Thursday, December 5, 2013

Can’t deny it’s winter!

But I can try!
2 weeks ago I was raking and bundling the leaves from these trees in 60 degrees F and thinking what a wonderful fall it was…NOW, we have this, and 4 more inches on top.  Two days ago it was –20 Celsius ( or –4 F!)….talk about a quick change!  Now we are skiing again!


Now that I’m looking 4 months of winter in the face, I just want to post a few last glorious photos of autumn in all its intensity – it’s really that I’ll be missing the color!  I suppose I’ll just have to make do with the boxes of color in my studio between skiing expeditions.  Here are a few shots from our last fall walk in Gatineau Park…

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They’ve mowed the fields to make them ready to become cross country ski trails – the mountain bike trails will be smaller classic ski trails.

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Across the flat and up the slopes…

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Glorious color and shadow everywhere

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 Stopping to look at stuff…sometimes it’s hard to move forward!

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Fern and bark


Something dried and wonderful and wintery…not sure what the plant is though


In the middle of the forest with long afternoon shadows…


Bad long shot, it was as close as I could get…nevertheless, I like the bad horror movie intensity of this photo!



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A doe and her two clunky fauns…closest I’ve ever been..


And suddenly, we were too much for them…understandably!


And here’s my last burst of color for the winter….I’ll have to enjoy a subtler palette for a few months. 

Back soon with some new work!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Diverting to another type of dough for a tribute

This story starts with a chance acquisition - as do so many things in life.  A 25 cent purchase of a book from the Halifax Public Libraries Book sale in 2008.  It's a book called 'Cooking across America' by Bernard Clayton.  I love the premise of this book:  Bernard Clayton packs up wife and dog in camper van and travels across the United States ( and even ventures into Canada...), arrives in towns and quickly susses out who cooks well...and then proceeds to get their story and recipes.  I have to say that everything I have ever tried from this book has been fantastic - Max's Loaf, Grandmother's Cinnamon Buns (my staple for fund raisers) - the Key Lime pie - all great!  The secret is that you are using recipes that have been foolproof over time, absolutely tried and true.

Then I bought his bread and stews book and discovered that he is a bread fanatic! I found my current go-to loaf for when I have no time - which has literally changed my life!   From start to finish - approximately 65 minutes - you make it while you make dinner!  And this is what it looks like.....Mr. Clayton calls it Cuban bread.  It says in the recipe that he used this recipe in his baking classes for beginners – specifically to show how quick and easy it is to make good bread!

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Twenty-two years ago, I decided to try to always make the bread for the household and I've been doing it ever since - with more or less success, sometimes delicious, sometimes not so much.  When our kids arrived, I continued - thinking to myself that this was one staple in the household whose ingredients were completely under my control.  It seemed that knowing the ingredients in the toast was certainty in a chaotic world!  In all these years I've found all the idiosyncrasies of bread-making: they exist to  humble you when you think you've got it all figured out!

I've had 2 bread machines in 22 years but I only use the dough setting and never use it to actually bake the loaf - not recommended unless you are desperate.  Or I use my food processor to make the dough - either works perfectly. 


Here is my version of the recipe for Cuban Bread by Bernard Clayton

4 cups flour (white or whole wheat of a combination of the two, whatever you have..)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages yeast (approx. 4.5 teaspoons)
2 cups of warm to hot water (between 120 and 130 degrees F)
approximately 1 more cup of flour
Plonk the first 4 ingredients in your machine and start mixing on the dough setting.  Add the 2 cups of water and let it mix for a while until it becomes a wet but together ball.  Stop the machine and start the dough setting again and this time add 1/4 of a cup at a time of your additional cup of flour and let it mix in - you are aiming for a soft yet elastic well formed ball of dough, slightly sticky, but not wet.  If it is hard and dry, you have gone too far, which is why I caution you to add the additional flour sloooowly....

******An aside......this actually is the kernel of truth I've discovered in 20 years of haphazard bread making - ALWAYS allow time for the dough to absorb the flour.  It takes time, and it is easy to add too much flour thinking that the dough is too wet.  Then you end up with stiff, dry unresponsive dough that won't rise for you or be beautiful and it is difficult to have dry dough absorb more water!!!!!(Can't stress that enough)
Through kneading, even slightly too wet dough will become smooth and elastic and will blossom beautifully for you!  Remember too that humidity will affect how much flour you need, so rely on your eyes and not the recipe...this holds true for all bread recipes, of course!*******

After you have added the flour that you think is appropriate, let the machine complete the first  cycle of kneading. This should result in the smooth, elastic but soft ball referred to above. When the machine stops at the end of the first kneading cycle, turn it off.

Set your timer for 20 minutes, it will double in bulk during this short time.

Prepare your oven by setting a pan or tray of water on the lower shelf.  I use a battered 9 by 13 pan I don't use for anything else.  DON'T TURN ON THE OVEN!

When your timer goes off, haul out the dough, punch it down and divide in two.  You have your choice of forms here:  I have used this dough for boules (round loaves), bâtards, ( kind of a longer loaf, but short and stubby and cigar-shaped ) and even for 10 yummy hamburger buns.

Form 2 boules or 2 longer loaves and place on the sheet on parchment paper or a baking mat.  Don't fuss about the shape, it is dough that is easy to from and seal - put the seam side down if you roll it.  For the boules, use a razor to make 2 crossed deep slashes to allow the dough to expand.  For the loaves, do 4 parallel slashes diagonally along the loaf.

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                How the slashes look after baking….

You don't have to allow rising time or oven preheating time, which is what makes this loaf so FAST.  Put the sheet with the 2 loaves in the COLD oven (on top of your tray of water) and turn the oven to 400 degrees F  (I use 380, because my oven runs very hot, but Mr. Clayton says 400... you can reduce it after 20 minutes or so if it seems too hot and the top is scorching!)

Check it after 20 minutes.  At this point I usually reduce the temperature to 350 and continue the baking for another 20 or so minutes.  You are aiming for well-browned, golden and glorious tops and bottoms.  If the bottoms aren't browned, take the loaves off the baking sheet and put them directly on the oven shelves for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Cool on a good....

The above is my everyday loaf....if I have time and I have pre-planned correctly, I make this:

Known as No Knead Bread, it is fantastic, but doesn't always fit into your schedule  :)

I planned this blog post as a tribute to Bernard Clayton, but sadly, when I wrote it I discovered that he died in March of 2011 at the age of 94.  Still, I say thank you even though he is gone (and his questing bread spirit with him) and I wish I could write him a letter to tell him how much his bread recipes have meant to me (oh, yes - there are many more that are delicious in his books, and all have a fascinating heritage to relate....).  Had Bernard Clayton been buried as an Egyptian Pharaoh, you can guarantee that he would have had a roomful of loaves to accompany him into the afterlife!

Thank you, Mr. Clayton!

Monday, August 12, 2013

End of summer sale....

Here I am back at the store - after a quiet almost month off involving much reading, no clay, lots of sketching and thinking and quite a bit of manual labour in the backyard.

It feels like the right time to clear out the store while I get new listings ready to put in it.  I've having a 30% off sale on everything in the store up till next Monday.  If you buy more that 50$ worth of goods, I'll refund you the shipping too....refunded to you via PayPal after the purchase.  I will be adding a few more things this week as well.  No pods until next week....sorry!

Here are couple of previews for new work coming next week:

I have some sets of pods for next week - this is one of them!

Some tranparentish sets of Pardo headpins - similar in construction to my butterfly beads but much smaller....

I've started to see some posts on Flickr showing people trying my hollow technique - do you know how exciting this is?  Thank you to anyone who does me the honour of trying it out.....

Oh, and the coupon for the store to get the 30% discount is:


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In my hands!

This has been an exciting vacation week - we regraded around the house ourselves ( those teenagers were very helpful with the wheelbarrow and shovel and my son discovered a passion for laying interlock brick in fancy patterns and using a tamping machine....):  we even redid our tiny little patio in the backyard. In the midst of many trips to the rental store and the RenoDépôt for tampers, brick saws, interlock, crushed stone, topsoil, garden soil and grass seed, I saw what I've been waiting for peeking out of our mailbox........this!!!!

Polymer Clay Global Perspectives by Cynthia Tinapple

Thank you, Cynthia!  It's wonderful....everything I hoped for and more!  In case I haven't been tooting my own horn enough these last months ( difficult to do when you have slid away from blogging...), I have a whole chapter to myself in this book under the mixed media heading, with my good friend Christine Damm (Stories they tell) beside me.  I am demonstrating my hollow bead technique - a teaser demo!  The full and complete tutorial will be out in the 3rd week of August showing much more that you can do with this technique.
My other good friend Genevieve Williamson of Jibby and Juna is also in the book.  This is all so exciting!  Now that the construction work is done, we can sit down and really look at and read the book from cover to cover.

Note the interlock under Rachel's feet - and the old weathered patio stone on the border (had to use it up, it had a 40 year old finish on it!).  Hey Mum, this is a really great polymer book....

Hey wait....there's a lot of stuff about you in here....5 or 6 pages at least....hey, those are your hands!  (Didn't tell my family much about it either....)

This is great, Mum - good for you!

Now all I can say is thank you again to our fearless leader, Cynthia Tinapple.  And after this post on Polymer Clay Daily, I'm just sorry I didn't think to put polymer as extra decoration in between  my interlock bricks!  Instead, I was inexplicably drawn to an expensive product which we tamped in called 'polymeric sand',  Hmm....wonder why?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New work and more work listed

I'm happy to start working through all that I have to list.  I'm starting with pod sets because I know people have waited are all wonderful!

 Some simple graphic crackle...

Ancient looking and colorful...

A landscape set...

Mokume gane set...
Curved and tiled teeth...

I have been working on more bracelets and finding a woody finish that I quite love while I work out the form.  I can see lots of possibilities for these down the line with different surfaces...

The listings for the pods will be up shortly!  Still thinking about the bracelets.
Two posts, consecutive days...what is the world coming too?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pods up!

Finally, some new pod sets up on Etsy!  Never fear, there are more to come tomorrow, but I'm working even slower than usual (is this possible?) due to an injury to my hand.  Hope it heals quickly...

Wow, my shortest post ever....