Monday, August 24, 2015

Purple People Bridge Sketch

Yesterday Christina and I sketched the Purple People Bridge that connects Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.  We parked at Lunken airport and road along the river to downtown.  It was a beautiful day and the ride was mostly flat and easy.  The trip starts out as a dedicated bike path and then switches to a bike lane and then back to a bike path.  I had not visited the riverfront in a long while and it is really nicely re-done into a long park along the river.  If you haven't visited it is worth a trip. 

The Purple People Bridge is really no longer purple but has faded to a light blue.  It was built in 1872 and was originally built for rail traffic.  It was converted to pedestrian-only in 2003.  (There is a nice history of the bridge here.) 

I also got a chance to start one of two new sketchbooks I received for my birthday.  Finally a sketchbook with pages big enough so I won't have seams in the middle!  Thank you Christina and Elsa.  You can see Christina's sketch here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ohio Buckeye

Last week George brought me home a surprise he found at the tennis courts...Ohio buckeyes (Aesculus glabra).  I was intrigued by the golden spiny orbs and learned that this distinguishes it from its more common relative, the yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) which has smooth fruit. 

Although almost every part of the buckeye is poisonous, the beautiful seeds are reputed to be good luck when carried in your pocket and were also supposed to help ease rheumatism.  Native Americans used to boil the tannins out and grind them into a starchy paste to eat.  The nuts were also used "to remove mildew stains from linen and a flour made from buckeyes made an insect-proof paste of great tenacity much preferred by bookbinders." (source here). 

Whenever I find a buckeye I feel like I have found a treasure.  There is nothing quite like breaking open the "ugly" outer coating to find the smooth, mahogany prize inside. I plan on planting these seeds in the backyard and will hopefully one day be rich with buckeyes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rising Dough in Vintage Bowls

One of the small but great joys of life has to be rising dough in vintage bowls.  Who doesn't love the soft, buttery curve of rising dough?  And the thought of what it brings?  And don't even get me started about vintage crockery!  Ever since I brought these bowls home I have been excited to do a post about them.  But before I knew it fall and winter arrived last year and I certainly couldn't do a post about these cheery, flowery bowls in the dead of winter.  So before the warm weather got away from me this year I asked George to let me know next time he was making any kind of dough.  Lucky for me last week, he was making bread and tortillas on the same day!

My mom and I found these amazing bowls at the Springfield Antique Extravaganza last spring.  We share a love of vintage bowls and we both had never seen anything like them.  The cornflower blue outer bowl and "gear" shaped base would have been enough to win me over, but add in the flowers around the rim and I fell madly in love.

Above you can see the label on the bottom of the bowls says "Hall's Superior, Tested and Approved by Mary Dunbar, Jewel Homemakers Institute, Quality Kitchenware".  When I googled it I found a very common Autumn Leaf pattern but the blue bowls were harder to find.  The only one I found on ebay was described as "uncommon." 

Apparently the company formed in the 1920's and offered a full range of dinnerware and accessories, plus a successful line of cookbooks (click here and here for more history).  I even found a website that listed all the pattern names but I couldn't figure out the name of this particular pattern.  If anyone out there knows , please leave a comment as I would love to know.

I originally intended to post George's new tortilla recipe but I think it deserves its own post.  So if vintage bowls don't float your boat, check back soon because George's homemade tortillas are incredible and worth trying.  If you can't wait then email me!

Every so often at a flea market you find something that makes your heart beat a little faster and if you are able to purchase it you feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  And the best part is, years later when you look at that purchase, you are reminded of that feeling and the wonderful memories of that day.  It was so much fun sharing that excitement with my mom and I think of her every time I see these bowls.  Thanks mom!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

St. Elizabeth Sketch

Last Thursday Christina and I biked through Norwood and then stopped to sketch St. Elizabeth church.  The church was built in 1903 and is a stunning structure.  It was sold in 1995 to Vineyard Central and they now offer services, but you can also rent it for weddings, concerts, and camps.  From the photos I saw on their website, the interior is just as amazing as the outside.  I hope someday I get to see the inside.

I found this website that had some beautiful writing by Eric Hansen about this church.

"She has eight large stained glass windows, two rose windows, and two strained glass domes, all combining to let in a subtle natural light. She is also in a state of disrepair. The roof leaked – and was allowed to leak – for several years. She has had severe water damage, and large patches of plaster have come off the walls. Brick columns are exposed, like underlying bones.

Elaine and I attend Vineyard Central services there.  I am convinced St. E’s is a Sacred Space. She is for me and Elaine, and she seems to be sacred to others as well. Visitors are always moved by her beauty and brokenness and (perhaps) feel the presence of God within her surround."

If you would like to visit this church it is at the corner of Mills and Carter in Norwood, Ohio.  You can see Christina's awesome sketch here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reed & Stone

Last week I decided to make my friend Margot a belated birthday gift.  She is very crafty herself and I wanted to make her something handmade so I thought I would have a go at wrapping rocks with basket material.  I have literally been collecting rocks for years and have jars and jars full of them.  Plus I used to be a basket maker and have a plethora of unused reed that has not seen the light of day since we moved here twelve years ago.

I have had this idea in my head since I saw the work of Del Webber on (if you haven't visited Elsa Mora's website you must go!).  Del's craftsmanship is amazing and I would love to learn how to do some of the more complicated wrapping techniques.

As you can see below I ended up making three so far, but hopefully this is only the beginning.  I would like to experiment with working in metal pieces or buttons.

I also loved photographing these.  Everything came together perfectly.  I have owned (and never used) these place mats for years and my mom had just given us a flower arrangement for our anniversary that included chrysanthemums.  It is so much fun to arrange all the elements and to see how they interact and come together to create something totally new.  Also, the light on the back porch was lovely and although you can't hear it through the photos, cicadas were singing in the background.  The photo below is one of my favorites...maybe because it reminds me of a piece of sushi.

As I was weaving around the rock below it reminded me of making God's eyes when I was young.  I can still picture my awkward and wonky creation hanging on the family room wall.  I think it hung there for decades.

I usually like to end with a quote but I couldn't find anything that perfectly suited this post so I wrote a short poem.

Around smooth stones
I spin cocoons
The stone and I transform

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Oyster Mushrooms

Last weekend when I went to the farmer's market I fell in love...with a mushroom.  We were standing in line at the mushroom stand and as we were waiting for the person in front of us to finish their purchase I spied it from afar.  Some times when I see something I really like I have to look away.  I think, "No, I couldn't have seen what I just thought I saw."  And then I peak back to look again.  "Oh my gosh!  I think it really is something that is so exquisitely beautiful it gives me butterflies in my stomach!"  And that is what happened last weekend. 

As I scanned all the mushrooms lying on the table before us there was one that was so stunning I couldn't believe our luck!  I started to feel nervous about the person in front of us..."What if they buy MY mushroom?  How could they not notice the treasure that lay right before their eyes?  "What if they decide to buy it at the last second?"  I let out a sigh of relief when they finally walked away and we approached the table.  When George asked me which one I wanted I pretended to non-nonchalantly point out the most incredible mushrooms on the table.  The mushroom vendor put it in a bag for us.

When I got home I was busy with other things and it was several hours later before I had time to find the camera.  When I found the brown bag I thought, "Oh, it probably wasn't as awesome as I had imagined it to be."  But when I pulled it out of the bag I was not disappointed. 

At first I thought it was one giant mushroom, but it was actually two mushrooms back to back.  As I took them apart I marveled at the lovely forms.  As I looked at the brown mushroom I couldn't help but think this mushroom was a masterpiece of asymmetrical balance.  When you looked at it straight down it formed a round mass composed of perfectly spaced stalks that appeared to emerge from the one below.  And each stalk was formed of thin vertical "gill" lines punctuated by a thick brown horizontal "cap" line.  The play between the vertical and horizontal repetition and scale blew me away.  And the effect of so many stalks reaching skyward gave the effect of joyful, repetitious exuberance.

As I flitted about the porch moving things around to get the right light and fretting about aperture and shutter speed, my neighbor John and husband George were forced to listen to me "ooh" and "aah" over our fungi bounty.  But I think they too saw what amazing objects these mushrooms were.  And I even coaxed John into being my hand model.

Shortly after the photo shoot George took the mushrooms in to make dinner.  He made a lovely oyster mushroom pasta meal that was super delicious.  Oh, and I forgot to say that we signed up to be part of a mushroom CSA.  So every week for the rest of the summer we will be getting mushrooms!  If you are interested in signing up you can visit the Probasco Farms facebook page and contact the owner, Alan Susarret.  There is an article about his business here.

I hope you can forgive me for including too many photos in the post but I couldn't help myself.  What's a girl in love supposed to do?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cincinnati City Hall Sketch

I had a great time on the fourth of July sketching with my dad.  I have been pestering him for a while now to go with me and we finally made it happen last weekend.  We wanted to go to Findlay market so I picked Cincinnati's City Hall because it was close.  After we sat down and started sketching we both realized that this was no easy building to sketch.  Whoever the architect was, they must have been mad or brilliant or both!  There are unusual jut-outs and the number of windows groupings changes all over the place.  If you have never seen this building in person it is well worth a trip downtown.

When we got back to the house we put on some nice music and inked and colored our sketches on the back porch.  I think my dad enjoyed it and I thought his sketch turned out awesome!  I love his bold colors and lines.  Hopefully this will be the first of many sketching outings with Poppy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Krohn Conservatory Sketchbook

I am excited to announce the Krohn Conservatory will be selling mini-sketchbooks with a sketch I did on the cover.  The sketchbook folds to a 5 1/4'' square and will be sold in their gift shop.  This sketch is one I did with Christina Wald and Amy Bogard about a year ago.  You can see the whole sketch here.  Sketching is a great way to enjoy the Krohn.  I think it helps one to slow down and really see the plants and animals.  So if you visit bring your pencil and paper or buy a sketchbook!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Taft Ale House Sketch

Last Friday Christina Wald and I went sketching at the Taft Ale House.  It was a rainy day so we decided to sketch inside.  If you haven't been to this rehabbed old church made into a restaurant/bar then you need to go.  The renovation is quite stunning (you can see photos here).  I enjoyed their attention to all the details from the wallpaper, to the chandeliers, and even the toilet paper holders. 

Their logo is of Taft sitting in a bath tub.  If you don't know the story, Taft was a rather large man and may have gotten stuck in the White House bathtub.  An extra wide bath tub was also requested for him on his trip at sea on the USS North Carolina (more info here about these stories).  The logo for the restaurant depicts Taft in a bathtub holding a glass of beer.  You can visit their website to see their logo plus their food and drink menus. All in all a very nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Miami Whitewater

If you live in Cincinnati and have never taken the Miami Whitewater bike trail then you are missing out.  And the same might be said if you take the bike trail and never get off your bike, which is what I normally do.  But last time I went I let myself stop more often and I was literally "pulled over" several times by some amazing plants like the nodding thistle above. 

I know many of the plants in this blog entry are considered invasive weeds but that doesn't mean that I won't marvel at their form and structure.  The prickly, large head of the thistle in the photo above is really quite remarkable in its compact boldness.  And the many-armed star-burst structure of the wild parsnip below is also striking, but in a totally different diffuse and airy way.

About two-thirds of the way around the bike path there is a picnic table where we usually stop to take a break.  There is a horse trail that runs behind it and as I walked along the path the color, symmetry, and elegance of this spiderwort (an Ohio native) caught my eye. 

“The women loved everything that grew on God's earth, even weeds.
She knew that even the weeds were capable of doing miracles she never could.”
- Emily Flim

Some of the wild parnsips (above) grow quite tall.  This one was about my height.  I love the repetition of form and scale in this plant.

The plantago below is certainly considered a weed by most everyone.  But there was something so lovely about its ephemeral, white tutu and riotous bloomers that I had to take its photo. 

I am always in awe of what I see when I slow down.  And I think this applies whether one is on a bike ride, a walk or just going about one's day.