Juju in the Air

Cazenovia Cider Label, Good Life Cider, Clients: Melissa Madden, Garrett and Jimmy Miller, 2014

Cazenovia Cider Label, Good Life Cider, Clients: Melissa Madden, Garrett and Jimmy Miller, 2014

It has been a while. I should apologize for my neglect, but quite candidly, it is what it is. The past month has embraced many things including an unexpected visit from Alex, Kitty getting into a pattern, a trip to Sagamore and the opening of the new Rongovian Embassy on top of the day to day. We have had some bloopers with the furnace and stove. We have had huge  hedges trimmed and things closed down in prep for winter. And then of course, there is the ginger bug.

Say what? A ginger bug? Well, let me wheel this back a teensy bit. My friends Melissa and Garrett along with Garrett's brother, Jimmy are making hard cider (label shown to the left). They are also making exquisite ginger beer from the organic ginger that  Melissa grows in her high tunnels here in the cold (not tropical) Finger Lakes. The Ginger beer they make is dry and lemon-y and makes a girl wistful for hot summer afternoons or cozy evenings by the woodstove. It is bright and shiny as a blue sky morning and is certainly not kids stuff. I helped Melissa at Cider Week (at the Rongo) --tabling and sampling to get their name out as their hard cider (designed by yours truly) is on the way. But, to get attention on Good Life Farm, they sampled this dreamy sparkling Ginger beer which the crowds went gaga over...and I thought...hey. I should make some of that.

To back up even more, I have turned my new little pantry room into Mommy's Fermentation Room. I pressed a ton of apples -- actually juiced them, and am making big containers of vinegar. I have one of apples. I have one that is apples with one big fat red beet pressed with the apples giving me a vinegar that is rich, deep purple. I have a container of "apple peel" vinegar which is made up of apple peels that are fermenting in water sweetened with honey. There is really not much to make vinegar...it is the cultivation of the "mother", a cloudy amalgam of bacterial that translates the wild yeast magically in the air (I know that there is "science in this" but I prefer to stomp my feet and hope that the juju and the good magic works versus something as sensible and rational as science can 'splain all of this)...and converts the sweetness to alcohol (hard cider) to then the next step which is vinegar. Sounded simple from my reading on the web, and it is. I just need to keep an eye on it and see how sour I will let it go.

The interest in vinegar came from the ton of refrigerator pickling I have been doing in response to our CSA being big on beets this year. And guess what? I am making some pretty fine pickled veggies with beets being at the top of list. They are good enough, we eat them for breakfast (more like I eat them for breakfast and offer them to the crew. "No thank you. Please pass the jam"). The pickled baby brussels sprouts are good too. And, speaking of beets, I am making a slaw these days from shredded beets, carrots, cilantro, oil and lime juice that we eat  batch I grate up another immediately. Big hit here at 2 Camp St.

So back to the bug. So Garrett and Jimmy are making this sublime organic ginger beer, and we are talking about it in the early fall sunshine out at their Farm. It dawned on me that they would love  my newest favorite magazine...so I whip out my new copy of Imbibe Magazine and there is an article on shrubs and Ginger Beer and we all get really excited, sort of like the happy bacteria chomping away on all the sugery goodness in the juice I had brewing in the Fermentation shack--one idea feeding the other. I ended up giving them my copy of the magazine-- and going home to take out all the electronic books the New York Public Library has online. Turns out, there are many ways to make Ginger Beer, but the most interesting way for me, was to cultivate a "wild-fermented"Ginger bug, essentially, a biga or a starter (as in bread) for drinks. It is ginger, water and sugar and lots of stirring and watching. Also...no closed jars (cheesecloth with a rubberband to hold it in place to keep the flies out but let the yeast in) because it's got to to the same thing that our friends, the vinegar do....which is to invite the bacterial to come and chomp on the sugar--and develop it into a fermented base which will give us a spritz or natural "bottle conditioned" carbonation.

Why have a pet when you can feed and be entertained by a Ginger bug. So much fun.

Here is someone who is intelligent and writes charmingly on the magic I am fumphering around to communicate:

The Splendid Table>>

So, I am busy planning Thanksgiving and am going to (hoping I am not going to the hospital this year) be prepping the whole shebang in advance of the holiday. I am making turkey stock as we speak. I have baked a ton of sweet potatoes to make a sweet potato dish (never, ever have done that....not big on sweet food, but I think its a worthy try)>> Ruth Chris Sweet Potato Casserole. I have all the goodies ready to be added to the stuffing bread and parsley all cut, sauteed and frozen. I have the better part of a dozen apples on the stove simmering in lemon juice and cider, ready to make into applesauce for the Thanksgiving leftovers. Tomorrow, the stock will be strained, skimmed and some will become a mess of gravy for the day of and the day after that I will freeze in advance. Gravy is a big deal around here. I will have extra stock for Thanksgiving cooking...ready to go...and a clean refrigerator thanks to all the stockmaking (now referred to, by the hipsters as "bone broth"). I have frozen a pile of grated beets (gold and red) with carrots for a salad. I also have hot beets ready to peel and pickle for another jar of red side dishes.

I have two huge stalks of brussels sprouts that need to be pared down and the sprouts  sliced paper thin to roast on the big day. I will prep the mashed potatoes the day before and let the potatoes sit in water and destarchify. There are the cranberries to be made and frozen. This year, I am going rogue and adding fresh ginger to that mix. I think that will be sublime.

I have baking to do (cornbread and pumpkin bread, ginger snaps, and some pecan bars).  A friend is bringing pies. I might even make a spice cake as I love them...and having a  robust dessert offering is just plain fun and feasty.

Gotta go. Tomorrow I will rant about my planning around this year's advent calendar. I am smiling a lot to myself as I am amused by where this is going.... Lets hope the work measures up to the dreaming.

Melon Foundation

Floral Watermelon Valentine, Q. Cassetti, 2012, vectorIts been a ginger weekend. Ginger and lemon. Ginger and carrot. Ginger and vinegar (3 different ones). I made a lemon ginger marmalade, a ginger and carrot pickle and a pickled ginger (gari). I have plans for a straight up ginger marmalade, a grapefruit/orange and ginger marmalade, and a cranberry/pear/ ginger chutney. Ginger beer is in the works too. I just need to free up a bit of fridge space to try this out. Alex and I were at the local asian grocery store and purchased an interesting asian honey ginger (for tea). Its a big clear jar filled with thick amber honey with big hunks of peeled ginger in it along with some sugar. I bought it inspired by reading about ginger in Wikipedia:

“In China, ginger is included in several traditional preparations. A drink made with sliced ginger cooked in water with brown sugar or a cola is used as a folk medicine for the common cold.[29]

I have discovered by working with this interesting rhyzome that there is a distinct grain to it…and that the way to cut it is to go with the grain…and surprisingly, a potato peel is a great way to shave/prepare the herb. Additionally, the gari recipe had me boiling water and essentially pulling from the fruit a bitterness or spice prior to preparation. Another recipe had me salting the fruit—and rinsing it off prior to final preparation. Thinner the fruit the better. And…not to forget that the ginger is the big flavor that doesnt need the standard mis en place that I usually go to.

This is the new path, this discovery of ginger…which hopefullly will help new friends begin to understand the lovely plants they grow and perhaps how to develop added value yummies to help pay their bills and move their farms forward. I can act as a creative director not only as a designer illustrator/ but also as a cook and foodie.

As you can see, there is a new beginning for this near spring, that of Farmers Market imagery. I did a small body of work on this last year which morphed into a series of rabbit illustrations. My head is in a different place what with the farmers market, the new Local Foods Network and with best of all, my new farmers. So, I am looking at this same topic in a new and more emotional way. The image above has popped up. New for me…and yet so part of what I do. I am excited by where this could go.

Advent Day Seventeen

Advent Day Seventeen, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and inkFirst things first! SNOW!

Our Community Chorus did themselves proud regaling us with song, Christmas carols and solos—all beautiful and energized by the passionate singers who presented the concert. We all loved it. And dead center was our singing boy who loved being smack in the middle and surrounded by good singers who want to work as hard as he does to make music. He told me this morning that if he goes to Landmark, he intends on joining the Brattleboro community chorus to keep doing this with others. This is a gift to me…though it is not about me, but having my boy sing, be part of a community and be motivated to engage this way delights me to no end. And all of this not pushed or shoved by his parents, but all on his own. Terrific.

I am thrilled with having a portrait of the artist Erwin Eisch to create for the Corning Museum of Glass’ ongoing shows about the masters of studio glass. I had a first blush with him yesterday (about two hours in) with many more hours to build this thing. I used to work directly from a non-tweaked file…and I find that coming back to the original image and editing with my own eyes and hands is working so much better. The technique of pushing the reference prior to doing the editing takes too much out…and I would rather be the one to do it. I will post as I go on (and then I will show you the vectors to better explain the work). I forget how fun these things are. I should do a few of writers/people of note as Ithaca College used my Poe illustration to promote their summer studies program (I also designed the brochure) and I need more scrap for them to pick from….Reason enough, right?

More on illustration: I plan on a small body of work after Christmas derived from the amazing book Chime by Franny Billingsley. It is a tremendous book—and much of it matches with this pen and ink approach. There is a pair of twins, a wicked stepmother, a lion boy, and many otherworldly characters. And then, what next? Maybe illustrative logotypes for my young farmer friends. That sounds right.

I smell like celeriac. I just peeled a pile of them and am going to steam them and freeze them for a puree (with potato) for Christmas. I am stunned by this celery root as it has never entered my life until now…and its soft celery taste, not the full bore of celery stalks, can hide in all kinds of things…dimensionalizing the food). It makes a great add to soup and my guess stuffing (chopped fine and sauted). New CSA veggie to explore will be fennel. That is a bit more tough, but I am up to it.

Alex requested the seven fishes for Christmas (though the italians do it on Christmas eve). As I am not italian, it may be the three and a half fishes for Christmas with a broiled salmon (with a parsley herbal chop), a crabmeat casserole, something shrimp and a half of something else (half might mean appetizer). I am loving the CSA spinach…so some of that…and a salad. Who knows. I think a chocolate dessert and a lemon dessert. Need to get cracking.

Jacob is here! Must go and see what sort of things that are going on in the back room. I hope no trouble!


Furious pie

Halloween Masks: Skulltime, Q. Casseti, 2011, Adobe Illustrator CS5I am sitting here in the kitchen with two pies in the oven to take to the annual TBXC dinner tonight to celebrate the accomplishments of this years cross country team. Apple with craisins. It should be fun, to the point and then we have the prime opportunity to take Alex up to Cornell for a concert that he and a crew from the high school are psyched to go to. We had two of Alex’s friends for the night, and I throughly enjoyed gossiping with them before Alex got home. So fun.

Last night’s performance of “A Bagful of Fables” was great. It was a series of short one acts, linked by Aesop introducing the fable, summing up the former one, and making some sort of dramatic reference or two to remind the audience that this is a performance. The cast was all in colored tee shirts and grey sweatpants with minimal props and sets. It was all very well done…and to speak as the proud mama I am, Alex stole the show. He is a big energy and personality on the stage, totally comfortable in his body and is coordinated and graceful. He has a comedic aspect which, I think if he were to do more of this, might be interesting to see what and how he would develop. I was delighted in his performances as well as his obvious happiness in the performance, the community and the work he accomplished. Win Win. So worth the time.

On November 18-9 ,w e are going to see Landmark College, a 2 yr. accredited college in Vermont, committed to teaching learning methodologies (through skills and technology) to exclusively to students with learning disabilities. They give the students tools to learn, grow and be able to keep up in a college environment and then help them move to a four year program to finalize their studies. I am, to put it mildly, very optimistic about this opportunity and giving our student the understanding, the community, the help and tools that frankly he did not get. He was the child that was left behind. There is no end to my venom around that little catch all government phrase that sums up my children’s educational experience—around testing and not around learning. It was around mainstreaming and not teaching to each child and his/her method of learning/processing. It is about ignoring the symptoms of a child struggling and not ONE teacher, aide, principal, counselor questioning if the child is truly being served, truly learning or just keeping “within the lines” (or within the sweep of Alex as a Farmer in “A Bagful of Fables, 11/04/2011, Q. Cassetti“standards”) to run them through the public k-12 offering. The school’s responsibility is to provide support in order for a student to learn. They missed that here. And, so much more. However, I am being negative and should focus on that which is good. I have a strong student, a smart student, and one who does not totally loathe himself. I have a student that can be educated to move forward postitively and we have the means to support that study (nothing like saving like a squirrel for years and years). Not withstanding, the system failed us. Unforgiveably so. I hurt inside and hurt for my child. I need to focus on the potential for the future…but anger is my middle name…

Shady Grove still stinks. I have two cats wrapped around my ipad/ ipad keyboard. All three pets grunting and moaning in their sleep. It should feel restful, but the constant heaving and squeaking is a bit disturbing.

More masks. I may start drawing a few (ink) and then either redrawing in illustrator or modifying in photoshop before coloring them as they are pretty basic, and then they would be all mine to do with what I want. Rob wants to prototype them as real masks….I just want to do illustrations.  And more illustration and more.

I was musing this morning over the opportunity to make a little cookbook for Kitty and Alex of all their favorites with of course, illustrations from me, and photos of them….I think I might make this a years project and then do it as either a lulu.com or blurb book. It would be fun to be a little Provensen with it.

New opportunitity alert! with Minted.com. Minted is one of those on demand printing sites where you can get ink on paper for cards etc. with your child’s picture so instead of sending mom and dad little baby’s picture with a Kodak card, you can get it on “real” paper. Minted has upped that game with for real paper (Mohawk Superfine is their standby with an upgrade to a pearlescent paper), and with designed “shells” that have nice typography, cute illustration and basically, good graphics with good taste. Nice fonts, tasteful illustration, clean layouts. Now, you do have to pay for this (“hello Kodak, you are looking mighty affordable these days)—but the results are really nice. I have to dig deeper to see if I can do some design for their design challenge and get a shell printed. Wouldn’t that be cool? Maybe there is a shell that could hold pix of my kids for the fam? Not everything needs to be totally custom custom? right?

We will see. Some new illustration opportunities on the horizon. I wish I could talk about them, but alas….

Mental tryptophan

Vector Sketch, Q. Cassetti, 2011, Adobe Illustrator CS5Working on a portrait. Fun. Tough going with the eyes. I find that recently, I need to construct more of the eyes than what is in the picture which is a bit of a puzzle, but when I focus on them, it really snaps the image up. My guy has a cape and a high necked, dark shirt. Very dashing…with a very goth hairdo.

More little projects on the desk to correct, to add to, to develop, to change. I met with my new farmers today. They took me on the most lyrical and philosophical walks over their property to see the elegant black chickens, their groomed, snuffling and happy pigs (searching for apples) filled in with their thinking on planting, on cycling crops and livestock, on teaching, on food and then on their beautiful barn (complete with a slate roof) and the architectural plans around this. The property spans the most glorious gorge…with a lovely stream and the trees sheer perfection and tall, reaching up to the sky. No hanging branches, no need to limb up or change anything. With the sparking leaves…it was breathtaking. We shared maroon apples from a tree by their driveway and talked about planting in hexagons with plants that complement each other for their seasons, for the creatures they attract or repell….Just take a gander at their poetic blog. Love reading it: Tree Gate Farm>>

Nice meeting with the Distillery. We are on a direction that is great…and beginning to refine an approach to the labels, the logotype, the color palette. Next step, comping the range of products they are going to lead with, think about the secondary packaging, and the marketing materials…and how the spirit and language go with it. As this operation is on the wine trail, the need to drive the location as a destination is key to their success. How to do that? What are the key vehicles? How to position this operation as part of your Cayuga Lake tour etc. Plenty to think about during winter days.

Have started thinking about Thanksgiving and the food around that. I so loved cooking much of the feast in advance so that Thanksgiving day was about setting the table, and cooking the bird and any last minute stuff (icing cakes, potatoes etc). Making stock in advance is the first place to go, so, I will need to get some turkey parts to make the stock to make the stuffing, gravy, and all else that is stock derived. I found a wonderful italian cake I would like to make this year along with a pear ginger claflouti (King Arthur Flour Cookbook). The cake I can make and freeze, but the claflouti is a now thing…so that will happen on the 25th. Right now we have around 17 coming. I project those numbers will be growing. Our big table can seat 12-14…so we are probably looking at 11 at the big table and 6 at a satellite table. Placecards will be in order…hmmm. (such good sleep inducing thinking versus my wanting to bury a hatchet somewhere)….Mental trytophan.

I am still not sleeping well. Coulda shoulda woulda. Then, the brick wall of can’t, won’t, maybe, shouldn’t. They are making me mad. Unfortunately, they do not know that when I am mad, I get feisty…and this will not be the placid, nice me that they think they know. I click into lists, confirmations, dating, reports, verbatim quotes (dated.time) and then finding out my rights and referencing their responsibilities. The land of carbon copied lawyers, and everyone else and their mother is just about to begin. The boil is slow…and as this bear was poked this morning…the heat is building.


Bandstand at the Trumansburg Farmer’s Market, Q; Cassetti, 2011 (08/17/2011)I have had enough. Enough! I have spent the better part of a week, nursing a computer along—redoing work lost etc. and I have had it. I am going to call a technician, regardless of the price and speedy please, to come to my studio and make right all this crap that is going on. I hate not having my tools work, and as I am a digital princess, it is particularly bad when the tool in question is the center of my working universe. Remember the real life scenes of Mary yesterday? They were reinacted in full my your truly yesterday.

Trying to put some perspective on it though, when we have these rough patches, it makes the smooth all so much sweeter. I need to hold that thought and try to keep my patience.

With the computer antics yesterday, I did manage to do quite a bit with the other stuff—the business stuff (mailing and paying, banking and calling and so on) which was quite rewarding.Next added task, refinance our morgage. I am just ready to get back to business.

Oh, and the carrot soup—every last drop devoured. I think I have an idea what teen and college aged boys like to consume. Soup. Today, bean with kielbasi. Cost of pot of soup—around $4.00. Feeds around ten happily. Sounds like a plan. They are whipping through the freezer jam (two jars consumed yesterday). Peach is adored, but the sweet cherry, blueberry, nectarine and lemon is eaten even faster. Even on nasty white bread. So the inspiration to make a peach ginger freezer jam looms on this evening’s roster. Maybe mix some nectarines in to give it a bit of a bite?

I attended the Farmer’s Market last night, a beautiful end of summer evening—and it felt like the best of our little Tburg. Toivo, a Finnish/ Tex Mex band was playing in the bandstand with people dancing, children chasing, people shopping and eating all in rapture over being at the Market, with their friends, savoring the summer evening. Groups of people were chatting like a cocktail party, others were learning about fracking while others sampled natural bug spray or tested the fresh bread for sale. I am so happy that I can be a help here as where is happening now is so lovely and so in tuned with our little town that we can only shine it up, promote it more and think a bit about how to keep it going. Last evening was a glowing pearl on the necklace of summer events.

I put a Facebook page up to begin to extend our communications reach with the Farmer’s Market. We needed one, plus, this is one of the vehicles we  are going to use to get the word out about the Market Manager position (volunteer with a stipend) that is coming up. Its a cool job for someone who likes local food, is interested in community, family, people, music. There is some training as well as some broader course work provided looking at Farmer’s Markets, how they are structured, etc. If you are interested, or know someone, submit a statement of interest to the Board (the FB page will tell you how and when) and we will contact you when the interviews will happen. Could be a great way to be involved in your community and get to know something about local producers, the growing interest in local Farmer’s Markets, and a facet of Trumansburg’s little community. Think about it.

Green Man fever continues. One done yesterday with acorns. Another in the sketchbook with acorns (Kitty approves). More to post to bore you to death.

Kitty has a friend visiting tonight from New Jersey. We have Alex Jacob and maybe Eli. So combined with work, a pickup at the Regional, lunch for 10, and the general day to day—I should pop my gummi vitamin (just discovered them and LOVE them) and get rolling.

A domani.


Summer dreams

StarGazing, Q. Cassetti, 2010, vectorHere we are in Sheldrake with the day lilies brilliant by the side of the road. It is the time of ebullient sweet peas in masses, curling and twisting themselves in the greenery and down by the shore. It is breezy and definitely summery— that sweet spot I remember on dark and snowy February days and whisper to myself that  the time would be coming for breezes and the tonic of lake water and blue skies. And, we have sunsets dwindling at 10 p.m. with the sketching of pink reminding us of the slow burn of the sun.

New things on the local front. First and foremost, celeriac. Yup. celeriac! Our Sweet Land Farm often has a tub of it to pick from, so last week to amuse Kitty who adores the mandrake quality of alll the rootiness of this root, I grabbed two, determined to make something, I have discovered that if my friends are at the market, then we have a chance that someone is a champ with daikon, celeriac or kale (not part odd my local mis en place). So after quizzing a few moms who are good cooks, I dove into making a cold soup of celeriac, cucumber, potato and onion. Remarkable and very complex and herb ally  delicious. I fed it to the corporate lunch table to good results. More this week. Bring on the kale and Swiss chard!

 Also, I have been honored to be asked to on the Tburg farmers market board. It should be interesting as it is in it’s infancy and is ready for the next steps of programming and public awareness. The Wednesday market is wonderful and embraced by many with our Tburg musicians, chefs and farmers there to make Wednesday evenings more jolly. I have been charmed to see groups of scouts congregating there for ceremonies. We could have community dish to passes or bring back the summer movie fun of a few years ago. Our new bandstand is perfect for a summer wedding…with tables under the roofs for the reception. Maybe a permanent puppet theatre / child  mini farmers market too? Something new to ideate about. I can see a posters or something illustrative!

Part of this momentary peace comes from drawing and reading. I had to stop drawing a few weeks for a project, however, I am in the warm up phase, looking for my topic again. I have jet downloaded some fiction along with listening to the newest from the author of The Devil and The White City. A miasma of sleep, books, and my imaginary world with my ink pens. Dreamy!

Advent Day 8: Santa Too

Santa Doll 2, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink from the second Advent Calendar project.Working on some aircraft graphics that just doesnt seem to want to go away. Also have some retouching to do around the  work that needs to be printed for the Society of Illustrators Show. That has to happen today. 

Looking at Edward Hicks pix for some lions, some peaceable kingdom ideas. Love his work. Odd, but love. Am also reading a bit on the spiritual illustrations/ pictures from the Shakers. Simple line illustrations. Very symbolic and lyrical line work. I have a new book from a show put on by the Drawing Institute and the Hammer Museum in LA. The Hammer always surprises… and really puts on shows that delight me….and I am sure others. The show catalog is lovely, well written and has a pile of these very rare documents—

I have to go. Am coughing up a storm and need to get some stuff out.

Advent Day 7: Santa Box

Santa Doll, Q. Cassetti,2010, sharpies from the second Advent calendar projectNice little Yearbook class today. There was editing, cover designing and we planned a fun event for the last day of school prior to vacation. We are having the tacky Holiday sweater/ hat contest with a prize (a free yearbook). Lots of energy there. Plus, we just got the link to get into the Entourage site so we can get the templates, the training, the tools to do the book.

More lacy line drawings this week for the Advent Calendar. I am spurred on by Russian Nesting Dolls and the chops from the Lubok looksee that I have been studying. Santa to the left is a nesting doll too… decorative and happy. I have another one in the works and then maybe some shining baby pix along with something having to do with the bad hats.

A week and counting to the Holiday choral event. Kitty and Mandy will be home to help decorate…so we need to get the trees up this weekend and plan what goes where. Its all got to be done before next Friday as the gig starts at 7 so we will need to be prepared to roll into it. Piano tuner coming on Tuesday. Maybe I should get some candycanes?

I found that Ludgates is selling the perfect turkeys…so I will make a call for one today. So, that has been figured out (yeah!). Now its time to make the cakes, freeze the side dishes, make some gravy and have a holiday in the freezer before the day. It is so easy to make a feast that way. I think chocolate layer cake? and maybe a derby pie? Stuffing just like Thanksgiving with sausage, mushrooms and parsley. What about cocktail food?

Communication Arts is due January 7th (the illustration show…I am going to enter the design one too). Need to call Picture Salon to find out what is doing re the Society of Illustrators output….need it as the first show for Illustration 53 opens January 7th. So, I gotta book.

Advent Day 7: Holiday Greens

Green Man, Leaf Man, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink, from second advent calendar projecThis is a green man, the beginning of my next series after this advent calendar project. It has been done as part of the advent calendar and will sit in that group, but it is a spur to more work. This green man was inspired by my friend who got the back of his head tattooed with another image of the Green Man which inspired me to do a little reading…which surfaced a deep body of work to reference, inspire and push me further.

Wikipedia nicely sums up why it works:

“Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or “renaissance,” representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.”

This is spurring me on. I have some more lacy angels, a new nesting doll and plan on some santas, Zweit Piet and others to keep this 25 day celebration of the holidays interesting. I have been looking at the lubki inspired work done recently, and discovered that those clues are peeking out of the new line work (no crosshatching just pattern on pattern) and feel that the line work is tighter and more along the lines of some of the Murray encouragement. So, I think there will be some more simple line work in addition to the more intense ink/brushy stuff.  To see other images that havent reached this spot, please click> and, for last year’s advent calendar>>

The weatherman is predicting snow. And some inches for us in Tompkins county…between 4-8”—so I am hunking down (with my cough) and Rob has the wonderbus. I have some stuff in the oven to roast (and turn into something with the marvelous pressure cooker). I want to start some sourdough starter/biga today..so as to be able to start throwing down some bread in the next week or so.

We are knocking down a bunch of projects and got some big steps yesterday. Gotta get stuff in the mail soon.

Cool article on an animator/microbiologist, Janet Iwasa, featured on EarthSky. Iwasa decided that scientists were communicating in a very primitive way about cells so she created these films. Here’s a link>> I love the idea of scientists being animators…and what about animators who are scientists…? What a great world we live in…that people that were previously siloed can cross over and use the arts to explain science. The two disciplines are so close…but in the academic world, kept separately…There is a place for the fusion that can happen given the new acceptance of polyglots(thinking Kitty).  Kitty has gotten her papers done and now has a day or so to finish up her film/animation s he is working on. Feels like there might be a late night or two in that. I miss Kitty…but we had a nice chat to catch up…and it was reassuring for her old mom.

To give thanks

Cross walk, Q. Cassetti, 2009, vectoThanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Happy Thanksgiving! I love this holiday. Its all about the food, the fireplace, the cozy hearth, the happy voices. I am gloating over how smart I was to freeze and prep over the course of the month so that today I can ice cakes, cook the bird, and set the table without going insane. It is all ready to go. Thawed out last night (but not the gravy which needed a bit of help from the microwave). So, I am writing a little entry while there is a minute.

We drove to Amherst and back yesterday. Wasnt too bad. Thank goodness for cups of savory black tea….That kept the brain turned on and the eyes from shutting. We had a quiet time on the way over, and then after Albany, Rob took to the backseat and Kitty and I caught up from Albany to Bainbridge when Rob woke up. We had a nice evening at home catching up, hearing about gender identity and seeing videos of animations made by women (I promise I will share). Then it was off to dreamland to wake up to be Thankful.

I have so much. I have a wonderful husband and children. I have a happy life with friends and family. I We all have our health and vigor.  I have a beautiful place to work with projects and ideas and clients who are a blessing. I have a new set of skills that gives me joy with illustration and visual story telling. I have a venue to focus research and reading on…and all of these are great gifts of happiness and joy that I daily am grateful for. I have a rich life with people I love…in a community that I embrace fully…I have no end of blessings. For this and so much more, I am Thankful. We all need to look across the table at those that surround us and count the many things we take for granted, and nod…and account for those gifts.

Monday revisions

Sunshiny pattern, Q, Cassetti, 2010, digitalSausage fest was good. The shirts were a hit. Pink tees were declared as “awesome”. The gang loved the lake, loved the water, loved the “chilling”, There was a lot of eating by all. It was fun and civilized at the same time. Even the parking worked out. All the leftover corn was devoured today for lunch. Sausage will be devoured tomorrow.

Speaking of corn, Shady Grove, stellar dog and my lady in waiting, has discovered corncobs. They are equal to her favorite toy and chewie (pinecones…the more sap the better). Its a little undoing to see her wandering around with a corncob sticking out of her black mouth…When will this stop?

Ordered a pair of white glasses from VenniOptical.com, a California based concern that sells prescription glasses from $8.00 to $35.00.  Some hilarious frames (argyle anyone?). It will be good to have some glasses for fun…and maybe an extra pair of long glasses for fun and entertainment. There are jewels, patterned side bars and lots of color in the frames and of course, in the glass…perhaps some yellow glasses with purple lenses? Lime green frames, pink lenses? Or super round, Philip Johnson memorial glasses? At these prices,fun seems to be an option in eyewear. Wait wait…there are stripes and leopard skin ones? Wow.

Met with my friend on his special project. We are trying to nail this brand down for his new project. Went through the sketch process and we will see where it goes. Still wiggly. I wish I could psych this one out…it just seems to be a moving point. This should be easier… though, I must admit, the stuff that has been generated has legs beyond this project. There should be an easier path to this. Need to keep going.

It looks like a downpour. Rob has a meeting. I have petfood to buy. Kitty is out and about. Alex is on deck with me. We need to get ice as the damned fridge is down for the count again. Urg.

Painting with scissors

Hemlock Grove, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink“painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” 

Nice, fun search on Matisse yesterday. Taschen (Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs - Drawing with Scissors (2 Volumes Splip case) ) has a lovely new book just on the cutouts that looks wonderful. Its too new to get used, and its $125. a casebound set, so I will wait. It was fun to pull images and immerse myself in the bright palette and free expression Matisse used. An old high school friend mentioned Matisse’s methodology with his cut outs (gouaches decoupes). And yes, as he aged this was his process (from henri-matisse.net:

“With the aid of his assistants, Matisse invented a systematic approach to the technique of his cut outs.. First, his studio assistants brushed Linel gouaches on sheets of white paper.

Once dry a stockpile  of colored paper were available to Matisse at any given time. He often quite spontaneously cut out elements and placed them into compositions. As the play between consciously sought-for and the fortuitously-arrived at effects worked into their balances the projects moved toward completion. In the meantime many of them were posted about the studio walls.

The Linel gouaches were employed because they “directly corresponded to commercial printers ink colors” (Cowart 17) and would reproduce perfectly. The cut-outs pulsate with energy. The bright, vibrant Linel colors, deep and Light Japanese Green, vert Emeraude (Imitation veridian), Deep Cadmium Yellow, Deep Cadmium Red, Deep Persian Red, Persian Violet, and Yellow Ochre (Cowart 274), keep leaping in front of our eyes.”

The holiday card project is benefitting from the search. Additionally, I am pressing the new proposed color palette into use to see if it works or needs a bit of amendment. I need to go find human body engravings for the next image. I am hoping the NYPL (New York Public Library) Digital Library might have something to work with. If not, maybe a trip to Cornell’s Mann Library? First the simple desktop stuff…we’ll see. Its coming on nicely.

Eli and John are cranking on the rebuilding/ restoration of our pumphouse in the side quadrangle. Nigel is attacking a new swathe of grass to liberate the property further. I have pizza dough in the cold fridge for our lunch (its now between 8 and 10 folks daily—so creativity is a bit more necessary). Though it will be hot, I think I will make a pizza rustica for the crowd tonight…and tomorrow’s lunch.

I am deep into the second book of the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl that Played with Fire.This heat has to stop…but reading this fun book keep the synapses jumping.  And the fans are helping too. The weekend and the promised break in the heat is welcome. More later.

Busy busy

Gorgon, Q. Cassetti, 2009, digitalThere was cooking yesterday. Big cooking. I made granola, gingersquares (from King Arthur), bagels (from King Arthur) and a big jackpot pot of chicken stock (managed to score a few packages of backbones from the Shur Savior) and skittled home to get them into the bone processing I love to do. Today, there is more cooking....we are making a chocolate cake; turning the stock into soup; sesame crackers (from King Arthur) and a torta (a friend's recipe) along with prepping vegetables and a tenderloin for another celebratory dinner for our guests.

Bring on the fatted calf.

Sixteen for dinner....It is totally clear how people get on a roll entertaining. You just keep moving the plates from the dishwasher to the table to the dishwasher and never put them away. I cannot multitask on the level to do this and hold down a full time job...but at least the logistics make sense.

Snow Ball/ Spring Fling was fun for K and A. They got in late but from all reports this morning, there was lots of dancing with all sorts of people.

John C. from Elmira visited yesterday and told us all about the 200 apple trees he just put in on his property last week. Made me pause and think about how fun that would be and also, what would the tax consequences be if one were to do such a thing? I would like to understand more about this agricultural piece as apples and bees in some scale or another is in our future. The trees I bought are happy in the brisk weather we are having...perky leaves and rosy buds. What promise. I can see a tempietto farm stand on Camp Street. I really can. We need to start dreaming about architectural follies.

Need to go and put the crackers in the oven...But just wanted to say hi.

Green Day

Sweet Summers Day, Q. Casstti, 2010, mixed mediaGoodness, it's beautiful here. The grass defines green, and the early morning peachy gold light made me catch my breath. School is back in session but time is short between now and the end of the school year. There is the Spring Fling dance, the play, the prom, endless parties and trips for our girl graduate. There are track meets (around 5 in the next week or so), and cast parties, exams and reevaluation for next year. 

We have two added guests next week, so I am roasting bones for stock and a "big pot of sauce" will be brewed up tonight in anticipation of more eaters around here. I am hoping to get back into the garden this afternoon after work or early tomorrow to rake a bit more, and get those new hellebore into the ground. Maybe mulch this weekend. And of course, the trees are coming too!

I had the opportunity to download a big pdf file of the L.L. Langstroth book, Hive and the Honeybee from this remarkable resource at Cornell, The Hive and the Honeybee Collection, a selection from The Everett F. Phillips' Beekeeping Collection  at the Mann Library. "Look and ye shall find"....and in my case, abundantly. The Langstroth book is a classic which I was worrying about how to get a copy to peruse --and now I have it. The Mann has a beta test to provide the file for a Kindle (!)..but I couldn't make it go. The engravings are inspiring...and the copy the same. More on bees from reading this tome. The ladies, as you can see, got painted in (via photoshop) and are  getting ready to dive into their matching skeps (like the The Cholmondeley Ladies  circa 1600-10, Tate Britiain). I like the big bees that say Apiary-- and how they would never, ever fit in the skeps.

And now I dive into my world of words and pictures to see what I can do today.

the start of now

Between the Hive and Nectar, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and inkDid a ton of cooking yesterday. Made a chicken pie, sourdough bread, a chicken soup, a pot of sauce and bagels (yes, the boiling and the baking). So, very productive on many sides of this. First, I cleaned the fridge and know whats there. Second, used up a bunch of leftovers in the soupy things on the stove. And third, have dinner for at least three days done. So, productivity will pay this week.

While I cooked, Rob got our new woodburning stove going (you have to do six trial burns to break in the stove prior to really using it as a source of heat and cooking). I am going to do some research on the type of pots/pans we will need to use on this stove, along with how we prevent boilovers as wetness will cause rusting on the stovetop. More googling. The stove fired up in no time and was seemingly much easier to get started than the little cricket we have on the hearth in the room that adjoins it.

I have Hangar work to do as well as volunteer graphics for the HS Musical, Snoopy. I have around 4 big layout projects on the desk, all of them in the "we need it NOW" mode, so my lollygagging to talk to you really must be curtailed for now as I need to make hay while the sun pretends to shine (through the clouds and rain).

Brilliant day

Blue sky. So much promise. It's truly Baba Marta bating us with promises of Spring today. I may have to start wearing red and white bracelets to keep this amazing migration of seasons coming. When we were in Western Mass. we saw vees of geese seemingly coming back to the area. We saw hunters training their pointers in the fields with blinds and plastic geese. We saw baskets of Polish painted wooden eggs and smelled bunches of daffodils for sale. There are those spring temptations and promises at the store, strawberries, raspberries and asparagus. The snow slides off our roofs in great crashing sheets of ice and glitter. There is hope in the air....though I must admit, I like Winter and could easily handle another month of hunkering down.

Bruce is on his way to visit for a week--working at the museum on a project. I have a ton to do. Somehow the floodgates have loosed at the big client and we are kept jumping with bailing out the consultants who sell themselves as designers and then can't design. So there is a lot for me to focus on as a designer...the paid and the unpaid. Need to finish up the bread work particularly after visiting the Hungry Ghost in Northampton, MA and it's more commercial spin off, El Jardin nearby. Gave me a bit more perspective on the breadth of the bread, it's perception and marketing and helps me better know what my bread client is looking for. He has broken ground, so there will be some pressure to move on this soon. Also, more changes in the Hangar work...need to move on that as they need the stuff.

I am making a chicken pie (from King Arthur) today for this week, a ham (from the CSA that was awarded to us) and some baked goods (King Arthur's cinnamon bread and King Arthur's Blog Chocolate Sourdough Cake). So, there will be cooking for the week. I need to rescue the chicken from the snowdrift I set the pan in...and get to work on freeing it from it's bones (for stock)...and see what else I can do with the leftovers.

I am busy thinking about bees, Bee Shamans, Melissas (Mellssae), and the wonderful stuff I unearthed yesterday. Nothing is immediate except good thoughts, small plans and the happiness in my heart that such a discovery can yield. Maybe bees!


Cold, Dark Night, Q.Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink/ digitalI love the idea of WYSIWYG. Its a very "my lifetime" phrase. They did not say WYSIWYG in blackletter in church manuscripts from the scriptori, nor did they say WYSWYG  at the advent of handset type. What you see is what you get. Pretty much from my vantage point, a very NOW statement. What you see (right now) is what you get (right now). Not what you might see if you wait. Or what you will see when you get it...or the like. Its two now statements. Pretty much speaks to our culture, our nowness, our immediacy of on-demand everything from television to movies, to printing to food. Its all on demand..and its exactly what you see. No variations, no more thought than making it JIT (just in time), and predictable. Its a problem we have culturally, as many things you cannot see or if you see them, you may not get them. Or if you see them, they may not exist (such as movies such as Lord of the Rings or Avatar or even the hyper realistic games that Alex plays with blood and guts). 

There is so much behind WYSIWYG. A whole system and structure that is invisible and rarely even approached. You buy a loaf of bread at the store and what you see is what you get. A loaf of bread. Do you see if there is local flour there? Could you see if there are preservatives in it? Can you see if the people who make this bread are satisfied with their work? their lives? How did that loaf get from their ovens to your doorstep without being damaged or aged? Do we even think about these things? What are the ramifications of buying a loaf of bread made in your village versus one made in Cinncinnati by an enormous bakery? Do we see a change in our health directly? Does it better our neighbors versus someone elses neighbors? Does it teach us anything about our area? or local culture and expectations? I know I am ranting on about something (WYSIWYG) that  is really more about computers and not really having to learn about code and the like...which is fine by me-- but WYSIWYG is ingrained in the way we think and behave such that if we just started peeling it apart, think of the thoughts, ideas, and passions we could all inspire. Enough of this rambling.

Kids are skiing. It was gorgeous at Greek Peak. Plenty of snow and happy faces all around. We came back to do house projects. I made a "Church Supper Chicken Pie" and cinnamon bread ( both from the highly recommended (I am cooking my way through) The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook I am working on some more of these Home Sweet Home pictures and thinking a lot of gingerbread houses and witches. I actually cracked open the brothers Grimm this morning and was pleased with what I saw....plenty to work on.

Slow Saturday

Northern Lights, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink/ digitalJust back from Sauders, the Mennonite grocery store in Seneca Falls. It was a beautiful drive with clouds and little peeks of blue sky with gold light casting shadows on the snowy fields and painting the trees dark purple and brown. Beautiful. We bought a cartful of groceries with a lot of flour, butter and the basics. I picked up a package of John Martin Scrapple for my mother-in-law who loves it along with frozen blackberries, dried parsley, teensy potatoes (called creamers) and much more.

They had dried mushrooms (my new add to the mise en place) but Greenstars are better and believe it, cheaper. Mushrooms add so much to any saucy thing--adding so much weight and dimension to the flavor of a sauce. It is amazing, much like the leek, the shift/or add of an ingredient can make so much of a difference.

We have eggplants for Kitty and Alex's favorite eggplant along with all sorts of spices, nuts and add ins. What with the time I have at home, the bottles and cans for cooking have been replaced by single pieces of paper and plastic bags. The whole quantity of our household trash has reduced to a trickle...and the composting and recyclables a bit more weighted.

I have flour for the week. I am making a new recipe in The King Arthur Book--not the Pain Levain, but the Whole Wheat Sourdough which is a bit more complicated (but thats not saying a lot).

I am thinking of calling the Society of Illustrators in New York to find out what it would take to create a digital (maybe even taking it to vector) award for the Student's Show. I would like to do a $1000 prize (max $1500) as this is the place to encourage growth and staying on track. It would have meant the world to me when I was in school, but prizes were not given. I am also thinking of prizes for the first years and a single prize for the second years at Hartford Art School's MFA in illustration. Illustration keeps giving and giving to me, I would like to encourage this small community of lovely people through giving to students who may need applause and praise for excellence and effort. Put this on the list of things to do.

Must go for now. There is some reference to search....for more of these home sweet home pictures. I am developing things and feel I am on the front end of this...

Off to Target later this afternoon for shopping with Alex. Maybe dinner at The Nines...!

Quiet Day

Rabbit Run, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink/ digitalI am trying out new things with this illustrator coloring of a reverse out of these pen and ink drawings. I have an egg started with another planned for tonight's Olympic watching. I like what's happening...and need to look more at the silhouette portraits and landscapes that are out there in cyberworld. I have had some really lovely insights from friends through Facebook and here on this page. My friends really seem to have responded to yesterday's "Quiet Night" by putting themselves in the picture or themselves as woodland animals in the scene. I do not know there this is going...but its happy making--for me, and comfort for my friends and viewers. Also, I like the back and forth between hands, photoshop and illustrator, and illustration and photoshop back again. I am showing you two looksees of the color... I think I prefer the one on the left-- seems brighter, snappier. Plus, I am trying to use the 80/20 per my mentor/ Murray Tinkelman re color and the balance of the image. Yesterday's was more successful I think-- but we are rolling and see what happens.

Made a big boule yesterday afternoon. Its great to be able to make bread--particularly this King Arthur Pain Levain, as its one big mix and then a series of risings and foldings which takes no me time, just sitting time. i discovered I was not allowing my poor boules to rise in a warm enough place. So, yesterday I fired up the Fridgidaire ( my 1940 electric stove that came with the house complete with the "Thermonizer") and had a nice hot top to allow real like rising. And dang, it did. The loaf turned out well along with the requisite texture in the bread along with holes(!) --- And, it was delicious. R. said it was equal to Le Pain Quotidien bread we had in NYC. There's a huge complement! So, the bread journey continues. I am going to keep doing this one recipe until I really understand it, and nail it. The home team continues to eat it...and I can cut the big boule into two pieces to take to the neighbors--so we all benefit. Only trouble is that I broke my pizza stone... and need to order a new one. My brother sent me a nice link that will be perfect. Breadtopia carries that same stone.

Alex has a track meet tomorrow with hopes that we shop for a suit on Saturday. Kitty is charged about our visit to Hampshire soon. School play practices abound.