Get Back in the Saddle–Horseback Riding is a Fun Tween and Teen Activity

Trail-ride-ready at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown, NJ.

I love it when my nieces or nephew visit! My sister calls it “Camp Naomi” when any of her daughters stay over. Last winter, my brother’s daughter spent a few days in New Jersey, and we had a great time exploring the American Museum of Natural History, hand-building at a Visual Arts Center of New Jersey pottery class, and going on a trail ride at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown. Though I live in the ‘burbs and my town is a commuter-train-ride away from Manhattan, you don’t have to drive far to find horses. In fact, Watchung Stable is located in a neighboring county in the midst of the wooded Watchung Reservation.

Located in the Watchung Reservation, Union County’s Watchung Stable has a long and rich heritage. Owned and operated by the County since 1933, its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.

Watchung Stable

My niece and I enjoyed the peaceful trail ride through Morris County’s Loantaka Brook Reservation. The stables have a low-key, friendly feel, and the staff and guide couldn’t have been nicer.

Hon, need an excellent tween or teen activity? This is it!

Me and my niece say hi to a stable resident.

Stables near Essex County, NJ: Seaton Hackney Stables, Watchung Stable, Mortonhouse Farm, Silver Bit and Spur Farm


In Memory–Aleta

A dear ceramics class friend died this week, and a large group of teachers and students at the Visual Arts Center of NJ are devastated. In a year of compromised health, Aleta contracted Covid-19. Amazingly she recovered and, at a recent ceramics class social distance picnic, she declared herself, “The luckiest girl in the world!” We were beyond thrilled she had beaten the virus. Was her heart attack related to the illness? Research shows it may have been.

Aleta was incredibly smart, becoming a lawyer and professor of law at time when women were just making inroads into those professions. She was funny, curious, creative, talented, encouraging, kind, and a joy to be around. When I tell friends that I love my ceramics class because of the people in it, and because I can make a thimble and it’s still celebrated, I think of Aleta showering us all with, “It’s beautiful! Just beautiful!”

She loved her dog Gracie, had a thing for owls, always wore a Mets baseball hat, was ecstatic about the recent purchase of a dream vacation home, asked for and received an anniversary gift of a home pottery studio, loved to travel and, after a trip to Amsterdam, created hand-built tilting houses. She dispensed jokes and funny stories, shared family lore, talked politics and policies, and always expressed how much she loved her family. Her openness to learning, studying, and practicing was an inspiration. There will be an imprint in the atmosphere surrounding her favorite wheel.

I will always remember Aleta’s smile, laugh, and how she called all of us, “Honey.” My heart is heavy and my mind swirls with memories.

Sources: The Harvard Gazette, Oregon State University’s Jack Dymond

Play-Doh for Grown-Ups

At the Visual Arts Center, I finally got a chance to try the Extruder mounted on the wall of the Ceramics Studio! My classmates threw a bunch of different colored clay into the metal body and our teacher (shout out to Melissa) worked it like a giant Play-Doh toy, squishing the clay down through the metal tube. We “caught” the clay as it came out in interesting tubular shapes.

I added bottoms, holes for design interest, and sanded before swirling a glaze color called “Dark Stormy Night” inside the vases. Glazing with clear on the outside highlighted the marble effect of combining different colors of clay. So cool!

Extruder Vases.


I also made my first small wheel-thrown jars (shout out to Jessica for the demos), adding objects to the top of two of the jars while the third has a built-in knob. Guess what I used to secure the glass bead and petrified wood knobs? According to Melissa, it’s “astronaut glue!” Those knobs may outlast the jars!

Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Ceramic vase and tea box.
Ceramic vase and tea box.

Playing With Clay

This summer, I took a Raku class taught by master ceramicist, excellent teacher, and all-around wonderful guy, Peter SyakNot only did the hours fly by, the women I took the class with were great company. I was inspired by them, and by the talented students I take ceramics class with year-round. We learn from each other.

Pottery has given me a way to turn off stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a week.  And I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.

Since I took this class last summer and know how beautiful the glazes are, this spring I threw a bunch of clay pots with Raku clay at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Do you know what we potters call ourselves? ADDICTED!  I’m pretty sure someone in our class wears a T-shirt that reads, “I’m a POT-head.”

To find out more about the Raku process, click on these links:

Red Hot Raku (Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Part 2)

Cool Results From Hot Pots (Part 3)

Hon, what do you do to turn off stress?

Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.
Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.

Lace-patterned ceramic vase.
Lace-patterned ceramic vase.

Shallow bowl and darted dish.
Shallow bowl and darted dish.







Small wiggle-wire dishes.
Wiggle-wire dishes.

Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.
Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.








Three different pots.
Three different pots.

“Summer” Art Exhibit

shells at Sandpiper Bay, Florida



“Summer” is the second piece down in the third column.

What:  my mixed media piece titled “Summer”:  photograph of shells taken in Sandpiper Bay, Florida and handmade paper with embossed shells (from my shell collection)

Where:  Visual Arts Center of New Jersey Members Show and Sale 2012

When:  July 20 – August 26