Monday, August 26, 2013

Towelephants: How to Fold a Pachyderm

The coolest elephant in town.

If you've ever wanted to spice up your linen closet with a pachyderm or two, you've come to the right place. Whether your fluffy, homemade towel elephant (a.k.a. towelephant) is meant for welcoming a guest to their new room cruise ship style, reenacting scenes from Disney's Dumbo or simply enjoying the art of folding towels origami style (towelgami), this fun and illustrated guide can help you turn any set of towels into an adorable, little elephant of your own.

To begin, you will need two towels. For a standard elephant, a bath towel and a hand towel work great. Once you have the basics down, try mixing other combinations (beach towel, wash cloth, etc.) to yield different shapes and sizes for your terry cloth pals.

Mind the gap!

Step 1: Lay the bath towel out flat and fold the two sides in hot dog style, leaving a gap an inch or two wide in the middle (where the proverbial hot dog would go).

We're on a roll!

Step 2: Roll one end of the towel towards the center (cinnamon roll style?), stopping halfway.

Towel Scroll!

Step 3: Roll the other end of the towel in to meet the first. If one roll ends up bigger (more elephantine??) than the other, re-roll until they are roughly the same size.


Step 4: Bend the dual rolls in half, so the swirly ends are now the feet of your future towel elephant. If your elephant base won't stay up or refuses to bend pliantly, you might benefit from a wider gap in Step 1.

Next up: the towel elephant head!

Towel sailboat!

Step 5: Lay the hand towel out flat and fold two corners in until they meet in the center, leaving you with a sailboat sort of look, or the first steps of a stellar paper airplane.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'.

Step 6: Roll one triangle tightly in toward the center and stop halfway. If you have trouble with this part and don't have another set of hands to help, try placing a heavy item like a chair leg on the tip so you can focus on rolling. 

Towel Airplane?

Step 7: Roll the other triangle in snugly to meet the first. The tighter the rolls are near the tip, the easier to bend and keep aloft your towel elephant's trunk!

Wait for it...

Step 8: Flip the triangle towel roll over so the crevice where the rolls meet is face down.

Towel Elephant, a HEAD of his time.

Step 9: Fold down the top edge of the towel just until the other edges begin to show underneath. Tuck in the bases of the ears if they get too floppy for your liking. Only one step left!

The Towelephant!

Step 10: Balance the elephant head atop the elephant body, puff out the ears and curl the trunk for a bit of added adorableness (as if it needed it). 

VOILA! In ten easy steps, you have your very own towel elephant to love and cherish forever. Or until you need to shower. The real question is, do you wash with... Ivory?

Look at that trunk space!

Pink elephants on parade.

A band of Towelephants (they play the washboard very well).

The end!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Celebration Shout Out: The Stuart Collection at UCSD

UCSD Rocks! 

I recently had the joy of returning to my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego, on a wonderful trip with my mom. It was the first time I'd been back since graduation, and it was an amazing adventure filled with old sights, new experiences, delicious food, giant bear hugs (courtesy of Bear by Tim Hawkinson) and an incredible race to the finish. 

The reason this experience merits a Celebration Shout Out is because without a doubt, UCSD celebrates creativity. If the incredible architecture, spirit of learning and independent art scattered across campus weren't enough, the Stuart Collection of art seals the deal. So without further ado, please enjoy a small virtual tour!

These could also be koala catchers.

When I first arrived at UC San Diego, the RAs and tour guides introduced the strange blue creations hanging in the trees above as Giraffe Catchers, installed one fateful day to subdue some runaway giraffes escaped from the San Diego Zoo. While that is a fantastic story I will remember forever, the truth is it's actually an installment of the Stuart Collection called Two Running Violet V Forms by Robert Irwin. It seems the giraffes are safe... for now.

You can say that again!

One of my personal favorites from the Stuart Collection is the installment at the base of Geisel library (a bit of a masterpiece all its own). Read/Write/Think/Dream by John Baldessari encompasses the facade and foyer of UCSD's main library with colored door panels, giant writing utensil wall art and the encouraging words of the title right above the entrance. As a reader, writer, thinker and dreamer, I highly approve! 


On our way out from Geisel, we followed Snake Path by Alexis Smith, not only a beautiful and poignant piece of art, but also a handy way down to Warren College. Complete with it's own little garden of Eden tucked into the coils halfway down and a massive, stone copy of Milton's Paradise Lost, this path has become a classic thoroughfare at UCSD. While visiting the old fav, we were also treated to a new surprise...

I have a feeling we're not in La Jolla anymore!

Here I thought I knew what's what at UCSD, and yet suddenly - a house on a rooftop! Little did I know, I'd just gotten my first glimpse of Do Ho Suh's Fallen Star, the newest addition to the Stuart Collection. Wow, UCSD! You just keep on getting better and better!

Meanwhile at the School of Engineering...

Thanks to some truly epic timing, we were able to visit the tiny, tilted house on the seventh floor, despite showing up on a day without tours. 

Who wouldn't want to lounge at a rooftop garden?

Just as we arrived at the entrance with another mother/daughter pair, Alfonso the caretaker of the Stuart Collection came to unlock the door for general maintenance. Taking pity upon us poor, hapless tourists, he let us all in for a mini tour and even gave us fresh tomatoes from the garden. Thank you, Alfonso!!

Standing up from the couch was a trip... almost literally.

As Alfonso told it, the inspiration behind this off-kilter piece is the unsteady, often unsettling feeling of entering a new phase of life, for instance, when new college students are just starting out. New living space, new culture, new rules and opportunities... all at once it can be quite unbalancing. 

The chandelier must have missed the memo.

Having both the college experience and the chance to stumble around this perception-boggling house, I have to say, the artist did a very good job of getting the point across!

Words, words, words

Another favorite exhibit of mine is Vices and Virtues by Bruce Nauman, seen here by looking out the window of Fallen Star. Since ours was a daytime visit, we couldn't enjoy the full effect of the neon signs glowing intermittently, sometimes overlaid with brilliant effect. Still, seeing it from such a height had quite an impact anyway.

One of these trees is not like the others.

Back on solid ground, you can find another special set of artwork: Trees by Terry Allen. Known across campus as the Singing Tree, Talking Tree and Silent Tree, the first two hide within the eucalyptus grove between Muir College and Price Center, while the last stands sentinel just outside of Geisel. 

Upon our visit, the Talking Tree snubbed us with silence, but after waiting barely a minute, the Singing Tree gave us a lovely serenade. I don't remember all of the song, but two lines stuck out from the rest. "Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream!" was a good one, and the final line, "Because you're awesome!" Thanks Singing Tree, you're awesome, too!

Speaking of trees...

This final plaque and accompanying courtyard aren't actually a part of the Stuart Collection, but as I passed by and enjoyed them nearly every day during my wonderful time at Muir College of UCSD, I couldn't leave them out now.

For a full list of the art in UC San Diego's Stuart Collection, along with a map and detailed information for each exhibit, check out the official website below. While we only had time to visit a few of our long time favorites and explore one exciting new addition, there are plenty more sights worth seeing and lots more creativity worth celebrating.

Go Tritons!

Monday, August 12, 2013

π r Delicious: Pi Pies!

Cherry Pi!

Pies are one of my all-time favorite things to bake. Cookies, brownies, cakes and tarts... they're all good, but when it comes down to it, they're just not pie. If you think about it, pies are actually easier to make than most people assume. Unlike cookies, you just have to pan it once, and unlike cakes, once it's in the pan you don't have to ice or decorate it. 

Plus, with the right spelling, it's incredibly nerdy. B)

Lemon Pi!

The first time I was inspired to make a Pi Pie was actually for BBQ at my old math professor's house. Appropriate, right? Well, it got such a positive reaction - even from the guests not so mathematically inclined - that I decided to make it tradition. Lemon meringue, country peach, sweet potato, grasshopper and even chicken pot pie. Or should I say pi...?

But what is a pie without its crust?!

Kitchen Tip: Try using a cheese grater to cut cold butter into your crust.
It cuts the time and effort of such a job in half!

As I'm a big fan of making pie crust from scratch, Pie Crust V has become my go-to recipe. I like it because it's butter based (no shortening or trans fats here!) and it's pliable enough to make lattices or other decorations without being droopy and hard to work with like many oil recipes. I'll still buy graham cracker or chocolate crumb crusts from the store or make a special crust if specified in a recipe (maybe), but otherwise it's Pie Crust V all the way.

Chocolate Pi!

Some of my favorite recipes (pie or otherwise) actually hail from TV chef extraordinaire, Alton Brown. His show Good Eats mixes delicious food, comedy and science in just the perfect proportions, and his books (of which I'm fairly certain I own all of) are just as informative and delightful! I highly recommend pretty much any recipe of his design.

The Chocolate Pi(e) seen above is actually based on Alton Brown's Moo-less Chocolate Pie. With only honey and chocolate chips for added sweetness and a base of protein-packed tofu instead of heavy cream, it's really quite good for you as pies go. Plus, it's super easy - just pop the ingredients in a blender, dump in the crust and refrigerate. Done. The only swap I recommend in this recipe is coffee (or milk) for the coffee liqueur. Don't be scared off by the tofu, it's super delicious!

Pear Blueberry Pi!

The galette (freeform pie) seen above is not only my most requested pie ever, but it's also super unique and another Alton Brown masterpiece: the No Pan Pear Pie. If you ever make it, take my advice and double the innards. Seriously, even if you have extra, the pear, blueberry, balsamic vinegar filling is amazing on top of ice cream, toast, waffles, you name it. 

The crust is another wow-factor here. Unlike traditional pie crust, this one incorporates cornmeal for an added rustic flavor and texture. An Alton Brown tip from this recipe I now use elsewhere in cooking - whenever a recipe calls for water, consider using something with more flavor, like apple juice or what I used the last time I made this pie, mango lemonade!

Lemon Meringue Pi!

And the final Alton Brown shout-out for the day, the Lemon Meringue Pie. I have to admit, I was worried when I saw more single star ratings than I'd ever seen on an Alton Brown recipe before, but it was merely a false alarm. Lemon Meringue Pie is as noted, an intermediate level recipe, so just pay attention and follow directions and you will have a delicious pie in no time.

In closing, for those who say pie isn't good for you, I counter with this: Pie is good for your soul. And what's more, Pi is good for your circumference.

Happy baking! :D

Monday, August 5, 2013

Art Trade: Star Wars Angry Birds Edition

Take that, imperial swine!

My nephew is pretty much the coolest kid on the planet. No shame to any other kids on this or other planets either - it's not that they aren't cool, it's just that my nephew is the coolest. You know why? Last time I went to see him, he drew me this:

Da na na na na na na na...

BATMAN! And Robin! And the Bat Symbol! Yeah, James is cool for a lot of reasons, but he gets extra über brownie points for drawing my favorite superhero for me at school. He's so thoughtful and nerdy already! It's enough to make a proud, geeky aunt sigh! 

I was so grateful for his awesome gift of art, that I offered to draw him a picture in return. What did he request?

AT-AT, sketch edition.

Star Wars Angry Birds.

I wasn't too familiar with that branch of the Angry Birds franchise at the time, but I know Star Wars! James was kind enough to introduce me to his new favorite ap, and even show me tips on how to play. (As a side note I find it hilarious that a five-year-old was better at the game than me. :D)

We also ended up playing with James' Star Wars Angry Birds toy set, where you fling little rubber birds at a plastic AT-AT that has piggies balanced precariously all over it. This was a fun version indeed, and it's also where I found my inspiration.

If the battle goes poorly, at least there'll be bacon and eggs!

As I'm usually in the habit of drawing fairly realistic people and the like, this whole project was a pretty good step out of my comfort zone. Cartoon birds and giant, sci-fi mechanized transports are not my usual fair. 

BUT who am I to turn down an art trade with a five-year-old? It's a good way to expand one's horizons, that's for sure! It also helped that the audience wasn't so much interested in critiquing the thing as coloring it in. In fact, it was quite refreshing turning art into play - no stress for perfection, just fun!

James showed us how it's done, coloring with markers like a pro!

When I was all done, my brother made copies of the picture so the whole lot of us could color it in. My nephew insisted on coloring the original, but was very generous in the sharing of his crayons. With my nephew, both my brothers, one brother's girlfriend and myself, we ended up having quite the coloring party!

Joey's AT-AT was green, just like the play set!

Melinda took the stylish approach - perhaps it's Miss Piggy in the cockpit!

Aaron brings the new latest craze - STEAMPUNK Star Wars Angry Birds.

Creativity nearly expended, I just colored it in like the originals. 

(Please note that while these all have the signature LydMc logo, it's only as a way to trace them back to the blog. The line art and photos are mine, but the coloring is all the individual colorers'!)

C3PO & R2D2 - New idea for Easter Eggs!

When all was said and done, it was time for me to head back home. Coloring with my nephew James was one of the funnest parts of my trip over, and since I'm a fan of good old-fashioned thank you notes, I sent him a little card letting him know just how much fun I had hanging out. 

To make it extra special, I even added some bonus colorables. ;)


Thanks to all my peeps who colored and allowed their artwork to be posted on the blog! Thanks to Star Wars and Angry Birds for providing such fun things to draw/play! And of course, for a beautiful Batman picture and spending time playing, coloring and nerding out with his aunt...

Wait! Stormtrooper Pig wasn't ready!

And to everyone else out there, if you like coloring and feel like printing out the original black and white version to make your own nerdy masterpiece, feel free to do so! Even better, shoot me a note with a link or copy of the image and I'll post it on the blog with the rest! Happy coloring!