Thursday, December 31, 2009

One last little surprise!

On waking this morning, I looked out the window to see that 2009 wasn't quite finished with us yet. Apparently there was some hushed mention of snow, but I never heard it.

These are the scenes we see this morning from our front porch - the driveway:
The steps down to the front deck:
And the woods and pond. The road is that shallow diagonal line in the middle right of the picture:
No longer feeling the need to participate in any of the rowdy traditions of our youth, I will be happy to sit here in the warm and watch the delicate traceries of snow on the trees and the poor folks who still feel they must try to travel on this night as they struggle up the hill and around the corner...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

After the Storm

The winds have been howling around here for a few days. They followed closely on the heels of an early snow and were joined with a nasty rain storm that seemed to freeze on the roads in the evenings.

As we were driving home from the bank/post office run on Monday, we saw this sight up ahead:
The pole had been hit and a guy wire has been stretched across to the right on a diagonal to hold it in place.

As we got closer, we saw this makeshift "bandage":
I'm not sure why this struck us as so funny that we felt the need to document it. At first, the guy wire was not visible and the ridiculousness of the flimsy plastic bandage trying to hold it all together was probably the reason. We thought it might belong in the Fail Blog.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Last day at Frog Hollow - Happy Solstice!

Our final official day at Frog Hollow, we think! Somebody said Dec. 21 was the last day and due to some language difficulties around here, we aren;t sure if we're still open or not!

The trees still look great, even if they are in "disguise."
The shop looks cozy with its blanket of snow....
And the road is mostly open and clear.
So, it looks like we can finish up the preparations for the celebrations to come.

If the guys will just get the decrations out of the attic, I can decorate the tree! A chicken in the oven for today... Some soup tomorrow.

Sorry - just a stream of conciousness today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Molded Soaps

From time to time, when we have extra soap in the pan, or when there is just some there that we don't want to scrape out, we will pour it into a small mold.

Often these molds are used for what we call melt & pour soap because that soap is easily released from them.

Cold process (the soap we make) seems sometimes to become a PART of them and may never come out.

We wait and wait, and finally they pop out - sometimes in one piece, sometimes in a strange smeared parody of the original intent!

One night, not too long ago, we decided to make some molded soaps on purpose! We decided to make essential oil blends for them and the Green Man, above, was made with a nice blend including fir, vetiver and some other woodsy oils.

First, we used less water than usual so the soaps would firm up more quickly and we made sure to add plenty of clay, which would absorb some of the water.

When they still gave us a hard time, we mentioned it to a soapmaking friend who simply said, "Put them in the freezer." So we did - and when we took them out - lo and behold, we had lovely molded soaps.

Then we decided to play with some micas. They were especially beautiful on this sun soap (to the right.) The essential oils in this one are bright and shiny, including some citrus oils.

We touched them all with mica to bring out their details.

The Celtic cube is probably one of the molds we have had around the longest. It is always a nice pattern and the fragrance used in this one was something like patchouli and grapefruit.

Tina took some plain goat milk soap home last night to try rebatching for molding. Her little experiment turned out beautifully and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't do a blog entry about it soon.

She did post a picture today on her facebook page.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

As the days grow short...

November is here and it means many things... In Lancaster County, one of the things it means is the Amish wedding season.

Yesterday, while we were making deliveries in "Amish Country", we passed a farm that usually has a unique Homemade Root Beer sign out at the end of their driveway and noticed that it was covered with a cardboard sign that said "Closed until Weds." We looked down the lane at the farm and saw this:All those little grey boxes on the left of the buildings are buggies. I cut off a few other vehicles. There were also some vans, called "Amish Taxis", driven by "English" drivers that apparently brought some of the guests from farther away.

This was a HUGE gathering. The 3 wagons I have marked are called bench wagons. For Sunday church services, these bench wagons carry a number of benches - seating - to whatever home is hosting church that week, but church normally only requires one wagon. This was a number of congregations combined.

I worried that it might have been a funeral, but Tina remembered that this is Wedding Season and that the Amish weddings usually take place on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so it was most likely a joyous occasion for this large gathering.

Another thing that often happens is that we do some experimentation with various products. Usually this is done after the Christmas season here at Frog Hollow is over, but, last night, I decided it was time to try once again to try make liquid soap. I have a couple of projects that this was needed for, so I gave it another shot before I broke down and just bought some ready-made. It seems to have worked out pretty well. I read (and followed) the recipe better than the last time. I saw the reasons for some of the things that were changed from making regular cold process soap and decided to try to go against some hard and fast rules we have always followed.
I poured off some of the finished soap and tried it out. It is NOT finished soap and feels pretty harsh at this point, but give it a couple of weeks and it'll be fine. The stuff in the crock pot is the left over paste which has not melted this morning. I added some more boiling water and will now let it sit, covered so that it will dissolve and become a nice amber liquid...

I'm actually pretty proud of this batch. Apparently I superfatted the previous batch I made and it never was completely clear and separated almost immediately. We'll see how this goes.

Finally, as I walked out to the shop this morning, I noticed we had a frost last night and it was just beginning to melt. These are the fairy soap balls I have stuck in the planter outside the shop..
These always look magical to me, but the frost adds another dimension!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cemetery Tales

As we near All Hallows' Eve...

The past two days, instead of getting some of the things done that we should, we've been out enjoying crystal clear days and fall leaves. It's been fun, especially since our brother, who until recently has shown little interest in the outside world, was with us.

On Sunday, we ventured out enjoying and photographing fall foliage. John and I had been out on Friday and the trees were at their peak. They were still beautiful on Sunday, but heavy rains on Saturday had taken some toll. In our travels, we saw a lot of beautiful vistas. We were looking for drama, I think - pictures that told a story - and as we passed a cemetery, John asked if we had ever been up to Mount Bethel Cemetery in Columbia. Most of our relatives from that area are in another cemetery there, but Mount Bethel holds our great grandparents and some great aunts and uncles we never met. We filed the idea away and decided we'd have to visit - someday.

Well, Monday dawned clear and beautiful and by afternoon we were able to put our work plans aside in favor of another photo day. After running a few errands, we headed to Mount Bethel. We really had no idea where our relatives were, but while we were looking, we found a lot of interesting stones and stories:

First, the requisite angel....This is the marker for Charles F. Sourbeer, aged 19 years, 1 month and 16 days. He died in August of 1885. I guess I feel like the childrens' markers are the most poignant... This one says "Our Son" across the top and it marks the grave of David Smith who was 9. There was another one that said "Our Boy" and I was so touched by that.There were large markers that listed a number of children and babies - Often, before the list, it would begin, "Our Babes". I realized that stillborn and very short lived babies were not at all uncommon.

When we finally found our great grandmother, we noticed that there were apparently two very small babies buried with her as they were marked on the front of her stone. Our grandmother was the youngest of 17 and I'll have to check family record to see if the 17 includes the very young ones or not - I don't think so. In that particular plot were our great grandmother, great grandfather and one great aunt, Harriet or "Hallie" who died as a teenager of heart problems. I remember our grandmother always speaking very fondly of Hallie and suspect everyone knew she would not live long. The other one of the children buried there was George. George was killed when he was a young man, in a railroad accident.

So, while I'm writing about children, these appear to be two sisters, Edith and Eveline. They were 12 and 11 when they died and it appears they died around the same time in October although I can't read the year, I suspect it was the same for both. What a tragedy that must have been. I didn't really look around - I suppose their parents or other siblings must be buried somewhere nearby, but there is no last name anywhere on the stone.
When I saw the lamb on this one, I assumed it would be another child, but no, it is a 58 year old woman, Fannie A Gohn. I wonder if she was never married...
Since it is a derivative of our name, the name on this one attracted me - Samuel Swartz. As I read more, it is the marker of a young man who died in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1861, during the Civil War. He was 31.
I just liked the carving on this one and took the picture before I had actually read the stone.. She was 30 when she died and is remembered as a wife and as a daughter...
It was interesting to see the stone work and the difference in the wear in the various stones. I guess some were carved from native limestone and they have worn quickly and are hard to read. They were apparently the most interesting to me because I didn't take any pictures of the marble stones that still seem almost new until you read the dates and realize - oh these are from the 1800's too...

Finally, I loved this obelisk with the beautiful wreath carved on it.
All those stories... All those lives...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goddesses and Teapots

I finally updated the "Focals" Page on my Torchsong website.

I had showed both my goddess beads and my teapots before, but I have a few new ones and finally put them up on my site to sell.

The one on the left is the fire goddess. This is the first one that turned out the way I imagined and I'd like to make more - definitely one for me! I'm a fire sign and love my torch.

Even as I was making them, I envisioned how I would display the beads on these neck pieces. The goddesses are attached to a neckpiece of wound silk. I think it makes a nice presentation. They adjust from about 18-20" by buttoning them in different stretchy links in the back.

They are shown in colors including black, dark green and gold.

I also finally listed my teapots.

Last summer, when we were up at The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA to help celebrate their 40th anniversary, Nancy Reppert saw the vessels I make and asked if I could do teapots.

I went home and gave it a try. They are wired and I give them little tops and bottoms with bead caps and daisy spacers.

The main problem with making teapots is that they begin with hollows, as do vessels. Hollows are a skill I have mostly mastered, but some days I sit down at the torch and find it completely impossible to make one. I was having a spate of that problem for a while and only recently recovered my abilities and added to the collection of teapots I have to offer.

I am happy to now have them all available for purchase on my updated focals page.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A favorite barn

This is probably the one that inspired me to want to do a series of barn pictures on my blog. We used to pass it every day, way back when we were doing the Renaissance Faire.

I knew there were designs in the bricks, but never stopped to really get a good look at it. On Tuesday, we were on the way home from a small wholesale show up at the Lebanon Expo center and I happened to have my camera. I had decided I would stop and get a picture on my way in that morning and I finally stopped and took this one.

Now, looking at it, I see that the design is interesting, but... the date "A 1816" tells me exactly how old it is. What a very cool barn.

The white building behind it is a "tobacco barn" that is in use drying tobacco this year. See the slats that are propped open? The barn has been filled with hanging tobacco plants and the slats have been opened to get the air flow through that will dry them correctly.

I believe it was the morning before the show that I snapped this one as we were getting ready to be on our way...Such a beautiful sunrise over Frog Hollow, I just felt the need to share it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Red Hat Beads

I had a request - or a suggestion - that I should have some Red Hat items for an upcoming event. For the past few days, I've been spending a lot of time at the torch working on that little project.

This was one of the large focal beads I came up with. I liked it a lot and thought it looked sort of "folk arty". It was a way of working my way into the red/purple combo that just doesn't come naturally to me. Adding the ivory and creamy greens made it easy to work with.

As I worked my way into the solid red/purple combo, I eventually wound up with this:
I like the free form, organic nature of it and then I started with the dots...
So, all in all, I like these and think they'll be fun to finish into some nice pieces.

When I get some good pictures, I will post some of the other things I did as I worked through the colors and then wound up with some new techniques that turned out well. Unfortunately the pictures I have taken so far have not!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Barn Bloggin'

There's something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

In Lancaster County and our surrounding farm lands, we have some of the most interesting barns. I suppose they are intersting in other areas, but in our travels around here, I often say, "I'm going to start blogging some of these interesting barns." Well, I finally got started on it.
This is a beautiful stone barn I've passed a number of times. It is on Rt. 422, on my way to Palmyra. The feature I love about this barn is the semi-circular window at the peak of the roof, but you can also see the slits in the walls for air flow.

More barns will follow... there are so many and they all have interesting features I'd love to document and share.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

2nd Sunday Classes - September

We've got another incredible day of herbal goodness planned on September 13th.
We will begin with a short weed walk and discuss different methods of preserving herbs over tea and a snack. After discussing various herbs that are traditionally used for unwinding and relaxation, we will be blending a relaxing tea. Each participant will make their own blend and take it along. Next, the bounty of elderberries in the backyard beckons, and we'll be making elderberry syrup to help ward off colds and flu this coming winter. We will also mix up eye pillows, and a lotion, the details of which we will probably come up with during the class - depending on what you all want to make. We'll end the day with an herbal supper.
Supper will come from the garden, and will most certainly include the scrumptious tomatoes and basil that are growing so well there. Maybe some wild roots? We'll see :-).
Participants will leave with some of the tea blend, the syrup, an eye pillow, and a bottle of lotion, as well as a booklet that will include instructions and recipes from everything we've done that day. 11:30 to 6:30.
The whole day is only $75!
Come sign up today - space is limited.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wondiferous Weed Walk

Tina & I have known Fred and Barb Will for quite some time through the old PA Herb Business Association and we see them every spring at the Landis Valley Herb & Garden Faire where we are "next door neighbors". It seems every year, we (actually Tina) mention some plant or other that we have been looking for and, oddly enough, the Wills have it growing on their property and Fred brings us a big shovelfull or two to plant in our own woods.
Last spring we were talking about what a treasure trove of plants they must have and how much fun it would be to take a long weed walk with Fred through his woods and see all these plants in their "home." Thus hatched the plan for "The Wondiferous Weed Walk."

We traveled out to Somerset, PA on Friday for the event. We got there Friday afternoon and wandered around finding vista after vista of beautiful wildflowers and herbs. This is just a quick example of a hillside of ironweed and Queen Anne's lace. I can't do them justice because everywhere we looked was some new plant, another stunning combination of colors... it was amazing.

That evening, we met up with our hosts, Fred & Barb as well as a few of the other folks who had gotten in the night before the event for dinner. It was delicious and I wish I had taken a picture of the "skillet cookie" we had for desert. Three of us shared it and there was enough left over for another person!
After a night at the campground - which I promise to not whine about except to say I'm just too old to go camping again, even in a "bunkhouse," we made our way to the Wills' home.

The main event of the day was Fred leading us on THE Wondiferous Weed Walk! Here are just a few of the sights we saw:
Shagbark Hickory. I even found some nuts, still in their green coating.
Devil's Walking Stick. As Fred said, so full of jaggers even the Devil doesn't want to touch it.
Wild Yam. For some reason, I always thought it was a tropical plant, but I guess I was wrong! Here, it is wound around this maple sapling.
Just a quick shot of Tina in her element... foraging with a basket in hand.
And finally, the bath house at the campground. On the right are the toilet stalls and on the left are the showers. The glass block windows and the interesting paneling on the doors lead me to believe the camp ground was built in the 50's or so.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Family Pictures

I was playing with old photographs yesterday and dug out some family shots that have been loved and pawed over for many, many years. There were 5 kids in our family and I have to say there are very few of all five of us together. Often I was the photographer and so there are some of the other 4, but all 5 is something unusual. This was one of the few I found.I'm the oldest one up there at the top and beside me is John. Tina is right in front of me and beside her is Tom. Mark is the baby, of course, and we have never been able to figure out what he was doing in this picture. I think supposedly there was a cookie involved, but I'm not sure. There are a couple of pictures of Mark with his eyes crossed and he tells us that it was because he always wondered what he looked like with his eyes crossed.... but, you know, how many times did he have to see?

The reason I was looking through the pictures was the occasion of our 35th wedding anniversary. I posted a few pictures on facebook, but there are a couple more I've always liked.

This was taken on our honeymoon in Acapulco, on a boat tour of the harbor:Apparently we were boarded by pirates who then posed with us for pictures! You can't tell that by this time, Montezuma's Revenge had hit me and I was constantly scanning for the nearest bathroom! I think that drink in my hand had calmed things for the cruise so I was a bit more relaxed. I had been so careful about everything I put in my mouth while Bob, on the other hand, had been cruising all the little taco stands down the alleys.

A few years later, we went to Jamaica. Not one of my favorite trips, but Dunn's Falls was beautiful:Yes, I am wearing clothes. It's just a weird angle. Back then, the tour took you to the bottom of the falls and you climbed up. It was really nice and peaceful and a lot of fun.
Nowadays, the parking is at the top and you come down steps. After climbing to the top, there is a gauntlet of shops one must run before reaching the safety of their tour bus. I found out about this change when I took my mom on a tour from a cruise we went on together. It really changes the feeling about the place.

Finally, after Rob came along, we didn't travel much until he hit about 4 and we went to Bermuda with Tina and her then-husband John. This is us at dinner one evening:Notice the parade of dinosaurs on the table in front of "Bobby". Our waiter, Manuel, told him that at night, the dinosaurs will come to life and grow. I can't tell you how thrilled we were with that! Luckily Rob didn't believe him.

Monday, August 03, 2009

It came from the kiln

I know, I know - Time to update the website.... Well, I've been working on getting a nicer variety to put up there. I'm getting there.

First a vessel in Copper Green/Pale emerald with a salmon frit swirl. I love this combo and have done it a couple of times before. I'll continue doing it until I wind up with one left in my hot little hands that has not sold!
Another vessel made of a pastel slate blue that I think is one of the Vetrofond colors that they did once and may never make again.. I love it, but I might as well use it. The vine is goldstone and the flowers are "magic" - a reactive color that just does downright magical things!
A water goddess or os she a mermaid? Hmmmm

And finally, my fire goddess! I tried this a couple of times and wasn't satisfied with the results. This gal, I like with her little wisps of flames licking around the edges...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Tute Results

These were done some time ago - when I was on my wild tutorial binge. I love the results though and have been wearing them a lot. I have to make some more because I think other people will like them too.

These were from Ann Rickett's Tutorial, She gives you a good starting point - and one of the bracelet beads is an exact copy, but then, using the techniques, I branched off and created my own.

First the bracelet:
I strung it with leather spacers and ivory colored beads. The counter-weight bead is a topaz tiger bead.

More recently, I sat down and made this focal. I wired it up and wear it on a ball chain.

I think the bottom part of this bead reminds me of Monarch butterfly wings, so there's another direction to take it!