Thursday, 18 May 2017

Learn from my mistakes

A lesson In What Not To Do With Enamel

Maybe I'm too impatient to ever become any good at enamelling. Or maybe I need a more dedicated space to work at it, so I don't rush to be finished so I can put my kiln away and clean the table for supper. Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse.

Bear in mind that I didn't properly sand these pieces because they aren't going anywhere so you will see some of the cloisonné wires that would normally be sanded out.


These are my favourite pieces and I'm mad at myself for messing them up. They are simple cloisonne and meant to represent the red cliffs of Prince Edward Island at the edge of the sea.
My use of colours was pretty good and I paid attention to Ricky Frank's instructions about using a salt-and-pepper method to blend colours. I paid attention to his hint to slightly dome the piece so there wouldn't be as much stress. What I forgot was to put a layer of counter enamel on the backs. Between the lack of counter enamel to relieve stress and probably an overly thick layer of transparent on top because I got impatient,  the glass cracked in the last firing.


This was another cloisonne piece and I used glass threads on top of the design. I really like it and it would have been a nice piece once sanded and with another few coats of transparent, except for one really really dumb mistake.
I cut the piece at the top to make a bail. Bend it and roll it over and it would make a lovely, enamelled bail. Yup. Try bending glass.







This piece WAS really pretty before I fired it the second time. Another one with glass stringers and I should have given up on it before it ever went in the kiln. I'd put the stringers on in the design I wanted, and lift the firing screen to put it in the kiln and my hand would shake and the whole thing would fall apart. About five times. Of course, by the time I finally got it in the kiln, I had my fingers all over it and by that time I was getting a turkey ready for the oven so this lesson is that greasy fingers and enamelling don't mix.


And one last lesson that should be obvious. Because I'm using copper until I figure out what I'm doing, I get a lot of firescale on the back of the pieces. Especially when you forget the counter enamel. When you are doing cloisonne, you have to put multiple layers of thin transparent over the piece to build it up to the top of the wires. I was using powdered transparent and as I shook it on, I was shaking little pieces of firescale onto the paper below, and then I'd pour it back into the container, thinking the screen would filter it out. It doesn't. You can really see the little flakes on the first picture. Guess I'm going to have to break down and order more transparent. And be a little less thrifty.

When you don't have access to classes, except online, learning things like enameling and metalsmithing is definitely a lesson in humility. I suppose the advantage to doing it without an instructor is that, unless you post it on a blog, nobody else has to see your blunders. Anybody who is interested in trying cloisonne, Ricky Frank of Rio Grande has some terrific You Tube videos. For straight enameling, try Craftsy; they have torch fired enameling, which is fun. You didn't get the pictures of that.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Sea Glass Fun

There's nothing more exciting than finding a nice piece of sea glass on a beach walk. And it's particularly nice if you can make a piece of jewellery with sea glass that has a provenance.
This piece of pale blue is from Old Chelton Beach in PEI. I was practicing different types of bezels from a Craftsy class and this one decided to be a little organic, reminding me of seaweed cradling the glass. It is made with .999 silver and my original plan was to antique it but it looked too nice with the bare silver. In my opinion lol.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Game Of Thrones - Bah!

I just binge read all 5 books of George Martin's Game Of Thrones and now I'm sorry I did. I've never watched the TV show of the same name and if I had, would probably not have started the books. Couldn't put them down, mind you, and had a couple of 4 and 5 in the morning sessions.
Each book gets progressively darker and weirder, with a cast of way too many sadistic and monstrous characters. The only ones with redeeming qualities seem to get killed off or ignored in the story line. Book I sucks you in by making you want to know the story of the Stark children which is why I read and read and read, only to finish book 5 still not knowing where they will end up.
I should know better, after reading Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series, which went on for something like 13 books and kept me waiting year after year for the next one to come out. And then Jordan died before the last book was published. I figured it was either him or me. That series was much better, with a smaller cast of characters in which you could invest your liking and interest. Game Of Thrones has too many bloody (literally)  plot lines that you have to read to see if the people you're interested in happen to make an appearance. The books are so long they read like a gory Charles Dickens, like Martin is being paid by the word. I guess with the TV series, he is.
Now I should really do some housework.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Gluten Free Deep Fried Fish

There are so many people diagnosed with celiac disease that feeding them has become a profitable market and it's much easier now to get half-decent tasting food. I don't feel deprived, although, occasionally I miss a really good craft beer and pub style chicken wings or fish and chips. The fish and chips craving seems to come on those miserable, cold winter days when your body says, "feed me carbs! Now!"
My Christmas present to myself was a little T-Fal deep fryer and its purpose was to fulfill the carb craving by deep frying little spring rolls made of rice paper, shredded meat, carrots and cabbage. I figured the healthy inside made up for the fried outside. It's amazing what you can talk yourself into believing.
In a fit of trying to make myself eat more healthy food, I bought a package of frozen cod fillets. So, naturally, I looked for the most fattening way I could cook them. When I stumbled across this recipe on reclaimyourhealth.com.au, I thought I'd try it but didn't hold out much hope that it would taste like fish and chip shop fish. BUT IT DOES!!! It's probably even better than some shops sell and the unfortunate part is that, now that I've tried it, I'll want it often. So much for dreams of boiled cod and veggies.
This will make enough batter for 6 large fish fillets. I quartered the recipe to cook one and still had enough left over that I could have cooked 3 more.

Best Gluten Free Fish Batter
2 cups rice flour (I used a blend without Xanthan gum from Bulk Barn)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (optional)
350 ml sparkling water or soda water
1 egg beaten (quartering this was impossible, so I used a whole egg and a little less water
1/2 cup rice flour for coating
Oil for deep fryer - coconut oil would be a healthier choice

Mix together the rice flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl and the water and beaten egg in another. Pour the water mixture into the flour  and mix until smooth. It shouldn't be a thick mixture, more like a pancake mixture.  Dredge the fish in the flour, shake off excess and dip in the batter until coated, shaking off excess. Deep fry in preheated oil 4 - 6 minutes until crispy.
Make sure your oil is good and hot before putting your fish in and this will prevent too much oil soaking in. Rest the fish on a paper towel when removed to blot up excess oil.

Maybe I'll lose weight when it's warm again.



Sunday, 12 February 2017

I'm back!

Have you ever noticed that as you get older, time seems to compress? I can't believe that it's been two years since I posted.
Started doing agility trials with my dogs, practice a lot, sold my store this fall, bought the SC2 kiln I've always wanted, am making a lot of mistakes teaching myself enamelling and that's basically my life the past few years. Now that I've got my head around the fact that I'm free, it's time to start creating. Hopefully.
I've always wanted to make the little clothes out of metal, maybe because growing up I wanted to be a fashion designer. Didn't happen but I made really good cutouts for myself as a kid, haha. So...looking through my idea book, I saw a sketch of a dress. It's bloody cold, so I decided to make shorts and a top on a hanger. Wishful thinking. Can't visualize well from a sketch so I decided to do a prototype. I used 26 gauge brass, thin enough to cut with scissors. Sketched the shorts and top at the bottom of the piece of metal, folded it and cut around the first pattern. Remember, this was a prototype so I could have done it much neater. Once it was cut out, it needed some serious filing, since the metal was so sharp. Then I took some 18 gauge hardware store copper and designed the hangar, just by bending and making a loop. Next time, I'll put a small straight stretch under the loop and a couple of rings of binding wire around it to look more like a hangar. That's why I need a physical prototype.
Once I got all of that done, I realized that done properly, all of this could look really good and definitely wearable without enamel and without a kiln. And without soldering, which is how I was going to join the back and front.
Cut out the back and front of your design,  fold in half. It doesn't matter what gauge metal you use, but the heavier the gauge, the more careful you will have to be folding.
Bend your wire for the hangar.
Place the hangar to hang the outfit. I used the blade of a pocket knife to open the design enough to slide it in. Then use E6000 or Krazy glue to glue the front to the back, under the hangar. Put something heavy over it until glue dries.
Paint with nail polish or permanent markers. It wouldn't hurt to put a coat of clear resin over it to keep your colours safe.
Hang!
If you want one for winter, how about a pair of red long-john combinations?
How easy is that?


Monday, 19 January 2015

Sage 50 Review

This post is totally off topic but it's my blog and I need to vent.
When I bought my convenience store 10 years ago, I researched accounting systems and bought Simply Accounting.  It was a pretty complicated system to start from scratch but the price included a free hour of help from a local S.A. specialist.  That specialist was an accountant with H & R Block in Alberton and I paid her for an extra two hours and she completely customized the software for my use.  Sounds great, right?

Yes, it was good enough that a few years later, I bought the Pro edition so that I could do my books in the store as well as my home office.  That worked well until the store computer died.  The Pro edition is for more than one computer but when you try to put it on a new computer, it cost extra.  Nice.

Since then, I've just worked on one computer, annoying, but not a deal breaker.  In early 2014, I sent my memory stick with the Simply Accounting backup to my accountant as usual and she could not open it. Seemed that she had upgraded and I had not and her new Sage system locked out anything done on the old system.

The company was no long AccPac Simply Accounting.  They had been taken over by Sage.  If I wanted my accountant to access my 2013 books, I would have to upgrade, whether I wanted to or not.  Did I want the basic version or the payroll version?  The difference in price was immense and I got my deduction information off the government website anyway, so I ponied up the necessary $500 (including tax) and got the electronic licence to download the upgrade without the payroll information.  It was horrible - slower than molasses to load, my home page was changed and had all sorts of stuff I didn't need but at least I could get my taxes done.

Now I'm finalizing my books for 2014 and went to do the T4s for my employees, happy to have them done early this year.  But Lo and Behold, Sage had taken the ability to print T4s and ROEs with my $500!  If I wanted to get that back, it would only cost me an extra $600 a year.  A YEAR!  To get back what had before!

So for being forced to spend $500, this wonderful company gave me less than I had before.  But look at all the extra features you have, says the sales department.  Nothing I need or can use, of course.  Can I have my old system back?  No.

It has been years since I've been this angry.  Do not under any circumstances buy Sage 50 or any of the Sage products unless you have lots of money and are prepared to be held to ransom.  The Sage logo on the software is an increasing step graph; a very effective indicator of the rising annual costs of using their product.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lessons in Humility

I've always thought of myself as a pretty good animal trainer.  I broke and trained racehorses and did it firmly and kindly, so that the colts and fillies knew what was expected of them and were always glad to see me.  I groomed and trained some real problem horses and had great success in changing their attitudes.
 Dogs have been a part of my life since childhood and my last three were Jack Russells, not easy dogs to train with their attention deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder and sheer stubbornness.  Their training wasn't anything fancy, just the basics like sit and come and walk politely on a leash.  They were all adults when I got
them and had little quirks that had to be either dealt with or ignored.  Dewey, my latest, is the original dog in the manger and has to have whatever the other dogs have.  If I give them each a bone, he goes through a gamut of actions, including running and barking at the door, to get the others to leave their bones so he can get theirs.  If his yapping at them gives me a headache, sometimes I'll just switch the bones all around, which works until he decides that Corky has a better one and starts all over again.  He's also a chronic runaway and if he gets out of the fenced yard somehow, he's on a mission.  I don't think he has any idea of where he is going but going he is.  When he is on his way somewhere, he becomes completely deaf and doesn't hear me calling, ever.  The only way I can catch him is to run back in the house and grab a wiener, jump in the car and get ahead of him and yell, "Dewey, hot dog!"  His greed is the only thing that seems to be more important than his mission and his little 14-year-old legs make a bee-line to me.  He also has a phobia about cameras, so most pictures of the other dogs will show Dewey leaving in the background.  The picture on the right must have been taken with a cellphone and he didn't realize what was going on, but he's catching on to cellphones and tablets now, too, and gives me a dirty look and leaves.  I've always suspected that he is reincarnated from a famous person and hates the paparazzi.
The point of all this is that my dogs and I get along just fine.  They usually do what they're told and other than Dewey and his rare escapes, they don't do anything horrible or that makes me think I should do an attitude adjustment.
Until now.
I have met my match.
Corky was a year old when I got him and the moment he walked in the door he was my devoted dog.  He lives to please me.  He is relaxed inside the house and ready to play and have fun when he's outside, as long as I'm within sight.  He walks by my side without a leash and comes when he's called.  His only fault is that he is very shy and reserved and when we do agility, he will stop if we have to go towards people.  I have become hooked on agility and Corky's natural grace and quickness to learn made me think that a poodle who wasn't shy could be a lot of fun doing agility work.  Corky's sister just happened to have a litter ready to go and the breeder chose what she called "a very self-confident pup" for me.  And self-confident he is.  He loves people, loves other dogs and loves playing.  Constantly.

My living room is a shambles.  I straighten the area rug and put the cushions back on the couches and within 30 seconds, the rug is sideways and the cushions are on the floor.  I thought I had "baby proofed" the house but didn't count on having a pup the size of a pony who could reach just about anything that I could.

Anybody who says dogs don't have a sense of humour hasn't dealt with a standard poodle pup.  He can't be left alone in another room for five seconds or he comes galloping in to show me what he found, practically says "Woo Hoo!!!" and runs around the house waving his prize.  The game is on!  I used to keep unpaid bills on the kitchen table until I was ready to sit down and deal with them.  Not any more.  House plants, papers, books, shoes, ceramic figurines...if he can reach it, it's gone.  And if everything is put away out of reach, he runs upstairs and raids my closet.  "Weeeee!!!!" Mom's socks!  Mom's bras!  Toilet paper!  Wash cloths!  Woo Hoo!!!!
I was eating my supper tonight when someone came to the door with my CSA order.  Usually he's right there with bells on because he loves people coming to the door but he got half my supper before I realized he wasn't underfoot.
Look at the size of the little stinker!  Not even six months old and he's bigger than Corky.  (Dewey leaving in the background.)  He will not come when he's called outside, although he is getting better coming in the house.  Unless, of course, he has something he shouldn't.  He loves treats but will ignore chicken, turkey and wieners if it means he has to do something he doesn't want to.  His motto is, "Don't wanna, don't hafta, not gonna."
The latest trend in dog training is to reward a dog for doing the right thing and ignore them if they don't.  And if they're into something they shouldn't be, distract them with something they can have.  Good luck with that one with Drummond!
This puppy is definitely a challenge and he has shown me that I have a lot to learn when it comes to dog training.  And if you know a sixty-something who decides to get a puppy, whack them upside the head until they come to their senses!