January 13, 2012

2012 is the year of the renaissance

Posted in Look, Make tagged , at 10:53 pm by onetinyacorn

The New Year always lends itself to both sentimentality and the sense of a fresh start, which I love. Time to take stock, shunt all of the bad stuff, and start anew. A very dear and talented friend of mine and myself have had a trying 2011 wherein neither of us spent much time in our studios. We have declared 2012 the year of the Renaissance—want to join us? Dive in—there’s no better time to start. To a wonderful new year!

Make Art Not War

(Image by Shepard Fairey. Think he’ll sue me? No, I actually love him, litigious hypocrisy aside).

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September 21, 2011

Neat Things: Google Ngrams

Posted in Go, Look, Make tagged , , at 6:08 am by onetinyacorn

Google labs has produced Ngrams, a very awesome, customizable way to chart cultural trends over centuries. I wanted to track the ebb and flow of political ideologies through time, so I input the terms for various political constructs into Ngrams, and it gave me this nifty chart, based on the OCR of its digitized corpus of English-language books (click on image for full-size view):

Politics Ngram

So we see a clear decline in mentions of the term “monarchy” in books since 1800 [I’ve since learned that you can track verbiage back to around 1550!], and a spike in the term “democracy” around World War II. Futher, I can search by decade and term in Google books to locate precise mentions of my specified terms. Think about how interesting it would be to track epidemiological trends this way! You could also run side-by-side comparisons on the same terms in different languages, for a cross-cultural perspective. Dreamy, isn’t it?

August 23, 2011

Fudgy Banana Brownies

Posted in Make tagged , , at 7:18 pm by onetinyacorn

So, I had two very brown bananas hanging out on top of my freezer, but I was sick of banana bread. I did have a hankering for brownies, though. And thus this recipe was born. It resulted in a wonderful fudgy brownie with a distinct banana flavor. I didn’t take photos—they disappeared too quickly—but, well, they look like brownies. Use your imagination.

One word of caution: I created this recipe at high altitude (7,200 feet). I believe that it should work at lower elevations, but I haven’t tested it there yet. Let me know if things go awry.

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup sugar
2 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. At the last minute, add applesauce in order to heat it. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar and vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the bananas until they’re a mostly smooth, puddinglike consistency. Add to the above mixture.
  4. Stir in the cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder into the mixture, being careful not to overmix. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  6. Scarf down, remembering to salvage one square for the person who you originally intended these brownies to be for in the first place.

May 6, 2011

Embroidery: Satin Stitching

Posted in Look, Make tagged , , , , at 10:08 pm by onetinyacorn

Embroidery is such a meditative process; I can’t get enough of it. Here are my first two attempts at satin stitching:

1. I was inspired by this image. Since the only hoop size I had was 6 inches (and–oh, small towns–I can’t buy them anywhere here; I have to order them online), I scrapped the monkey because embroidering a monkey that small would have ended up looking like a brown blob. I created the background by sewing alternating strips together, then satin stitching the elephants. I learned a few valuable lessons during this process: satin stitching looks best with shorter stitches rather than trying to cover 2+ inches with a single stitch. Also, when embroidering over multiple fabrics, make sure the weave of all fabrics is the same. That red fabric had a looser weave, and that was difficult to manage.

2. My second attempt at satin stitching, also in a 6 inch hoop. This took many episodes of Buffy to finish. It’s my own doodle; I was thinking of this Dylan poster when I sketched it. I finished the eyes with a glint of silver thread. Word to the wise: metallic thread is a pain in the ass. Don’t use it in large sections, because it tangles like nothing else.

April 4, 2011

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Posted in Make tagged , at 4:23 am by onetinyacorn

I found myself with 2 gallons of milk recently, and an excellent way to consume some: make dulce de leche. Here’s the recipe, from Krystina Castella’s fun book, A World of Cake:

Vanilla Dulce de Leche

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 8 cups milk
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Slice the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into a large saucepan. Add the milk, sugar, and salt to the saucepan. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a full boil [note: watch it very carefully as it’s about to boil, or it will run over and create a very sticky mess]. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until reduced to 2 to 3 cups, with a caramel thickness. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Combined with David Lebovitz’s recipe for dulce de leche brownies, and you have the greatest sweet treat ever. The rich brownie has two layers of dulce de leche: a gooey center one, and a crispy lattice on the top. And he’s right: they are better the second day.

dulce de leche

batter

dulce de leche brownies

February 16, 2011

Anti-Valentine’s Day Gathering!

Posted in Make at 3:17 am by onetinyacorn

I hate Valentine’s Day. I think that socially proscribed acts of romance are, in fact, the antithesis of romance. However, I love red and pink and hearts and love—how to navigate this disparity? My friend Julie came up with a great idea: those of us who hate V Day but love chocolates and stuff like that would get together and make themed stuff for each other. So I got to work making almond chocolate truffles and raspberry linzer cookies, as well as inventing a delicious cocktail which I have dubbed the Blue Valentine (my first choice, Blue Balls, was already taken). Let’s break it down:

Truffles! My Joy of Cooking cookbook tells me that these confections were “whimsically” named after the savory black truffle. Perhaps they looked like my first attempt at coated chocolate truffles:

The first few looked decent, and then it was all downhill from there. They tasted delicious, though. Might I recommend a double boiler for the chocolate coating? I also ignored the cookbook’s advice to bring the ganache centers up to 70 degrees F to avoid streaks of grey. I had enough trouble coating them straight from the freezer; my later efforts show what happened when the ever-so-slightly warmed centers came into contact with the would-be chocolate shells.

Linzer cookies! These delicate, buttery cookies with a hint of cinnamon were amazing. I stuck the dough in the freezer (sandwiched between sheets of freezer paper) after rolling it out but before cutting them. Let them thaw for about a minute before cutting them, so they don’t crack.

Blue Valentine!

Ingredients: vanilla vodka, blueberry juice, orange for garnish, ice.

Directions: Pour blueberry juice and vanilla vodka (to taste) in a shaker with ice, shake, strain into martini glass, garnish with orange slice.

Blue Valentine

Recommended listening: Robyn, Dancehall Queen

February 11, 2011

New Embroidery

Posted in Look, Make, Shop tagged , , , , at 10:25 pm by onetinyacorn

Here’s two new things I’ve whipped up recently:

1. A matryoshka luggage tag. I took a piece of white calico, reinforced it with lightweight fusible interfacing, folded it in half, and ironed it. After stitching the matryoshka (I purchased the pattern from Sublime Stitching), I sewed one of those clear plastic pockets that come with new wallets onto the back. Whipstitched that puppy together, and now I have a stylish luggage tag.

2. Fight Club embroidery.

February 9, 2011

Anthropomorphized Food

Posted in Look, Make tagged , , at 11:28 pm by onetinyacorn

I like it when my food has a face:

Mister Banana Man

Gingerbread House

November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Orange Cranberry Muffins

Posted in Make tagged , , , , at 11:53 am by onetinyacorn

I couldn’t decide between making pumpkin spice muffins or cranberry orange ones yesterday, so I decided to combine the two into one palate-pleasing dynamo. In the process, I took a delicious recipe and made it a bit healthier as well. My friend Liz is an expert at making very delicious, often healthy foods, so you should check out her blog, too. You won’t be sorry.

I modified the recipe for “The Best Pumpkin Muffins,” found in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance thusly*:

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon or so grated orange peel
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup fresh cranberries

* Note: this is the lowlander recipe. High-altitude friends, make the appropriate modifications for your altitude. You know what to do.

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, OJ, orange peel, milk, oils, and molasses. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix. Fold in cranberries.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Keep away from cats, as they will eat these up if given a chance.

November 4, 2010

Halloween 2010

Posted in Look, Make tagged , , , , , at 8:50 pm by onetinyacorn

Ah, what a difference a year makes. Last Halloween, I was pretty new to town, and bummed that I didn’t have any local friends yet. This year, I spent three fun-filled days with some of my most favorite people. Here’s the breakdown:

Friday: So, one of my jobs at the library is to basically organize and  host parties. Sweet, right? We had lots of attendees show up to carve pumpkins, decorate cupcakes, and make masquerade masks. Afterward, I high-tailed it to a distant, exotic land (Colorado) to catch a late showing of Paranormal Activity 2 (while still wearing my Superwoman costume).

Paranormal Activity 2 was fairly scary, and much better than its predecessor. Although I recommend watching the first one as well, because they pick up some threads from that one and weave them together nicely. One thing that annoys me about both movies are the characters, though. I find them to be grating, and the women come across as hysterical. Weak.

Then there was costume-gazing about town, and giant $2 slices of pizza and cheap beer amidst punk music at Surfside 7 in Fort Collins. I loved that place.

Saturday: Medusa night! We went out to a local bar, and I got tons of compliments on my costume.

Here’s how I made the costume:

Materials: 6 foot-long rubber snakes, lime green duct tape, and green plastic-coated copper wire (20 gauge–it came in a 50-foot spool). Makeup that I had lying around the house.

I unwound the wire, and duct taped it along the bottom of each snake, using 1/4 inch strips of tape and placing them every 2 inches or so along the length of the snake. After all 6 were wired, I constructed a “hat” out of them by weaving them together and using long, thin strips of duct tape where two snakes intersected.

The makeup was just a shimmery gold cream, with iridescent gold-orange powder applied liberally on top so that it wouldn’t smear. I used lots of deep purple eyeshadow in an attempt to create a “smoky eye.”

Sunday: Soooo sleepy. My snowflake friend and I (Superwoman again) left work and grabbed a drink and delicious fried foods at a bar. And then I slept very soundly, for a long time.

And thus ended my favorite weekend of the year. Perhaps next year I’ll make it a whole week. I’m already thinking about my next costume…

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