Thursday, May 29, 2008

From the fortune cookie: Choices

Originally uploaded by desireux

"Life is a series of choices. Today yours are good ones."

Well, tonight I decided not to make any pop-up cards, but instead edit and upload some macro photos of flowers and dandelions I took on my way back from lab yesterday. They are available here. And now I'm going to relax and continue reading Seth Godin's latest book- Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync? for half an hour before I sleep. How nice :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oh Cupcake!

Oh Cupcake!
Originally uploaded by desireux

It's full blown cupcake fever. It started with my Strawberry Cupcake Pop-Up card, then a friend told me about this new cupcake store in downtown Champaign, to a "date" to make cupcakes for lab next Thursday (I'm so excited!), and a request for a cupcake pop-up card for birthday invitations ... and finally my first treasury which of course is about cupcakes! Here's my treasury Oh Cupcake!.

So, for those of you who don't know, a treasury is a curated collection of items from Etsy sellers. You can select the featured items according to a theme, or just include your favorite items. Anyone with an Etsy account can curate a treasury as explained here. I've always heard stories about people trying really hard to snag a treasury because you have to wait till some treasuries expire and the number falls below 333, but today, I was just browsing through and saw that it was going to happen in about 5 minutes! So, I just left my window open and lo and behold I managed to get one. It was really quite fun choosing the cupcakes to be in my treasury and I would probably try to get another treasury in the future.


Originally uploaded by desireux

So what did I do for my birthday? I spent most of the night curled up in bed reading a present from a friend~ the book Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I went to watch the movie a few weeks ago and loved the story, especially the graphics, so I was very pleasantly surprised when she gave me the book this morning. What a thoughtful present! It was raining so I picked the book up and finished it in one sitting. It is a comic book, and through her strong, unique illustrations and dialogs, Satrapi tells her story about growing up in Iran during the years of upheaval. It is a very poignant story, and she portrays a whole range of emotions threaded out with just the right amount of raw humor, making this book one of the best books I've read in a long time. The book is available here and this is the here if you are interested.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Strawberry Frosted Cupcake

Strawberry Frosted Cupcake
Originally uploaded by desireux

Maybe my subconscious mind is telling me I miss the kitchen? I think the last dessert I baked was a cheesecake more than a year ago. Lately, I have been spending a little bit more time in the kitchen cooking dinners as opposed to eating out so maybe, just maybe.. I might bake something.

Anyway, this is my latest design. There's even a lemon creme one too! I'm thinking of "baking" some other flavors too depending on how well these are received. Rich chocolate, blueberry jam ... what would you like to have?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sometimes you need to slow down.

Originally uploaded by desireux

I seldom write about science, but this is special. I'm writing about the most annoying buffer to make: 5x Maleic Acid Buffer (MAB). Hopefully, these tips will spare some other graduate student some grief.

The thing about MAB buffer is that it starts of with a very low pH and you have to add sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to bring it up to around 7.5. This takes quite a lot of NaOH, but, once it reaches a certain point, the pH will increase very drastically. So yesterday, I was at around pH 7.0 and up to that point, adding about 5 pellets of NaOH would increase the pH by about 0.2. However, I found out the hard way that adding 5 pellets of NaOH to the solution when it was at 7.0 brought it up to 8.45!

This was not the first time though :) It has happened before, but MAB lasts quite long so each time I make it, I forget my "mistake" and repeat it. This time I made BIG BOLD notes beside my recipe. It will not happen again.

However, if this happens to you, fear not, just calculate the reagents needed for an extra 0.2 L and proceed with the pHing process as usual.

And here are some observations when I did mine:

The solution will be warm and cloudy. It will clear up at around pH 6.0. At this stage, the pH is still quite stable. From around 6.7, addition of 1 pellet of NaOH will bring the pH up 0.1.

At around pH 7.0, go VERY slowly, because the pH increases drastically at this point. It took just one pellet to go from 7.0 to 7.17 and another pellet to go to 7.4.

*Also, I've noticed that MAB can go bad easily if contaminated so I always aliquot it into a small bottle which I use from*

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thinking outside the box

Happy Father's Day
Originally uploaded by desireux

This design was quite a tricky one. It looks simple, just like the Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary ones but initially the little apostrophe gave me some trouble.

For my pop-ups, I like to have my cut outs well anchored so they do not "hang freely". In this case, if I did a normal [ 's ] like the rest of the fonts, the apostrophe would only be joined to the top and if you can imagine, it would be able to swing up and down because it is not connected to the bottom. This creates a problem especially when you close the card because it can get squashed.

So, I was thinking of different ways to remedy it.. which led to complex ideas like using string to connect it! Then someone made a casual comment about thinking outside the box, and the 'aha' moment came soon after that. The current design completely by passes the freely hanging apostrophe, and looks rather charming too! It's not too cute for a man, and retains the elegance of this design. Reminds me of the sweetheart candy too :)

This card is available at if you would like to get one for your dad this Father's Day.