Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Holiday Season

I've been folding holiday cards since October. Not my holiday cards, someone else's, who is much more prepared for the holiday sales than I am. Last weekend I finally posted a bunch of new items on etsy, including individual postcards from the keep writing series. They do not include the interactive, tear-away-and-send-back but function in the traditional post card way. Image on one side, room for you to write on the other.
Part of this preparation is for the first studio sale since last winter. My table is covered with things that need to be primped, priced and put into a bag, probably a waterproof bag since it is supposed to rain all weekend. If you live near North Berkely and want to stop by, check out this.
Ah winter. Even in California the CSA might need a break. We have pumpkin for the whole winter and enough frozen tomato sauce to actually damage our freezer ( I moved the piles away from the fan inside and everything sounds better). Still I will miss the twice a week box of delicious surprises.
It is not work all the time over here. Last weekend I rode to North Berkely to meet Andy after work and climb onto a rock to watch the sun set over the whole bay. Sigh.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Preparations

Holidays are sneaky. Ok, sure they mostly fall on the same dates with a bunch of warning and with the internet I am sure I can look up what is the date of Thanksgiving 2021. Still, here I am, the day after Thanksgiving getting things in order for holiday sales.
I've been binding datebooks, printing new business cards, and drinking whatever hot thing I can to keep the sick away and keep my toes warm. I think it is working. I had to clean off my desk too but it doesn't last. The shelves are stacked with piles of books in different stages, postcards in different stages and a pile of mail I can't wait to answer. I've been working from my home studio a lot lately, which has been great for my spirit and a little rough on the wallet. But we have been getting out a little more regardless and found a place in Oakland that serves really good craft beer on draft for 5 or 6 bucks a drink. Not cheap but a nice midafternoon treat when I have been book binding all day while Andy writes new music.
I've been busy finally getting to do some of the things I thought about all summer while carrying too many sweaters and not enough raincoats all over Europe. For example, if you want say, enjoyed your Keep Writing postcard this month and want to send one to a friend, now you can purchase just the postcard, without the portion to return to me.
I made some new simple business cards, with handset type one rainy evening at the San Francisco Center for the Book. I have had ideas for elaborate cards using polymer plates, but these little understated bitties are perfect for right now, just in time for a sale in the East Bay next weekend. If you are in the Bay Area, I will be at an open studio sale next weekend in Berkeley. There will be letterpress, cards, books, and a penpal I haven't met yet! If you don't live in the area, there is a sale in my etsy shop. Use coupon cope "gwp10" to get 10% off any items in the shop, until midnight on Monday.
And just in case you are worried about what I eat when I am so busy, Andy made vegan "shrimp" mirliton for Thanksgiving, from his mom's recipe. Things are good indeed. There are also a bunch more postcards to be posted on the Keep Writing tumblr site, so check back there once in a while. I think that's enough for tonight, though, don't you?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Sometimes I wake in the morning, and sit at my desk at write letters. Lately, as I have mentioned, I have been cooking instead. Which is why, at 8:30 this morning after an unexpected night of dancing, I hopped out of bed for Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes (from the Veganomican Cookbook).
Sugar and tea fueled, I lit the incense on the windowsill (thanks Darin), with our makeshift altar to things built and things grown, and got to work.
First, lots of datebooks to be made. I have 11 on my desk, all ready for binding. One a day until I run out of covers. I am getting a late start on the holiday making for selling but I won't be empty handed.
Yesterday, as it drizzled endlessly and I fought the endless sinus infection, I finally assembled the 3D Vandercook I have had in my room for a few weeks. If only you could see the tiny press sheet already printed with "urgent". Just wait, wintertime. Soon as holiday selling ends, we will be in the garage on the Vandercook, finally giving it the attention it deserves.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Labor of Love, part two

"This funny thing happens when people ask where I am from... 'Mississippi,' I say. 'Oh wow!' They say. I can tell they've never seen a real live racist before. --Harrison Scott Key November's postcard is out and I am already getting responses about assumptions about the south. I received the Oxford Americans "Best of the South" issue and have been slowly reading. I want to send copies to all my friends because I think it exemplifies some of the best things about the south. With a sense of humor. But I wonder how this humor, self-deprecating as it is, such as the above passage about Mississippi, translates to those who haven't spent much time there. I want to know what other people think. I am a northern for sure, but after ten years in Louisiana, there are things I miss that I didn't understand before. I'm not going to be able to figure it out here; that is for another day in another medium.
But today is for inspiration. Some times I don't hear from friends or penpals for a while. And then my mail comes in a flood and includes a series of postcards from a friend in New Orleans, Lorraine. She also sent this awesome book about sending letters and the importance of communication. Such a good envelope to open and enjoy while I have been so tired and unsure of myself.
New postcards getting printed Friday. You will hear from me soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Labor of Love, part one

There are piles of projects in my studio, always, but lately this is the view--through the steamy window of my kitchen. When I was in high school and sad or bored or restless, I would cook. I was a terrible cook. Radish soup. The blandest broth ever. Greenish hashbrowns. Luckily for all, I learned to cook in the past 20 years.
And I moved to California, where there seems to be endless fresh and affordable vegetables. We have a friend with a small organic farm who sells us a box of produce every two weeks. This week, we ordered a case of tomatoes, too. Small sauce tomatoes, similar to Roma. Friday was chilly outside but we set to work.
There are lots of good and bad things about living here. I am far from a lot of my friends, but a few good friends live here. I wear wool socks when it is below 65, but I think my New England blood was thinned out (probably by whiskey) all the years in Louisiana. Cooking is meditative. Sometimes art is, too. But lately I am printing a lot for other people or making things to sell and I haven't been making so much for fun. Of course, I didn't think about it like this until recently, so yes, I will make more fun art too. But cooking is more communal, for me. It keeps our kitchen warm. Our roommate does his homework while we slice and gut a bazillion tomatoes to roast.
I have a very simple tomato sauce recipe. Growing up, I thought sauce had to take all day to cook, simmering the tomatoes and sausage. In Italy I realized that these few ingredients, if you have good tomatoes, make incredible sauce. Now our freezer is full, we have something to eat all winter, and I feel a little more relaxed. I might be ready to take that to the studio.
Simple Tomato Sauce Slice one clove of garlic. Fry it in a fair amount of olive oil. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add about one pound of diced tomatoes, that have been seeded (cut in half and scoop out the seeds). Sometimes, I roast the tomatoes first. I never peel them because I am usually lazy and hungry. Add salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add a quarter cup of chopped fresh basil. That makes it perfect. (Basil season is over so we added a bunch of dry rosemary. Variation is good. Spice of life, right?) Now wow your friends.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Studio Preview

Ben did all the hard work of getting the press across the country and into the shop so I could at least organize a little. I tried to show off our garage studio to Kyle when she was in Oakland for a night but I couldn't remember the combination to the shop. Embarrassing. So one day last week I got to work.
I listened to "I am Love" in Italian while unpacking boxes of ink and sorting broken trays of type(mine, not Ben's). The movie is in Italian but they keep the title in English. Most of it takes place in Milan. Sigh. A little nostalgia while moving forward.
The light in the studio is great. Skylights and a door that opens to a sliver of the street. A sneaky way to get light and sky without being open to the street. Next month's postcard might be polymer plates but I am excited to start setting type!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November! Hello!

October is more summer-like here than I expected but today is grey and drizzly, slowly clearing. The dust bowl of back yard has been moistened and, despite all out ignored best intentions of the hundreds of things we want to plant there, grass just up and grew. That's good. Around this house right now it is helpful to have growing things with self-determination. Unlike these cats sitting next to me, patiently waiting to be fed again. That said, it doesn't mean things don't get done. They are just not the things we mean to do.
First, I planted the second half of our herb garden--now we have 5 pots (though 2 are edible flowers--those count!).
Meanwhile, Andy made another batch of the best red beans ever. He makes dinner often but this is consistently my favorite and the only thing we can figure as his secret is his true Louisiana bloodline (back to his grandpa from Ohio, but that's another story. There is a lot of Louisiana in him).
I've been binding books and cutting covers for new datebooks. They are not specific to start on any particular date so you don't need to wait for a new year. A few weeks ago we wandered around the Mission and found all these great covers. On the inside of our home we started handing things. Like a collection of creepy animal portraits over our stove. But you'll have to come over for dinner to see that. But this nice little postcard from Travis will greet you. Hey, friends on the east coast, especially New York--hello. After spending a few storms in Louisiana while faraway friends listened to the news and worried, it was my turn. Take care, all!