Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Backyard Chicken Adventure

One of the things I was secretly excited about with the whole homeschool idea last summer... was chickens. I mentioned it to the family. I said, "Research will have to be done... we may decide that it's just too much work... but wouldn't it be cool? The best science project ever, right?" And then I bought a book on chickens and stuck it in with all of Luke's school books, hoping that he might just take the initiative and start reading and learning about them on his own. (That was another one of my secret hopes, that he would just jump into things on his own and explore them until he was done, the way I do... I'll let you know when that finally happens.)

Well the book did nothing but sit there all winter. No surprise, right? But last month we went to visit my friend Julie's chickens, and that lit the spark better than anything else could have. All he could talk about for the rest of the day was getting chickens. He pulled the book out and started telling me strange chicken facts at odd times - in the grocery store, in the car, while I was cooking dinner. A lot of them sounded too odd to be true. So I made him show me. Apparently they like to play with tennis balls? And some chickens are just decorative, not good for laying eggs. And you don't want a cross breed, you want a full breed, for the same egg laying reason. Hmn... he really was reading.

Last week, we started doing our research in earnest. This web page was pretty much the deciding factor for me - that looks pretty easy, right? Build coop, put compost bin next too it, get chickens.

(And we did more research too, but I couldn't decide where I would put them, how to keep the dog from eating them, or how to get Frank on board. At times, I thought I had two out of three obstacles solved, and then I'd either decide that was a bad location, or a bad plan, or Frank would get cold feet. Finally, I said to heck with it, it's all going to fall into place and be great! So that was that. You'll see, it's going to be GREAT! Even Frank will come around in time, right?)

So, yesterday, Luke and I got some chickens. So exciting. Meet Pippi, Lulu, and Bellatrix Lestrange:

Pippi is a Buff Orpington, Lulu is a Cuckoo Maran that will lay chocolate brown eggs, and Bellatrix Lestrange is a Silver-laced Wyandotte. They are living in my livingroom right now in a big tupperware tub with a heat lamp over them. Bellatrix likes to peep at the top of her lungs. She's very, very loud. Pippi likes to push all the other chicks around. And Lulu likes to sleep plonked out flat on the bottom of the tub and we always wonder if she's still alive (she is).

Next up, clearing the spot by my studio that I want to use as their playground. Yes, they will be The Studio Chicks! And either purchasing a coop kit or building one from scratch, which looks better to me but is more work, esprecially if I don't hurry up and get Frank on board with this Great Backyard Chicken Adventure. How can he not though, they are SO cute!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Frit Diva Testing Part 6: Floribunda

Floribunda. What can I say, I'm not a very good frit tester, I'm afraid. Take a look, it's not the frit's fault:

Actually, I think it looks best on the lemongrass - the green bead - I like how it spread so easily and the color is still bright. I had to etch the bead though, because I guess it was too hot when I put it in the kiln and it had a little mark from the wire rack it was sitting on. Etching made it softer and prettier though.

My Precious

I just wanted to share with you the bead I'm selfishly keeping for myself. Isn't it pretty? I think it might be the closest thing to perfect I've ever made. Not counting my kiddo.

A Smile in Every Bite

I have been hearing about the sadness of missing goldfish crackers for a few weeks now. My boy is nothing if not persistent. One day he even sat down at my computer and googled gluten free goldfish crackers and left me several recipes to choose from on my desktop. Such a smart boy! Anyway... I ordered my fish cutter and my GF Flour, and we finally got around to trying one of them. These came out REALLY good. Of course I used Beecher's cheese - how could they go wrong? Such a lot of work for a small snack, but I have a happy child and really, that's all that matters, right?

Super Gold Fish Crackers
Adapted from Cindy at Gluten Free in Montana who's recipe is adapted from Yumsugar.

1 C GF flour (I used GF Classical Blend sold by Authentic Foods)
1/2 t xantham gum or guar gum
4 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used Beechers!)
3/4 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 cup buttermilk

In a large mixer combine the flour, xantham gum, butter, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the buttermilk and mix until it forms a ball. Add more buttermilk if needed but don't add too much, the dough will be on the dry side.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes to 24 hours. If the dough gets too cold you may need to let it warm a bit before you can easily roll it out.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Place 1/3 of the dough on wax paper and cover with a second piece of wax paper. This is the best way I've found to roll out GF dough. Using a rolling pin roll it to 1/8" thickness and cut out your desired shapes. We used this mini goldfish cutter and used a toothpick to poke eyes and a spoon to make smiles. Place the cut outs on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until golden and crisp, don't under cook! These are best crispy. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Make Wig Wags

Because people keep asking, and because the internet is full of tutorials on how, I'll add one more. It's not hard. But it's not easy either. Forget everything you know about making twisties... just empty your head about the whole steady business of heating the gather, pulling and twisting at the same time. You will not be pulling and twisting at the same time, and you will be trying to keep the gather hot and the last twist you just made cool enough that it doesn't un-twist on you. You'll see. It's fun though. Wicked fun.

1. Start with a chopstick or short mandrel that you normally use to make twisties or murrini. Make a tube/barrel of your base color. If your base color is too soft, you may want to shore it up by putting a sub-base of a stiffer color under that. However, if you do that, you may end up like me with stretched out, squished beads where the wig wag got too thin and the sub-base becomes visible. Not pretty. At least, mine wasn't. So choose wisely, based on what you think you are going to do with them when you use them.

2. Once you have a good sized tube of glass (what's a good size? I don't know, a nickel to a quarter around maybe? and say an inch long? More if you can handle more? Less if that sounds scary?) at the end of your chopstick, start adding some stringers for stripes - just like you would for making a twisty or murrini. Until you get the hang of it, you may want to just have one color. You can put as many stripes on as you like, make them evenly spaced or unevenly spaced, it just gives your finished wig wag a different personality. As a variation, you can do what I did and role your base in enamels first before you add stripes. It makes a really groovy looking wig wag. But you may discover your finished bead gets all scummy where the enamel was. Again, choose wisely and learn from my mistake, maybe skip the enamel unless you just want a jar of pretty but un-usable wig wags.

3. Heat it up so that the stripes will stick well, then punty up one end to a fat glass rod, and then remove your chopstick and punty up the other end to another fat rod... and then, heat your gather up well and good, melting in your stripes, getting a good even heat throughout, but without distorting it. You want to keep your stripes straight.

4. This is where it gets tricky - and you'll have to figure it out as you go - but the gist of it is this: pull about an inch of your gather out as if you were pulling a twistie, but then stop. Twist it one way two or three times. Stop. Heat your gather again, pull out a little more, twist the other way, stop. Heat, pull out a little more, twist the other way, stop. Heat, pull, twist the other way, stop. You want the twists you just made to cool enough that they don't untwist. You want the gather/blob hot enough that it's ready to pull again, but not too hot that you pull too fast and get too thin. It's a balancing act - heat, pulling, twisting, stopping.

You'll get it. It's not hard. And it's fun, so if you don't get it the first time, you'll want to try again. And again. And then you have to figure out how to use them in your beads in such a way that they look as good as the wig wags themselves look. When you figure that out, let me know, ok?

Here's an example of my wig-wag going transparent on me due to the squishing and mashing and pressing and clear core issues.

Not so hot. Eh, I'll try again.

The Weekly Gluten-Free Post

Still going strong over here. Have found a few new things to enjoy and one to avoid.

Pasta: Bionaturae Gluten-free pasta. YUM. I'm sorry it has soy in it, as I'm not a fan of soy, but once in awhile... I guess I can look the other way about it - because this pasta is GOOD.

Gluten-free beer: RedBridge is nice. Since I don't drink beer all that often, it will be awhile before I try another brand, but I like this one.

Gluten-free brownies: We tried the Pamela's Brownie Mix, and did not love it at all, found it to be grainy. Even though I swirled it with Fran's dark chocolate sauce... it was not good. How can something ooey-gooey chocolate be not good? I was surprised. Then we tried the Trader Joe's Gluten Free Brownie mix and LOVED it. Next time I won't put in quite as much oil as it calls for though.

Gluten-free bread: We have a difference of opinion around here. The two grownups like Udi's bread better than Rudi's bread. The kiddo likes them both but thinks Rudi's is better.

Energy~Snack Bars: Zing! Chocolate Coconut! Really. Almost like an Almond Joy, only better for you.

Quinoa: Red Qinoa to be exact - Frank picked this up, I guess he was feeling adventurous. I browned some mushrooms, added the quinoa, and chicken broth for the liquid, salt and pepper, and it was really, really good! I was following directions and used a whole cup, which made a BIG pan of it, so we had left-overs and they reheated just fine.

Luke is still missing his "goldfish" - the one and only thing he walks by at the grocery store and starts pouting over - so last night he googled "homemade gluten free goldfish" and came up with The Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom: Gluten Free Goldfish - and we are going to try this today. I even ordered the tiny goldfish cookie cutter she has the link to in her blog post.

I read "Healthier without Wheat" by Dr. Stephen Wangen last week, and the biggest thing I got from it was the recommendation for the supplement "L-Glutamine" - it is supposed to help repair gut damage from gluten intolerance, help repair muscles, supports the immune system. Sounds good, the reviews on iHerb sound good too.

Oh, and I signed up to be a tester cook for an upcoming gluten-free cook book one of my favorite bread baker authors is creating... so I need to get to work on that, though I'm not loving the ingredient list. So I don't know if I'll actually do many recipes or be able to recommend the book when it comes out. Maybe one of the recipes will convert me, I don't know. I was so excited about it... but now I'm not. Oh well. I'm not supposed to talk about it, so you'll have to wait until the book is out and then I'll clue you in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

More Wig-Wags

I can't help myself. I had to run out and make more after dinner.

Tuesday Giggle

I've been following some threads on the lampworkers' forums and all the cool kids are making these "wig-wags" - twisties that go one way and then the other way. They look awesome. And way fun. So today, I had 1/2 hour of free time - yes, seriously half an hour, that's all I had - and I decided to give it a try. These are my first two tries... the white was first, obviously. They crack me up and make me giggle. Can't wait to try again.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Work in Progress

If you know me at all, you know this sitting around at the homeschool resource center waiting around for the kid to get an education is driving me nuts. Nuts. It's such a waste of my time, and he doesn't need me there. But rules are rules. (If you know me at all, I also hate rules, but I follow them when required.)

Some of my friends suggested learning Viking Knit as a past-time.... and I have to say, they were right on. I love making it, I love how it works up into something so nice and rich, and I love how I can just put in my ear buds, blast my playlist, block out the crazy school stuff and create something. At school, while I'm sitting around waiting.

Today, I got started on this necklace, an idea I've been holding on to from the beginning (but I had to do that Bead Soup and OWOH thing first!), and I'm very happy with it so far. It needs a clasp, and a bail. And it has a secret little function that I'll tell you about later once it's done. Assuming it works the way it's supposed to. I'll find out next.

This is the bead:

Completed necklace coming soon!

New Tigers

Messing around with my tiger design, not that it needs it, but I feel the need to try and shake things up sometimes.

This first one, I put some amber glass over the tiger twisty, not sure that it adds all that much, but it does make it shiny. The center is reduced helios gold glass that came out looking like a mirror almost.

The second one is, hmn, looking rather snaky. Perhaps the snake is wearing tiger's clothing? I don't know, but I do like the effect, it's organic and animal all at the same time.

What do you think? Don't mess with the original?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Bubble Blues

Remember the green beads from a few posts ago? Well I tried that glass (ST-382) again with a different clear encasing... and it came out much more like the color it was when fresh out of the flame. Unfortunately, it has an air bubble, right smack in the center of the bead - one that worked itself up to the surface of the bead while soaking in the kiln and now has a dent in it... so darn, I guess I'll have to keep this *flawed* one for myself. No problem!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Something Special

This. This is as special as it gets. I am sure that no other mother in the history of time has been gifted with something quite like this. For Valentine's Day, no less, though, it was late due to some design challenges.

A handmade, by my very own child, copper, pronged, ring, holding a big honking chunk of fossilized dino-poop. Yes, dino-poop, you did not read that wrong. Technically, fossilized prehistoric turtle poop, but dino-poop had a different kind of ring to it, doesn't it? Especially special as he found this lovely specimen himself, at Salmon Creek, WA.

Check it out, aren't you just a tiny bit jealous?