The 2013 Martha Stewart Living’s American Made Awards

Dear readers and friends,
I am happy to tell you that, once again, I am a nominee for Martha Stewart Living’s American Made People’s Choice Award!
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This year they’re doing things a little differently over at MSL. Last year entries were reviewed and a set of 100 finalists was selected before voting by the general public began. (I was thrilled to be among those finalists.)

This year, there is no first round. What that means, is that instead of a pool of 100 entrants to choose from, there is now a pool of more than 1,000! So the competition will be fierce and I’ll need your help more than ever!

But you, dear friends, have a powerful new weapon in your arsenal and that is that instead of the once-per-day vote that you were given last year, this time you will be able to vote up to SIX times per day. That’s right, SIX TIMES! So vote early and often!

The winner (I hope that’s me!) will receive $10,000 to grow their small business.

Here is the link:
http://marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/79628

Thanks so much to all of you for your continued support, it really means a lot to me!

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People need our help!

Last year we were struck by a hurricane in August and a massive snow storm in October. During both storms our power was out for several days. Since we have well water with an electric pump, that means that, in addition to no lights or electronic conveniences, we have no running water. We do have a gas stove that can be lit with matches instead of its electric start, a wood stove for heat, and plenty of flashlights, candles, and oil lamps. So during those storms we could stay warm, eat, and read even if we couldn’t shower or flush the toilet.

In addition, we live on the side of a hill so, while there is a small river at the bottom, we’re reasonably safe from flooding. Sure, our basement got some water in it but it wasn’t much and was short work for the sump pump once the power came back on.

But we’ve written about that before.

This week we experienced another hurricane. The rain wasn’t nearly as heavy and the winds didn’t seem as bad as Irene. Nevertheless, we were without power for three days. As with the storms mentioned above, this was, thankfully, not much more than an inconvenience.

This was most certainly not the case in the New York metropolitan area. The storm there left an unimaginable wake of destruction. The images that we saw in the news and the stories that we heard from friends and family were heartbreaking. Many people lost their homes, their possessions, and even their lives.

We no longer live in New York City but Lucky Duck was born there and we have many, Red Crossmany loved ones in and around the New York/New Jersey area. So, for the entire month of November, Lucky Duck Press will donate 10% of all sales to the American Red Cross’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The important thing here is to get financial support to those that need it, so if you don’t happen to need any printed matter PLEASE donate on your own.

Donate here:

https://www.redcross.org/donate/index.jsp?donateStep=2&itemId=prod10002

Please give as generously as you can secure in the knowledge that someone would do it for you if the roles were reversed.

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October Unprocessed 2012!

This is not a food blog.

Nevertheless, we love to cook and eat and read and write about food. And so, at the risk of food-related posts outnumbering letterpress-related posts here we’d like to announce that we will be participating in October Unprocessed this year and hope that you’ll consider doing so as well.

October UnprocessedWe were a little late to the game last year and so didn’t truly commit to a month of eating unprocessed foods. This year we’re on time and ready!

October Unprocessed was created in 2009 by our friend and food guru/blogger Andrew Wilder. In a nutshell, participants pledge to eat no processed foods for an entire month. Deciding which foods qualify can be a bit tricky and ends up being a personal decision but Andrew offers much guidance and strategy on his blog. With that said, I’ll let him explain the rest. Here is a link to his October Unprocessed page and all the details: http://www.eatingrules.com/october-unprocessed-2012/

Have a look and participate if you can!

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Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards

We’ve been all smiles and giggles over here at Lucky Duck this weekend since we found out that we’ve been selected as one of the finalists in Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards!

From nearly 2,000 entries, the good people at Martha Stewart Living have chosen Lucky Duck Press as one of the 100 finalists in the Audience Choice portion of their American Made Awards!

American Made Finalist BadgeThe winner of the Audience Choice Award, as you may have guessed, is selected by the general public — you, me, everyone! That’s right, YOU get to vote too! Not only that, but you can vote EVERY DAY until September 24!

And so, we need your help! Please cast your vote (each day until the 24th) for Lucky Duck Press and give us a little push toward victory. Please also spread the word, we can use all of the help that we can get.

Use this link, or click on the image: http://americanmade.marthastewart.com/profiles/patrick-barrett-1221

Thanks so much for your support!

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How to: Paper Moon Photobooth

When we began planning our wedding, we knew we had to decide how it would be documented. Of course, we knew we wanted to have a photographer, but we also loved the idea of our guests contributing in a unique way to the memorabilia. We thought about providing disposable cameras, researched renting a photo booth (it’s very expensive), and even considered buying some old video cameras and some 8mm film to allow our guests to get some moving images. Somehow none of it felt quite right (or affordable).

On top of that, of course, was the fact that we were aiming for a Gatsby-esque, garden party vibe to the affair. It wasn’t the strictest of themes, but we did want people to feel, even for just a moment, that they had stepped back into another era.

Finally, in a “why didn’t we think of that before!?” moment, it hit us: We’d build a 1920s-style paper moon backdrop, set up a camera with a remote control, and let people take dreamy, starry photos of themselves!

Vintage paper moon

A paper moon

While information is a bit hard to come by (on the internet, anyway), it seems that paper moon pictures were popular in the early part of the 20th century – especially in the 1920s and 30s. To achieve these floating-in-space images, a painted background and set were created in a photographer’s studio (or a circus tent or a booth on a boardwalk) and an individual or group would be arranged to look as though they were sitting upon the crescent moon. Some settings were simple, barely realistic, with nothing more than a moon painted on canvas (or perhaps paper, I suppose) while others included multiple layers of clouds and stars.

We had intended for our paper moon to be a self-serve, photo-booth-style affair, but when we asked our photographer for some advice on setting up a camera, flash, and remote, he loved the idea so much that he offered to take the photos himself!

With the photography logistics in very capable hands, we were able to turn our attention to designing and building a paper moon. For the sake of anyone wishing to have a paper moon at their wedding too, I will go into some detail about how we did it. You CAN do it yourself with not much time or money spent. If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to help if I can.

Paper Moon Drawing

Paper moon drawing (shown without the grid or dimensions; both are important)

Design

First, as with most aspects of our wedding planning, we spent a good deal of time doing internet research. We collected a number of vintage photos and decided what we liked (or didn’t) about each. From that exercise we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted our moon to look like.

Next, I set to work sketching the construction details — first on paper and then on the computer. I created a fairly simple construction drawing for us to work from, then I created a grid (not shown here) over the image and printed it to scale to make the transfer from paper to plywood more accurate.

Plywood with grid layout

Plywood with grid layout and the moon taking shape

Construction

Our first step was to transfer the shape of our moon. On a sheet of plywood, I created a series of 6-inch squares to create the grid to match the one on our drawing. Creating a pencil mark at each point that the outline of the moon crossed a grid line gave me the initial shape. Then, using a bit of freehand drawing, I connected those points, matching the drawing as accurately as possible.

Our moon was rather large and so required two sheets of plywood. Before drawing the moon on the wood, I lined up both sheets and created reference marks (the arrow at the right in the photo) to be able to line up the pieces later. Make sure that your reference mark(s) land inside the moon and not on the scrap portion of the plywood.

Cutting out the moon

Cutting out the moon

Once the moon’s outline was transferred to the wood I simply followed the lines with a jigsaw and our moon’s shape was complete! (Please use proper safety equipment when using power tools — in this case, eye and ear protection are a must).

Obviously, a simple moon-shaped piece of plywood will only get you so far. You’ll also need some sort of seat upon which the photo subjects will sit.

Assembled moon

Assembled moon with the front of the bench attached

I’d devised a bench that would be built along with the moon, but because we needed to transport the moon in a car (it just barely fit into our rented SUV it turned out – whew!) it needed to come apart and be re-assembled on site. In order to keep the number of pieces to a minimum, I opted to permanently attach the front portion of the bench to the moon. I built this out of 2×4 legs attached with 1x3s held together by trusty drywall screws.

Because our moon was created out of two pieces of plywood (try to use one if you can, it simplifies things) we needed a way to connect the two pieces. We accomplished this using rectangular steel plates and screws. It was a little wobbly, but it did the trick.

Assembled bench

Assembled bench framework

To finish the bench framing, I cut two more legs from the 2×4 and screwed it all together with the 1×3 cross pieces. In hindsight, this bench could have used some diagonal bracing, so, if you build one, I’d recommend adding that to the design.

As you can see in the photo, I labeled all parts carefully as I constructed them to ensure that we’d be able to get the moon back together properly at our wedding venue.

In order to make things a bit more comfortable, we added an upholstered seat. We cut another piece of plywood, some batting, and some faux leather cloth to size, and stapled it all in place. We cut the batting and cloth large enough to overlap the plywood to ensure splinter-free edges and allow us to staple it all to the bottom of the seat. After these photos were taken, I added another, smaller piece of plywood to the bottom of the seat that was notched in the corners so that it fit inside the bench frame and we could secure the seat from sliding sideways.

Seat material

Seat material

The finished seat

The [bottom of the] finished seat

At this point, our moon was complete — structurally. Now all we needed to do was to make it look like a moon!

Finishing

Applying muslin

Applying muslin to the rough plywood edge

In order to create the illusion that a person is sitting in the moon, the seat needs to be behind and slightly below the moon itself. The only problem with this is that the seated person’s legs, draped over the edge, will touch the rough edge of the plywood. Knowing that folks would be in their finery, we decided we’d better finish that edge somehow. To start, we sanded the edge (in fact, we sanded all of the edges as well as the front face of the plywood to create a smooth surface for the paint). Then we applied strips of cotton muslin over the edge with watered-down white glue. This created a safe (and also paintable) edge at the bench.

Priming the moon

Priming the moon

Next we smoothed out the face of the plywood for painting by filling all of the holes, cracks, and gaps with Spackle and sanding everything again. Once the Spackle was dry and we’d brushed all of the sanding dust off, we applied two coats of primer to the moon’s face in preparation for its final paint job.

At this point, our work was done so we stepped back and let the primer dry. Alessandra’s cousin (an illustrator and puppet designer who currently works for Sesame Workshop) had agreed to do the final paint job of the moon — which, as you’ll see below, was an incredible gift.

Final Painting

Cousin Matt came by a few days later with his paints, brushes and some reference material and set to work.

After just a short amount of time, the real moon began to appear.

Base colors

The moon emerges…

Soon the finishing touches were added and the moon was complete!

The completed moon

The completed moon

Wedding day!

One thing that we loved about the paper moon photos we’d seen is that no matter how well executed they are, they still look a little phony. To embrace that, we decided to cover our black cloth backdrop with planets, stars (both shooting and stationary), and the occasional rocket ship made of cardboard painted silver. These we pinned haphazardly to the cloth and we were set to go.

Most of our guests posed with the moon and had fun with it. Not only did this give us a unique set of photos of the day (in addition to our “traditional” photos), but we were able to print and frame many of them and give them as thank-you gifts to all of the friends and family that helped to make our wedding perfect.

Paper Moon

Sitting amongst the stars…
Photo by Toby Morris, tobymorris.com/weddings/

 

We printed and framed ours as well and it hangs in our house as a happy reminder of the day, the fun we had researching and creating elements that felt very much “us”, and the handiwork of so many people who helped us put the day together.

UPDATE: We just learned that our excellent wedding photographer, Toby Morris, has started a new venture: Fantabulous Photobooths. Check out his new website at www.fantabulousphotobooths.com.

Posted in DIY, Wedding Planning | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

Save the dates

Well, we’ve written about the history of Lucky Duck Press, typecasting machinery, hurricanes, small business, and even foraging. So now it’s time to delve into the world of wedding planning — at least as far as the paper goods are concerned. This post will be the first in a series that guides you through the process of envisioning, planning, and ultimately purchasing your wedding invitations.

Some of our favorite pieces to design and print at LDP are wedding invitation suites. The main reason is that they tend to be longer-term, carefully considered projects that entail a tremendous amount of concentration and attention to detail. Perhaps we’re nuts, but we love it. (By the way, an invitation “suite” refers to an entire package of invitation related pieces and sometimes beyond into other paper goods for your wedding day and may be as simple as an invitation and envelope or as complex as the invitations, reply cards, information cards, maps, menus, table/escort cards, thank you notes, and “at home” cards. More on all of those later.)

When you’re newly engaged, everything about your wedding and the planning process probably feels exciting and exhilarating — and completely overwhelming! We know. We’ve been there. The first thing that many people will tell you — and it is good advice — is to simply enjoy being engaged for a little while before you dive into wedding planning. Do that. Really. But be sure to set a date that you want to start your planning in earnest.

Don’t worry, this time will not be “wasted.” You will still be thinking about your wedding. Perhaps you’ll notice inspiration for it in places that you least expect. Without the pressure on yourself to get the guest list finalized, the menu worked out, or the venue booked, your mind will be open and receptive to all of the ideas and images that will later make up the palette for creating the wedding that you want. If you see something that interests or inspires you (or even something you want to be sure NOT to do) write it down, snap a picture, or pin it to your inspiration board on Pinterest and then move on.

We won’t write much more about the planning for your actual wedding here. There are many many great websites, books, and magazines that can guide you through that process. But once you do get started with serious planning, there is a question that the two of you should ask yourselves fairly early on: Do we need Save the Date cards? There are a few primary considerations that should go into answering that question.

Brooklyn Bridge Save the Date

Brooklyn Bridge Save the Date

First, how far will guests need to travel to join you on the day? Will most be coming from across town or from the other side of the world? Is yours a destination wedding in Tahiti or will it be at the family compound within three miles of everyone’s house? Obviously, the farther guests will have to travel, the more important and useful a Save the Date will be. You may not know exactly which beach you’ll be on, but if guests know they need to get to Hawaii in late September, they’ll be pleased to know that well in advance so that they may book travel or request vacation time.

Similarly, if your wedding is on or near a holiday a Save the Date is a good idea. Just think about how much further in advance you make plans for Memorial Day weekend than any other weekend in May, and you’ll understand completely.

The next thing to consider is who will receive a Save the Date. Ideally, you’d have your guest list all ironed out and simply send one to each guest or couple. But that won’t happen. Since your A-list of guests likely will be a bit more set in stone than whether or not you’ll invite your college roommate’s ex-boyfriend (probably not, by the way) you can send Save the Date cards to those that you know for sure you’ll be inviting. Getting a save the date will increase the chance that your guest will be able to attend but be careful, once you send one to someone, you really can’t not invite them even if you end up way over the capacity of your venue or have a change of heart.

The last thing to consider when deciding whether or not to send save the date cards is, “Do you want to?” Even if you think you don’t need them you may decide that having another piece of printed matter associated with your wedding is too appealing to pass up. That’s what we did – but I am sure that doesn’t surprise you. If you think that you couldn’t possibly stand another piece of paper well … that seems strange to us, but it’s okay too.

Bicycle Built for Two

Daisy, Daisy... a bicycle built for two save the date.

Since your Save the Date cards should be sent about six months before the wedding (or as many as eight months before, if your location is very popular or distant) you may not have the design of your formal invitations finalized yet. That’s okay. Save the Dates can typically be less formal than the invitations and are an opportunity to put a bit of fun into your stationery package. If you have a theme or even one element that you’re sure to use on your invitations, include it. That will tie the whole thing together stylistically without matching exactly. Or, if you have an idea that seems a bit too whimsical or informal for your invitation, now is the time to showcase it.

Arts and Crafts Save the Date

Our Arts and Crafts themed Save the Date card

Even if you don’t have a finalized design for your invitations, it is often worth signing a contract with your stationer at this stage as you will often be able to get the Save the Date cards for a slightly lower price when you buy them, in advance, as a part of a larger package.

While we love paper and things printed, we understand that often something has to give way in the face of budget concerns. If that’s where you are but still want to make sure that your distant family in New Zealand gets your wedding on their calendars right away, there are some other options.

Consider an electronic save the date such as those offered by pingg.com. Or you might consider a telephone call. While everyone certainly loves to get a beautiful piece of mail or even electronic mail, your guests will be truly touched to receive a personal Save the Date telephone call. Divide your guest list with your fiancée and then make a several calls per week until you work your way through the list. Just be sure not to put anyone on the spot to agree to attend; just make it a friendly, informational call.

However you choose to let people know, have fun with it. People will be thrilled to hear of your engagement and will likely be as excited as you are about your upcoming wedding!

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Telegram Miniaturization

Sometimes, when I get bored in the print shop, I ride the creaky old freight elevator down, down, down to the spooky, gloomy basement where 100 years of unwanted junk [treasures] sit, dust covered, waiting for re-discovery. It is in this very basement, several years ago, that I found my printing presses.

The spooky, gloomy basement.

The spooky, gloomy basement.

The other day, I finished up my printing work early and, armed with only a flashlight, made my way down into the basement to search for treasures. What I found astounded me!

It was a machine about the size and shape of a small washing machine and made of green enameled steel (picture a mini-washing machine circa 1967). Wiping off some dust with my sleeve, I discovered a manufacturer’s plate that read, “Hypersonic Miniaturization Transducer, Manufactured by Amalgamated Consolidated Corp., Parsipppany, New Jersey”

What the?!

A miniaturization machine?! Right here?! 3d Shrinky Dinks (® probably), here I come!

My first few attempts to use the machine were, shall we say, less than successful. Who knew that a miniaturization machine would need a 220V, 100-amp feed? Certainly not me. And as far as materials … let us just say that metals, plastics, and faux fur do not shrink at the same rate and leave it at that.

But then it hit me … printed matter!

Telegram business card

Telegram business card

I placed one of my telegram note cards into the machine and pushed the “Go” button with a screwdriver (the button was too small to be operated with my finger – odd, no?) and after the clanking, whirring, flashing lights, and general bouncing around of the machine finished, I opened the lid and revealed a perfectly miniaturized version! The machine had taken my note card and Shrunky Dunked (® probably) it to the size of a business card!*

And now I am able to offer these business card-sized telegrams to you for sale in my Etsy shop!

*Note, this story is fiction. Everyone knows there is no such thing as a spooky, gloomy basement.

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Ramps!

We don’t just love to print here at Lucky Duck Press. We also love to eat. And we love to make food.

Since our move to the country, we’ve been growing and making things that we used to buy at the grocery store (bread, yogurt, sauerkraut).  I guess we just like trying to do things in traditional ways. We print like it’s 1910 and we try to make food like it’s … well, just about any time after the mid-20th century. We’re not really purists about it, but we do feel that some things can be better if we take a step back in time. A giant leap backward in time is our newest endeavor — trying our hands at foraging.

Last week I was working in the office on some designs. Things were not working the way I’d wanted them to. You know those days? When things just won’t click? So I decided to take a break and take a little walk in the woods. Since it’s April in New England, I decided to also do a little foraging and look for ramps.

I have been and reading about foraging for wild edibles for a few years now, but have had limited opportunity to try it. Sure, we raced the birds for the blackberries last summer in our backyard, and spent many an hour hulling buckets of black walnuts (those we got to before the squirrels) that fell into our yard this past fall. But apart from looking at some unfurling ferns last year and thinking, “Hmmm … I wonder … ,” that’s been it.

Ramps (also known as wild leeks or wood leeks) have leaves that look lily of the valley (which are poisonous!) and a scallion-like bulb just below the ground. They are delicious, with a flavor that is a mix onions and garlic. (Be warned: As with those cousins, the flavor can be intense and lingering — not recommended for a first date).

Ramps in the forest

Ramps in the forest. Can you spot them?

Ramps are some of the first greens to return to the woodlands of eastern North America after winter, peeking up above the dried leaves on the forest floor in early April. They must have been a welcome sight and highly prized in hunting and foraging cultures for the vitamins they contain that were difficult to come by during the cold months. By mid-May (as the trees’ leaves open up and begin to block the sunlight) the ramp leaves wilt back and the plant expends its energy growing its bulb below ground. So, in early spring one can harvest the leaves (not too many so the plant can live and grow back) and, in early summer, harvest the bulbs.

Ramps in their native habitat

Ramps in their native habitat

They tend to grow in groups of several plants and can, therefore, be initially identified from a distance by the pool of deep green that they create in a dull-colored, early spring forest. Positive identification is simple; a broken leaf will have a strong garlic-y smell*.

As I walked, I scanned the ground, stopping now and then to examine a small green shoot to see if it looked ramp-ish. Having no luck and needing to get back to work, I prepared to turn around and head back. Before I did, I stood, for a while, taking in the silence and scanning the middle distance for green. It turns out that my all my reading about foraging for ramps paid off because, sure enough, I spotted a group of small plants close to the ground and somehow knew, instantly, that I’d found some! During my walk back, I found two or three other small colonies and took a few leaves and a bulb or two from each so that, by the time I got home, I had a nice handful of delicious food from the forest floor.

Ramps in our kitchen

Ramps in our kitchen

Ramps may be eaten raw in salads or cooked; they’re delicious when sautéed in butter or olive oil. They are also tasty in soups and stews. I ate some that afternoon in a salad but my favorite way to eat them is gently cooked in olive oil over pasta.

Here are a couple of recipes that I’ve found but haven’t made yet. If you try them, let me know what you think.

Do you forage for anything? There are a lot of edibles out there. It’s a great thing to do while enjoying the outdoors. Here’s to a happy and successful foraging season!

* Please be careful! Do not eat anything that you are not absolutely certain is safe. Read books and websites extensively before heading out — in fact, I recommend concentrating on one wild edible at a time until you can positively identify it every time you see it. Better yet, take a foraging tour or class with an expert before you head out on your own. “Wildman” Steve Brill is one expert in the greater New York City area. Try to find one of his walks near you.

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Vacation

Sincere apologies for not posting lately. The holidays kept us busy, and January brought a welcome break with a little vacation in Ireland where our good friend just moved with her family.  We relaxed in her tiny seaside town in Co. Cork, visited family in Limerick, heard lots of great music, and took in vibrant green scenery – in short, it was perfect!
As we push ourselves back into some semblance of blogging discipline, here is a photograph from our trip to hold you over:

Coast view

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Happy New Year!

All Both of us here at Lucky Duck Press wish you a wonderful 2012 … typos and all!

Holiday card

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