valentine's day tricks

Anything I post here for Valentine's Day is probably going to be donut related, so as I sit here totally wrecked with the flu, I thought I'd dredge up my favorite little valentines from years past. All three of these were poorly lit and photographed by yours truly with a phone, but they were fun nonetheless.  

The pretzel valentines were born of love; David adores soft pretzels and we adore him. The kids love to make these. We've been doing it for ages, but this time around we used food coloring to dye the sesame seeds and rock salt pink. You can find the full project here.

The paint strip valentines were an epiphany, until I later realized everyone and their mother crafts with paint chips and strips. C'est la vie! We live a half a block from a paint shop so the materials were easy to come by. They were super cute, and were featured at Benjamin Moore's Color Chats blog. You can find the full tutorial here.

The sidewalk valentines were something we did way before I started this blog. We used to walk several blocks after getting off the bus on the way to Stella's preschool, back in the day. We noticed a few dozen hearts drawn in the concrete along that walk, so that year on Valentine's Day we packed a case of red, pink and rose colored chalk, left early for school, and colored our way down and up about six blocks. So sweet and fun! It rained later that day, so on the way home we just saw smudges of color where there had once been perfect hearts. I loved this one, you can see more photos here.


preliminary reports

Photo by the inexhaustible Justin Hackworth.

I returned from Salt Lake City and the Altitude Design Summit Saturday and I am still without words. I am addled. I learned a lot, I challenged myself A LOT, and I met a lot of great people. I have so many different feelings about the whole experience and event that I can't even sort out right now. I should note, the importance of getting away without the kids outweighed the importance of anything that happened at the conference itself, and the deeply cold and icy weather trumped everything because it reminded me of home, old home. 

That said, the one thing I came away with loud and clear is that most things that mattered to me at the conference were things I didn't expect. I didn't expect to start my first morning there chatting for the better part of an hour with Danny Kofoed of A Blog About Love (and my literally-and-figuratively-on-fire friend Danielle). I'd never met Danny before, but we had a conversation that felt real, and I have to recommend that to anyone going into something like this flying solo. A meaningful conversation is great for getting grounded.

Center of photo: Danny, Leslie Fandrich, Danielle, me.
Photo by the supertrooper, superpregnant photographer Brooke Dennis.

The first of many.

I didn't expect to see my donut marshmallows sitting in a bowl in the lounge next to vats of lavender hot chocolate, but there they were. And the next day my biscotti donuts. Crazy! Part of a "Bing it to Life" campaign by Bing, the conference sponsor. Thank you so much to whoever nominated them, and hats off to whoever made the marshmallow donuts, they're not the easiest thing in the world to make.

Chemistry was so important. I was drawn immediately to certain people and not others. I think we all were. To me at least it was pretty clear when things didn't click. That's a hard thing to navigate, when there are people you'd really like to meet for the first time and awkward introductions to be made. So I ended up feeling very close to a handful of women (and men!) that I hadn't expected to, and a little disappointed in some other connections that didn't work out. 

I didn't expect my roundtable to fill up, but it did, and I was so grateful! I think it went well, I think the conversation was helpful. I got the feeling people were there to learn more about "growing" their blogs than "maintaining them with pride" (the two parts of my program), but we went a half hour over the time slot finishing sharing our stories of where we are and where we want to go, so I hope people feel like they didn't waste their morning. I got some good information out of it that I'll write about when my head is clearer. I want to share links to the blogs of all the attendees soon, too.

I didn't expect to feel so invigorated after listening to graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister speak on his work and his film The Happy Film. Forget the brilliance of his work, however controversial some of his moves have been, I am just so deprived of East Coast designer energy in my current life that listening to him talk was electrifying. And let's not forget the kiss (everyone got one).

Finally, I didn't expect to sit down and talk about art and bodies of work and burlesque dancing with an artist I admire so much and have been following for the last few years, but I found myself in the corner having a drink with Katie Sokoler Friday night. Katie is completely singular in her work and in every fiber of her being. She gave the final keynote Friday afternoon and I was thrilled to be able to talk to her at length that night at one of the mini-parties. We were surprised to learn that we both know burlesque superstar and body acceptance guru The World Famous *BOB*! I've kittened for her and Katie has shot many of her events in New York. It was such a treat for me. Now I don't just admire her, I adore her!

I'm going to write up some more thoughts about Alt when I get a chance this week. All in all, I'm glad I went. It was quite a scene!


headed out

I'm off today to Salt Lake City to attend the Altitude Design Summit. I'm rocking a haircut way shorter than was expected or that I'm really comfortable with, but I'm feeling good and am really excited to meet some great people and learn a whole bunch about myself. This is the first time I've been away from our children since Stella was born over seven years ago. After I get over the anxiety of being away from them I am going to sink into this thing like a serious vacation.

I'm especially looking forward to my roundtable, "Growing and Maintaining a Small Blog with Pride". Fingers crossed some folks sit down with me. I really want to talk with people to find out what their motivation for blogging is, what their expectations are, and if they are keeping happy with it all. I also want to discuss authentic ways of finding exposure for our blogs, and that wanting exposure is totally okay!

My friend and absolute guardian angel Anna did the graphic and typesetting work on the workbook I'll be giving out. She is amazing and I owe any shred of sanity I've had in the last two weeks to her, literally! 

Handling the unknown is one of the many, many things being a burlesque performer has taught me. This trip is 100% unknowns. I'm just going to picture myself in my underwear and I'll be all set. xoxo


donut pan idea no. 40: "o" fudge!

I've been hanging on to a library copy of My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson since December. It is full of incredible recipes, like the Mexican hot chocolate tablets that I made at the beginning of this year. I had to squeeze one more treat out of this book before I take it back to the library, but I'll be back for more. I'm definitely getting my own copy. It's a keeper.

There are several more recipes in the book I think would be great in donut form, but today I give you fudge! More specifically, milk fudge, or jamoncillo de leche. I don't go seeking out fudge, generally, but this is so good

Like I've said previously, I am not reinventing the wheel here, just making things in the shape of wheels. Fudge making is not my forté in the kitchen, either. If you have a great fudge recipe that you'd like to try in the pans, go for it. It's a fun way to present any fudge. I like slicing bits off and combining the flavors. I made almost all of the flavors Fany suggests in the recipe. I also adapted her recipe so that I wouldn't end up with six pounds of fudge, but could still have a few in each flavor. It took drawing up a matrix. I'm known for my matrices in the kitchen, ask anyone who has ever lived with me.

Let's start with what you will need for 3-5 milk fudge "o"s: one 14 oz. can condensed milk, 6 oz. (1/2 can) evaporated goat's or cow's milk, 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, half pinch of salt, and in most cases 1 tsp. vanilla extract. You will also need tin foil, for lining the pans. See below for the ingredients needed for variations on this basic milk fudge recipe.

What I've got in my saucepans in the photo below, clockwise from top left are: lime fudge, raspberry fudge, coconut fudge, and tequila fudge (the best!). The photo below that shows the beginnings of chocolate fudge.

Before you do anything, line your donut pans with foil. There is not a lot of down time while the fudge is cooking. I ruined my first batch of lime fudge which was going along beautifully by looking away for just a minute, so be careful.

The first step of the basic recipe will have you combine the 14 oz. can condensed milk, 6 oz. evaporated milk, 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, half pinch of salt and 1 tsp. vanilla in a heavy saucepan. I only made the variations on this recipe (below), not this plain milk fudge.

Cook over medium heat for about thirty minutesBe sure to use a medium/large saucepan. The batches I made in the smaller pans were failing until I transferred them to larger pans. You have to stir constantly, or more precisely, stir for a minute, then let the bottom sit for about ten seconds or so, then agitate again. You've got to keep doing this for quite a while. Eventually the fudge will get almost foamy, then get really thick. It needs to move around the saucepan in one big piece before it's ready to pour into the donut pans.

For lime, replace vanilla with 1 tsp. grated lime zest. After cooking, remove from heat and add 2 tsp. fresh lime juice and a bit of green food coloring if desired, stirring well to combine.

For raspberry, replace vanilla with 1 tsp. raspberry extract. After cooking, I used about 2-3 tbsp. beet juice to color it (I've been juicing like crazy lately), but you could also use food coloring. Taste and add a little more raspberry extract if needed.

For coconut, replace the 6 oz. evaporated milk with 6 oz. of coconut milk.

For tequila, add 1 tbsp. (for boozy taste) after cooked and removed from heat.

For chocolate, add 3 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder with other ingredients.

When ready, spoon into the foil-lined pans. When cool enough to touch, press the mixture lightly into the pans and use your fingers to smooth the backs, wetting them as needed with water to keep from sticking to the fudge.

Set the donut pans in the freezer for at least two hours. The fudge will set up without you doing this, but you won't be able to maintain the perfect donut shape when removing the foil if the fudge isn't frozen. After the fudge is frozen, carefully peel away the foil. Work from the outer edge of the donut when removing the foil, not the center which can cause excess warping. You will have to pick and scrape the foil from the surface of the fudge in some places, but it won't take that much effort.

Set fudge out to serve, or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later. If serving, allow about a half hour for the fudge to thaw.

This stuff is addictive. I've been eating slices of the coconut and chocolate fudge with bites of raw almonds (clever). I'm pretty happy about knowing how to make this now. A fairly simple but really tasty recipe with a lot of room for experimentation. Fun!


what i: peacock, loosely

I have finally gotten over the hump of all the hard preparation for my upcoming trip to Alt, like the workbook for my roundtable, my donut pan demo book for perspective publishing houses, my business cards, all the things I've wanted to do for months all crammed into a few weeks. Now I'm into the fun stuff, like making a little headpiece for the Clue-themed party on Thursday night and altering my dresses.

Choosing Mrs. Peacock from the list of Clue characters was a no brainer for me, although I'm bringing along a bright red jumpsuit should I suddenly change my mind and go with Miss Scarlet. No feathers here, just a loose interpretation of the colors. I'm having a hard time picking which shoe to wear; I sort of want to grow a third leg and wear one of each of the silver, blue and green heels.

I made my headpiece (which I am tempted to make even bigger, but keep reminding myself this isn't a burlesque conference) using my crepe paper flower technique. I glued them all together and have attached several fabric straps to the back so I can twist and turn bobby pins through and into my hair.

I really wanted to shop my closet for this conference, but more importantly than the fact I don't fit into much of what is in my closet, this is a no-cleavage sort of situation. That eliminates 75% of what I own right there. So I did some really, really thoughtful shopping and found some amazing deals on Etsy, after scouring the vintage dress categories for the past few months. I am super happy to now own some clothing in my current size (still a ten!). Most of these will make me look like a respectable architect again, when I start taking new clients in the spring. Here are the pieces and links to these great Etsy sellers/makers.

1. kimono romper (in my size!!!), milk & cream vintage shoppe; 2. deco sequined top (a christmas present), tati tati vintage; 3. big bow dress, good karma vintage co.; 4. best dress ever, not telling; 5. neon shawl, spun sugar vintage; 6. woodland striped dress; rusty cuts

I have been watching that woodland dress by mega-talented Judith of Rusty Cuts since I first saw it in person at Renegade Craft Fair last summer. I met Judith at her place in San Francisco last week to try it on and it fit very well. She has wonderful handmade pieces made from all sorts of found fabrics, you should check out her shop!

I am a huge Etsy fan. There is so much great stuff out there, and due to sheer volume it's much easier to find items that fit my "sheer volume". If you know your measurements, you can find some great things.

Have a great weekend! xoxo


calling cards

My new calling cards. Surprisingly hard to take a good photo of, surprisingly easy to put together. For the photo I used an idea I had tried on my blog button a while back, based on some great advice from a brilliant former client of mine who advised me to try using analog type in digital space.

Graphic design, font selection and all that jazz are still super difficult for me to get a handle on, but I think I've been paying attention enough lately that I wasn't totally addled this time. They are definitely good enough for now. Letterpress someday, when I decide on who and what I really am!

I made these at MOO.com. They have great online software for making cards, and have really good customer service for when you screw up the first time like I did. I have a 10% discount code to share, in case you'd like to use it. I get something out of the deal, too. I think some credit toward a future order.

Here's the code/link: http://www.moo.com/share/5xt5pw

They'll do the trick, I think!


showtime: holiday burlesque benefit show, elbo room, december 11, 2012

Backstage with Bombshell Betty (l), Erzulie Rose (c), and yours truly.

Normally I have a donut post up here on Mondays, but not today. I've had too many irons in the fire this past week. A different treat for today, cheesecake if you will!

Last month I performed my Snoopy act in Bombshell Betty's holiday burlesque benefit show at the Elbo Room. I love dancing to Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy", I think it's hilarious. Last December I performed this act with a now-defunct band called Fromagique, which brought a great energy to the song, but the original recording I used in this year's show is one almost everyone knows and can get into. 

The shots from last year's performance are here, and they are full of energy and I love them! This year I woke up the morning of the show with my left eye swollen shut out of no where and almost had to cancel, but the swelling went down enough to glue on the lashes and glitter. It still wasn't pretty. Literally. I can tell in the photos how jacked-up my eye was, for sure.


Classic Peanuts dance moves! The audience loves this part.

By the end I'm all dressed up like Snoopy.

I love the photo booth at this venue and use it every time I perform there. My poor eyes.
Bottom left shot is my best impersonation of my beloved Bombshell Betty's thinkin' face.

When I got home that night, after a wonderful show (the holiday shows are some of the best shows), I felt like I couldn't bear to unpack all of the costume pieces and jewelry and props just to pull them out again a few weeks later. I wrote an email to cancel an upcoming performance I had scheduled with a new group of performers. It hit me that I really needed to conserve energy for all of the things I'd be doing this winter. So, I've kind of packed burlesque away for a little while. I am booked to perform my very favorite act on March 1, 2013 with Red Hots Burlesque at El Rio. I would perform that act seven days a week if I could. Besides that, I've unhitched the wagon for now. I've spent over two years performing and it has meant almost as much to me as being a parent as far as personal growth goes. Invaluable. I've sincerely loved every second of it so far. I can't wait to get back to it, and yet it's a good load off not thinking about all that costuming and choreography and such for a while. Something had to give, I just didn't know it would be one of my favorite things to do. You have to do that sometimes to keep moving forward, I guess.


an education, and the winner

Nice, right? I have spent this week immersed in all things book writing and bookmaking. I have been preparing a workbook for my roundtable at the Alt Design Summit with the help of my absolutely saintly friend Anna of Dutch Door Press. I banged out a set of business cards through MOO.com after talking with this extremely wise lady a few weeks ago about who I am, and about not pigeonholing myself with donuts and piñatas and the like, not yet. AND, speaking of donuts, I JUST sent off my demo donut pan book to blurb.com. I had a trial by fire day today learning to use the bookmaking software and at the same time learning some hard lessons about photography and photo quality, but the fact that I didn't turn to a man and ask him to do it for me is a big deal for me in the computing department. I have been super unhinged all week with the nerves of the unknown of the conference coming up, but as I start to grind through these tasks I can feel mental stability returning (she types at three a.m.).

I made this demo book because there will be Chronicle Books and Random House folks at the conference (I think they are scheduled to be collecting book ideas during the very hour I am hosting my roundtable), and I thought donut shaped everything would be easier to talk about with a visual. It's a far cry from what I could do with an editor, but it's a start. Here's my favorite part, from the back jacket flap:

It's awesome.

And, now to the winner of the third donut pan giveaway! Chosen at random with an online random number generator, the winner is:

commenter #8:

I happen to know Sonya (I happen to "know" most of the commenters here, really). Not in person, but we've become friends over the last few years online. She is into real, good food and has a great blog called eatartword where she takes the time to taste, inspect and ponder just little bits of food at a time, like an egg. Or a turnip. It's a peaceful read. Congratulations, Sonya!

Email me your mailing address and I'll let Wilton know to send you the pans, and I'll be mailing you a little gift, too! :)

Have a great weekend, everyone! xoxo



When the angel atop your tree is covered with cobwebs, it's time to say goodbye to the holidays. Bittersweet. Monday Stella went back to school and Oliver and I plucked all the glass berries and Chinese pompom bells off of the tree. Yesterday I dragged the thing out the front door and down the steps myself and made a real mess, and in the classic maudlin style very typical of our family, we all had to touch the tree several times, shake its hands and thank it for its duty before we left it out on the sidewalk.

Then I basked in that light that you have access to when you no longer have a tree situated inside your house. Even though I was running on very little sleep due to a poor decision in late-night coffee drinking, I was recharged. I will miss that tree, but this light feels good, and I have a ton to do!

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