Advertising winner of the week

We start this Seen and Heard with a Cadbury commercial. I watched it, thought it amusing enough and then asked myself what, if anything, it specifically had to do with chocolate. On the other hand, my kid watched it, laughed himself right off his seat and immediately afterward declared that he wanted some chocolate. A perfect example of insidious advertising at its best. Break it down to its component parts and you've got a tune that sticks in your head, two cute little kids, one of whom is subliminally dressed in a Cadbury purple jumper and finally, a virtuoso display of headache-inducing brow movements which my little boy is now trying like mad to emulate. I don't know about you but I think that the Cadbury advertising team scored a winner. Check it out.

American Sign Language Matchbooks

I have always thought that it takes special people to think outside of the box.

As it turns out, it takes someone like New York artist JK Keller to think outside of the matchbook. To see more of his wonderful projects go here.

Advertising winner of the week runner up...

If only for the sheer unmitigated chutzpah of the product. From the UK Telegraph, came the news this past December that right in time for the Christmas holidays Burger King, yes Burger King, had made an unprecedented foray into the fragrance market. Say what?

You heard it. They have a Burger King scent called (of all things) Flame. From the website:

"The Whopper sandwich is America's favourite burger, Flame by BK captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold the scent of seduction with a hint of flame broiled meat."

People, behold indeed Burger King Flame - "where fire meets desire." Someone had to have inhaled too much of this cologne to come up with a phrase like that.

Making music in the Paris Subway

I only wish I had been riding with them. As far as a cappella singing goes, these guys are pretty wonderful. They call themselves Naturally 7 and you have to listen to their interesting arrangement of Phil Collin's song In the Air Tonight directly below. Great beatbox and rhythms. Don't miss the sourpuss who kept his back turned away from the group throughout the whole performance. It's the curly haired guy in the dark coat. I don't know how he managed to keep himself so removed. I'd have been like the blonde lady trying to sing along with them. What a way to cheer up a commute!

Bath Boat

Looks like a great place to relax and dream in. I want one.

Designed by Wieki Somers, it is made of Oak and Red Cedar. Only 30 numbered and signed pieces with the name of the collector who purchases them will be constructed and, you may get yours by special order at the Galerie Kreo in Paris. Price upon request. You know what that means...

The Chrono- Shredder

Designed by Susanna Hertrich, " The Chrono-Shredder is a device that reminds us of the preciousness of our lifetime. It represents the passing of time by shredding the days of the year – printed on a paper roll – at a slow constant rate. To shred one day takes 24 hours. There is no “off”-button. As the seconds pass by, the tattered remains of the past pile up under the device…"

Not in my clean house. No way Jose. And just to stir things up a little, how do you load enough paper for a lifetime on this thing? You'd constantly have to be changing the roll wouldn't you and that would disrupt the minute by minute, hour by hour of the day shredding process. I wonder if someone thought of that. As the chrono shredder has apparently still not gone into production, you could say there is still time to tweak things a little.

via ryan yeah

Distilled Wisdom

A minimalist approach to an age old question...

via fohguild


Thinking outside of the book

Vintage pulp fiction covers become 3-dimensional in these staged cutouts reminiscent of pop-up books.

"When separated from their original stories, the figures take on fresh roles in entirely new situations. Yet they retain their intended purpose of storytelling. Characters and objects originally created as two-dimensional illustrations are raised from their pages and given new life in three-dimensional space. The figures return back to two-dimensional objects, this time in the form of a photograph."

By artist Thomas Allen. You can see more of his eye-catching work at the Joseph Bellows Gallery.

The piñata redefined

Makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.

"Need to vent in prep for an ominous birthday? The chocolate piñata cake will help you do just that. Hollow dark or milk chocolate cakes have a small wooden mallet tucked into the box, so when you get home, you can hammer the thin chocolate walls to reveal many tiny treats inside. Taste your way through chocolate truffles, caramel patties, and nut clusters made from butter and premium European chocolate. The piñata cakes were inspired by the shop’s 20th anniversary. Shop owner Nur Kilic says, “Forget smashing the champagne, smash the cake.”

You may get yours at Serenade Chocolatier.

A fairy tale you can wrap yourself in

From Swedish design blog Design & Inredningsbloggen comes this whimsical blanket.

"Once upon a time there was a blanket. This blanket has several sheets containing a traditional bedtime story. Each "page" adds a layer of linen making you warmer (or cooler) and comfier, hopefully guiding you and your partner into a pleasant night´s sleep."

Big and little girls everywhere are sure to love it.

Chalk Therapy

There ain't a blackboard big enough to hold all of mine but I'd be willing to give this cheap psychobabble version a try.

Via Gabekphoto.com

And with a pop, the day is done...

If your kid is anything like mine, who guns for the wrapping before he ever shows interest in the gift, then this poster-sized calendar is for you. The challenge will now be to keep them from popping the whole year in just one day.

Made in Brooklyn of the good ole US of A, it has the days of the week as well as all major holidays marked and comes in English, German and Japanese versions. Get yours at bubblecalendar.com

Sweet stirrings

You can make these delicate little spoon biscuits, originally designed by Shin & Tomoko Azumi for Project Pappilan, by following the recipe below.

From the Czechdesign website,

"Project pappilan was created by the faculty of Design and Arts at the Bolzano University in Italy. Giorgia Graziadei, a second year student, came up with the idea to ask the designers from all over the world to invent and bake biscuits that would have innovative shapes and flavors."


black dough (15 spoons): 50 g of plain flour, 5 g of cocoa powder, 15 g of unsalted butter, 20 g of dark brown soft sugar, 1 tablespoon of honey,1 tablespoon of milk

white dough (15 spoons): 55 g of plain flour, 15 g of unsalted butter, 20 g of white caster sugar, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/2 tablespoon of milk, 1/2 tablespoon of natural vanilla extract

coating: black chocolate, white chocolate

preparation: Set the oven at 170°C. leave the butter at room temperature. In a bowl, mix softened butter and sugar. Add honey and milk (and vanilla extract for white spoons) in the bowl to mix it well.

Add plain flour (and cocoa powder for black spoons) into the mixture to make smooth dough. Prepare a sheet of baking paper and make the dough 2 mm thick using a roller on the paper. Cut out the spoon shape with the spoon shaped cookie cutter.

Bake in the oven for 6-10 minutes until slightly golden. Take biscuits out one by one and place them onto a small spoon and shape it carefully while it is still hot.

Allow biscuits to cool down on a rack. If you like, dip the biscuits into melted chocolate (white or black) and dry well.

Text and recipe via Czechdesign. Images from tna design studio


Grab it by the tail

Photo by James Cridland

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
-- Katherine Paterson.

I wish I could tell you how it happened but the reality is that sometimes, we don't understand how things come upon us until time has sorted the sequence out. All I can say is that one day, the fright just seemed to be there, comfortably lodged in the area of my ribcage, secretly wrapping itself around my heart. I haven't been able to get rid of it since.

The first time I noticed, I was seated somewhere in the middle of a huge Airbus, stuffed with luggage and passengers coming back from Paris to the US. It was nighttime outside the windows but time was rewinding itself as we flew over the Atlantic in our crumpable metal cigar. To the left and right of me there sat a sea of elderly nuns dressed in habits. They had been attending a Christian symposium in Europe, revisiting the grounds of their faith and no doubt having found something still fertile and growing there because, I remember how unusually chirpy and chatty they seemed when I most longed for some rest.

Even at this age I was a pro at flying well, not so much in the luggage department, that would take another decade to pare itself down to those essentials on which someone like me, could survive on the contents of her carry-on alone, should the plane ever crash-land. No, I meant that I was an expert at handling myself at foreign airports and dealing with hotels and taxi drivers, cognizant of the little tricks that can hinder or expedite travel because by this time, I had already flown much and gone places.

I was dozing when the lights came on, the captain's voice rousing me from semi-sleep. We would be passing through some turbulence, could everyone please fasten their seatbelts? My seatbelt was already fastened - thank you very much. Unless getting up to stretch or to attend to private matters, I always tightened that uncomfortable strap no matter what because, I had once read about a Japanese airplane that had encountered freak turbulence. In the incident, one of the unbuckled passengers had flown straight out of his seat, hit the ceiling and unfortunately broken his neck. The moral of that story: buckle the seat belt. And so I did.

The jarring movements started quickly enough after the captain's announcement but I kept my eyes firmly shut and attempted to recover my doze. This went on for a few minutes and though I could feel the plane had accelerated and climbed higher in order to shake off the currents that plagued its stability, rather than have those maneuvers help, we seemed to have been caught in something worse. That was the first time I ever felt a spasm of pure fear while in the air. The first time I ever made crash contact with the knowledge that there was a long way to fall inside a little metal container with nothing but endless ocean beneath.

Gradually the conversations died down. All of us could feel that there was a difference this time. A few seats down my line a nun plucked out her rosary and began to pray. Many other nuns followed suit. Their low-key murmurings were no serious competition to my silent moaning or to the creakings of the plane. After what seemed like forever, we heard another message from the captain, everyone was to please remain calm, with their seat belts still buckled (as if anyone would have thought to get up at this point), hopefully we would be through the worst of it soon, he said.

I really don't know how long it lasted but the minutes shook and grunted by like a freight train set on an unstoppable collision course. In that everlasting interim, several of the overhead compartments popped open and belongings flew out. People yelled in fright. From the ceiling of the plane, a few of the oxygen masks dropped down, jostled out of their storage by the extreme movement and many on the plane took it as a sign that we were somehow doomed. Through it all, I felt the nuns and everyone else praying. I found my own religion on that trip. The fervent litany of my wordless Oh Gods bringing me closer to a state of spiritual trance the likes of which, I have felt only once again in trying to give birth my son.

Afterward, while the stewardesses went about righting the cabin and checking to make sure that the passengers were outwardly OK, I was told that there had been some people who had gotten sick and little children who had cried while alarmed parents had held them as tight as they could to their sides. On deplaning I caught snippets of conversations from the other passengers - how horrible, said one lady to another, I know, I've never gone through anything like that in my life... I daresay it could turn me off of flying again... Vraiment effrayant (truly frightening) said one French stewardess to the other right before they pasted twin smiles of practiced happiness and delivered their goodbyes.

I walked out of that airplane with something more than just my carry-on and tattered nerves that day. Something that has settled deep within me with the passage of years. It took me a long time to understand that my initial discomfort with air turbulence has grown into an unchecked terror that threatens the peace of those around me and raises concerns in my impressionable child.

I really thought that I could handle this fear myself. I thought I could handle it when I commuted every weekend for a whole year from DC to Houston, and I've thought I could handle it whenever I've been on a plane that has experienced something other than a mild shake. Three weeks ago however, on a flight back from Washington, I found myself hyperventilating and holding on to my son's hand with the grip of death. I could tell from his frightened little face that he knew something awful was happening to me and it was scaring him terribly.

Trying to get some control, I resorted to my most trustworthy distraction - my husband's trick of transposing the letters in the names of states but, you will laugh, I knew I'd finally reached my limit when Alabama was no longer Abalama but a stuck course of ay! mama! and the tears leaked unchecked from my eyes. R's visible worry got through to me in the end. I could tell that I needed to somehow reassure him immediately and that gave me the strength to pretend that I was OK. It helped that the flight became steady again but deep down I knew that it no longer matters that I think my fear of turbulence is ridiculous. Because however ridiculous, it it is real to me and I cannot handle it on my own. I've tried, but I can't.

This is the first of my New Year's resolutions. To seek professional help in overcoming my fear of turbulence and halt it before it becomes a fear of flying altogether. I cannot allow that to happen. In this day and age, flying is like taking a taxi for my family. We fly out of Houston a minimum of 5 times a year if not more and I cannot tarnish my son's experience with airplanes through my own negligence in seeking help. I'll do whatever it takes to get a handle on it so that it may release its handle on me. I hope I may someday overcome it. Wish me luck and no turbulence in my upcoming trips at least and let me know if you, like me, have developed a fear of something you had once not feared at all.

During the last few days, I've been wishing to catch up with many of you but having family in the house has occupied most of my free time. Now that my father has left (he went back to Panama this morning) and R starts school again tomorrow, I will have time to do my blog rounds and see how you guys have been doing. Of my family, only my mother remains with me here now. She will rejoin my dad in Panama after nearly 6 months of being in the US helping my sister with her newborn child. Houston is her last stop before she goes home and I mean to enjoy these last two weeks of her company, because it will be three months before I get to see her again. Until then, please forgive the absences. Thank you again for all your kind well-wishes for 2009. I return them ten-fold.