Friday, November 30, 2012

New Adventures

I didn't think ahead about how doing several craft fairs would impact my soap supply and ran out of two of my most popular bars.  I've had to make soap twice this week.  This is what it looks like in the mold, then I cover it completely for 24 hours before I can cut it.
This is what is currently curing.  I have soap down at Joe Winter's pottery open studio sale for the next couple of weekends.  I stopped by the Artists Coop on Wednesday and my display was decimated.  Fortunately I had enough backstock to fill it but I can see that through December I need to stop in each week and make sure my display is filled.

I made three new soaps last month and the last one was a disaster.  I've been reading about CP/OP soap, which is cold process/oven process.  I make cold process soap, the term for soap made with sodium hydroxide and oils.  Oven process speeds up the curing by 3-4 weeks but it's risky in that the sustained heat can burn off some of your essential oils and worse, can turn the whole thing into a volcano.  I was cocky after two successful batches and made Pumpkin Ale.  The oven was filled with soap oils and poor Ian had to take it apart to thoroughly clean it.  I thought I'd gotten it all until the house filled with smoke while Alexia and I were preparing to bake.  I appreciate smoke detectors but not when I'm hearing them.   I'm cured of curing in the oven - no thank you!  I'm still going to try Pumpkin Ale again but not in the oven.
I've been flagged with droning exhaustion and it wasn't until this morning that I realized I haven't been using my SAD light.  It's been storming for 24 hours and raining for twelve, making the studio impossibly dark to work in.  I aimed my happy light for my face while sleying the reed, since I have to be pretty close to see, and it was perfect.  I got the benefit of the light on my face and my work was wonderfully illuminated.
I've moved around to the back of the loom to thread it and have moved the light right with me.  I've never used the light for more than a half hour in the past and got a couple hours worth, which is what my doctor recommends.  What a difference that light makes!  I cannot believe I forgot all about it.

When I got myself on the sub list for school librarians, it was only for the middle and high schools, since you have to be licensed.  Elementary school librarians are considered classified and require a different application and are on a different list.  When I spoke with Shirie and she put me on the certified list, she said it would be a while before she started interviewing for the other.  Then this week I was engaged in soaping making and laundry all day - didn't log on until after 3:00.  She had sent me three emails.  She's interviewing, needed my classified application and had already set an interview date for me - next Wednesday afternoon.  She wants to get me on board before the January hiring freeze.  It helps that I know Shirie.  She was on the county library board for 15 years so knows me and knows my work.  Wow!
We seem to be in between storms at the moment.  The original forecast called for 6-8" of rain by Monday but I just checked and NOAA has downgraded the storm slightly.  I think a lot of the energy is being spent on the Western Sierras.  Technically this is the rain shadow and annual moisture is in the 9" range.  My first sub job is on Tuesday and if it's this wet, I'm going to be saddled with a classroom of children getting excited for Christmas and no playground time.  Stay tuned for more adventures of Super Sharon! On second thought, make that Stupor Sharon, because that will soon be my state.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I appreciate all the kind thoughts and sentiments this week after our loss of Eddie. It was a very busy week, getting ready for Thanksgiving and family and the last craft fair of the year.  It helped to have so much to look forward to that I couldn't dwell on the recent events.
I was struggling with the labor intensive fringe twisting on scarves, trying to get the last four finished and dyed for the craft fair.  Cindie found this for me online and sent me the link.  I immediately ordered it - a Conair braid twister.  What a difference the right piece of equipment makes!  I found it best to sit at the counter and weight the scarf.

Thanksgiving was wonderful this year.  We've had a 20 year tradition of spending it with DIL Missy's parents, Marv and Julie.  They began inviting DS Matty and me, back when I was married to a casino dealer who liked to work the holidays for the extra money.   Over the years the attendance has varied and changed.  Julie's mom and my mom were once a part of it.  Now our moms are gone and we're the grandmothers.  We had four grandchildren with us this year.  Missy, Julie and I enjoyed a raucous game of Apples to Apples, as the kids are now all old enough to read.  I have SO much to be thankful for. 
We continued with our tradition of cutting Christmas trees on Black Friday.  Josh and Missy borrowed Marv's truck as they'd driven down from Oregon in their Jetta.  It was just them, Ian and me and our friend Amy - a very small entourage this year.  The weather was mild, all snow had melted and note the road - it was mud, mud, mud.  Four-wheel-drive is essential as all depressions in the road were in fact small ponds.
Amy is a photo buff and realized that she had forgotten her massive camera.  No matter.  She had her new iPhone 5 so was showing Ian how she can film a panorama.
Do you not think I would have realized that this tree was very large?  We had looked at several but this one had the straightest trunk and fullest growth.

The tree absolutely dwarfed our little Toyota truck.  I think in the future we need a no-tree-longer-than-the-bed-of-the-truck rule.

The tree dwarfs our living room!  Ian hates to cut anything off the tree so we had a few testy moments but he did cut more off and then later admitted that I was right.  He's awesome.  It's really a pretty tree, but it's going to be a dance to get around it on Christmas Eve with a house full.  It takes me about three hours to hang all the ornaments.  We've collected so many and they all represent friends and memories.  We'll enjoy this tree for the next month.  We have stopped exchanging presents because we have what we want so this is our gift to us.
The craft fair yesterday was a disappointment, few vendors, few shoppers.  There were three major craft fairs the same day, though I did well.  We had an informal pow-wow while breaking down and have decided to flip the time to Spring, before Easter.  Meanwhile, I was admiring this unit that Steve built for Carol and trying to decide if I could get DS Josh to make something like this for me.  Carol offered to let me borrow it.  I know she means it and I'm really grateful but I probably need my own display.  I wonder what Steve would charge.  Hmmmmmm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Yesterday was our valley craft fair.  It was organized by volunteers and was held in the same room as our property owners association meetings.  I didn't count but I can't imagine there were more than a dozen booths.  It rained and valley denizens came to shop.  The room was stuffy and loud.  I finally opened a couple of windows.
This was my space and my helper working on her Kumihimo project.  My space got a little mauled.  It's hard to keep a table tidy when it's strewn like mine was.  I've learned though that you need lots of stuff to attract buyers.  I did surprisingly well.  And I had a great time, visiting friends and meeting neighbors.
I promised Lexi Lu that she could have the pink scarf - it's her favorite color.  I just wanted to have it in my booth to fluff up my inventory.  She was absolutely thrilled and as we got ready to go home this morning, she tossed in on, in spite of the fact that her top is her pajamas. 

Getting ready this morning was a little complicated since we realized that our old dog had hit the wall with the pain from his cancer.  We went through this before with our dog Sunny.  Our vets told us to enjoy her and that she would let us know when it was time.  This morning Eddie let us know it was time.  So while scrambling to get Alexia packed and home before 9:30, we were trying to comfort Eddie and calm the other two dogs.  They were both frantic from Eddie's discomfort.

This is Eddie on a walk when he was healthy.  The cancer began in his right shoulder and seriously reduced his mobility, but with medication he continued to be engaged in our family life.  Last week we realized that he was reaching the end.

Eddie is the best dog I've ever had.  He was an absolute gentleman, intuitive and polite.  He had the unique ability to sit next me when I was sitting on the edge of the deck and somehow slide his nose under my arm so that suddenly I would have my arm around him.  He could communicate with his eyes.

I dropped Alexia off at home and called our vets from the car to tell them I was coming.  They were amazing, ready for me and put us immediately in a treatment room.  Eddie was miserable and pacing so I sat on the floor with him, stroked his face and told him how wonderful he was.  Once the vet came in, it was over quickly and the pain and the life in his eyes went out. 

I'm so lucky to have had him for ten years.  Ironically, when we adopted him his name was Lucky.  I said - good grief.  That's like the joke about the three-legged dog with one eye named Lucky.  I renamed Eddie after Edward Weston, the black and white photographer.  In the end I realized that we were both lucky. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

All Lu, All Week

One of the ladies in my book group is German and grew up in a German community in Washington.  She is a mosaic artist and asked me if I'd like to see the handwoven linen that her mother had left her, woven in Hanover Germany around 1830.  The tatting is gorgeous.  We all just gawked.  She asked me what I thought she should do and I said - take it to a conservator.  This is priceless - don't wash it!

Alexia went with me to book club and entertained herself in the library for a while, then spent the last half hour with our book club.  She loves to be with adults.  I was left trying to facilitate a book club and keep them from being talked to death by my granddaughter.  I think we managed a successful finesse.  
She has cookie dough from her school fundraiser that she has been chomping at the bit to bake.  She sent this note to my email from my iPad and I'm not even sure how she did it.  She's eight!

It's been a very full week.  After I posted that I was licensed to substitute teach, I got an email from a long-time friend who admitted to me that she's a lurker on my blog. She emailed me asked me to sub for her in December and offered to let me shadow her in the classroom.  I did that Thursday and it was absolutely awesome.  I came home knowing for a fact that teachers are underpaid.   Oh, and she had lurk as a vocabulary word so tried to explain how she lurked on my blog.  I am in awe of her.  I cannot possibly replace her in the classroom but now I'm confident that I can conduct a class with her lesson plans.  She had 22 students and she is like the leader of an orchestra. 

I also learned that day, chatting with my friend and her principle, that there's a sub list for librarians.  I got myself on that list today and I'm oscillating with excitement for the opportunity to be back in a library environment. 
We did get to the cookies.  There's a small craft fair in our valley tomorrow and the price of admission for vendors is a tray of cookies. 

Meanwhile, Alexia took to Kumihimo like a duck takes to water. She whipped out four projects and wants to move on to satin and beads.  She can't set up yet so isn't able to work independently, but she's not far off. 
These are the projects she whipped out.  They're all from cotton cord and so are destined to be friendship bracelets, but I didn't expect her to be so prolific and didn't purchase findings.  Meanwhile she's already to move on from friendship bracelets anyway.  Holy moley.
This is the project I'm working on now and Lu is drooling.  She wants to make one too.  Kumihimo looks hard, is easy and the results are fabulous.  I can see Kumihimo items in my craft  booth next year.  Rae nudged me during the class and asked if I thought next year at the McQueen craft fair that she, Loreen and I would have braided items for sale.  At that moment I couldn't imagine it - seemed way too labor intensive.  Now I'm hoping to find buyers.  It's another addiction, like I need one. 
Meanwhile, Lu and I have discovered the fun of art programs on the iPad.  They are insanely fun and this was one that Lu tried to explain to me.  My dad and grandmother worked in charcoal, oil or watercolor.  I've adopted acrylics but David Hockney's move to painting on the iPad gave me permission to play in that sandbox too.  Alexia didn't think twice.  She explained her process to me for this image. She's eight!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Holiday Weekend

I attended a Kumihimo workshop yesterday that was offered by our guild.  This a Japanese braiding technique that uses a disk.  I'm reminded of the spool with nails in it that we made cord with I was a kid, pulling in down through the center.  These are the samples of what our kits would look like.
Our instructor is Karen Huntoon and she will also be offering classes at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers in May at Squaw Creek, at  the site of the 1960 winter Olympics.  That white disk on the lower left table is what we used for the braiding.

The kit I selected was two colors and my braid is finished here, ready to attach the magnetic clasp.  The white donuts are the bobbins.  I couldn't believe how easy it is.  I was prepared to battle my way through a new technique.  I bought an extra disk so that I can show Alexia how to make friendship bracelets.
This is my finished necklace.  Karen encouraged
us to place the cord on the ironing board and steam it without touching it with the iron, then roll it a bit to relax the threads.  It's round because it's still stiff.  I'll take care of that tomorrow.
As for today, I don't know how I get myself into these things.  I promised Erik a ride to the Lake to teach a class in exchange for instruction.  I told him yesterday during the storm that I was hating him, but today the storm had blown over and the day was lovely. This is Sand Harbor.
We all walked around and visited each others work stations from time to time.  Kim was painting right on the shore so everyone took a break to see how she was doing.  That's the most valuable part of the paint-outs to me - the sharing of ideas and the commitment to paint for the entire time. 

I was the only one painting with acrylics and at about 3:00, the temps dropped sufficiently that they froze.  I was pulling off more paint than I was putting on, but I did get it done about half way so that I can finish it up tomorrow.  I spent some time talking with Ronni who is a water colorist and who also keeps a detailed sketchbook.  She told me about the class she took just for keeping a sketchbook.  She was waiting for paint to dry and I was sketching since I couldn't paint.  I learned a lot from her.  A four-hour round trip to paint for four hours is a little extreme and I doubt that I'd do that again.  But it a beautiful day, one that I will never forget.

I thought this sequence shows why plein air is so exciting and also challenging.  The light constantly is changing.  Ideally a session should just be two hours.
We got caught up and the session went over long, to the point that the sun had started to set as we were packing up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Taking Care of Business

I decided to introduce two new soaps at the last minute for a little holiday note. This one is Holiday Spice Cake.  I'm using the cold process/oven process method.  It requires the molded soap to be subjected to 175 degrees in the oven for two hours, where it then remains for an additional 24 hours.  This technique speeds up the saponification process by four weeks, but it also burns off some of the scent.  Since I've always maintained a low-scent profile in my soaps I thought I'd try it.  I had to increase the essential oils so the trade-off is time versus expense. 
I cut bars from the second holiday soap today.  This is Juniper Berry Tea and it's really dark because I was really exuberant with the green tea bags.  The juniper berries are from our property.  I collected and dried them, then milled them and then sifted them to remove any scratchy bits.  I can't wait to try them.  They'll be ready for the craft fair in two weeks.
I finished the four scarves that I had on my loom and have cut them off and am twisting the fringe.  Thanks to Cindie I have a battery operated fringe twister ordered and en route to me.  I appreciate the Schacht hand-crank apparatus and anticipate the electric one all the more.  I haven't decided what colors I'll dye these yet.  Four scarves, four colors?
You know I've said that I don't have a fiber stash - I don't!  It's not a product of self restraint as much as a lack of access to acquire.  The scarves I've been weaving are from four cones of rayon/silk I bought from a friend who was moving many years ago.

I got an email over a month ago from Jayna, a woman who found me on the Internet and who wanted to find someone to adopt her fiber stash.  She said she used to be a weaver and wanted to move her yarns along to someone who would use them.  Over the years I've gotten all kinds of contacts and have been glad to facilitate when I can. So when I finally met up with Jayna yesterday, I had expected a box of acrylics and was totally unprepared for this cache, about 40 pounds worth of mostly bast and bast blend yarns

I've sorted through it today and have identified about half, but I'm going to have to appeal to my guild members to help me with the other half.  What Jayna gave me is not cheap.  Can you imagine how astonished I am?!!  Now I have a stash!  I have a back order for natural Tencel from Webs because I've wanted to weave scarves from painted warps - Cindie sent me instructions last April.  Yeah, I know, but I've been thinking.  Look at all the painted warps in waiting that are sitting on my table.  Santa came early, from 2014!

This is one of the ponds on Ross Creek and it's one of the things that captured my heart on my first visit to the valley.  We're expecting a storm tomorrow and I wanted to get pictures of autumn before winter collides with it.  I'll post the rest of them another time.