spring weather, the Gardener's Market must be just around the corner and I'll be able to really see what it will be like to try and eat seasonally. Until then, at least I've stopped buying avacados.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sure signs of spring

The sights....
The grass is still matted and brown and I would be lying if I said the trees here were already budding because they are not, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a grouping of crocuses in bloom just outside the library this morning. Isla and her friend Finnegan go to storytime at the public library on Thursdays and today we took Finnegan with us, to give his mom a break and his sister a nap. I think I spotted the newly bloomed grouping first, but Finnegan and Isla were a close second, close enough that I wasn't quick enough to keep one of them from picking the biggest, brightest one in the bunch. Inevitably we had to have the talk about why we don't pick the flowers, (so that everyone can enjoy them, right?), so that a second one didn't get picked by the other curious toddler. 

The smells....
Another regular sighting on our daily walks this week has been the sweeper trucks, cleaning the streets of gravel and dust accumulated in the gutters over the winter months.  Polished white industrial trucks with vacuum hoses, sprayers and circular sweepers have been cruising the side streets, sending up wafts of dust and rotten leaves into our nostrils. Delightful!    

The sounds.....
Last week when we returned from our trip north in Canada, there was still snow on the lawn and roof of the house, but as the week progressed and the weather turned warm all that snow has since disappeared. On our daily walks we could hear the dripping and sometimes rushing of water in the eaves troughs of the houses as we strolled past. 

Another sure sound of spring this week has been the cacophony of bird calls just outside our bedroom window that we've been waking up to every morning. Not a sound that I would normally be annoyed by, only when the timing of it happens before my own little birdies begin their morning coos and calls and I am reminded how precious sleep is. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Unloading the doublewide

Robin hit the ground running just as soon as we arrived back in the State of Utah it seemed. Sunday morning he was up early and out the door, headed back to school to unload the double wide wood kiln that he had helped load a week earlier. They call it the double wide here at USU as a reference to a manufactured home, it's a train kiln and the chamber is long and wide in comparison to the little train adjacent to it here in the kiln compound. Here's a look at part of the stack. 

This was what they call a reduction cool firing, a specialty of USU it seems, a different way of firing a wood kiln. The pots are fired to a lower temperature over about 30 hours and then the kiln is brought down in temp slowly with continued stoking to keep the kiln in reduction (starved of oxygen). The basic idea of a reduction cool is to manipulate the iron in the clay or glazes.  The colour palette is subtle, and this particular firing there seemed to be lots of red and black. 
Robin has been working with an idea recently to try and direct flame through holes in saggars that he has built specifically to hold some of his forms. The work related to this idea turned out as he intended and are really quite beautiful. He cleaned them up that afternoon to use in his critique the next day. 

He was happy with the dialogue that this idea created in his crit and it looks as though he is going to continue with it and see where it takes him. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Landscapes Inbetween

We made it safely back to Utah, and lucky to have had two gloriously sunny days with clear roads for our entire journey south. Here's a look at the landscapes between Nelson B.C. and Logan UT. 

It was a long trip!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring Break ends

Our spring break trip back to Canada felt like a whirlwind of activity; catching up with friends, tying up loose ends and getting a good dose of unseasonably cold Kootenay mountain air. 

We tried to make a point to really relax while we were back and not feel the pressure to try and do too much. Robin was more successful at this, enjoying lazy mornings with Oso Negro coffee in hand, some great quality lunch and dinner dates with friends and even managed to fit in a stress free firing of his wood kiln. 

I inevitably tried to accomplish 101 things all on the last day of course, but was able to catch up with many friends and loved ones during the other four days we were home. 

Even Isla and Roscoe had their fair share of playdates and it was a good thing we packed all our winter wear since the temperatures were colder than normal for this time of year, but at least the sunshine was aplenty.  

Many thanks to my sister and her family for letting us take over their home while they were down in sunny Mexico. We sadly missed them this trip back, but are grateful to have had a familiar home to go back to.