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April 27, 2016

Mom's Spiced Peaches

My most fragrant memory of cloves comes from my mom's Spiced Peaches.  This is one of the dishes she would make for special formal occasions, usually in the spring or summer.  She'd always use peach halves, and often serve it over vanilla bean ice cream.  The recipe came from the Betty Crocker cook book she'd gotten as a wedding present. 

I'm active again in Toastmasters, and we've started a rotation of snacks to bring to our meeting.  Our group is filled with health-conscious people, so I was trying to think of something not boring, but different than chocolatey baked goods.  I'd just come across this recipe when I visited my folks recently, so I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making mom's peaches.

Since you can use canned fruit for this recipe, and most of the ingredients are common pantry items, I thought this would be a pretty economical treat too.  I did triple the recipe to fit the size of our group, using two cans of sliced peaches and a can of pear halves that I had on hand.  Because of that, I ended up using a whole bottle of cinnamon sticks, so I ended up spending a good ten bucks on this dish - not quite as economical as I'd thought.  But it's a pretty presentation, and I think the group will enjoy the surprise.

Betty Crocker's Spiced Peaches

Mix 1 Cup vinegar, 1 Cup honey, 3 whole cloves, and 3 sticks cinnamon in a saucepan.  Heat to a simmer.  Add 6 cups canned peach halves.  Cool.  Chill several hours or overnight.  Drain.  Serve fruit with some of the liquid over it.  *My mom's tip was to use the juice from the canned fruit in the recipe as well. 

What are your favorite light snacks to bring to a group event?  Please leave a comment on my blog.  I'd love to hear from you!

April 25, 2016

Loveless Cafe's Root Beer Float Cake

I had the opportunity to visit my folks this spring when traveling for work.  We haven't done much exploring on my visits since they moved to the area, so when the idea of going out to eat came up, I pushed for something truly "Nashville."  My dad suggested the Loveless Cafe.  It was about an hour away from their home in Gallatin, TN and the drive was lovely.  There are woods everywhere in Nashville, and the trees are not the kind I'm familiar with in Los Angeles.  The Loveless was appropriately busy, so we had time to wander their gift shops on the property, and take our picture behind a funny backdrop frame.  The cafe has a picture window on the area where the biscuit maker lies out the fluffy wonders on big sheet pans dozens at a time.  We so stuffed ourselves on brunch we didn't have room to sample their famous cobblers and baked goods.

I visited right around Easter, and was looking for a treat to bake on my day off.  Rummaging through my mom's cookbooks, I came across a recipe book titled "Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe."  Flipping through, the Root Beer Float Cake jumped out at me.  My dad's father had run a Pepsi plant and distributorship when I was growing up, so I thought it would be fun to bake with soda pop.  And I love bundt cakes.

The Root Beer Cake was so flavorful I didn't bother to glaze it.  I served it with a vanilla bean ice cream instead, and finished the cake before I ran out of ice cream.  

January 31, 2016

Monogrammed Peppermint Wreath

I was inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook to try a new wreath for my door this Christmas.  I spent the holidays in town without family, so this festive craft went a long way to putting me in the mood of the season.  And I hit Michaels on a sale day, and ended up spending less than ten bucks on this entire project!  

This was a pretty quick project I was able to complete in just a couple days.  Many google images show candy wreaths made with a red paint, but I had a metallic green acrylic paint on hand that fit with the season and contrasted with the candies to allow them to stand out.   I did seal both sides of the wreath when I was finished, taking care to completely cover the candies to protect them from the weather, but after two or three months enough moisture had gotten in to make the candies sticky, and I had to throw the wreath out.  Still, given the minor expense and the enjoyment I got from it, I considered it a successful investment. 

Wooden monogram form - $2.50
Acrylic paint - $2.00
Peppermint candies (2 bags) - $2.00
Grosgrain ribbon - $1.00
Clear gloss sealant - $2.50
Hot glue gun & sticks - from my kit

Find a few other examples with step-by-step instructions here and here.  

March 10, 2015

#PotOKerrygold Cheesy Corn Chowder with #IEFB

My puppy Chance just turned nine years old.  He's taking a little break from his Guinness to wish you all a happy St. Patty's Day!  I'm celebrating with the help of my friends at Kerrygold Cheese & Butter thanks to an invite from the lovely blogging collective Inland Empire Food Bloggers.   I've long been a member of Food Bloggers Los Angeles, and enjoyed their advice and camaraderie.  When I found out their sister club IEFB was having a St. Patty's-themed meeting featuring cheese I knew I had to visit.  

The cold, rainy weather we had in January made me long to try my dad's from-scratch corn chowder.  With my heavy schedule, it's taken me this long to get around to it.  So when Kerrygold sent a mouth watering care package of four different kinds of cheese and their grass fed cows milk butter, I knew I would be adding my favorite ingredient into the mix - cheese! 

My dad's chowder is heavy on the meat, with cubed ham and sausage rounds.  I have a tendency to veer from a recipe anyway, so I studied my dad's recipe as a guide for ratios of ingredients and timeline, and then did my own riff basically from the beginning.  From his base I got the idea to add new potatoes and fresh dill.


A big part of my blog is experimentation.  I like to try new things and use this blog to expand my skills.  Since I'd never made a chowder before, part of this "home culinary school" episode was learning how to prepare the corn itself.  I was advised by friends that the magic of the soup would consist in roasting the corn before adding it to the base.  I bought a 5 lb bag of organic white corn from Costco, so I didn't have to worry about shucking or cutting niblets from the cob, and I was able to freeze the corn until the right day to cook came up.  

There are two posts I turned to for guidance in roasting corn:  one from the Hughes family recipe collection and this one from Pen & Fork on pan roasting.  The Hughes family recipe is closest to what I was looking for, but I soon realized since I was starting with frozen corn I would have to use a lower temperature heat and longer oven time.  I mixed a couple tablespoons olive oil and about 1/4 smoked paprika into the corn, then baked at 375 for about twenty minutes and bumped up the heat to 450 for the last five minutes in the oven.

The two-step process of roasting then making the soup meant an investment of time, but while I had to be home, it didn't need to be tended often, so this recipe turned out to be a great project for a study day.  I envision making this soup again on a football game day, or any rainy indoor movie-watching day.  

It came out completely differently from my dad's original recipe, but better than I could have imagined!  I actually rushed to blog this recipe before I forgot my steps, as I really do want to make it again.  I'll have to pair this with a nice Irish Soda Bread for lunch tomorrow.

Kerrygold Cheesy Corn Chowder

3 C Frozen Organic Corn
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika (for roasting)
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil (for roasting)

2 Tbsp Kerrygold Butter
1 bag Pearl Onions
1 C Shredded Carrots

2 C Low-Sodium Veggie Stock
1 can sliced New Potatoes
1/8 tsp minced Garlic
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tbsp fresh Dill 
1/4-1/2 tsp Salt (to taste)

1/2 C Heavy Cream
3 1/2 oz Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese
3 1/2 oz Kerrygold Skellig Sweet Cheddar Cheese

1.  Thaw the corn slightly, enough to separate the niblets.  Mix with olive oil and 1/4 tsp smoked paprika to coat, then oven roast as preferred.  I cooked mine at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes then bumped up the heat to 450 degrees for another five minutes.

2.  Saute thawed pearl onions, covered, in butter for about ten minutes, adding the shredded carrots for the last 3-4 minutes. 

3.  Add veggie stock, potatoes, and spices and let simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes.  If desired, use an immersion (stick) blender to partially puree the chowder before adding in corn.  I wanted my chowder chunky but not whole pieces, so I gave the stick blender about four quick whirls and called it good. 

4.  Add roasted corn and cream.  Allow to come back up to a simmer.

5.  Turn off heat and stir in cubed cheese till melted.  Serve warm. 

December 20, 2014

Mocha Cakes and Cookie Exchanges 2014

Mocha Cakes
I love to make several traditional favorite cookies at the holidays, and always try one new one.  This year I combined the two by making a cookie that had been served every year by my mom.  Since I haven't gotten to be with family for the last several years at the holidays, I am stepping up and doing our traditions myself, so for the first time I made my mom's mocha cakes this December.  

I have no idea how my mom's mocha cakes got the name, as there's nothing chocolate about them.  They are a lovely made-from-scratch vanilla cake, cubed and slightly dried, then dipped in royal icing and rolled in peanuts.  They make a lovely tea cake and always spell holiday to me.  

A big part of my California Christmas is participating in cookie exchanges.  This year my annual events were shaken up a bit, as some were suspended and a new one added.   My Food Bloggers Los Angeles group holds a lovely event where the party is as much anticipated as the cookies we bring home.  Their spread is the first photo above this paragraph.  The food bloggers are extremely inventive with ingredients as well as an eye towards presentation that always inspires me.  This year's highlights were chai tea shortbread, homemade apple strudel, and some hazelnut sandwich cookies that looked like french macaroons.  A few bloggers were kind enough to make appetizers or entrees for the party as well.  I so enjoy socializing with my FBLA friends. 


I had a new invitation this year to a neighborhood cookie exchange with a work colleage.  My friend Luc lives on the most convivial street I know, in a tiny enclave of Culver City.  Their summer bbqs are legendary, shutting down the entire street for a block party.  I'm so excited to be included in their holiday exchange!  I got to know several of the ladies as we enjoyed a lovely pumpkin coffee cake after our trade, and stayed a bit longer to craft afterwards.   I now know Luc and I have cross stitching in common as well!

Here's my mom's mocha cake recipe, posted as a jpg file.  Click on the picture above to enlarge to a readable size.  I'm happy to forward a pdf file as well.  Leave me a note in the comments below or contact me on facebook for the email verson.

October 23, 2014

Gourmet Gone Easy: Eggs Baked in Avocado

Okay, my friend got me interested with a photo posted on social media, and I had to try it:  eggs baked in avocado.  To show how easy this is, I'm posting a picture of how I did it, baked in my toaster oven.  Besides the beautiful presentation, this is a great portion-controlled serving.  I added a bit of shaved Parmesean in the avocado bowl before pouring in my egg, and a bit on top, with a dusting of Smoked Paprika to top. 

A tip:  choose the biggest avocado you can find.  Mine was a bit small (or perhaps my egg was really large).  So I rounded out the opening with a spoon to make it a bit deeper before filling, but still the egg spilled over the side.  That part was then so thin that it burnt on the bottom of the dish.  Baking time will vary, depending on how you prefer your eggs.  I like my yolks cooked hard, so baked at 225 degrees, my egg took about thirty minutes to set.  And it smelled so good, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product! 

What's your favorite omelette or scramble filling?  Please leave a comment to the blog post below.

October 21, 2014

#FBLA's October Meeting and Cacao-Pumpkin Energy Bars

Food Bloggers Los Angeles had an inspired October meeting focused on fall entertaining.  I have learned so much about blogging and social networking from fellow members, and this month was no different, with a discussion about hashtags and how to rise holiday blog content above the norm. 

In the coming weeks, look for posts from me about holiday tablescapes, what to do with all those leftovers, and what to serve for holiday entertaining outside of the "big meal" such as breakfast casseroles and movie snacks.  Thanks, FBLA, for the brainstorming session!


I love to keep old traditions, but like to try out something new each year as well.  What new traditions will you be trying out during the coming holidays?  Please leave a comment on this blog post.

Vegan Cacao-Pumpkin Energy Bars
 (makes 4 large bars)

1/2 cup unsalted raw Cashews
2 Tbsp raw Pumpkin Seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
2 rounded Tbsp unsweetened Coconut Flakes
1/4 cup Rolled Oats

Pulse above in food processor till ground fine.   To mixture, add

1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 rounded Tbsp ground Cacao Nibs
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 cup pitted dates (about 15-20 dates)

Pulse again until dates are well chopped.  Lastly, add

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

Blend in food processor until a ball forms.  Use mini tart pans, well-greased with coconut oil.  Dip a tablespoon in coconut oil and use it to shape the dough into the tart pans.  Wrap in waxed paper or saran wrap and freeze until solid.  These are best eaten straight out of the freezer to maintain their shape.  If thawed they will be "nougat"-like and soft.

I admit to being a bit generous in my measurements of the ingredients I really love, like coconut and cacao, so the measurements aren't precise, which is why i've listed them as mounded.  This is one of those recipes I often improvise and revise slightly based on what's at hand.  In the past I've added dried citrus peel, candied orange peel, dried dates, dried cherries, pistachios - whatever you can come up with.  Just keep the ratio of dried fruit (including the dates) to nuts and seeds to liquid (in the pumpkin) roughly the same and it will work out fine. 

May 20, 2014

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

I love the idea of having a signature drink on hand throughout the summer.  And I've been trying to wean myself off coffee, at least in part.  So when hostess/chef Carla from the talk show The Chew demonstrated how to make homemade Chai Tea Latte, I thought I'd give it a shot.  Carla's best suggestion was to make this in quantity.  She was right, as I have been guzzling iced chai throughout Southern California's recent hundred-degree heat waves.  I used my biggest soup pot to make this.  Still, I had to make the recipe twice to use up the case of almond milk that I purchased from Costco.  That was okay too, as it allowed me to prepare about three or four days' worth, and I didn't have to make the second batch until mid-week.  

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

Heat almond milk just to a simmer, being careful not to let it boil, stirring frequently or constantly while heating to prevent scalding on the bottom of the pan.  Add two chai tea bags per carton of milk used.  Proportionally, I used 3 cartons almond milk, six tea bags, three cinnamon sticks, 1/2 c. honey, and 1/3 c. vanilla.  Optional add-ins include ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, cloves, or some sort of chilis.  Once heated, allow tea bags to steep for 4-6 minutes.  Use a funnel to ladle the liquid back into the milk cartons.  Store in fridge for iced chai latte. 

Do you have a signature drink that you enjoy in hot weather?  If you have a recipe to share, please leave a link in the blog comments.

May 10, 2014

Beading with Czech Glass

Crafting with others is often much more fun than doing it alone.  However, traveling with supplies poses some problems, as I discovered when I took all my beads on an out of state trip.  I had a great organizer, so I thought, and was traveling by car, so no problem, right?  But when the organizer tipped on its side, I ended up with a mishmosh of seed beads in a new rainbow combination.  That was four years ago, and the mess was so mixed up I avoided it all this time.  But I've had fun this month finally reorganizing my beading supplies.  The mixed up seed beads ended up in a donation pile to become someone else's problem, but all my other beads are neatly sorted in new see-through bins.  

Often when I go out of town, my souveniers brought home end up being a few strings of beads.  These Czech glass beads were my reminders of my latest trip to Nashville.  I strung them this week as my "power bracelet" in shades of carnelian and gold.

Do you often wear jewelry you've made yourself, or do you tend to give away most everything you make?  What sizes of beads do you enjoy working with?  Feel free to leave a comment on the blog.

May 5, 2014

Pear & Gorgonzola Marinated Tofu

Lazy summer cooking....It's been 95 degrees at my home this week, and I can't bear to use even the toaster oven.  Luckily tofu steaks are great pan fried or served cold, plain.  I bought a case of tofu at Costco, and I'm marinating a package (four patties) at a time.  Great now to eat cold on a bed of greens, as here, plated on a bed of spinach and garnished with pistachios, but it will be sublime in a month or so when everyone in the neighborhood begins firing up their grills.  And the easiest shortcut of all is using your favorite salad dressing as a marinade.  I used Trader Joe's Pear and Gorgonzola dressing for this lunch.  Once dressed, the tofu will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator. 

What are your favorite marinades or salad dressings?  Please leave a comment on the blog.

May 4, 2014

Shirred Eggs with Lentils and Bruschetta

My foodie addiction of late has been Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils mixed with their Trader Giotto's branded Bruschetta Sauce.  The lentils are pre-cooked, so all you have to do is break them up a bit with a fork and mix with the brushetta, which is fresh, not canned.  I discovered this combination through an in-store demo.  I've been trying to eat more beans in my diet, but I am often put off by the texture.  These lentils are perfectly hidden in the bruschetta.  It's great as a dip for pita chips.  I've also used it as the base sauce for delicious homemade pizza.  

When I was planning an Easter brunch, I wanted an elegant presentation with a new twist, so I thought of using this lentil-bruschetta mixture as a base for Shirred Eggs.  Shirred, or baked eggs, is a dish in which eggs have been baked in a flat-bottomed dish.  They are baked simply until the whites have set and the yolks are thickened, and are usually served in the dish in which they were baked.  I cooked them in soup bowls, making for an individual presentation for each guest.  I used a base layer of the lentil-bruschetta sauce, then poured two egg whites and one whole egg on top.  Once cooked, I garnished with sliced avocado.

This is an easy egg dish to dress up my own meal plan, since I can cook a single serving.  I can use my toaster oven for the small dish, and one will take as little as 20 minutes, so I can put a dish in the oven then go take a shower, and breakfast is ready by the time I'm out.  For myself, I use egg whites only, omitting the cholesterol of the yolk. 

What are some ways you use to increase beans in your diet, or your families, for people who don't like the texture?  Please leave a comment on the blog.

May 3, 2014

Mango Smoothie

I posted to facebook a picture of a smoothie I made for myself when Los Angeles was having a 98 degree April day (summer already?).  A few friends asked what I put into my smoothies, so here's a picture of the ingredients:

Mango-Coconut Smoothie

2 Tbsp Chia Seed
1-2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
2-3 Tbsp non-sweetened Cocount
2-4 pitted Dates
Handful frozen Mango (maybe 3/4 C?)

I put all above ingredients into a mason jar in the morning when I'm making breakfast and let sit in the fridge for the frozen mango to soften a bit.  Then in the height of the afternoon when I really need to cool down I take the jar out of the fridge, simply add soymilk to the top and blend with my immersion blender.  Makes a great lunch when I've been too busy gardening to take a break!  And with the frozen fruit and cold milk, it really cools me off.

May 2, 2014

Ginger-Monkey Bread!

Monkey (Ginger)Bread, Easter 2014

Have you ever attempted a recipe that you knew would come out better if you could bake it with your mom?  I stumbled upon this monkey bread recipe when it was published in 2010 by Food52.  The gingerbread twist was so creative and seemed like such a festive way to celebrate.   It took two years for me to get up the gumption to try to make it in my own home kitchen.  I was spending one of the first of many holidays alone in Los Angeles, and decided to go all out to treat myself.  As usual, I was behind in my baking, but this time I had a hard deadline:  it was Thanksgiving, and since I was alone I had agreed to serve meals to the homeless for a portion of the day, so I had to leave the house for about six hours.  I decided it would have to wait to bake till after my commitment with Gobble Gobble Give, so I left my beautiful bread to rise while I was gone.  You know the punchline:  I came home to a yeast failure.  Though it had failed to rise, I cooked the bread anyway, but the sugary, rock-hard lumps were too dense to eat.

This year, I celebrated Easter at my folks' home, so I took advantage of the opportunity to cook with my mom by pulling out this recipe.  I don't know if it was cooking in a bigger, nicer kitchen, not leaving home till the process was complete, or simply my mom's love put into the baking, but we rocked Monkey Bread!  Between the three of us, it was devoured in a day and a half, with a large volume of coffee.  I was flying high on sugar and caffeine as I boarded the plane to come home, but the gingerbread sure made it feel like a holiday, and I will always remember baking with my mom.

Monkey (Ginger)Bread 
by arielleclementine
at Food52

Serves 8
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and a pinch of sugar with the warm water. Set aside to sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons butter, milk, and molasses and heat until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool briefly.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg with a whisk or spoon.
  4. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer to low speed. Slowly add the molasses mixture and then the yeast mixture. After the dough comes together mix for 7 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be sticky (it should stick to the bottom of the bowl), but if it seems too wet add up to 1/4 cup additional flour, one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead by hand for an additional minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  6. Butter the bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl, and the brown sugar in another.
  7. When the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Cut dough into 64 pieces and roll the pieces into balls. One at a time, dip the balls in butter, then roll in brown sugar, and place in the bundt pan, making all attempts to distribute the balls evenly.
  8. Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, and allow to rise for 1 more hour. (Or you could be a gambler and refrigerate the dough overnight, and then let it come to room temperature in the morning just before baking for breakfast). The balls should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the monkey bread for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes (but no longer!). Invert onto a cake stand and cool for another 5-10 minutes. Devour!

April 30, 2014

FBLA's Mac & Cheese E-Book

The Food Bloggers Los Angeles have published their first book!  It includes my recipe for delicious Butternut Squash & Sage Mac & Cheese! Only $1.99 for 30, count 'em 30 recipes from my FBLA - Food Bloggers Los Angeles friends, and all proceeds go to Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Check it out!  And please share and hashtag #30macncheese.

Here's our tagline on
Can you ever have too many recipes for America's favorite comfort food dish: macaroni and cheese? Members of Food Bloggers Los Angeles don't think so. These 30 delicious mac and cheese recipes satisfy all palates, from decadent indulgence to healthy convenience. Choose from gourmet mac and cheese with home-cured pork belly, gluten-free and even vegan variations from top food blogs, including Shockingly Delicious, Sippity Sup, Worth the Whisk and NOURISH Network. And you can feel good about your purchase. Proceeds from sales of "Mo' Macaroni and Cheese" benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Product Details:
April 4, 2014
  • File Size: 10945 KB
  • Print Length: 117 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Booktango (April 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Find it at:

April 23, 2014

Making My Own Glass Blown Sun Globes

Picking up our finished ornaments!

I get my love of crafting from my mom.  In fact, her two major loves are crafting and Christmas.  And since I do flat stained glass with lead came and copper foil methods, I was so excited when I saw a groupon from Franklin Glassblowing Studio for a class in the Nashville area.  In the class a student has the opportunity to make either a blown glass ornament or a paperweight.  I knew I would have to take my mom sometime when I was visiting.  As it timed out, I was there just days before her 70th birthday, so I surprised her with the class this month.  

The color mix my mom chose was the Studio Mix.
 About ten mason jars filled with chipped glass in different combinations awaited our choice as we entered the studio.  We signed in with our names, choice of color mix, and preference between making a paperweight or ornament.  The bright workspace was set up with a couple rows of chairs, facing a workstation and kiln, to accommodate the group class.  The owner, Jose, was our instructor.  He walked the group of ten people through the process, then let each of us come up one at a time for our own guided creation.     It took about ten to fifteen minutes for each person to make an object.
Starting off by rolling the hot melted clear glass in the color chips.
The rods were pre-heated in a furnace.  Jose, the instructor, mentioned each hollow rod itself cost around three hundred dollars, and was no good if bent in any way.  He explained it had to be true to form in order to properly shape the glass.  He dipped a rod into the furnace stocked with clear glass then handed it off to a student.  He mentioned he loads about fifty pounds of glass into the furnace weekly; the furnace itself is always kept running, though the gas "mother flame" is shut off when the studio is not staffed.  We saw the clear glass shards bought by the pound as raw material; a paperweight is made up of about 15 shards of clear glass.

Jose explained his background, apprenticing at studios in the Northwest, and was great at making small talk to keep the process interesting.  He was open to questions about the studio and his techniques throughout our class.  Having worked in stained glass at the level of a "professional hobby," I was interested in the workings of a glass blowing business.  The major operating costs for a glass studio is the utility costs.  Jose mentioned his electric bill being around $900 monthly and gas utility being $200-300.  Sitting in the back of the studio was a gas kiln Jose is rebuilding personally to remove his kiln from electricity; his investment in the incomplete kiln is already $20,000.  
Inserting the rod back into the mother flame to melt the colored glass chips into the clear glass glob.

Removing the red-hot glass glob from the flame for shaping.

Starting to shape by rolling the hot glass on a flat surface.

Blowing the glass ornament to inflate it and introduce an air bubble inside the glass.

Continuing to roll and shape the glass on a work table.  The instructor inflates the glass further while the student forms the neck of the ornament using tongs.

Using tongs as a hammer to break the ornament from the rod by vibration traveling down the rod to the glass.

The formed ornament broken off from the rod.

Adding a string of clear glass to the top from which a hook can be formed.

Stretching the clear glass and snipping it off to form a hook.

Bending the hook into shape once snipped.

Moving the finished ornament into the kiln for firing so that it tempers as it cools.

 Jose explained that if the object was left to cool in the air, the hot interior would cool slower than the outside, causing the glass to shatter.  Thus firing in a kiln is necessary to mitigate the cooling process.  Thicker pieces of glass (such as paperweights) stay in the kiln longer than thinner ones.  A computer controls the temperature of the kiln, and certain cooling points are maintained for varying lengths of time.  So our pieces were left in the kiln to be picked up a few days later.  We didn't mind the additional visit!
Other display pieces in the studio window.
After everyone had made their objects, Jose demonstrated making a larger piece, such as a vase or bowl.  He didn't talk us through this process as much, working deftly and quickly with the hot glass.  It took about 25 minutes to make a large wavy bowl.  For anyone in the class who wished to take it home, he attached a price of $200.  This class was absolutely a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for my mom and I.  I plan to hang my ornament in my kitchen window, while my mom is saving hers for her Christmas tree.  Either way, we'll always remember this birthday.
A lampshade on display in the studio.
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