Tuesday, July 27, 2010

PIZZA OVEN

For the past few years I've been contemplating creating a backyard patio and cooking area where I might entertain friends and family.  Somewhere back in the far reaches of my brain an idea popped out to add a pizza oven of some sort to the mix.  I've always enjoyed true wood-fired pizzas so this seemed like a fairly decent idea. 

Those of you who actually know me and have been to my house may be laughing at this idea.  I have a postage stamp sized yard overlooking the driveway and the neighbors back door (kids and dogs and all).  Not really conducive to backyard entertaining.  But once an idea forms in my head it sticks there for a while and it's hard to shake.  So last year I laid out a plan for the yard that included a bbq area, maybe a bar, and MAYBE a pizza oven. 

A year later (the plans by the way are stuck on the refrigerator as a reminder of what I'm aiming for) there was an article in the Beacon about a local woman who has built her very own pizza oven in her back yard.  To make matters even more enticing, she offered to teach anyone interested to do this themselves. 

I nearly tripped over my own fingers emailing to her asking to be assigned a spot in class.  And so I was!  For my birthday gift to myself I took the class this past week and I must say I had a great time with the added benefit of dragging home a 400-pound blob of clay mortar that will eventually become my very own pizza oven.  I'm so proud!

REALLY HARD WORK
Class was held at the home of our instructor, bread guru and pizza oven pioneer Kathy Lehr.  Myself and three men gathered at 9am to begin the process.  Under Kathy's watch, we laid out bricks, marked off our oven base and began creating the oddest looking sand castle I'd ever made that will create the actual inside of the oven.  We hauled bricks, shoveled sand, and perspired in the heat. 


After layering on a coating of clay-based paper mache over our sand dome, we made clay mortar with our feet on a tarp to begin creating the first insulation layer of the actual oven.  When Kathy told us we'd do this with our feet I'd envisioned grape-stomping and that sure sounded like fun.  Hhmpf.  Wrong.  This stuff is hard and heavy.  As the kids say, OMG!  3 minutes in I was exhausted.  By this time I was questioning my sanity but I wasn't about to give up, especially in front of 3 guys. 

After a relaxing lunch break, we spent about 2 hours getting the first layer of mortar onto the ovens with Kathy prodding us along and helping to get them just so.  We'd started out the day chatting amongst ourselves, trading stories and generally fooling around but by lunchtime we were pretty quiet and focused on our process just trying to stay upright.  Except for Kathy - must be all that bread baking and kneading of dough that gives her all that strength and energy.  I'm envious. 

By end of day we all had a neat little mound of clay ready to be hauled home.  Which led to the next issue of transportation.  One guy brought his van, one had a station wagon and one left his there to come back for the following day.  Luckily my friend and co-worker Bob had kindly offered to come with his truck to take mine home.  Forgive me Bob for accepting your offer, but without you I never would have gotten it home. 


So, there's still work to be done - we never could have completed the ovens and been able to transport them.  Last night I cut the door into the oven and will now wait for it to dry a bit.  There are two more layers to go on before it looks like the prototype you see here.  But I'm excited and determined to finish soon so that we can have a real pizza party.




BIRTHDAY WEEKEND
Given that I'd already about outdone myself with the pizza oven class, the rest of the weekend was pretty tame, but still busy.

Saturday I attended my second Photowalk at Glendale Cemetary in downtown Akron.  This is a very old, very beautiful part of our local history. Most anyone who was anyone in the founding and formative years of Akron is buried here. I'll freely admit to a fascination with cemetaries - I stop to wander them all over even on vacations.  I got to the walk late and didn't get a chance to get inside the Chapel as I'd hoped, but the grounds are still lovely enough to keep a photographer occupied for a couple of hours. 

Although I found some interesting shots, my favorites are some I took last Fall when the trees were in full color. 


PORTHOUSE IN THE RAIN
After an hour at the cemetary I hurried home to get ready to head out to Porthouse for our last summer performance of the season with the gals.  As always it was a good couple of hours relaxing with friends and food and an adult beverage or two before the show.  Since it was the last show of the season, we were serenaded by the upcoming theater interns while we picnicked in the pavilion. 

And then the skies opened up! 

We've been extremely lucky the past year or so that it's only stormed on us one other time and this time it really came down.  It didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves.  A watermelon spritzer, some appetizers and salads and Bev brought a wonderful cake for my birthday celebration. 

At the end of all that was a terrific performance of Bye Bye Birdie.  This little musical hasn't got much plotline, but the singing and dancing had us all bopping along in our seats and singing along to favorites like Put On a Happy Face and A Lot of Livin’ to Do. 

Kent State graduate Dan Grgic stars as an Elvis-style Conrad Birdie.  Dan is quiet during most of the performance, letting his swiveling hips do his talking. The cast also includes Nick Koesters playing Albert Peterson and Sandra Emerick as his leading lady, Rose Alvarez, both of which were phenomenal singers and dancers.  I think my favorite performer might have been Marc Moritz of Cleveland who played a very funny Mr. MacAfee. 

So here's to a fun summer at the Porthouse, and I hope we can look forward to more years to come .  Say hey to the gals!

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