Conflict, 7th Grade:
The cracks have been grouted (done been grout?) and the goblins... er... chess pieces have been fired (they're waiting for their final trip into the kiln in the photo to the left). It's time for the auction!
Two complete handmade chess sets. A beautiful mosaic. A quality piece of furniture. How much are you going to bid?
You know those pants? The ones with the zip-off legs? Those pants that look like they'd be a good idea, but as pants they look awkward, and as shorts they still look awkward.
You might think the same standard of awkwardness applies to a dress, but Sarahbeth Larrimore of Unabashed apparel can work magic.
In its long form, the dress has a row of detail that fits in brilliantly with the rest of the dress. It is also the stopping point for the slit in the front, so it doesn't look out of place. It has the same purposeful scrunchiness (I'm sure there's a more designery word for that) as the shoulders and midriff.
It fits in so well, in fact, that I did not even realize the bottom part could be removed until I saw the next photo. It blew my mind.
The Unabashed apparel Sapona River collection will be available in March. Photos by Jana Busbin.
A friend was looking at the newspaper today, and he noticed an interesting headline on the front page. "Hey, check this out! Pretty cool, huh?"
I looked at the picture where he was pointing. "Yeah! I made that!"
"I made that. The vest, the shirt, the pants..."
Turns out, he was pointing to the article next to the picture, which made my comments not make any sense at all. The article he was referring to was also incredibly cool, and you should read that one, too.
But what I saw was this:
My dear friend Loren Hoskins has gone and followed his dreams. He has been a professional pirate for quite some time now as "Captain Bogg" in the Portland-based (of course) pirate rock band, Captain Bogg and Salty. Every once in a while, he calls upon my garment-copying and modification skills to enhance his piratical wardrobe.
Recently, (OK, a while ago, but we're all just now finding out about it...) he and band-mate Kevin Hendrickson began writing music for the new Disney Channel series, Jake and the Never Land Pirates. The two fellas have such charisma and stage presence, that they became animated and live action characters in the series. How many people do you know who are Disney cartoons?
Anyway, Loren's live-action wardrobe matched his cartoon persona, but didn't look like it was going to withstand too many live performances. Loren commissioned me to craft some replacements out of sturdier materials, with lots of double stitching, and based on past costume pieces I already knew would fit Loren pretty well (like this vest, of which I have made several copies. Oh, and you can't see the vest or pants that well, but this is my all-time favorite Pirate Rock Star photo of Loren).
Also: pockets. I mean, this is Peter Pan after all; I can be Wendy and sew pockets for my Lost Boy. A live-action cartoon Disney pirate rock star's gotta have a place to put his keys, you know?
If you have the Disney Channel and a young toddler at home, watch Jake and the Never Land Pirates for the everything. If you have just the Disney Channel, watch it for the music, music videos, and endlessly entertaining performances of Loren and Kevin.
I walked, once, from a few blocks from the Campanile (that bell / clock tower you see in the blue hazy distance) to a few blocks from where this picture was taken - about four and a half miles.
It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. I didn't have a driver's license for the entirety of the time I spent living in this area, so most of my solo travel involved public transportation.
Much of the public transportation was underground, so I would emerge from the tunnels with an understanding of the immediate radius of the station, but not so much a clear understanding of how those radii connected to each other.
On this particular day, I realized that I not only knew precisely where I was, but I also could envision all of the connecting streets between my present location and my destination.
Knowing how to get from point A to point B makes public transportation obsolete, right? I'm pretty sure that was the rationalization I made to myself.
Things I had going for me: My understanding of my route was accurate, it was a lovely day, it was nearly 100% downhill, and I had no deadlines. Things I failed to consider: I had no water or sunblock, I was wearing flip-flops, I had already been walking around downtown Berkeley all day, and I had no realistic concept of the distance involved.
Parts of the route were quite lovely in their city way; Telegraph, Shattuck, and Solano Avenues are great for people-watching. Henry and Sutter Streets have broad, leafy trees. Mostly, though, I realized pretty early on that I should have just taken the bus.
I arrived at my destination sunburned, dehydrated, exhausted, and with sore feet. Also, I had nothing to show for it. So what if I walked? It wasn't so great a distance that it actually mattered. The dollar or so I saved in bus fare wasn't significant enough to mean anything. I got no sympathy for my exhaustion. Nobody cared. Nobody even really noticed.
Therein lies the lesson, the thing I can take away from that walk, and from subsequent instances in which I have decided it might just be easier to walk. It's not easier physically, but it's a form of catharsis that makes sense to me.
When the "easy" way will get me there too fast, the journey too banausic. When I'm not ready to be at my destination, but I know I have to go. When I want to take the time to see every step of my journey, no matter how many steps it might take. When I need to organize my thoughts before I get there, or before I get anywhere.
Little things happen along the way, which remind me of little other things, which remind me of still more little things, and I can't help but smile at how all things truly are connected. Nobody could possibly follow along with all the leaps my thoughts make as I walk. Even walking next to me and seeing what I saw, a companion could not comprehend how the scene before us translated in my mind to the interconnectedness of the universe.
So, I arrive, sunburned and sweaty, thirsty and tired. And grinning.
What took you so long?
Let me start by giving credit where credit is due. This glorious creation was the handiwork of teacher, mentor, appreciator of literature, writer, blogger, aunt, newlywed, photographer, nature lover, hiker, explorer, connoisseur of tall trees, purveyor of silliness, lover of all things fall, Disneyphile, master of disguise, baker, and cake enthusiast: Roxanne. The recipe for this deliciousness comes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and is featured below.
I have 4 friends with birthdays piled up in a short, 3-week span. In the past, they have all hosted separate birthday parties, and the rest of us have felt like February was a whirlwind of cake and places-to-be.
This year, they decided to forgo that nonsense, and since their ideal guest lists were nearly identical, a 4-way birthday party was the plan. It worked brilliantly.
One of the great things about one's own birthday party, is that the choice of dessert falls exclusively upon the celebratee. What to do with 4 birthdayers? Clearly, the answer was 4 different desserts.
The festivities included a chocolate cake with "cloud burst" frosting, a strawberry cheesecake, macaroons of various flavors (and a trifle made from failed bits of macaroons, or "maca-wrongs"), and this glorious Mint-Chocolate cake.
This was the dessert that came to fruition in my presence before the party, so here it is. And yes, it tasted as good as it looks.
Devil's Food Cake with Mint-Chocolate Ganache
Makes one 9-inch layer cake Half of the ganache is used for the glaze, which should be cool to the touch but pourable. If necessary, warm it over a pan of simmering water.
3 sticks (1.5 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Mint-Chocolate Ganache (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment; dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa with hot water until smooth. Whisk in sour cream; let cool. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light an fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each; scrape down sides of bowls as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add four mixture in two parts, alternating with the cocoa powder mixture and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined.
Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; peel off parchment. Reinvert cakes; let cool completely, top sides up. Transfer half of Mint-Chocolate Ganache (3 1/2 cups) to clean bowl of an electric mixer; set aside remaining. Let cool completely, stirring frequently, about 40 minutes. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until ganache holds soft peaks, 5 to 7 minutes.
Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cake layers to make level. Transfer one of the layers to a cake turntable or platter, and spread top with 1 1/2 cups whipped ganache. Top with remaining layer, cut side down, and spread remaining whipped ganache in a thin layer over entire cake, covering completely. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
Transfer cake to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the reserved ganache over the top, letting it run down the sides. If necessary, use a large offset spatula to spread from the center toward the edges, so that the cake is evenly and completely covered. Refrigerate until the ganache has just begun to set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cake to a serving plate, and garnish with Mint Leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered with a cake dome, for up to 2 days.
Makes about 7 cups Ganache can be kept, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before using, warm ganache by setting it over a saucepan of simmering water, then let cool, stirring frequently.
4 cups heavy cream
2 pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a full boil; turn off the heat. Add the chocolate, and swirl pan to completely cover with cream. Slowly whisk mixture until smooth. Add the corn syrup, salt, and peppermint extract, and stir until combined. Transfer to a clean bowl.
Culture, 6th Grade:
Widely varied in complexity, the designs the students come up with never cease to amaze. Some have intricate details, and some are one big shape, but all have an impact when seen in the final silk-screened form.
Each design becomes even more amazing when you know the story behind it. If one of these designs belongs to your student, ask them about what it is, and what it means to them about their culture, where they live, and how the live. The depth may astound you.
Culture, 6th Grade:
Silk screening is a messy process, but mostly just on the equipment and your hands. As long as I pay attention to my fingers, I can (and have done) silk screen in formal clothing. That said, not all students pay close attention to their fingers.
Each student has a partner, who holds the screen in place during the messy part.
The screen goes on top, then the stencil, then the fabric, and finally some cardboard and newspaper in case anything soaks through.
First, a dollop of ink is placed on the screen with a spoon. The ink is then gently smeared around until it covers all of the stencil holes. Finally, pressure is applied to the squeegee to force the ink through the silk and stencil onto the fabric.
After the design is applied to both the prayer flag and the t-shirt, the stencil is carefully peeled away, and the screen gets thoroughly rinsed.
If nobody else were waiting to use the equipment, the screen could then just drip dry overnight. But we've got 60 students and silk-screening factory going on here, so we use a hair dryer to dry the screen between students.
Between 7 and 15 students get through the process each afternoon.
It's hard to say where or when inspiration will strike. I find myself trying hard to rationalize my inspiration when it's for something exceptionally silly.
Take my Birds in Heels, for example. For some reason, birds wearing bright red high heels struck me as funny at one point, and I had to do something about it.
And now this... I can't even really say how this came about, but it turned into a cat with a hopelessly touristy fashion sense, setting out to see the world. He visits all the gift shops. He can't leave until he has a photo of himself in front of wherever he is. He's not very original with his poses. He has lots of frequent flier miles. He never steals hotel towels, but he just can't resist those little bottles of shampoo. Maybe you'll see him hanging around your favorite monument someday.
Have a good photograph of somewhere you think Claude the traveling cat ought to visit? Send it to me, and Claude just might fancy a trip. He'll send you a postcard when he gets there.
Conflict, 7th Grade:
As the students finished arranging their tile shards, we began to glue them down onto the table.
A few days and 5 bottles of glue later, all the pieces are in place. The table looks amazing, and it doesn't even have grout yet! Can't wait to see it when it's really completely done.
Conflict, 7th Grade:
The squares for the chess tables are coming together. The students chose tile pieces of the appropriate color to fill their 3-inch squares, hammering bigger pieces or using the tile cutters as necessary. The pre-smashed sizes of the tiles played a part in the final design of each square.
The students then arranged the shards according to their own artistic taste on a small piece of paper, in preparation for the pieces to be glued to their chosen square on the chess table.