Fun Afternoon at a Ceramics Studio

This year our school started something new–asking each Advisory group to plan an enrichment activity that would involve a field trip of some sort.  My first proposal was to visit Maymont in Richmond, Virginia.  With its mansion filled with Art Nouveau treasures, formal gardens, wildlife exhibits and so much more, Maymont is “enriching” on many, many levels!

When it was not going to be possible to be gone for a full day, however, I started looking for something local that my advisees (7 girls, in grades 8-10) might enjoy.  I’m so glad I thought of offering them a “painting party” at Lazy Daisy Ceramics!

The school covered the flat-rate studio fee for each girl (which included all paints/glazes, use of the brushes, studio space and assistance), and then the girls purchased the items they wanted to paint.  Prices for the unglazed pieces ranged from $3 to well over $20 (for large items), and most girls chose a piece that was around $10.  There was a wide variety of items from which to choose!  Some girls opted for figurines, others for mugs, some for plates, etc.  And once they had chosen and paid for the piece they wanted to paint, and selected the colors they wanted to use, they started painting!

08-Grace-Rabbit  09-Cathy-Mug

10-Jordan-Saucer  11-Emily-Mug

12-Kayleigh-Girl-Wolf  13-Olivia-Tray

14-Sherry-Penguin  15-Cathy-Mug

16-Sherry-FlowerBowl  17-Grace-Rabbit

18-Olivia-Tray  19-Emily-Mug

We were at the studio for a little over two hours, and everyone finished at least one piece.  Can’t wait to see these next week after they’re fired!


It was a nice change of pace from our school schedule, and a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon!

Update: May 5, 2016

Here are a few pictures of the finished pieces:




27-FinishedPieces  26-FinishedPieces


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Introduction to Color Theory

In a new-to-me experiment to introduce color mixing to my students in grades 8-12, we used milk, food coloring and dishwashing detergent to create some very cool colors and designs.

More color theory projects are on my website:

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Supporting Our Local Musicians – April 1-2, 2016

On Friday night, April 1st, we visited Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA to catch a bit of the show by Chamomile and Whiskey, an incredibly talented group of young musicians.

On Saturday night, April 2nd, we were at Rapunzel’s in Lovingston, VA for the show by the “Blazing Saddle Tramps,” a Western Swing group.

These are two very different genres of music, for sure, but with a fun common denominator: Brenning, the percussionist for Chamomile and Whiskey is the son of Mark, who’s the drummer for Blazing Saddle Tramps!

Occasionally you’ll find father and son on stage together, as in this brief clip of Willie De‘s band (featuring Justin Esposito on fiddle), from February 27th at Pro Re Nata:

Mark is the drummer for Wayne’s group, Peace, Love & Harmony:

But sometimes Brenning fills in for his dad!

Wayne’s bass player, Brandon, has his own band called Swagger, and he also plays bass for Double Faces Gogo Band.  In the meantime, Rob, the lead guitarist, plays with Peace, Love & Harmony, Swagger, and in a group called Bubba Rose.

In addition to Peace, Love & Harmony, Wayne plays with “Buck Island Bluegrass”:

Wayne also does music workshops for elderly and disabled adults, and he enjoys going to drum circle gatherings that are organized by Jim (of the Dreamtime Project and Positive Collective):

There is SO much amazing music in this area, and so many talented musicians!  Some of our other local favorites (and friends) include:

Keith Morris & The Crooked NumbersJason Burke, and members of the Central Virginia Blues Society.

Please support YOUR local musicians! 🙂

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Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C. & Great Falls National Park – March 26-27, 2016

Each year in late March, Wayne goes to Washington, D.C. to visit some art galleries and to get together with some friends he’s had since college.  This was my second trip with him, and despite it being Easter weekend (when some of his friends had already made other plans), we had a great time!

From the Charlottesville area, we drove up Rt. 29.  Instead of getting on I-66 towards D.C., this time we stayed on Rt. 29 North until Rt. 50 took off heading east into Arlington.  We stayed at a motel that was within a couple of blocks of a Metro station, got our “Smart Trip” cards, and off we went!

05-Wayne-VirginiaSquare-Metro 30-Sharon-DC

The Metro system is really a good way to get around the city.  While we don’t go often enough to really *understand* the various routes, we can usually get where we want to go.


From the Farragut West Metro stop, we walked a couple of blocks to the Renwick Gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue.


The line was really, really long, but we decided to wait it out.  Fortunately, it moved quickly and before too long we were inside for the “WONDER” exhibit.  Nine installations were featured in this show, and while I’ll post a few pictures, you can also click here to learn more about it.










When we left the Renwick, I walked a little further down Pennsylvania Avenue to get a couple of pictures of one of the most famous buildings in the neighborhood:



We were meeting a friend for dinner in a couple of hours, plus we were kind of tired from all of the standing and walking, so we decided to return to the motel instead of going to any other museums.  Again I found myself totally fascinated with the interior of the metro station, so I started taking pictures of the changing patterns in the ceiling and wall while riding up on the escalator.  This proved not to be a good thing; more on that later!


Our designated meeting place for dinner was a place we’d been before: the Silver Diner on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.  I got the Bell & Evans Roasted Chicken Pot Pie (SO GOOD!), Wayne got Grilled Atlantic Salmon, and our friend got the Summer Citrus Salad.  We were ALL pleased with our meals, and we highly recommend this restaurant if you’re in the area.

We left Arlington early on Sunday morning, heading for Great Falls National Park on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  So funny that you can be in such a large city and then in less than 15 miles you can be at some place like this! It was cool and overcast, but so amazing and so beautiful.




Just after we drove into the Park, two Great Blue Herons flew over the parking lot.  We went to the first overlook of the falls and then decided to walk upriver to see if we’d see any other Herons or water birds.

Before going too far, however, we paused to put a tiny sliver of quartz crystal into the river.  This is a ritual we started a couple of years ago….  Water is so vital to all life on our planet, and yet all too often there are stories in the news about oil spills, industrial waste or agricultural waste that foul this precious natural resource.  Being familiar with (and intrigued by) the work of Masaru Emoto, we say a prayer for the safety and health of the water while holding the crystal, and then we drop the crystal into the river.


But back to the wildlife.  There were Canada Geese everywhere, as well as a variety of ducks and other birds.

44-Goose 45-Ducks

To our surprise, there were LOTS of Great Blue Herons nesting on the far side of the river.  It astounds me that these long-legged birds can roost in trees!

53-GreatFalls-Herons 54-GreatFalls-Heron


I had my camera on full optical/digital zoom to get these pictures.  I was pleased that I was able to take them, but of course I always wish for a more powerful zoom–or closer birds!–at times like these!

I spotted another bird across the river, and when I zoomed in, I was delighted to see another one of our favorites!



The two adult Bald Eagles were sitting just to the right of their nest.


We so enjoy being out in woods and along water, and Great Falls National Park is now one of our favorite places to visit.


Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way.  As we were leaving the Park, the line coming in was nearly half a mile long! I’m so glad we got there early!


Now, earlier I mentioned something about taking pictures while riding on the escalator in the Metro station…  I didn’t mention that I was riding up backwards, taking pictures as it rose, and that I got totally lost in and totally distracted by the changing patterns….

I was paying NO attention to how long I’d been on the escalator, suddenly ran out of moving stairs, and the next thing I knew I was–YIKES!–falling backwards!   I managed to break the fall–with my head!

Thankfully, I didn’t lose consciousness and it didn’t split the skin, but almost immediately I had a very large knot on the back of my head.  I sat there for a second, sort of assessing the damage, then Wayne helped me up.  We slowly walked to a nearby restaurant and got some ice in a bag, then I sat down again, continuing to decide just how much damage I’d done to myself.

When we walked back to the motel, we asked the guy at the desk where the closest urgent care center was (almost directly across the street!) and then I used the internet to make sure that I knew what to look for, just in case things started getting worse.  (In addition to the very painful knot on the back of my head, I had a fierce headache and some nausea. Plus my neck, left shoulder and back were starting to hurt.)

I knew I shouldn’t take aspirin, but I also learned that Ibuprofen is a no-no with a head injury.  Wayne went to a nearby 7-11 to get me some Tylenol.

Despite this, we still made it to dinner on time, and between the meds, the delicious dinner, and the great conversations, I started to feel a little bit better.

At this point I’m still sore as the dickens (basically EVERYTHING hurts), but I’m very, very thankful that this was no worse than it was.  And yes, I have laughed and laughed at the total irony of the whole experience:  Um, can you say “Great Falls”?  😉


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Simplicity Pattern 8028

After making a variety of purses by following–and modifying–various online tutorials, I decided to see how I’d do with an honest-to-goodness, traditional paper pattern. I purchased Simplicity pattern #8028 and decided to first try view C, which is the one on the top left in the pattern envelope picture.


Since I still have a lot of the “Whiskers and Tails” fabric I’d ordered a while back, I chose that for the “main” fabric, and instead of the faux leather (as shown in the example on the pattern envelope), I decided to use just black fabric for the bottom band.


I guess I’m spoiled by tutorials–video tutorials, especially, but also step-by-step still pictures, which tell you to cut the fabric this size by this size–because I found the whole process of cutting out the pattern, and then pinning it to the fabric, and then cutting out the fabric pieces to be beyond tedious.  Seriously.

The first piece of the pattern showed it placed on a fold, with the fabric turned right sides facing.  That was the way the pajama pants pattern was written, too, but after cutting out the first pieces for the purse, it made absolutely no sense to have the main fabric open just on one side.  It literally took me a couple of days to figure out that the fabric needed to be folded, but that the pattern didn’t need to be ON the fold… Major “ah ha” moment, so I cut the one really wide piece into two narrower pieces to have a definite front and back.

After a couple more days, I realized that the pattern was written for faux leather, so I had to adjust the bottom band by turning it under at the top before stitching it down.  (Made no sense to have a fabric band with a raw, fraying edge sewn directly onto the front/back of the main fabric!)

The NEXT issue involved my choice of fabric, which has an obvious direction.  A non-directional or all-over fabric would be fine at this stage, but the cats on the fold-over flap would have been upside down if I’d simply followed the pattern.  Maybe there was something mentioned about this somewhere in the directions, but I didn’t see it….

In order to have the cats right side up on the front–and right side up on the back–I had to cut the fabric into two pieces and sew them together where it was supposed to fold over to create the flap. Done properly, I probably should have added a narrow black band to separate the pieces rather than running right side up and upside down cats together, but by that point I just wanted to get on with it!

But with pieces cut out–and finally understanding the basic concept of the design–I put the directions away!!  I also decided I wanted a zippered pocket on the back of the purse, even though that wasn’t part of the printed pattern.

Long story short(er), I think it turned out okay.  Still need to make straps, and reviews said to add at LEAST 6″ to the strap if you want to use it as a cross-body.

Other choices for Simplicity pattern #8028 are for a clutch or wristlet.  Personally, I think it’s too large to be a good wristlet type purse since the finished size is 10″ wide x 6″ tall (when folded over and closed).


Open view of the front.  You can just barely see the black magnetic closures I used.  There’s a zipper that goes along the top edge.


Open view of the back.  You can see where I changed directions on the cat fabric, and you can also see the zippered pocket I added.


I used the main fabric for the pocket lining on the back of the purse.


I used a black and white paw print pattern for the interior lining.  There’s a double slip pocket on the back wall of the purse.


So definitely a mixed review here….  If you’re really good at following traditional printed patterns AND you’re really good at using the materials that are called for in traditional printed patterns, then you’d probably do fine with Simplicity 8028.

But if–like me–you’re NOT necessarily good at following traditional printed patterns AND you’re not planning to use the materials that are called for, AND you want to add other features, you might find it frustrating!

That said, now that I understand how it works, it would actually be very easy to put together another one!  I plan to test this one to see if I like it enough to make another one of the same style.  For my needs, I think this one is going to be too small to use as an every day purse when I carry all manner of things in a purse, but too big to use when out on adventures when I just carry the basics….

I might try to make the larger purse that’s just below (to the right) of this one, and I think it would be kind of fun to do one with faux leather on the bottom.  Personal preference, I’d probably opt to quilt the main fabric, simply because I like the look.  And a back zippered pocket on anything is definitely a must.

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