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What’s your favorite childhood toy?
Mine’s the Transit of Venus Care Bear.
More elusive than the furtive Yeti of the Great White North, more wanderlust-y than Nessie of the Scottish lochs, the Transit of Venus Care Bear only appears once every 105 years. But don’t look directly at him! The Care Bear Stare’s* so bright that you gotta wear shades.
Last summer, Walt taught an astronomy class. This sparked (what I think will be) a lifetime interest in star-gazing. When we’re outside, his neck cranes upwards as soon as darkness descends. He looks for familiar constellations and contemplates the wonders of the universe, as I glance upwards occasionally while also keeping an eye out for oncoming cars. This is a good metaphor for our relationship.
This Tuesday marked the transit of Venus, a once-in-a-lifetime (twice, if you’re a super ager) occurrence where Venus travels across the sun, Earth’s closest star. (It’s flabbergasting to consider that Venus is 3.5x closer to our planet than Earth is to the sun!)
People all over the world set up special equipment or donned cardboard glasses to see the spectacle, including at the Stanford Student Observatory where astro enthusiasts brought telescopes and projection solar sun spotters. (Walt on his Care Bear-ish pic: “This has got to be the best photo of a concrete floor I’ve ever taken.”)
Here are some photos Walt took during the viewing:
I wasn’t able to make it up to the observatory in time, so Walt set up his astronomical binoculars for me in the flatlands of Menlo Park during the last hours of the transit. Here he is projecting the solar image onto a lens cap he’d crafted out of a Fat Tire container. (“Hey kids! If you want to make a binocular cover, just grab the closest beer cans and…” Just kidding. :))
By the way, my second favorite childhood toy is Teddy Ruxpin.
*If the Care Bear references didn’t make sense to you, you probably weren’t an American child growing up in the 80s. Here’s a writeup that might help, authored by some of the greatest literary minds in the world.
My South Pole Santa’s heading to Antarctica for an annual research expedition that, to my understanding, involves a ton of pub trivia, freshly baked cookies, and four square meals a day. (As far as I can tell, the only downside to being a South Pole researcher is that one of your fellow scientists might in fact be a parasitic extraterrestrial that yoinks your snickerdoodle.)
Last winter, his deployment date fell around his birthday so we celebrated the occasion with a surprise Antarctica-themed going away/birthday party.
(pics by Ingo of Jerry Yoon Photographers)
WELCOME SIGN: Welcome to Walt’s Totally Lovely Antarctic Wonderland. WALT TLAW is a magical, palindromic place with a name that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. But that’s okay, because if you rolled your tongue out in WALT TLAW, it might get stuck on a flagpole. We hope you enjoy your stay! And please–DO NOT eat the yellow snow.
MENU: During your visit, you’re invited to:
**Hope aboard the POLAR BRIE EXPRESS (raspberry jam and baked Brie)
**Hunt for the EMPANADOMINABLE SNOWMAN (spiced beef empanadas)
**Ski alongide SOUTHPOLE CHICKIES (tequila-lime wings)
**Cozy up under our FIGS IN A BLANKET (prosciutto-wrapped figs)
**Take a stroll in our WINTER GARDEN (arugula and beet salad)
**Ride an ICICLE BUILT FOR TWO (white chocolate pretzel sticks)
**Pan for YUKON GOLD NUGGETS (seasoned potato wedges)
**Join the MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (vanilla cupcakes)
**Lob some ITALIAN SNOWBALLS (fresh mozzarella with herbs)
Here are some penguin cupcakes bringing home the catch of the day (gummy fishies), as inspired by Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. These penguins were made with vanilla cupcakes, frosting, a splash of black food coloring, marshmallows, yellow Starbursts, chocolate cookies, and mini chocolate chips.
These “icicles” are homemade white chocolate-covered pretzel rods with crushed almonds. The rock candy sticks were just a nickel at Michael’s.
It rained the day of the party so this abominable snowbeast pinata currently resides in my bedroom, along with a mysteriously diminishing supply of candy.
The snowflake pendants were made with a Gocco, a Japanese screen-printing machine. The mantel was decorated with books designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, Rosanna ceramics, and hydrangeas in a Spanish glass vase.
My friend Joelle baked a pistachio ice cream cake, and I made laminated mini flags to decorate her delicious creation. The cake represents Antarctica and the flags represent the 12 signatory states of the Antarctic Treaty. Did you know that there are two South Poles? There’s the Ceremonial South Pole and the Geographic South Pole. The Geographic South Pole is repositioned every New Year’s Day to account for the shifting of the ice during the prior year.
(pic by Steve Spiker of Stealing Beauty Photography)
Walt’s mom lent me some childhood photos for the party (as well as the episode of Super Sloppy Double Dare that Walt appeared on when he was a kid!).
This eco-friendly chandelier’s made out of tissue paper and coffee filters and strung underneath the real chandelier.
A friend from college recently commissioned me for an art project. R. wanted to give her husband a gift she’d been thinking about for a few years. She asked if I could draw a map that commemorated her and her husband’s courtship during their student days at Berkeley. (She thought of me because of a journal I’d made for her in 2004 that featured the Phantom Tollbooth map as well as some personal projects I’d made in 2005 that were inspired by Stephannie Barba’s wedding maps.) She provided a list of symbols (as well as the story behind each), and together we worked through a few rough drafts.
I started the final draft at my housemate’s new art studio space in San Francisco’s SoMa district. (She’s got a wall of windows overlooking the Bay — and a Philz Coffee across the street to boot — a perfect recipe for creativity!) That same day, my own beau and I worked on a birthday gift for our favorite seven-year-old.
This past weekend, on our way down to Santa Cruz, Walt and I stopped by San Jose to drop off the drawing in person.
Drawing is an area where Ingo really shines (I’m more a crafter), but these projects were definitely fun to create and a great way to get the creative juices flowing. And it was fantastic connecting with old friends and collaborating with my best boy!