Sunday, February 28, 2010

Man's best friend

A couple of old faithful friends came to visit this week. Our very good pal Cam Stewart (also the much appreciated caretaker of our home back in Canada), decided to take our much beloved pooch on a road trip south. Cam and Macaudo arrived late Tuesday evening with a truck full of bisqued pots with plans to do a soda firing while he was here, and the trip was also an opportunity for Cam to meet the USU folks and check out the facilities down here.

Cam spent a good chunk of time at the school with Robin, met all the other grad students and faculty and even had a chance to show some of his slides to the group. We hosted a potluck on Friday night at our place and Saturday the guys unloaded the kiln in time for Cam to head north again early this morning. They got some pretty good results out of the kiln and Robin is raring to turn around and do another one as soon as he can get some more work made. 
It was sure great to see and visit with Cam and a real treat to spend some time with Mac. Mac is getting up there in his years, (turns 10 next week), and Cam has him looking really slick and healthy these days.  We're lucky to still have him kicking around, and even more lucky to have a great friend like Cam. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Get er' done

We've been getting a dose of winter weather this past week. Which has been a good motivator for me to finish the sweater that I was making for Isla. With spring right around the corner I didn't want the project to get left undone. And seeing that I picked a pattern with a cropped style, she likely won't be wearing it next winter, all the more reason to get it done for what is remaining of this one. 

I made a few modifications to the pattern which worked out in the end, and the result is a two toned purple pullover, with a cable and ribbed feature along the cuffs and bottom, and a happy preschooler.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wildlife viewing

I took the kids out to a nearby wildlife management area yesterday afternoon to do a little elk viewing with our friends Caroline and her daughter Arianne. Hardware Ranch is the name of the place, and it's about a 45 minute drive south from Logan, eastward up another beautiful canyon in this area. 

The drive there is pretty winding but opens up at the end to a large plateaued area where the elk come down to feed in the winter. There can be upwards of 600 at a time there and have become very accustomed to the visitors that come to see them. We hopped on the horse drawn wagon ride to get a closer look at the seemingly docile animals. My kids seemed more like the wildlife on the ride and I missed most of the interpretive talk because I was kept busy trying to keep them (and their mitts and hats and snacks) from falling out of the wagon into the elk poop!  

Regardless, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and get ourselves a good dose of Vitamin D. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

For a great cause

One of Robin's teapots recently went up for auction on a website honoring our very dear friend Tom Rohr who passed away suddenly last summer. Check it out. The website is an online exhibition and auction to raise money for the Tom Rohr Memorial Scholarship fund. It'll be up and running from now until March 11th, and one of several fundraising events planned for this year.

Another event will be a second auction later in the year, which will include some of Tom's work. Robin plans to participate in a wood firing in Saskatchewan in May with fellow potter and friend of Tom's, Martin Tagseth, which will hopefully result in some great pieces to be donated to this event as well.

As the website says, Tom gave to so many through his friendship, his teaching and his art. All the work has been donated by artists who in someway experienced Tom's presence in their lives. If you are in need of a teapot, here's an opportunity to buy one - for a good cause, remembering a great man.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Basil Brulee

To quell my homesickness yesterday afternoon, I sat down with a favorite cookbook (Whitewater Cooks) while the kids were sleeping. The book is the second of two, recipe compilations from our local ski hill back in the Koots, Whitewater. Shelly Adams was the previous co-owner of the ski resort, and turned the lodge canteen into a fantastic and hip eatery, known for it's unique menu items. Shelly then wrote her first cookbook featuring many of the recipes from the hill, and then put out a second book last year. We have both books and have given many a copy away as gifts to friends and family. 

So on a whim we invited our friends Donna and Trevor over for supper and I decided to try out the Chocolate Basil Creme Brulee, just for kicks. I've never made such a dessert before, but felt up to the challenge after reading the recipe. I was also intrigued by the chocolate and basil infusion as I've only ever eaten vanilla.  

Robin even made me my very own ramekin dishes because I was considering making it for the Chocolate festival that I entered a few weeks back but decided against because of logistics of making them for many people to sample. My 'Some like it Hot' Chocolate chili and raspberry cake didn't win this year, but I gratefully received many compliments and it was auctioned off that night for $65.00! 

So we put the new porcelain ramekins to the test and my skills at making baked custard and the end result was scrumptious! The best part was using the portable blowtorch that we borrowed from the clay studio to caramelize the sugar topping. Nothing like incorporating butane into your cooking experience!

Friday, February 19, 2010

All eyes on Canada

All the Olympic buzz these days has been making me homesick. We don't have cable, so my Olympics viewing is limited to bouncing around on the web, but reading the highlights and seeing the images of what's going on in my home province has made me miss it all the more this week. 

Other than Roscoe's triple axle flip and my near double McTwist down the stairs last weekend, there hasn't been much for sports going on around here. I've had to give up my gym visits to let my shoulder heal, which continues to throb and ache. I'm hoping we'll make it to the hill this weekend for a ski day, but even the job of wrestling kids into snowpants makes me cringe. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And mom came tumbling after....

In true nursery rhyme fashion, Roscoe and I played out our own rendition of Jack and Jill yesterday. Although our story didn't include a pail of water or a hill, instead it featured a clumsy footed two year old, a panic stricken mother and a flight of carpeted stairs. 

So today for Valentine's Day I am nursing a very sore shoulder and Roscoe is apparently fine! Isla and Robin have headed to the ski hill for a little daddy daughter time and Roscoe and I have parked ourselves on the couch with a pile of books and a pot of tea. 

We did acknowledge Valentine's Day with a heart pancake breakfast much to the kids delight. I have a feeling I might be getting requests to make heart pancakes more often. Happy Valentine's Day! 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mug your Valentine

This year, instead of raking the aisles of Hallmark, or paying for prematurely wilted roses or those quickly vanishing chocolates, try mugging your Valentine instead!  

The last couple of days the ceramics students peddled their handmade mugs at a couple locations on campus to raise funds for the guild and the upcoming NCECA conference. Passer-bys had their choice of a variety of drinking vessels, as well as a selection of tshirts from the printmaking department.  

Here's a group shot of a gang of folks that all got mugged by Robin this past Christmas. My brother Chris commissioned Robin to make mugs for all his staff at the Bobbie Burns Heli-skiing backcountry lodge. They were all stoked about the individualized and unique mugs/beer steins. Think how stoked your Valentine will be!!!! 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Get outta jail free card

Roscoe is officially no longer behind bars. This afternoon I took to task taking apart his crib and setting up the toddler bed in it's place. I can't tell who is more excited, him or Isla! The two of them spent a good hour jumping from bed to bed in their room, setting up a fortress of stuffies and cars around the perimeter of their mattresses and giggling to one another about Roscoe's new found freedom. Little did he realize that once bedtime came around, the toddler bed came with the same set of rules, only this time it's self control he has to exercise rather than the gymnastics of trying to climb out. He did pretty well for the first night. Now I'm anxious to see who beats who into mommy's room tomorrow a.m???

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Some Like it Hot!

Half a bag of flour, several cups of cocoa and sugar, a litre of buttermilk and a whole carton of eggs LATER....... I finally figured out the art of high elevation baking! Here we are in February again, and a whole year has passed since I gleefully won third prize at the Logan Valentine's Chocolate Festival. I wasn't about to enter the same cake recipe as I did last year, which meant I had to put in a few hours in the kitchen coming up with a new recipe, the only thing I didn't realize was how MANY hours. 

I found a great recipe that I had made before (back in the Koots) from the Rebar cookbook, but considering it's a westcoast restaurant, the recipe doesn't exactly work at 5000 feet. So I made several attempts before I finally resorted to the internet to find out how to alter the ingredients and temperature. Thank god for the internet. By my fourth cake I finally got it. And my children were only too happy to oblige and be the tasters for each cake, the slumped ones anyways. 
Once I mastered the cake, next was coming up with a glaze and creative enough use of chocolate. I settled on incorporating a Raspberry Jalapeno Jelly into the chocolate glaze and threw in a couple teaspoons of chili flakes for effect. The result is a sweet and spicy chocolatey sensation. I topped it off by spelling out the word LOVE with dried chilis (it is a Valentine's day event after all) and titled it "Some like it hot!"

This year I'm hoping there won't be a reenactment of last year's babysitter drama and we'll actually make it to the event. Fingers crossed......

Friday, February 5, 2010

Brew it up

Nothing like turning your garage into a makeshift beer brewing operation. Robin spent the good part of the day yesterday brewing up his first batch of "all grain beer". His days of buying beer kits are over apparently, and we've moved onto the real deal - buying the grain, hops, yeast and following through with the whole process. 

Our friend Trevor is an experienced brew master and was happy to pass on some of his knowledge to Robin. Amongst the USU crew here there is a true appreciation for the finer things in life and is evident in how folks put effort into everything they make  - from pots, to food, to beer! 

And heh, yet another skill he'll take back to Canada from grad school. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bread and Botanicals

Yesterday I spent the morning hanging out with CJ Jilek, another one of Robin's fellow grad students at USU. Late last week on a visit to the studio with the kids, CJ and I had chatted about making bread sometime together. 

It was my first attempt at spelt bread, and turned out pretty well - even after I mistakenly poured 1/4 cup of espresso into the batter. (A result of a string of sleepless nights up consoling and attending to my son's double ear infection status, thus the need for extra coffee that morning, coupled with trying to simultaneously make a chocolate cake - I wasn't exactly on the ball). I had offered to share my bread recipe in exchange for an interview of course, and CJ was only more than happy to oblige. 

CJ is in her final year at USU, with plans to graduate next fall. She arrived on the Utah scene back in 2007, and before that spent the previous ten years working and teaching clay in Santa Barbara and outside Chiko California. Her graduate experience here has been slightly extended due to catching the travel bug and making the most of the Study Abroad programs available. In her second year, she spent 4 months in Australia and New Zealand, and also participated in the same trip to Korea and China that Robin went on last May. But now she's putting her head down and earphones on and pushing through to graduate. Here's what she had to say.....

Why USU?

"When I was applying to graduate programs my work was hand built wood fired utilitarian work.  I wanted a program where I could continue working with function if I wanted to.  Shortly after arriving and working with my peers, I realized I don’t think like a potter and I switched to sculpture. When applying I knew there was a chance I would make this switch, USU was still my first choice because I knew with the technical knowledge I would be building at USU I would be able to make anything.  And with all the amazing opportunities to participate in study abroad programs I knew I could balance the technical base education from USU with the conceptual based education from a university in Australia."

Why Clay?

"When I was working on my undergraduate degree I was under the impression I was going to study Art History right up until I took that ceramics elective.  I was bit by the clay bug and have been doing it ever since.  I have worked in all the other 3D mediums but I always come back to clay."

What inspires you?

"Nature! I have always been a nature person. Even when I was making functional pots they were covered in these organic textures. People hate hiking with me cause I’m always stopping to check things out.  It use to be textures, rocks and liken but now it’s the vegetation. I love plants. My recent study abroad trip to Australia with all the tropical plants has fed my new series of work."

What are you making now?

"I have changed everything I do since arriving at USU. I now work at cone 6 with Porcelain both slip casting and hand building. I work with a variety of glazes from cone 6 down to 06 as well as room temp glazes ie. Shoe polish, paint, flocking, and scent… what ever it takes. All of this culminates into a series based on botanical forms using the sexuality of the plants as a metaphor for human sexuality." 

What's next?

"Good Question… I hope to be teaching workshops, doing residencies and working in the studio. Travel is very important to me. So I will be trying to wrap up all this together. But I guess first I should create a thesis show!"