Thursday, November 21, 2019

Making A Life from Melanie Falick - A New Book

It's been a long time since I have been excited by a book..... but last week, I received a copy of Melanie Falick's new book Making A Life: Working By Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live

When I received Making a Life I couldn't wait to dig into it. A quick page through and I was intrigued by all the different artists/craftspeople that Melanie included. 

Making A Life begins with Melanie's personal introduction to this project. She has always been a maker. Through this book, Melanie wanted to explore why people make - especially in our current world with all the technology that is so everpresent in our lives. She asks why people both to knit, to sew, to quilt. She introduces scholarly research at the very beginning to inspire the reader to "Discover the Life You are Meant to Live" as the title says.

This is a big book - 320 pages long. Unlike Knitting In America, there are no individual projects that you can make. That is fine with me. I am most interested in reading about other artists (or makers as that term now seems to encompass all kinds of artistic and craft disciplines) -- how they found their beginning, what makes them tick and how they keep themselves motivated to keep on making. Making A Life does that. There are 30 different profiles of artists/craftspeople/makers in disciplines that range from fiber, pottery, sculpture, quilting, weaving, dyeing, shoemaking, woodworking, welding, printing and more.  

Some of the artists featured I was familiar with but some were totally new to me. Melanie has always had the knack for flushing out talent that may be new the larger world. Lotta Jansdotter, Natalie Lete, and Natalie Chanin are women whose work I know. It's nice to read about their stories. It is even more fun for me to explore the other women and men that were new to me - to discover their work and find inspiration in their daily practices. 

Each chapter explores a person, a couple or a school. There are beautiful photographs taken by Rinne Allen. The photographs are arranged in a mixed layout fashion that gives an overview to their craft, tools, supplies, and life. So often books show big beautiful pictures but as we all know - there is only so much room when a photograph takes an entire page. This book almost reads like a good blog post of yesteryear profiling and sharing visuals.

Congratulations to Melanie on another gorgeous book. It is clear that she put her life and soul into this book and we are all the more fortunate for her energy and devotion to the project. 

You can listen to a podcast with Melanie being interviewed by Abby Glassenberg here

Melanie is currently on a Book Tour to share Making a Life. You can see the schedule here. 

If you are a fan of craft and art books, I am quite sure you will love this one. Put it on your Christmas wish list or treat yourself immediately. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Cider Days in Franklin County and The Apple Lady's Apple Cake from France

Every first weekend in November, Cider Days happens in our Franklin County. This is the 25th! Cider Days and it happens this Saturday and Sunday November 2-3 with an opening event Friday evening. Hard cider fanatics fly in from all over the world to celebrate apples, hard cider and farming. It is a great chance to explore the orchards and learn more about apples, fruit and cider. And taste the many different varieties of apples that are grown in our area. Most of the events are sold out very far in advance but you can see the many free events on their site here. This is a volunteer run operation and it amazes me what they can put together. If you only have time to visit one farm, I highly recommend Clarkdale Fruit Farm where they feature a large table of so many varieties of apple slices for tasting. Pick up some apple or pear cider or a bag of apples. 

(BTW - it is also the annual Fiber Festival of New England at the Big E in Springfield.)

Many years ago, The Farmer and I took a vacation in France. On the recommendation of my boss Pat, I took along Patricia Wells' Food Lovers Guide To France. Using Patricia's guide, we explored so many different back roads of France discovering cheese makers, bakers, specialty shops, Calvados, Cognac and Armagnac makers and more. We had the good fortune to be in the Pyrenees this actual day many years ago. We sat at the bar in a small little bistro and a man who could tell we were foreign said to us when we were seated "Appy Al-o-win". At first we didn't know what he was saying - because both The Farmer and I only had high school French but then we figured it out and had a rudimentary conversation with the sweet guy. I will never forget that day. 

The next day, we watched as this little town in the Pyrenees (perhaps Ainhoa, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Espelette) celebrated Toussaint (All Saints Day). There was a parade through the town and all the families went to the cemetery to visit their relatives - bringing bouquets of flowers. We spent some time wandering through the cemetery which I have vivid memories of still. You can see some photos here. This was so many years ago before blogs and cellphones so it is tough to remember it all. 

I have many of Patricia Wells' cookbooks. My favorites are Bistro Cooking and Trattoria. If you ever get a chance to go to France, I highly recommend her Food Guides. What I love so much about Patricia's cookbooks are the headnotes that she includes before each recipe. There is always a story about where the recipe came from, a meal eaten or just a bit of advice. 

Here is a fantastic apple cake recipe for this time of year. I have made it several times over the years. It sounds odd but it is so delicious. I think I will make it again this weekend. I will post a photo of it on Instagram and add it here later. 

The Apple Lady's Apple Cake
    from Patricia Wells' The Paris Cookbook 

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (beaten)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup whole milk
4 baking apples - peeled (2 pounds)*

1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg - beaten
3 Tablespoons butter - melted

*Patricia recommends acidic cooking apples such as Cox's Orange Pippin, Cortland, Gala or Gravenstein. If you prefer sweet apples, she recommends Golden Delicous or Jonagold. 

• Preheat oven to 400.
 Butter a 9" springform pan.
 Core the peeled apples. Cut into thin wedges. 
 In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend. Add vanilla, eggs, oil, and milk and stir until well blended. 
 Add the apples to the batter and stir completely to cover the apples with the batter. 
 Plop the battered apples into the springform pan. I love this part because it looks like a complete mess. Just wait though!
• Place the pan into the middle of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes - until fairly firm and golden. 
• While the cake is baking, make the topping. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir and set aside.
• Remove cake from oven and pour topping over it. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is deep golden brown and cake feels firm when pressed - about 10 minutes. 
• Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan and remove springform leaving the cake on the base. Serve at room temperature cut into thin slices.  

Sorry there is no photo with this post - the photo editor is not working on my blog at this time. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Pop-Up Pottery Sale in Randolph NJ Monday October 14

Popping in today to announce a Kristin Nicholas Pop-Up Pottery Sale next Monday October 14th. 

Hours - 4 to 6 p.m.
Place - At the home of my sister Jennifer 
            7 Chelsea Drive, Randolph NJ 07869
Cash and credit cards accepted.

Here is a link to Google Maps. Randolph is about an hour west of NYC. Jenn's home is not far off of Route 10. 

Come see my pots, pick up some Christmas gifts or treat yourself. Meet my Mom Nancy, sister Jenn, daughter Julia and me! 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Garlic and Arts Festival Wrap Up + Announcement

Oh my gosh - it has been a flurry of activity since I last wrote here on the blog. I made it through the Garlic and Arts Festival the last weekend of September. It was a fun time - but a whole bunch of work organizing my booth, making the sign and getting all the pottery made and finished. You would think this would be easy for me since in my past life I did trade shows for over a decade. Truth is, I always had a great team I was working with and we helped each other. Now I am on my own to think of it all and no one to bounce anything off of.

I started making my pottery back in June working towards this festival. I've made lots and lots of pots. Some of them aren't even finished yet but I will begin decorating again soon for Holiday sales. I started an Instagram 100 day challenge which helped me to focus and really pump out the ceramics. It is called #100daysofvases. You can continue to follow it on my Instagram page @kristinnicholas. I am on Day 63/100 so still have a bit of time to go.

For the festival, I was incredibly fortunate to have some help. My sisters Laurie and Nancy came to visit on Thursday to help price and wrap everything which was awesome.  I can't imagine how long it would have taken me by myself. My good friend Kay volunteered to help out in the booth for the 2 days. Mark and I went to set up the tent and bring the furniture the Friday before the event. We weren't sure what we were walking into because the Festival is on a field and so I had to be prepared for all kinds of uneven and muddy ground. Since we live only about 35 minutes away, I brought some furniture bookcases for display. I used the tables we use at the farmers markets. To keep the bookcases steady, we used leftover fence posts from our portable electric fencing and tied everything up with some jute twine. Clever huh? Good thing farmers don't throw anything away. I still wasn't sure about the wind and possible rain and all my breakable ceramics..... so I brought some incredibly heavy antique brass ecclesiastical vases and filled them with water and sunflowers to help steady everything. It worked!

Kay and I arrived early Saturday morning to bring all the ceramics and set up the display. Kay and I unwrapped it all and tried to make it look as good as it could. I had harvested lots of zinnias and sunflowers from my garden to add to the color and vases.

Here are some photos of the display. You can see the sign I painted a couple days before in the first photo on this post. The booth looked cheerful and the sign and my homegrown flowers added a lot of color and joy to the display. Kay suggested I make some little bowls for succulents and she contributed the plants and potted them up. They sold quite well. 

Generally it was a good couple days and so much fun meeting all kinds of folks. I wish I had made more sales but I really think I had unrealistic expectations of the event. The people were incredibly nice and interested but most were there for the food, music, and education that the festival provided.

The bottom line was this event helped me to work towards my goal of producing more of my handpainted ceramics - ultimately to have for holiday sales on my website.

Thanks so much for being on this journey with me. The #100daysofvases continues over on Instagram. (I'm on Day 63!) I've got more ceramics in the works as I have been making some larger bowls and vases and pitchers thinking towards holiday sales. I realize many of my readers are not at all interested in what I am doing now. I keep this blog going to record what I am doing and so I can check back in on my progress. 

Now for the awesome news - my sister Jenn is hosting a POP-UP POTTERY SALE at her home in Randolph NJ next Monday October 14th (Columbus Day). I'll post the specifics in a second post tomorrow but wanted to let you all know tonight if you are up for an adventure on Monday. 

Friday, October 04, 2019

Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Moths + Pottery

For some reason this summer I have been paying more attention to the bugs that inhabit my garden and our farm. I've never been a bug person but I suppose all the attention that is being paid to pollinators has interested me in them. I do not remember ever learning about Monarch Butterflies or their life cycle when I was a kid. I do not think they taught that lesson back in the dark ages. When Julia was in elementary school, one of the teachers was really into butterflies and I remember them watching the caterpillars turn into butterflies. It was totally NOT on Julia's radar but I thought it was cool. 

I have some milkweed plants that grow along the south facing window of the house and every year I leave them there for the caterpillars. I happened to be around this year long enough to notice them. Here are some Monarch caterpillars doing their thing. I checked on them every day but could not find where they attached their chrysalises. 

One day on my late in the day check, I discovered these strange wooly-ish caterpillars. I googled them and discovered they were called Milkweed Tussock Moths. The next day, the Monarch caterpillars were gone and the milkweed was covered with these funky little caterpillars. Here is what the caterpillars become when they are moths. 

Late in the season this year, I have been trying to photograph the butterflies. It is really hard to get a good photo. It turns out butterflies are afraid of humans getting too close. 

I don't know what this one is?????

If someone can help me please - one of you bug people - I am wondering what the name of the butterfly is that isn't a Monarch. I have a lot of them in my garden now. One side of the wings is orange and black and white and the other side is kind of a funny brown pattern. I think it may be a Painted Lady

I have always added caterpillars to many of my pottery pieces. I'm not sure how people feel about bugs on their pottery but for me, it adds a little life to the scene. I think if someone is a gardener, they will appreciate the caterpillar (or worm as I sometimes refer to them as). Here is a new large cachepot that is going to go into the kiln when I can finish enough to fill it up. 

Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sunflower Season 2019 at the Farm

The sunflowers I planted in late June and early to mid July are at their peak right now. I planted over a span of 3 weeks and even though each variety has different days to bloom, it always seems they bloom all at once. 

Their beauty is quite overwhelming. The color and vibrancy, the seed heads as they mature, the insects that they feed, the tall stalks that grow from a single tiny seed about 1/2" long - it is all too much to take. Add to it the gorgeous blue sky that the yellow, orange and red sunflowers are set against and it is over the top gorgeousness. For all you color people, that is the magic of complementary color combinations! 

For all you gardeners, I purchase my seeds from Sunflower Selections in California and Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine. I prefer branching varieties because I get more blooms from a plant. I do grow a few of the single stem varieties which you will find in supermarkets. They ship better and last a long time - something that professional growers need. The plants are not nearly as charming though. 

I wish you were here to take it all in but since you aren't, I will share some of the beautiful blooms in the fresh - almost fall - clear and crisp air. Last night, a frost could have befelled it all but the blooms made it through. 

Making A Life from Melanie Falick - A New Book

It's been a long time since I have been excited by a book..... but last week, I received a copy of Melanie Falick's new book Making...