Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bar towels are hot.

Super hot, apparently. I waited over two years to create and decide on a design, and in less than a week after putting them up for sale, they are almost gone. Yep, that’s right. My limited run of 100 bar/tea towels is almost sold out. (Men apparently don’t understand “tea” towels, but totally get “bar” towels. So there you go.)

So if you want one of these really freaking kick-ass bar towels to plop under your Christmas tree (or just to wipe up your spilled bourbon) you should grab one while they are still available.  I will clearly be printing more because I LOVE them, and so do other people apparently, but not until 2014. Consider this your PSA.

Cocktails before they became famous on bar towels.

It’s the holidaze! Time for a sale.

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and has had at least one pie breakfast. There is so much excitement here at Drywell HQ, partly because this is my favorite time of year, and partly because we have so many new arts a’brewing. Kind of literally.

To kick it off, enjoy 20% off your Drywell Art purchase in my shop from now — Small Business Saturday, until the end of Cyber Monday, December 2nd. ( I’m going to call Sunday “End of the Leftovers Sunday”, because I feel like it gets left out in the day-naming mayhem this time of year.)

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter here to get all the info on my upcoming shows and new art!

One Benjamin

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Mangosteens: Queen of Fruit. Ubud, Bali.

Just in time for Independence Day, I’m finally back in the USA after over 35,000 miles flying around the world. Actually, more accurately, I’m back just in time for the World Domination Summit 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

Last year, the conference was awesome, and I wrote about it. Here. Last year, the organizers of this conference of non-conformists also made the insane gesture of giving away the profits of the conference to the attendees. Insane, I tell you. So I’ve had this $100 bill sitting around since then, and before I set off for my round the world trip of awesomeness, I decided to invest in myself. By buying fancy ass travel paintbrushes. With which I painted these things.

The trip was always intended to be a semi-working trip. When your business and leisure interests (i.e. food and drink) line up so well, that’s a no brainer. I already had a travel watercolor set, and these brushes allowed me to actually have nice brushes to you know, paint with.

While I didn’t paint as much on the trip as I intended, I am positively brimming with ideas and inspiration from eating my way through Asia and Europe.

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So when the amazing ramen diagrams and kebab illustrations make their debut, you have Chris Guillebeau and the generosity of the World Domination Summit to thank.

Vietnam impressions

Our early escape from “paradise” (aka Bali) to Malaysia gave us some needed time to gather our thoughts, upload photos, and eat cheap Indian food before heading out to the next stage of our trip, Europe.

I can hardly believe our time in Asia is up, but I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit I’m totally ready to move on. The pushiness of folks in KL and Singapore, the unrelenting heat, and one too many Air Asia flights has led me to proclaim “I’m done” more than a few times in the last few days. (I also brazenly cut in front of someone at 7-11 today. And was proud of it. SE Asia can do funny things to you.) But obviously it wasn’t all bad. I mean, come on.

An Bang beach. Hoi An, Vietnam

Biding our time in the business class lounge* at the Singapore Changi Airport, waiting to board our flight to Copenhagen (and then onto Istanbul after a Beer and Brats Layover in Munich), has proven to be a great time to reflect on the good and bad of the last few months. First up in the memory chamber? Vietnam.

Days spent in Vietnam: 21

Cities visited: We did the South to North “H” tour — Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay.

Most days in one city: 7, in Hoi An.

Favorite place: Hoi An. Touristy? Absolutely. But stay a bit outside of the UNESCO world heritage area, bike to the locals’ Tiger market and the two lovely beaches. Eat great food. Take an amazing cooking class (see below).

Least favorite place: Hue. Totally uncharming and shadeless, with agressive (though beard-­loving) trishaw drivers. Great soup though.

Favorite new food discovery: Tie, cao lao noodles and sinh to, both in Hoi An.

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The chewy cao lao alkaline noodles, doused in a thin curry broth and topped with herbs, pork, and crackling, are most often compared to udon…by dumb­dumbs. Yes, the noodles are thick like udon, but the texture? All ramen. More specifically, the thick yellow tsukemen ramen noodles.

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The sinh to was the first taste I had on the fabulous Taste of Hoi An Street Food tour, and was absolutely something I would have never tried on my own. Not because there was anything exceptionally weird in this refreshing drink/sundae: chunks of papaya, mango, pineapple, dragonfruit, coconut jelly, avocado, cherries, topped with condensed milk, crunchy toasted coconut shavings, and shaved ice. It’s just that the last ingredient that would have turned me off from trying it on my own. Water and ice are minefields in many South East Asian countries, and Vietnam is no exception. Our guide, an affable Australian who retired to Hoi An years ago, assured us that the Vietnamese wouldn’t eat anything that would make them sick, and that this ice was safe for us as well. And it was. And holy crap, was that sinh to delicious.

Other food highlights: the super clear consomme­like pho broth from a stall in Ben Than market in Saigon. The other bahn mi lady’s egg sandwiches in Hoi An (NOT Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Phuong — which was still excellent), on the side of the road on the way to Tiger Market. The bun bo hue at in Hue. The coffee across the street from the Danang train station. Dry pho noodles from street vendor in Hanoi. Bun cha Hanoi across the street from our hotel on Ma May in Hanoi. Passionfruit lassi in Hanoi. Egg coffee in Hanoi.

Worst food: The foul­-smelling bahn mi across the street from the Danang train station. The “famous” bahn xeo from a place in Saigon.

Beer situation: Lager, but cheap. We tried them all.

Advantage over other countries: Relative to the other countries we visited, Vietnam’s markets were pretty amazing. Super fresh food and a discerning, food-obsessed nation made for beautiful and lively markets.
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Most surprising: Another tie. First, how much Hanoi had changed in only four years. When we visited in 2009, it felt very much like a locals town, with little tourist­focused business. Four years later, we were astounded to hear the booming bass and see hoardes of gap­year backpackers pouring out of the numerous youth hostels in the Old Quarter. I nearly lost it when I saw bahn mi doner kabob vendors lining the street. All this increase in tourism meant that we were much more “on display” as tourists this time around, and continually hassled.

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Second most surprising experience: I got tired of Vietnamese food! I ADORE Vietnamese food. Ive generally declared it as my favorite cuisine for years, and after 18 days, I was done. There is a repetition in Vietnamese flavors that can sadly get a little boring. Our last meal in Vietnam was at an Indian restaurant.

Least surprising: the traffic.

Highlight: Catching a squid in Bai Long Bay. It involved a lot of beer and waiting, followed by excited screaming and a very agitated squid being hurled into the boat, right towards a nice English girl’s face. I was the only lucky one that night.

Lowlight: Though it is a funny story now, in the moment, the train ride from Danang to Hue was a low­light. Cramped and filthy. Seats that leaned back into our laps. Bare feet on the armrests. And a 90 ­year old man in pajamas next to us, periodically peeing into a bottle held by his caretakers, and seemingly wheezing his last breaths. yeah. At least it was only $18 for both of us and the old man survived.

Best money spent: Another tie, between the­­ Halong Bay tour and Taste of Hoi An street food tour. As the tour was pretty pricey, only one of us went on it, but I was able to sample many dishes that I would not have had the knowledge or courage to sample without the tour. And then of course, Steve reaped the benefits as well.

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Floating village, Bai Long Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay tours can be had for all price ranges, and was frankly super confusing and stresful to pick out a good one. Lots of stories about rats running around on deck and inedible food, along with lame guides. We opten for a more expensive one with Handspan, and it was simply amazing. We actually went to Bai Long bay, where there were no other tour boats. We kayaked around the bay, fished for squid, enjoyed happy hour, and a tour of the floating village.

Best value: Besides nearly everything that we put into our mouths, the best value was the Green Bamboo cooking class in Hoi An. 8 hour cooking class, with a small group of 8 people. Everyone picked their own dish from a list of 50+. We shopped for ingredients at market, and cooked every single dish. IT was incredibly thorough and I now know how to clean a squid, including removing the ink sac, spine and skin. Ample water and beer. And an INSANE amount of food. All for $35. (For a more eloquent write-up, check out our travel pals Jordan and Skyler’s review here) Really fabulous time. Runner up: Crazy delicious sloppy bahn mi in Hoi An. Like nothing I ever have in the US, drenched in homemade chili sauces.

Miss the most.: The deliciousness, cheapness (30 to 50 cents!) and ubiquity of Vietnamese coffee. That and the coconut man who saved me from passing out in Saigon.

*All on points, baby. Mileage credit cards and obsessive travel planning pay off. Big time. I just took a SHOWER at the airport. And then drank a glass of champagne.

Friday o’clock : Japan edition

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My alcohol tolerance has taken an absolute nosedive since I came to Asia. The prevalence of bland rice lagers coupled with the fact that we’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in Muslim countries (which have crazy-high taxes on alcohol) has meant we haven’t really been doing much drinking. Cue the violins.

After our lager-tour of Vietnam, we had a bit of a reprieve in the booze department when we arrived in Japan. Was it expensive there? Yes. Was I sick with a cold most of the time? Yes. Did we still manage to make some cocktails? Yes, indeed.

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We arrived in Tokyo in late March, just as the cherry blossoms (sakura) hit full bloom. The whole country goes a bit sakura crazy. There are special sakura wagashi (little sweets meant to be eaten in traditional matcha tea ceremonies),cherry blossom onigiri, sakura mochi, sakura rice crackers, special sakura sparkling sake, and even sakura doughnuts at Krispy Kreme (no, I did not sample them. They were super pink and I don’t like doughnuts. Sue me).

We also kept seeing these bags of pink cherry blossoms in department store basements and markets. After the fifth time I picked up and put down a package, Steve finally forced me to spend the $3 and buy a package in the Kyoto Nishiki Market.

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A little googling told me that I’d need to soak these salt-preseved blossoms before using them any way I wanted. And I wanted a cocktail.

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SAKURAMESHU

This cocktail is unashamedly pink, girly, and sweet. Way sweeter that I normally go for, but I’m a dry cocktail-lover, and hell, it was springtime in Japan. Had I had any access to bitters, I would have added them, and have suggested as such here. The cherry blossoms provide a surprising amount of cherry flavor and aroma to the drink, even using only a few of them.

+ three or four preserved cherry blossoms
+ water for soaking
+ umeshu (the cuter the bottle, the better. See below)
+ club soda
+ cherry bitters

Soak your cherry blossoms in ample water for maybe 5 minutes or so. They are crazy salty.

Pour two parts umeshu into a glass. Add a few dashes of bitters if you’ve got them.

Plop in your cherry blossoms, and top with chilled club soda to taste.

Ideally, eat with some sakura mochi.

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Not in Japan in the springtime? The internet to the rescue. Get your preserved cherry blossoms here or on Amazon.

What else to do with the cherry blossoms? Like I said, they are crazy salty. I had a thought to maybe grind them with a mortar and pestle and make a pretty interesting salt rim for a margarita (maybe with a dash of sour cherry juice?) They can als be used in cooking and baking — see these posts for more ideas. The cherry blossoms can also be rinsed and then soaked in hot water for a cherry blossom tea.

They are also just fun to look at. Right, Steve?

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Hide the pork.

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Hello from Penang, Malaysia! Where street food is omnipresent, nutmeg is a juice, and the butchers hide their pork. Yep.

As in many Southeast Asian countries, butchers hack up and proudly display their meats in local wet markets. You squeeze past them down the aisle, carcasses hanging inches away from you. Unlike most Southeast Asian countries, however, the pork butchers in Malaysia are hidden away, segregated from other vendors, in a porky ghetto. That’s because unlike most of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country. It is also a cultural mishmash of a country, more extreme than any other I’ve visited. So while there are Muslims throughout Malaysia (mostly Malay, South Indian, and Southern Thai), there are also huge populations of Chinese and other ethnic groups who, well, freaking love pork.

So walking through the wet markets, you immediately spot the lamb and beef butchers with their butcher blocks and cleavers, the chicken butchers with their cages full of live poultry waiting to meet their destiny, and the fishmongers, all with their meat proudly displayed inches from you. And no pork in sight.

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Take a turn, pop over to another street, peer into a shophouse, and there it is. Delicious pink pork. In a spotlight of sunshine, but hidden away from the others.

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For a more in-depth explanation and discussion of Islam, and pork, and markets, hop on over to Eating Asia.

Get your meaty, boozy art for the holidays, right here!

Wall of papercuts

Thank you to everyone who came out to my show opening and Pot + Pantry‘s 2nd anniversary party last Friday night! TONS of people showed up and chowed down on free Sneaky’s BBQ (my favorite in the city) and Double Robot Brewing beer (thanks Pete and Steve!). If you came and I missed you … it was because I was in the hospital with my pneumonia-ridden husband. Don’t worry; he’s well on his way to recovery now, and even had a beer last night.

Speaking of beer, the original pieces from “Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ” are still up at Pot + Pantry and available for purchase until December 8th. Every year around the holidays, I get tons of requests for original pieces, so I finally listened. These pieces are all framed or ready-to-hang, so they really are perfect for gift giving to the food and booze lovers out there.

Look out for some posts here in the next 2 weeks with peeks of the art, or just head down to Pot + Pantry and check them out in person! And if you’d like to see some of the process pics behind these pieces, check out some of my Instagram pics here.

"Beer Me" papercut. Custom float-framed in shadowbox. Available. $250

Each of the papercuts is cut by hand with an X-Acto knife from archival black paper. I then nearly had a nervous-breakdown float mounting them between two panes of glass. The piece is finished with a custom made shadow box behind. The floating effect is pretty amazing, and because of the offset shadow box, the pieces cast really rad shadows throughout the day. Check out Donna’s Instgram pic here for an example. Oh, and they are each topped off with a UV pane of glass, so no fading folks!

There are also six 8.5 x 11 original watercolors, all matted up and framed in 11x 14 black frames. Awesome, right? yes.

"Beer + Pretzel = Yes" Framed 8.5 x 11 original watercolor. $175

 

"Bourbon + Empty Glass" 8.5 x 11 watercolor, matted, in 11 x 14 frame. $175

wash down that BBQ …. with clean water.

Hey folks! Consider this a refreshing commercial break in the booze and bbq onslaught….

Wait. That doesn’t look refreshing at all.

As many of you know, this summer, I attended the very humble-sounding World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. (My post is here) Among the many amazing speakers was Scott Harrison, founder of Charity:Water. You many have already heard of Charity:Water, and the amazing strides they have taken to fulfill their mission of providing clean drinking water to communities around the world. What is so impressive about them to me is how they have found a way to make the issue of clean drinking water salient and personal. I mean, check out this ad they did with Jennifer Connelly.

 

From someone formerly in the public interest field, another incredibly important point for me is that they keep their programs and operations funds entirely separate. What does that mean? Every donation you make ONLY goes towards their programs … not for their salaries, not for holiday parties, and not for office rent. Only to the water programs. If you know anything about the non-profit world, you know how rare and important that is.

And there’s always the questions of accountability … how can you tell what progress they’ve made?

They’ve simply made it all public, via Google Maps, where you can see the completed water projects, here. Pretty amazing, right?

This weekend, I’ll be attending yet another conference, Camp Mighty. Part of the goal of the conference is to raise $20,000 for Charity:Water … before the conference even starts … by harnessing the power of the bloggers and creatives attending the conference.

I know there are many other worthy causes in need of assistance right now, but if you have anything to spare, I’d greatly appreciate a donation to Charity:Water in my name.

Where will your money go, you ask? Let me tell you:

Donations are tax deductible, and you can just include my name on the donation page. Any amount helps. You can use a credit card- it’s really easy and fast!

Just click here: http://mycharitywater.org/go-mighty

Let me know if you have any other questions, and I really appreciate anything at all you can give!

Whatcha drinkin’?

If it’s beer or bourbon, you’re awesome. Also, you’re drinking a ton of grains.

New art, available at Pot + Pantry, starting Friday! I couldn’t get a great shot of them all framed and pretty, but rest assured, they are all framed up and pretty. (black 11 x 14 frame, with white mat, if you’re curious.)

 

bourbon pictogram

“Inside the Barrel” – 8.5 x 11 watercolor and ink on watercolor paper.

 

beer pictogram

“Inside the beer glass” – 8.5 x 11 watercolor and ink on watercolor paper.

Sometimes math is fun.

Like when it involves meat and beer.

Here are two new pieces, going up at Pot + Pantry on Friday for my new solo show.

beer + pretzel. 8.5 x 11 watercolor and ink painting.

 

ribs + floss. 8.5 x 11 watercolor and ink painting.