Sunday, May 26, 2013

Week 21: Eat More Fish

   Poet and writer William Stafford said the way to never get writer's block is to just lower your standards. For me, that idea has opened a whole world of creative playfulness, which in turn has led to some serious topics. However, this week's book-of-the-week is a lighthearted nod to all those adages you've heard your whole life...things your mother and dad rarely let a day go by without lovingly reminding you... The book for Week 21 is Eat More Fish.
A chinese circus on the cover
   The pages are little waxy paper sandwich boxes from a take-out restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan. Every morning my brother walks to a neighborhood street vender and gets one of these little boxes filled with his morning fried-egg-crepe-thing (which has a name that sounds like DomBean). He has been collecting these boxes for me for about a year, and I just received a box shipped all the way from Taiwan with about a hundred of these things.... along with cute thick-paper coffee sleeves. See? art is all about collecting things... (and I'll be opening my Etsy shop of little coffee-sleeve covered books real soon)
The title page... Eat More Fish
   In Taiwan, the food is really delicious. In the open-air markets every kind of fresh fruit, vegetable, and shaped tofu is artfully stacked on the labyrinth of tables that line the streets. Live chickens are housed in large wooden crates, clucking and crowing for attention.... and fresh seafood of every ilk is iced down and arrayed in buckets and bins for a city block. My sister-in-law, JinJin, is a fabulous cook and makes a mouth-watering whole spicy fish, sautéed in fresh ginger garlic sauce and garnished with lemon slices and chives. Yum.
Taiwanese snails? shell creatures?? Not JinJin's fish!
   But life isn't always about food. Some of us just never get our internal clock synched with the clock on the wall... and bedtime can be fraught with tears and temper and "But I'm NOT SLEEPY!" So Mom says things like "drink chamomile tea" and "a glass of warm milk." EEEW Yuck! In my house, the suggestion was effective... I stopped complaining about not being sleepy. Adages make sense for lots of reasons.
Ever wonder why sheep are always counted and not cats?
   Another adage often heard at my house was "START THE DAY WITH A GOOD BREAKFAST." Scientific studies have proven that a healthy breakfast helps ease one through a hectic day. 
Cereal and oatmeal? Eggs and bacon? Yogurt? Pop-tarts!!
   When breakfast is done, it's time to think about how vegetables are good for you. All the vegetable admonitions... about eating peas, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts... those adages have to be the least favorite... Still, several years ago we sat back aghast as government got into the vegetable business and stated that ketchup and pickle relish constitute vegetables for school lunches. ha! ha! (Is foot-in-mouth a vegetable? No, not really even if it's mostly shoe.)
What are your favorite veggies? What are your least favorite?
    Speaking of fashion... since the days of the cave children, parents have been reminding their little ones to dress appropriately. What IS the deal with fashion? How is it related to body temperature? Why does fashion cause the body to shun warm clothes when it's FREEZING OUTSIDE!!! And what about sensible shoes?
...hat, mittens, scarf, glasses, belt...
   No matter where you call home, every culture has it's own set of adages to make life easier, healthier, safer....

Every neighborhood has it's own jungle...

Finally, not all adages are about dire circumstances and bossy advice...This adage, my children taught me.

Take care, and be happy!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week 20: Tapestry Town

   Maps are the perfect imagery for symbolizing the weave of life.. and a tapestry is a weaving that (sometimes) reads like a book. So in a way, a map is a tapestry of roads that connect the stories... of each house... building... cobblestone... tree... and even grain of sand in that space. This week's book-of-the-week, Tapestry Town, is based on the symbolism of that imagery by using a small city map of Angers, France and photographs of buildings in nearby locales and Paris..  

Red leather spine and a collagraph print of pink roses
Angers is home of the largest tapestry in the world, the Tapisserie de l'Apocalypse. Woven between 1373 and 1382 as a commission for Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, it was 140 meters (459 feet) long and based on the Book of Revelation. It includes 90 different scenes and was originally woven in six panels that were each 78 feet wide by 20 feet high. During the French revolution, like many tapestries, it was cut into pieces and nearly destroyed. The pieces of the tapestry were used for various purposes: as floor mats, to protect local orange trees from frost, to shore up holes in buildings, and to insulate horse stables. In 1848 the surviving 100 meters of the tapestry were found and recovered.  After being preserved, the tapestry was returned to Angers Cathedral where it was housed until a special site was constructed in the nearby medieval Château d'Angers, in 1954.
the pages of the tapestry...
   The miniature book Tapestry Town opens to a map of the town of Angers and a list of many of the main attractions of the town. Set as a sort of table of contents, the first page isn't really related to the photographs in the remainder of the little 2-inch by 2-inch book, but rather alludes to the stature of a place. Just as each individual is unique and valuable, the nondescript buildings in most of the book each have great value to those whose stories are connected with them.
The warp... a map
As a backdrop against the black and white photographs of buildings, there are colorful pages that include pastepaper, printed paper and marbled paper. Marbled paper was very popular during the Renaissance in France and was used often as the endpapers and covers of books. It's nature is unpredictable, just like life.

art and architecture 
The gridded streets of a town can be planned and designed only so much. When looking at the map of a town as old as Angers, which has references that date back to Ptolemy's Geography of 150 AD, there are certain historic and geographic routes that follow their own convoluted path....just as our own odyssey stems from the life stories of our parents, their parents, our ancestors and all those who touched them.  The invisible paths, the overgrown highways, the ghosts of forgotten chateaus are still alive in the tapestry of the tale.
tapestry weave of streets
And yet we still try (and need) to plan our life. To add to the ordinary by embellishing our life with ritual and style... with art and artistry. Like the pink flocking of a page or the romantic architecture of a garret studio, we seek out our ideals of comfort and delight, our muses of creativity and love. And that path adds to the richness of our own tapestry.
Pink flocking and a french garret
Tapestry Town also includes a page that relates to the need for community in our life. The photograph of Cafe de la Maire, a little corner restaurant with outdoor seating shaded by a lone tree, refers to the need for gathering with our friends and neighbors. It is the place where society meets to do the work of getting along, of becoming a powerful force of helping and sharing with each other. The place where we are one as a tribe. The paper chosen for that page shows a vibrant growing vine with a background of gold... the alchemist's holy grail and the epitome of perfection. And so, shouldn't that ideal of community.. living in love and harmony as One... be our own holy grail?

Cafe de la Maire
So the artist paints a picture in hopes of touching someone's imagination... the writer pens a novel in hopes of openings someone's eyes... the poet writes a poem in hopes of touching a heart... and the people keep living each day as a tapestry.
Pastepaper and rooftop of the Louvre

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week 19: Petit Fours, Volume 1: Picnic By the Loire

A plate of pastel petit fours
   Petit fours date back to the 18th century in France. The word "petit four" is french for small oven... which refers to the process of making the tiny pastries in a cooling brick oven to maximize the usefulness of the oven's heat. Petit fours are tiny appetizer-sized morsels that are decorated in delightful patterns and colors with just the right compliment of ingredients to be delicious. This week's book-of-the-week is just one of a series of Petit Four books in the works. It's titled Petit Fours, Volume 1: Picnic By the Loire.
For the cover, a french napkin for spine piece and cover paper from an antique french book dating to 1829...
In the French kitchen, there are three types of petit fours. Glazed (glacé) petit fours are tiny cakes, eclairs or tartlets iced and decorated with fondant or icing. Salted (salé) petit fours are savoury bite-sized appetizers usually served at parties and buffets. The third variety of petit four is described as "dry" (sec) petit fours, which are tiny biscuits, meringues, macaroons or puff pastries. My guess is that this week's little book, Picnic By the Loire, is of the salted variety... a savory confection of part memory... part daydream. The cover, made from a printed French cloth napkin and a page from an antique book titled Le Histoire de France, is reminiscent of the colors and textures along the riverbank of the Loire River in western France.

Fishing boat on the Loire River
The tiny book opens to a map of the Loire River near a place I love to visit, Chateau du Pin near Champtocé-sur-Loire. Bike paths, walking trails, and beautiful scenery line this historic river of modern-day organic farms, vineyards, and quaint villages. I've mentioned it before.. the link to rent Chateau du Pin is ....and to take art classes at Chateau du Pin with book and textile artist Peg Gignoux (and others) link on

The Loire River with a turkish map fold
A tiny book is like a petit four.. packed with preciousness and unimagined bounty... like a picnic basket  loaded with all the delicious parts for the perfect repast. When the basket is empty and the table is laid full.. the clear warm breezes, the music of nearby birds and humming bees, sunlight reflecting on the river and the energy of the outdoors... create a mouthwatering experience that never gets old.
A picnic table unfolds with delicious pates, cheeses and salads from the garden
...And the petite little book, Picnic By the Loire becomes a memory map to beauty and delight.

....just the right spots to sample this delicious country
We all have our journeys... and our maps might not be so well marked as this little map in Picnic By the Loire. But I hope your petit four collection of life maps have some that are sweet, some salty, and some a little fluffy.

Harriett along the Loire

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Week 18: Nonsense

    Sometimes, things don't turn out the way they are supposed to. "It doesn't make sense." "What were they thinking?" "What happened?" "How could this be?" "It just doesn't make sense!" Sometimes it's a twist of fate, sometimes it's poor planning, sometimes there is no explanation... and sometimes it's just for fun! That's the theme for this week's book-of-the-week, Nonsense...

Pastepaper, marbled bookcloth, and magic marker on the cover
...a silly book about a wise snake, a foreign lady, a journey, a hard-working turtle and corporate America... and all as pop-0uts!

The End

I hope your week is nonsensical in a silly and fun way and you have many reasons to smile.