Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Pictures pictures and yes more pictures.

I meant to write an update post following my most recent pottery class but I was just so excited! By the time I made it home I had completely forgotten. Why the excitement? Four of my pieces were finished and I was able to bring them home!  WOOT!

First up, a candy dish. Its small but deep and can hold a plethora of sour gummy bears (one of my favourite candies!). The "paint" job isn't so hot. Turns out I didn't mix the stuff well enough before I applied it and ... voila. You can see all the brush strokes (inside and out) and through to the red clay underneath in some spots. However, I love it. Its a great shape and a great size. And looks fabulous on my desk at work.
Next up, my Charlie Brown mug. I gifted this to my friend Michael. He's kind enough to offer me a ride to the office just about every day and since I'm super lazy, you know I happily accept. Plus, he's good company. You can't tell from the horribly lighted photo but the black interior has speckles of green that look super cool against the dark glaze. Likely due to some impurities in the glaze I'm guessing, or it wasn't completely mixed when I dipped it. Not sure what he'll use this for. Its a nice size for a mug although I'm not sure how it would handle hot coffee.
Piece number three is my lovely little dessert bowl. The colour is gorgeous! I was so happy when I saw it on the shelf. At first I didn't recognize it as my work since the colour when I originally "painted" it was a lot lighter. I cannot complain about one thing on this piece - I'm so pleased. This will be my go-to dessert/ice cream bowl, not that I eat a lot of either of those things but when I do, I'll be eating it out of this little beauty.
I can't show the third piece as it's destined for someone else as a present but they don't know it yet. I'll try to post a pic of the lucky recipient and their KL original work of art when its given.

Yesterday, I took the completed pieces into the office and showed them off to my coworkers. One of my bosses was very impressed and seeing them brought back memories of when she took a class years ago. She might end up taking a class herself when they start up again in a couple of weeks (mid-April).  Only three more classes left - and the next class is our last one for actually making anything. After that, the final two classes are for decorating, glazing and firing. I'll be sad when its all over!
Speaking of mugs... I destroyed my favourite Hudson's Bay Co. mug. It decided to end its short life and took a dive off the kitchen counter last week. Dammit. Perfect size, perfect shape. Argh. 
Nero seems to know that we're gearing up for a move and is trying to spend as much time enjoying his freedom on our balcony while he can. The weather hasn't been cooperating but the minute it gets anywhere near the freezing mark, he's out there soaking up any sunshine he can get. The place we'll eventually be moving too is a townhouse so no balcony. He doesn't like the outdoors on ground level either - he's a bully but he's also afraid of his own shadow. I hope he'll forgive me eventually.
And finally, this is what I'm currently reading. Its interesting. Not great but interesting. Considering its a book about comic book heroines there isn't a single picture of an actual comic book character in it. There are drawings of female superhero-types between each chapter that represent the stereotypical heroine in each of the decades the author discusses but there is no actual Wonder Woman, Super Girl, Storm, etc. I suppose these are heavily copyrighted and it would have been nearly impossible to get permission to use. Just saying... While I'm not a comic book collector and really haven't picked one up since being hooked on The Warlord back in the day (side note: I even had a fan letter published in one issue!).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

#WhyIRun

Robyn tagged me to share with everyone why I run. Its been an emotional rollercoaster for the past 6 months with not being able to run or walk much due to my health issues. I promised her I'd take up her challenge and I've finally gotten around to it. Everyone has their own story about their own journey with running. I hope you enjoying this little insight into mine.




Tea Time

This weekend, I was treated to the most delightful afternoon tea courtesy of my friend Robyn. It was a birthday treat (yes, my birthday was back in January...its a long story). It sounds unbelievable but I'd never tried Earl Grey tea before. I'm not a fan of black tea and normally stick to herbal but I really enjoyed it! 
Robyn pulled out all the stops and made homemade cookies! Also had my first jammie dodger! Who's spoiled? Me! On top of it all, she made a trip to Bon Ton Bakery and picked up the most scrummy lemon tarts
Today was pottery class! Due to the holiday last weekend, we didn't have a class. I found myself really missing not going to class. Its nice to have something like this class to look forward to each week.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent last week making pinch pots. We continued moulding shapes by hand this week, and we started making these adorable little boxes. I shaped two - 1 round and 1 square. Next week we'll be cutting out the lids and scooping out the insides. Fingers crossed I don't destroy them! Mom hinted strongly, without even seeing one of them, that one of these boxes would make a wonderful present for "someone". Hint hint hint...

In "techie" news, I finally joined Instagram. Not really sure why, other than everyone else (including all the cool kids) are doing it so.... there you go. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pottery - i'm Loving It

My chest was acting up again this weekend which resulted in me feeling pretty crappy on Sunday. I came this close to not going to my pottery class. However, I sucked it up and headed out the door, figuring that I could always leave early if I started feeling worse. We were finishing up our wheel-thrown projects and moving onto hand sculpting. By the time I reached the City Arts Centre, I was feeling much better and was glad that I left the house.

Class this past week was quite productive. I cleaned up my final wheel projects and quickly discovered that I am not very good when it comes to decorating them. People around me where drawing intricate designs, laying down near perfect stripes and overall putting me to shame. However, I will be proud no matter how my finished items turn out. As I told our instructor Carole, I stopped expecting “perfect” after week 1. The first bowl I painted the previous week was out of the kiln following its first firing and I was thrilled that it hadn’t “exploded” (a possibility if there are air pockets/bubbles which I was notorious for). One of the colours didn’t turn out the exact shade I wanted but we’ll see what happens when it goes through the glazing process. Who knows?

Next up was the remaining four pieces I had thrown over the previous weeks. The cylinder (I don’t know what else to call it) in the upper right went into the kiln as is. I wanted at least one piece with no decoration – simple, elegant, classic.  The small bowl (lower right) was painted white and then I painted blue polka dots on the outside. Or at least that’s what the container said on the outside. It was actually very similar in colour to the shade I painted the entire bowl but Carole assured me it would come out blue after firing. The cup (lower left) was a bit of a disaster from the beginning. This was the one that I put a whole through when originally trimming it so we slapped a makeshift bottom on it. It eventually turned out alright but then I made the mistake of painting it. I decided to try dipping it in a fantastic red colour but it slopped around the inside and I didn’t bother trying to fix the interior paint job. Instead I painted the bottom outside half in black (although not very evenly) so… again, we’ll see. The one I’m most proud of (so far) is the larger bowl (upper left). It was the last piece I created on the wheel, with help as usual, and the one I’m desperate to have turn out well. I came across an example of what I wanted to do while searching for decorating ideas and I was inspired. I discussed with Carole about the colour scheme I wanted and how to create the effect I wanted. This week, I painted the entire pot in my main colour and then set it aside along with the others for its first firing. Next up, I’ll cover it in a clear glaze and then attempt to get the effect I want with a different coloured glaze. Here’s hoping!

The rest of this week’s class was spent learning about pinchpots. It’s a very basic method of creating pottery but I really enjoyed it. Sure, the three pieces I made (in about 5 minutes!) look like something a small child made in craft class but I really enjoyed it. There was something very soothing and relaxing about watching the sculpture come to life under my fingers in a way that I just didn’t get with the wheel. The wheel I found frustrating and scary but this was fun. The clay I was using was actually being reused from previous failed projects and as a result, the outside of all three of my items had a crackling effect on the outside – a result of it being used over and over. It looks really cool, especially with the interior being relatively smooth (and lots of finger prints). I’m surprisingly excited to see how they end up after being glazed.

No class next week because of the Family Day long weekend here in Alberta but I’ll try to get a picture with some of the cracking detail the following week. It’s hard to believe we’ve passed the half way mark. I’m enjoying it far more than I thought I would after that first class and wondering if I’ll try and take another one when this is all over.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Cinnamon Rolls for the Win!

After all the medical appointments, blood tests and  this week and covering off for a co-worker who's currently lying on the beach in Mexico, I'm so glad to be able to take it easy this weekend. I finally got a chance to break open my new stand mixer this afternoon and I decided to try my hand at making these cinnamon rolls.
Mmmm, cinnamon.
Cinnamon rolls just aren't the same without a little bit of cream cheese frosting melting ever so slightly on the top and into the spaces between the rolls. First try at cream cheese icing as well today. OMG I'm amazing. 
The rolls themselves were slightly overdone on the edges but not enough to really bother about. I think the next time I try these, I'll take a minute or two off of the baking time. The frosting recipe made a ton! It was delicious but far too much for a dozen rolls. 
Someone's going to get a little bit of a surprise in their cinnamon roll - I had a little "incident" with my dough hook. I didn't realize that I should have tested the height the attachment before mixing everything. It needed to be raised slightly which I discovered after watching the mixer shake and rock for about 5 minutes. When I finally pulled the dough out and took the hook off to wash, I realized that I had not only chipped the enamel off of the top but I'd seriously bent the heck out of the attachment!  Yikes!  Fortunately they're not very expensive so I'll order a new one soon (probably not coated). 

I'm looking forward to using the mixer again soon.  Not sure what's next but stay tuned.  Now, if only I can settle on a name for her...

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Last week on the wheel

Another Sunday, another pottery class. Last week, I managed to make a cup and a bowl. Neither of which were as impressive or well shaped as I remember them being. Oh well, a master potter I am not and I proved that in spades when I went to trim both of them at the start of today's class.  The cup? I took too much off the bottom and went right through it, leaving a hole big enough to stick my finger through. Thankfully, our instructor walked me through a fix which was a lot more work than its worth but nice to know that you don't have to just throw it away.
I think I'll finish the cup off with a white interior. Not really sure what to do on the outside. Colour suggestions?
The bowl? I almost did the same thing. Thankfully she came by at just the right moment and helped correct my mistake. I think I might paint the bowl a dirtiesh yellow and then dip the rim in brown glaze so that it drips down from the top ever so slightly. Today, with some help, I made another bowl. This time it was a bit bigger, a bit deeper and wider and a better shape (more bowl-like, if you know what I mean). I'd like to do the same colour scheme for that bowl as the little one above.  

The first small bowl I made in week two is very small but will make a nice candy dish for my desk or a key bowl for my room. I painted the interior light green and the exterior is supposed to be black. It will be finished with a clear glaze (fingers crossed!).


I weighed myself this morning. A month into the new year and I think I might be down a pound although I'm not really sure how accurate that is or, if its true, how I did it. I wasn't really being very careful about what I ate although I made a few smarter choices and I cut down on the number of times I ate out during the last two weeks. Cutting back on the pop is slow going but I'm trying. Its a struggle but one I'm willing to continue working on.

Please disregard the lack of care I take with my feet. In desperarte need of a pedicure and a massage. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Post 10 of 15: The Latest Pottery Update

In yesterday’s pottery class, we continued throwing on the wheel and trying to perfect our techniques when it came to creating the perfect cylinder. Hells belles but it’s not easy. To be honest, even if we spent all 10 weeks just doing this same thing over and over, I doubt I’d have the skill level to make anything without help by the end! I will not be discouraged however; each week I dutifully roll some clay, throw it on the wheel, hit the gas pedal and attempt to not fling clay off in all directions and injure my fellow classmates.  This week I managed to finish with TWO pieces: a cup/glass type thing (I will not be adding a handle) and a narrow, deep soup bowl. To be fair, I get to a certain spot on each piece and then I’m afraid to go any further (based on previous outcomes) in case I ruin it. Our instructor came by and helped me to work the clay up to form the sides and smooth out the interior.

At the start of the class, we began by cleaning up the pieces we had finished the previous week, cutting off excess clay and adding a bit of shape. After two weeks of this, I’m feeling more confident. I had to ask for help for one small part of the base of my soup bowl but other than that, it was all me. I think part of the credit needs to go to my fancy new tools.

They were nice and shiny for about 5 minutes.

We discussed glazing at the end of this week’s class and that started me thinking about how I’d like my pieces to look once they’re finally finished. I surfed the great Google machine during my lunch hour today and now have definite ideas for painting/glazing the pieces I’ve already finished. I can’t promise they’ll look professional but I hope they come out halfway decent. We won’t be working with the glazes until the last couple of weeks, I believe, so there’s time to ask lots of questions and check out YouTube.

There are 7 weeks left in class and I have three items that I’d really like to make (and have turn out):  a nice sized serving/popcorn bowl, a chip/veggies and dip platter, and something I’m going to keep hush-hush about for the moment. I want it to be a surprise!  Don’t worry, you know I can’t keep secrets for long so you’ll probably find out pretty soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Results Are In

My doctor's office called on Thursday and asked me to come in on Friday to discuss the results of Tuesday's CT scan. My brain was going in two different directions after I hung up. Either they weren't going to find anything or I should prepare myself for something serious. His nurse can't give me any details and I knew better than to ask. So, I just sucked it up until my appointment.

So there's good news and some so-so news. The radiologist's report came back with three items. First and foremost, there was nothing to indicate the inflammation I've been experiencing or that could be causing it. Soooo, now we continue to wait. The next step is the rheumatologist appointment which I should hopefully be getting a call about next week. Dr. H was surprised that I hadn't been called yet - he checked the specialist's scheduled appointments (ah the joys of being in the same clinic and using the same systems) and there are available appointments as early as the first week of February. Dr. H sent a follow up email while we were still in the exam room - fingers crossed.

Next, the CT scan showed very small nodules in my lungs. The radiologist and Dr. H aren't concerned about these - they are often the result of an infection at some point in the patient's past and unless I was a "high risk" patient (e.g.: heavy smoker now or previously, or if I worked in a dangerous industry like asbestos or uranium), there should be no need to do a follow up CT scan in a year. We chatted a bit about these but I'm not worried.

The final item though has me a bit bothered. There was evidence of fatty tissue in my liver. This would be a slight concern for any person but for me, doubly so. You see, my paternal grandmother, my beloved Nana, developed cirrhosis of the liver due to fatty tissue. She was a very large woman and had diabetes, neither of which did her any favours. Organ failure as a result of her cirrhosis was what eventually killed her. Given that I also take after my father's side of the family, I need to be aware of the potenetial ramifications of not trying to deal with this now. Dr. H however isn't freaking out over this. Each time we do a full set of bloodwork, he orders a liver enzyme test and every time, the results come back normal. He's said that for now its a good idea to eat sensibly and be aware, but until the numbers start going up, I shouldn't worry.  
Unfortunately, I am a bit worried given the family history. Something I can do right now is to lose a bit of weight. While that seems easy peasy lemon squeezy, there are a couple of things to consider. First, due to the ongoing inflammation issues, I can't do a lot of strenuous (or even semi-strenuous) physical activity. Effectively, this takes the "exercise" part out of the "diet and exercise" which is usually prescribed for those looking to lose weight. Second, because I have ovarian cysts, I have a tougher time losing weight than someone with the identical body size/shape as me. Basically, if you have two identical versions of me, one with the cysts and one without, and we both eat the same and do the same amount of exercise, the version without the cysts would lose more weight faster. Ain't I a lucky gal? This also results in me carrying most of my weight around my middle and excess abdominal fat contributes to fatty liver. It just gets better and better...

I'm not freaking out but now the desire to lose a few pounds takes on a whole new angle. While I don't want to live to 100, I would like to live into my 70s and do so relatively healthy. So, the pop will, with some great effort, be limited to weekends and eating out will be cut back drastically. Home cooking? Less bad stuff, more veggies. 

So, there it is. Overall, some good-ish news, some not so good-ish news but nothing to get my panties in a twist over.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The tests continue...

Yesterday I had my chest CT scan. The morning started off bright and very early. I was out of the house by 645 to be at the University of Alberta Hospital by 715. I was given a form to fill out and within 2 minutes of sitting down, I was being called for a chest xray.  I hadn't even taken my coat off yet! No waiting once we got to xray either - in and out in five minutes. Then, it was off to the CT scan area. After watching a short video about the procedure, I was whisked away to get prepped. All that this involved was having a needle inserted into my arm and a plunger dose of injectable dye attached to my arm.

Again, no waiting. I sat down in the waiting room, needle affixed to my arm, and managed to just get comfy (as well as I could given the situation and the chairs) when they came to get me. My nurse/technician for the CT scan looked almost exactly like Sean Hayes from Will and Grace. I was a bit apprehensive about the actual test. I knew it would be slightly claustrophobic but it wasn't until I actually laid down on the bed and saw just how coffin-like the machine is that I started to get nervous. Adding to my growning nerves, I had to hold my arms up and behind my head with the IV line for the dye held in my fingers. I don't know much about the process but it seemed that they took one picture without the dye, probably for comparison, before the injection and a second picture with the dye. Fortunately, I didn't have to slide completely into the MRI/CT machine. My head, neck, and shoulders (and IV line holding arms) were outside which allowed my nerves to calm down a bit. It felt as though it took longer than it probably did - it may have lasted only 10 minutes but it seemed twice as long. 

The whole process was smooth and uneventful. Everything went well and once again I was throughouly impressed with Alberta's quality medical staff. Each and everyone I encountered at the hospital was friendly, funny and seemed to be happy. I had originally been told the whole process would take two hours but I was in and out in just over an hour. My family doctor should have the results before the end of the week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Restaurant Review: Three Amigos (Downtown Edmonton)

This will be the my last birthday post for this year, I promise!  A couple of my coworkers offered to take me out for lunch last week to celebrate.  I decided to be bold and told them it didn't matter where we went, whatever they decided would be fine. One of them suggested Three Amigos, a Mexican restaurant just down the street from our office.  I had walked by numerous times and was curious to try so I said yes.
I opted for the chicken enchilada. It seemed like a relatively safe (and tasty choice). I'm not a big fan of beef or pork when I eat out. I have to admit I was seriously disappointed.  The enchilada's had nothing but oil and chicken inside the tortilla, the rice was bland and tasteless with chunks of something I couldn't recognize and that big black blob is refried beans. I've never ever seen beans that colour. We asked for all three sauces so we could each get a taste - there was a spicey green salsa, a tasty red one (milder) and a mole sauce which had absolutely no flavour.  

I didn't eat very much of my meal and told my friends that I was just getting really full. I'm sure that at least one of them guessed that I didn't like it although I said it was fine. I didn't want to hurt their feelings, especially since one of them had been to their south side location before and loved it.

When the waitress heard it was my birthday, she brought out this cute shot of tequila for me. Considering I had to go back to the office after lunch, I wasn't about to chug it. Instead one of my friends decided it shouldn't go to waste so he downed it.
The best part of lunch for me, besides the fantastic company, was dessert. Originally thinking I'd go for the deep fried ice cream sandwhich thingy, the pineapple empanada caught my eye and I was sold. They used canned pineapple but that was fine. The empanada was perfectly cooked, lightly coated with cinnamon sugar and everything was drizzled with caramel sauce. I especially loved that it looked like the Cookie Monster when he smiles (just me?). 

My opinion? I wouldn't go back again. Three Amigos is an "authentic Mexican restaurant". I don't know if this is authentic or not but I didn't like it. If you're looking for Mexican, I'd recommend Tres Carnales.