The Potters' Penguin Project passed a kilometerstone (a metric milestone) this weekend: the colony hosts 997 penguins and three eggs--1,000 objets d'penguin--which puts us a whopping two thirds of the way toward our goal of 1,500. Here's what that looks like packed into boxes:
All of these birds, plus at least 500 more, will emerge in early January for an exhibit at Claymakers in Durham, NC.
I've been getting satisfying results with sprayed glazes, and the process has been helping me really appreciate my electric kiln--to the point that (hard to believe) I've been declining occasional access to soda and wood firings. But every once in a while, I glaze a pot for the gas kiln at Claymakers, and the results make me covet reduction firing again. Case in point: I really like the carbon-trap halos around the wax-resist dots on the shino-glazed bottle below. On one side of the bottle, the halos are black; on the other side, they're orange. (The bottle started out as a bottle demo, then turned into a darting demo. I'm not sure why I stuck a horn on it, but it does make a nice place to put a thumb.)
The winning recipe from the epic Banana Bread Taste Tests of 2015 is still the recipe we use. I've been going to the source for the recipe, but it always bugs me that the order in which ingredients are listed is not the order in which they're used in the recipe. So here's a revised version that fixes that. Champion Banana Bread
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), and butter a 4x8-inch loaf pan. [Or use muffin tins, or a glass baking dish, or whatever. You have enough baking experience that you don't need to feel bound to the 4x8-inch size.]
3-4 very ripe bananas, peeled [The recipe actually specifies "peeled." I haven't ever tried it with unpeeled bananas.]
1/3 cup melted butter [Hooray for melted butter. This is what makes this recipe is so easy.]
1 teaspoon baking soda [Seems like a strange order, but it works.]
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
Optional: 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and/or 1/3 cup pecans, shelled [I wrote "shelled" to keep the "peeled" bananas company]
Last month, as boxes of clay penguins were piling up for the Potters' Penguin Project, I wondered whether one could see real live penguins anywhere in North Carolina. Google quickly pointed me to the Greensboro Science Center, where one can not only see African penguins in the "Sciquarium" but also experience a "Penguin Encounter." So I made reservations, and on a blisteringly hot Saturday two weeks ago, E and I headed to Greensboro with friends.
African penguins are found along the coast of southern Africa. Their status went from vulnerable to endangered on the IUCN redlist in 2010, with their decline attributed to overfishing and changes in prey sources. The African penguins at the Greensboro Science Center are part of a Species Survival Plan that coordinates and monitors breeding to ensure genetic diversity. The Science Center currently has 20 penguins, with space for 25, and has successfully bred nine chicks, some of which have been sent to other zoos.
The penguins we encountered up close were juveniles: Pat (female) and Nigel (male). Nigel wasn't wearing a tag because he was bulking up to molt. We weren't permitted to hold the penguins ourselves--both for our safety and that of the birds--but we were able to pet Pat while a keeper held her, and we were all surprised to learn that penguins have surprisingly silky, soft feathers.
Penguins are social, interactive birds, with individual personalities and individual relationships with the keepers.
African penguins are also called Jackass penguins because of the sounds they make.
The keepers were generous with their time and answered all of our many questions, and it was thrilling to meet these beautiful birds up close. We'll likely head back next spring for the Science Center's Tuxedo Trot, a 5K fundraiser for SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds).