3 days, 14 hours, 22 minutes

To continue the holiday project sharing...Here's an image of the first felt candy cane mouse I made a couple of weeks ago. I made two more after this one that came out considerably better (and I remembered to give them little red pom poms for noses instead of all black facial features, as you see here), but I haven't had a chance to make more. So you get to see the first one. The first of anything for me is kind of like that first pancake, you know?

I put it on our wacom tablet that also doubles as a mousepad for scale (and irony). They were super easy and fun to make but in hindsight, I'm not sure kids are all that excited to receive them. My niece and nephew were sufficiently interested (they were incorporated into packaging for Christmas books we let them open early) but not all that impressed that I made them myself. Maybe that was assumed. Anyway, I had this idea of making one for all the kids in my social/family circle (20 or so), but I'm not so sure. I might still make a ton of them just to use up the felt and pom poms and candy canes. Put them in the mousetraps at school...Anyway, I think they would have been fun to make with kids but ultimately, I think this kind of stuff is way more fun for adults like myself to make than for kids to receive. There were a few other projects I never got around to, mostly because buying the supplies would have been fairly expensive, not to mention the time I'd need to devote to it and the likelihood that they wouldn't turn out all that well. Maybe next year...

As for my board wrap-up...I showed four projects, including the work leading up to and spinning off of my main endeavor this semester, plus one project that is ongoing that we never really got around to. I'd say about 75% of my projects are still highly unresolved but I think it was agreed that I made some progress on this last project. And even where it was less successful, I feel like I at least did something substantial that I can work from. I was encouraged to check out the work of artists Buzz Spector, David Robbins (particularly his Ice Cream Social series), Janet Cardiff (one of her sound installations is up - for a short while longer - at M.I.T.'s List Visual Arts Center), and Sam Durant (another show I have to see before the end of the week). I was also encouraged to check out the t.v. show "Battlestar Gallactica," and just generally mine the "musty academic" vibe in much of my recent work and continue to explore my use of technology (and the relationship between new technology and nostalgia for old technology) as a metaphor for memory.

Just as soon as I get back from California! If I don't write again before I leave on Sunday, have a delightful holiday, whatever you celebrate. I'll be seeing you in the blogisphere in '07.


holiday treats

I'm too tired tonight to comment on my review board or final paper other than to write that both went well and I'll share more on board follow-up a bit later. It takes me a few days to decompress...

In the meantime, I've been keeping myself busy with holiday projects, which, this year, included a fair amount of time spent in the kitchen. Usually not such a good idea, but my festive treats turned out pretty well this year, if I do say so myself (Neal valiantly tried to salvage my miserably failed triple-chocolate fudge of last year, which resulted in a heaping pile of never-quite-solidified chocolate that hung out on the bottom shelf of our fridge for months). This year, after spending a whopping $6 and change on the holiday edition of Martha Stewart Living (I blame a long line at the store), I was determined to get my money's worth, selecting four recipes to try and another two or three craft projects.

For the food, I decided on two sweet and savory nut recipes that I made the evening before my board: Sesame Soy Cashews with Wasabi Peas and Nori

and Cinnamon Spice Maple-Sugar Walnuts.

The wasabi peas are pretty spicy and the walnuts are super sweet so I guess they kinda balance each other out.

Both recipes worked pretty well. Magazine recipes are never as thorough as they could be (especially for someone as inexperienced and unnatural in the kitchen as me), so, for example, I wasn't sure exactly what the recipe meant by cutting the sheet of nori (probably about a square foot with strips sort of suggested by what appeared to be perforated lines going across) into 3/4 inch strips. I cut little bit-size squares, but honestly, I didn't care much for the nori anyway. It adds a nice color contrast, though. And the sugar, syrupy liquid that you cook the walnuts in probably needed another couple of minutes to reduce before I added the nuts, but it all worked out in the end.

I didn't have time - before my board - for the third recipe I selected (making a quick loaf of banana bread instead), so I made these last night: classic truffles dipped in cocoa powder, chopped hazelnuts, shredded coconut, and candy cane bits.

I've had such inconsistent luck with fudge over the years (I guess I could break down and buy a candy thermometer...it's just that it worked so well one year without it!) that I thought for sure truffles would be equally tricky. But once you get the hang of it (mostly the scooping of the truffle mixture and then the dipping in melted chocolate and rolling in topping parts), they're actually pretty easy. They're not as perfectly round as Martha's, but they taste pretty good. As the recipe suggests, I attempted to use a cookie dough scoop that I bought at Michael's (where I got the candy boxes)...It worked for about one truffle and then the metal bit popped out. Note to self: Michael's is not a specialty food or kitchenwares store.

And I had little success with the coconut. I'm not sure if there's some special kind of coconut (I used shredded) that would have worked better...Perhaps if I'd pulsed it a few times in the food processor? So Neal and I will have to put them out of their misery along with the other rejects. The hazelnut worked best, followed by the crushed candy cane, and of course, the cocoa powder covered them pretty well.

More sharing to follow...


just like you and me...but not really

Today is my mother's birthday (and, coincidently, my brother-in-law's). When I was a kid we'd always put up our holiday decorations on her birthday, since it's usually right about halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping that tradition alive, we put out our small collection of Christmas decorations...a kitchen tile, a tubby little snowman door stopper, a couple of miniature nutcrackers, and a pine-scented candle. For the first eight or so years of adulthood I would decorate a table-top tree that my Dad gave me, but that tree was sacrificed in the move east. So the pine-scented candle will have to get us through another holiday. Fortunately for us, my brother and his family included us in their weekend of gingerbread-house building and Christmas tree decorating so I feel sufficiently ready for the holidays. I've got a mysterious thing for wreaths this year, so I might have to go out and get one, but otherwise, I'm all set.

Despite the fact that it took us all of ten minutes to decorate for the holidays, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on this final week of review board preparation and paper writing. I've got cards to fill out, projects to finish, a little more shopping to do, food to make... And while I feel mostly ready for my review board on Wednesday, as it gets closer I can't help but get a little nervous and feel like I should be doing something to prepare. Something in addition to the hours and hours I have left on my latch-hook pillow that I'm not sure what to say about, anyway.

And perhaps if I get a little pop culture recap off my chest, my mind will be a bit clearer. As you probably know by now, Melrose did not take the ANTM title last week. Going into the final episode, I told myself, as I always do, that I didn't really care which of the top three (Melrose, Caridee, or Eugena) won. Especially considering I've been a bit disappointed with this cycle since it began. But I wasn't surprised or terribly disappointed that Eugena got the boot about halfway through the finale, leaving Melrose and Caridee in the top two. And I have to say, when Caridee was revealed as the winner, I was disappointed that Melrose didn't win. I understand why Melrose didn't exactly take viewer's choice award, especially in the last couple of weeks. While her attitude didn't bother me as much as it seemed to bother other viewers, I did feel like her personality was a little lacking, a little flat maybe. But the girl did everything right! She took consistently good (although, I'll admit, not as amazing or transformative as past participants) photos, won most of the challenges, has a knowledge of the industry (and seems moderately intelligent, in general), and can work the runway. Other than that first week and her Covergirl commercial and photo shoot at the end, she was pretty stellar as far as the competition goes.

And to be fair, Caridee was one of my favorites from the beginning. Her personality was likeable from the start and she took gorgeous photos. But about halfway through the competition I think she lost it a little bit. She's a little more than "unpredictable," as Mr. Jay pointed out in the final panel. And in the review of their photographs throughout the competition, I'm pretty certain the panel of judges completely changed their position on Caridee's photo from the bull fighting shoot. I remember them dissecting that photo, saying Caridee looked awkward and that her face was too sexy, too pinup. Perhaps compared to Melrose, what they meant is that it was still less than perfect but better in comparison, but I feel like they changed their story a bit to justify the less qualified candidate winning the title.

Ultimately, my theory is that what makes or breaks an otherwise top model is the CoverGirl contract. All cycle long the girls are encouraged to be fierce, high-fashion, runway-strutting top models. But in the end, it's the awkward girl next door who's a wreck on the runway (and in general) who wins because she's likeable and America can relate to her. But you know, models are a little like politicians. I don't want my President to be like the guy next door, 'cause the guy next door is probably not qualified to lead the country. Likewise, I don't understand why it's so important for a top model to be just like your girlfriend next door, other than because she has to sell you lip gloss. And who do you trust to sell your product, Melrose or Caridee?

So, needless to say, I was disappointed, in who they chose to win, in the fact that Melrose wasn't a little more diplomatic throughout the season, and with this cycle in general. Too much Tyra, too many floofy dresses and big hair, and one too many weird photo shoots. Will I watch cycle 8 in the spring, though? You better believe it!


winter freakin' wonderland - part two

As an addendum to the still shots below. Okay, so who hasn't seen 30 seconds of snow falling? And this is nothin' for the seasoned east coaster. But it's got a kind of meditative quality. Not exactly like watching the ocean from the California coast or anything, but, hey, I'll take what I can get.

winter freakin' wonderland

Well, it was this morning. The dusting we got from a "nor'easter wannabe" has mostly melted since. But this is what I woke up to this morning.

And from another window.

I had to write about the first snow...it's tradition.