Sunday, February 6, 2011

Craft(y) Project: Tropical Fish Mobile

I asked my friend what sort of theme she wanted for her adorable brand new baby boy's shower gift, and I got "I'm thinking fishies" and "Yes!" to, "What about cute sharks?".

Originally I was going to decorate the little basket I found (for $1.99 at Saver's) by painting it with fish, and it was actually my mom's idea to make a mobile. I filled the plain basket with Johnson & Johnson's bath stuff, Desitin, Vaseline, etc., as well as a little handmade gift for mom for a total of about $16.

This posting is more instructional than anything else, though, and I'm hoping somebody gets an idea for another unique, inexpensive gift from it.

Though I knew how I wanted it to look, I made this one-sided frameable collage card in about 15 minutes from supplies I already had.

I'm admittedly extremely lucky when it comes to finding last-minute costume essentials and other extremely specific things at the first thrift store I go to. There was an entire bag of all these fish - most of them brand new craft supply fiber fish with hanging loops already attached - not too far away from the little basket I found. 
Normally I check the bins/stapled bags of small kids' toys for stuff like this, but the housewares/craft section handed me a jackpot this time. This bag was $5.99, and believe it or not I actually debated for several minutes about even buying it. That's kind of steep for me.

I know, right? smh.

So anyway, I ended up using most of the fiber craft fish and half of the total fish. Most of the rest would later end up glued to adjustable ring bases. I still have that orange seastar ring, actually.

If you're starting a mobile this way - be it with toy dinosaurs (which are super cheap at Party City), mini Barbies, birds, planes, or whatever - lay everything out in front of you and try to distribute the weight, colours, and varying heights evenly. 
You don't want a bunch of things at the same level bumping into each other, getting tangled, etc., and you don't want to cram too many things on and compromise the mobile's structural integrity, either. This is serious business. Algorithms. Engineering. Math. Glitter.

Using a small hole punch, I strung fishing line through each branch to connect it to the main cross at the top, and then to make the hanger above that, which also has a simple keyring for hanging. 

I had the cardboard, acrylic paint, hole punch, glitter, glue, fishing line and random keyring on hand. Later I added the seaweed-looking stuff - which I'd originally bought for my Poison Ivy costume but never used - because it looked unfinished. And finally, noticing the glitter's tendency to flake off and thinking about how bad that could be right above an infant's face, I sealed it on with clear spray paint. Thankfully the smell was gone after I'd hung it outside to dry for only about an hour.

You can see the glittery texture well in this photo, but see how it looks kind of sparse?

And finally, the finished product! 
I'm really happy with how it turned out and how easy it was.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Recipe: Overcooked Mung Bean Salad

So I watched Julie & Julia the other night, and it was way better and cuter than I thought it would be. Amy Adams is so likable and Meryl Streep is, of course, brilliant. It got me back in the mood to cook. Well, that and hunger in its purest form.

It's "overcooked" because of my own dumb ass, don't intentionally overcook your mung beans, please. This was a natural consequence of my never measuring or timing anything (which is why I haven't posted any recipes until now, lol) but also not cooking often enough to have an uncanny natural sense of timing.

Ok so on the left is what mung beans are supposed to look like - not to much different from how they look raw. On the right are my mung beans, which exploded like popcorn kernels. They're still perfectly edible, so if you found this post by Googling "overcooked mung beans" then read on, wayward chef.

You will need:

Approx. 3/4 - 1 cup of mung beans

1 of those little cans of sweet corn, or about a cup of fresh (cooked, yellow or white) corn kernels

Approx. 3/4 cup of diced red, yellow and green bell peppers (or whatever you have on hand, but keep in mind that the red and yellow ones are sweeter, and this salad is much better sweet)

2 green onion sprigs

1 small clove of garlic, finely minced

Approx. 1/4 cup lime (fresh or bottled, but do not use lemon) juice

First, fill a big pot with water and start heating it to a boil. Some people soak mung beans before cooking them, but I've made them without overcooking them before and they're fine either way. In any event, be sure to rinse them. When the water is boiling, salt it generously and add the mung beans. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Once 50 minutes or so has passed, check on them and test them frequently so they don't explode like mine did.

In the meantime, dice the bell peppers, chop the green onions and mince the garlic. Just in case anyone doesn't know this, smash the garlic clove with the heel of your palm under a broad knife. This peels it and breaks it apart.
If you like your fare spicy and sweet, seed and mince one green jalapeño and chop some fresh cilantro as well.

When the mung beans are cooked, drain them well. Heat up the canned corn or lightly cook the fresh corn (with no butter or oil or anything). To serve, mix all of the ingredients together in a large shallow dish or bowl, adding the lime juice as well. Serve warm, but serve the leftovers cold.

Viola! It's much prettier when the mung beans are intact; it looks like confetti. This is a great summer dish but is also hearty enough for winter, with the fresh bright veggies being a refreshing touch. It's filling but not heavy. I also garnished mine with that weird bell pepper heart I posted a picture of before.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Currently Reading

1. Five Women Who Loved Love, which I read for a class my freshman year but am enjoying more this time around;

2. Candy Everybody Wants, which is not (yet) quite as hilarious as the author's actual memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days;

3. The Power, summed up: Your attitude is really all that matters in life if you pause and consider it, so being angry and spiteful is a waste of time. There, I saved you a couple of hours.

4. Bashō's Journey

5. The Narrow Road to Oku
Read the illustrated Keene translation; I read Narrow Road to the Interior in school and it blew chunks.

6. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

7. Finally, Noble Norfleet, which inevitably reminds me of my ex and his family in Kentucky and is very bizarre and depressing. Incest and insanity prevail so be warned!

Recommended Reading:
I Am Not Myself These Days

Randomly enough, I guess, I found out about Josh Kilmer-Purcell on The Fabulous Beekman Boys when I was going through a major Planet Green channel phase last year. This book is a New York Times bestseller from '06 and chronicles his mid 20's, spent as an alcoholic drag queen/junior advertising art director with a crackhead male escort boyfriend in New York City in the late 90's. I laughed my ass off (actually, out loud) while simultaneously contemplating the frailty of the human spirit. It might be my favourite book.

His drag queen persona, Aqua, is short for "Aquadisiac", though he admits realising soon after choosing the name that the play on "aphrodisiac" is lost on the average clubgoer.  
He wore real goldfish in his plastic orb boobs of the future, and cared for them lovingly. If you're not convinced to read it at this point, I don't know what you're doing looking at this blog.