Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blue Ribbon

In order to wash the terrible memory of Jinsei from my mind, I had sushi last night for dinner. Ramani took me out to Blue Ribbon Sushi, in the Six Columbus hotel. It's one of the top-rated sushi spots in New York, but never had a chance to try it when I lived here. I had a truly amazing (seriously) sashimi platter, a few bites of Ramani's Blue Ribbon fried chicken (?!), and awesome bread pudding. I also have to mention that I stopped into the ladies' room, located in the hotel, and I felt like I was being eaten by the future. Bad, scary, but without being post-apocalyptic future. The walls of the hallway were completely upholstered in chocolate brown cow hide. Not leather. Cow hide. With hair. Hair (fur?) walls. And blue, hurts-your-eyes futurelights.
And now I promise not tobring up sushi again.

Nothing of note has happened since I arrived. After flight cancellations, a night in Charlotte, and many hours in the airport, I finally made it to New York on Monday. I did a little shopping yesterday, and had an afternoon appointment with a kids' store in Williamsburg. It went...okay. I did find that I had plenty to say about my work, though, and I think I sounded much more professional than I feel. Even though I remind myself that everyone starts somewhere, and that there are a lot of independent creators and designers in the same boat, it's hard not to feel like you're a kid playing at being a grown-up.

I got to see Steven and Cathy for a bit yesterday evening. I'm glad I caught them before they moved. There are a couple of other friends to catch up with today and quilting stores to visit. Tomorrow afternoon we're headed to W. Virginia. I won't be terribly sad to leave. Birmingham has gotten me used to privacy again and I miss it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jinsei Review Part II

For those of you dying to know, Jinsei can be found in SoHo, a block and a half of overpriced shops and restaurants in--to spit in the face of acronymologists everywhere--North Homewood. Parking is located off 29th Avenue South, right between the white BMW and the white Lexus with two carseats and the mysterious and confusing "my other mom is a broom" bumper sticker.

A moment before exiting Jinsei you enter it. It is at this time that you are bombarded with a loud, fresh dose of jungly drum and bass; it's like walking into the climax of Step Up 2: The Streets, but profession dancers have been replaced by pot-bellied men in khaki pants and tweenage girls. The interior consists of slate-black everything with a hint of shininess: their idea of what a fancy big-city restaurant is supposed to look like is about as accurate as Fievel's predictions about America.

So you decide to sit outside in the 100-degree heat, only to learn that these inescapable bastards have placed speakers on the patio as well, ensuring that you get served while you wait to get served. You order sake because if you don't get a buzz soon you're going to walk across the street to Tots, Twigs, and Titters and buy youself a cottage made out of cinnamon sticks to try and choke yourself to death with. Meanwhile you browse the menu, which is nothing but rolls named after what I guess are snowboarding tricks: volcano 960, hammerhead toothgrind, spicy fandango. Everything seems to contain tempura-fried shellfish, which tells me that they're pandering to the Captain D's denial of Birmingham's upper-middle class.

Right before you go into shock your food arrives. You are underwhelmed, and some quick mental math tells you you're spending about $8 per bite. You eat the food in about three minutes, discuss your disappointment while waiting for the check, pay, run to your car, drive it to the gas station, buy some beer and beef jerky and have yourself a night.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jinsei Review Pt. 1: Michela's Opinion

Remind me not to trust so-called foodie blogs in Birmingham. This is the second time we've been been unforgivably deceived (the first time being Gianmarco's which I will perhaps review some other time).

We showed up at Jinsei, a sushi place in Homewood, a little after 7pm last Wednesday. There were some people there, but it wasn't full yet. The inside space is small–a bar and probably 10 tables or so. They've obviously put a lot of thought into the decor; sadly for them, that thought led them horribly astray. The interior looks like what someone who's never been to New York thinks a New York restaurant is like. It might not have been so terrible except for the techno playing at a volume that made all enjoyment of life impossible. Thank god they had outdoor seating.

The prices were about what you would expect of a nicer-than-everyday sushi place in a bigger city. We ordered conservatively to test the waters. Evan and I started with a carafe of the house sake ($26). Their sakes are served cold, which is how I like it. Unfortunately, by "cold" they meant barely chilled and left on your table to get even warmer.

The miso soup was about three times the size of what is typically served at a Japanese restaurant. It was loaded with fresh straw and shitake mushrooms, but otherwise was standard. Almost every roll on the menu had something tempura-fried in it, a cheap move and not very interesting. First we picked a roll with tempura shrimp inside and avocado and eel outside ($15). It was good (tempura and unagi sauce can't go wrong), but far short of what I would expect for the price. The spicy tuna roll ($8 or $9) was run of the mill.

At three exorbitant dollars per piece we ordered from the sashimi and nigiri menu. The Jinsei chef got something right in using only a small amount of rice for the nigiri. This failed to make up for the so-so quality tuna. But excessive amounts of sauce made the unagi nigiri impossible to hate.

The short of it: For the price, I expected excellence or at least creativity. What we got was an uninspired menu, average quality fish, and oppressive atmosphere. In the end we choked back our room-temperature sake and decided to fill up on gas station gummi worms. At least they know their place.

Free Wireless

I'm sitting in the Charlotte International Airport, wishing that I could find some kind of souvenir with the words "Raise Up" on it. Not that this was actually a reasonable possibility, but that's what wishing is about. Despite their lack of Petey Pablo-inspired memorabilia, I say, "Here's to you Charlotte, North Carolina, for not being one of those dick airports (like LaGuardia) that charges for wireless."

I have completely failed to get any appointments with buyers, so this trip has become little more than an expensive vacation. I have gotten some encouraging feedback, though, which I'll tell you about if it turns into anything. Also, I've added some things to my Etsy shop, so give it another look.

Since I've got nothing else to do while in NY, I plan on finding some sneakers, shopping in stores we don't have in Alabama, and catching up with friends. Because it's New York, I will probably also spend some time worrying about my weight and/or clothes, and coveting things (housewares, bags, jewelry, etc) that I can't have and won't care about at all the second I leave the city. On Thursday night Richard, Kate, and I will head to W. Virginia for Erin's wedding where I will lament the state of my life, drink too much, and engage in various forms of merry-making.

When I return, it'll almost be time for classes. I was approved for in-state tuition, which is pretty awesome. I've picked out my classes and...oh! I should be registering for them right now. Whoops!

***Update: Flights cancelled, lives ruined. The weather in the Northeast has created a nightmare here. I'm stuck in Charlotte till tomorrow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stress Means an Empty Fridge

I'm stressing big time about all of the things I need to do before my trip to NY. I leave on the 27th and I still haven't contacted buyers. I had a few last things to get together and didn't want to be unprepared when I called. Today has been all about making an order form, invoice, and line sheet. A line sheet is a quick reference for buyers, with photos or drawings of what you're selling along with item numbers and prices. This has also meant finalizing all my terms and conditions, like shipping methods, return policies, etc.

Before I left New York I happened upon the book Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco. It's been enormously helpful with this sort of thing, i.e. making sure you know all the things you need to have in order, from business licenses to minimum order requirements, when turning your craft into a business. I've also been reading The Boss of You by Emira Mears and Lauren Bacon. It's for women starting their own business, and while I don't particularly care for the girlpower tone of the book, it's a good resource. The books compliment each other well, the former having a lot of nuts and bolts info and the latter dealing more with branding, marketing, and PR.

Because I've been doing so much work and also because I'm going to be doing a lot of cooking this weekend, I've totally avoided going to the grocery store and have been trying to make simple things from what I've already got. The tuna and white bean salad I made last night required no fresh ingredients, and it turned out really well. We had it as an open-face sandwich, but the leftovers I ate for lunch were just on a bed of field greens. These measurements are just a guess. There's no need to be precise.

White Bean and Tuna Salad

2 small packages or cans of tuna, drained
1 can white butterbeans or other white beans, drained
2 tsp capers
1 tsp red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and serve on field greens or toast.
Night before last I made a crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche. It was a little too brown on top, but it tasted fine and most importantly it was really easy. Evan hates vegetables, so I precooked the broccoli and then pureed it so as to render it inoffensive. You could easily just pour this into a premade pie shell, too, if that's your deal. The recipe I used was something like this:
Broccoli and Cheddar Crustless Quiche

1 small head broccoli
8 oz shredded cheddar
3 eggs
2 cups milk, cream, half and half or some combo
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
green onions or chives
butter for greasing

Preheat oven to 475˚ Chop broccoli and microwave (about 3-5 minutes depending on size and ammount). Squeeze in a paper towel to remove excess water. Puree broccoli with eggs. Combine all ingredients and pour into a greased pie dish. Sprinkle green onions on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until center is set.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Hey, everybody, check out my website! It's done! Hell yeah! One million thanks to J. Fishwick for building the site and to Stephanie for design help, even though she doesn't know me. And Thank you, Evan, for writing the copy. Also, above are the business cards I had printed recently, for which I owe Rick a debt of gratitude.

In other news, I'm starting the UAB masters program in art history next month.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I haven't written because I've been in denial. For the fourth, the Rowe School had a barbecue. Dr. Jason and Evan grilled an amazing leg of lamb; Adam commissioned some Banana Bread Bacon Burgers, or Quad Bs; Laura brought awesome ribs; Rodney mashed up a batch of guac; Jessica made black bean salsa; I handled dessert. I didn't mean to go overboard, but I did. Grilled peaches, triple berry clafoutis, and two types of popsicles (cucumber-mint-chili and lemon-basil). I ate more than any person should consume and drank to excess. A wonderful time was had by all and I've got the pictures to prove it. Or I did, before I realized that my camera went missing. I've been hoping it would turn up and I would be able to show you all the amazing food and drunken hugs, but alas, I think it's been stolen. Some skater kids from down the street crashed the party for a moment and I fear that when they left, they took my camera with them. I suppose there's still a chance that one day it will turn up, having been stashed in too secret a hiding place. But I think it's best if I assume it's gone forever.

The loss of my camera also means that I can't show you what I've been working on. I've embroidered four new pillow fronts that I'm pretty happy with. I also took apart the koi quilt I've been working on for the last two years so that I could replace the batting and start the quilting again. I spent a long time embroidering the quilt top, and I'm in love with the backing fabric, but the batting I was originally using was cheap and had too high a loft. It was driving me crazy. I got pretty damn far into the hand-quilting, so it was a bummer to destroy all that hard work, not to mention a pain in the ass. But I knew if I finished it the way it was that I'd never be happy with it. Now the new batting is in, the basting is done, and I've sketched out the pattern for quilting. I also took some time last week to set up an Etsy shop (for all of the things I won't be trying to sell through stores, like one-off quilts or embroidery).

There are still so many things to work on. It's mostly the fun kind of work, but when I run across some other quilter's blog, I'm floored by how much quilting she seems to get done, and feel a bit pathetic myself. Plus the work is so beautiful it makes me wonder why I do my work by hand. Of course the piecing and the machine stitching drives me crazy, but I'm awfully jealous of the results sometimes. Alas. Here's my todo list:
• repair quilt for Evan G.
• finalize design and find fabric for commission
• finish David's album art layout
• scan more Monstercards
• design fabric for Spoonflower
• plan a murder mystery
• quilt koi
• figure out who the final cylon is
• make a needlebook (there's a reason this is at the end of the list, but I want one so badly!!!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Monster Cards Explained

Okay, Adam and I have finally gotten somewhere with the Monster Cards blog (follow this link). The rules and one game's worth of cards are up. More cards to come, as soon as they're scanned. Check the links in the side bar for specific artists, games, etc.

Warning: At least one card, but possible all of them, will offend you. If you are related to me you should probably avoid looking at the site. For those of you who want to know what this Monster Cards business I've been on about is, without actually having to be shocked and disgusted, here are the abbreviated rules:

After the number of players for a game is determined, the scorekeeper decides on a number of cards. Each player retires to draw this number of Monster Cards. The cards can be actual monsters, monstrous events, or monstrous situations (see past Monster Cards for examples). When the allotted time is up and each player has drawn his or her cards, the scorekeeper selects who will battle, one pair at a time. Players keep three random cards from their deck in hand at all times and can play any of these three cards. After the cards are played, the scorekeeper calls for a vote. All players and spectators not currently battling must vote. The winning card moves on to the next battle, after which it is retired regardless of the outcome of the battle. The player who wins the most battles, wins the war. For extended rules, please see the link in the sidebar.