Sunday, January 31, 2010


This semester I am taking papermaking. After only a few weeks, I am already officially hooked. Fun, deeply interesting and incredibly hands on, Papermaking totally changes the way you think about paper, the craft of hand made objects, and the time, effort, money and skill required to be a true artist. UA has made a reputation for itself for making Banana paper. Our professor and headmaster of our humble book arts program has been given the grand task of making samples of banana paper for Papermaking Magazine. So we intrepid few endeavored to make the 1700 samples.

First, the banana stalks were chopped and soaked overnight.
Then the stalks must be cooked for about 45 minutes with soda ash to begin to break down the banana.
Once the cook is done, the banana is rinsed and then placed into a Hollander beater to break down the banana into fibrous pulp.

All this prep can take anywhere from a couple hours to several, depending on the fibers you use. In the mean time, the moulds and deckles are soaking in water so they will be ready for the pulp.
Then with a little conviction, several tries and a well practiced wiggle...

After letting the water drain, remove the deckle and couch (sounds like cooch) your paper onto a felt.
After we had a large enough post of felts with our paper on it, we placed the post in a press to squeeze out all the excess water.
Then we took the sheets up to the library to dry.

The whole process was long and by the end of the day I was a little sore and ready for bed. But I am so excited for the rest of the semester. I'm sure I've caught the papermaking bug.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Food, HandyMen, and New Projects...

After a long break, we are finally starting to feel settled in again and gearing up for the semester ahead. We went to one of our favorite bars to watch the Big Game. Despite years of irrational hatred of the sport, I would be lying if I claimed I didn't totally get into it. Football is a completely different animal down here, and you best be prepared. Roll Tide Roll!

After the excitement from the game, Dan and I went on a cooking-and-freezing-so-we-will-have-food-later-in-the-semester-when-we-have-no-time-to-cook spree. We made two different kinds of pasta sauce, one plain ole wonderful Tomato sauce and Turkey Meatball and Chipotle Adobo sauce. We also made up some of Dan's step-mom's wonderful Chili.
Here are the two sauces. Turkey Meatball is on the left. Traditional Tomato is on the right.
Meatballs! (Notice fabulous Food Processor in the back. Smaller on is in the mail ;p )
The freezer. (From left to right: Two large tubs of delicious chili, two varieties of pasta sauce, two loaves bread, Lentil Soup and Butternut Squash &Pear soup, and frozen chicken.)
Still so much room!

A small setback...

So the temps down here have been abnormally low. There were about two weeks of below freezing temps for the high. So whats the big deal? I'm from the mountains! Rough and rugged, skiing in below freezing temps all day, walking the three miles home from work in the cold like it ain't no thing... The principle difference between my down home ruggedness and this southern freeze is that at least in the mountains people believe in insulation. That word does not exist down here. Our house was averaging around 45 degrees for the high and believe me, that is hard to strip down to take a shower for. Sufficed to say, we came out pretty good despite some minor whining on my part ;) However, our poor washing machine didn't come out as lucky.

After about a week and a half at home the laundry was beginning to creep into bed with us. I took it upon myself to brave the freezing cold of our back porch and do the laundry. After discovering the hoses were completely frozen, I got the bright idea to just put a space heater in front of them and once they were all nice and melted my problem would be fixed. Half a day later, my back porch was flooding, I couldn't figure out where the water was leaking and I needed to go to class! So I scooped out the soaking wet clothes (as the machine wasn't draining either) wrung them out and in the dryer they went. Dan My Man saved the day. He stopped the leak, discovered which part was broke, defrosted the drainage pipe and ordered the part we needed. I still had to use our neighbor's washer for a day but yesterday he fixed my washer and now I can do all the laundry I want!!

And, as if that wasn't HandyMan enough for one day, he built us a bookshelf!!
Now, its a bit wobbly and needs some minor propping in various places :) But we finally have a place for our ever expanding library.

So between the washer getting fixed and getting a new bookshelf I went a little crazy and cleaned the whole house, just in time for MLK day to contemplate our civil rights and mentally prepare for the upcoming semester.

I have a whole set of goals I want to accomplish and I figure if I tell y'all all about them, then I can't back out of them.

1-No Procrastination - I have so much work to do this semester, if I slack off I'm dead.
2 - Stick to the work out! - Dan and I are embarking on new scary territory of marathon training. We don't have one in mind and if we do eventually do one it will most likely be the half marathon. But we are going to train for one which will keep us active when we don't want to, don't have time to, or are simply making excuses. This way we can get into a habit of it and it won't be an issue of feeling guilty for not working out.
3- Flossing three times a week - The dentist was mean to me when I saw him last :(
4- Keep something for me -No matter how busy i get this semester, I will make time for me to do something for myself. Read a book, a book I WANT to read for at least fifteen minutes everyday.
5- Stay positive - something I always struggle with.

School Scoop:

4 Classes
  • History of the Book: Print Culture and Society
  • Bookbinding II Hard Case Structures
  • Printing II Typographic Printing
  • Papermaking
12 Major Projects including : Hard bound books in quarter, half and full book cloth, flat back, rounded and backed case binding and clam shell boxes to fit, various kinds of hand made paper with ingredients such as denim, linen, banana stalk, kozo, flax, and abaca, and a twenty page letterpress printed book.

Sound busy enough?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Roll Tide Roll

After a crazy busy semester and an equally crazy busy break at home with family, we are back in the land of the sever over reactionary. The football team managed to make its way into the national championships just in time for the school to over react and cancel the first week of school. Were there any likelihood that the majority of the student body and faculty able to attend the game, I would gladly admit canceling school to be a wise choice. However, as the game is in California and a mere 5% of all students and faculty will be in attendance, I feel this was on over reaction. Whatev, I didn't want to go to school today anyway.

This morning I dragged myself out of my nice warm bed into the brisk 50 degree temperature of my house and set off for work on this lovely chilly day. As I walked out the door I met the familiar site of snow flakes (an extremely rare occurrence in Tuscaloosa). I waited for forty five minutes locked out of work before I walked home only to find an e-mail from the University informing me that yet another over reaction has been passed down. The University closed down all none essential operations due to a snow warning. As of 4pm, not a flake had stuck. Whatev, I didn't want to go to work today anyway.