Thursday, August 27, 2009

Angels and Demons

In my usual habit, I stayed up much too late last night so I could finish Angels and Demons. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that impressed.



Even though I did enjoy the Da Vinci Code, this book just didn’t do it for me for quite a few reasons.

1. The plot was too implausible. Does anyone besides Brown really believe that blowing up the Vatican would eradicate Christianity or make people embrace the sciences? It’s just ridiculous.

I also thought the “clues” Brown’s character had to follow were an insult to the reader’s intelligence. Brown first rambles on about what a secret society the Illuminati is and how they were nearly impossible to find, while simultaneously asking us to believe that his main character, Robert Langdon, is able to find the secret “church of the Illuminati” in less than four hours.

2. Then there were the stereotypical characters: The smart attractive Professor who becomes an unlikely hero, the sexy intelligent female sidekick, the cold unsympathetic old man, the anti-god scientists, the fanatical clergymen, the super bad bad guy, and then the old bait and switch with the antagonist.

It was all a bit too expected. I also felt like Brown attempted to manipulate readers by making one of his characters extremely inconsistent with his previous behavior. I get that Brown wanted readers to be shocked by the ending, but I was more annoyed with his bait and switch than I was surprised.

3. Some of the dialog seemed to go on for days. (Brown has a nasty habit of over describing things that don’t really need to be described.)

4. The total crap of an ending. If Brown wanted to reinforce that the Catholic Church will lie to keep its power, then he did a great job. Otherwise, the books’ ending was a total failure.

But the main problem I had with this book is some of the broad accusations Brown makes about science. It just felt too political and the rant one of his characters goes on around page 380 was so irritating I almost stopped reading. I can’t remember if the Da Vinci Code had a similar problem, but I don’t think that’s something I would forget.

All in all I'm sad to say the book was a major waste of my time and I doubt I’ll be reading another Brown book again. I might still watch the movie, but that's about it.

Outstanding in the Field

I am loving these pictures from Outstanding in the Field (via Oh Happy Day):




Aren't they just amazing?

It turns out Outstanding in the Field is a traveling restaurant that foeatures long tables and local ingredients. Here's what they had to say about themselves on their website:
Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure - literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 we have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. After a tour of the site, we all settle in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table.

Is it just me or does that sound awesome? I'd like to have my own dinner party out in a forest or field some day (if only for the pictures).

You can visit their website here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Peacock Butterfly Hair Clip

I saw this bad ass hair clip at Topsy Turvy Design and I just knew I had to make my own:



Isn't it lovely? At $23 dollars it's really reasonably priced, but for me most of the fun is in making things myself.

What you'll need:
4 peacock feathers
A gem or stone (for the body)
Hot glue gun
Alligator clip
Small piece of felt
Small gems
Scissors


Directions:


1. Pick out 4 peacock feathers. It doesn’t matter if they’re all the same size, but you do want the top two and the bottom two to be as similar as possible. I just picked my feather up from the craft store. There cost $2.99 a piece, but some bags come with two feathers.


2. Cut your feathers down to a more reasonable size. This is the size I started with but I had to trim some more length off so they could all fit properly on the gem. Remember – you can always cut more off later.



3. Place them and glue on your gem. As you can see from the back, I also glues on two pieces to look like a butterfly antenna. At this point you can glue of any extra pieces as a filler, or spread your feathers out in any way you like.


4. Glue on a small circle of felt onto the back to clean everything up. I just used an extra gem as a template and then cut my piece of felt a little smaller.


5. Glue on an alligator clip. You’re gonna want to make sure you glue on your clip in a way where you press on the gem to open it. If you center it, you will have a hard time opening it since you’ll have to put pressure on the feather its self (I learned the hard way).


6. Then all that’s left is to trim it in a butterfly-like shape. I also used some hairspray to shape the pieces a little bit.

As you can see I also glued on some small gems I had left over from another project onto the feather.

And that's it.



Even though it's a tad big, I got to say I love it.

Update: I wore this last night in the back of my hair and it was a huge hit. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bunker 10

Title: Bunker 10
Author: J.A. Henderson
Genre: YA Suspense (with SciFi aspects)

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publishing Date: October 1, 2007
Hardback: 272 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand Alone

Summary: (from the book)

At eight o'clock in the evening, 24 December 2007, Pinewood Military Installation exploded. The blast ripped apart acres of forest and devastated the remote highland valley where the base was located. No official cause was given for the incident. Inside Pinewood were 185 male and female personnel--a mixture of scientists and soldiers. There were also seven teenagers. This is the story of their last day . . .

Review:

As the summary says, this book is really about a group of kids that have exceptional intelligence. But it seems even geniuses need their time off, and this story at first appears to be centered on one of the teens attempt to sneak of base for some alone time with a girl.

Then all hell breaks lose through a series of coincidences and just bad luck.

In Bunker 10 there is a top secret lab that houses the potential destruction of everything we love. Is it a super powerful laser capable of destroying planets with a single shot? No. Is it a biochemical weapon capable of altering the enemies thought process? No, not really.

It’s a ten year old little girl.

I’m not going to go into any more detail because it would ruin some of the surprises that really make this book.

But believe me, this book has everything; Suspense, plot twists, time travel, DNA alteration, teenage kids with genius IQs, warfare, survival simulation games, good guys, bad guys, and a whole lot of intrigue.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Madrid and Simon were almost finished in the maintenance depot. They had punctured the fuel tanks of every vehicle and tipped over the oil drums. Now the concrete floor was a lake of gasoline, shimmering under the fluorescent lights.
“You sure you want to do this?” Simon said, his voice muffled by an ill-fitting asbestos suit he had found in the locker. He was determined not to take any chances.
Madrid checked her handcom. “Not really,” she said blankly. “Then again, I don’t want to die when this base blows up in forty-seven minutes.”
“Me, neither.” The boy went to the panel on the wall and punched in 1234. “I just don’t know how I’ll live with myself after this.”
The blast proof doors in the floor were hidden by the reservoir of fuel, but it was easy to tell they were now open, for the level of black liquid began to rapidly go down.
Simon and Madrid waited until the gasoline had almost leaked away. Then Madrid took out a lighter, flicked it to life, and threw it onto the floor. A wave of blue flame raced across the concrete, and they threw themselves behind a stack of truck tires.
The blue flame vanished down the stairwell. There was silence for several seconds.
Then the shouting began.

Verdict: I loved it! I stayed up till 3 a.m. finishing the book because I had to know what happened. The fact there is only one review for this book on amazon is heartbreaking.

Rating: 7. Very good

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Last night I had friends over to watch a movie and munch on some snacks. I don’t know which was better - The Rocky Horror Picture Show or the black bottom cupcakes.






Recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
The Great Book of Chocolate, David Lebovitz

Yield: 12 full-size or approximately 30 mini cupcakes

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons* of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely,** which is fine.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

Two notes:
* If you choose to go mini for these, keep the filling at a tablespoon or less, lest you run out, as, ahem, someone else may have.
** Though I’ve only made this recipe one, and therefore don’t think you should take my input as absolute authority, I’ve got to advise against actually letting these guys fill up. Not an issue if you’re going full-size, but if you go mini, aim for 90 percent full.

These babies sure were tasty (and I'm not even a cheesecake fan).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Live What You Love"

Before I accidentally deleted all of my pictures, I had been working on a set of poster ideas. Most of them were just words and sayings I really loved that I had been thinking of incorporating into some of my paintings.

Well, like I said, all of these were deleted. Luckily, I do most things by hand and was able to scan the hard copies.

Today I've been fiddling around with a "Live What You Love" poster idea that I had started but never finished. (Sorry about the ugly banner I put across them, but I don't want to risk them being taken by anyone - Not to sound pretentious or anything.)






Out of all of them I think I like the original (the first one) the most. In all actuality, I'll probably end up having the one with the red writing and white background printed since our office has a red/black/white theme going on. Kind of.

I don't know.

I think I might make a series of them too. I was planning on screen printing them, but I'm totally broke and can't afford to buy the supplies right now. I'll probably just print a trial one out on some high quality paper since my printer is pretty bad ass.

We'll see.

Edit: I originally posted this over at Random Thoughts, but I wanted to share it here as well. I'm actually really bad about posting things I'm working on in one place and not the other. I'm trying to work on that, but it might take my a while (hey I'm lazy) to get everything sorted.