Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Strange Preoccupation

Though I don't understand the lure of collecting, I succumb to whatever it is wholeheartedly. Why is it that we become enamored with a useless, hard to find sub sub category of any one material thing? And why choose elephant figurines (Jem) rather than tootsie roll wrappers (Brian)? Dunno, but I sure love my useless sub sub category - antique classic mini books. I don't read them, I have large ugly duplicates for that. I just look at them. I don't know why they thrill me so. Nothing can explain my excitement when I found out, during last fall's visit to Melanie and Brian, that there was a display at the Boston Public Library featuring my chosen obsession. Was I considerate about other people's sightseeing priorities? Was I able to conduct normal conversation until I'd seen that exhibit? Was I late, as I am for everything else, for the library opening that morning? Nope. I was quaking and exclaiming (at an un-library like volume) as I viewed such gems as a tiny picture book illustrated by Picasso, the smallest Bible in the world, a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy employing the first use of the tiniest typeface in the world 'Fly's Eye', and the smallest book in the world (brought to us by the write on grain of rice guys) which was hardly visible even under a magnifying glass. Everyone else thought it was decently cool, but to me it was a little heaven. The feeling of being in a room surrounded by exquisite specimens of the sub sub category that makes you giddy... I was inspired to work on my collection and we visited Bromer Booksellers, the owners of most of the collection. Their tiny books started in the hundreds. I drooled and then left. Back to my meagre but treasured collection at home.
This last weekend roles were reversed and I had the pleasure of seeing Melanie go ga-ga over her mania - stamps. The Smithsonian's Postal Museum is the home of the best stamp collections in existence. We armed ourselves with magnifying glasses and Mel gave me a crash course in philately. She pointed out subtleties in watermarks, perforations, and plate numbers. The crowning glory of the collection, the thing she really came from Boston to see (and I thought it was me) was The Jenny. The most famous stamp in history. One sheet of one hundred stamps was sold before the upside down plane was noticed and they're worth just tons of money now.

We spent so much time in the exhibit talking about the colors Carmine and Lake (which is not blue as you would think) and Type I and Type II specimens that one guy stopped us and asked if we were in any way associated with or worked for the U.S. Postal Service. We took that as a compliment.

P.S. A shout out to my sister Val who is also drawn to antique classic mini books (runs in the genes?) What do the rest of you collect?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Today, A Week Ago

Melanie is missed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What a Font Says

Handwriting analysts could be out of jobs. Font analysts are taking over. Here they scrutinize the presidential candidates through their type choice. Fascinating. Ever admired the charming (yet forthright) slab serif 'Archer' lettering created especially for Martha Stewart's mag? Now available for your personal typeface repertoire here. If you're into this sort of thing (though it's still a good watch if you aren't) there's the excellent documentary 'Helvetica'. Who would've thunk there was so much social, political, artistic and philosophical background to that prevalent font? Highly recommended.
And if you DIY, Everett pointed out this wonderful site for the amateur typographer in all of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Christmas in February

I have, like, 30 cousins. Yet somehow Jonathan gets my name for Christmas about 28 out of 30 times (is there some rigging going on here?) This I am thrilled about because he knows how to buy a girl gifts (is this how he snagged a hot wife who looks like Jane Seymour?) Jon bought me my first perfume, Night Musk, at age 10. And Jon bought me my first serious jewelry, an 18 kt gold cross necklace, at age 11. And in the last 5 years Jon was the first to recognize how completely anything from Anthropologie will make me both short of breath and teary - in a good way. At first he supplied me with gift cards then we all got with it and discovered The Anthropologie Wish List. Which is the greatest thing ever invented and to it I owe a multitude of fantastic wedding gifts. Again Jon had my name for Christmas this year and yesterday (Anthropologie was a little backed up) I came home to find the one thing I have lamented that my kitchen still lacked - an apron. It's red, it's ruffly, it's a little dress specially for the kitchen and it absolutely made my day. Thank you dear cuz!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Week in Winter Vegetables

My mother didn't teach me how to cook. Not because she couldn't, but because I wouldn't. When, at 10, I forgot the milk in Kraft Mac'n Cheese I declared myself hopeless and gave up. Until Tennessee where everything was fried and I knew I had two choices: eat KFC every night or learn to cook. Axon came to the rescue at just the right time with the Roasted Vegetable Cookbook. I didn't starve, I just became almost vegetarian. My interest in the kitchen (and vegetarianism) waned a little when I reunited with Oregon and its McMenamins Neon Burgers, Cafe Yumm's Curry Turkey Sandwich, and the Glenwood's Alder St. Sandwich. I ate out most every night for a few years, and appreciated friends and boyfriends who could cook and cook for me. Then hit Maryland. Where a sandwich lunch puts you out $15. Dinner starts at $30. So once again I turned to Mac'n Cheese (now Annie's). And found that if you add not only milk but also garlic and fresh rosemary it's a pretty delicious dinner for about a dollar apiece. In fact if you add garlic and rosemary to anything it tastes fantastic. Hmmm, what else could I do?
So I started cooking. The wedding set me up with gorgeous cookware and vivid cookbooks. My mother contributed to my cooking education a subscription to Bon Appetit. My first issue arrived a few weeks ago with a special on winter vegetables.To my surprise some things still grow and grow better in these cold months (now I can't blame the winter for all my plants dying). So we're eating seasonally and still eating fresh veggies. We've tried Sesame Bacon Wrapped Turnips. Easy as can be and deliciously rich. The recipe did originally called for pancetta not bacon which would have cut the richness and added more crispy saltness and probably made it better. Next time.
I must tell you DO NOT make the Fennel and Turnip Crudites with Fennel Salt. Even if you like the licorice family and raw veggies, just do not go there. You will gag. We did. See, I'm not even going to link the recipe because I want to protect you that much.
The hands down favorite was Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Pistachios and Lemon. It's beautiful, it's delicious, the ingredients are cheap, and cook time is about one minute. They said this was the recipe to convert all brussel sprout haters and it certainly was (Z previously being one of them reluctantly saying now 'I would eat that anytime you make it').
Tonight it's Roasted Broccoli with Raisin Vinaigrette. I'm telling you this magazine is rocking our kitchen. Thanks mom!