As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, I’ve been involved in the creation of a webcomic, Madge of Truth. My friend Laura writes and boards out the comics, and I do the drawing, lettering, and shading. I’ve created a number of assets for the comic in cameo form, to keep in the spirit of the Victorian vibe. Our webcomic is based on Victorian etiquette books published by Mrs. Charlotte Eliza Humphry, who wrote under the title “Madge” of “Truth.” (Quotation marks hers)
Madge was a prolific writer at the turn of the 19th century. She wrote etiquette articles for newspapers, along with several books on etiquette. I’ve managed to track down 5 of her books so far – Manners for Men, Manners for Women, A Word to Women (which I think is my favourite), Cookery Up-to-Date, and The Book of the Home, Volume 2. My copy of The Book of the Home is from 1909, inscribed with a lovely message from a mother to a daughter for the occasion of her wedding. I would love to track down the further volumes of The Book of The Home – I found some on Amazon’s UK site, but shipping the books would cost as much as the books themselves, I think. Etiquette for Every Day, Beauty Adorned, and How to be Pretty Though Plain are some further titles I would love to find.
Interestingly, not a lot of information can be found about Mrs. Humphry – not even a Wikipedia article exists about her. The most information I have found about her has been in 1901 articles in a New Zealand newspaper. Apparently, she was born in Ireland and moved to England in the 1880s. She was married and had a daughter. However, this is the extent of personal information I could find. I find it fascinating that she is such a difficult woman to research in an age where the world’s information is at our fingertips. Her etiquette books, however, provide a font of information about the condition of everyday life in turn-of-the-century Britain. The webcomic has barely skimmed the surface of the content we have.
Madge of Truth is updated every Wednesday with webcomics interspersed with blog entries.
Back in March, I was asked to design a poster for a new theatre event, Subdevision. It was a 3-day event in May full of “devised” theatre – that is, shows designed around the space in which they were performed. This is an established variety of theatre in hubs such as Vancouver, but it was relatively new to Ottawa. 8 of Ottawa’s theatre companies would be participating, creating shows to be performed at St. Paul’s Eastern United Church. The event was described to me as a “theatrical rave.” All shows would begin at 7:30, performed simultaneously within different spaces in the church. The shows would be performed constantly so that audience members could take in all performances. Because this type of theatre is perhaps unfamiliar to the general public, I opted to design a poster that could get across as much information as possible. I focused on the typography and used different layouts and type weights to put emphasis on the most relevant information, as well as the contrasting colours of aqua and red. I’m very happy with the result and the response it received, particularly as I generally create illustration-based posters.
It’s been a crazy, hectic year, and it has been far too long since my last post. So, I’ll do a recap of everything that went on last year! I’ve been working at Ottawa boutiques Flock and Workshop since May, and having a great time doing so. I’ve met a number of fantastic women through the shops, women I’m proud to be working beside. While working at the shops, I participated in June’s edition of Urban Craft. I had a good time doing it, though I was rather too ambitious in my baking and suffered a bit of kitchen burnout after that. I baked 48 dozen muffins in the span of 2 days for the event – a scope of baking unlike any prior experience. Usually, when I do Social Media Breakfast, it’s a 12-dozen-muffin day.
Also in June, I worked as Box Office Assistant Manager for the Ottawa Fringe Festival. It had been several years since I worked box office at a festival - I used to do box office work during the Atlantic Film Festival – and I found it refreshing to be back in the condensed, chaotic environment a festival can be. I got to see several shows during that time, many of which were written or directed by friends, and on the whole found the content to exceed that which I’d seen in festivals past. I also designed an illustration for A Company of Fools’s production of Henry V.
In July, I focused on working at the shops. I also got the chance to visit Prince Edward County, a lovely area for a weekend away. Ryan and I took in several wineries that were new to us, picnicked at Lake on the Mountain (which was stunning) and tried some new restaurants. I worked on the poster and sitemap for the Ottawa Lumière Festival, using a pop-up book concept.
In August, I went back to juggling employments while visiting with several friends who were in the area. Work continued at the shops, and I worked with the Pukeko Design team to costume Opera Lyra for their production of La Bohème. I also began drawing the webcomic Madge of Truth. The webcomic is a collaboration – my business partner does the writing and storyboarding, and I draw and shade the finished product. We based the webcomic on etiquette books from 1897 and 1898, written by Mrs. Charlotte Eliza Humphry as “Madge” of “Truth.” Lately, we’ve been finding more and more books written by Mrs. Humphry – the content offers quite a bit of insight into everyday thinking at the time.
Also in September, I jumped into Costume Assistance on the Ottawa Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar, also working with Pukeko Design. Sourcing costumes was a bit like treasure hunting, particularly to find soldier costumes to fit everyone. I got to build several “bulletproof” vests out of navy twill, sew-in Velcro and bosal foam chair pads. Julius Caesar ran concurrently with the City of Ottawa’s Mayor’s Halloween Spooktacular. With the Pukeko Design team, I created a harvest scene in Jean Pigot Hall and we created our annual cobwebby, spooky haunted house, complete with zombies.
November had a lot more baking. I provided cupcakes in 4 flavours to Workshop for its Support Local mini-trunk sale. I also provided muffins for Social Media Breakfast. Several out-of-town friends were up visiting, and I began work with the Pukeko team setting up City Hall for its Christmas celebration. We decorated about 48 Christmas trees, wrapped and bowed 225 boxes, and generally set up the backbones of the decor. We garlanded staircases and decorated the Mayor’s boardroom. The first half of December was intense, making sure all of our details worked just right. For the holidays, my family visited from both coasts, which was a great time. My past few busy months have led to this feeling like a fantastic New Year. I’m hoping to expand my creative pursuits – to draw more, to immerse myself in the webcomic, to bake more, to sew more, to create more fabric designs for Spoonflower. Above all, I’m hoping to post more, to show off what I’ve done. I am proud of the work that I do, and this year I hope to more publicly acknowledge that through this blog. I’ve left this post free of pictures, as the posts to come will more visibly demonstrate what kept me so busy last year.
I hope everyone has a fantastic 2013, full of potential realized and opportunities seized.
I feel like I must be putting good vibes out into the universe, because good things seem to be coming my way lately, and keeping me Very Busy Indeed. (For any who don’t know, I love being Very Busy Indeed.) I just started working at one of my favourite shops in town, Flock boutique (an amazing wonderland of Canadian designers that’s very dangerous for one’s wallet), and I’ll be happily box office assistant-ing at Ottawa’s Fringe Festival. In addition to this, I was selected as an Urban Craft vendor for June 2nd’s edition of the upscale craft show! A baking extravaganza has ensued.
I’ll be featuring 6 flavours of muffins at the show. Most of the recipes already appear on the blog…like this, this, and this. I’ll also have some flavours that I haven’t posted yet, but that I consistently run out of at Social Media Breakfast (and if you can’t make it to Urban Craft, the next Social Media Breakfast will be on Wednesday, June 20. aka My Birthday.) Urban Craft runs from 10am until 2pm this Saturday at the GCTC (Holland at Wellington).
I will have single muffins for $2.75, 6 muffins for $15, and 12 muffins for $27. Please stop by, say hi, and pick up a muffin!
The following is the vegan gluten-free recipe I’ll be featuring at the show. It has a lot going on, but don’t let that scare you off. The ginger and orange come through equally with the chocolate as a pleasant background flavour. The carrot purée helps keep the muffins moist. They have a texture similar to that of a brownie – this muffin makes a lovely breakfast!
Vegan Gluten-Free Carrot Chocolate Orange Ginger Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins
1 cup black bean flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups steamed carrot purée, cooled (see recipe below)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)
2 tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup candied ginger, homemade or store-bought, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin tin with paper or silicon liners.
Use a sieve or sifter to incorporate more air into the muffins. Sift together black bean flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, cocoa, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine dry ingredients further.
In a separate bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. Add the carrot purée, orange juice, lemon juice and canola oil. Stir together well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in the chopped candied ginger.
Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out (relatively) clean. I opt for underbaking these muffins, as I find gluten-free products tend to dry out faster.
(makes approximately 1 1/2 cups)
4 to 5 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Combine carrots and orange juice in a microwave-safe container with a lid. Microwave, covered, on High for 5 minutes. Check with a fork to see if carrots are tender. If not, cook 1 or 2 minutes longer and check again. When tender, use an immersion blender or a stand blender to purée the mixture. Let cool and it is ready to use!
Years ago, I was watching an episode of Iron Chef America where the secret ingredient is chocolate. Since I work so much with sweet ingredients, I tend to find these episodes the most interesting, and this particular episode was no exception. Bobby Flay made a spice rub for venison in this episode, and it sounded so good that I wrote down all the ingredients immediately so that I could try to create my own in the future.
My list lay dormant until yesterday, when we had a huge slab of pork thawed in the fridge, just waiting to be seasoned. I decided to finally attempt my own version of the Iron Chef”s spice rub, and I’m incredibly happy with the results. The original list contained espresso, cocoa, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder, but I decided to omit the cinnamon and add some salt. I opted for a quick dry-aging in the refrigerator (about 3 hours) and the results were succulent and flavourful. I can’t wait for barbeque season, when the grill will serve to really highlight the flavours of the rub!
Smoky Mocha Spice Rub for Pork, Steak, or Venison
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pat the surface of the meat dry with a paper towel. Pour rub over meat and press to adhere. Repeat on all sides of the meat.
Place a small rack over a shallow dish. Set meat on the rack and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. Cook meat as desired. Enjoy!