In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
Some great ideas by the Nielsen Group on improving the userbase of your website.
Browsing for some design inspiration on Oh So Beautiful Paper, I came across a post on wedding menus that reminded me of my own wedding menu I happily designed to be a “cootie catcher” or what I remember being an origami fortune teller from grade school. While I intentionallydidn’t design it with flourish or ornamentation, the design was elegant enough for the DIY feel we had to the whole affair.
The best picture I could find of the actual menu we made is to the right (click to enlarge), but I do have the original Adobe Illustrator file and I thought I would pass it on to all the brides and grooms who are doing it all themselves and want a starting point. Without further adieu, you can download the full Adobe Illustrator file here.
If you’re interested in having me design something similar for your own wedding or other significant event, reach out and get in touch!
So there is no real connection between web design and technology to the alchemy and work involved in baking cakes, but there is the overwhelming power of Google and the ability to scour for information on topics you wouldn’t normally think about.
I recently had adopted the challenge of my one-year old’s first birthday cake and while I’m normally an organic/hormone-free/free-range health-food nut, this kind of exercise always serves as carte-blanche for getting dirty with food-coloring, pounds and pounds of sugar, and lots of butter. I write to echo some of my findings from a great wealth of resources and elaborate beyond the space of a comment box on most of the blogs and websites that I found so much information.
Everyone needs a little fondant
It’s amazing what many have managed to mold out of sugar, water, and a little bit of gelatin. The fondant recipe at TheCookDuke.com produced the most consistent and reliable base white fondant that was perfect to play and mold with. I’ve pasted it below BUT because of personal preferences I removed the vegetable shortening and replaced it with pure coconut oil. The key to the coconut oil is that it is solid at room temperature. This gives the fondant the ideal composition of being pliable but firm and not sticky like moist pizza dough.
Three important tips before we move to the actual “how to make fondant” instructions and the fondant recipe:
- When you make fondant, both the dough and the icing, make sure to make it in room temperature – Too cold or too warm room will hurt the dough
- When you calculate the quantity of fondant icing required, it’s better to have too much fondant icing rather than too little, as leftover icing can be stored and used at a later date, or used for extra decorations
- Make sure you make fondant on a clean and smooth working surface. Jewelry on your fingers or wrists or fluffy clothing could hurt the fondant’s surface.
Ingredients required to make the fondant recipe:
- 1 Tbsp of unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup of cold water1 tsp of almond extract
- 1/2 cup of light corn syrup (If a corn syrup is not available, you can substitute it with a sugar syrup made with 1-1/4 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water, boiled together until syrupy)
- 1 Tbsp of glycerin (some recipes say it’s optional, believe me, it’s a must)
- 2 lbs 10X confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 tsp of
white vegetable shortening coconut oil
Directions how to make the fondant recipe:
- Sprinkle the gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and let it rest for 2 minutes to soften
- Place the bowl in a microwave for 30 seconds on High, until the gelatin dissolves
- Add the Almond extract
- Add the corn syrup and the glycerin and stir until the mixture is smooth and clear (if the mixture is not turning smooth and clear, microwave it for an additional 15 to 20 seconds on high and stir again)
- Sift 1 1/2 pounds of the sugar into a large bowl
- Make a hole in the sugar and pour the liquid mixture to it
- Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes sticky
- Sift some of the remaining 1/2 pound of sugar onto a smooth work surface and add as much of the remaining sugar as the mixture will takeKnead the fondant, adding a little more sugar if necessary, to form a smooth, pliable mass
- Rub the vegetable shortening on your thumbs and knead it into the fondant
- Wrap the fondant in plastic wrap and place it in a tightly sealed container to prevent it from drying out
- If the icing dries out and harden it can often be revived by popping it into a microwave oven for a few seconds and then kneading it back to life
To color the fondant, plan on using your typical and somewhat unhealthy artificial food coloring that’s available at most supermarkets. If you do want to go the healthy alternative route, you can find plant-based natural food coloring on Amazon.com.
The cake foundation
Last but not least, you’ll likely need a firm basic cake to lay our fondant masterpiece on, especially if you’re stacking layers. I used the Basic Yellow Cake recipe from Wilton.com as the foundation for the giraffe “masterpiece” you see above. Per the comments of several other reviewers of that recipe, my version also came out strangely similar to corn bread but once I added cream cheese frosting and did a version using lighter cake flour, it came out as good as I would hope for on my second cake. I hope this helps all would-be one-year-old-birthday-cake bakers out there.
We sometimes forget how powerful our little Macs our – forget about the Terminal command, but simply through the power of Automator. I needed to convert 237 images from PDFs to JPEGs for web use and amazingly Photoshop & sister app Bridge (both CS3) were completely unhelpful. No combination of batch actions, droplets, image processor routines, etc. were good or smart at opening the PDFs at a pre-specified resolution and saving as a JPEG, thereafter.
I came up with an Automator routine, which did all of this and worked in under a minute, so I’m posting it as a screenshot here as a guide for others that may find themselves in similar situations. It’s useful to note that after running any rendering change to passed files in Automator, the files are sometimes saved to the/tmp/ directory and not the passed folder, so you need to specify a Copy Finder Items steps and an output folder.
From Ira Glass . . .
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through”
Thanks to John McWade at Before & After
It’s a total confidence booster when a client tells you they love you enough that they want to come back for more work on their site. Even moreso, when they have minor requests and give you carte-blanche to improve the issues that have cropped up since the site went live and they have used it fulltime. With that, Cheryl Wills wanted to update the site for her book as she is gearing up with more and more press, and an increasing number of traffic spikes. Continue reading