Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Annual Peeps Diorama Contest

The winners of the sixth annual Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest were announced today! This is one of the most hilarious Easter traditions I know of. Every year the Post gets hundreds of entries to their diorama contest centered around Peeps. Anyone can submit a diorama, but there are a few rules: one person must be able to carry the scene by themselves to the Post offices, and only residents of D.C., Maryland or Virginia can be selected as finalists. The dioramas are usually based on news-worthy events of the previous year or well-known images, and are full of peeps related puns. For a slideshow of this year's Washington Post winners click here.

A lot of newspapers and arts centers have started holding Peeps Diorama contests. Here are some past favorites.

Image via The Fire Wire

Image via Miss TWA

For more curious and crazy Peeps projects, check out this Washington Post piece, "Eat Them, Craft Them... Kill Them?" -- including a video by 100 Ways to Kill A Peep (Warning: This is not for the faint of heart).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Evening in Southeast Asia

Liam is on a quest to recreate the quintessential pho. We visited Vietnam two years ago, and indulged in a steaming bowl of pho on nearly every street corner. Pho is a Vietnamese soup with a beef and spice broth base, rice noodles, and different cuts of meat. It is served very hot, and with a garden of fresh veggies and herbs on the side so that each person may garnish their soup as they please. Making Pho requires an array of asian ingredients, and thus a trip to Chinatown for grocery shopping. When faced with so many tantalizing and under-explored ingredients, Liam and I have no willpower. We always buy a lot. So we usually try to make a night of it, and invite a bunch of friends around to test drive the newest pho rendition as well as to sample some other southeast asian treats.
I put all the fresh additions (basil, thai basil, mung beans, cilantro, limes) into glass vases. They took up a little less room on our narrow table than they would have on a platter, plus they made a handy edible tablescape.
Liam ventured into drying his own beef with this salad. Really, it should be dried in the bright, hot sun. But seeing as we live in an apartment, on the fourth floor, facing north, and aside from the fact that it is still winter here, our oven had to step up to the job. The beef was delicious, but it also took about six hours in the oven on the lowest temperature. I'll be expecting a big gas bill for that one!
The linen napkins are from Thai silk company, Jim Thompson. I got tuned in to the company on a trip to Bangkok where I visited the Jim Thompson House and Museum. The house was assembled by Jim Thompson, the founder of the company, in the 1950's from traditional homes that he purchased from different regions of Thailand. The house in itself is a treasure. It is a showcase of traditional Thai architecture, but also of Thompson's charismatic mixture of Eastern and Western design. Although Mr. Thompson mysteriously disappeared in 1967, the company lives on, providing a source for some of the most incredible textiles, both traditional and modern.

P.S. Will someone please remind me to get new chopsticks? The ones I have may be pretty, but they are way too slick to grab onto brothy rice noodles. I need some with better grip. And if there's one thing I hate it is sacrificing functionality for design. There's no point in having something beautifully designed if it doesn't do the job. And these chopsticks don't. Maybe I'll just save the take-out ones, and dip the top ends in some food safe paint....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Breakable Work of Art

Image via DesignSponge

Recently my dreams have been peppered with piñatas. They are everywhere: in shop window displays, for purchase on Etsy, and as ideas for wedding activities and favors. People are making absolutely gigantic ones, and tiny pocket sized ones. You can find more classic styles, incredibly artistic sculptures, and How-To tutorials. DesignSponge has a DIY tutorial to make piñata-inspired party lanterns.
Comprised of inexpensive materials, piñatas are an ephemeral piece of art. One moment it's there, and the next it's bashed to bits on the floor.
It is also a tradition dating back to the 14th century (as best I can tell). Piñatas can be traced to China, where they were filled with seeds in the hopes of a fertile agricultural season, and burned in celebration of the New Year. From there piñatas made their way to Europe and onward, through the Spanish, to Latin America. It seems that the Mesoamericans also had similar traditions of their own, filling clay vessels with fruits and treats and breaking them at the foot of an idol as an offering. In fact, one of the coolest things about the tradition of piñatas is that there seem to be so many similar traditions all over the world!
Breaking them is really the best part. It brings out the kid in all of us. Being blindfolded, swinging madly with a bat, the exclamations of the crowd, that satisfaction that comes with contact, and of course the delight of tiny treats cascading from the demolished carcass....

The Current Piñata Spectrum

The Classic Party Piñata:
Romeo Gilberto Osorio crafts piñatas at his studio, Pinata Art, in San Francisco. I know I've passed by his storefront on Mission Street in the past, but next time I will definitely have to go inside. He sells both pre-made and custom piñatas: you can find dogs, princesses, and even order up your own Michael Jackson! He's also designed theatre props and parade floats. NPR did a three minute piece on Osorio.

A quick search for piñatas on Etsy revealed a highly saturated handmade Piñata market. Here are my favorites.
DalePinatas's detailed and playful animals:
Image Via Etsy

Image Via Etsy

PinataQueen crafts beautifully detailed replications of Strawberry Shortcake and a box of Crayons, among other things:
Image Via Etsy

Image Via Etsy

The Piñata as Art Inspiration and Decoration:
On the opposite end of the piñata style spectrum is Confettisystem, a duo who designs art installations inspired by confetti, piñatas, fringes and more. These creations are so imaginative and so beyond a basic piñata. And the best part is: all we have to do is poke around some shops to find Confettisystem's inspirational pieces. Opening Ceremony had these incredible exotic bird heads mounted on their mannequin bodies. And J. Crew and Urban Outfitters have featured their work as well.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

The Piñata as Fine Art:
The Andy Warhol piñata was made by Jennifer Rubell for the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball in 2010. There were a lot of whispers leading up to the Ball as to what she would put inside of it. The guests beat Andy up and were rewarded with "classic" American dessert treats such as the DingDong.

Image Via FlavorWire

The Wedding Piñata:
I saw a pair of bride and groom piñatas that a friend had made of the couple for their fiesta-themed wedding on Green Wedding Shoes. Throw caution and tradition to the wind and bash the newly weds into oblivion!
Wack! Pinataria sells these Bridezilla and Groomzilla piñatas on Etsy.
Image Via Etsy

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Tropical Birthday

Allison wanted something fun and simple for her birthday party. She wanted to invite people to her house rather than go out to a bar, but she isn't a huge cook, and reorganizing what she usually uses as a studio space back into a living room where her friends could hang out comfortably was going to be enough work in itself. So we came up with a tropical theme, threw together some simple eats (that didn't require plates and silverware), made a specialty cocktail from the Virgin Islands, and assembled some lighthearted decorations!

This is Allison's studio/living room. She is the designer behind Zipper 8 Lighting, and as such the space is full of sample lights and materials.

We decided to feature one of her light fixtures in our party decor because it went so well with the Tropical theme! This is her Cocktail Umbrella Light, which you can purchase from Etsy.
Image via Zipper 8 Lighting on Etsy

So we ran with the theme! We put cocktail umbrellas everywhere, and Allison bought some kitschy items from a party store to really help us glory in the tropical island sunshine. We also put together a playlist of some of our favorite beachy songs to evoke true "Island Time" (that is the pace of a Caribbean island, not Manhattan island).

The Menu:
Painkiller: a Virgin Islands cocktail with dark rum and pineapple juice
Thai Lime and Chile Cashews
Wasabi Flavored Almonds
Corn Chips with Sweet Mango Salsa, Spicy Tomato Salsa and Guacamole
Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Ginger Marinated Beef on Toasts with Spicy Mayo
Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I just want to break this menu down for everyone who, like Allison, is concerned with the complexity of providing food at a party. This menu took two of us one hour to prepare and plate. Trader Joe's provided the nuts, chips, salsas, guacamole, shrimp and pre-marinated beef. We had to cook the meat, cut the bread, mix mayo and sriracha sauce together, and assemble the toasts. Then we had to mix the drinks up, and plate everything. I made the cake. Now check out how festive and delicious it looks! For one hour's prep time, that ain't bad. Notice the chips in plastic sand buckets!

We gathered a bunch of beach towels and draped them over her furniture. You can see Allison's dog, Basel, lounging on "the beach" in the background. Amazingly, Allison had a container of sand she had held onto from a previous project. We poured this on a plate and nestled a bunch of candles in it.

Some party-goers all dressed up for the occasion and drinking their Painkillers! We hung leis around for guests who felt they needed some extra adornment.

And here's the cake, with some lovely blue waves lapping at its edges, and my favorite tall and skinny birthday candles in neon colors.

Allison made this brightly colored balloon wreath for her own birthday blog post this year. Go check it out at the 3 R's blog for a step by step tutorial on how to make your own, and other awesome ideas to Reduce, Reuse and Redecorate!