Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Super Bowl Cake Pops

My friend Kelly had a sweet vs. savory competition to spice up the Super Bowl party this year. Enthusiastic about a 49ers NFC championship victory, I decided to go big. That's right: Cake Pops.

From one box of cake I made 25 pops, 10 footballs and 15 standard pops. 

The footballs I covered in dark chocolate and made stitches with candy pearls. The standard pops I coated with "gold" candy coating (full disclosure, gold was actually peanut butter. It did not taste good). My plan with the gold pops was to make them look like football helmets. But, the red "gel icing" I bought turned out to be about the same consistency as dollar store white glue (i.e., basically a liquid), so I ended up selecting the less pretty one's and covering them in a thin layer of this "glue" and rolling them in red sprinkles. I actually sort of liked the resulting effect. For the remaining pops I tracked down some more cooperative icing and drew on a little "SF" logo, then covered the icing in sprinkles.
Many, many, hours of hard work and most of the pops didn't even get touched. Too many other goodies. Bah. I almost didn't even blog it. That's how mad I was.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ikea Hack Tote Rack

About 4 years ago, on a trip to Ikea with my roommates, I bought the Tjusic hanging rack. Three ladies sharing a house, we needed something to hang our various purses and totes on, and it was only $10. But, it's ugly. I know ugly is an ugly word, but look at this thing. Even Ikea can't make it look good.
Anyway, it's been hanging in my doorway ever since, dutifully supporting the complex system of tote bags that organizes my life. A couple weeks ago, in a fit of cleaning, I hung just one more little bag on it and crash, down it came. This was not the fault of the rack. No, it was me expecting one little screw to support the weight of my life.

Since it was already on the ground, I decided, I would see this as an opportunity to send something I really dislike to goodwill and replace it with something I really like. To the goodwill pile in the trunk of my car for you, Tjusic. And, after a couple hours online looking, I decided I really wanted one of those very Anthropology racks with the pretty drawer pulls as hooks. Unfortunately, they cost a lot of money.

But, here in Upland, we recently got a Hobby Lobby, and Hobby Lobby is magical. Hobby Lobby has a whole aisle of just drawer pulls and doorknobs, and they're always half off. As soon as I saw them I decided I would make a fancy knob rack! Naturally, I spent about 3 hours in the knob aisle selecting the 5 knobs that would best match my home and my aesthetic. Then, while wandering the nearby Home Depot for a piece of wood to use as a mount, I realized I already had one, and its name was Tjusic.

In one episode of The Mindy Project I managed to remove the ugly Ikea hooks, drill 5 new holes in the mount (just a little smaller than the knob stems) and screw my pretty new knobs in by hand. They're all in tightly enough that I didn't even need to use the nuts on the back, and the wood was the perfect thickness, so the stems don't poke through the other end. Thanks Swedish designers.

A few new holes in the wall (sorry landlords) and I have a $10 upgrade I'm pretty stoked on.

Teacher Messes

I know that MIA for a month is not acceptable, especially given my recent promise to be more diligent about fortnightly blog updates. But I have an excuse! The semester started back up and I've been incredibly busy being a teacher. Don't believe me? Think that's a cop out? Fine.

This semester I'm teaching Cognitive Psychology. The second lecture in this course is always brain anatomy. Students hate brain anatomy. You talk to them all about all of the little chunks of something buried deep inside their heads that they'll never see. They look at you like you're annoying. But, I've found an activity that helps them to take a little more ownership of the learning of these parts. It's a mess, but you know how I feel about messes...

So, while I wasn't crafting, I was doing something creative. Teachers of all grades/levels: Like this? It's yours!

Supplies needed:
- Cauliflower (I like one for every pair of students)
- 5 colors of washable poster paint (or food coloring-- more expensive, but dries faster/less messy)
- Ice cube trays (I do one for every 4-5 students)
- Q-tips (just bring 300)
- Toothpicks (again, the whole box)
- Masking tape

The activity:
After a lengthy lecture about neuroanatomy, students pull out the cauliflower they brought for extra credit (this makes them actually come to class, they want those 2 points!)

Pull off all the green, but not the white "stem" and bisect the cauliflower, that is, cut it right down the middle, making two identical cauliflower halves.
Give each group of students an ice cube tray with the compartments filled with paint (make sure each group gets each color paint), Q-tips to use as paint brushes, and each student a handout that tells them what structures to label and what colors to make them. I give them free use of their smartphones, laptops, textbooks, ipads, etc. to find good labeled images of the brain, and put a few up on the powerpoint. Then, let them go!
Each group has to color code each lobe of the cerebrum (surface/outside of the cauliflower) and the limbic system (inside, on the sliced edge). Then, using a 2 inch strip of masking tape and a toothpick, students make little "flags" to label each of the structures on the brain. The handout can double as a study guide if they fill it in at home. I "grade" these by having students take photos with their smart phones and email them to me. Yes, its a total mess, but look at how proud they are!