Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pancake Picasso

Today I'd like to highlight my newest hobby/craft: pancake art.

Turns out if you try for a kangaroo, you'll end up with a half-decent obese squirrel.

The trick to a good pancake animal is to pour everything much skinnier than what you want your end result to be. The batter spreads out way more than you might think (note: my medium is a standard add-water Krusteaz mix. Obviously you could make your batter thicker to prevent so much spreadage, but I like to maintain the flavor integrity of the pancake as well. I won't make a dry pancake to make my art easier. I believe true art comes at the intersection of taste, aesthetics, and the thrill of the challenge of nature painting on a 350 degree canvas).

On top we have "Lumpish Bear." In the foreground is "Frida Cowlo." Unfortunately one of her horns got lost in the flip.

 This next piece exhibits a technique I like to call "interval batter application." I use it to add detailing to the interior of the pancake plain, in this case to add eyes and tusks to my shapely walrus. To do this, you apply small amounts of batter in the shape of the details you want to highlight, and then wait a bit. When you know some cooking has occurred (about 20 seconds---more time will give you more definition), add the next layer of batter. Let that layer cook, then flip (or add another layer! Let your soul guide your art and your spatula) and behold your masterpiece.

"Breaching Walrus"

Below is an example of a portrait where I probably should have used the interval batter application. The elephant has great form, and I think it really exudes the spirit of the savannah I was going for, but the it just begs, "Where the heck is the elephant's ear??" Answer: lost in the abyss of the silhouette. Some interval batter application hear would have allowed me to first establish an ear, and perhaps a brooding eye (elephants never forget), and only after those were set would I have add the rest of the body. A masterpiece crippled by my lack of foresight.

Also not the scruff on the elephant's underbelly: a sign I was too violent with my flip, leading to what experts call "batter drag."

Here's an example of what happens when you apply your batter with a heavy hand. See the head? Exactly. The poor giraffe's head has been enveloped by the surrounding batter, which was applied in excess. Despite this flaw, please note the beautiful texture on the legs, reminiscent of the stained glass of the Catedral de León, achieved by a variation on the Interval Batter Application in which details are formed not on top of one another, but beside each other (while still using timed application of course).


Graham is a great consumer of the arts, as is Patch, his loyal stuffed bear.

Here you go, Patch.

Ruby is also exploring pancake art, though her exploration has been more organic and free-form. She loves the interplay of texture and shape. While she hasn't developed a mature appreciation for pancake illustration yet, I know she's building a strong foundation for the traditional pancake form: the circle.

Ruby seen here enjoying a piece I titled, "Flat sphere."

I'm thinking of writing and self-publishing an e-book for beginning pancake artists. I'm toying with the title "Flapjack Fugue," or maybe "Flour, Water, Baking Powder, Egg, Spirit." Maybe I'll start a Kickstarter. You, dear readers, will be the first to know.

Until next time, happy pancaking.

**Please document and share your own pancake art journey with #pancakespirit.**


5 Gifts for Your Toddler

Christmas presents for your kids: a compendium. (Graham, read no further)

This year we decided to go with "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." Adopting this little rhyme as a gift philosophy accomplishes a few important things: 1) I feel smug about being above our society's obsession with more stuff, 2) I save time and money, and 3) "Santa" can still bring whatever the heck (s)he wants.

Speaking of Santa, I waffled a bit about propping up a mythical fat white man (in our house he's white ... also, Mormon) as an important part of the holiday, but in the end my magical memories of my own childhood belief in the man spurred the next generation of deception. Fingers crossed Graham and Ruby will still believe in Jesus.

Here's what's on its way from Amazon:
*You may notice a dearth of presents for Ruby. That's because she is seven months old (today!) and doesn't care. I may buy her a Christmas dress, which everyone knows is really a present for me.

1. Something Graham wants: I asked the boy what he wanted for Christmas, and he vaguely replied, "Toys and balls." I pressed for more information, so he specified, "Red Balls." Easy peasy.


2. Something Graham needs: if you know Graham, you know he runs around in a little pair of fake Crocs most of the time. He can put them on himself (usually on the correct feet), which is great for me because I'm lazy and hate bending over to do anything except maybe pick up something delicious I dropped. Also, I've been putting off buying him "real shoes" because I read Born to Run which convinced me that being barefoot is optimal, so I didn't want to ruin his little shoe-virgin feet with rigid-soled light-up blasphemies like this:

If you mix epilepsy, sugar, Kanye West, and moldy cheese together, and then feed that mixture to an African buffalo, this is what will get pooped out.

But it turns out fake Crocs don't keep out fire ants ... so I've been meaning to buy Graham "real shoes" for a while. I found these, and love them:


One reviewer noted, "I love Sperry Top-Sider shoes for myself so it was only natural that I would want to outfit my grandson with them. We are going on a cruise and he will be wearing them to board the ship. This is an incredibly good looking shoe that does not lose its style because it's for little kids. Love them and will continue to purchase for him as he grows up."

I'm going to trust this posh grandma's tastes ... I mean, her grandson is going to wear them while he boards the ship! That's basically the fête of the ocean, for those of you who don't know. It'll be like Titanic, but only in terms of style and glamour, not death. I only wish Graham had a grandma benevolent enough to provide Velcro boat shoes for him until he turns eighteen.

Someone boarded the ship wearing Walmart Uggs.

3. Something to wear: If you know about Graham's fake Crocs, you also know that our kiddo is super slim. This means pants that fit his waist give him a severe case of highwatering, and pants that fit his legs usually fall off his less-than-ample booty, exposing his cute, Pixar movie-themed underpants. The solution: suspenders. So functional, so hipster, so stripey.

These will turn Graham into a Newsie.

Wouldn't a belt be easier? Probably not for my recently potty-trained cherub. Remember: lazy mom.

4. Something to read: We checked Time Out for Monsters! out from the library a few weeks ago, and since returning it Graham has been requesting it. I like the illustrations, it's short, and it has a great twist at the end.

Dinosaurs+monsters+trucks=Graham's dreams come true.

 5. Whatever the heck Santa wants. This year it's a LEGO Duplo Building Set.

Timeless, no batteries (lazy mom), fosters development of spatial skills, promotes world peace, and is one of the few plastic toys I will endorse. Graham loves the small set he got from his grandparents, along with a few more he kind of accidentally stole from our neighbors, so I figured I should get him a few more.

Then of course there are the requisite stocking stuffer items ... I'm planning on some Goldfish crackers (Graham's cocaine), new socks, an orange (as large as possible ... the child's stocking is not small), maybe some bubble bath, candy, etc.

If I could change the rhyme (and I can because I AM SANTA), I might include some art supplies in the jingle, and maybe an outing/activity of sorts (my favorite type of present to give adults). Maybe "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Something to do, something to make, because you need something to distract you while mom hides in the kitchen and eats cake."

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Reasons I Am Scrooge

I'm having trouble feeling the Christmas spirit today. Here's why:

1. You know those inflatable, light-up Christmas decorations that people put in their yard? I think they are super tacky, and I see them everywhere. Go back to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade where you spawned! Also, during the day when they are turned off and lying limp across the grass in nylon puddles, they look like sad Christmas pelts abandoned by a taxidermist halfway through a stuffing. I hope they catch on fire ... and then a tasteful wooden nativity scene rises like a phoenix from the ball of melted snowman skin.

Ok, this one might be awesome.

2. The WestJet commercial. I saw it posted on Facebook with something like "If this doesn't make you cry tears of chocolate milk and restore your faith in humanity and make you adopt a shelter dog ... you have no heart." Sign me up for the donor waiting list because, while it made me smile, all I could see was brilliant marketing ploy. Those sneaky Canadians, disguising a major PR blitz as a feel-good Christmas video. I want to know what they did for the kid who told Santa he wanted his parents to get back together for Christmas (they didn't include him in the video because he was such a downer). Did they wrap up a copy of The Five Languages of Love for him to read his parents? Or what about the boring-Bob who asked for socks and underwear? He smiled on camera, but I'm guessing that inside he was beating himself with a child-sized candy cane for not asking for something cool. Props to the kid who wasn't afraid of his greed and requested a tablet. I bet he was American.

3. Today while grocery shopping, someone jacked my freshly-rented Redbox movies out of my cart. That's going to cost me 29 large orders of waffle fries. I'm so ticked. I'm not willing to consider that they simply fell out of my cart and will get returned, because my heart is a few sizes too small for that kind of goodwill. Now I'll never get to see Anchorman or Turbo. Family movie night is ruined, not only because of the purloined DVDs, but also because I forgot to buy bacon. How can I make my new favorite pizza ever (loaded baked potato) without bacon?! That's right, I can't.

The good news: tomorrow I'm narrating the Christmas program at our church party, and I'm using this as inspiration for my look:

I call it, "Silver Candlestick."
Just kidding. I'm probably going to be hidden behind the green velvet stage curtains, wearing a dress upcycled from an inflatable Rudolph lawn ornament.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Apple Sticker Hate

I love my iPhone. It is a great little thing made of plastic and metal and black magic. What bugs me, though, is how it came with two white Apple logo stickers. I don't recall signing a contract with Apple to provide free marketing (beyond using their phone in public while being such a chic mom, of course). It feels a little presumptuous, like they thought they were doing me a favor by providing the stickers for me to emblazon across my life, as if I wanted to trumpet my loyalty to their brand. I don't. I want to use my iPhone, but I don't want to use the stickers like some Steve Jobs's-embalming-fluid-Kool-aid-drinker.


To advertise not the Apple brand, but the resentment I now hold for their stickers, I've been brainstorming ironic places to put them. Here are my ideas:

-The back pocket of some mom jeans. Maybe I could pair the jeans with a black turtleneck to complete the look.

-Walmart toilet. Preferably clogged. If I'm lucky it will come off and adhere to someone's muffin top.

- The tub of witch hazel hemorrhoid pads I got when I had Graham (they have multiple uses, no judging)

Super cool(ing)

-The abandoned Kroger shopping cart in the yard a block away

-Kim Jong-un's Trapper Keeper

-An enormous diamond at the end of a necklace around Kate Middleton's neck

-A jar of moldy cinnamon applesauce

-The crumbly loaf of crock pot soap I botched yesterday

Sad, sad, little soap loaf. Not even Apple can save you.

-Use as a stencil for a lower-back tattoo

-I wish I could find someone who broke their arm, or leg, in a really stupid or embarrassing way, and then I would put the sticker on their cast and sign it, "An Apple for a Dummy."

-Use as a belly button lint protection patch:

Not my stomach.

So boo on you, Apple marketing team! Take your free stickers and put them on your grannies' pressure stockings!