Remembering Robin

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In honor of Robin Williams, whose sun set prematurely on August 11, 2014.

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Cosplay — the word of the day

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For the saints and the samurai, the ghosts and the gremlins…

For the artisans and the alchemists — the contortionists and the chameleons…

For those who believe in making with all their might, and who make believe with all their heart…

For those whose creativity may be questioned, and whose magic may be misunderstood…

For those who transcend as they transform, turning the fact of fiction into festivals of fantasy…

For those who understand that all the world’s still a stage — but it’s never still…

I salute you. 🙂

Grab a book for National Reading Month!

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March is National Reading Month, which coincides with the birthday of the beloved American author/illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991). In honor of this occasion, make time for a book or two during the next thirty days. Yes, reading aloud to your kids also counts!

The renowned Dr. Seuss — who penned legendary children’s books including How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), and The Lorax (1971) — was born on March 2 in Springfield, Massachusetts. During a career that spanned seventy years, his books sold over 600 million copies.

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The multi-talented author never earned a doctorate degree, but he did graduate from Dartmouth College. He then studied literature at Lincoln College in Oxford, England for two years. There, classmate Helen Palmer — who would become his wife — complimented Geisel’s drawings and encouraged him to pursue that creative outlet. They got married, he dropped out of Lincoln, and the newlyweds returned to the United States in 1927 so that he could work as a cartoonist and illustrator for Vanity Fair magazine.

Learn more about this incredible creative individual at his official Random House website, Seussville.com.

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Note — This image of Theodor Geisel was obtained from website of the Campbell County Public Library in Kentucky. His signature was borrowed from Seussville.com.

Postscript to a meal

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If dessert marks the close of dinner, then a thank-you card serves as its postscript — an after-the-event affirmation of hours well spent and company fully valued. In this era of instant messages and time constraints, however, the thank-you card is often disregarded as either unnecessary or anachronistic. These beliefs could not be further from the truth. Rarely will a tweet or emoji-punctuated text make a memorable impression on a host. But a card featuring a personal greeting almost always will.

This blog post documents the process of preparing one such card for transit.

Two nights ago I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and fellowship in the home of a dear friend. She and her husband — a man talented in both the woodworking studio and the kitchen — prepared a hearty meal of parmesan-encrusted chicken, cold corn-and-pepper salad with citrus vinegar dressing, steaming brown rice with peas, and freshly-baked cheese-herb bread pulled from a cast-iron skillet. Two other guests (my best friend and his wife) agreed that the fare was delicious.

After the meal, the five of us retired to the great room, where we sat in front of the fireplace and traded accounts of recent travels, memories of family courtships, and updates on hobbies ranging from photography to hatchet-throwing. As can occur on evenings spent indoors while wind rushes through snow-draped trees, time seemed to slow. Meanwhile, digestion proceeded steadily within our bellies. And before we knew it the hostess produced parfaits of fresh raspberries, brownie bites, and fluffy whipped cream. Our discussion continued as spoons clinked lightly while teasing the chilled dessert from tall glasses.

After returning home that night I dove into my supply of cards in search of the right thank-you to honor such a wonderful evening. The one I selected is pictured above. This card, which I purchased for $1 at Trader Joe’s, features artwork by printmaker Yoskiko Yamamoto (pictured below) of The Arts & Crafts Press in Tacoma, WA. Yamamoto and her husband, Bruce Smith, founded TA&CP in 1996. All of their publications “have been letterpress printed and bound by hand.” Please check out ArtsAndCraftsPress.com for an amazing selection of limited-edition woodblock prints, stationery, coasters, calendars, and more.

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To my pleasant surprise, I realized that the hanging lamp on this card features a mission-style design. The same aesthetic is found on the beautiful handmade furniture in the host-couple’s great room. (The husband built it!) Mission furniture emerged in the United States in the late 1890s, and got its name from California’s Spanish-style missions. The furniture’s focus on simple horizontal and vertical lines — often showcased in oak tables, chairs, and chests — contrasts with the ornate Victorian furniture that had long been popular at the time.

Mission furniture, which is linked to the Arts and Crafts movement, was produced by several famous artisans including Gustav Stickley (1858-1942), an American born from German immigrants. A number of fascinating resources exist for learning more about this influential furniture manufacturer including The Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, NY and the 20th century estate home that he designed (now a National Historic Landmark) at The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, NJ.

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My first step in preparing the card was working through a rough draft of the greeting by scribbling initial thoughts on a tablet. I almost always do this so that I do not make silly word-choice mistakes or run out of room when writing on the card itself.

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Switching from print to cursive (which I find more smooth and formal) I then edited the draft even further while transferring it to the card’s interior. Observe the date in the upper-right corner, something that I believe every hand-written missive should possess so that the recipient — who is likely going to keep it — can place it accurately in history. Note — The salutation is unfinished in this photograph, but was completed prior to inserting the card into its envelope.

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With the greeting composed, I next needed to choose a stamp to apply to the white envelope. I had a full sheet of “O Beautiful” stamps, which the U.S. Postal Service released on July 4, 2018. Each row of the stamps corresponds to a line from “America the Beautiful.” What we know today as one of our country’s most patriotic songs was actually first a poem published in 1895 by poet and social activist Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929). The bright and varied colors of these stamps make them perfect for white envelopes.

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I chose the fourth stamp in “The Fruited Plain” series (second row from bottom) because it contained a collection of purples, greens, and golds that was similar to the colors in Yoshiko Yamamoto’s woodblock print. There is no reason that a stamp needs to coordinate with a card, but I found the parallels in palette to be very pleasing.

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Postscript (or “PS) — The next time you are invited to a home-cooked meal, please send your host a card or brief note to recognize the occasion. He/she will appreciate the hand-written message of gratitude, and I suspect that you will feel a surge of pride and accomplishment for honoring the time, care, and attention that the host invested on your behalf. A thank-you card is always a sign of good taste.

Note — The photograph of Yoshiko Yamamoto was obtained from a 2016 article on the website of Spaceworks Tacoma. The photograph of Gustav Stickley was found on the website for The Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, NY.