Thursday, November 17, 2011


Hi again.  November around here started off so beautifully, it was in the 70s and no storms or rain.  We were scheduled to make a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the US to visit Mr. C's Dad and Step-Mom.  Mr. C's fun sister, J, also joined us for part of the week.  Boy was I surprised when I checked the weather out there to find it was quite a bit colder than here in Illinois.  It was to be in the 50s F during the days and 28-32* F at night.  That changed our packing a bit as we added heavier jackets to the suitcases.  We planned to stay for 6 days.  Our flight out was uneventful, with the exception of as we were approaching Albuquerque, we went through some clouds which were really pretty, like cotton candy, until the lady next to me said, no, I think it's rain, not clouds, and we looked more closely.  It wasn't really rain, either, it was sparkly, and we finally came to the conclusion that we were flying (with the speed of the aircraft figured in) through the equivalent of a blizzard.  It was so pretty.  So we arrived safely in Albuquerque, had dinner with the folks and J and went to our motel for the night.  

During the week, we made a couple of treks to Sandia Casino (where none of us did great, but at least Mr. C and I broke even on our "spending allowance").  We don't happen to be big gamblers, although we do enjoy the video games.  We play penny machines only, LOL, but even those aren't really "pennies" anymore as some of them the least you could "bet" was 50 cents.  We searched out the older machines that let us use less, although there are no longer any 9 cent ones, the best we could find was 25 cents to play all lines.  Since all I really want are the fun to play bonuses, I have to play all lines.  To make finding "good machines" even harder, since I'm horribly allergic to smoke, we are limited to the small non-smoking areas.   Mr. C and I aren't big shoppers, either, neither of us get clothes just for the fun of it, we buy what we need when we need it, I  think we've only been to the "mall" one time in the past 2 years (although we go to WalMart or Meijers for groceries and whatever we need while there).  So when we go gambling, we treat it as a "shopping trip to the mall" with a fixed amount we allow ourselves to "spend", knowing we will probably be spending (or losing) it, LOL.  When we have "spent" our allowance, we move to the penny video poker machines, where I can play on $5.00 for hours, LOL.  

One thing we do spend too much money on, is eating out, and we do have our favorite places to go, one of which is Golden Corral.  When we travel with the 5th wheel, we even plan our travel time and routes and over night stays around Golden Corrals, LOL.  Boy were we impressed with the Golden Corrals in Albuquerque.  They were HUGE, about twice the size as the ones (even the newest ones) here in Illinois.  Mr. C prefers buffets because he is a big salad eater.  I prefer buffets because I am a picky eater and I can pick and choose what I want.  Many people hate buffets because they eat too much, I actually lose weight when we eat at Golden Corrals because they offer so many "fresh" vegetable dishes and indeed, I lost 5 lbs on this vacation.  

Besides some wonderful meals (both out and at the folks home) we had a good time visiting with Mr. C's Dad and Step-Mom and sister.  Mr. C and J spent a lot of time on their laptop computers while at Dad's and I finally got fidgety (ok, Blogger likes the way I spelled it that time, LOL), so Mr. C took me to Michael's and Hobby Lobby and I got some basic clay stuff and a very simple variety of clay tools (I didn't want to spend lots of money on tools I already have at home).  

I got a wonderful cutting mat that I will also use at home, although I discovered I have to work on the back side, as the black paint comes off somewhat on the clay, but that's okay, it still gives me rough 1/4" and 1" markings to work with.  So, besides the cutting mat, I got one blade, an acrylic roller, several knitting needles, a few "jewelry bits" and from Golden Corral, a straw, toothpicks and skewers.  Then I started playing.  I was still wanting to work on making my dragons smaller, so that's what I played with.   

These new dragons don't have the "decorative scales" canework, but still have the muzzle like I wanted it.  They aren't very decorative, as I was very limited on my available embellishments, but I had fun and it was good practice.  It was also fun to see what I could do with such a limited tool selection.  So, without further ado, here are the 4 little dragons I made one afternoon.

Here are some close ups of each one.

First came "Crystal", holding her crystals in her hands and tail, she sure is a greedy little thing.

I took her picture on my hand, so you can see she is barely as large as my fingers (and I don't have very big hands, LOL).

After Crystal I made "All Mine" who, as you can plainly see, is holding on to his ball for dear life and isn't about to share it with anybody else.  He is only about half the size of my fingers.

This is what he looks like from the back.
I'm still having trouble getting the eyes to look the way I want them, but I'll keep working on it.

The third one I made that day was a sleepy little pink pearl with striped wings.  Her eyes look pretty good, nice and sleepy, maybe even half asleep, LOL.  She too, is guarding her crystal pretty closely.

The final one I made that day is this little green guy who is getting into the holiday spirit with his candy cane.

He still has his own little crystal which he's guarding with his cute little spiky tail.

I find it interesting that the sleepy pink and this green one have the exact same wings and ears, but the wings and ears look different between the two because of the background color or the dragon.

Then it was time to return home, where the weather has finally settled into typical November weather, 40ish during the day and 30s at night (although last night it got below 28*F with possible snow flurries).  It did not snow that we are aware of, but brrrrr.  I hate being cold, it makes my Fibromyalgia so much worse, especially when it's windy and cold, so I'll be hibernating most of the winter by hiding in my house and not going out unless I absolutely have to.

Our chickens made it safely through the vacation, although we had quite a scare right after we got home:
Before I tell that story though, I've had a request to show that most of our chickens really truly lay blue/green/pink eggs.  They are Americauna chickens and they truly lay colored eggs.  These are not dyed eggs, they are fresh out of the chickens, and they taste so fantastic.  There is so much more yolk and flavor from "home grown/layed" eggs than from store bought, in my not so humble opinion.  (We do have 4 old Brahma hens that lay the big brown speckled eggs like the one in the back and they taste good, too, LOL).

I've shown pictures of our beautiful chickens in previous posts, but never showed a picture of their eggs (probably because they were too young to be laying when I posted about them previously.)  The big brown speckled egg in the back left corner is from an old Brahma hen (they have funny feathered feet, LOL) and I included it to show the difference between a "brown egg" and the pinkish egg, right in front of the big brown one, from the Americauna chickens.  I think we only have one that lays the pinkish eggs, but you can see the others are every shade of blue/green from robin egg blue to an olive green.

So, we kept our chickens penned up while we were gone, while we usually let them run loose during the day, when we're home.  From a previous post, you may (or may not) know we had a problem with leaving our chickens loose 24 hours a day, as some predator ate, chased, or carried half our flock away earlier this summer.  Now that the Farmer has harvested his corn and there is no cover for predators we let the chickens loose during the day, again.  When we got home, we started letting them out during the day, again, and when evening comes they take themselves back into the coop, we go close and lock up the gate and they are safe for the night.

Monday we let them loose and then took my Dad and Mr. C (and my Mom and sister, G, and I) down to Golden Corral in Springfield, Illinois for Military appreciation day.  Veterans (and active Duty) got free meals that day.  We went early (3:20 pm) so my Mom got early bird senior price, Dad and Mr. C ate free and G and I got regular lunch price, and we hoped to beat the crowd.  It was plenty busy even at that time and we had a short wait to get in and get seated.  But when we came out, the line was over a block long, OUT THE DOOR.  We were very glad we went early and everybody enjoyed themselves immensely.  However, back to the "Great Chicken Scare" (only it should be titled the "Great Susie Scare"--yep, ME).  Between the shorter days of winter, daylight savings time change, a cloudy day, and the hour and a half to and from Springfield, as well as waiting and eating time, we misjudged the time and didn't put the chickens away before we left.  So by the time we finally got home, it was well past dark.  The chickens had put themselves to bed, as usual, but we still had to go get the eggs and close the gate.  (Another side note here, we live in the middle of nowhere and it is DARK, DARK, DARK out here in the middle of nowhere, LOL).  We grabbed our flashlight and headed back to the chicken coop (which is at the far back corner of our little acre (in the middle of nowhere!!!).  As we got about halfway to the coop, I heard the chickens were really agitated (usually once they put themselves to bed, they just sit on their roosts and quietly go to sleep).  They were moving around and squawking and grumbling, I mentioned to Mr. C, "I wonder what's got the chickens so upset. . ." and then I heard it, somewhere out in the field behind our house, came howling, growling, snarling, yelping and it was CLOSE (we truly thought our flash light would show them, but they were just out of light range).  They couldn't have been more than a half block away from us, whatever "they" were.  There were at least a half dozen, perhaps more, several were howling, and some were fighting, snarling, growling, or yelping).  We know we have wolves, coyotes, and possibly wild dogs around here, we've seen the coyotes and wolves.  I was so scared, if I had been alone, I'm afraid I would have run right back into the house, but fortunately, Mr. C was there and he led the way and we locked up the gate and got the eggs and then high tailed it back into the house.
Our Puppy (who isn't a puppy anymore, she's 2 years old now, LOL, but we still call her puppy, she's so cute and little) who you've all heard way too much about, remember?  This puppy:
Snuffles started barking at the back door and pacing, then she got up in her window (we have a garden window at the back of the den with a ramp for her to get up into--it's no good for growing flowers, it gets too darn hot :-(  )  So, she got up in her window and started growling, a low continuous growl for about a half hour.  I'm soooo glad I wasn't home alone, I'm such a chicken s**t, LOL.  So I suspect our predators were back again and hung around for awhile trying to get into the chickens.

The next day Mr. C kindly put up motion detector flood lights on the back corner of our house and at the back of the chicken coop.  (We already had one on the side of the garage/barn, but it doesn't shine as far as the back of the house or the chicken coop).  He also set up a "Google" reminder alarm to go lock the chickens up and get the eggs before 4:30 everyday.

Now, I'm all caught up and so are you, whether you like it or not, LOL, so I'll get off here and go get dinner started, then I can "play clay" for awhile.  Oops, I almost forgot, I have to walk on the treadmill before I can play, too.  I just HAVE to get some of this excess weight off and get back in walking shape again.  I promised myself I'd walk on the treadmill at least twice a day (with my back injury I can't go for very long at a time, but I can walk more times to make up for it).

Until next time, have fun.  Smiles, S

Dragons, Dragons, Everywhere!!!

Whew, I've been so busy, but having fun, so pardon me for not keeping up my end of the blog (I never could keep a diary regularly, either, so guess I shouldn't be terribly surprised, LOL).

So, you may ask, what have I been having so much fun with?  Well. . . first of all, you may (or may not) remember that in my last post I mentioned the arthritis in my hands was giving me fits with caning.  I finally, regretfully decided that I will definitely have to give up caning, at least for now.  Between my back injury, shoulders, wrists and thumbs I just can't do the reducing anymore and it has gotten to the point that I dread even sitting down at my clay table because I know how much it is going to hurt.  So, I started some sculptures.  I decided to start with Dragons.  As many of you know, even before I married and became a Castle, I collected and enjoyed all things "Fantasy" from sand castles to dragons to fairies.  I have tried to sculpt dragons before, but could never get quite the look that was the kind of dragon I wanted to create.  Although they are beautiful, I didn't want to create mean, horrific dragons, but didn't want cartoon (Pete's Dragon) type dragons either, but I couldn't picture quite what I "see" a dragon as looking like (just Google Dragon pictures and see the variety, LOL).

I have made a couple of little dragons in the past and they were cute, but not quite right.

I still had lots of canes to make, so I gave up on Dragons and went back to caning.  You've all heard my frustration with making "faces" on people type sculptures, so we won't go there again, yet.

So I knew I wanted to make some dragons and I knew I needed someplace to start and would need some help.  Then I came across Birdy Haywood, on FaceBook.    and followed her link to her webpage, and then found that she has instructional project sheets and even better yet, a DVD on making Dragons .  So I ordered it.  Although this DVD is only in UK PAL format (and won't play on my DVD player) it plays just fine on my computer.  I just can't say enough good things about Birdy and this DVD and Birdy's teaching methods.  She is so calm and encouraging and just "gives" the knowledge that you can DO IT, and I did.

First I watched the DVD all the way through. Then I did the practice parts Birdy suggested (several heads, and the eyes).  Then I created my first Dragon:  the green one in this pair:  I watched a section of the DVD and then did that part of the Dragon.  Watched the next section and did that part, etc.  His eyes aren't quite right, and his wings are from an extra piece of cane I happened to have around, but otherwise I was pretty pleased.

Then, I felt the green guy really wanted a friend to love, so I created the pinkish one to go along with him.  Again, the eyes aren't quite right, I wanted a sleepy, calm, relaxed look and instead she looks worried, to me.  Here they are from a couple other angles, with a close up of the heads:

I chose to do my "muzzles" slightly
differently than Birdy's, but finally
 found the shape and look I was searching for to make them "my own".
  Mr. C is absolutely enthralled with them and thinks I should start selling them, but I told him I need a bit more practice first, LOL.  His opinion still really made me feel good though.  We were talking about these two dragons and I told him what I felt their faults were and how difficult I find it to name things I make, and said, "Even so, I'm 'pickled tink', meaning tickled pink or pleased, with them."  He started laughing and said, "Pickled Tink?  You just named them, 'Tickle and Pink'".  So, I present to you, "Tickle and Pink", my first two dragons.  This sculpture is a big bigger than my spread out hand, a total of about 6 1/2" wide, 6" deep, and 5 1/4" tall.  Each Dragon, if spread out would be about 11" from tip of tail to top of head, but since they are curled around each other seem smaller.

I wanted to go a bit smaller though, so next I created this little cutie:  This one was "designed to be a little girl; a teenager to go with Pickle and Tink", but HE had other ideas, and turned out to be a boy.  No, don't ask me how that happens, it appears that Dragons have a minds of their own and I was apparently mistaken and he was indeed a HE and not a SHE (just look at that proud ruff, only the "boys" have those, LOL).  Anyway, I refined the muzzle a bit more as well as refined his wings a bit, and again I was happy.

This little guy has been busy out exploring nature and if you'll look closely you'll see he is quite fascinated with what he found in his hands (front feet?).

Due to his wonderful find, Mr. C has christened him "Flutterbye".

I just love the expression on his face and his eyes; he looks so surprised.  It was just the perfect look.  

I really liked his size, he easily sits on my palm and is about 8" tip of tail to top of head if stretched out.  The way he is posed he is about 4" on the bottom and about 4 1/4" tall.

For the next one I just decided to use up some bits and pieces of canes I had sitting around.  Again, this one turned into a little boy, but this time with spikes from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.

He's a bit wild looking, some say a bit retro, perhaps "an old hippie" left over from the 1970s, LOL.  He is a bit bright and wild looking and every color or hue of the rainbow, which earned him his name of Sir Hue (again thanks to Mr. C).

He's busy with a special bauble/jewel he found stuck in these rocks.  He seems quite fascinated and I suspect this will eventually make its way back to his hoard of jewels and gold.  Sir Hue is about the same size as Flutterbye, although with the rock pile the total sculpture is a bit bigger, about 5" at the base.

Yes, making this particular type of dragon does still involve some caning, for the "scales, wings, and ears" but not the huge canes I previously made for resale.  These canes start out about the size of a quarter and don't get much bigger than that after several recombinations and since they are reduced as they are put together they stay soft and pliable.

One of the best things about making these dragons is that they were all made almost entirely from recycled clay.  Only white, black, and the translucent for the claws were new packages of clay.  I'm also excited that I can use some of the special effects clays with these.  Pearl and glitter clay don't work well for caning, as the mica particles in them cause drag and distortion in the slices when slicing them, but for sculptures, any of the clays can be used.  Hooray!!!

Well, this is probably long enough, and I have another one to write about our recent trip.  I hope you enjoyed my first "successful" foray into sculpting and hope you'll become one of my followers so you can follow along on my journey into sculpting with Polymer Clay.  Smiles, S

P.S.  I almost forgot, I had a commission for a couple bulldog sculptures, from a "cartoonish" photo, which I completed to my satisfaction (and theirs).  It's the first dogs I've done in Polymer Clay and I was quite pleased.