Monday, July 25, 2011

a little light summer reading, anyone?

It's always easy to spot an Oregonian on vacation outside of the Northwest. They're the ones sitting in the shade with the ethereal complexions, wearing sunglasses and wide brimmed hats, nose deep in a book. 
 Portland is a town full of readers, and I'm not sure, but I think it might possibly have something to do with our rainy climate. 
There is never a time when Powell's City of Books isn't packed, and our library has a ridiculously high circulation rate. This makes for some stiff competition when a new or interesting book is reviewed on NPR or in the NY Times or the Oregonian. Fortunately, the Multnomah County Library has a great website which enables you to search for and place holds on books online. Unfortunately, Portland is also a very web-savvy town, and when a book is mentioned on NPR, within a few seconds there are 350 holds placed on two copies, and you really have to have good reflexes to be one of the first in line to get it. This is exactly what happened when I read this review of "The Instructions" in the Oregonian early one morning in the beginning of January. I jumped up immediately, walked the thirty-six inches to my computer and placed a hold on the book at the library. I was something like number 245. I promptly forgot about it until last Friday, when I got an email from the library stating the book was waiting for me. 

When I went to the holds shelf, I thought I must have ordered an audio book. It looked like a big box sitting on the shelf. Then I remembered that the title of the review was "The best 1,000 page novel you'll ever read", and I realized what I was in for. 
(Wine cork added to show scale)
I just hope three weeks is long enough to finish it. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

weekend wine report

I sure do love a good label, and having designed a few myself, I appreciate good art and snappy copy writing when I see it. Occasionally, I'm even suckered into tempted to buy something just because I like the label. Usually, the actual quality of the product doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the packaging, but every now and then the product almost lives up to the promise of the label.


Here are three bottles of wine that caught my eye a while ago at that bastion of good taste, Trader Joe's. I simply had to buy them, even though each of them exceeded my everyday wine budget of $4.99. I thought the artwork alone was worth the expense.

Lazy Bones is a Cabernet Franc from the Paso Robles area of the central California coast. (A region made famous in part by a starring role in the film Sideways). The label is a beautifully drawn and lettered    woodblock by Swiss artist Felix Vallotton circa 1896, so nice in fact, that I'd love to have a framed print of it. 
While I don't claim to be a wine connoisseur by any means, (see my everyday wine budget above) I do know what I like, and I liked this one. It has a lovely rich flavor like ripe (but not sweet) berries, and an earthy quality that reminded me of being in the forest. 
 The back-of-the-label story is almost as good
 as the artwork on the front:

Okay, so maybe the copy is a little over the top, but it's amusing, to say the least. All in all, not bad for $6.99.

Lost Sonnet is a Meritage, which indicates the wine is made from a blend of certain red grapes. This one is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.  The label described it as having "warm Christmas spice and earth on the nose," leading "into a verse of plush vanilla and chocolate covered cranberries." Personally, my impression was not quite as lyrical. 
I thought it tasted of burnt coffee beans, cherry pie baked in a smoky, oak-fired oven, and had a finish that scoured my tongue like hot steel wool. 
I got it way back in May, and at $9.99, it totally blew my budget. Critics say it should improve with age, but I don't think they meant only 2 months...I give the label a 10, though.

Cocoban was perhaps my favorite of the three.  It's light bodied, but full of fresh but not sweet cherry flavor. I have no idea what the blend is, but it definitely lived up to the description on the label, and although I didn't have a dark chocolate walnut cake with a cherry coulis to pair it with, it went quite nicely with Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered pretzels. 
I am, however, still waiting for it to take me to Nirvana.
At $6.99, that would be a heckuva bargain.
That's it for the wine report...

Monday, July 4, 2011

and it seems like only yesterday his art was on my fridge...

Last week, Matt hung his work
 in a group photography show at
 Portland State University's Autzen Gallery.  
Instead of an opening, they had a closing reception.
Even though I had already seen all the works in progress,
 I was still impressed with how good they looked on those clean white walls.

Father and son shared a touching moment
(pay no attention to the body language - apparently, it's hereditary)
Here's a group portrait of all three talented artists.
We trooped upstairs to see an older installation 
of Matt's graffiti series in the stairwell gallery

Seeing his work hanging in public made
 us so proud and impressed
...and it's so much cooler than hanging on our refrigerator!