July 3, 2014

Coconut lime popsicles w/brandied cherries

J and I were upstate last week, ostensibly on vacation. But fool's judgement (mine) agreed to a re-flooring project, so there we were, tugging on 30-year-old dust-saturated threads and a thousand rusty staples. We buckled down with air compressor, a nail gun and a chop saw, and were many times thwarted by rain threatening our precious and raw wood. By day three of the project we'd only projected to take 1 day, all I wanted to do was watch the World Cup and eat some ice cream.

Despite it all, I did have the forethought to Amazon Prime a popsicle mold to my house, and, inspired by SCB's popsicles at 3191, made this concoction.

Mix together
1 can light coconut milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
a big spoonful or two of greek yogurt
zest of 1 lime
juice of 3 limes

Pit a few handfuls of cherries, cut in half
Cook the cherries in a pan with another splash of maple syrup and a generous splash of brandy (but make sure it's not too liquidy).

Prepare molds: pour in coconut mixture halfway, drop a few cherries in. Pour in more coconut mixture, top with a few cherries. Once popsicles have set (30 minutes to an hour), add popsicle sticks. Allow to freeze overnight. To unstick, run mold under hot water for a few seconds, then they should pop right out.

Enjoy while watching the World Cup.

July 1, 2014

Kelli Anderson on The Great Discontent

The Great Discontent interviewed Kelli Anderson, a friend, collaborator, and someone whose work and process and thinking around creating always serves as an inspiration to me. There are way too many juicy snippets to excerpt, so read the whole thing. But, for starters:
If I was pressed, the advice I would give is that people should try to understand the context and importance of their work. What does it all really mean? What is this about? If you don’t sit down and write it out or understand what it is that you’re doing on your own terms, you’ll be misrepresented at best and ignored at worst. Even if you’re working on a project and don’t know what it means while you’re in the throes of doing it, set aside a chunk of time afterward to digest it and figure out what you learned and what ideas were at play. That packages the project into a format that others can consume. Writing about my work has brought others to my projects and made them more accessible.
And, on NYC
New York City is kind of awesome and kind of a trap, because I don’t think I could live anywhere else now! What I value about New York is that you can’t control it. There are always things happening that will be a surprise. When I walk out of my door in the morning, I don’t know who I’m going to talk to or what I’m going to encounter. It is a bit anarchic. And I want nothing more than to be surprised by the world.

May 22, 2014

The last few months + then some.

Things have been busy.

Tinybop grew from 4 - 20 people.

We made an app that launched this morning in 150+ countries in 52 languages. It's called Plants and it's the second app in the Explorer's Library. Our first app—you may recall—was The Human Body, which has been downloaded 5 million times to date. I find that number overwhelming and unbelievable; seeing something you poured your heart into reach that many kids is a major motivator every day.

Now, about Plants: The beautiful illustrations were made by a French artist named Marie Caudry, whose work I fell in love with the first time I saw her portfolio. The app begins in the forest and the desert. It uses algorithmic system dynamics, particle physics, artificial intelligence, and digital puppetry to bring whimsical illustrations to life. You can make forest fires, crash lightning. Go find fireflies on summer nights. See what happens during rainy season in the desert. You can grow oak trees, burrow with badgers, make bees pollinate, and control the seasons. It's based on encouraging slow play and the discoveries and questions kids can make through interaction and observation.

You can get the app on the App Store for a limited time at $1.99. If you buy now, you also get the next two biomes for free.

Personally, I love this "app" because it feels like diving into the magical world of a story book. But, it is different every time. It has dimensions of sound, movement, unpredictability, along with characters and objects and worlds you can attach yourself to.  Marie's illustrations also have so much whimsy and so much life. It's not often you get to work with artists to create interactive materials where kids can both learn and make up stories as big as their imaginations; I think these apps allow them to do that. 

Steve Schlafman, perhaps better answers the bigger question, What is Tinybop? in his blog post announcing RRE's leading our Series A Funding:
So what exactly is Tinybop? Tinybop is building a constellation of highly immersive educational apps that are global, universal and timeless. Each application, along with their teaching guides and marketing collateral, is translated into more than 50 languages. They’re one of the first studios I’ve seen that is taking advantage of the collapsing digital divide. Additionally, the content is universal and evergreen, meaning the topics are relevant on every continent and will never fall out of favor with parents and educators. The company’s goal is to build a global media brand that teaches kids in every country about the world through play and exploration.  Every single person at Tinybop deeply cares about education, design, creativity and community.  The values of the team shine through their products when you experience them. The children’s space is littered with thousands of mediocre apps so the team at Tinybop is always pushing new boundaries with their apps. 

You can also see how the app works in the trailer, made by Jacob / Wild Combination:

Plants by Tinybop from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Kelli Anderson & Daniel Dunnam also worked together to make this spectacular trailer, inspired by the illustrations Marie Caudry made for the app. You have to read about it to believe it, but it's a journey through the forest, made entirely out of paper (yes! every blade of grass), shot in stop-motion. It's epic, to say the least. I keep watching it over and over again.

Paper to Plants from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Then, the process involved in making the stop-motion video just blew us away so much, Wild Combination also made a video about the behind-the-scenes:

Paper to Plants: Behind the Scenes from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, we also redesigned the Tinybop website. So good on mobile, pow!

We also updated this other app, The Human Body. Amazingly, it's been the #1 educational app in 143 countries in the world.

Tinybop also found a new office. It's 6,000 sq feet. Now we're redesigning it, from scratch. The entire thing was demo'ed recently.

Unrelated to Tinybop, we started renting out our house upstate. In advance we replaced a sink, hung some lights, thrifted the hell out of the Hudson Valley.

My brother graduated from law school.

We bought the newest (still used) car ever. It's a subaru because we're adults that now value a car that isn't going to break down on the way to a photo shoot.

Oh, and my photo is going to be in a room at the Wythe Hotel. Reception next Thursday.

Going to take a nap now. But, see you there? 

April 30, 2014

George Saunders's Advice to Graduates

I first read this graduation speech George Saunders gave to the Class of 2013 at Syracuse University last year, then came across it again on Sara's tumblr earlier this week. Since then, I've read at least parts of it once a day. It helps me keep perspective and remember that what's memorable and lasting are acts of kindness. I can't recommend it enough.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
 [The whole thing].

April 27, 2014

The End of Winter

Back when we were still fighting through the end of winter, these glimpses of sunshine meant everything. The water was flowing (not frozen), at the very least—and it is at this moment, when it's warm but still cold, that the maple taps flow best. We went over to Platte Creek Farm for their annual maple weekend, when the all-you-can-eat buffet of pancakes, sausage, and cookies for breakfast is a friendly $5 (coffee and tea included). The food came straight off the griddle into aluminum sheet trays hovering over propane burners inside the woody tap house where the syrup was still boiling off. Maple syrup was unlimited so we drenched our plates.

Though the winter seemed endless, it was also perpetually cozy; a good reason to stock up on extraneous blankets and own multiple pairs of slippers. I'd gotten this book, Truck: Nest for Jacob's birthday last day-after-Christmas, the most inspiring guide for making a place your own I've discovered yet. It's about how to find the sunlight that wakes your heart up, the importance of plants, how to wait for the right materials, how to put quality first, how to surround yourself by a canopy of trees, and how to decide to splurge on a doughnut machine. Sounds like good living to me.

Widow Jane Mine

We finally went to explore Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale at the end of the winter. Ice hung and reached for the roofs; stalactites and stalagmites. An ice rink formed over the surface of the inside of the cave, reaching down to the interior lake. I can't wait for summer, when there are events + shows inside the caves. 

March 31, 2014

Stay at our Hudson Valley house!

After months of painting, sanding, furnishing, furniture-building, and more, we're finally ready to rent out our upstate house. We've added a listing to Airbnb, with availability starting May 1st. 

A bit from our listing: 
We’ve spent the year transforming the house into our ideal space. The artwork in the home was made by family and friends, Jacob made most of the furniture, and Youngna made the dishware/ceramics. We hope you’ll treat the home as if it were yours. It's cozy, full of light, and our favorite place to be.

The house has 2 bedrooms: one downstairs on the ground floor with a deluxe queen-sized mattress, desk and iMac. The large, upstairs master loft also has a queen-sized mattress, a half-bathroom, and overlooks the living room (there's no door at the top of the stairs, but it still feels private). Both rooms have abundant closet space.
The living room has a new couch, art books, board games, a TV with HDMI & mini display cords for connecting with a laptop. A large dining room table seats 6 or 8 comfortably.
The kitchen is stocked with essentials (spices, baking supplies, etc.), and lots of pots and pans for cooking and baking, which we hope you’ll make good use of.
Linens and towels are provided.
The house also has: 
- wifi 
- dishwasher + microwave 
- washer + dryer 
- central air 
- a deep bathtub 
- beautifully restored floors 
- plants!

What's nearby? 

We’re sandwiched between Minnewaska State Park (20 minutes), the Shawangunks (10 minutes), and the Catskills (20-30 minutes), so there’s extensive trails for hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, and endless other outdoor activity. There’s also tons of cycling, swimming holes, jogging trails, tubing (on the Esopus River), and yoga studios in the area.
Golf is literally just out the back door at the Stone Dock Golf Course. For a little local putting you can go next door to the High Falls Cafe and get right on the green. Don’t worry, though, no golf balls will disturb (though you may see an occasional passerby on the green.) You can also check out the The woodstock Country Club, The Lazy Swan Golf & Country Club, or the golf course at Mohonk Mountain.
The home is close to farm stands, apple orchards, markets, wine shops, swimming holes, great restaurants, thrift stores, and tons of outdoor activity.
Nearby destinations: 
Nearby towns include New Paltz, Kingston, Stone Ridge, Phoenicia, Woodstock, and Saugerties on the west side of the Hudson, and Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Tivoli, and Hudson just across the river.

Without a doubt, this house is now my favorite place to be. It's not big or fancy or a movie set, but it's cozy, full of natural light, considered, and close to nature. If you or anyone you know is looking for a city escape, please do pass our listing along.

February 28, 2014

Kite flying in Gujarat

I love these photos by Tobias Hutzler from the annual International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India (via the New York Times Magazine)

February 19, 2014

"This old man."

This week's New Yorker has a beautiful essay by Roger Angell on being 93.
I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.
It's beautiful and wrenching and warm and real.

February 18, 2014

Upstate house: it's on.

In case you were wondering what was going on with that house we bought, roughly what's happened in the last two months is this: 

We knocked down a large wall with a door and two windows. 

We redid floors, and repainted every (beige) wall in our entire house. With two bathrooms, a loft, a downstairs bedroom, and a great room with 18-foot ceilings, that is a lot that is no longer beige. Our new color is Polar Bear White, which I like for it's not-so-subtle intonations of winter forever, and the fact that it is white, with no shades of beige. Whoever lived in our house prior to us really loved beige

The trick to painting a lot of non-rectangular rooms: use high quality edge-lock tape. There's cheap blue painter's tape and edge-lock tape, which you still have to press down firmly. It'll assure you much cleaner lines, especially when you're trying to delineate lines between materials, like drywall and wood. 

The other big things we did: pulled up wall-to-wall beige carpet upstairs and re-coated the subfloors in white enamel floor paint. 

Next, we redid the downstairs floors, which were painted dark brown. As Jacob pointed out, they were not beige. Unfortunately, they were poop brown. Now, they are a nice, polyurethaned pine plywood with lovely wood pegs that were buried underneath. 

This required three separate sanders: a drum sander, orbital sander, and corner sander. Nobody needs to own the first; it's like a human size zamboni, but they are easily rentable if you check your local hardware shop. 

We removed ungodly numbers of vinyl blinds. Vertical ones, horizontal ones, all of them broken to some degree. I sewed a few new curtain panels; others are still in the works. 

We removed 20 years of moldy grime from window sills. 

We removed so much dust from a wood ceiling fan that we had not previously known it was a wood ceiling fan. 

We painted one wall of our kitchen a beautiful bluish, light gray called Whitestone. 

We repainted our upstairs bathroom cabinets a dark, lush, deep blue-gray that reminds me of the depths of the ocean. 

We built a custom bookshelf with the welding skills of our friend Dustin. 

We got a couch and a dining table and chairs, then thrifted a chest, some night tables, and a coat rack, and a bunch of other things. 

I made oodles of mugs, plates, and ceramic planters for the house. 

We got two mattresses from the Sleepy's outlet store, which is brilliant (they sell half-priced mattresses because someone, often before they have left the store, accidentally ripped the tags off new ones). 

We hung a beautiful light from our 18-foot ceilings from atop a precariously positioned broken ladder. 

We ripped out all fixtures from two bathrooms, including a very baroque faux purple metal mirror frame and a number of extraneous plastic other-things. 

We replaced most outlet covers in the house, which had about four layers of beige paint apiece. 

We learned how to emergency refill our gas tank when we accidentally let the gas run out. 

Jacob built a desk into the new upstairs loft that exists now that we broke down a wall. It's made of beautifully white-washed birch wood and some plumbing pipe legs and it's the best place to work from ever. 

We installed some new lighting. 

We added dimmers to all said lighting. 

We made (only) one trip to IKEA which actually has the BEST $50 HYPOALLERGENIC DUVETS ever. Just saying, cause we have three. 

IKEA is also the best place to buy large quantities of inexpensive unscented candles. We got like 50.

Aside from the house we've done countless hikes, walks, climbs, drives, a snowshoe, a lot of raking and shoveling snow and experienced many lovely meals at our new dining table. We continue to work on the house, ever in progress, and enjoy this thing we are creating. 

We're keeping a blog of renovations and adventures at our upstate outpost of ours over here

p.s. Yes, we plan to airbnb it starting in not too long.