Thursday, June 30, 2011


While at the zoo last weekend I also got to see some beautiful plants. Here are a few photos of some of the beautiful plants that I got to see.

Today is my mom's birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! On Saturday my sister and her family will be visiting along with my brother and we'll celebrate the June birthdays then. I'm excited to see my family and am hoping to see some cool fireworks for the 4th of July!

Happy weekend. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This past weekend I went on a little safari in...

Africa! Yep...I hopped in the car and drove to Africa. In the words of Groucho Marx "Africa is God's country...and He can have it." (I don't mean to be rude or anything...I just love Groucho.)
Africa is really beautiful...look at that scenery. And you should have seen the GINORMOUS turtles and fish in the water. So cool.
And we found this lovely little oasis which was perfect for our camp!
Once we were all set we found the nearest map and set off to explore the zoo...I mean Africa.
Okay, so we actually went to the zoo and not the real Africa, but when we had to choose between visiting the North America exhibits and the African exhibits we unanimously voted to go to Africa to see gorgeous animals like these romantic giraffes.
Seriously, I've never seen such adorable, twitterpated giraffes...
...Or a cuter ostrich. The crowd loved him. I think he loved the attention.
Elephants are beautiful but they seem so melancholy to me.
This guy's hiney looked painful. And ugly.
We did run over to the North America exhibit to see the bears. Unfortunately they weren't being very social at 4:30 pm. Something about it being really hot outside or something...we got to see these sea lions which was cool. They swam on their backs.
As I said, the bears were being antisocial. I got to glimpse the back end of a sleeping polar bear. It's head was behind a big blue oil drum and he wouldn't get up. It was enormous and kept kicking its feet which was pretty cute. Polar bears look so huggable. I bet that's how they lure their looking so innocent and squeezable. The grizzly bears were nowhere to be found. We did manage to see the black bears for about 2 minutes before they ran into their den.
All in all it was a fun, hot trip and an excuse to break out the camera and take some photos. I think it would be awesome if they could include an Asian section and throw in some panda bears and tigers and cobras. I'd like to see some of those guys too!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yet another beautiful NC sunset...

At one point the clouds and sky changed from being aqua and peach to being pink and purple almost was gorgeous!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dreaming a little dream...

I had a dream last night that I was back in China. And not just me, but all the students who went, along with the rest of my classmates who have been in the past couple of years. And we were trying to figure out if we wanted to go to Xi'an before we went to Beijing to fly home. I really wanted to go back to Xi'an since it was one of my very favorite places in China. I loved it there. Xi'an and Chen Lu hold some lovely memories as both being beautiful and starkly different from each other. Xi'an was modern and offered a lot of fun shopping and dining opportunities while Chen Lu looked very old and isolated. No cool muslim market or Starbucks there, but it showed me an entirely different way of life in a climate I had never seen but found to be tremendously beautiful. I think part of why I liked Chen Lu was because it reminds me of when I was a little kid living on a farm in no-where NC...we were not wealthy and life wasn't easy (and I didn't care for shopping nor did I have any concept of what Starbucks was), but life seemed so simple to me then. I knew what the days held and I enjoyed them. In fact those days provided some of the happiest memories I have. It seemed predictable, but not boring. I think Chen Lu somehow brought back a bit of that feeling for me. And I loved it.
Xi'an at night.
On the way to Chen Lu
At Chen Lu...

Ideally my dream will come true and someday I'll go back. And in addition to Jingdezhen I will certainly make Xi'an and Chen Lu a priority on my list of places to go. Who knows if or how that opportunity will ever present itself, but I'm taking Chinese language this fall just in case. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One last thing...

I also love this print!
people I've never met


"I would prefer it if I did not enjoy eating oranges so much. Consuming them is a most incommodious business..."

Ms. Deborah Jenkins~Cranford

--What would I do without British historical dramas?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Isaiah 64:8

I've been thinking for awhile about the parallels between ceramics and the Christian walk. A few months ago a friend sent me the verse Isaiah 64:8 which says "Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (On a slightly off-topic note Jeremiah 18 talks about Jeremiah visiting a potter who is throwing on a wheel...being a lover of ceramics I find this very exciting.)

The past year has been quite a strain on me. Parts of it were absolutely beautiful and I was so thankful for them and was so amazed how how much God loved me and how much He blessed me when I did not deserve it. I was in awe. However, parts of it have been really hard too and have involved loss and stress among other difficult things. I will admit that when harder times rolled in I worried that I had done something wrong and was paying a consequence for it. I don't deny that sometimes the difficult times we face are consequences for bad decisions and disobedience, but I think that a lot of times hard times are mostly times of refining us. It's not a punishment, it's a process meant to cleanse us of our impurities.

When I read Isaiah 64:8 I began to think about the refining process in a Christian's life in comparison to what we do to clay to make it into something. Clay takes quite a beating. I won't go through all that has to happen to it before we potters get it...let's just start with the wedging process.

To prepare clay to be thrown on a potters wheel you wedge it to remove air bubbles. They say this helps to align the particles and make it easier to throw with too. Wedging clay is like kneading dough in some ways but you have to do it right or you will wedge more air bubbles into it which you don't want to do. I usually weigh out the amounts I need and wedge them so they are ready to be thrown.
(wedged clay)
Then it is thrown down on a potters wheel and from there you center it. To center clay you have to use your hands and apply pressure so that the clay is in the exact center of the wheel so that it can be thrown uniformly. From there you start to open it and throw it and stretch it and shape it into what you want it to be.

(wheel throwing)
After you finish throwing it you dry it out until it can be trimmed. At that time you trim away the excess clay that you do not need and continue to shape the vessel to your desire. This is also the time to alter it by cutting into it or manipulating it in some way. You can apply decoration or carve into it and handles or spouts or knobs or whatever it is that your vessel needs at this time.
(trimmed, handled and being decorated)
After the pot has completely dried out it is then glazed and fired. The clay I use had to be fired to cone 10 which is roughly 2350 degrees farenheit. This melts the glaze and turns the clay into ceramic. This is the point that is most important. Firing takes a little while and depending on how you fire it, it may take quite a long time. This photo is from a wood-firing where we fired for over 30 hours.
(wood-firing in China)
After the kiln has cooled you can open it and remove your pieces. At this point you may need to do some touch-up work. Sometimes things don't turn out as they're supposed to and need to be re-fired. Sometimes the glaze runs and you have to grind it down. Sometimes there are sharp places that need to be ground down too. But in the end you (hopefully) have a beautiful or at least useful vessel.

These last two photos are mugs that were given to me by friends/classmates while in China. The first one is from my friend Erica and the other is from Andrea. Both of their work is beautiful and I enjoy using them so much.

So after that lengthy, photo-laden description of how to make ceramic vessels this is where I'm going to tie the everything together. Or at least I'll try to.

Isaiah says that we are the clay and God is the potter. We are all the work of His hands. And as we walk with God he is constantly making us into something. Just like when we work with clay and are constantly stretching or squeezing or pushing and pulling and manipulating and cutting, etc, God is doing the same thing with us. And just as we add and subtract things from our work God adds and subtracts things from our lives. Some of the things we do to our pots are to ensure strength and usefulness and I believe God does things to us to strengthen us and make us useful. And the most critical part of the process is the firing where unimportant things burn off and everything melts and fuses and becomes strong and safe for use...I think that this scenario is true of the process we go through as God makes and refines us for His purposes. It can is definitely uncomfortable...but it is not meant to harm us. It is not punishment. It is a blessing. It is part of how we become useful vessels for God. And another cool thing about this process (and part of what potters and ceramic artists love the most about ceramics) is that from start to finish the potter is completely hands-on through the whole thing. The potter is always handling the work, overseeing its conditions, caring for it while it is weak, controlling the environment it is in, etc. The potter is hands-on and interacting with the clay the entire time. That is true of our walk with God too. We are never alone and He is constantly interacting with us, caring for us, loving us and finishing us into useful vessels for His glory.

I love it when passions collide.

Happy Birthday!

My sister Jacqueline turned 25 today!

I hope you did something celebratory!

I'm very grateful to be able to call my sister not only my family member but my dear friend as well. Thanks for all you've been; all you do; all you are. I love you! Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've been painting again. The same stuff really. I need to learn how to paint something that is actually good. I deactivated my facebook account so I took it into my head to make some cards and send them out to people. Old-fashioned style. So I folded up some cardstock and taped it down to create a border and painted some little pictures on them. I untaped them and wanted to put a border around them when I realized that I'd painted them upside down.
Plus my border isn't coming out very well. :) I think I'm going to give this up for awhile and find something else to work on. Maybe a little break would be good.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Little old town that I love. And miss sometimes.

After coming home from China I would have times where I felt like I was back there. Like if I closed my eyes and imagined I was walking down the street then I truly felt that I was back there. It made me sad and very nostalgic. It's taken me a long time to get over China. Sometimes I'm still not over it. I'm not sure what it is about Jingdezhen that really got to me. Sometimes I was almost desperate to leave there and other times I really loved it and wanted to stay. I still feel that way about it sometimes.
Open air could buy baked goods, produce, meat, clothes, yarn, and all sorts of other stuff.
The department store where we would go "stress shopping." There were so many cute little stores in there with adorable hair accessories and jewelery and knick-knacky things.
I love the ceramic street lamps. And I loved seeing this older couple walking their grandchild.
Food Alley...home of the egg wrap and noodle man and several produce stands where the tiny oranges (which I assume are mandarin oranges) were bought. Often.
On the search for underglaze decals we came across these buildings that were being torn down.
The studio gate right in front of the basketball court. Across from the basketball court was the track and during the day the freshman would go out there to drill (during the first 3 weeks of the semester) and at night the ladies in the community would go out there to dance.
There were little shops and galleries/coffee shops down these streets across from the campus. Gallery 2 was our favorite coffee shop/gallery. Their coffee was pretty was good.

Sometimes I miss it a lot still. As you can see Jingdezhen was a dirty, old, and in some places dilapidated little city (it is called a little city but it is home to 1.4 million people), but in so many ways it was very beautiful. I felt that because I usually walked anywhere I wanted to go I felt like I got to know it better than most towns I'm in and the people there were so kind to us. In fact for such a densely populated city I actually started to recognize people from our frequent walks around town. And we got to recognize and even befriend some of the people who worked in the grocery store, went to the college, etc. We mainly stayed within 2 intersections of the campus but it still seemed so big. It was busy, alive and I liked it so much. After awhile I felt very safe there. It was a fun place to be. The art, the people, the night market, and especially our studio...and it was still so humble. I think that was partly what I liked about it so much. I wish I could live in a city like it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Comfort food

Yesterday I had a job interview. Which I am pretty sure I did terribly in. It was a somewhat awkward interview...I had to bring 3 items to talk about myself and then I had to try to sell the items to the person conducting the interview. I wasn't quite expecting to do that and I'm not good at selling stuff anyway. So yeah, I was watching the person tally up my score on their sheet and I didn't do very well. Oh well.

I came home and painted cupcakes. Gluten-free of course. And watched North and South in its entirety. It was like killing 3 birds with one stone: watching a sappy romance, check; being "creative", check; making cupcakes that won't contribute calories, check! It was very cathartic. However, at this rate I'm going to run out of historical dramas to watch. Won't that be terrible? I love their costumes and their grammar. Plus British people have the nicest noses. I really only put the movies on to have some noise on while I'm painting or something. It's nice company.
I also got to chat with my sister for a bit and am looking forward to her visit in July very much! (Hint, Jacq...if you're reading this...don't change your plans! Come see me!)

I have a couple of sewing projects that I'm thinking about. Hopefully I'll get up the guts to do some of them. They require altering things I already own and I'm always hesitant to cut into something that is fine when I might end up ruining it. It's not like I'm getting any use of them now, but I guess I could give them away...I think I just need to do it. I also have a few other ideas to play around with, but I haven't worked out the kinks in those ideas yet either so I won't bother to talk about them yet.

Anyway...later, gators.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Red balloons.

In addition to my alphabet and tree sketches I painted this little guy. I've found I like to make childish things when I work. My teapot final was based off Alice in Wonderland, I've also made a spaceship teapot and some alien mugs too. I guess they say you should write or make work about what you know and while I know next to nothing about space stuff I know a lot about kids since I've been one for the past 22 years.
I started painting balloons while in China. Because my skills are pretty limited I stick with easy stuff. You can't get much easier than circles and clouds and a blue sky. And somehow I find it fun and kind of cheerful. I usually make lots of colorful balloons, but I didn't feel like using so many colors today and so I made a bunch of red balloons.

I wonder what I'll make tomorrow.

Trying to keep busy...

So summer is here. Mom and Holly are back in school for the summer. Adam and I are at home with the dogs. Adam sleeps late and likes to go off or stays in his room a lot so I'm by myself quite a bit.

Mom and I set my table up in Holly's and my room this weekend so I put my brushes and sketchbooks in here along with my new sewing machine. It is a nice little workspace. I've been working on a little assignment our grad student, Erica, gave me. She advised me to practice making straight lines and writing my alphabet with watercolors and a paintbrush while I was home for the summer. The idea is that it will improve my drawing skills when I get back and help me get more used to working with a brush which is what I use to paint my pots at school.
Oh I miss the studio! I miss having busy work to keep my hands occupied. Today I set up a netflix movie. I watched the entire Wives and Daughters movie (by Elizabeth Gaskell) while painting my alphabet and different phrases over and over and over and get the picture. I'm afraid I have a weakness for historical dramas. I really enjoyed the movie. It was so sweet...and melancholy in some ways. I like that the heroine had wild, crazy, curly hair. When I was in 8th grade a friend told me that my hair was my worst feature. She had perfect, thick, straight blonde hair and I had frizzy, damaged, curly hair. For years I believed that I had terrible hair. Sometimes I still think so, but my hair and I have managed to make peace in more recent years. Sometimes I even appreciate the fact that it seems to have a mind of its own. At any rate I usually wear it up and out of my face so it doesn't really matter that much.
I took a break from writing my alphabet to do a little charcoal sketch. Then I threw in my birds and gave them a little dialogue.
You can see my alphabet behind the actual sketch. I figured I wouldn't waste the other side of the page. Art supplies are $$$ so I am trying to reuse as much as I can including painting over what I've already done.

Wish me a busier summer! I miss having a lot of human interaction!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remembering old times...

(this photo has nothing to do with this post...I just thought I'd put it in anyway.)

My final year of community college my brother and I tried to start a campus ministry at our school. We had the help of one other guy. Despite our efforts it never really got off the ground and by the end of the school year it pretty much disintegrated. We learned a lot and it was good that we tried. We met new people and had some wonderful conversations with people about God and Jesus.

One day when we had a meeting I remember one of the guys opening or closing in prayer and at one point he prayed, "Father, we ask that you please provide jobs and spouses for all," and I almost burst out laughing. I'd never heard anyone say something so matter-of-fact-ly and succinctly and we had never sat around and talked about wanting spouses (although a lot of us were seeking employment) so I wasn't quite sure where that came from.

But I guess all I have to say in response is "amen and amen." Ha ha.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kids, don't try this at home...

So after being home for almost a month and putting in lots of applications we still don't have jobs. Kind of discouraging, really. I'm going to go to the college tomorrow to see if they can help me find temporary work for the summer, so wish me luck!

In the meantime, my little sister who is also job hunting decided
to do the American thing and is starting her own business. She printed up fliers for dog walking/dog sitting and last night she, Adam and I went out and left them around the neighborhood. Holly even offered to hire me if she gets clients who need daytime care for their pets while she is in school.

She's a doll.

On another note, don't try this at home...riding double on a bike with no helmets. I'm pretty sure it's not smiled upon. But it made them smile. It reminds me of being in Jingdezhen and riding a bike for the first time in years and for the first time in a town. And we didn't have helmets there either so it was kinda wild. Jingdezhen's traffic rule is simple: every man for himself. I remember riding my bike there and thinking the whole time, "what would my father think if he could see me now?!"

I'm really liking the sunsets we've been getting lately. Holly and
I went for a walk 2 nights ago and saw a gorgeous sunset but didn't have a camera. So last night when we went out to hand out fliers I brought my camera in the hopes of catching another sunset. This sunset wasn't as pretty as the other one, but it was still nice.
It's like past 1 pm and I'm still in my PJs. Disgraceful. Plus I got sunburned yesterday when I vowed I wouldn't do that. I hate it when I lie to myself like that. I did that before when I promised myself I wouldn't wear braces and glasses together. Well guess what?
That photo is about 3 or 4 years old. Now I just wear glasses and a retainer. And sometimes I don't even wear my glasses. And actually I shrunk my upper retainer so I only have the permanent lower one now. My orthodontist is going to hate me.

That photo was taken in Shepherdstown, WV at Shaharazades Tea House. It's one of the coolest little restaurants ever and their iced tea (shown above) is really good. Actually, pretty much everything there is good.

I'm going to go put on something besides pajamas now. Happy Saturday.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lovely Links...

I have lately been reading through the blog Say Yes to Hoboken and I've really enjoyed a lot of the links she has posted. So I'm reposting some of them so I'll have them handy for future reference.

I'd love to make a dress like this. And a skirt like this. I think they're so pretty. Just completely unrealistic for regular life.

I'd like to try this recipe with gluten free pasta. Maybe this fall when I'm back with the roomies.

And a gluten free version of this? Please?

This is a pretty blog. The photographs and prints are really cute.

This would be a fun idea to play around with. I love getting mail and would love getting one of these.

I love these ceramic pieces. I love the little patterns and the forms...all of it.

Whenever I run out of my watercolors I may try my hand at making my own using this tutorial.

I'm using this idea and these ideas this Christmas.

This blog has a lot of fun ideas for re-fashioning. Now that I have a sewing machine again I'd like to try some of these ideas.

That's all for now. I'll have to remember to look back here for ideas in the future.

A few photos from today.

This is Jude. He's mom's little miniature havanese. One of them that is. He only weighs about 6 lb. He barks a lot. And he likes touch his nose to my legs while I'm cooking and beg for me to throw something down to him (which of course I would NEVER do...). It kinda annoys me when he touches his wet, whiskery face to my leg...I feel like there's a fly landing on me and I want to swat it.
Holly and I went to the community pool today. There was a lady there with her little son. Other than that we had the pool entirely to ourselves. It was really cool outside this morning though so while Holly got in I couldn't bring myself to get all the way in. I just stuck my feet in.
I came back home and let the dogs into the living room and they came and sat on my chair. So I sat on the floor to use the computer. They're sweet.

Banana bread...gluten-free style.

The same day I made cookies I also made banana bread. I guess I felt that if I was going to bake I would go ahead and get it all done at once. Plus we had some bananas that were getting really old so I figured I'd go ahead and use them up before we had to throw them out.

The result: really good breakfast food. :)

I was not much of a banana bread person, but my roommate this past year made banana bread and very sweetly used gluten-free flour so I could share too and it won me over. Because I couldn't find a bread pan and didn't feel like making cupcakes I decided to bake this in a stoneware casserole dish. It came out flat and thin and I really liked it.

I used this recipe and tweaked it a bit to make it gluten free. The only changes I made were to use brown rice flour instead of regular wheat flour and I didn't use nuts. Plus the recipe called for self-rising flour and since I was using brown rice flour I added a 1/4 tsp of baking soda to it. I'm not sure if it did anything or not. I also used 2 bananas instead of measuring out 3/4 a cup of them. I figured the extra bananas might help to hold it together since it is gluten free. I also decreased the bake time by about 15 minutes since it was spread so thinly in a 9x13 pan.

It came out soooo good! It's dense and really moist. I like it a lot.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A little baking...

I love baking. I've got a horrible sweet tooth! I'm also gluten intolerant and this past New Years I made a resolution to go gluten free by the end of the year. I've tried several times before and couldn't seem to stick to it. Now that I live off campus and am much more in control of my meals I decided I would try again and it's been SO much easier. I was gluten free by the middle of my semester. I use gluten free pasta (the brown rice kind, not the kind made from corn which I find is really sticky) so I can still do easy, quick, familiar dinners. Occasionally I'll splurge and buy a gluten free mix by Pamela's (which I buy at Kroger) and will make cornbread or a cake. They're really good and most people like them as much or more than regular mixes, but they can be pricey. So not much baking has been happening and it's probably just for the best anyway. But while I really don't miss gluten I do miss baking sometimes. It is a fun thing to do.

Today I decided to try some gluten-free baking and adapted this recipe to make gluten free peanut butter cookies.
I tweaked a few things...I only used 1/4 cup of white sugar and used 3/4 cup of brown to try to make it a little chewier and instead of using shortening and butter I used a whole stick of butter (we never have shortening at the house). When it was time to add the flour I used 3/4 cup of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free baking mix and 1/2 cup of Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour. When they were finished I let them set up a little and then melted some semi-sweet chocolate and spread it on half of it.

I have to say, it came out pretty well and they're not falling apart which gluten-free items are prone to do. Even my mom likes them.

I'll have to log this one away for future use.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lyubomir Bukov

I was looking for some fun photography ideas today and came across this photograph. I love it.