Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We went to a toy show here in Detroit this weekend. It's hard to describe the art toy movement to someone who hasn't seen these things before. Needless to say, this is not exactly what most people think of when they hear "toy show". Frankly, I wasn't sure what to expect either. Ross and I look at art toys in our local comic shop. Ross has started a small collection of his own. He just ordered this crocodile, which is totally awesome. But since this is really Ross's hobby, I hadn't looked at any of the lead up to the show, and I didn't really know what to expect.

Poster originally found here

The idea behind the show was to get a range of artists to all riff on the same toy blank (a plain white vinyl toy that can be reshaped and painted). The poster above has a picture of the blank that all of the artists used. One of the most interesting things for me to see was how different artists used the blank. Some of the artists basically used the blank as is:

Others modified it, while more or less sticking to the form of the blank:

And still others modified it practically beyond recognition:

Some of them more or less ignored the form of the blank. I was less impressed by that. The artistry on these two was amazing, but it seems lame to just ignore the form of the canvas you are given:

Some of the artistry was just amazing:

I was surprised at how many women were present. I was expecting to be one of the only women in the place, but it was maybe 1/3 women in all. I was even more surprised to see how many of the toys seemed to be geared towards/produced by women:

My two favorites were on opposite ends of the price spectrum.

The balloon on the top was one of least expensive items there ($220). I couldn't believe that it was priced so much lower than some of the other, much less inspiring pieces. The Fortune Teller below was one of the most expensive ($1400), but priced well. I think that it was the first one sold. Notice that the fortune coming out of the fortune-teller's mouth says "You will live happily until Wednesday". Brilliant.

There was, in general, a disparity between the prices of the pieces and my perception of their value. The most expensive pieces were not always my favorites, and yet...well...they were more expensive. It's not that the pieces in the $1000-1400 range weren't good. It's just that some of the pieces in the sub-$1000 range were just as good. Ross filled me in--it turns out that some of the most expensive pieces were done by people who are famous within the (admittedly small) designer toy community. That was really interesting, because as an outsider to the community, those things didn't really mean anything to me. I was only aware of what I saw in front of me. It reminds me of how important it is to think critically about my opinions, and not rely on names. Ross and I have gotten some great pieces of art over the years by looking at the people whose name nobody recognizes. Yet.

By the way, if you enjoyed the pictures in this post, you can find the rest of my photos from the show in this flickr set, including many photos of pieces that I loved, but didn't fit in this post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My top 15 kitchen items

I have a ton of kitchen stuff. I suppose many people have more. But given the size of my kitchen, I have a lot.

So what do I use most often? Here's a list of my top 15 kitchen items, roughly in order of frequency of use. If I'm having a party, I will often use all 15 of these items. (You'll note that I've cheated a bit, since some of these entries are actually multiple items. Tough! It's my list, and I'll write it how I like.)

Top 15 kitchen items
*2 good knives
*LOTS of spoons
*LOTS of cutting boards
*LOTS of nesting bowls--pyrex and stainless steel
*cast iron pan
*dutch oven
*several good pots
*stand mixer
*itty bitty food processor
*cheese grater
*pizza stone
*digital scale
*probe thermometer
*cookie sheets
*round cake pans

Things I don't use often enough to justify the space:
*bamboo steamers
*waffle iron
*big roasting pan
*rice cooker (this just broke recently, after a short and useless life)

Things that are incredibly useful but I don't use as often as I'd like:
*crock pot
*pressure cooker
*big food processor

Things I kinda wish I had but won't buy until I have more money:
*Kitchen aid mixer
*Big Green Egg (less Macgyver than the flowerpot smoker , but also less likely to start a fire)

So how about you? What kitchen tools would you recommend to someone trying to outfit a new kitchen?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adventures in Cooking, Part 2: Poured Fondant

Ross asked for a very particular cake this year. Can you guess what it is?

A hint...the cake is bigger on the inside.

got a guess?
That's right, it's the tardis!

The cake is a dense almond butter cake. I used a 12x18 pan and cut the outline out.

I wanted a really smooth finish on the frosting, so I tried something new--a poured fondant. It's kind of like candy corn, except...um...blue. It's generally used to coat petit fours, but I thought that I would give it a shot for a full cake. The results were pretty awesome, I have to say!

Making the fondant meant cooking 4 pounds of powdered sugar down with a cup or two of water. It took my largest pot, and a crazy amount of arm strength. I added some blue food coloring and poured the hot fondant over the cake. It was easily the messiest thing I've ever done. I wish I'd taken some photos of the process. It looked I'd been massacring smurfs in the sink. There was blue frosting on practically everything, including the floor, walls, and my shirt.


The doors and police box sign are more fondant, piped out of a ziploc bag. After a few hours in the fridge, the fondant cooled into a smooth, shiney shell.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with it. Next time, I'm going to try a 3d version built out of four or five square layers.

The best part of a tardis cake? The special effects!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cutest. Man. Ever.

Today is Ross's birthday.

Happy birthday Hubs!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Words Kate Hates, Part 2

Oddly, most of the words I hate start with the letter "p" (for example, the last installment of Words Kate Hates, which I can't even read because it makes my skin crawl). Maybe it's the fact that so many p-words stand for gross things (putrid, puss, puke) that even non-gross p-words sound like they refer to bodily fluids (plastic, pumice, pal).

However, today I have a treat for you--a word that is both gross and starts with a letter other than p.



This word in particular has been haunting me for weeks--it's on the menu next to the register at the bread shop that I frequent (yes, the one that is definitely *not* run by the mafia), and my eye is inevitably drawn to it, no matter how determined I am. It's like the incredibly drunk undergraduate girl, stumbling across campus at 10 am. You just can't look away.

It makes me wonder--is it actually supposed to be appetizing? I picture a slobbering dog, right after he's taken a big fat drink of water. In what universe is that mental image appealing?

Monday, October 13, 2008

This blog post brought to you by Roxy....

Roxy can't decide which operating system she likes best.

She likes the Mac because it's easy to use. She's good at expose. Sometimes, things bounce up from the dock and she can try to catch them.



But she also likes Linux because random key combinations do the neatest things! Also, it makes her feel hard core. She hopes to meet the Linux penguin someday. And eat him.


Hmmm...if only she could reach the space key.

Fortunately, in our house, she doesn't have to choose which operating system to mess up--we have both! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to clear off my desktop.

Roxy's favs:
Favorite part of the computer: the vent

Favorite key on the Linux PC
: definitely caps lock

Favorite key on the Mac
: toss up between expose, and whatever makes the most beeps

Favorite part of using computers::
getting thrown off of them

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brand new monocal

I broke my glasses playing volleyball today. I'm choosing to take this as a sign of how "hard core" I am--despite the fact that the last time I broke my glasses playing volleyball, I was in middle school and decidedly not "hard core". I wasn't quite hard core enough to mend them with athletic tape and continue playing, though. The line between hard core and total dork is pretty thin.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ironically, the ringtones suck

I've never had a stellar track record with cell phones (one of my early cell phone was killed when I dropped it off a 30 foot cliff while climbing in New Mexico). However, this latest string of phones has got to break some kind of record for shittiness. About a year ago, I got a razor with my new contract, and despite treating it very kindly, a structural problem in the hinge made it unusable after only 11 months. When I called in my warrenty, I asked if they could send me a different kind of phone, but they claimed that "it was impossible on their computer system". The razor they sent me worked for less than a month before refusing to recognize any input from the keypad. I had a long, heated discussion with a customer service representative, waited on hold for 15 minutes, and was rewarded with the evil customer service rep's sunny twin, who told me that "as a valued customer" I was eligible to receive a phone that didn't suck.

All of which is a long way of saying, I now own a phone that is way cooler than I am. An example: the customer service rep asked me whether I wanted a black or a white model. I figured I'm definitely not pimpin' enough to rock the white cellphone, so I asked for black . What they didn't tell me is that it's black and metallic orange. The color of cool, apparently. The rest of the phone kind of fits that general cool-dude vibe--the keypad slides out from behind the screen, it plays mp3s and video, and the whole thing puts on a mini lightshow when I get a call or message.

It's enough to make me want to put on a polo shirt, pop the collar, and head down to the local dance club.

As you might expect, I don't actually use most of the phone's features (although I did set the light show to "glimmering ice"). In fact, the only feature I use regularly is the nerdiest one possible...the pedometer. It's a really simple application, yet totally addictive. An accelerometer in the phone counts your steps for the day, and estimates how many miles you've walked. The count automatically starts over at midnight every day, and it stores your daily stats, so that you can track it over time.

I am totally obsessed.

Today marked the first full week of data from my new toy. This past week was a fairly low walking week. Ross and I usually take 2 or 3 recreational walks each week, including a walk to the farmer's market, none of that happened because of project get-a-job-already. Nonetheless, we averaged 3.6 miles a day. The high value was 4.7 miles (a day with a super short lunchtime walk) and the low was 3.0 miles. I'll be interested to see how it changes over time--especially as winter descends and I start debating whether the world outside my bed is really all it's cracked up to be. When I start graphing the results and running multi-variate regressions to determine the effects of temperature, percipitation, and workload...well...you all will just have to stage an intervention.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm not dead! I swear!

So it's been a while, I know. I have a good reason, though. If you might remember from my list of goals, I am going on the job market this year. Given the amount of time that particular goal is sucking up, I am hereby revising my list of goals.

Goals for 2008-2009
1) Get a job.
2) Stay sane.

I think that I can accomplish that.

Anyway, this is my way of saying that posting might slow down a bit. I'm hoping to use blogging as a break from writing my thesis. However, that activity competes with such perennial favorites as eating, sleeping, petting my cats, and kissing my husband, so that may not happen. In the meantime, here is a short play-by-play:

1) The kitten is huge. Like, the size of a small adult cat. We're thinking of renaming her Mongo. I need to take more current pictures, but here's one from a few weeks ago. Maggie is still unimpressed.

2) The garden has been hugely productive. We've had over 100 tomatoes, probably 25 Anaheim chilies, a ton of carrots, many many lemon-drop peppers, pounds of potatoes, and more lettuce than I know what to do with. Our plot has to be cleared out by the 16th. I'll try to do a final count before then.

3) I got an Ipod touch.
Ok, so it actually belongs to Ross, but he lets me play with it, and I'm plotting a way to steal it for myself. So it's kind of mine already.

4) I think that the bread shop around the corner from me is run by the mafia. I would go into more detail, but I wouldn't want them to find out. In fact, on second thought, I definitely don't think that the bread shop is a front for an illegal drug business. Not at all.

5) I have developed a tremendous addiction to the show House. Ross is even more addicted than I am, which seems impossible considering how much of my addiction is fueled by Hugh Laurie's devastating attractiveness. I even liked him as Bertie Wooster. Ross, on the other hand, has no excuse.

6) I have thoughts on the financial crisis, the bailout, and the presidential and vice presidential debates. Some of them are even worthwhile. But I don't have the energy to write them up. Sorry about that. Maybe next time.