Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blueberry Crumble and Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

E arlier this week a couple friends, boy and I all went to a farm outside of town to pick blueberries. This is one of those fun, cultural things I have wanted to do since we moved to the south. I think there are three typical views westerners have regarding the south: the poor white trashy part (which I have seen a lot of), the rich white trashy part (which turns out to be T-Town in a nutshell), and the cultural part full of history, romance, and charm. Sadly, that part of the South has been hard to come by in this college town full of privileged frat kids.

When we moved here I had dreamy eyed aspirations to find the romantic side of the south where we would eat good southern cuisine, drink sweet tea, go to a club and listen to that olde tyme blues. That kind of culture is thriving in places like NOLA, Memphis, and Atlanta. Tuscaloosa does not have a lot to offer in the ways of good ole southern culture, at least my vision of what I thought it would be. So I was so excited when we embarked on our own, tiny, cultural adventure.

I grew up sort of a city kid and all our dreams (boy and I) currently involve living in places with large, multicultural cities. But every once in a while, while driving through the country, I imagine how amazing it would be to live out there. Your closest neighbor would be half a mile away and you could go a whole day without hearing a train whistle, police siren, truck horn, or even a single car. Twenty minutes outside town, we arrived at the farm where you can pick your own blueberries for $6 a gallon. We were the only ones there. I guess not a lot of people go berry picking at 6pm on a Wednesday evening in the dead of August heat. We were a little late in the season and certainly did not get the pick of the litter. But at least 3/4 of what we picked was juicy and delicious. The whole time we were there I didn't see or hear a single car. An old hound dog wandered over from the neighbors to play with the farm's dog. It was lovely. Such a fun experience. Next summer we will definitely do this again, although probably go earlier in the season. So what did we do with all those blueberries? We made the most amazing, delicious, moan inducing blueberry crumble ever!!

Sadly, nothing remains of this masterpiece. We shared some with friends and consumed the rest as neither of us have much self control when it comes to amazing food.

As if you didn't think we were domestic enough, I made whole wheat bread from scratch. I have always wanted to bake my own bread and have only been able to master the lemon-poppyseed bread (which is amazing). I tried a couple years ago to make wheat bread at my parents house and ended up with two tiny loaves with the outer crust similar to a slab of granite and the inner meaty part the consistency of Alabama clay. It did not turn out well.

I have persevered this time with a dilectible, moist triumph of bakery! This loaf is perfect for Sunday morning toast, weekday PB & J's, and Tuna Melts!! Oh, the tuna melt...

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Summer?

O ne thing about getting two masters degrees in three years, you have no life. For me, this includes summer break. I mentioned previously about my awesome time at the University of Utah's Book Arts department in May. Sadly, this remains the extend of any exciting summer activities. Instead of hitting up the beach or travailing about Europe like other people I know, I chose to stay in this sweaty little burg and take some much needed Library classes. Thats right, ladies and gentleman, I voluntarily stayed in 105 degree heat and humidity to learn about the Dewey Decimal *ahem* Classification (not system, get it right...), HTML coding, and just how much money academic libraries spend on databases. Some of my classes were wonderful, some were not so much.

Now, I'm consumed with thoughts of the impending semester which start in a mere week. Not much of a break. The good thing about this experiment they call graduate school is that because I am doing two programs, each semester is a chance to mix it up, do something different, and prevent the fatigue of doing the same thing all the time. Now my mind races with prices of sharpening stones, goat skins, making my own paper, the complexities of really good typographic design, and how the hell I am going to exert any kind of authority to the newbies when I still feel like the newbie. This semester is going to be a doozie for me. I've got a full plate of classes, plus an assistantship, all while still working at the special collections library. Here is what I'm going to be taking:

Printing III - Students initiate and produce an edition of a relatively extensive book and/or participate in production of a Parallel Editions volume. Emphasis is on production, with manuscript selection and editing being critical aspects. Photopolymer platemaking processes are introduced in a desktop publishing environment adapted to historic tools and mediums. Such subjects as marketing and distribution of limited edition books are covered.

Binding III - A concentrated study of the use of leather as a binding cover material. Various binding styles and structures appropriate to leather treatment are studied. Familiarity with the preparation and application of leather in bookbinding is achieved through a series of assigned projects culminating in a final project. Though not the primary focus of the course, binding design and innovation will be studied and explored.

Tool Sharpening - For all my new fancy leather paring tools, and perhaps, my kitchen knives.

Book Repair - I don't even know where this class is going to go, but it will be a great way to learn to repair books and will let me know how I would like conservation type stuff.

Directed Research - 100 hours of papermaking. I will be making all the paper for my projects this year using old t-shirts and bed sheets.

Practicum in Teaching in the Book Arts - I will be assisting my printing professor with the first year printing class. I'll be there to help the students and do demonstrations.

Graduate Assistantship - With the help of another second year student, I will be assisting the Book Arts Department with any and every thing that they need. I'll be maintaining the work spaces, organizing and managing the exhibition space on the fifth floor, as well as planning for local events we are involved in.

In October there is a conference for people who wish to teach letterpress in Washington DC that I am going to look into going to as well.

A lot, right? Its going to be a lot of work. I will be tired and often. I will be cranky at some points, but I also will have a blast for most of it. I'm already looking forward to Christmas break back in the snowy mountains where it will be cold and I can sleep in!

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.