The Punks are Absolutely Done

No kids at home anymore. No grandkids on the near horizon. But at Halloween I still like to turn pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns. This year I wasn’t so sure I was going to get it done since I had surgery on Oct 15 and I was told by my doctor to, “Take it Easy!! No lifting!!” A couple of days before my date with the doctor, our neighbor, who had grown pumpkins in his garden this year, asked me if I wanted a few. Great, I said. So he and his daughter drove over with pumpkins on his trailer and told me I could have as many as I liked. Not to be greedy, I chose four.

In the back of my mind was the thought that I might not be able to wrangle these guys around this year but when I mentioned my habit of putting the Jack-o-Lanterns across the road, his daughter smiled and nodded. Well of course I had to do it.

I was good, I took it easy. I had Curt put the pumpkins up on the table and once the cutting was done, he put them outside. About a week after Halloween the punks went across the road. Here are the Punks fresh from Halloween.

Fresh Punks

Fresh Punks

Then Curt cleaned up the garden and we had some extra squash so the some of the gang got hats.

Punks w/ squash

Punks w/ squash

Everybody was holding up pretty good. Mainly because we had a couple of weeks of a nasty cold snap. Normal highs: 40. Our highs: 22. It even snowed. But the freezing cold weather kept the Punks upright and smiling.

Frozen Punks

Frozen Punks

This weekend disaster hit. Well it was great for us. Mid 40′s. Heck, we were looking for our shorts and flip-flops. (Seriously I saw someone dressed like that…well, yes it was a college student). However when it gets that warm anything that is frozen will thaw especially pumpkins and this was the sight that greeted me this morning.

Oh noooo!

Oh noooo!

Hats had fallen as well as faces. The punk on the left really did a face plant.

It is raining now which is going to really help these guys along but I’m putting my money on the tall one to hang in there till Christmas.

Do it Yourself: Pastrami

slices of pastrami What does a retired potter, professor, sculptor do with his spare time? I’ve spent much of it getting better at cooking and finding out about foods; their origins, traditions and sources.  I’m particularly interested in making common things from scratch – going back to the origins, if you will.  Bread was pretty easy because there has been an explosion of artisanal bread making that has been well documented on the interweb and in numerous fancy books.  Jim Lahey’s no-knead method was all the rage a few years ago and I still use it to make excellent bread at least once a week.  Over the years I’ve tackled sauerkraut and pickles, “sun”-dried tomatoes and even gathered dill pollen. Cured meats, though, have given me pause.  Partly because the initial investment in the meat is often pretty spendy and I was always worried about ending up with a hunch of expensive garbage, or worse, toxic “food”.  And partly because some of the processes seemed more arcane that I was willing to engage.  My uncle Ben (no relation to the rice guy) used to make a Thuringer-style sausage in his basement – a ton at a time – but he had a walk-in cooler and real butchers tools, band saws and sausage stuffers and such (and regular inspections by the Health Department).  I didn’t want to get that serious. A few years ago I bought a small off-set smoker that could hold, maybe, 20# of meat.  I have used it to smoke pork shoulders, beef briskets, chicken and even tomatoes (yummy).  One day I was in the market chatting with a carnivore friend near a meat bunker full of beef and I was jokingly nudging him toward the whole briskets.  He resisted but said that he had recently tried making corned beef.  He said it was pretty easy and it turned out really well.  A light flashed in my head – PASTRAMI.  Pastrami is just a smoked spiced corned beef.  Good pastrami is so much better than corned beef.  I could do that! Well, a little easier said than done.  The beef was in the cooler right in front of me but what else went into pastrami?  After some research at my local library and several bookstores, I found a book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, with a simple enough sounding recipe and process that sounded do-able.  It’s pretty much the same as corned beef, up to a point.  First, the meat is brined in a mix of salt, sugar, herbs, garlic and spices just like corned beef.  But there is an ingredient in the brine that I wasn’t familiar with and which turned out to be difficult to find.  Pink Salt, also known as Prague Salt, Curing Salt or Insta-Cure.  It is a mix of common salt (sodium chloride) and sodium nitrite.  Apparently it is colored pink to avoid confusing it with common salt in commercial kitchens.  No store in our area either had it or had heard of it.  I finally tracked down a company, My Spice Sage, on the East coast that sold Prague Powder #1 in small enough amounts to make the investment make sense (all other vendors I located sold it in a minimum of 1# containers – probably enough to make a ton of pastrami).  And better yet, shipping was free!

brine ingredients

Salt, sugar and spices for the brine (clockwise from the left: white sugar, brown sugar, pickling spices, Prague powder #1, garlic, honey and kosher salt in the center)

Materials finally in hand, I was ready to go.  I had to cut my brisket in half in order to easily fit it into the fridge in the brine tub.  I didn’t take pictures of the meat in the brine but I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like – meat floating in water.  After a three day soak, the brisket looked pinker and the fat seemed firmer – pretty much like any corned beef brisket you might buy from the grocery, which it pretty much was.

brined and coated brisket

Brined brisket (left) and brined brisket with peppercorn and coriander coating (right)

beef brisket

Coated brisket ready to smoke

Next, the magic.  After I dried off the meat, it was rested in the fridge on a rack for an hour to allow a pedicle to develop. A pedicle is a sticky layer on the outside of the meat that is supposed to make the smoke adhere to (penetrate) the meat better.  After that it was coated with a mix of cracked black pepper and coriander seed and then on to the smoker.  I used a mix of about 2/3 apple wood with 1/3 hickory wood and smoked around 7 hours or to an internal temperature of 150˚ F – cooked, smoked but still not tender.  I cooled the meat and cut it into approximately one pound pieces (enough for us to make a meal of with a little leftovers) and froze the pieces in vacuum bags.

pastrami

Pastrami after 7 hours in the smoker

To prepare the pastrami for eating, I braised a thawed piece on a rack over a 1/2″ of water in a covered dutch oven for 2 hours at 275˚ F, until fork-tender.

pastrami

Pastrami

PastramiSlices

Pastrami slices

It was delicious.  A bit of work but something I will definitely do again.

Pastrami (adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn)

The Brine 1 gallon water 1-1/2 C. kosher salt 1 C. white sugar 1-1/2 oz. Prague Powder #1 (aka Pink Salt) 1 Tbs. pickling spice 1/2 C. packed dark brown sugar 1/4 C. honey 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or coarsely minced 1 5-pound beef brisket (heavy surface fat removed) 1 Tbs. coriander seed 1 Tbs. black pepper corns Combine the brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the brisket.  Bring to a simmer to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Remove from heat, let cool to room temp and refrigerate to chill. Put the beef into the brine and place a plate on top to keep the meat submerged.  Refrigerate for 3 days. Remove the meat from the brine, rinse it and pat dry.  Discard the brine. Place on a rack on a shallow baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered for 1 hour to allow the meat surface to dry some more and become slightly sticky. Combine the coriander and pepper in a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse until coarsely ground.  Coat the meat evenly on all surfaces with the coriander/pepper mixture. Hot-smoke the brisket until the thickest part reaches a temp of 150˚ F.  Smoke heavily and for as long as is reasonably possible. At this point, the pastrami is cooked but probably not very tender.  To serve, put 1/2″ water in the bottom of a dutch oven or roaster.  Put the meat on a rack in the bottom of the pan (it’s OK if the bottom of the meat touches the water).  Bring the water to a simmer, on the stove top then cover and bake in a preheated 275˚ F oven for 2 – 3 hours, until tender. NOTE: my brisket, shown above, was nearly 10# at the start.  I doubled the brine and I had to cut it in half to fit it into the brine container.  Total yield, after trimming some fat and moisture loss in smoking, left me with a little under 8 pounds total. slices of pastrami

Another Turn of the Page: The Only Leaves Left are the Ones in My Book

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”     — Ray Bradbury

 

shelf

It’s Fall. The cold, grey part, November. Last Friday it was so windy the last few leaves clinging on to their branches for dear life finally lost their grip. So it is time to move toward that phase of the year that includes beef stew, fresh-baked bread, apple pie, hot cups of cocoa, warm blankets, fat socks and a pile of good books. My winter pile of books is just starting to get built and my coffee house book group is certainly helping me find some good additions. When you look at the covers from our last meeting you may notice a lot of women, their faces and names on the covers. Six out of the nine. We never have a theme or a topic, it just happens that way sometimes. So for your enjoyment, I give you the October round table.

oct1. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013) 307 pages. This was our first book and this was also the author presented. Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. The latest is Windigo Island. This book however, is a stand alone. Frank Drumm, forty years later, tells about the summer  of 1961 that changed his life.

2. Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease by Jennifer Esposito (2014) 288 pages. Jennifer’s struggle to finally receive an accurate diagnosis, after decades of mysterious illnesses and misdiagnoses, is one that anyone who has a chronic disease will share.

3. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren (2014) 365 pages. Yes , there are some honest, hard-working politicians out there who are fighting for the middle class. Elizabeth Warren is one of them. After reading this, you’ll admire her strength and fortitude even more.

4. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline ( 2013) 294 pages. Even though I have discovered mixed reviews of this book, everyone in our round table who had read it, really enjoyed the book. Told from from the perspective of two women, a 91-year-old who experienced the Orphan Trains of the late 19th and early 20th century, and a modern day foster child in a bad situation. As they become friends they realize their lives are very similar.

5. The Sixth Man by David Baldacci (2011) 417 pages. King and Maxwell series #5. Another worthy thriller in this series, focusing on national security, murder and some high levels of government. Now if only these two could get their personal lives sorted out….

6. Paula by Isabel Allende (1994) 432 pages. Allende alternates between the true story of her comatose daughter Paula, and flashbacks of her own very eventful life. The author wrote this personal history as a way of telling Paula her story and staying sane during the health ordeal.

7. The Romanov Sisters: the Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport (2014) 512 pages. Everyone knows the story of the tragic end these sisters met but what else do you know of their lives? They were the Princess Dianas of their day, the most talked about and photographed young royals of the early 20th century. The author draws on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, to draw us a picture of four intelligent, sensitive young women.

8. Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (2014) 432 pages. In 1937, young Lisette and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal, who was a pigment salesman and frame maker in Paris. Lisette soon learns Pascal’s past included such friends as Cezanne and Pissarro.

9. A Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (2004) 400 pages. This is the first in the Walt Longmire mystery series which is the basis for the television show Longmire on A&E. Some friends got me hooked on this show of a contemporary Wyoming sheriff and when I found out it was based on books I just jumped in. Currently I am on #5. Great characters, check it out.

 

And the Scores are In!

And to Jeanne, competing in the Total Laproscopic Hysterectomy with a Bilateral Salpingo-oophoectomy:

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Thank you, thank you all. This is a great achievement but I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of family, friends, doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, patient navigators and chocolate.

But I hear you saying, “Ones? She’s excited about ones?”

Damn right, I am!

After my “Coming Out Party”, I met with my local pathologist. Well, parts of me did. I can’t help it, when I think of pathology,  Monster Mash starts playing in my brain, ” I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…” I wonder if they ever play that on the hospital lab muzac during Halloween?

Anyway, I digress…..things were sliced, diced, microscopes were employed and I got this print out at my follow-up meeting with the doc.

resultsIf you’ve had cancer, known someone with cancer, or have watched ER or Grey’s Anatomy or Doogie Howser: MD, you know that in the C world, the lower the number the better. A Stage 1 is what you want and mine even got an A. Stage 1 is the early stage, the opening act, the first bad note, an amateur!  Get the hook!!

HookSo what now? More rest, more healing. Can’t drive till next week!!! And don’t make me cry, but major housework is still on the off-limits list. Doing jigsaw puzzles, knitting, reading and online games are the current activities I am competing in these days and I am striving for all 10′s in those.

Cruciferous Vegetables Revisited

A couple of posts ago I saluted comfort foods and cruciferous veggies was one of my favorites. Those of you who say, Ewww!, when broccoli or cauliflower are mentioned, should just stop now. It’s only going to get worse, because I am adding a new cruciferous vegetable to my list.

Curt hit the final Farmer’s Market of the season on Saturday and came home with this little beauty.

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

Isn’t it just beautiful? It is a Romanesco Cauliflower and it is even more amazing closeup. All the little “trees” that make it up are composed of many tinier little “trees” or “flowerets.” If you wanted you could literally pull each little piece off like a vegetable Lego project. And I mean even the itty bitty bumps. Curt explained to me its structure was a natural fractal, so math majors should just eat this up. (Yes, I had to look it up too.)

like tiny green legos

like tiny green legos

Okay, now that I’ve gotten past my oo-ing and aww-ing, let’s cook it up. Curt just steamed it whole. Unlike a regular cauliflower once you start breaking this one apart a lot of the tiny bits fall off, so whole made sense and worked just fine.

brocoMy photo doesn’t do it justice but frankly it did not change too much in color and it kept its shape quite well. There is a core in the center so we just cut off flowerets with a knife. Pair it with garlic aioli sauce and add red potatoes and homemade pastrami and you have a wonderful Autumn meal. The flavor is a very mild cauliflower, nothing too different or extraordinary. But visually, it is so cool. Try serving to your kids, tell them it used to live under the sea with Spongebob.

On the plate w/ aioli

On the plate w/ aioli

Naan for You

naanheader

Last night the Foodies gathered at Barbara and Micheal’s for one of the wonderful dinners we share every two – three months or so. Some groups like ours meet once a month but we are busy people with travel and family and god knows what sometimes, so every couple of months is a real achievement and a treat. Barbara and Michael once again outdid themselves. Most of the credit goes to Barbara since Michael had been out of town for the week leading up to dinner but his tandoori mushroom appetizer was a hit.

But this brief writing is only going to be about the naan. Dinner was sort of an Indian theme, with lamb, and some marvelous vegetable dishes but with our soup course we were served naan. Naan is a leavened oven-baked flatbread and when we saw it for the first time on the table we asked our hostess where she purchased it? Is there a great Indian grocery or restaurant in Green Bay that we don’t know about? Ha!

Barbara calmly told us she had made it herself and she doesn’t even have a tandoor oven.

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

She got the recipe from Epicurious. It was originally from an Oct 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. The fresh naan she served us was beautiful but we were too busy eating to take pictures. Fortunately she sent home some leftovers and even the next day you can see that this naan looks really good. Barbara made a few changes which I have added in red print to the recipe. Try it, we sure will.

Barbara's next day Naan

Barbara’s next day Naan

 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4-ounces envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface and hands
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (she omitted onion)
  • 1 cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (all she had was Greek and it turned out fine)
  • 2 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil plus more (no time to make ghee so she went with straight butter)

Preparation

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 100°F. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Whisk 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Add yeast mixture, onion, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons ghee. Mix dough until blended but still shaggy.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until a smooth dough forms, adding flour as needed (dough will be sticky), about 5 minutes. Lightly grease another large bowl with ghee, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and divide into 10 pieces. Using floured hands, roll each piece into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 10 minutes.

Heat a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with ghee. Working with 1 piece at a time, stretch dough with your hands or roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8″ thickness. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

DO AHEAD: Naan dough can be made 4 hours before shaping. Cover and chill.

My “Coming Out” Party

There were gifts, bag

party hats, hat

games, puzzeles

door prizes and parting gifts.mug

Well wishers in abundance. Everything a girl might want but geez, why am I so sore on the morning after? I know I did a lot of drinking, that’s about all I did…and there were drugs involved so there’s a clue.

But mostly it is because I have four new entrances in my tummy from having a date with a robot. And I am missing some major lady parts, (that I really have no use for anymore), and the cancer that decided to move in with them. Yes, you heard that right, cancer, the big C, or in this case maybe a little c. As cancers go, this one is a mopey, slow-growing under-achiever. As my doc said (to lighten the mood, no doubt), “If they put a gun to your head and said, pick a cancer, go with endometrial.”

However, cancer is still cancer. Slow-growing or not, it still grows and is greedy, and if you let it, will remodel your whole house to its liking. So it was eviction time and fortunately we got to it before it started picking out curtains. From the first red flag on Sept 15, it was a quick journey to the day of the party on Oct 15. The main man, the gynecological oncologist said I was slender, thus a good candidate for a laparoscopic procedure, that would be a three-way with me, the doc and Mr. Robot. All I heard was “slender” and I was in. Whatever, do it, fine. Slender? Really? Me? Oh you jest.

After that, things are a bit of a blur. The worst part was the two weeks up to the surgery. Your head does nasty things to you while you wait. Even with all of the assurances of a successful outcome, you still worry about possible party crashers.

But I am home now. All went well. The little c had only just moved in and hadn’t even started unpacking his bags yet. Yes, I’m sore, I’m moving slow and will move slow for a bit and who doesn’t want to be told NOT to do housework, not to lift, push or pull stuff for a while? Also if my homecoming dinner is any indication, my Sweetie, being a great cook, will undoubtedly spoil me.

Bean & beef Tostadas

Bean & beef Tostadas

Final note: Cancer is not a joke and I only make light because that’s my coping tool. Mine was caught early. If you see a sign of any kind…a lump, blood, whatever…don’t think it is nothing. Sure it might be but if it isn’t, seeing a doctor in the early stages will make a big difference. It did for me.

Another Turn of the Page: Lost September

“Elend: I kind of lost track of time…
Breeze: For two hours?
Elend: There were books involved.”
Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension

bookshelf

I apologize for my tardiness. Yesterday we had our October book meeting and I haven’t yet posted September. I have to admit I have been a bit distracted. Health issues. Surprises. Upcoming surgery. Not something I wish to go into detail about right now, especially not in a post about books. I only mention it so you’ll give me grace for my lack of posts. More food, more art, more books will soon be coming your way.

September books were once again very diverse, from a man and a fish, to a street smart cat. Our author of the month was M.C. Beaton. Marion Chesney is in her 70′s and since 1979 has been writing detective novels. The “Agatha Raisin” series and the “Death of a …” series are the most popular.

Our round table discussion opened up with Pete. He’s our guy who finds an author and just reads everything they wrote. Baldacci is his current crush.

sept1. First Family by David Baldacci (2009) 449 pages. #4 in the King and Maxwell series. Another thriller involving two former FBI agents turned private investigators. All Pete could say was “Gee Wilikers! It was good!!” He actually said that.

2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952) 132 pages. This was our classic of the morning. A very small book that could have provided an hour of discussion. Written at a time when Hemingway’s career had begun to lag it ultimately led to the author’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1954.

3. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt (2009) 270 pages. The sequel to the very popular Freakonomics. Smart thinking and great storytelling, a surprisingly entertaining book.

4. Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (2008) 304 pages. A novel about five women who, over the course of four decades, met every Wednesday at the park near their homes. They form a writer’s group and a bond through their love of literature.

5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014) 373 pages. Set in early 19th C. Charleston, this story is the 35 year journey of a plantation owner’s daughter and the slave that is given to her to be her handmaid.

6. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (2012) 426 pages.This novel follows a family and their connection to the land in the Pacific Northwest. A debut novel with some significant recognition.

7. A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets by James Bowen (2012) 279 pages. If you liked Dewey you’ll love this story of an unlikely friendship between a homeless man and the ginger cat who adopts him.

8. If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children by Greg Olsen (2014) 336 pages. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the Jon Benet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. Reviewed by Ellie, our lover of true crime.

9. The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer (1999) 305 pages. Strange but true. Hiding her identity, this woman lived in constant fear of being discovered.

10. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (2014) 436 pages. I think King just gets better and better. Retired cop, Bill Hodges, suddenly is contacted by the murderer from a cold case.

Here’s hoping you’ll find something in this mix to add to your pile of books.

Comfort Food Saturday

Plated.

Plated.

This isn’t going to be a recipe post, this is going to be a salute to comfort food. I knew Curt was going to prepare a duck breast Saturday night but I really never hang around the kitchen so it is mostly a surprise when I come down for dinner. (I’m usually in my studio working on journals or my photographs). And this past Saturday I spent a lot of time in my studio because it was cold (high of 49) and rainy and damp. It was a perfect day for comfort food and to my delight along with the duck were two of my all time favorites, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

I  know cauliflower is not on everyone’s list but I am a big fan of cruciferous vegetables. You can give me broccoli, brussels sprouts or kohlrabi any time. But I think cauliflower is at the top of my list. Mash it, boil it, grill it, curry it, I love it any way it is prepared. For last night’s dinner Curt roasted it in the oven with oil and salt, and then pan roasted with butter. The greens are micro-basil sprouts. I had seconds and thirds.

cauliflowerNext up, sweet potatoes. These were done quite simple but really, sweet potatoes don’t need too much. A little butter and they are heaven on earth. Here are ours. Baked, buttered and perfect. Not very photogenic but very good.

sweet potatoFinally the duck breast. This was started skin side down in a cold dry pan. Once the skin was browned, it was put in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sliced and drizzled with a sauce from duck drippings/honey/red wine vinegar/orange rind cubes. My words cannot express to you how good this was. Swoon.

duckSo there’s my comforting tale. And you know, while we ate dinner, it wasn’t dark or cold or rainy or damp.

Art Gig Done

journalsLast year I took a book making class. No, not betting the ponies as my good friend Pat likes to say, but taking paper and cardboard and waxed linen and turning it into a book. I really enjoyed this class and having worn hats as an art teacher and then later as a librarian, turning a book into an art piece seemed like heaven. In the class we painted paper for our covers but I wanted to make my books my own so I started looking through my photographs. There was a time I was shooting pictures for postcards but that idea dissolved when I realized nobody sent postcards anymore. However I still had a collection of some fine photos so I mined those for possible images for the covers of books. My first book/journal was a tied binding book ( the signatures are tied to the spine with ribbon or special yarn or cord) and the photo on the cover was of a robin’s nest that resided on a pole leaning against our out building. That was a year and a half ago. I also created sewn bindings and have taught myself two new stitches. Since then I’ve created almost 40 books from travel photos and local images, opened a shop on Etsy (HEUERSontheHILL) and have actually sold 8 books. Hey, I do it for the fun, not to get rich…and good thing since I like to eat.

First journal: Robin's Egg Blue

First journal: Robin’s Egg Blue

This past February I was contacted by a local community that hosts artwalks during the summer and September. The organizer explained to me they paired artists with various venues (shops) in the community on four Fridays from 5 – 8pm. We get a chance to sell our work, the shop gets to introduce the residents to maybe a business they wouldn’t normally frequent, and everyone has a fine time walking about, eating, buying art (hopefully), and meeting their neighbors. The organizer found my work on Etsy and invited me to participate. Back in the dark ages Curt and I did our share of art fairs with his ceramics. The, pay a fee to show, pay for meals, pay for somewhere to sleep…not even break even at the end, sit-on-the-blacktop for three days either dying in the heat or battening down the hatches in a freak storm, type of art fair. (We were lucky, just so there wasn’t high wind, we would just empty the water out of bowls and cups when the storm passed and soldier on. The painters weren’t as fortunate). So this deal of sitting inside, dry, with someone else providing the table and no fees, sounded attractive. What the heck! I said I could do June, July and September. I was also secretly flattered that someone had looked at my work and thought it worthy.

In June I was at a tennis Pro Shop, Curt hung around, got me coffee and we went to dinner afterwards.

My table of journals in July at Alpha Delights

My table of journals in July at Alpha Delights

In July, my sister and her husband were in town. My husband, my mother, my sis and her husband were all going to come and visit me. Everyone ended up too tired, so I spent the three hours on my own. I was set up in a restaurant, Alpha Delights, so I had a great dinner and they, the Family, missed it. nyah, nyah!.

September, it rained and was really cool. Curt dropped me, went off to do errands. I was in a salon, The Studio on George. We had very few customers/visitors but the owner was a great gal. I met the massage therapist ( got a 5 minute chair massage), had coffee and cookies and we called it a night at 7:30pm.

Bottom line, I sold two journals in the three nights and gave out about ten business cards.

Would I do it again? Probably not. I met some really nice people, those looking at my work and the owners of the shops, but to do all that transporting and setting up to sell two books. I just don’t have that “hawking my wares” mentality anymore ( truth be told, I don’t know if I ever did).  I’ll stick to word of mouth, and Etsy, and just have fun creating my one of a kind handmade journals….original photograph covers…..make great gifts…..hint! hint! Christmas is coming.