Thursday, July 19, 2012

Makin' a Flyer aka Nick-style Projects

I get pretty excited when I'm asked to design a flyer for hardcore/punk shows.  It gives me a chance to combine two of my favorite things - drawing and music. So when former Thieves (last band I was in) drummer, Ira, called me Sunday and asked if I could do one, I was stoked. Problem is, I never really know what to draw, so I started flipping through some books trying to get inspired. Nothing. I'd done one last year that was really drawn from street-artist Retna. I don't know how I came across his stuff in the first place, but I loved it. And as Mies Van Der Rohe said, "Don't try to be original. Just try to be good."

First, I blocked off an 8.5"x11" grid in Illustrator so my letters would be even. Then I used a couple of highlighters to draw the letters since the tips are chiseled a bit like calligraphy pens and it let me get the thicknesses I wanted. Do I even own calligraphy pens? Well, one. Don't judge me.
Notice I misspelled "tommorrow." Nice.
Then I scanned that so I could trace my letters in Illustrator and have a more uniform look. Of course my misspelling, plus Ira adding another band, kind of threw that off a bit and made things more interesting.

Once that was finished, I added fills and changed the stroke to a sketchy pen to get back a little of the hand-drawn look.

Not bad! Do you have to struggle to read it? Yeah, that's the idea. Spend some time looking at it. Did I use my initials as one of the symbols I made up? Yep. But I thought still I could do a little more. I did a little interwebbing and found this picture of Stripmines (Ira's band). It's their singer's last show with them so I thought it would be nice to feature Matt. I printed the photo, rolled out some trash - or for those of you who don't work in an architecture office - tracing paper, and grabbed my trusty Prismacolor cool grey markers. These are my go-to for just about anything I draw. Scanned it in, did a little Photoshop clean-up, and this was the result:

Overlay Matt in the corner, and I'm done. The response has been pretty good, even a mention of Sorry State Records doing a silkscreen w/ white and silver ink. Since we'll be road tripping while this show happens (across the street from our office, btw), I'll have to make sure someone saves me a copy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Operation: Cupcake (Or, "Try Not to Blow Up Like a Blimp During this Experiment You Just Made Up")

You pretty much have to be living under a rock if you haven't noticed how massively popular the cupcake movement has become.  Shows dedicated to it, people giving up their professions as lawyers and plastic surgeons to realize their dream of opening their own cupcakery (it's a word).  This trend is bigger than the shoulder pads of a high powered business woman from the 80's.

This show was my jam.

And y'all know I love a cupcake.  I've apparently made a reputation for myself as a rabid enthusiast and recently, I've been asked the question a lot: "What's your favorite cupcake in Raleigh?" 

Awkward silence.

Well the truth is, I don't have one.  There aren't any bakeries around that have blown my socks off the way some of the places out West did.  There were some places in San Diego and LA that were just...STUPID good.  So I'm not trying to be a snob.  Y'all know I love Raleigh.  I want to love their cupcakes, too. 

So I've decided I'm going to find the best cupcake in Raleigh.*

This all kind of happened by accident as we were having dessert this evening after church with the fantastic Paige and Khang, and sweet Jen B.  We found ourselves at Sugarland, a place that has not really impressed me much on prior visits.

I'd tried a few before and they were all pretty *yawn*.  But I felt sure there had to be one that I liked.  Gazing at the cases, I was debating between the Razzcapone (does anyone else love the way Giada de Laurentis says 'marscapone' the way Nick does?) and the Creme Brulee cupcakes. 

Picture from Sugarland's website.  B/c I'm quite sure someone will sue me for using it, I figured I'd give due credit.

As the great debate went on in my head, the chickadoo in front of me ordered one I hadn't noticed, and the girl behind the counter mentioned that it had won "Best Cupcake in the Triangle." 

My ears perked up.

"Who gave you the award?" I asked. 

"Oh, well it was before I got here but that's what they told me."  (Not a good start.)

Taking her at her word, I decided to try it anyway and research later.  It was called the Spumoni.  First rule of a great cupcake: give it a kick ass name.  Spumoni sounds like something an Italian guy just hocked up after gym class.  Not my idea of appetizing.  (Sidenote: I looked it up and the name actually does make sense based on what it is but it still sounds gross.)  But on to the deets: it's a pistachio cake with a strawberry mousse frosting and ganache topper with a few crushed pistachios on top.

I know, it sounds like a weird combination of flavors.  But no sooner than that thought jumped in my head, the girl behind the counter said "I know it sounds weird but it's amazing."  One thing I've always criticized cupcakes in this area for is a lack of interesting flavor combinations.  It was time to put my debit card where my mouth is (b/c who carries cash anymore) and just try it. 

It looked good.  Bright colored liner, fresh looking icing...shiny chocolate ganache.  Check.

Then I picked it up to smell it a la Florian Bellanger.  Smelled good, but it seemed to weigh about 3 lbs.  It was heavy.  After digging my fork in, I realized it was because the cake was as dense as a loaf of day old wheat bread. 

But carry on I did.  The flavor combination was definitely interesting.  I actually liked how the flavors paired with each other.  I liked the icing ok, too (though Paige thought they had chopped up strawberry Pez and mixed it in...) but the cake was way too heavy and dense.

I'm definitely not writing off this place b/c there are plenty of other flavors I have yet to try but this wasn't the one.  It didn't give me the the lovey dovey tingles that a good cupcake should give you.  And I want the tingles.  Like, Cory and Topanga tingles.

The search continues.

*I may have to extend the search to include the Triangle if the pickings get too slim.  Also, I found the alleged article that names Spumoni the best cupcake in the Triangle even though it doesn't say it.  Maybe it was announced after the fact.  HOW CONVENIENT.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Charlotte: It's Not Awful

With our house bartering at a temporary hold, we decided to escape Raleigh for the weekend and head to what I consider our rival city: Charlotte. Besides being home to the hated Carolina Panthers, Charlotte has recently stolen two of my best friends - Ben and Veganick - dudes who I have been friends with and played music with for close to 13 years. A few weeks ago, Ben proposed to his now fiancee Emily, so a congratulatory visit was needed. And we love road trips.
The Future Mr. and Mrs. Ben Mullet


We left early afternoon Friday and of course we hit multiple traffic jams. This gave us a good chance to find some more license plates for our default road trip game.

Apparently Charlotte has a light rail, and Ben and Emily's apartment is RIGHT on it. I'm a bit jealous of this, but we used it a lot. We went out to what proved to be an expensive dinner at a Mexican place (I think it was called Vida Cantina), where Ben asked me to be a groomsman. I agreed and we celebrated with tacos. We decided to go spend more money. "Going out" is an expensive habit.  We met up with our friend Raquel, who's in Charlotte for the summer house sitting Tolga's family's house and their dog. We've now hung out with her 3 times in 3 different states*. Small world.
*The 3 best non-Hawaii states (in alphabetical order): California, North Carolina, Texas.


Saturday's agenda: Modern Fabrics, West Elm, find cupcakes, find a record store. The Hambones told us about Modern Fabrics, and Sarah wanted to find something to recover a couple pillows.  (She will likely blog about this later and I'm sure you'll all find it way more entertaining than what I blog about but deal with it.) Turns out Ben and Emily live rather close.

So we walk a block and Sarah found a nice fabric while I looked in the skate shop that was next door. Later we went to West Elm - I'd never been to one and honestly wasn't too impressed. On to cupcakes...

Smallcakes is apparently a chain, and the dude was on Cupcake Wars, though Sarah didn't remember him. The cupcakes - pretty good. I got a PB&J, which tasted just like a PB&J sandwich. Sarah got the Margarita, which she said had the best icing she's ever had. I concurred. After this we went to Lunchbox Records, where I could've dropped a lot of money but talked myself out of the one record I was considering buying (I already have the Career Suicide track from it anyway). I'm gonna need this at some point though.

While we waited for our pals to get off work, we decided to look up something cheaper to do that night. And according to the interweb, the #1 thing to do in Charlotte wasn't even in Charlotte. #2? Bowling. And it seemed to be true since we had a 2 hour wait for a lane. About an hour in, the extremely loud DJ switched from rock to dance music. Sarah got down. You can tell by the pictures that she was alone.  It didn't deter her in the slightest.

About this time, you're probably thinking, "Nick, your posts are way too long." And you know what? You're probably right, but this is also (half) my blog and you came here to read it. You might as well keep going. What else do you have to do right now? Just finish it. So anyway, somehow I won the first game. We didn't finish the second before our time ran out, but Veganick was in the lead. This doesn't really matter, but it does to him. Arriving back at Bemily's building, we find the elevator is out. So we head to the stairs along with these 2 drunk girls who had also arrived at the elevator. One of them was REALLY drunk. Being the gentleman that I am, I help her up the stairs. Also, Sarah told me I should. The girl proceeded to tell me, "I like the way you breathe. It's sexy." Which is easily the weirdest complement I've ever received. I told her that I'd let my wife know.


Before we left, we decided we needed to take a picture of the most prominent building visible from their parking deck. Yeah it's really a big pink building. I don't know how that got approved by anyone.

No trip to Charlotte is complete without a visit to our closest Ikea. We were mostly just browsing, coming up with ideas for if we close on the the house. We did get some plates and bowls, and Sarah got these mirrors because she's on a hexagon/honeycomb kick. I carried them in the big yellow bag. I also decided to match the pink building and am not ashamed of it.

After leaving Ikea without even eating any Swedish meatballs (plus they have Pepsi products), we had to stop off at Ben's place of business to give him the keys and parking pass we had to borrow. I've already given out lots of free advertising in this post, so let's just say that Ben is the sales manager at a large center that sells guitars and stuff. (Hint: it's Guitar Center.)

Those are some pretty sweet guitars.  (Note: Sarah thought this was how you would naturally hold a guitar.) You can't really tell in this picture, but that guitar is the same color as the socks that Oregon wore in the BCS championship game 2 years ago. I own a pair of those socks because I thought they were hilarious/awesome (thanks Mandi!). Nike calls the color "volt" and are using it a lot now. Soon this will be a Nike blog.

All in all, Charlotte isn't the worst place we've ever been.  But stay tuned for a WAY bigger vacation coming up in less than 2 weeks.  Where are we going?  I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with Dan Mancisco.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out, Sandra Rinomato

Well, something kinda big happened this morning.  Husbo and I met with a realtor this morning to put in an offer on a house.  That's right...the Troutmen are one step closer to becoming full blown, mortgage paying adults.  Here's the beauty that won over our hearts...

She's in downtown Raleigh and a few short miles from our office and church.

I'm not going to give you much more info than that b/c I don't want any of you getting any bright ideas and trying to buy it out from underneath of us.  (I'm just trying to spare you a swift punch in the face.)

Obviously being first time home buyers, we were very green when it came to this whole process.  Everything we know has come from...where else?  HGTV.  Specifically, from this broad...

Sandra Rinomato

She uses all the lingo.  "Closing costs. Property value. Price point. Unrealistic."  We've probably seen 20+ episodes of her helping folks get their first house.  Well let's just say...the process is not as sexy as this Canadian makes it out to be.

First of all, have you ever noticed that they're always striking these deals in fancy coffee shops, sipping on lattes and eating biscotti?  Even when they're getting phone calls about counter offers, the anxious buyers are never sans-mochachino.  So I walked my butt across the street this morning and got myself a Caramel Brulee Latte. Husbo went the classy route and got that enormous energy coffee drink they sell in a can. with a hint of aluminum.   Despite our efforts to start things off on the right foot, here's reality:

Is the excitement translating here?  

We actually were really excited but our sweet and lovely realtor is up in North Raleigh and if you know anything about's that I love my sleep.  And we were there early. Thus the beauty you are beholding.

Then it came time to figure out our offer.  We'd had plenty of discussions before today regarding what we thought was wise, and conferred with a number of trusted family...but the idea of forking over more money than you've ever imagined having in your life is a bit daunting.  On the other hand, some celebrities would laugh at such a puny number and would make it rain with our entire mortgage at a club in Vegas.  But it's all about perspective, and from where we were's a lot of money.  

Then we dug down into the details.  "Who should pay closing?  What type of warranty should be asked for?  Do you want them to include the refrigerator?"  Husbo perked up at the idea of bartering.  At one point, when Susan (the realtor) left the room, the following conversation ensued:

Husbo: "We should offer them a giant wheel of cheese to sweeten the deal."
Me: "I'm sorry, what?"
H: "Everything I've ever learned from bartering came from Oregon Trail.  Food was like gold."
Me: "Are we also to assume that (the seller) has dysentery?"
H: "We should probably throw in a couple boxes of crackers, too."

Sidenote: They sell a giant wheel of cheese (we're talking the size of a car tire) at Harris Teeter and every time we grocery shop I ask when I'm going to see that baby wrapped up with a bow.  Due to it's $300 selling price, the response is usually not favorable.

We then had a back and forth about how many goats we'd need to offer to make an impact.  Sandra would have been proud.  Our non-Canadian realtor returned to the room and presented us with 400 papers to sign and initial.  400 may be a stretch but let's just say my hand was cramping after all that Herbie Hancock work.  You never see all of THAT crap on the show, do you?  I'll tell hunting and the consequent buying is not all fun, games and sassy hats from the mid 90's. 

So now, we're waiting to hear back from the seller.  The experience has actually been a lot of fun so far but the waiting is trying my impatient heart.  And even though we feel sure he'll counter offer, we're not too worried.  We've got a giant wheel of cheese in our metaphorical back pocket.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Inevitable (First) Cupcake Post

Well here it is. The first post about cupcakes. There's probably going to be a lot of these. Last night's episode of Sarah's favorite show, Cupcake Wars, was a great example of priss meets punk. The bakers were competing to have their cupcakes at some event to benefit legendary skater Tony Hawk's foundation (which I assume is to get poor kids skateboards. Or skate parks).

Now, a little background: Sarah loves cupcakes. In fact, she feels at least partly responsible for their recent surge in popularity. That part may or may not be true, but she does watch this show a lot. And she's gotten pretty good at making her own cupcakes. Finding "cupcakeries" in whatever city we happen to be visiting is always on the agenda (which is usually 1. cupcakes, 2. record store, 3. other things).

Let's get on with things. The commercials for this episode made it seem like Tony Hawk would be the guest judge. Well he was obviously way too cool for that and sent Andy MacDonald instead. So the judges were as follows:
Candace Nelson. I really wish that I had gotten a good screen shot of the face she's usually making. This will have to do. Last time we were in LA, Caplan drove us past the original Sprinkles Cupcakes. The line was ridiculous, but I think Sarah still got a picture out front. Pretty sure the place we ended up at was WAY better. I realize you don't know who Caplan is, but you should probably get used to me randomly mentioning my friends. It'll probably happen at least as often as posts about cupcakes.
Florian Bellanger. A really weird dude who owns a shop Sarah wants to visit in NYC. I realize that maybe 2 people will get the little episode-appropriate tribute above, but the 2 of you are my target audience. So congratulations! Anyway I happen to do a pretty decent impression of Florian that involves a horrible French accent.
Andy MacDonald. So apparently Airwalk still exists. That's cool, I guess.

And as always, the host:
Justin Willman. He's also a magician. And currently Sarah's #1 on her celebrity list. Just like random mentions of my friends, you should also get accustomed to Friends and Simpsons references as they make up a majority of my arsenal. At one point last night, Andy skates across the set and does a trick. I'm gonna be honest, I couldn't have told you what it was even if I was paying attention. But he stops in front of Justin, who in turn coughs up a cupcake out of nowhere. Sarah yells out, "YAY! YAY! MAGIC!!!" and was 100% serious in her reaction.

So now you know all about Cupcake Wars and I'll start talking about last night's episode. The first round is all about taste. When you think skateboarding, you think of the greatest place on earth - Southern California. And when you think Southern California, apparently you think of health food. So they have to make cupcakes with all these healthy ingredients that sound awful. The Z-Boys would've never eaten any of this. But I bet Stacy Peralta has some really weird diet now. As expected, everyone hates all of the cupcakes. The judges only liked one cupcake by one contestant, who I'll refer to as "80s girl" and there'll be more on that later. The dude who got booted the first round was from Austin, and made a fart noise in his exit interview. Possibly the best part of the show.

Funny enough that we felt the need to watch it again in slo-mo so I could take a picture of it. So on to round 2, which is 50% taste and 50% decoration. Lots of chocolate skateboards, and surprisingly, they completely ditched the whole health food thing. I don't remember much about this round except the girl who got kicked off was named Something Aguilera. The eventual winner was having trouble with a frosting mix, and rather than just shut off the mixer, she just let it keep running and spilling stuff everywhere. And Florian decided it was necessary to smell a cupcake in addition to the other weird stuff he does besides just eat them.
Final round. Time to call in the carpenters. I don't know which one is which, but Sarah says the one with more tattoos always wins. The designs the bakers came up with were pretty awful, by which I mean neither one of them was a half-pipe. IT'S THAT SIMPLE, GIRLS. The 80s girl at least used skate decks as shelves, though her pseudo knowledge of skating terms bothered me. But not nearly as much as Justin, because he just made it sound really awkward. Towards the end of the first round, he dropped "dude and dudettes." Does he not know that we're all dudes? Back to things about 80s girl that bothered me though. The name of her shop was something like '83 Cupcakes, because she was born in '83 and considered herself a "total '80s girl." Because she was 7 when the decade ended? Much like ourselves, her formative years were in the early '90s. Who is she trying to kid by loving the culture of the first 7 years of her life so much? No one is paying attention to that when they're 7. I mean, I definitely don't obsess over things that happened when I was 2 years old... She's probably nice though. Am I the only one who hates '80s culture?

80s girl lost. The other girl, who I thought was maybe 1/4 Asian and Sarah thought was in no way Asian, had a decent display that was basically all matte black. Which I liked. On to the big celebrity event! One of the first things we see...
The Hawk with cupcake on his face. We've all been there. You know who else has? And is still a celebrity?
Carrot Top. This is his best work.

Well, that's about it. Surprising that I made the first cupcake post and not Sarah? Yeah, me, too. Screw Flanders.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I love Raleigh, y'all.

Husbo had an appointment to get his tattoo finished this afternoon (more on that later) so I needed something to fill my time.  Over the past 18 months, I've been mildly obsessed with collecting Raleigh-inspired artwork.  After purchasing the world's most fetch record cabinet (why don't people say "fetch" anymore?), I finally had a wall to display my collection.  Once I hung it, I realized it needed to grow.  Five pieces isn't much of a collection.  SIX.  Six was going to be golden.  I'd seen an idea on Pinterest that I knew I could do armed with a little free time and a DVR full of stuff he hates to watch, I put on my craftin' pants and got to work.

Here's what I got:
  • A piece of 1/4" thick, 6" x 12" birch plywood from Michaels: $3 (And then I used a 50% off coupon to see if the lady would judge me for being JUST that cheap.  Spoiler: she was sweet as pie.)
  • A pack of 5/8" linoleum nails (needed to make sure they had enough of a head to catch some string): $2
  • Hammer (Already owned.  Because I have an impressive tool collection.)
  • Paint & brush (Also already owned from previous projects.  I went with a dark grey color that's currently the star of my bathroom.)
  • A pen for imprinting
  • White Embroidery floss (Already owned b/c I used to crossstich as a young girl.  I dare you to laugh.)
  • A map of North Carolina.  I used this one.
Total cost of project: $5.  Factor in my billing rate of $450 an hour, and you've got yourself a $630 piece of art.

Here's what I did:
1. Paint the board.  I did this in the morning so it would have plenty of time to dry.  We did a little Yoga for Golfers and ran a few errands before official "alone" time ensued. 
2.  Once Husbo was officially gone, it was time to get real.  No turning back now. I cut the map of NC to fit my board and then centered it to where I wanted it to be.  Here's where the pen comes in.  Because the wood was relatively soft, I was able to trace the outline of the map with some heavy pressure and leave an imprint on the painted surface.
It might be hard to see but squint really hard.  Or just pretend.  Whatever.
3.  Next came the step where I thought I might hammer my own head out of frustration.  I hammered the nails to follow the shape of the imprint I had left, as well as a small heart over the area where Ruff Raleigh resides (hello, alliteration).  Easy, right?  Well let's just say, short nails + big hammer + thin wood= all kinds of wonky.  

Seriously, I had to think back and think if I had downed a giant margarita before this project b/c it would appear as though a drunk person had taken a crack at my beautiful art project.   I was frustrated.  I was distraught.  I looked up at the TV and wondered WWSLD?  (What would Stacy London do?) 

Inspired by my style icon, and being the stubborn person I am...I refused to go out and buy a smaller hammer, OR throw in the towel all together.  So I grabbed a pair of small pliers to hold the nails (rather than using my fingers) and was able to better control the direction in which they were being hammered.


4.  The hard part was done.  It was the home stretch.  So I grabbed some embroidery thread, divided the 6 threads into (2) sets of 3 and started stringing. 

String and knot.  String and knot.  Listen to Clinton and Stacy's witty banter.  String and knot.  Until finally...
 She was done.

All that was left was to hang her next to the rest of the gang.  I think she's pretty amazeballs.

Is it weird that I love Raleigh even more now?  I don't even care...I love this place, y'all.