Back in the Saddle.

Kitty and Tucker, Q. Cassetti, 2011It was full tilt through Christmas. We had a nice day together with everyone loving their presents and loving being together. It was food food and food. The best, to my thinking, was the smoked salmon I opened for lunch…but the cooking and food for dinner was good. I would have changed some things but that is past tense. We had a delightful time with our friends with lots of laughs, ideas, and even Alex and a guest playing music together.

Yesterday, we had lunch at Moosewood (the famous vegetarian restaurant) which we have not graced for a decade at least. They had the BEST ginger tea concoction that Kitty and I happily had. I swapped a book for the Mark Bittman 

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food— so thematically we had a vegetarian date with Kitty, Alex and Elly.  We were at the wonderful, handpicked and edited selection of books at Buffalo Street Books. I bought Kitty a pocket moleskine calendar and a wall calendar featuring treehouses that she was squealing about. I splurged and bought an inspiring, Provensen zone illustrator/ artist, Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life  I got to see a ton of his work at the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell (his birds) and was struck by his simplicity and graphic quality of his illustration. A kick in the pants for this chick. Here is a google search on his work>> I mean…look at Harper’s work and compare it to the ever famous, ever visible Eric Carle. Similar? (I would go so far as to be better..better design, better style though I love Carle).

Bassett, Charley Harper“I don’t think there was much resistance to the way I simplified things. I think everybody understood that. Some people liked it and others didn’t care for it. There’s some who want to count all the feathers in the wings and then others who never think about counting the feathers, like me.” Charley Harper

Don’t you love him? Check out his site>>

We picked up Kitty’s Christmas ring (resized). And then, on our way home, Elly invited us to see Tucker, her hawk…which we did along with seeing how she works with him to fly and return to her. Kitty gave it a shot (picture above). It was a real treat with this brilliant bird swooping down out of the tall trees to land gracefully on Elly’s glove (for fun and a big meaty treat).

Today, I am back in the saddle at the office. I am hoping to get on the small farm brand I have committed to. I have knocked down several ouchies on my list that kept sliding off…so there is hope.  Tonight we hear the Stringbusters at Maxis with hopefully movies afterward (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

More later.

Finish line time.

From the early encyclopedia, Liber Floridus, around 1121, Ghent University LibraryIts all coming up. Coming to fruition. The potatoes are peeled. The presents wrapped. The stream of young men and women coming to gather (we had a crew until 2 a.m. of around 10) with roaring laughter, shouting stories and great hilarity in general —so the stream of snacks and dinners keep coming. Once again, thank goodness for the big hunks of pork I cooked down to make barbeque a few days ago. Breakfast this morning for the troops had Kitty and Laura cooking up banana pancakes and pillsbury cinnamon rolls that were devoured within seconds of being pulled out the the oven.

All the prep is almost done. I baked and iced a carrot cake. Lovely. The fishes are purchased (salmon, oysters and crabmeat) which will be: a broiled salmon with parsley and white wine, oysters are baked with breadcrumbs and garlic (will make two ways), and a crabmeat casserole that is my sister’s recipe. There is a torta (potato leek tart). There will be green beans and another green. No one wants a fancy breakfast, so I have some stock thawing to make a nice soup for lunch. Celeriac soup?

We are soooo lucky that it is cold out now so I can use the garage as my prep space for tomorrow. The cake is setting up, and I plan on making a few more things that just will need to be baked off tomorrow a.m./ early p.m. There is something to feasting in the cold weather months with the add of the back porch and garage storage. Makes everything so much easier. Maybe Santa could put a walk in freezer in my stocking?

Lou Jacobs, Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey CircusMy friend Amy Brill stopped by unexpectedly last night and we had such a nice visit—catching up on her world of family, fashion and friends.  Her fashion site is here>> Her fun blog is here>> She is doing very well with her clothing lines and is in a ton of stores with an online presence at Artful Home. Amy is always full of energy and enthusiasm—inspiring me to pickup my morose self and try to see the good out there and be grateful. She has had some big life challenges in the last few years and she has been a model for how to hit the tough spots with grace and energy. Now, with all that behind her, she seems poised to launch into 2012 with so much to look forward to.  We talked about present things, about past things, about local things, and about world things. All provocative and very entertaining. And beyond the gift of her time, Amy brought me amazing presents…so sensitive and thoughtful of her. She brought me three totally rocking vintage circus posters (you have heard me rave ) from her collection. Two were amazing type and the last was a prized clown poster accompanied by a photo of the famous clown, Lou Jacobs, who Amy worked along with in her past. If that wasnt enough, she brought this totally hilarious little book of line art with very curious and funny captions. I plan on scanning and sharing with you soon as it will, I am sure, delight you as much as it did me! I am so lucky to have  had such a nice visit with such a remarkable woman. I have a lot to learn from her which she gives so generously. She made my day!

It is nice to have a moment of reflection. A year has passed. Kitty and Alex keep growing and changing. I love what is happening with them, their lives, their friends and the problems that pop up and how they solve them.They are such nice people and I am blessed to have them as part of my life.  Rob is wonderful and keeps doing remarkable things that change people’s way of thinking, living and learning. He has been so additive in his job at the museum, his role on the village board and the various small projects he is engaging in in Trumansburg. It keeps getting better for him. My life would be an empty shell without him.

Jacob K. joined us this summer and now this winter. We now have another member of the tribe along with E. his friend and another team member.

Gloria has moved along with Justin and they seem to be not just liking it, but loving it here. Ron and Mary are healthy and still are able to do what they have to do. I am the same though I must admit, I find myself a bit stale with my work and the sluggish content my illustration has been taking. Lesson from this year’s advent calendar, is that I cannot just work on a style independant of content…if the content of my pictures is nominal, they really don’t  sing visually nor spiritually for me. I missed the toothiness of Christmas by pursuing a cut paper tradition and trying to be more responsible to that style. Onward to the kitchen to keep plugging away at “it”. If I have a chance, maybe a bit of drawing too? Styling exercises need content too…as does the illustrator need time away from her desk to have her brain relax to get into this sort of thing. I need more me time…in the next year.

Speaking of me time…time to mash some potatoes. Have a jolly Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Advent Day Twenty Two, 2011

Advent Day Twenty Two, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and ink.Kitty is back with us to our happiness. She looks great, acts great and has her wits and act together. She has had the flu, so hopefully the time during her break will get her back to full steam ahead. She is all about costume design and vacillates between talking about the historical accuracy and that of sketchbooks and the work involved to make these dreams reality.

It is curious to me as this aspect of people working really really hard, and no one (meaning teachers) giving the student praise for the work is dumbfounding to Kitty. No one praises the student for doing the work—or not doing the work— Its the end result— right? When the character is on stage, in costume, performing…one doesnt think about the hours, the budget, the planning. One thinks of the reality of the moment, the aspect of time suspended—-the believablity of the story and character. That is true with what we do. It is not the hours of study, residencies and practice that we go to the doctor for, but his excellence, his knowledge base, his expertise, his assurance. When we get a carrot from a farmer, we do not think about the hours of planning, preparing, plowing, sowing and cleaning that goes into his job. We focus on the perfection, the tastiness of the carrot assuming (if we even think about it) that all of that effort and time went into the preparing and growing of this vegetable. I think this whole shock of the value of time and effort is a good part of Kitty’s second education, the one beyond the books, tests and projects. The reality part of her education which it seems she is getting a good dose of. Hard work is only recognized by those working hard…and not those who just see the end of the process. It is the journey that is the hard part…not the final goal. That is the shining part that the world remembers while we focus on the path, the work, the time—and the continual education and skill building along that route.

Speaking of skill building, I am feeling pretty smart as I did some technical problem-solving this morning and have the things that were driving me nuts yesterday solved and moving forward. As one faux techie to another, I do not know what I would do without the web and the amazing resources there to help us solve these maddening issues with bits and bytes, electricity and usb ports. If you just peck away you can really find your answer or ten out the in the wild cyberworld.

The day is racing away. I have grabbed some wonderful details from the Liber Floridus (per my last entry) just to share with you the wonder of this book.


Advent Day Twenty

Advent Day Twenty, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and inkKitty and Rob come home from New York City today. I had a nice chat with Kitty about her relief in gettting the semester done and the fever done. She has had a flubug. We are looking forward to her time here.

Alex, Elly and I had a little time yesterday evening with Alex playing music from his computer featuring an artist Boniver…and dancing in a very cute and funny way. We are nosing the applications along…with hopefully some closure in the next week. Wouldnt that be amazing?

Tucker is here trying to make a little money for the next semester. He is stacking wood, raking etc. with such happiness bringing lots of chit chat and a big appetite (so going to the store is going to be central to the holidays). Mandy just poked her head in…to say hi. She will be here tomorrow—so there will have to be a big, inexpensive lunch (like pancakes?).

I bought a bunch of synthetic, cheap round brushes this Sunday at AC Moore. I was beginning to do some fill work with ink (not the wonderful Pentel Pocket Brush Pen) and found that the watercolor, sable brushes I have were way too wiggly, too long, too fluid…and what I wanted was something a bit stiffer, bit shorter and in a few sizes to do the big stuff and try to do the pointy stuff too. So, I bought these brushes and discovered (at least with these “Majestic” Royal and Langnickel)  there is a range of play/ stiffness in acrylic brushes. And you know, I think I can work it out from here. I tried two of them out this morning to pretty good success with my most favorite, rich carbon inks, Dr Marten’s Black Star matte ink. However, this is not the most fluid…so I may try using Noodlers this evening just to see what the difference might be. Either way, ink on Moleskine watercolor paper is divine. Love how the ink just works with this lovely rich paper.

Another nice thing to muse over is this remarkable book I discovered, The Liber Floridus. What is the Liber Floridus? The site says: “The Liber Floridus (”Book of Flowers”) is an encyclopedia compiled in the early twelfth century by Lambert, canon of the Church of Our Lady in St Omer. The Ghent University Library possesses the autograph of this work, i.e. the actual copy scribed by the author himself. Illustrated autographs of twelfth-century encyclopedias are so rare that this manuscript is now protected by the Flemish Community’s Decree on the acquisition and protection of rare or exceptional movable patrimony.”

A medieval encylopedia! There are some great architecture pix that I plan on learning from, in addition to some insane lettering (above). I am taken with a few styling things…the way the line is handled…So  you probably will hear more about this Belgian book, The Liber Floridus.

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!


Advent Day Fifteen, 2011

Advent Day fifteen, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and ink.Holiday party. Done! It was a lovely event with Robbie telling lots of funny tales and kind people. It was a crazy dark drive with rain combined with an NPR story on the costs of college… enough to make me drive off the side of the road. Tonight is a concert at the school. Tomorrow is a community concert.

More projects keep coming. Just when I thought I had caught up, it continues. On and on…

I am often struck with how things happen. Either it is fate, or divinely orchestrated—but sometimes the alignment of events are just so neatly planned even before they happen that I often scratch my head and take a minute to think and wonder.

One door closes and another one opens. The great step onto another plane—is at once confounding, scary and wonderful. I am inspired by Steve Job’s last words of “Oh, wow!” or a friend who left us after battling AIDS, who sat up in his bed with his face radiant and brilliant welcoming the next chapter. The second birth.

It is this time of hope to welcome God as man…the advent of this time when God was born as a tiny baby that these passings of men seem more poignant, more poetic, more hopeful of the promise this tiny baby represents. Forget the manmade frivolity and focus on this amazing symbol of hope, of energy, of life, and of the renewal of all of these things. This is the gift we are presented with every day to own and embrace.

Advent Day Fourteen, 2011

Elly and Tucker, 2011, Rob Cassetti, iPhoneBusy day. Trash, yearbook and post office on top of the day to day. Need to leave a scootch early as I have to be the missus at a holiday party in Corning. Yes, I will brush my hair…and try to be nice. That’s the hard part…nice is never easy. However, there are some lovely people I am looking forward to seeing..and another thing I always need to remind myself, is that parties never last too long…and then they will be D O N E. Done. Tomorrow and Friday are both music events in the evening. Boy Jacob comes on Friday. Monday I need to take him early to Elmira so he can get a flight to visit his dad in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. Then he will be back just before the new year. Kitty will be here early next week. Rob has a trip to NYC on Sun-Tuesday. So, we are all moving and grooving.

It was great last night as Elly brought her brand new red tailed hawk, Tucker, over for us to see him. He is lovely…and quite tender with Elly—He is very fierce looking with his amazing eyes and sleek head. But he is calm with his girl—and only began to fidget after being kept still on her glove for around 15 minutes. I’d get impatient too. They have a very interesting, growing relationship—and what with Elly’s tranquil attentive ways, they will make a remarkable team. He puffed right Advent Calendar Day Fourteen., Q. Cassetti, 2011up and got all threatening with his wings outspread and his posture perfect when Mr. White strolled by to see what all the to do was about. As soon as the one eyed one quietly left, he settled back down on Elly’s tasseled glove in no time.

Alex and Elly took him out to the back forty to let him loose to see if he could find some mice, squirrels etc. to have him come right back to Elly’s hand. That went well.  Elly did admit that he had a pocket filled with chicken gizzards as a treat. How many HS girls carry raw chicken parts in her cute little jacket?  Some girls have kittens. Some girls have dogs. This girl has a hawk…and we are so proud of her and look forward to this relationship growing and all of us learning with her.

Advent Day Thirteen, 2011

Advent Day Thirteen, 2011, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and inkWriting lists as fast as I can. There is the “go to the postoffice” list. There is the “get at the grocery store” list. There is the “help Alex” list. There is the “plan for the 25th” list. There is the “people/ places/ timing” list. There is the “work” list. And as always, there is the “PAY” list. I used to keep these on little crummy pieces of paper, but now I keep a running tab of lists in a little bound book…so I can keep them current and not as little nasty things that are easily lost. I love my lists. They are my working memory on paper…and though there is slippage, it isn’t as bad as if I had to remember it all. Thank goodness. And, thank goodness for a big fat fuscia sharpie which strikes the done things off the list.

Alex and I are teaming up to get his applications done. Chipping away everyday for a little bit, and we are getting this finalized. I didn’t realize I needed to intervene, but I do. He is significantly happier and has been treading water, waiting for someone to throw him a life preserver. I think this is his way of coping…and we just haven’t seen it. Bad me. But, now that I am more sensitive to him, maybe he can feel we are in his corner for him. As a parent, this whole college process and the computer forms can be highly frustrating as they are not well thought out, intuitive or even clear. They are a close second to the tax form (at least for Alex). We will get this done, done, done before the 25th. Peace on earth, or at least on Camp Street, 2011.

It was great to go to Shur Save and have a chat with my deerhunting friend. I have a friend there that I gab with about deerhunting (bow and gun), fishing and his family. We have talked about his cancer. We have talked about his troublesome children. This friend, after a heart operation and being told he couldn’t hunt, would’t let that keep him down. He padded around his house in pyjamas and bathrobe….and saw out the kitchen window a lovely deer that represented sport and food. He just so happened to have a loaded gun right there. So, he opened up the back door and got his deer never leaving the kitchen. Picked up some milk and a hunk of something to go into the slow cooker for dinner tonight as I have the whole team here with no after school/ or work plans. Tomorrow is the Mrs. Cassetti holiday dinner (I have to be the missus and behave). Thursday is the HS chorus concert. Friday is the Community Chorus concert. Sunday is the Musicians Christmas Party (an amazing line up at Felicias)….so we are scheduled out.

Today begins a brand new sketchbook. I have gone from the normal big Moleskine to the big watercolor Moleskine to now the super jumbo deluxe watercolor Moleskine. Watercolor paper and ink really rock…just a bit toothy for fineness…but worth it for the blackness for me now. I know I will vascillate on the paper as I go…but today its big big black ink….that wins. I have birds and angels on my brain…inspired by the clutch of crows at the bottom of our lot this morning actively shelling kernels of pinecones and chowing down on those savory bits. These crows were not frightened nor deterred from their tasty treats. Patient and focused. Made me think about how these birds are associated with Bran in Norse Mythology and with St. Benedict in Catholic Mythology…whispering in his ear. Early cell phones, right?

Gotta go. Land line is ringing.

Advent Day Twelve, 2011

Advent Day Twelve, Q. Cassetti 2011, pen and inkJust back from taking Jacob back to the amazing, truly amazing CCFL (Community College of the Finger Lakes). Finger Lakes is in Canandaigua—and is in construction —with new, great big buildings—a new performance space and a series of apartment buildings for the students. From talking with Jacob, they seem to be missing a bit with the social piece for the students. The classes and the level of instruction Jacob is getting sounds amazing. He is studying music, private jazz guitar classes, a writing/music class, a comedy analysis class, and bio and chemistry.  He is looking forward to moving to Genesseo. I am glad to have put my eyes on CCFL as its an impressive facility. I wonder if they have illustration? Any reason to drive on scenic route 20, to take in the fields, the farms, the livestock and the stacked piles of cabbages is worth considering. I just adore Rt. 20.  A treat.

We had Jacob for the weekend with a big friend night Friday (musicians) and big friend night Saturday (3 Alex(c)s, 1 Jacob and 1 Joseph) with food for many, breakfast for a crowd and endless dishes. We hung out with the youngers, did some cooking and prepping. Alex had the ACT on Saturday…brutal might be the right word to capture how it was. Food and sleep helped that a bit.

Jacob joins us this Friday as part of the here, not here and back here winter break. Kitty will be here Monday/Tuesday next week. Her play is done, and I am sure she is busy wrapping up the semester, her projects and work. It really moves too quickly this time of year.

Both boys are out this evening with practices and meetings so I can catch up with work, with wrapping, with addressing. Tons to do and the time closes in.

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