Meet the Biblio-mat

I love books. Even though I'm (ashamedly) a Kindle groupie, there's something about a good, old-fashioned paperback that really does it for me. 

I recently came across a great (if outdated) design project courtesy of The Monkey's Paw, a bookstore in Toronto, Canada, specializing in "old and unusual" finds. Created in 2012 by the store's owner, Stephen Fowler, and animator Craig Small of Juggernaut (a Toronto-based ad agency), the Biblio-mat is a vending machine that dispenses random, used books for $2.00 each. The Biblio-mat is an artful and inspired alternative to often-ignored "give-one, take-one" sidewalk bins—a dream come true for the "curious bibliophile."

The machine itself is located in the back corner of The Monkey's Paw. It's a hulking beast (about the size of a refrigerator) and is painted a vintage pistachio green with chrome accents. Antique lettering on the front reads "Every book a surprise. No two alike. Collect all 112 million titles." When coins are inserted, the Biblio-mat responds with overly-dramatic whirrs and vibrations as the process is set in motion. The satisfying ring of an old telephone bell announces the delivery of a mystery book into the receptacle below. Books included in the Biblio-mat are one-of-a-kind to say the least, with titles ranging anywhere from vintage dog training manuals to the 1970's cult classic Your Prostate (a captivating read, I'm sure).

It's a beautifully designed ode to vintage books for all those who believe in serendipity. 




"Montage of Heck" documentary

Random confession: I really like Nirvana. 

As a teenager, I developed a serious crush on angst-ridden, grunge rocker frontman Kurt Cobain. I've always been intrigued by his immensely screwed up, totally unique brand of creative genius. And while I never embodied the grunge-rock lifestyle (wearing an untucked plaid shirt on  "free dress days" at my Catholic grammar school was about as extreme as I got), many of my MTV-era teenage memories were set to "In Utero" cranked up as high as my Casio boombox could handle. So naturally, some restrained head-banging occurred when I found out HBO Documentary Films premiered a Kurt Cobain documentary entitled "Montage of Heck" at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Executive Produced by Cobain's only daughter, 22-year old Frances Bean, "Montage of Heck" promises to be a brutally loud and unplugged look into the personal life of Cobain beyond the stage. To help tell the full story, Cobain's wife Courtney Love allowed Director Brett Morgen access to a previously sealed California storage locker which housed a wealth of Cobain's forgotten personal effects: home video, live concert footage, early notebook artwork and illustrations, "sound collage" mixtapes (including a 1998 cassette entitled "Montage of Heck"), as well as personal recordings of the musician narrating his own life. The results evidently help paint a more complete picture of the rocker than previous documentary attempts—a look into the life of the larger-than life musician beyond the heroin addiction, issues with fame, and conspiracies around his suicide at twenty seven years old.

"Montage of Heck" will premiere on May 4th on HBO. And you'd better believe I'll be breaking out a vintage plaid shirt and "Teen Spirit" for the occasion... 

"Montage of Heck" sound collage mixtape

"Montage of Heck" sound collage mixtape


Cobain and daughter Frances Bean

Cobain and daughter Frances Bean

Design spotlight: Mast Brothers chocolate

Ok, I admit it. I judge books (and pretty much anything else with packaging) by their covers. And considering I'm a huge lover of chocolate, it's not a huge shocker that I'm seriously sweet on Mast Brothers chocolate bars. 

Mast Brothers is a Brooklyn-based chocolate company founded in 2007 by impressively-bearded brothers Rick and Michael Mast—New York transplants who hail from Michigan. Their bean-to-bar creations are crafted entirely from scratch using raw, single-origin cocoa beans and contain no additives except cane sugar along with impressive flavor varieties such as Maine sea salt, goat milk, chili pepper, Stumptown coffee, and smoke. In addition to their Brooklyn flagship store and factory, the brothers plan to open a London store location later this year and also recently released a cookbook featuring chocolate-inspired family recipes (Cocoa Coq au Vin, anyone?). 

The Mast Brothers at their Brooklyn flagship.

The Mast Brothers at their Brooklyn flagship.

Which brings me to the packaging (be still, my heart). Mast Brothers chocolate bars are each hand-wrapped in a stunning variety of nautical-inspired and abstract patterned paper that make them (almost) too pretty to peel open. 

Packaging perfection.

Packaging perfection.



A word on... hyphens

Ever since Strunk and White first explained the difference between "its" and "it's" (still my biggest pet peeve) with their Elements of Style, I've always tried to make grammar and punctuation... kind of my thing. However, working at Goodby, I was always stumped when copy consistently came back from the editing department with hyphens crossed out and "add em-dash" noted. 

Um... Em-dash? Excuse me? Turns out this hard core grammar nerd had a thing or two to learn.

Here's the deal: there's actually a BIG difference between your regular, vanilla, run-of-the-mill hyphen and it's cousin—the dash—which can take the form of either an en-dash or an em-dash (hold your applause for those beautiful em-dashes I used right there). 

If you're interested, I put together a handy little cheat sheet to try and make some sense of these little tricksters... 

My favorite version of the classic... with illustrations! Who said grammar isn't fun?

My favorite version of the classic... with illustrations! Who said grammar isn't fun?


Photographer spotlight: Martino Zegwaard

Author Ransom Riggs is the author of the book Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which is currently on my Kindle waiting to be cracked open (ok, I know it's technically teen lit... but I need to see what all the hype is about). The book has been sitting on then New York Times bestseller list for some time, and Tim Burton is currently directing the movie adaptation set to release in March 2016. The story follows a kid named Jacob as he explores a Welsh island, finding there may be truth behind the bizarre stories about children who were sent away to an abandoned orphanage there.

As part of the sequel to the book, Riggs wanted to explore some of the houses that are described within his pages. So he tapped photographer Martino Zegwaard to help him locate and capture some of these macabre places. The duo traveled together across Belgium and Luxembourg to find some of the most incredible abandoned homes on earth, and surprisingly, the images aren't the stuff of nightmares—they're absolutely breathtaking. There's something so beautiful in the ruin and you can easily imagine the former glory of these homes. To me, the images also feel just the slightest bit obtrusive, like you're peering into someone's innermost private life... making you want to learn more about the families that lived there and the stories behind them.



Bottoms up—Italia style

Growing up in an Italian household, I've always had pretty broad horizons when it comes to food. In grammar school, I was the kid who brought prosciutto sandwiches for lunch instead of peanut butter and jelly, and to this day I think my traditional pronunciation of words like "risotto" and "marinara" is a little embarrassing.

To me, there's nothing better than big glass of (slightly chilled) Italian red wine. And as a lover of all things boozy, it's probably not surprising that I've developed a love Italian liquors as well. To me, these drinks always feel a little special, whether you're ordering them out at a restaurant or making them at home. And when in Italy, they're almost always served up with a salty snack such as cured meats or olives. What's not to love?

Here are a few of my favorites:

Left to right: Campari, Aperol, Limoncello, Cinzano.

Left to right: Campari, Aperol, Limoncello, Cinzano.

Italian liquors fall into two main categories:

Aperitifs: Enjoyed before dinner and said to prepare the palate for a big meal; usually just a little sweet or bitter-tasting (Campari, Aperol, Cinzano, etc).

Digestives: Poured after dinner and said to help aid in digestion. (Limoncello, grappa, etc).

While most of these liquors are pretty low in alcohol, Limoncello is definitely not. It's made with Everclear, so any more than a shot after dinner will have your head swimming the next day. I speak from experience (don't say I didn't warn you).

Check out these recipes (just add Lake Como daydreams):




Wanderlust: Lisbon

After a trip to Italy in June of last year, I'd sworn off international travel for a while. After all, there's so many places in the United States I have yet to see (I'm ashamed to say I've never even been to Washington DC), so it seemed fitting that I focus my wanderlust tendencies closer to home. However, some recent photos I've come across of Lisbon, Portugal, have made me think again...

Located on the Western coast of Portugal, Lisbon is often referred to as San Francisco's "sister city," complete with steep hills, winding streets, cable cars, and even a "mini" Golden Gate Bridge built by the same construction company that built the Bay Bridge some thirty years prior.

What struck me the most about these photos was the incredible color seemingly infused into every square inch of the city. Boldly colorful doorways, intricately patterned tiles, and the unmistakable blue of the Mediterranean Sea lend an incredible palate to the city. Lisbon also beautifully blends the historic with the new, both structurally and culturally. Ancient hilltop cathedrals rub shoulders with decidedly "Marina-esque" areas like Bairro Alto, where bars and cafes are as ubiquitous as the Caipirinhas they're serving up.

Consider Lisbon booked for my next international adventure (DC isn't going anywhere, right?).

Colorful doorways and boldly patterned marble.

Colorful doorways and boldly patterned marble.

Blue and white tile gorgeousness.

Blue and white tile gorgeousness.

25 de Abril Bridge—Lisbon's "mini" Golden Gate. 

25 de Abril Bridge—Lisbon's "mini" Golden Gate. 

Design spotlight: Lora Lamm

After five years working at San Francisco's Goodby Silverstein & Partners, you could say I have a mild obsession with ads. I've always been drawn to the illustrative mid-century Pirelli ads and their incredible use of color and shape (I've actually been on the hunt to find a full size one to frame for our house for years now), but it was only recently I learned a bit more about the designer, Lora Lamm. 

Lamm was a main contributor to the post-war era of Milanese design when brands such as Pirelli tires and Olivetti typewriters were just beginning to establish advertising departments realize the importance of design. Born in Switzerland in 1928, Lamm moved to Milan, Italy in 1953 to work for the renowned Studio Boggeri in 1953, where she quickly moved beyond the novice task of designing wrapping paper and was given the agency's crown jewel: La Rinascente (Italy's most lavish department store). Using a new "house" typeface of Futura bold, Lamm created a wide range of arresting print ads for the brand and developed her unmistakable style: simple, pictorial illustrations with an unmistakable bold color palate and feminine lines. 

Her ads for La Rinascente and Pirelli are works of art in and of themselves: