Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Grapefruit and the color pink. Yum.

Aren't grapefruits just...pretty? My heart also made it into one of the photos - it is an object I'm using for a 365 day Flickr project.

Grapefruit triptych
Heart on grapefruit

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gus Man

This is one of our two kitties, Gus, peering out the window into our backyard (otherwise known as his kingdom).  Watch out, birdies!

Gus sees a birdie
Deep thoughts
Yes, he's over 20 pounds

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Giant chocolate toffee cookies

And even more cookies!
Yummy cookies!
More yummy cookies!

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4 ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coursely chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped, toasted

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm. 

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes.  Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts.  Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.  Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart.  Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes.  Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature). 

Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Recipe from 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Andy Samberg rules

I saw this online for the first time this evening, and I almost laughed until I cried.   Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finally done!!

Phew!  My final critique for digital art class was today.  I'm pretty happy with the end result of my portfolio.  You can find my final written statement and images below.  

My photographs are an exploration of organic form and texture. Like a scientific experiment, I reduce the number of distracting variables to isolate the object, moving the viewer away from everyday associations with nature. Stripping flowers, leaves, and trees of color reveals symmetry and detail in sharper focus. By removing plants from their natural environment or simply focusing on individual plants or parts of a plant, each subject is shown simply as it is in a moment of time; identity is defined outside its usual physical or culturally conceived environment.

For a moment, then, a gerbera daisy is not defined within human language by its latin name, Gerbera jamesonii, or culturally bound as a cheerful flower well-suited to floral arrangements. A close-up image of its central florets doesn't give that much away. An image of an eye, for instance, or a lily pad may surface for a moment before the mind snaps it neatly into place as "gerbera daisy." 

A pattern is revealed as these images are observed as a collection, transforming them into a case for Darwinian natural selection. Nature has, indeed, selected more successful forms and textures that are repeated over and over in the natural world. The rough bark of an oak tree is reminiscent of the exterior of an orchid's pseudobulb, while a close up of a daisy's flower head may remind the viewer of a field of corn. By examining form and texture outside of context, common links are revealed.

Rhodes Tree
Fuji Mum bottom
Fuji Mum top
Teeny white flowers at Rhodes
Key West flower
Key West fuchsia flower
Key West palm leaf
Rister's tomatoes
Orchids at home

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Key West anniversary trip

This is a kitty that lives at the Avalon Bed and Breakfast.  We stayed there on our first trip to Key West and we visit Tigger every time we go back. Tigger is usually pretty cranky, but she seemed much nicer this time around. I think they put her on a diet, too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Online communities

This past spring, I took a linguistics class and became interested in online communities. Why do people present themselves a certain way and, when they communicate in a virtual environment, what drives word and phrase choice? So, I wrote a paper about an online community for kids that have gone through major surgery or cancer called the Experience Journal. Kids that have already gone through a medical procedure or a traumatic experience because of their condition share their experiences through narrative.  The hope is that kids just beginning the process - who are often physically isolated in a hospital or at home - may not feel quite so alone after reading about other kids going through the same thing. A good bit of research has shown that kids with a more optimistic outlook have better outcomes and shorter recovery time. Children's Hospital of Boston bought into that philosophy and created In my paper, I compared narratives written by transplant patients and ADHD kids and concluded that transplant patients form more of a survivor identity in this virtual community to make sense of what is happening to them. 

Along a less serious vein, I am also fascinated by online communities that share and communicate visually, such as Flickr. I have a Flickr account and, in case you're not familiar with the site, you can post and share your photos. There is an endless variety of interest groups on Flickr, and the following are examples to which I belong: Flowers on Black, Rhodes College, Key West, Urban Fragments, Memphis Zoo and, last but not least, the One Object 365 Days Project. 

The last one mentioned has been taking up a bit of time lately. The goal is to take a picture of the same object every day for a year. The scenery can change but the object must remain the same. You cannot say the object is a tree and take a picture of a different tree every day...gotta be the same tree. Most people pick something small so that it is easily carried around. 

In my case, I chose a small heart on a silk string made out of clay polymer beads.  It was made by Billie Beads, a funky, hippie husband and wife duo out of New York City. They make other objects out of the same beads like skulls, masks, and piggy banks. It's kind of interesting seeing the same bright, swirly colors on a sweet little heart next to a huge, scary skull.

Anyway, I am on day 11 of my 365 journey, and the farther along I get the more worried I get about my sanity. There are only so many things I can do to make a little clay heart interesting, so it is easy to begin building little stories around the pictures I take.  

Here is one that is OK:

Today I spent most of the day in the basement of the art building at my school. The unnatural lighting is about to suck the life out of me! I snuck into the print shop across the way and snapped a quick shot of my heart amongst the gritty print equipment.

Fine, OK, typical day in the life of me. Here's when I start to worry:

Mom casts a baleful eye upon Tiffany, upset that she stayed out so late last night.

...followed by...

Mom forgives with a hug.

Again, there are only so many things you can do with a clay heart, but what?? I am presenting some short yet peculiar narratives online, and I have no idea what that says about me. At the time, I simply thought it was funny. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Key West

George and I were married on November 11, 2007, in Key West at the Hemingway House. We needed little justification to return a year later to celebrate our one year anniversary. So, right now, I am sitting on the deck of the Avalon Bed and Breakfast on south Duval Street, having coffee and watching the colorful passersby on their way to the beach, a leisurely brunch, a drag show - there are a refreshingly wide array of offerings in this town even in the early AM.

Yesterday, we visited the Hemingway House and took pictures of the six-toed kitties lazing about the property. We were thrilled to find the wonderful lady who officiated our wedding ceremony, Linda Mendez, behind the counter at the gift shop. My photographer and hair stylist described her separately as "salt of the earth, " and I must say this is an apt description. Laid back and tanned to leathery perfection, this Minnesota transplant now happily considers herself a Key West local after 25 years. A year ago this month, I was calling her on a weekly basis with a check list of questions that seemed vital at the time but I know now are just plain annoying: "If the cake is delivered at noon will it sit in the sun or do you have a fridge?" "Will you have Sprite for the kids???" "How long will the musician hang around? We paid for an hour but do we need two?" She not only answered my questions with the patience of a saint, she also managed to calm me down and the only person more manic than me at the time, my mother. She may not know this, but WE LOVE LINDA.

She's the lady front and center in the picture taken one year ago from today.

I'll follow later with pictures of my trip!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A voter virgin no more

I admit with chagrin that today is the first time I've voted. Ever. 

Anyone who knows me well is probably aware that I live in a bubble into which few current events seep.  My favorite story around that theme involves the Unabomber.  One day a few years ago I was at my parent's house visiting. I picked up a copy of People magazine that was sitting on the coffee table, read the front cover, and proceeded to shriek, "Mom!!  They caught the Unabomber!!!" I enjoyed a rare moment of glee in which I was, for once, the person in the know. Although my mom reads the newspaper religiously. And it was her magazine.

I swear that my mom looked at me as if she had just realized- although I'm 23 at the time - that I'm retarded as she responded dryly, "Katie....they caught the Unabomber a year and a half ago." Since then, at least once a month she orders me to read the paper after similar snafus.  The most recent one is the revelation that I have absolutely no idea who Joe the Plumber is.  I say this in present tense because it happened today.

In the middle of writing this blog my friend Tony called, who is obsessed with politics and any/all current events, regularly making me feel both guilty and stupid for my lack of interest. Although he did get in a jab or two about my general cluelessness (this is a common joke shared by many at my expense), he did say he was proud of me that I voted. I am proud that I voted for someone, yes, but it's even better that I have solid reasons behind why I voted for Obama. 

This marks a new, enlightened era for Katie Maish, I think. Hey, did you hear that the U.S. economy is in the tank? Oh, and apparently Tina Fey is the Republican vice presidential candidate. Who knew she'd make the switch from comedy to politics?

Yep, you heard it here first.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I went over to Rister's house today and thought the tomatoes sitting on the sill were pretty.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just for fun!

This is Photoshop mischief at its worst, but I was working through a couple of tutorials and thought this was hilarious. If you know how much of a princess Emma is in real life, it is even funnier. The chic supermodel pose may be a tip off. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How and why.

As it turns out, my professor does not want to know the "how" but the "why" in the written statement of our final digital art assignment. My why takes up a wimpy paragraph in the first draft. I spent waaaaaay more time discussing how I'd manipulate the images and print them...probably because that is easier to do. The following "why" statement is stretched out a bit, but I'm pretty pleasantly surprised at an idea that popped up as a result of this experiment:

My photographs are a visual exploration of organic form and texture. Similar to a scientific experiment, I reduce the number of distracting variables to move the viewer away from her everyday associations with nature. Stripping flowers, leaves, and trees of color reveals symmetry and detail in much sharper focus than they would have otherwise been viewed. By removing plants from their environment or simply focusing on individual plants or parts of a plant, each subject is shown simply as it is in a moment of time; identity is defined outside its usual physical or culturally conceived environment.

For a moment, then, a gerbera daisy is not defined within human language by its latin name, Gerbera jamesonii, or culturally bound as a cheerful, popular flower well-suited to floral arrangements. A close-up image of its central florets doesn't give that much away. An image of an eye, for instance, or a lily pad, may surface for a moment before the mind snaps it neatly into place as "gerbera daisy."

A pattern is revealed as these images are observed as a collection, transforming them into a case for Darwinian natural selection. Nature has, indeed, selected more successful forms and textures that are repeated over and over in the natural world. The rough bark of an oak tree is very reminiscent of the exterior of an orchid bulb, while a close up of a daisy's flower head may remind the viewer of a field of corn. By examining form and texture outside of context, common links are revealed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jason and Leslie are having a baby.

Shhh, it's a secret. Here are the proud parents-to-be!


I haven't mentioned my print communication class yet, probably because I don't find it as interesting as my digital art class. It's still fun, though. The objective of the class is to learn how to develop logos and print ads. What's fun is that we get to pick whatever business, service, or product we want, and the teacher encourages us to push our designs in way-out-there directions. In all, my team will design three logos and three print ads this semester. We just finished up the first one. Check it out. If it makes sense, we did our job. If I have to spend an hour explaining it, hey, at least it's kinda pretty.

Company name: Airfair

Description: Consulting firm that advises homeowners how to reduce their carbon footprint. We calculate a home's footprint and follow with information about energy efficient products they can use as well as ways they can offset their carbon footprint if they're interested in going neutral.

In case it's not clear, the above image is the print ad. The logo is at the bottom of the image. One thing to keep in mind is that there isn't anything on the ad that is an accident. So, for instance, the map that is screened back behind the house, the house that is shaped like an arrow, the highlighted "f" in the logo with the fingerprint texture behind it: all done with a purpose. Designers spend crazy amounts of time thinking through things like this. Not what I want to do for a living, but doesn't it sound like a lot of fun?

Digital art written statement

As part of the final project in my digital art class, a written statement is required. It is due today and, for whatever reason, I put it off until just now. It's a good exercise, though, because it forces you to really think about why you're shooting what you're shooting. And, wow, I didn't realize how clinical my approach was until I wrote this. Very revealing, and a little scary. I tried to keep it short and sweet:

My photographs are a visual exploration of organic form, shape, and texture. By stripping flowers, leaves, and trees of color, I seek to isolate and study their exterior and their gorgeous symmetry to reveal that nature has, indeed, selected more successful forms and textures that are repeated over and over in the natural world. Similar to a scientific experiment, I reduce the number of variables to move the viewer away from their everyday associations with nature. In addition to removing color, I do this by either removing plants from their environment or simply focusing on individual plants or parts of a plant. For my final project, all images are formally and conceptually linked.

All images are also digitally and physically treated similarly. Ten to twelve photographs are shot by a Nikon D80 digital SLR camera. For many of the flower images, I utilize a Hoya close-up lens kit rather than a macro lens for two reasons: I do not currently own a macro lens, and I enjoy the bokeh effect achieved through use of the Hoya lenses. All images are digitally scanned into Adobe Photoshop CS3 and most are treated with the following techniques:
- The color image is converted to black and white.
- A color fill is applied (R = 90, G = 55, B = 20) to produce a warming effect at an approximate 12% to 15% opacity. I use blending options to take the color fill out of the highlights to increase the contrast of the overall picture.
- A curve is applied to reduce the strength of the shadows. This evens out the values in the shadows and midtowns and reveals more detail.
- All or part of the image is sharpened using the smart sharpen filter. Most are sharpened by 100% to 150%. If a portion of the photo is sharpened, a layer mask is created using the lasso selection tool.
- Contrast is increased. The percentage varies pretty widely picture to picture.

All images are printed on Hahnemuhle 308 gsm Photo Rag using an Epson Pro Stylus 4880. A color profile specific to Photo Rag is applied to each image. Each print is 17" wide and approximately 10" to 12" tall with 1" margins.

Monday, October 27, 2008


For my second progress review in digital art class, I will be showing a series of flower shots I did at home.  I used a Nikon D80 with a close up lens kit (magnified 6x) using natural light in my kitchen.  I thought these looked fine on screen until I printed them on an Epson Pro Stylus 4880 on 308 lb Hahnemuhle photo rag at a 15" x 12" size...let's just say certain imperfections were revealed when 
viewed at such a large scale.  

I still like them, though!  Here are a couple of them.  I personally like black and white with a slight brown tint (aka sepia), but they may be a tad boring to some when compared to full color versions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I looooove letterpress.

I mean, who doesn't love letterpress printing? Everything about it is...luscious. I've been on my computer today surfing my favorite sites. Take a look:

- Wiley Valentine - Two extremely talented designers on the west coast, Emily and Rachelle, design and print wedding invitations, birth announcements, and social stationery. They will print most things either flat or letterpress. For those that can't afford letterpress, no worries: their designs lend flat printing a modern vintage, dimensional feel that reminds you of letterpress. Plus, they use fabulously textured papers for most of their work. I got my social stationery through them and, by chance, the name of the design is Katie! Check it out and drool.

- Mr. Boddington's Studio - Mr. Boddington is actually a woman named Rebecca based in New York. Yummy wedding invitations, birth announcements, and social stationery. Her save the dates are hilarious. 

- Pomco Graphics - I worked with this company for several years and, in my humble opinion, they're one of the best printers in the country. And they do everything - letterpress, offset, digital, thermography, foil stamping, engraving, embossing, name it, they do it in house. Love these guys! They just updated their site, too, it's so much better than it used to be. 

- Smock - I don't really know much about this company but from what I see on their site, their stuff rocks! 

For great color on press, go green.

Occasionally, I'm going to write on topics I'd like to learn more about as an incentive to research them in the first place. Today, on my birthday, I'm going to be lazy and share an article I already researched and wrote for International Paper. Having just gotten back from San Francisco, all things green and sustainable are on the brain. The audience for this article included merchant paper companies and commercial offset printers. My intent was to inform them of environmentally-sound choices they may make regarding inks and varnishes. The article was published July 2007 in Link, a bimonthly publication that is designed, written, produced, and circulated by International Paper.

Sustainability, as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development, is development "that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The concept of sustainability can seem complicated at first, but when boiled down to basic principles it is quite simple. Every human activity consumes resources from the planet and produces waste that the planet must somehow absorb; this is referred to as an ecological footprint. Having recently taken a quiz on my personal footprint (analyzing food consumption, mobility, shelter and goods/services used), I am glad to know that I hit the average for a U.S. citizen but shocked to find that, were everyone on Earth to live a lifestyle like mine, we would need 5.5 planets!

In an atmosphere of rapidly expanding social and environmental responsibility and awareness, many stakeholders in the graphic communications industry are modifying their business practices to conserve resources and reduce their footprint on our planet. One way that commercial printers can do this is to look more closely at the chemicals they put in their presses. Specifying agri-based inks and water-based varnishes for sheetfed and web presses over petrochemical varieties, for example, can significantly reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the environment. Beyond that, there are other types of inks that can be used to replace hazardous, petroleum-based inks. Following is a short list of inks that are available to commercial printers today.

Petroleum-based inks. Petroleum is not considered sustainable and is not a renewable resource. They contain relatively high levels of VOCs that are emitted into the air; this can be an irritant to press room employees. They also contribute to the formation of smog. They do, however, dry more quickly than vegetable-based inks.

Heavy metal and metallic inks. Known carcinogens such as cadmium, chromium, and lead have been replaced with carbon-based substitutes, but many colors still contain heavy metals that can contaminate soil and groundwater when leached into the environment. Typically, metallic inks are not easily recycled or mixed with other inks. Earlier this year, Sun Chemical did launch Metal-Eco, a vegetable-based sheetfed offset metallic ink that they claim is the first on the market completely devoid of mineral- or petroleum-based oils. They are available in the full range of Pantone metallic colors from PMS 871 to PMS 877.

Vegetable-based inks. A good alternative to petroleum-based inks, these products are made with renewable and biodegradable resources such as soy, cottonseed, vernonia, sunflower, tung, linseed, and canola oils. Soy-based inks can contain anywhere from 20% to 100% soy oil, and the balance is made up of petroleum. Because there is a percentage of petroluem, vegetable-based inks do emit VOCs; however, their emission rates are much smaller than a purely petrochemical ink. It is important to contact ink manufacturers when specifying a vegetable-based ink to insist on a low VOC rating.

There are several advantages to using agri-based inks:
- Less tendency to skin over in the ink well
- Soy-based inks tend to work well with recycled paper because they adhere more effectively and do not pick out the fibers of the paper
- You get brighter colors
- They permit greater latitude in ink-water balance and provide more coverage per pound of ink

Unfortunately, there are also drawbacks. Soy and other vegetable oils cannot be used for heat set inks because the drying time is considerably slower than that of a petroleum-based ink. Also, the vegetable oil in the ink is a renewable resource, but the pigment suspended in the oils can potentially be a toxic ingredient. Certain colors require heavy metals that are hazardous such as zinc, barium, and copper; for an even "greener" vegetable-based ink, specify a color with no heavy metals.

UV inks. When UV inks are printed they are exposed to ultraviolet light and immediately dry to a solid film. While these inks can be difficult to recycle, this process releases no VOCs into the environment.

Varnish, aqueous and UV coatings. Aqueous coatings are more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based varnishes because they emit fewer VOCs, can be recycled, and do not require potentially hazardous solvents for clean up. As with UV inks, UV coatings can be difficult to recycle but emit no VOCs because they cure instantly.

Recycled inks. Waste ink is generated through on-press color changes, press cleaning and poor ink management; these practices encourage ink drying and skinning. Printers can blend leftover four color process inks to produce black. This produces a deeper, richer black since it is built out of more than one color. They may also mix non-contaminated excess ink with virgin ink of the same color. Otherwise, leftovers can be returned to ink distributors for recycling.

Toner for digital presses. Toner cartridges are recyclable, but toner used in such equipment as laser and ink jet printers are petroleum based. The Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, has partnered with the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) to develop a more sustainable, soy-based option for copy machines and computer printers. They are currently working on potential marketers to bring the product to consumers this year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

San Francisco

Tomorrow, I will be 33 years old. Although the purpose for this blog is not really to discuss travel, it's my birthday and my blog and I'll do what I want. So, here goes.

The place that I'd most like to be on my birthday I visited this past week for the first time...San Francisco.  Four days ago today I was sitting in Golden Gate Park, cursing the locals jogging past with their dogs and wondering if there's a teaching hospital my husband could transfer to. Frankly, I'd move there even if I was only qualified to wash dishes. 

What do I love most about the city, you say?  
The food.  Oh, the glorious food.

More specifically, many of the city's best restaurants take time and immense pride in combining simple and, when possible, local ingredients to yield what is heaven on a plate (and the tasty California wines doesn't hurt it a bit). Instead of hiding fantastic meat and cheese under heavy sauce, they allow these tasty morsels to shine.  The roasted young chicken at Fish & Farm, for instance, takes center stage; it comes with panisse, sweet & sour gypsy peppers, and basil.  And that's it. Ironically, I think the fewer ingredients you use, the more difficult it is to make a dish tasty.  There's more than one restaurant in town that has mastered this skill down to a fine art. 

Some may find some of the menus a bit pretentious even if they claim they're not.  One restaurant advertises itself as "unpretentious northern California cuisine" but, upon inspection of the menu, I can't help but chuckle while reading over listings such as "seared cage free hudson valley foie gras with serrano ham, orange braised celery root, and huckleberry coulis."  I mean, come on.  

But, you know what?  I don't care.  It tastes incredible.  So, I embrace my environment, snap my fingers at Farallon's sommelier, and order up a buttery Cutrer to wash down my yummy duck liver.  Oh, happy day. 

Alas, I didn't take pictures of the aforementioned food, I was too busy gobbling it up.  Here are some random pictures from my trip.


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