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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Lost Arts: Bookmaking

Our family recently took a wonderful class in Bookmaking, with Eva Shoshany at W.I.G.T. Printing in Mill Valley. Eva supplied the cardboard forms, lots of recycled papers for covering them, ribbons and comb bindings to bind them, pages for the insides, and tons of ideas and inspiration from her and her business and life partner, Barry Toranto, and from their wonderful print shop, which churns out posters, brochures, business cards and more from a Tudor-style storefront in Mill Valley.

Here’s Eva, getting us started:

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Inspiration:

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Anna places the pages into her book:

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Careful with the paper cutter, Dear:

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Lippy plans his book:

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Now, that’s a comb binding:

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I’m getting biz-zay collaging on my book cover:
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I was inspired by the traditional papier-mache strip shape:

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Eva started a photo album for a honeymooning couple:

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We enjoyed being around the ink and presses in the print shop:

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I love Eva’s filing cabinet, which was originally used for sewing patterns:

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Anna began her own colorful collage cover:

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Lippy’s books turned out beautifully, inside and out:

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He plans to make his own sketchbooks from now on:

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Eva is leading at least two more Bookmaking workshops, if you want to learn to do this yourself:

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman & Eva Shoshany

Cheese of the Week: Emmi L’Etivaz Raw Milk Gruyere

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I love this cheese unconditionally. It’s exciting. It’s complex. It’s redolent. And it’s mighty tasty. It’s the taste that provides a wonderful surprise, because L’Etivaz has virtually no smell, no hint of the musty, aged quality it unearths on the taste buds. Like any good gruyere, the cheese is just firm enough to have a nice texture, and just soft enough to still offer a little give. The taste is strong and distinctive, somewhat nutty, with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Many different flavors mingle and linger, so that one enjoys the complex taste long after the cheese itself is gone. It’s got a bite to it, and a good mouth feel. Serve it with a full-bodied red wine, a hearty mushroom dish, or strong, tasty figs. You may also be inspired to bake with it — perhaps a French onion soup.

Cheese-o-philes already know this one’s special. It’s made by a small group of family cheesemakers in the Swiss Alps (near the village of Etivaz), who created it to preserve the old methods of heating milk in copper cauldrons over open wood fires, before processing it and aging it in caves. The milk is from high Alpine cows who graze only in summer, on a rare and fleeting combination of grass, flowers, and herbs. You can taste the tradition, geography and care in the cheese. Knowing its heritage, I feel extremely fortunate that it’s available at the corner market, and even more so that my husband brought some home, mistakenly thinking he was buying his favorite, and different, cave-aged gruyere.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Vanishing Breed: Milkmen

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It seems home milk delivery is up. Of course, through mid-century, most Americans had milk delivered to their doorsteps, from horse-drawn wagons, and then from trucks. In Southern California, the Adohr man left cold bottles in a metal carrier outside our door. But supermarket milk seemed more convenient, and many routes were discontinued (like Adohr, and then our Helms Bakery truck), and by 2000, less than one percent of Americans had their milk delivered.

If there’s a slight uptick, we’re part of it. We’ve been getting milk delivered for nearly 10 years. We started because I wanted my daughter to have that experience, to be able to mark time by the simple routine of a weekly delivery, as well as taste farm-fresh organic milk — produced the same day we get it, we’re told. Because our driveway is too steep for the milk truck, we would even wait for it to come driving up the street below. If we missed our milkman, no problem. Glass bottles could be left in our oversized mailbox, which serves the same purpose as a tin cooler of old.

Our milkman is Ron LaMariana, the Sonoma-Marin Milkman, who calls himself “Mr. Moo.” His milk is from the Straus Family Creamery, in West Marin, the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi. We even took a tour of the Straus Creamery, to complete the loop. To say hi to the cows that give us our milk, to walk the land, and to churn butter so fresh you could taste a hint of spring grass in it. Even now, I like the weekly routine of going down to the mailbox and returning with a crateful of milk. Sometimes we’ll even get a nice cream top on our 2%, so thick you have to scoop it out with a knife.

Rockin’ Robin

Our mid-March mornings have been filled with the song of an American Robin. Its unmistakable, trilling “cheerio-cheerio-cheep” has served as a happy harbinger of Spring, not to mention a morning wake-up for the later-sleeping members of the family. Listen to the robin in our trees.

Rich in Kindness, Poor in Money

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When I was appointed to our local library board, the City Librarian asked me to write a brief piece about my own early library and reading experiences. The moment that I spied the book “All of a Kind Family” in my school library remains so vivid and important to me that I had no trouble responding. The answer had always been there.

I fell permanently in love with books and with libraries on a rainy day in second grade. Already a reader, I became enthralled with the “bigger-kid” paperbacks in the school library that spun on their own gold rack. Something about one book in particular really jumped out. The book was Sydney Taylor’s “All-of-a-Kind Family”. On its cover was a drawing of five similar girls, of various heights, wearing matching pinafores and high-topped boots. I checked the book out and began devouring its tales of family and neighbors on New York’s Lower East Side, in the early 1900s, a group “rich in kindness, though poor in money”. I read about penny candy and Roman candles, pushcart peddlers and the power of imagination in tough times. I went on to read the book’s three equally enthralling sequels and, when my daughter was in second grade, I read “All-of-a-Kind Family” to her. I still have my original copy of this book, which I was given, and which has followed me across the country and back, perching on multiple bookshelves in multiple homes. To this day, I’m rarely without a book to read and I’m still a sucker for the library’s spinning gold rack, even if it happens to look more like the New Fiction shelf.

Most lifelong readers can probably conjure a similar memory. What’s yours?

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Tulipmania: One Bubble I Can Really Get Behind

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I love tulips with the same passion I reserve for pumpkins. Both come in infinite variations. Both signal seasonal change. And both share some part of their jolly orb shape. Tulips provide the added, almost erotic, pleasure of allowing you to pour over a catalog of perfect color photos, to obsess about the difference between, say, the Golden Parade and the Jewel of Spring, to revel in the names that veer between the highly romantic and the very Dutch, and to plan the season’s planting accordingly.

Where I live, you pretty much have to plant fresh each year. Winters are not cold enough to leave the bulbs in the ground. (One year, I attempted to dry the bulbs with a root solution for safekeeping over the summer and fall, and the resulting flowers were puny and wilted.) Perhaps this is for the best. Each year brings new plans for stunning tulips. The homely bulbs go in the fridge in mid-October for their six-week hibernation. If I’ve gotten them in the ground by Frank Sinatra’s birthday (December 12), or even better, by Thanksgiving, I’m almost guaranteed a nice spring show.

This year’s crop came up fairly uniformly – a minor miracle – and seem to be at their peak right now, in mid-march. I photographed them during a break between rainstorms.

Daydream

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I am always on the lookout for classically shaped tulips in a soft apricot color, with maybe a little color variation for interest. The Daydream, a Darwin Hybrid, has delivered all that. The flower height ranges from 20”-24”. The stem is nice and sturdy, and the bulb is a pleasing size. Some of the flowers tend toward a pale yellow color. Daydreams open in the sun to reveal a black center.

American Dream

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This is another Darwin Hybrid, with more extreme coloring than the Daydream. In fact, I was a little afraid it might be too garish. But it is a lovely flower, with just enough dramatic flair in its flame-edged petals. There’s even a hint of green climbing up into the yellow flower, making the American Dream wonderfully complex and artistic. Stems are sturdy here, bulbs are a nice size. Height ranges from 18”-22”.

New Design

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The New Design is another tulip that looked a little bright in the catalog, but is a very pretty pale pink, with darker pink around the petal edges and some variegated coloring (including a little yellow and green) sneaking up the petals’ centers. It’s a Triumph tulip, which, like the Darwin Hybrid type, is a classically shaped tulip that is the happy result of years of patient breeding. These flowers are 20”-24” high and have fun, light green floppy leaves on sturdy stems.

Negrita

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The dramatic Negrita is always one of the first tulip bulbs to sell out at my local nursery. It’s easy to see why. This classically shaped magenta flower – not as deep purple as some of the catalogues suggest –provides a sophisticated contrast to the other tulips of spring. The flower, also a Triumph, is big and slightly elongated. Flowers sit on thick stems, 18”-22” high.

With more than 2,000 named tulips, and more being developed all the time, there’s no telling which will catch my eye for next year. While I would keep any of this year’s flowers in my stable, I’m also attracted to the exotic fringe-petaled Parrot tulips in strong colors, and the group of tulips called Rembrandt, with their painterly blood-red flames that streak up each yellow or cream-colored petal.

Individual Tulip Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Cheese of the Week: Irish Dubliner with Stout

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With its deep green wax rind, Irish pedigree, and addition of Stout, could there be a better cheese with which to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? This cow’s milk cheese could be mistaken for Cheddar’s smooth cousin. Its buttery texture hits you slightly ahead of its taste, which is pleasingly mild, but also has a noticeable bite. The Stout adds a note of sweetness to the nutty Dubliner, making this a more complex cheese than might appear at first glance, or first bite. It’s a fine cheese for melting onto a sandwich, or serving with water crackers and a fruit spread like Dalmatia Orange Fig Spread. It can also stand up to strong, plain fruit, such as blackberries.

Happy St. Patrick’s!

Susan is Enjoying Facebook

OK, I know I’m late to the party. I resisted it for some time. But, you know what? Facebook is fun. A lot of fun. It’s also provoked a complete flood of nostalgia for every station of my life. There’s a page for Roosevelt Elementary School, where I spent grades K-6 and where I thought a little hillock of land on its corner at Lincoln and Montana was a mountain (and I really did fly off it once, using a wind-blown umbrella as a sail. Really.) My brother’s on the site — he’s the one who convinced me to join — and he has assured that every business on that stretch of Montana has been memorialized. I posted about the candy I used to buy at Patton’s Pharmacy — Everyone stopped there after school and ogled the whole aisle of impossibly-colored wrappers. My favorite, for the record, was the Chick-o-Stick.

Then there’s a group for reminiscing about the whole town — the Santa Monica of my childhood, with it’s open-air promenade that is now a chic shopping destination, but was then a modest collection of stores that were grand only in terms of their size, their buildings proclaiming “Toni” and “Thom McCann” in the scrawled, optimistic text of the 60s. I posted about eyeing the paisley and other very hip shoes at Vin Baker, before buying the cheaper platforms at Carl’s, and about Sol’s Yardage, a warehouse-sized place where women would sit at the long, slanted wooden tables, in rows across from one another, licking their forefingers as they turned the pages in the pattern catalogs. There was mention of the Smuggler as a “head shop”, though, of course, it was more — a den packed with turquoise rings and macrame chokers and tiny vials of floral scents and buttons with hilarious (to a teen) sayings. I contributed the Sorrento Grill to the memory bank, a wonderful fry joint on the beach with checked tablecloths and black-and-white photos of old volleyball players and surfers on its walls. It was torn down after the summer of 1974. Appropriately, the last song I remember weeping out of its jukebox was “Alone Again Naturally”.

Then there is perhaps the weirdest Santa Monica memory. For years, every time I’d walk or drive by the retaining wall that sat nestled into the bluffs on Pacific Coast Highway at Montana, I’d see it: huge, black graffitied letters, of a sort that would never stay up for years today, proclaiming: “Tommy Surko says, for my girl, there’s only one. Tommy Surko.” I always wondered what happened to Tommy Surko and whether he got the girl. (Or any girl.) On Facebook, I might not find out, but I can at least find people who also remember Tommy Surko and that particular time and place.

There’s a junior high group, of course (with the word “Survivors” in its title.) And high school ones. And groups for people of similar vintage who went to the same dance clubs I did, in L.A. and then in New York, and who remember every incarnation of the floating underground ones whose names I could never hope to recapture by myself. And groups for people who just like the same architecture, or philosophy, or relatively arcane hobbies and passions. That’s the beauty of this large selection of people, and why I’m finding it so different from the smaller boards I’ve been on since 1991.

I’ve also found people and they’ve found me. These are good friends who live in other parts of the country that I’d been in occasional touch with. Now I can see what they’re reading and listening to and thinking about and doing, and what their kids — and even they — look like. And I’m really enjoying that.

It’s only been a few days. I’m not ready to proclaim, “Facebook, C’est Moi!” For one thing, its interface and search functions are clunky and inept. I don’t need the e-mail updates when a stranger writes “You go, Girl!” to a friend. But, for the most part, I’m finding it one more fun aspect of a full life, and thinking about all the connections that are duplicated for other people’s hometowns and elementary schools, not to mention the people finding companionship, or at the very least a group of people who also like to eat jelly doughnuts, is cause enough to smile.

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