Super Sunday

Hairhoppers Redux, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and inkWell. It happens every year about this time. The high holidays. The culinary event that has us all anticipating the best…of commericals, of cheap beer and the endless amount of fat, and spice, and meat, and all that is bad and horrifying. Yes, its that Sunday, that special Sunday that has us all worshipping at the other temple to another god, that of sport. Its Super Bowl Sunday.Light the candles, char the burgers, pop the tops and tear open the chips. Put on your  sportingist clothing (preferably with some sports emblem on the front) and scream your head off when “your team” screws up in some painful way. Leap to your feel and scream like a monkey when they move the ball down the field by inches and feet. Holler obscenities at the man in the black and white shirt as he makes a judgement that fifty percent of the time is totally WRONG. All the while scooping up great shovelfuls of hot cheese and salsa, slatering ranch whatever on whatever, and dipping into vats of bubbling chili and more cheese. Then there are the wings, the dumplings and pizza. All reason to wash it down with something akin to Natty Ice, Bud Light or something equallly as unnoteworthy.

We learned how to behave like real Americans when we had Barbara living with us, sportingly goading us to be real, to eat the chicken wings—for Gods Sake…and to turn the damned television and figure out the game. She dragged us into the frenzy of planning and dethawing,frying and stirring til everything was just right. But now that she isnt with us, the total pinnacle of the super event has dwindled to the wimpy and mediocre job that I have assumed. However, the effort is worth it as Alex is a real boy and needs to have real parents who like “the game” and all the trimmings versus the pair of losers who know far too much about moulding, or esoteric computer programs, or live in their silly imaginary worlds of ideas and pictures, town planning and light fixtures. We have to put on our game face and enjoy the superior Sunday events while he leads us in the shouting, yelling and bad food consumption. It should be fun.

We did, however, go to Walmart to pick up cat food and milk—to have this holiday confirmed by glancing into the baskets of our fellow shoppers and boy howdy, the Super Bowl cuisine beats out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter all rolled into one. Heaping carts of cheese and chips, gigantic cases of beer and wings, prebaked pizzas, more chips and pretzels, and frozen goodies like mozzerella sticks and mushroom caps just to pop into the oven and whisk quickly in between the viewers and the TV set to be devoured inbetween the shouting. They were even sporting Super Sunday garb…the branded teeshirts, hats and all else (probably down to the skivvies)—proclaiming their affinity and their foe. Let the games begin.

And be over….as there is a PBS double header of  Downton Abbey (my new fave) tonight. So we will have costume drama abbutting the “Big Game”.

I am sorry I have been remiss in writing. I am all caught up in work and the emotional pull of this college thing. We are planning the February break which will be quite a week. The lynchpin of that week is an all day meeting on the Tuesday for Rob in NYC on the new design project with Thomas Phifer and Partners. So the plan is to drive to NYC on Sunday. Go to Hofstra on Monday and get back to the city for dinner with a friend. Tuesday would be Rob in his meeting, Alex and I hang at the Met or do some music shopping… Its up to us. Wednesday we fly to St. Petersburg/Tampa FL to tour and visit Eckerd College (amazing school with good music and a robust support system for LD students). Then its spending the night near Eckherd…the next morning driving down to Boca to visit/tour Lynn University (which has a music conservatory program supported by a robust support system for LD Students) (and which A has already been accepted into). Then, we fly back to NYC/ Newark and shop at IKEA for bathroom stuff and drive north to the most perfect little village in the world.

Rob was nominated by caucus last Sunday to be one of the democrats to run for the two open Village Trustee positions coming up for reelection this March. There were questions, a little talk by Rob and then Rordan Hart, fellow trustee and all round amazing contributer who did the same. So much of the work of the Village Board goes unrecognized—or praised that it hurts, as a member of team Robbie to see him take unwarranted knocks by others who are not spending the valuable time he has outside of the 9- 7 p.m. that he has to himself. We will need to ramp up the promotion machine (postcards and handshakes) to get the Cassetti/Hart team reelected. There is so much valuable work for them to do.

Ellie is here with Tucker the Hunter. I need to get downstairs to get the wings working and the other goodies happening. Thanks for your patience.

Advent Day Eleven, 2011


Advent Day Eleven, 2011, Q. Casseti, pen and ink“In life, there will always be many paths to follow; I hope you always choose the right one…If you give a part of yourself to life, the part you receive back will be so much greater. Never regret the past, but learn by it. Never lose sight of your dreams; a person who can dream will always have hope.

Believe in yourself; if you do, everyone else will. You have the ability to accomplish anything, but never do it at someone else’s expense. If you can go through life loving others, you will have achieved the greatest success of all.”

Judy Bourgeault, Blue Mtn. Arts


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 or blurb book. It would be fun to be a little Provensen with it.

New opportunitity alert! with 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.

Keyhole backwards.

Vecdtor doodle, Q. Cassetti, 2011If you were to describe the perfect autumn day, you would describe today. Cloudless sky. Perfectly brilliant, “lets take a portrait” sun, with the leaves all on the verge of color…many of them still lush and green, but the horse chestnuts are yellow as the maples begin their progression towards crimson. We were up and going before the sun came up—so we had the show of pinks and cream on the farm horizons as we sped towards Rochester for an 8 a.m. appointment. Today was the final leg of getting some clarity on how  A. learns and we got an interesting summation which explains a lot of what we have been seeing both in his work, and the way he takes in information. It has been so worth it—but surprisingly emotionally draining for all of us. If the boys feel anything like I do, we have all been dragged through the keyhole backwards….and are just trying to get our heads, our hearts and our understanding all in line. The come away is that our A. is an amazing young man who has been fighting the good fight without the benefit of my understanding and protection. That is going to change right now. I am not a really happy bunny about all that is past and will coach others to not do what I do…but to get on it and not to trust any institution to do anything beyond the status quo. When I write those checks in September to the school—it doesn’t feel real sweet. Status quo is the best we can do for our kids….its about getting through and not necessarily about either enjoying learning or even learning to learn. Just getting through. However, moving forward, we have things to do, things to change, things to try.

We had a very interesting time talking with the Rotarians about their exchange program last night. Alex interviewed and we should find out if he makes the cut in a day or so. From that, more interviews…and then we will see. I hope something like this could happen for him. If not, we will dive into other programs that do similar things. It is an involved program that seems to really cover all the bases. We should have some idea of where we are going mid November or so. We also have the college applications to do…so busy…YIKES>

I have Rob to myself this p.m. Alex is off to play practice. Then tomorrow night, Rob has town government, and I have Alex. We all  have each other on Friday. Saturday through Monday, Alex goes with his class on a trip to Cedar Point, Ohio to ride the huge number of roller coasters. They even have one in the dark! Lucky boy.

Steve Brodner sent a lulu of a great sketch exploration on politico, Art Pope. Check it out>> I love the display of reference, the sketch process, how youtube can give you expressions that a still might not…and then the final piece. Sweet process…totallly a pro. He rocks.

The big fat pen continues to move.


09.24.2011, Baldwinsville, New York: TBXC Varsity (left to right) Ben Maracle, Alex Cassetti, Cal Randle, Tyler Sutherland, Alex Kenny, Steven Dunn, Kevin VanDeldenWe went up to Baldwinsville yesterday for the annual Bee Ville XC meet. Always a favorite for the team but also as a parent as the course is so beautiful and the anniversary quality that this meet evokes. We have been going to BeeVille since Alex was in seventh grade with the little modified runners, so this being his senior year, we have been able to compare from year to year to measure his growth as an athlete, as an individual and as our boy. How wonderful and bittersweet. Tyler Sutherland was, to use Alex’s phrase “killing it”—bringing home a very good time and finish being the first of the group of varsity runners. The shorter guys in the middle of the shot were the lead dogs in this race. Double excellent as they are sophomores and juniors—so the team has some terrific horsepower for a couple more seasons!  They all seemed to have a jolly time with good results and great comraderie amongst themselves. So, the season is on, the season of brotherly love and friendship, hard races but good times. Sweetness on the edge of frost. The dualities are remarkable.

I guess I was wiped out. We got home and I decided to take a nap as I was winking out on the drive home. And so I did. I napped and then read a junky book. It got darker and darker until it was time to get out of my nest to see if there was another place to plop down. And so I did. Alex came home from a movie date. Rob went to a funeral and was back late…and then it was time to sleep again. I am still wiped out. I am gauging it my my impatience for stuff that normally doesnt drive me crazy, but I can push to the side of my perifery and disengage. I am all loose ends and frazzled. So, instead of attending Porch Fest all day, I think I will catch up with some email, do a bit of reading and maybe close my eyes again. I am just feeling so strung out. I need to get myself back to the point where I do not have to leave the room to prevent a rude outburst on my part or some sort of physical nastiness.

I just finished the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and enjoyed it immensely despite the sadness of the story and the end result to the family of Mrs. Lacks. I was stunned to read about scientific experiments performed on the poor in recent history—mad scientists gone wild that rivelled some of the antics of the German scientists during WWII. We should be teaching this stuff to our kids…that this sort of inconvievable behavior and treatment of others happened right here in our happy little big island…and not just “over there”. Additionally, it pointed up the import of HIPAA and the rights and privacies we are guaranteed with our medical information and data. However, how are our personal cells and tissue material tracked. Do we have the right to that material and how it is used? or once blood is drawn, or a specimen taken, or birth is given—all of those byproducts we no longer have a right to? Though we are much further ahead than the mid-fifties—there are miles to go to better understand our rights to our own cells and the information they hold about us. One of the big take aways from the HeLa cell book was the gift Mrs Lacks gave (unknown to her, her family) to better mankind— through the truly immortal HeLa cells—was an singular one. Why her family was never notified, were treated badly and stupidly by doctors (all horrible communicators and frankly thoughtless people), and were unable to be treated or helped medically as they could not even afford health insurance while big Pharma made money (millions) due to the work they had done with their mother’s cell. This is just wrong all around.

I loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks so much, that I am now on a path for more of that sort of reading. I have The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This book started as a blog or diary of a young doctor and his fellowship focusing on oncology. From that pretext, Dr. Mukherjee begins to simply tell the story of cancer to laymen. I have just started but am engaged and intrigued by the elegant way the writer is peeling away the complexity of the ideas—and making them pristine and memorable. He presents cancer as a character—the hero and villain—a character of great stealth, dimension and scope. I am looking foward to diving into this.

I am beginning to get more than stupid right now. I hear the siren song of my pillow.