February 27, 2010

stop motion.

When I was young, I really enjoyed the stop motion animation of Wallace and Gromit after receiving three of their videos from my aunt. The amount of time and energy it must take to make a stop-motion video that flows nicely - it must involve hours of work and lots of dedication (not to mention attention to detail).
I think I enjoy really well done stop-motion because it displays the well-honed ability of someone to acknowledge and take note of everything that is happening in their environment during a single second and translate that to a single frame; and then tie it to the frame before and after.
My sister Danika showed me this video by Oren Lavie a few months ago, and maybe you've seen it, but I love the stop motion filming of it.

Since then I've also discovered another short stop-motion film directed by photographer Angela Kohler.

Isn't it beautiful? I particulary like the part when she's in the water with the whale and the ship.
Another stop-motion film (a little longer this time) is Fantastic Mr. Fox. As an avid Roald Dahl reader growing up, I think that Caleb and I will have to rent this or borrow it from the library sometime soon. Not only does Wes Anderson use stop-motion animation but it sounds witty (and had George Clooney in it... at least his voice anyway).
Is there any particular animation technique that you really liked growing up and don't see too often anymore? Or that you have learned to appreciate over the years? Have you ever tried making a stop-motion short film? Or do you have a favourite stop-motion film that I haven't linked to? I've been intrigued by stop-motion for a while and have wanted to attempt one of my own. We'll see if that turns into anything. These videos inspire me.

February 25, 2010


If you love cake, either eating it or baking it, then you will probably love this song.

In the summer I made the Winning-Hearts-and-Minds delicious chocolate cake from Orangette. With a dollop of whipped cream on the top, this rich, moist, chocolatey cake truly won us over. Also, it is great for those who can't eat wheat because it only calls for a couple tablespoons of flour which can easily be subsituted (I'd recommend white rice flour).

Here's the recipe from Orangette below:

7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate
7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted European-style butter (the high-butterfat kind, such as Lurpak or Beurre d’Isigny), cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/3 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.

Finely chop the chocolate (a serrated bread knife does an outstanding job of this) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring regularly to combine. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition, and then add the flour. The batter should be smooth, dark, and utterly gorgeous.

Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set
and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (I usually set the timer for 20 minutes initially, and then I check the cake every two minutes thereafter until it’s done. At 20 minutes, it’s usually quite jiggly in the center. You’ll know it’s done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.) Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.

Serve in wedges at room temperature with a loose dollop of ever-so-slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Note: This cake is even better on the second day, so consider making it the day before serving. And thank you to Clotilde of
Chocolate & Zucchini, whose mention of a clementine cake in Trish Deseine’s Mes petits plats préférés led to my stumbling upon Je veux du chocolat! in the bookstore one day.

February 19, 2010


At Christmas time I decided I wanted to make my own pair of mittens. The set I was using had holes and big amounts of fur around the wrists. I decided I needed a change and that I would like a grey pair of mittens that were knit tightly to keep the wind from getting to my fingers, but were thin and easy to wear.
I couldn't find a mittens pattern online, so I decided to make my own pair. This is relatively easy as long as you know how to knit in the round and are ready to do some trial and error.
For my own mittens I selected a Peruvian Highland wool meant for 6mm needles. I wanted a thicker wool on smaller needles (to help make it 'wind proof') so I used 3 1/4 mm needles.
I have never made mittens before, so I used
this pattern to roughly sketch out how I would approach the mittens (and used their method for making a thumb hole). I then had Caleb help me trace my dominant hand on a piece of paper so I could compare my knitting progress with the size I needed.
With those steps complete I then started knitting. Not knowing how big around to make it, I guessed and it seemed to fit around my wrist well. Here are my instructions for making mitts - this should work well if you have long fingers and small wrists. Adapt as necessary when you tackle your own mittens project.

Jess' Homemade Mitten Pattern:
1. Cast on 39 sts.
2. Knit 15 rows.
3. Increase 6 sts even along next row. (Now you'll have a total of 45 sts)
4. Knit 11 rows.
5. Increase by 3 sts evenly across row.
6. Knit 15 rows to thumb.
7. On the next row (where the thumb hole will be), after 32 sts use scrap wool for 6 sts and then continue knitting with regular wool. (Follow these directions for thumb hole.)
8. Knit 25 rows.
9. Start to decrease after the 25th row by 3 sts along the row.
10. Knit 2 rows.
11. Decrease by 6 sts.
12. Knit 2 rows.
13. Decrease by 6 sts.
14. Knit 3 rows.
15. Decrease 3 sts.
16. Knit 6 rows. (Note, I found the end part of my mitts a little too pointy so you might want to skip this step and instead add more rows to step 8.)
17. Using two of the needles, put 15 sts on each needle and prepare to close using the kitchener stitch.
18. Tuck in the pointy corners by turning inside out and looping some yarn in to secure corners. 19. Create thumb.
20. If you like, use some wool roving to felt words or patterns into the mitts.

So, that's how I made my mittens. They're not the most gorgeous mitts in the world, but I really enjoy them and find them pretty good for a first pair.

Have you made mittens before? What did they look like? Were they easy to make? Do you have a trick for making mittens (especially the thumbs)? Let me know!
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