Paper Cutting

Since graduating, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands and this blog is partially a result of that free time. The other way I’ve filled my free time is to undertake the new hobby of making things with a letterpress. To compliment this skill I’ve also decided to try my hand at paper cutting. I’ve seen some really amazing paper cutting work over the years and really appreciate the time and skill necessary to make things like this; unfortunately, I don’t do it justice…at least not yet anyway.

However, one of the many inspirations that I’ve sought to help me endure my many mistakes in this undertaking has been the book Paper Cutting which is aptly subtitled “Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft.” There is some truly awe-inspiring artwork contained within these pages. Some of my favorites include Su Blackwell’s “altered book” paper cutting. It’s stunning what she can accomplish with the pages of a book…but I do have mixed feelings about abusing books in such a manner. I am also blown away by Hina Aoyama’s incredibly delicate lace-like designs that bring together nature and fantastical images. I doubt my skill will ever be anywhere near her’s, but I’ve decided to start collecting old lace to try to mimic the patterns there. How neat would it be to overlay paper cut into lace designs on top of the letterpress cards I’m making? I’m really excited about this, so now I just need to steady my hands and dig deep for patience.

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Codex: The Journal of Typography

So my interest in books should come as no surprise, but having spent a very long time being told without explanation that I must type everything formal in Times New Roman font size 11 or 12 (depending on the teacher/professor), I have added to my list of interests: typography. The jump from reading and staring at certain types all day to learning more about the design of types is not a big one, but sometimes it feels like a completely different world. As I am slowly picking up supplies and learning how to use my homemade letterpress, I am becoming increasingly fascinated by the design of letters and how those designs can function in so many vastly different ways depending on the medium in which they are used.

To help me explore this new (and yet very old) world of typography, I ordered issue one of Codex: The Journal of Typography. There is a blog, a link to the publisher’s original blog ( which is one of the best typography resources available in any medium, and a place to order issues of Codex which is a quarterly journal. I’m beginning to suspect that I am becoming a quarterly-junky of sorts. Waiting on Wilder, Lucky Peach, and now Codex too is going to result in me getting way too many journals all at the same time! I suspect I’ll have to start scheduling my days off around when these are arriving!

What I wanted to point out about Codex though, is that it takes the art of writing to a whole new level. Instead of the traditional black and white print versus color electronic media, this blends the traditional black and white color scheme of print and bolder graphics with colors. Just flipping through this journal gives me a sense of electronic media and print media interacting in a great way. Instead of letting the art of type fall to the wayside as certain texts become the standard fare and the internet makes the creation of text a fun past time instead of a skill that people use to make a living, this joins the two and discusses the future of typography with a respectful nod to its history.

Also, I absolutely love the way they designed the cover for issue one. It’s beautiful and classic, while looking sharp and contemporary all the same. I highly recommend taking a look at the blogs if not ordering a copy for yourself here. I hope you enjoy!

Wilder Quarterly

The best thing about gardening (if you’re doing it right) is that it creates beauty, self sufficiency, and food all at the same time! Wilder Quarterly is an awesome new quarterly about gardening in a contemporary and often urban setting. The themes of fermentation that I’ve seen in the Lucky Peach quarterly, food magazines, and recent literary journals also made it in to the fall issue of Wilder. While Wilder has a bunch of unique things to say and share with the world, it also is keeping up with the latest movements in the food world which makes this quarterly so well balanced with my interests that it is amazing.

I read through the first issue as soon as it came and loved it. Unfortunately it was as close to winter as we get in South Carolina so it was no time to be running outside to start a garden, but I was, none-the-less, quite inspired. What’s even better is that this quarterly donates part of their subscription price to the Fresh Air Fund, helping to provide a free summer camp to children from underprivileged communities. How can you go wrong with that?!

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Chicken and Dumplings

My father gave me a gift subscription to Bon Appetit and I’ve been loving it! The February 2012 issue was all about southern food and it got me thinking about how little I’ve learned about southern cuisine over the past 5 years. I wouldn’t go so far as to say chicken and dumplings is a southern recipe, but dumplings, like biscuits, tend to make me think of southern cooking.

To that end, I decided it would be a good idea to try out the Chicken and Dumplings recipe that appeared in this issue of Bon Appetit. Let me start by saying it is delicious. Let me follow that by saying it is super easy! The dumplings are a ricotta-based gnocchi and are packed full of taste but remain really light. Just dump the ingredients in a bowl, mix and chill. Nutmeg makes it such an interesting flavor. The chicken and gravy portion of the recipe is equally easy. Cook the chicken in the chicken broth, remove, make a roux of butter and flour, whisk it in to the broth, add the chopped vegetables, shred the meat and add it back to the pot. Viola a hearty, flavorful, healthy dinner!

Two of my dear friends from college came over to help me eat the large pot of this, and their were claims that this was the best meal they’d had in a long time. It doesn’t get better than easy to make, extremely delicious, and healthy too!

You can find the recipe on the Bon Appetit site, here. I made this again within the week and so far everyone who’s tried it has asked for the recipe. Now, I’ll just refer them here. I do hope you enjoy this though; it’s perfect for both a cold wintery night and a pleasant summer evening. This recipe is going down as one of my fall backs for many many years to come.

"Blackout" and "All Clear" by Connie Willis

While wondering around the bookstore with my boyfriend, I found myself in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section. This is not normally where I dwell in bookstores, but occasionally I peruse sections other than Cookbooks, Fiction/Literature, and Poetry and I am so glad this was one of those occasions. I was struck by the planes dropping bombs and St. Paul’s spire clouded in smoke pictured on the cover of Blackout. When I read “Oxford 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being send to the past” and “World War II” on the back cover, I was sold. I almost would have left at that, but I was so excited about it that my boyfriend, thank goodness, asked if there were any more books in the series. Low and behold, there was the Hugo and Nebula award-winning All Clear too.

I try to keep my obsession with historical fiction under wraps because, honestly, most of it isn’t that good…but I am consoled by telling myself that having a degree in English literature just gives me a more critical sense of high and low literature. Either way, now that the cats out of the bag, I am prepared to gush about these two books. They are phenomenal. It has been quite a while since I found myself so absorbed with a book that I forget to cook dinner and forego sleep just so I can keep reading. I read just about everything I can get my hands on, but this was quite a treat.

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Downton Abbey

Going without cable has been a new experience for me, but it’s turned out to be quite rewarding. I’ve rediscovered my love of audio books, and found myself picking up more hobbies than ever before. But, that aside, I still want to turn on the tube every now and then and today I am incredibly glad that I did.

PBS Masterpiece “Downton Abbey” was on and it’s incredible! It’s a WWI period piece but it’s high budget and well acted! It’s like all of the greatness of the BBC’s Jane Austen films without the horrid acting. (Don’t get me wrong though, those are still great..even if long!) Within half an episode of Downton Abbey I’d declared that I wanted the boxed set for Valentine’s Day; forget the chocolates and flowers this year!

Check it out! It’s on PBS every Sunday evening at 8 pm. You won’t be sorry!

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Even now, weeks since I’ve finished reading Tom Rachman’s novel, The Imperfectionists, I’m not sure what to make of it. I picked it up off of a table that was buy two, get the third free (I’m a sucker for those sales!) because it was the only one on there, aside from the two I had planned to buy anyway, that I did not already own. The cover was enticing, with unusual lettering and a tied newspaper at the bottom; however, when I flipped it over to look at the description on the back I found nothing but several additional glowing reviews. A little irritated at the arrogance of designing a book cover such as this, I reluctantly bought it with the other two and let it sit on my shelf for a few weeks.

I picked it up out of desperation, really, since I had created a wish list of books for my birthday and Christmas, and felt that all of the titles on that list were off-limits until after those had past. As usual, people like to get me one book, or maybe two if I’m lucky, but try to stick to presents not on my list because everyone thinks “everyone gets [me] books.” That is fine with me because if I had it my way, I would own a houseful of books and wear goofy old t-shirts instead of the professional clothing that I’m required to wear for work. Alas, my friends and family pretty much keep me looking nice with sweaters and scarves and I appreciate it beyond words, but it still means I spend around 6 weeks each year not buying the books that I most want and then kicking myself for not purchasing them regardless of the list when I only get one or two from the list. To get to the point, I was about three weeks in to the dreadful six to eight week no-book-buying part of the year and I had finished all of my new books…except for The Imperfectionists.

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I am tempted to make this my shortest review yet by simply saying this: Yats is the best restaurant ever. Period. That being said, I don’t think I can resist this opportunity to gush over the incredibly good food and reminisce on the many, many meals I have enjoyed there.

Yats is my favorite restaurant, hands down. Yats specializes in Cajun-Creole food, and has been my go-to place for a quick bite to eat in Indianapolis for almost a decade now. For people located in and around Indianapolis, Yats is probably a staple in your diet, but for me it is food that I crave weekly and only get to eat once or twice a year. When I visit Indy, I try to go as many times as possible, often buying the stuff by the quart to freeze and bring home with me! Fortunately for my waistline and wallet, the food is even healthy and super affordable! For those of you with picky eaters in the family, they also offer rice with cheese and/or beans for children…I’m sure adults could get it too if they really won’t branch out.

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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Having focused on modern and contemporary American literature, I was amazed to find that I had somehow overlooked Colum McCann’s writing until only recently. I’d heard of Zoli, and have been meaning to read it for many years now, but it has somehow never made it home with me. It’s supposed to be one of the best historical fiction books about Gypsies in World War II Europe, and after reading Let the Great World Spin I cannot wait to get my hands on McCann’s other books.

With an entirely new time period, cast of characters, and tone, Let the Great World Spin ultimately tells the tale of an unnamed thrill seeker who, on a quest for bigger and greater challenges, finds himself walking, running, dancing, and laying on a tightrope suspended over 100 stories in the air between the twin towers. The novel strives to reveal the slowly spreading reactions of the audience as it spreads from street corner to street corner, then to the news reports on tv,  into the court house, and then into the minds and narratives of the bustling city of NYC. The slowness of people to recognize what was happening above their heads reminded me of just how ingrained it is for us to view the world in view limited to people and shaped by our expectations/definitions of normal. The thrill seeker, by placing himself in an unexpected space, is arguably challenging the confines of the human view and also challenging the assumption that what he is doing is actually a performance. If it is out of the scope of view of his audience, I find myself re-thinking his motives and, yet again, who this adrenaline junkie is and why he has worked so hard for this single stunt.

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Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Colin Meloy is a name you are probably not familiar with, but for any Decemberists fans out there, Meloy is the lead singer. I first hear of this book on the Design*Sponge blog, and decided it was a must have based on Grace’s brief review. I found it difficult to set down the book once I began reading and ended up reading it through the night on my birthday. It was a delight to be pulled in to such an interesting place and story with such ease; I curled up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate and began reading at 10:30 and looked up after a while only to find that my hot chocolate was cold and it was 3:00 in the morning. I had no idea that many hours had passed, but if the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ I was definitely having fun!

Wildwood is a coming of age story that reminded me of the best aspects of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series, Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and Madeleine L’Engle’s the Wrinkle in Time quintet, and still manages to be a lovely and unique story. In addition to this fantastic combination of some of the books I remember most fondly from my childhood, Wildwood charmed me with the beautiful illustrations scattered on pages throughout the book. I don’t often seek out illustrated stories, but the craftsmanship that went in to these illustrations really impressed me from the beginning. The inside cover has a detailed map of the story’s world, but Meloy’s storytelling is good enough that it isn’t necessary to see the map to be familiar with the area. The style of the illustrations and map is demonstrated nicely on the sleeve of the book, but as interesting and nicely done as it is, I find the smaller illustrations embedded within the story much more appealing.

As for the story itself, the main character, Prue, must venture in to the Impassable Wilderness (aka the I.W.) in order to rescue her younger brother who has been abducted by birds. Similar to Narnia, the Impassable Wilderness is inhabited by speaking animals that have organized themselves in to governments/fractions, but there is conflict brewing and Prue finds herself in the middle of it. The Impassable Wilderness is a place that is enchanted in such a way that humans are not supposed to be able to wander in, but Prue’s journey teaches her about family, responsibility, and something new about herself along the way.

I think this novel is something than could be appreciated by young readers and adults alike, especially is you’re looking for an engaging, imaginative, and indisputably well-written story. For people interested in artistic illustrations and a flashback to the books of a bygone era, this is a book to add to the shelves. I have no doubt that this will be a book to share with friends and families for many years to come. I hope you enjoy it!