Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Little Bit of Fizz

I ate too much at lunch.  My stomach is like a rock in my mid-section and I have a food baby.

Enter the carbonated beverage.  Thank heavens for those tiny bubbles.  They're my go-to whenever I've consumed more than my good sense should allow me to.

My entry into the 2012 Quilting Arts "Coffee or Tea" challenge.

I don't drink soda anymore, but I almost always prefer cold and fizzy drinks to something warm.  (And let me stop you right there.  No, I don't drink tea or coffee.)  As I sipped my "tonic" this afternoon, I wondered about carbonation.  So I did a bit of digging.

Here's some of what I learned:

* "Impregnating Water with Fixed Air" was the name of the 1772 scientific pamphlet written by scientist Joseph Priestly, describing the apparatus he designed to instill water with carbon dioxide bubbles.  (Fixed air = carbon dioxide) His initial intent was to discover a way to limit meat putrefaction aboard ships and combat scurvy.

* Joseph Priestly, it turns out, was a very important scientist.   He's credited with identifying eight different gases including oxygen, which was named by someone else.

* Priestly described the carbonated water he created as "an exceedingly pleasant sparkling water, resembling Seltzer water." To be clear, Priestly wasn't referring to what we know as seltzer water.  Instead, he was referencing the properties of the waters found in the springs around Seltzer, Germany. Many historians consider this discovery to be critical to the development of pneumatic chemistry.  ("Powerful Effervescence," Science History, 2008)

* Jacob Schweppe, an amateur scientist and an acquaintance of Priestly's, expanded on Priestly's work. In the 1780s, Schweppe introduced artificially created sparkling mineral water.  It was the precursor to today's carbonated beverage industry and, with the introduction of some flavored syrups, evolved into Schweppe's Ginger Ale.

* Some sources say that Thomas Jefferson sought Priestly's advice as Jefferson planned University of Virginia.

* Priestly was a highly regarded polymath and his scientific books were best sellers. 

Sorry that I didn't recognize your name, Mr. Priestly, or your accomplishments.

Joseph Priestly
© Royal Society of Chemistry, Library

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Wall Street Journal Praises Tim Gunn

I've enjoyed watching Project Runway over the years.  Some years there are designers I root for.  Other years I get especially annoyed by the drama.   Every season I'm fascinated by the creative process.  And I'm a bit smitten with Tim Gunn.  He such a wonderful mentor and I'm always impressed by his guidance.  He's one of the reasons I watch the show, season after season.  

It appears I'm not alone.

In October of 2017, The Wall Street Journal published an article called, "Seven TV Shows Every Executive Should Watch" by Alexandra Samuel.   The subtitle was "What you can learn from Tim Gunn, 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine', 'The Young Pope' and more."

You can access the article through this link.   Since I'm not certain how many of you have a subscription to the WSJ, I thought I'd transcribe the section about Tim Gunn here on my blog.  I think the author was spot-on in describing what is so special and effective about Tim Gunn's help in the work room.  (She also makes an interesting observation about the creative process. too.)  We could all benefit from Tim Gunn's critical review and feedback process in our lives.  (The excerpt, photo and image caption below were all taken from the article updated on October 27, 2017.)

Tim Gunn offers a master class in giving feedback on 'Project Runway'. PHOTO: BRAVO TV/EVERETT COLLECTION
Project Runway:  This long-running reality show is a laboratory for the creative process, since each season challenges a group of fashion designers to create a new outfit every single week.  One week they might be asked to create a ready-to-wear ensemble for a working woman, while the next week they have to assemble an outfit out of materials they collect at a hardware store.  Each week's aesthetic mandate and materials list offers a reminder of the value of constraints in fostering creativity: The best designs often emerge from the challenges that offer the least flexibility.  The other key ingredient? Skilled mentorship.

The mentorship comes from Tim Gunn, who provides feedback on each designer's work in progress -- and can teach any executive how to give better feedback.

Step 1: Before providing feedback on someone's work, check in on their goals.  Mr. Gunn always begins by asking what the designer is trying to achieve, so that his feedback is keyed to supporting their vision, rather than his own.

Step 2: Share your most important resource -- your professional history and experience.  Mr. Gunn's feedback often consists of pointing out when someone is echoing the work of a designer they may not know about, or if they're trying to execute a design that won't be feasible with their chosen fabric.

Step 3: If you've got negative feedback, articulate the problem directly, and then invite -- but don't impose -- a solution.  When Mr. Gunn sees that someone's in trouble, he tells them exactly what the issue is, and then points them in a direction to find their own solution.  If you want to deliver feedback that is candid and effective -- without being unkind -- this show is a master class.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Oil and Vinegar

Olive oils and wine vinegars, that is.

When I did a ride-along on my husband's recent business trip to Napa, I had a day to myself to explore.  The typical Napa activity is wine tasting, hopping from vineyard to vineyard sampling their wares.  That seemed a bit irresponsible for me.  I was on my own and didn't want to drink and drive.

Instead, I headed to Round Pond Estate to sample their olive oils and wine vinegars.  I hadn't even known that was something to do.

A few things I learned about olives:
1) Many vineyards will plant rosebushes at the row ends of their vineyards.  If there's something wrong with the soil, rose bushes will falter or exhibit signs of the problems pretty early.  I was told, "They shout pretty loudly when they're unhappy." On the other hand, grape vines don't let you know something's amiss until it's too late.  Because the roses will broadcast the news loud and clear, a vintner can address an issue before it becomes a crisis.  Interestingly, olive trees are also an "indicator" species of plant.  They're planted along the perimeter of the fields.  They share the news differently, but just as thoroughly.

2) All olives are green..... and black.  Green olives will mature into black olives.  There's not a varietal that starts off black and stays black.

3) There's about a six week window for harvesting olives in Napa: November through mid-December.  The "greener" the olive oil tastes, the "thicker" it feels on your tongue, the more likely it is that the olives in the oil were harvested earlier in the season.  Milder, smoother, "lighter", more buttery oils are made from more mature olives.

4) The proper way to sample olive oil is to taste it straight from a cup.  Just sip it, hold it on your tongue for a few seconds and swallow.  Bread is not involved.

CONFESSION: I don't eat olives on their own.  I don't particularly care for tapenade.  I like to dip bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar in moderation.  Olives on their own don't have a flavor that's on my top-10 list.

You can imagine my surprise at how much I enjoyed tasting the different oils, how intriguing it was to discover how the various olive oils felt on my tongue.  How, in some cases, a lovely aftertaste lingered, and strengthened, after swallowing.  It was all very good.  I also enjoyed adding a bit of garlic and chili powder flavored olive oil to one of my samples.  (That's the orange-ish one.) Yum!


5) Olive trees don't start producing fruit for about five years.  Most producers will wait about eight years before they use the fruit in their oils.

6) Unlike a wine grape, the composition of the soil doesn't really impact the flavor of an olive.

7) Olive trees live and bear fruit for centuries. Apparently, there's a 2,000 year old olive tree in Jordan that's still bearing fruit.

A few things I learned about wine vinegars:
1) Specialty wine vinegars are made from the same grapes as the wines.  The end result is just very different.

2) The proper way to sample wine vinegar is with sugar cubes.  Yes, sugar cubes.  Dip a sugar cube into the sample cup to soak up a bit of the vinegar and then suck out the fluid.  The sugar will neutralize the acid of the vinegar and enable you to taste the flavor of the vinegar.  Until I tried this, I didn't have a sense of the variety of flavors. I responded, more or less, to the acidity of the vinegar.

3) Sugar cubes soaked in white wine vinegar can, if you can get it into your mouth before it crumbles, taste like candy.  Wonderful candy.

4) It's not a given that the grapes used to make a wine, will also work successfully as a vinegar blend.  The winemaker will assess the varietals and percentages that work best in both compositions.  Organic chemistry is a plus here.

I highly recommend this sort of outing to anyone heading to Napa.  It's a bit of fun off the beaten path.  Let me know what you discover!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fiddlesticks Redux

A few weeks ago, I sent off Part I of a collaborative quilt  We were supposed to use fabric from the selection we'd received to create the beginning of a quilt, using the prompt "half" to guide us, in whatever way we were inspired.  You might recall, my part didn't go exactly as planned. Nonetheless, I sent off my half, at least knowing that what I was sending off could be worked with.

Here's what my partner, Virginia Quith, wrote as she tried to work with what she'd received:

My partner, Vivien Zepf, indicated that she had tried to make the center pieced part equal the surrounding hand-dyed muslin part, or 'half'. But somehow her calculations didn't quite work out, hence, "Fiddlesticks"! So, I took the math to hand, did pages of calculations numerous times, adding square inches of left over pieced bits around the edges but it was then WAY too big. SO I went back to the math, subtracting some of the plain area and then adding pieced bits to match up. I might have come closer to showing half pieced bits and half hand-dyed but FIDDLESTICKS REDUX! The math and measuring was driving me mad. So I incorporated it into the design and left it at that.

I used a feature on my sewing 'computer' that previously I had not tackled, namely script stitch. Supposedly, I could program strings of numbers (therefore calculations) in, then push a button and they come stitching out. What I did not know is that there is little warning between numbers. So it was very difficult to make them look like my actual scrap paper math notes. I decided to go with the "fiddlesticks" concept and keep going. I like the way it kind of looks a little like graffiti. This plain area also has a glistening appearance to it with drops of purples, orange, and blue. Incorporated into the pieced sections are bits of orange and blue silk shantung which makes it all very stunning in person!

And now for the reveal:

I sent unused pieced sections to Virginia, and I like how she incorporated them into the final design, along with her "calculation quilting".  FUN!

My other partner had some family matters to attend to, so I received her "Part I" quilt not too long ago.  Now I have to try to work from her piece and inspiration.  It's harder than I expected to pick up where someone else has left off, particularly if you don't immediately connect with their interpretation of the prompt.  I'm working on it and we'll see how it goes.

Until next time, thanks for reading and be well.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

More Content, if you please

Picture by Vivien Zepf
Lately, I've felt that my world is expanding.  I keep learning new things and it's so exciting.

I've decided that I'm going to share these new things with you here on my blog.  I've occasionally strayed off the art and book topics that were the primary focus of my blog in the past.   But now, I'm going to be more open-ended about what I post.  As I learn stuff, I'm going to share stuff.  It's an anything-goes mentality, though I don't anticipate exploring anything too off-color.  I don't think I'll be espousing political points of view, either.  

The spark for this "blog expansion" was a recent trip to Napa.  My husband had to attend a business conference and piggybacking on his trip was a great way to go somewhere I'd never been.  See new things.  Learn something new.  And I did, and now I can't wait to share them with you.

You can still come here for posts about art -- mine and what's on view in galleries and museums, plus my thoughts on my docent experience, along with posts on books and my photography.  But they'll also be more.  At some point soon, for example, there's going to be a post about olive oils and vinegars, based on a sampling I did while in Napa.

So, what do you think of this new plan? Are you up for the broader content?

Until next time, thanks for reading and be well.

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Through Our Eyes" Training

Redwood Forest, Katie Pasquini Masopust
80" x 76"
The Hendricks Collection
For two days, I worked with volunteers of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society to prepare them for a special tour they'll be a part of at the KMA.  On April 28th, they'll be sharing personal responses to the artwork that's on display as part of the Long, Winding Journeys exhibition.  Each of the volunteers selected one artwork that connected to them, not just visually, but also to their personal stories.  What they plan to share is very poignant and thought-provoking.   I hope you can join us at 2:30PM at the Katonah Museum of Art on April 28th for this special, "Through Our Eyes" tour.

** In case you're wondering why this post begins with an image of this beautiful piece by Katie Pasquini Masopust, it's because Katie was kind enough to give me permission to use the picture of this artwork for training.  I shared this artwork in order to sample a response for the UWMS volunteers because I absolutely love this quilt.  I have for years.   I connect to it on a variety of levels and it was, actually, hard to share a response that was limited to under five minutes.  I can't remember the first time I saw this quilt, but I can say that I've never forgotten it.  Some things just stay with you, don't they?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

United We Quilt

I spotted a request for quilts for an on-line gallery called, United We Quilt.  Did anyone have a quilt that spoke to themes such as the environment, reproductive rights, free speech, or immigration?  My totem from 2012, "A Show of Hands", seemed a perfect fit.  I sent in an image and now, there it is, on the website.  You can find it in both the Voting and Immigration galleries.  Check it out here, along with all the other quilts they've included.
"A Show of Hands"

Detail, "A Show of Hands"