I travel with the pans. Now you know. We took them up to the Sierra this weekend to maybe try a little Andy Goldsworthy-worth installation in the snow. Or at least to make a little white, twinkling tea light holder out of a snow-donut (snownut). Unfortunately, our timing was off. We went sledding all day the day the snow would've been perfect for donut making, then begged the kids to let us stay inside the rest of the evening so we could drink bourbon and ginger ale and watch the Oscars. The next morning we woke up to a crystalline crust and the driest powdered snow you could imagine. A missed opportunity, resulting in no donut project this week.

We stayed again at The Dorrington Inn, a most rustic collection of little a-frame cabins just up the road from Arnold, CA where we stayed last year. This year there was a little more snow on the ground, but we didn't get to see the snow fall, which is kinda heartbreaking for this gal. Luckily this is my second serving of winter, my first being my trip to Utah in January. We headed up to Bear Valley for the sledding, where Oliver got into it after a few fearful runs, purposely causing the sled to "WIPE OUT" at the bottom of the hill each time. He is so incredibly adorable when he's not being super-stubborn. xoxoxo


stool samples

There are just a few things I collect to excess: Fire-King glassware, Heath Ceramics, our friend Mike Merritt's pottery and art, and stools. I love stools! I have a stool fetish. David likes them, too. We are ALWAYS looking for great stools, but in the past few years have had to pass on picking up any more, because there are only so many corners in a 900 square foot apartment where you can tuck one. I even had to return two beautiful ones David bought me for Christmas two years ago because there was no more room.

We have doubles (and in one case, triples) of some of these. Almost all are vintage, or at least second hand. Many are holdovers from the days when I was obsessed with red and orange furniture. We entertain primarily around our kitchen peninsula so they are handy when our friends want to take a load off. They are end tables for lamps, bedside tables for books, and ladders for the kids. They are everywhere!

There is a great flea market nearby every August where I've found a few, and an incredible Mid-Century furniture and housewares shop a half a block from our place where my mother and I picked up three or four for our collection. The funny thing about stools is that they are rarely labeled by the manufacturer, so I don't know who made most of them.

The back row.

The one in the middle with the pressboard top is my eatin' stool.

The middle row.

On the left, the stool I do ALL of my craft/three-dimensional work on. In the center, an awesome little red number way ahead of its time with its dip-dyed legs. On the right, my old office chair/stool, which I will use the next time I have a desk until my hemorrhoids scream for mercy! It's a beauty. It's so sturdy and heavy, just like the stools we had in school. It's labeled Hallowell, and has a solid wooden top which is hard to come by these days in the world of art stools.

The shorties from the front row.

Finally the shorties. The one on the right is actually a gorgeous laminated and lathed three-legged side table from Ikea, the PS Karljohan. It's treacherous to sit on, with the three legs and all, but we bought three of them to go around our low dinner/coffee table as stools and use them frequently. Someone always gets hurt.  

And there you have it, a sample of my stools. 

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! xoxo


brilliant projects heretofore unpublished: tree museum

This is a project I designed a zillion years ago as an entry in a student design competition sponsored by the ACSA and the American Wood Council. My friend Derek recently sent me THIS link to an amazing project by Swedish architecture firm Visiondivision. It's an actual, real-life, built version (called "Chop Stick") of something I was thinking of so many years ago. There are plenty of differences between the two projects, but seeing a giant tree actually supported in the air was a thrill for me, and reminded me (and Derek) of my project, which of course was never realized.

My project was part of a semester long vertical studio during my third year of architecture school. Called "A Tree Museum", the basic program of the competition was this:

"The challenge is not only to design a "Tree Museum" but to address the total integration of environmental issues, energy and natural resources within the museum. You must also create a sensitive house for one of man's most precious gifts in a museum setting which will be ecologically sensitive and provide educational benefits to its visitors.

The museum is to be located on the edge of a rural town, near a river, not far from a city. This small town is experiencing many ecological difficulties as well as being in a state of economic despair. This town as been fortunate enough to receive funding for the "Tree Museum". The town will now have an opportunity to create its own identity and also utilize the museum as a source of financial revitalization and a place of education and reflection."

I remember I was sitting at my desk in the top floor studio one night waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up when my concept appeared out of nowhere. I would make a building that could house a tree laid on its side up above the viewer's head. There would be be a place to get up close to observe and inspect the tree on an upper level, but the main focus would be on inhabiting the space below a tree that had been lain on its side. 

Conceptual sketch, Feb. 1991

This is the initial sketch. It shows a cross section through the suspended or supported tree lying on its side. The dark center part is the tree trunk, and you would be able to walk underneath it.

Our studio chose a site along the Hudson River in upstate New York. As my design developed, I ended up situating my museum partially overhanging the bank of the river. I decided to make the ends of the museum open and the floor of the museum a metal grate, so that as parts of the tree decayed they would make their way back into the river. Safety codes be damned!

Again, this was only conceptual and never built, and didn't win the competition either. But it's one of my favorite projects from school, certainly one of my most memorable. Maybe if I had used less of a brutalist approach to the design and a more refined representation of the tree the project would've been noticed. Or if a had hung a few swings from it, like Visiondivision did. That would've been brilliant.


donut pan idea no. 42: crunchy granola rings

Crunchy granola rings! Portable little treats for hiking and lunch boxes (and breakfast). This donut pan idea is akin to two others I've made which are super-commonsensical, my teething rings and my doggie treats. This is the first time in my life I've ever made anything granola. I adapted this crunchy granola recipe from a blog I found called Bakerlady (here's the recipewhich was adapted from a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. They are very lightly sweet and gluten free.

I made the basic recipe, but to this of course you could add dried fruit or chocolate, and switch out the almonds for peanuts or other nuts. 

Click on "read more" down below to get the full tutorial. This is a fun one! 


round up: what's new

It's been a long time since I haven't had an iron in the fire, and right now is no exception. Before I left for Salt Lake City last month I confirmed I'd be doing a little installation at Rare Device for spring/Easter. I figured this would be the time to go for broke. I came up with the egg piƱatas last Easter and now that they've evolved a bit, I'm really excited to plaster the shop with as many as I can get done. I'm going to raise the price just a hair as I don't even make minimum wage on them (I read this yesterday about charging more), but they are a labor of love so it doesn't matter too much right now. I like having things like this to look forward to, although I do wonder if I would fall to pieces if I didn't have a pending project in my life. 

Things are returning to normal after ALL of us being sick. I don't know who hasn't been sick this winter. David and I just made some really smart life decisions that left us gutted as far as passing on a dream we've had for a long time, but we are doing so well lately that I feel like it's going to be okay, even if passing that opportunity up feels like a huge loss.

I haven't done a round up post in so long. Here's what's new (not much)!

Sweet breakfast.

When dads design valentines. That there below is the Death Star. Not bad, David, not bad. He also came up with the message on the back: "Set a course for Valentine's Day.....and DESTROY it!".

 Stella is sure most of her class isn't going to get it.

 Valentine-making morning after. UNSTAGED. No jodas.
Oliver in his last semester of music class. We've been taking this class together since he was six months old; it is my most precious childhood memory of us together. Such a great way to start the week, completely focused on your child. Look at how sweet and tiny he was in class a few years ago. Killing me.

Gift from the Salt Lake City airport, creamed honey.

I spent my birthday with the beginnings of the flu on the floor with these two.

Oliver and the Marin Headlands beyond.

He figured out the volume button. I figured out where to hide the kit.

Stella and I got away for a long walk and time together last weekend. xoxo

My side of the bed.

Here's what else is new. I'm vain. I know this very well. Right before I left for SLC I was a huge ball of nerves. That fear of the unknown combined with my dislike of planes and anxiety over my little speaking gig at the conference has me spinning. So I do not blame my hair stylist (who is also my friend) one single bit for not understanding my rambling directives that caused me to get a haircut I never intended and then compelled me to go back in get all of my hairs chopped off the next day. I'm working with this short, short hair. Some days I love it (like when it's got some kind of fascinator in it and I'm all dressed up), but some days I'm just embracing that I am just a regular old person with regular hair and I need to just wear it. 

And something else. A few weeks before I left, I got a little control on my eating. I don't know how I did it (probably the nerves). I spent a few days juicing and I felt SO good. I was still running on my usual six hours of sleep but was waking up in the morning feeling like a million bucks. I know sugar is the devil in the amounts I have been ingesting it. When I got to the conference it was wall to wall sugar, so there was some faltering, but in general I am reset! For the first time since before Oliver's birth three and a half years ago I have changed a few habits and have lost a few pounds. It's really amazing how eating well affects how I feel about myself mentally. To be for once without the guilt of poor eating makes me feel ABSOLUTELY FINE with my size. That is something I have never felt before really. It's partially the wisdom that comes with being older, but mostly it's just having cells filled with nutrients. It feels really good.

That said, I'll be eating chocolate all day today, hopefully just today. And of course the donuts. Those won't ever stop. Happy Valentine's Day! xoxoxoxoxo


donut bread pudding donuts

Forgive me for saying this, but this is meta, right? Donut bread pudding donuts! After failing to find a box of plain donuts for another recipe I am planning, I ended up with a mismatched bag of old fashioned and cinnamon cake and chocolate donuts that couldn't go to waste. That's how boutique the donut business is in this town, you can't just go to the grocery store and buy a box of plain donuts. Anyway, I remembered that I have been wanting to try bread pudding donuts for a while, so here we are!

Donuts with the prime ingredient being donuts. So funny. I know cherries are out of season, but I really wanted chocolate cherry bread pudding, one of our favorite flavors from a nearby bakery, so I used frozen cherries. This also comes with a rum butter, which was supposed to be a sauce but didn't work out that way for me.

Click on "read more" down below to get the full tutorial. This is an easy recipe, and SO DELICIOUS!


giant paper flowers d.i.y.

How about giant paper flowers? How have I made costumes for so long without making one of these babies? I was thinking how these would make a nice Valentine's Day gift for Stella's teachers and other special ladies in her life, and in mine.

They are so big they are hard to photograph!

They are so big they can swallow a small child!

I'm going to try something new and tuck the full tutorial underneath this, so if you can manage to find that tiny "read more" down below, click it and you can read more!


february issues

Seven February issues, to be exact.

I pulled a seasonal stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines down out of my horde the other day. So awesome to pore back over seven years of great and festive ideas, so much to sink your teeth into. The older issues have this freshness about them that I love. This is also a fun way to read the Easter issues.

I am still feeling extremely drained from three out of four of us being really sick over the past week, so instead of burning the midnight oil lately (did you know 2:30 a.m. is my bedtime half the week?) I've been lying in bed at night and resting. And reading. And thinking about donuts. Also getting excited to have my energy back, because I'm going to be doing a little installation in March and I can't wait to get to it.

I've been stocking up on supplies, like crepe paper and nice thread. Carte Fini, one of the places I get my floral crepe paper, is having a sale through Valentine's Day. Twenty percent off paper products if you use the code Valentine20. I can't wait to get my hands on my order. I can't wait to get over this bug!


(giant) candy necklaces

I did it! I finally did it! I've attempted to made big colorful candy in these pans four times now (see my donut fails here), and I finally got it. Here is donut pan idea no. 37: CANDY NECKLACES!

This is a fondant recipe, of sorts, but there is so much extra powdered sugar folded in that it hardens and becomes a candy. I haven't done much in the way of oversizing things for the sake of oversizing things in this donut pan series, but these are so fun and costume-y I had to make them. You could have a lot of fun with colors and flavors for these, of course, and I think they could benefit from some citric acid next time around to cut the sweetness. They will be perfect valentines for some of our friends.

I found a recipe for valentine conversation hearts here and adapted it for my giant candy. These take about a day to dry (although are pretty good after 12 hours), so plan accordingly. 

For fifteen candies you will need one two pound bag of powdered sugar plus 3-6 more cups for kneading, 1/2 c. boiling water, one packet (1/4 oz.) unflavored gelatin, two tsp. light corn syrup, food coloring, fruity extracts (lemon, raspberry, etc.) and unflavored Kool-Aid (optional). You will also need cooking spray, elastic cord and assorted ribbons.

Start by adding the packet of gelatin and two tsp. light corn syrup to 1/2 cup boiling water in a small bowl. Stir until gelatin and corn syrup are dissolved.

Pour the gelatin mixture into a larger mixing bowl and, one cup at a time, use an electric hand mixer to blend in the two pounds of powdered sugar. Scrape down the sides often. 

The mixture will be very stiff with lots of pointy shapes when you're done incorporating the whole two pounds of powdered sugar.

Turn the mixture out onto a working surface that has been heavily covered in powdered sugar. Start to knead, folding in more and more powdered sugar until mixture is satiny and no longer sticky. This will take a few minutes and probably a cup or two of powdered sugar. 

Form a ball with the candy and cover it with plastic wrap while you grease your pans.

The trick to greasing the pans is to form a loose paste made of cooking spray and powdered sugar. Spray the donut pan cavities lightly with the spray, then sprinkle each with powdered sugar. Work the sugar into the spray with your fingers and spread around the cavity. If it becomes too thick and won't stick to the sides, add more spray. If it becomes too loose and wet, add more powdered sugar. You want the pans to have a somewhat dry, matte look to them when they are ready. Too wet and you'll ruin the candy. Use your intuition.

For the colors and flavors, I tried two things but only recommend one. Adding your own flavors via extract and colors via food coloring works beautifully. Separate your candy into as many flavors as you would like. Each candy ring will be two ounces, so dividing it by weight is a great idea. After you add the color and flavor (here I used raspberry extract and red food coloring) you will need to then knead in even MORE powdered sugar until the candy becomes "unsticky" again.  

After you've got a nice, satiny candy to work with, measure out a two ounce portion. Keep the rest of the candy under wrap or in a bag so it won't dry out further while you're working. Pull the candy back on itself so you get a smooth top surface and roll into a smooth ball.

Next, poke a hole through the middle and twirl on a finger or two to stretch the hole out.

Place smooth side down into a greased pan and then press the back firmly all around until it is flat and smooth. Repeat as necessary.

Here is an idea I found in the comment section of the recipe I am adapting. Someone suggested adding unflavored Kool Aid, so I did. While it is a brilliant idea to get intense flavoring and coloring into your candy in one fell swoop, the Kool Aid never fully breaks down in the powdered sugar candy mixture. It later blooms and makes color splotches in the final product after it dries, making it much less pretty than the candies made without it. If you try it, remember you've got to knead more powdered sugar in after the Kool Aid to dry it out.

When your trays are full, let the candy sit for at least twelve hours.

After twelve hours, release the candy from the pans by inverting over a kitchen towel and wrapping the pan (slamming it, to be honest) on the counter really hard. They should all come out in one or two tries. If you can let the candy sit another twelve hours it will become much, much harder. You want to get it out of the pans at this point so the rounded side gets a chance to air out as much as the back did.

To make necklaces, grab some elastic cord and any sort of ribbon you choose.

You can do a single or a triple or whatever kind of necklace you'd like! I paired two rings together back to back to make a full donut form. I then laced elastic cord through as shown, and tied a knot at the end of the cord at a length I liked for a necklace. I wove decorative ribbon through this loose cord connection at the top of the "donut" to secure the cord in place.

So pretty! You can see below how the Kool-Aid candy isn't perfect, so I'll try that again. But, I'm SURE I can find a kid around here who wants to eat it anyway! xoxo

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