Weekends for inspiration

November 9, 2009

It began with the latest Anthropologie catalog & these lovely letter ornaments… 983243_095_bI decided that this month I’ll be compiling ideas for Christmas gifts and and then spending the preceeding month before Christmas constructing them.  I think these ornaments are so sweet; very personalize-able (hmm… probably not a word)  and I’m thinking not too difficult to make by hand.

On Saturday, Luke was here and we went into several used book stores–a favorite place of ours to spend time. I can’t seem to leave one without buying a book (or 2 or 3), and I won’t deny that sometimes I buy an old, worn book just for the way it looks. Will I ever read Shakespeare’s The Two Gentleman of Verona? I can’t say for sure that I will, but I love looking at it on my bookshelf.

Yesterday afternoon I met with Mary Dougherty to show her around the Book Arts Center. I always love to share its richness of history and art, so if you’re ever in the area and want to see the studio I’d love to give you a tour, too. I love chatting with Mary and her work is not the only thing that inspires me–I very much admire her achievement in pursuing what she loves to do and building a small business from the ground up. That should send a message out to everyone who is not currently following their dream. Check out this amazing photo from a wedding she shot this weekend: Mary Dougherty Photo Blog

Then last night I was the joyous recipient of a lone ticket to Neko Case at the Harro East Ballroom in Rochester (similar to Babeville’s Asbury Hall in Buffalo if you’ve been there). I went with Mitch, director at the Book Arts Center, his wife Elaine, and the folks who gave me the ticket: a sweet couple who are involved at the center: Jim Malley (owner of Mercury Posters on Monroe) and his girlfriend Jen, a printmaker. They were so nice to give me the ticket and the show was beautiful–I love it when I see an artist perform live and it inspires me to really explore and enjoy them further, embracing the music all the more. If you know of Neko Case, you know she has the most soothing voice and her music is breathtaking. Her sound alone inspires me enough, but I especially loved the visuals she included in her show: surreal, interesting projections of footage or animations going on behind her throughout every song, reminding me of something Jesse Stoddard or I might put together. I can’t seem to find any footage from a show on her tour, but here’s the video for “Maybe Sparrow” which represents well her keen eye for interesting visuals.

Ha. I have to include this guy whose self-recording of Neko’s “This Tornado Loves You” made me chuckle because it’s so cute (especially when he explains that he can’t find his tripod, so propped the camera up in a tree). Precious. Where in the world is he? No wonder he has little more to do than record himself singing Neko.

Lastly, I have been hearing much ado about some art happenings at Houghton in which a former student submitted a piece of artwork to an alumni show and it was tossed out with the idea that it was not art, but garbage. I admire my professor Ted Murphy and appreciate his take on “questionable” art that he submitted to the Star–his writing is always worth reading.

The upcoming week is going to be busy with projects and I’ll update you as I go. The weather is beautiful, I have my Monday coffee in hand, and it’s going to be a great week!


christmas PEACE cards

November 6, 2009

On Wednesday I began making paper for Christmas cards. I wanted to see how they would hold up in press, as I’ve heard the inconsistency of a sheet of handmade paper sometimes makes for some shoddy letterpress, but I printed yesterday and I really love the way they turned out! Did I mention the Book Arts Center also has a papermaking studio?

Papermaking is a really fun and easy endeavor. Two summers ago I lived with my best friend in Savannah, GA, and our conversation on the drive down south included the two of us deciding we wanted to learn how to make papen. Thus sparked my interest in handmade paper. I made paper out of junk mail, cereal boxes, even spanish moss (until I learned it has living, biting organisms in it!) and continued the practice through my senior year of college. The paper I printed on yesterday was made out of recycled brown paper bags. Handmade paper is so beautiful and unique–every single sheet is different and I especially think the variations of color and the deckle (natural edge) are to die for.

So after I dried the paper yesterday, I found a pretty woodblock flourish in a drawer in the studio and chose some woodtype to print with. We have been doing some major hunting-down/organizing of our woodtype collection and it has paid off immensely–wait until you see the front & back covers of the GCAE Friends of the Book Arts Calendar that Geri, a printer from the GCAE, is putting together! It’s fantastic! This is one of the best font collections we have in woodtype–I’m not sure what it’s called. The capital letters are especially gorgeous, so that’s what I chose for the front of the cards. I printed a very small edition of these cards, so I actually inked up the flourish and woodtype by hand each time I cranked a card through. Even though you get a much more consistent image when you ink up the rollers and let them evenly ink the form for you, I didn’t want to go through the whole process of inking up the rollers and having to clean them for such a small number of cards. When I print with intricate details or small type is when it’s really important to get a clean, even amount of ink on the forms–it doesn’t so much matter with bulky woodtype (and I like the inconsistent look that comes with hand-inking the woodtype).

I was so excited to print these yesterday and I’m so pleased with the way they came out. I listed them on my Etsy if you want to buy some to send out to loved ones this Christmas! Enjoy!

Chili days of November

November 2, 2009

It’s the perfect time of year for chili. I love it because it’s one of the easiest things to make and you can rarely mess it up… toss in some veggies, lots of tomatoes and beans, maybe some secret ingredients & a loaf of bread and you’ve got yourself a perfect fall meal. At least, this was Alaina’s & my train of thought as we thought about what meal we should make for Dan & Luke’s visit today (whose soccer team had a heartbreaker Saturday–but still finished 3rd in their conference!). Being the awesome girlfriends that we are, we settled on a huge pot of chili and some bread from the bread machine. Alaina tracked down this recipe online and I have to share it because it’s, well, unique to say the least. If you know Alaina & I, you might wonder what it would be like with us cooking together. The scene is somewhat ridiculous at times… here are some snippets from the kitchen:

Me: “Where did you find this recipe?”
Alaina: “famouschilirecipes.com. So I knew it had to be the real deal…”
Alaina: “I always like chili.”
Me: “What? You always make chili?”
Alaina: “Yes, that’s me, always slaving away over a crock of chili.”
Me: “Mm, so hearty.”
Alaina: “So much heart!”

Ha. I love how she chooses recipes based on the best names online–she’s making pie now, and can’t go wrong when the recipe she’s following is called “Scrumptious Apple Pie.” Speaking of names, we decided to call our chili Octoberfest Chili because of the Sam Adams Octoberfest beer we used in the recipe (yes, the recipe called for beer). Or perhaps Beer Belly Chili–we chose this alternate name based on the looks of the chili after all ingredients (including beer & refried beans) were combined. With ingredients like that, what guy wouldn’t like it?

Alaina and Margaret’s Octoberfest Chili

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lg white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
3 tbsp chili powder
1 can red kidney beans (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can refried beans
1 jalepeno pepper
2 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup beer
1 tbsp ground cumin

In a large pot, add olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Add beer and stir well. Add tomatoes, black beans and kidney beans, stirring well to combine. Add cumin, chili powder and salt. Stir in refried beans to thicken chili. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Sadly (for me), this is not vegetarian chili–the orginal recipe didn’t call for beef but we figured the boys would appreciate it. It would be very easy to make into a great 3-bean veggie chili, though. Also, we simmered for a good 4 hours. Hmm, I’m trying to think of anything else we did differently… served with cheddar cheese and sour cream garnish, warm honey wheat bread on the side & cider, and finished off with Alaina’s apple pie and my pumpkin pie (from a can–although soon I plan to make fresh pumpkin pie from my pie pumpkins! YUM! Here’s the recipe I found to do this). The chili was heartily enjoyed. I thought it had a southwestern feel to it… delicious, all in all. Just look how happy we are!

I wish I could rearrange the words so the acronym could be BCOMG, because these muffins are really delicious. I was mixing up the batter and talking to Luke on the phone when the words “totally awesomest” came out of my mouth to describe them… Luke proceeded to mock my grammar, but he really had no idea how good they looked (and I punished him by not bringing him any of the totally awesomest muffins when I saw him this weekend).

I loosely followed this recipe, but omitted the eggs and added about 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger. I also used whole wheat pastry flour, which I wouldn’t really recommend, as the muffins didn’t rise all that well (probably also a result of no eggs). If I make these again, I will probably take action when I notice the batter is too thick for muffin batter and add some milk or water. Ooh, or maybe ginger ale–yesterday I heard about an apple recipe that calls for a can of mountain dew before it goes in the oven. The purist side of me says there is nothing good mt. dew can do for a recipe that plain old sugar couldn’t achieve. What do you think? Anyway, my batter was thick and chunky, but I didn’t do anything about it and I used an oversized muffin tin to bake them (which worked out great. Who doesn’t love giant muffins?).

Anyway, these muffins are a vegan’s dream come true. My roommate Alaina just walked in and saw me eating one at 9am and asked “Are you eating a veggie burger?” –so you know it’s good! I think she was confused because of my preferred serving method for these muffins. If one isn’t accustomed to eating whole, natural, healthy, vegan-esque foods, these muffins may taste a tad bland–they definitely aren’t your classic banana-chocolate-chip muffins (which are probably the equivalent of 3 or 4 choc. chip cookies for breakfast). So to soften the blow, I think it’s fantastic to cut the muffins in half, spread some butter on there and grill them in a pan for 5 minutes or so. Foolproof. I stole this idea from my high school place of employment, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, famous for their (500-700 calorie!) “Mammoth Muffins.” Yikes–people had no idea their muffin and coffee breakfast was running them about half their required caloric intake for the day! What was infinitely worse was when they came out with the mammoth muffin sundae–can you imagine the chocolate chocolate chip muffin, your choice of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a cherry on top? I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. That baby had to be 1500 calories at least!

Ok, enough of my rant. So Perkins will never win any health awards, but they do make great muffins–and what does it hurt to slap one on the grill every once in a while? Try it. You’ll like it. I promise.

In other news, I finished printing Mary’s birth announcements! I almost made the deadly mistake of printing the wrong time on all 50, but I was saved by a friend in the studio. Now all I have to do it die-cut an oval shape, insert a photo, paste the whole contraption on another piece of cardstock and voila. I can’t wait until they are done.

Soccer photo credit: Mike Wise

First solo run on press…

October 22, 2009

…and I couldn’t be giddier. I was in the studio today, distributing spacing and fun stuff like that, when I decided to finish up my niece’s birth announcements. After much indecision concerning typefaces & design (such an amazingly long process compared to a computer screen, gah!) I finally set all the type. I even took the plunge and inked up the Vandercook #4–by myself!–to print the first run: Mary’s name in a transparent red with these adorable ornaments I dug up in one of the hundreds of drawers in the studio.















Just look at the amazing detail in the ornaments (enhanced, obviously, by the glory of letterpress):

I’m really happy with them so far–to mention still on a high just having the opportunity to do letterpress!  I can’t wait to print the rest of the type, chosen by my brother and sister-in-law, and share the rest of my plan for them with you.

but check out my tumblr or my twitter for possibly more regulated feeds. I love updating, but can’t keep on it! GAH!

On a different note, it’s a crazy beautiful fall day. As in, the sunlight is streaming through the window next to me and leaves are falling all around. And I think things like “Wow, I love living!” and thank God repeatedly for my life and my friends and everyone I love. So thanks, all, for being my friend. Hopefully I’ll update with some letterpress progress and pictures soon.

I got the chance to make the Sweet Potato White Bean soup on Sunday, and it is certainly unique. I adapted the recipe for the sake of time and ingredient availability, but it is tasty. I want to try it again and puree the end product to make a creamier soup. I feel like that might be a bit of a better fit. Anyway, here is the recipe for those who asked:


4 qts water
1 lb Great Northern beans
2 bay leaves
3/4 cups olive oil
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
6 med. sweet potatoes, peeled & diced
1/4 tsp. dried basil (or 10 fresh leaves)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to boil in covered pot. Add beans and bay leaves, cook uncovered over medium heat for 1.5-2 hours, or until beans are soft. In skillet, heat oil and add garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes. Add parsley, sweet potatoes and basil. Spoon mixture into the cooking beans. Cook for 30 minutes longer, stirring frequently.

And that’s that. Now, my adaptations were fairly significant, so I’m not quite sure how this exact recipe turns out. Upon first glance it seems like it would be a bit bland, which is actually what I thought about my final product, too. However, the more I eat the soup, the more I appreciate the simple sweetness of the sweet potato chunks, and I actually like the soup quite a bit. As far as my alterations go: I basically halved the whole recipe and began not with 2 qts of water, but 1 qt water and 1 qt organic vegetable broth. I omitted bay leaves and sauteed the garlic with thyme and dried basil. I did not peel the sweet potatoes and left them in rather large chunks, taking about 1/2 cup of the chunks and pureeing them in a food processor in an attempt to add girth to the broth. After adding everything together, I simmered the soup on low for 45 min to 1 hr.

I’m looking forward to trying out the Gingered Carrot Bisque recipe next. By the way, I decided the white flower bowls in the picture are perfect for soup samples, or maybe tea lights, or soy sauce for sushi… what do you think? I got them at a yard sale on Saturday. I love them.