Six-sided snowflakes

If there's one thing my dad couldn't stand it was a square snowflake. Snowflakes are hexagonal crystals, you know, which means for accuracy you need to fold your snowflake paper to have six sides, not four or eight. Do you know how to do this? I always used to forget. So here is your handy guide. Make my dad proud.

First, fold the paper [by the way, it's much easier if you use tissue paper or some other thin paper!] diagonally to make a square (above) and cut off the too-long end:
Then fold it about one-third of the way in (from the center of the bottom side of the triangle) like so.
Fold the other side in so the paper is now folded in thirds. If you miscalculated your first fold, you can adjust it here so that each third is equal. 

Now fold in half (lengthwise). Like this:
 
When you open it up you can see that part of the paper is shorter.  Re-fold and cut the whole snowflake off across this line so that all of the sides are the same length. 

Like this:
Lovely!  Now you are ready to cut patterns in it!
2

Snowflakes

We had such a great time making paper snowflakes last year that we could hardly wait to do it again.  Last time we were all a little sad to take them down ("Shouldn't we SAVE them?") but we knew it would be more fun just to make more.  And finally we did.
Seb and Abe were both really impressive cutters this year.  I couldn't believe how good their snowflakes were.  And Ky, amazingly, thought gathering scraps into little piles was the best job of all, and was content to do that all the time we were cutting.  There were scraps everywhere---it looked like it really had snowed in the kitchen.

Some of my favorite creations this year:
 Sun/wheel

 Bunnies

Above you can see the snowman/antler design on top, and then we have the ornament/six-pack ring in the center bottom.  Plus one of Abe's on the left, and one of Seb's on the right.

 Abe's rockets---big and small.  Can you see both?  Some look like the space shuttle ("with fire coming out") and others are rockets on the launch pad.

 One of Sebby's snowflakes on the left (amazing!) and spiderweb on the right

 Christmas trees and star (Abe)

 Lace---and are those some of those optical illusion face/vases? (What theory of perception is that? Gestalt?)

 Spirals and star

Owls---or should I say, snowls?
5

Losing

I hate it.  But sharing the pain with others who understand . . . helps.

So, this helped:  Levels of losing.

I've experienced most of these.  Last Saturday's football game combined about 5 of them in one game.

And now we will move on.
1

Thanksgiving

We had Thanksgiving Dinner at our house this year (18 people) and I cooked a turkey for the first time ever. As a woman of mature years, I felt it was time to be the host.  And I loved (nearly) every minute of it. I had everything planned out on a spreadsheet (that's right) so I knew what time to start doing what. Two columns; one for my duties, one for Sam's. We are a good team.  I love cooking and planning with him (and even cleaning, and the kids were great helpers).

Everyone I talked to was falling all over themself to help me learn the secrets of roasting turkey.  I brined it the night before (doesn't that sound fancy) and it made the meat really tender.  And it was done cooking two hours earlier than anticipated (thank you, convection oven) which was great but I worried it might not be hot enough? or something.  But it was delicious.  Next time I'll know I don't need to allow so much time.

What else did we cook? Mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, carrot soufflĂ©, homemade rolls (my favorite part of Thanksgiving), roasted asparagus. (Abe nearly froze his hands off in our backyard, digging out some fresh herbs from under 14 inches of snow.  But he got the rosemary and it was delicious. :))  Our guests brought stuffing and cranberry-marshmallow salad and green beans.  It was all so tasty.
And then pie, of course.  I like to have a surplus, an abundance, a wealth of pies.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of all the pies lined up.  They were lovely.  I made this pumpkin praline cheesecake (with gingersnap crust, yum) and our old favorite chocolate chip cookie pie.  My sister-in-law brought apple pie and vanilla cream and chocolate cream pies, and my mother-in-law brought pumpkin cake with whipped cream.  It was perfect.
I thought it looked really beautiful with all the dishes out and the Fall colors and everything, although as I look at these pictures it doesn't really seem that impressive.  And I forgot to get flowers for the table (I meant to) but, oh well, it was pretty anyway.  I got to use the turkey tablecloth Beth gave me years ago and I've never used because I'm always at someone else's house for Thanksgiving. 

I love pretty dishes and silverware and paper lanterns and good food and having people over, so this was pretty much an ideal day for me and I'm happy I got to do it!
5

Now I might as happy be as earth is beautiful

Here is an October Poem for you.  It's one I love, because it captures so well the strange sadness that comes over me in the Fall.  I love the colors and the leaves and the gold light on the mountains, but there's this feeling of loss and endings and passings-on that I can never shake. 

I remember Leslie Norris reading Edward Thomas to us fairly often---Thomas was also Welsh---and his poems always seemed to have a touch of sadness to them.  To me it seemed like he must have had some premonition of his own death (he died in combat in World War I), but then, I guess it doesn't take any special foreknowledge to be aware of or disturbed by the relentless march of time.  Especially in the Fall, when the coming winter looms so large and un-ignorable.

First I love Thomas's comparison of Fall and Spring; the realization that, taken out of context, Fall's changes are just as "fresh" and "new" as spring.  It's only what comes next that makes them endings instead of beginnings.  And I love the balance he finds in the season---"the touch is not more cool / Than it is warm to the gaze"---because I always notice that too: the coolness of the air balanced with the warmth of the colors, like the extremes of the summer are finally being moderated.  Like we're being compensated somehow, or given an extra measure of beauty to bear us up during the winter to come.

I love the line, "now I might / As happy be as earth is beautiful / Were I some other or with earth could turn / In alternation of violet and rose."  I guess that is the problem: that as a prisoner of mortality, I know everything is changing, time is passing, my children are growing up and away, my body is slowly breaking down---but unlike the changes of the seasons, these changes are irreversible and permanent.  There's no coming "spring" on which to fix our hopes through the dark winter of change, no restarting point where things will go back to the way they once were.  And that's why we can't just enjoy the Autumn, carefree and heedless of what's to come.  We know each year brings a death of what was---a place we can never really return to. 

But then that last quatrain brings a sudden and surprising insight.  Here Thomas suggests that maybe true happiness comes WITH and BECAUSE OF this very melancholy:  in the contemplation of change and the realization of impermanence, in spite of the pain such thoughts bring.  "But if this be not happiness, --who knows? / Some day I shall think this a happy day."  Doesn't it remind you of "for if they never should have the bitter they could not know the sweet"?  After bringing back all our deepest fears of change and getting old and dying, Thomas suddenly forces us to ask ourselves if we would have it any other way.  If we really could change back and forth with the seasons, alternating between new and old, "violet and rose," would we ever feel we had actually progressed?  Would we be able to appreciate the times past, if we knew we could re-live them at any point?  Would we value rebirth without the death that comes before it?

All right.  Enough analysis: now, the poem.
October

The green elm with the one great bough of gold
Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one, --
The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,
Harebell and scabious and tormentil,
That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,
Bow down to; and the wind travels too light
To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;
The gossamers wander at their own will.
At heavier steps than birds' the squirrels scold.

The rich scene has grown fresh again and new
As Spring and to the touch is not more cool
Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might
As happy be as earth is beautiful,
Were I some other or with earth could turn
In alternation of violet and rose,
Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,
And gorse that has no time not to be gay.
But if this be not happiness, --who knows?
Some day I shall think this a happy day,
And this mood by the name of melancholy
Shall no more blackened and obscured be.

---Edward Thomas
7

Important Bulletin

You should know (as I just found out) that today is National Chocolate Day.

When I think of chocolate, this is what I think of.  This cake.  Sebby Cake, to be precise.  [It is called Sebby Cake (stop me if you've heard this before) because the first time I ever tasted it, I promptly went into labor with Sebastian.  Meaning, perhaps, that he couldn't wait to get out and be part of a world that included this cake.  And who can blame him?  We took it to the hospital with us, where it made a very nice post-labor meal.]  Have I really not posted this recipe before?  It's one of our very favorites.  Easy, and delicious.  Please try it.  For me?  For National Chocolate Day?  You'll not be sorry.


Chocolate Sebby Cake

1 Devil’s food cake mix
1 small package chocolate pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 c. sour cream (or, I use plain yogurt)
½ c. warm water
½ c. canola oil
1 to 1 ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips (mini chips work well, but regular are fine)

Mix all ingredients. Pour into sprayed bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. After 10 minutes turn out of pan and drizzle immediately with frosting.

Frosting:
1 1/3 c. chocolate chips
2/3 c. evaporated milk

Combine chocolate chips with about 1/4 c. milk in glass bowl; microwave on high for 1 min.; stir till smooth. Then add rest of milk to reach desired consistency.

Lemon variation: Use lemon cake and lemon instant pudding. ½ c. poppyseeds instead of chocolate chips. Drizzle with glaze made from lemon juice and powdered sugar.

5

Random Thoughts

I can think of few things worse than having to exercise while someone yells, "YEAH LADIES!  WORK IT!  WOOOO!" at me.

It may be a cliche, but old people really do just want to talk about their health problems all the time.  (As an honorary old person, I'm not meaning to criticize.  Maybe I'll understand someday.)

I'm glad I don't have to teach my children another language so they can read the scriptures.

Sometimes having access to too much information on a subject is just as discouraging as having not enough.

We finally saw How to Train Your Dragon, and I liked it, but I couldn't help thinking it was strange to make a movie where the moral was, "If you'll just take the time and effort to get to know the big scary monsters you'll find they're actually not that bad!  Except for the biggER scariER monster of course; he's exactly what he seems so just go ahead and kill him right off."
5

Maple Canyon

I love warm days in the Fall.  I can do without the "hint of chill" everyone's always raving about (unless that means temperatures in the 70s, in which case, I agree).  It's fun to go places that we went last year, and see how different the colors are this year.  I guess all the variables---temperature, amount of water, root systems?, etc.---make for an endlessly variable Autumn display, and I love it.

I was saying to Sam, I used to think the leaves with spots and speckles on them weren't as pretty as the more flawless specimans.  But now I love that kind of variety, too---the leaves with holes eaten through them, the spotted ones, the ones that are half red and half green.  I love the distant views, where you just get the full impression of the colored trees like streaks of paint on the mountain, and also the close views, where you can see each color in each leaf.  I think I will never get tired of it.

(Not Maple Canyon, but pretty)

1

In the spotlight

Hey!  Here's one of Sam's book covers finally out!

I would like to draw your attention to the words "The Secret Life of".  Do you recognize that handwriting?  That's right, it's Marilynhand.  (I think he modified the "S" a bit, though; it doesn't look quite right.)  Still, doesn't the font convey just the right amount of playful casualness while still being neat and readable?  The cover, honestly, wouldn't be the same without it.  I haven't seen my share of the royalties yet, though.  Sam?
6

sigh.

Abe brought this test home from school the other day.  Now please believe that I always try not to be crochety about spelling (no correlation between that and intelligence, etc. etc., as Mr. Rutter always pointed out) and I really do understand that we all make stupid writing mistakes sometimes (especially when working fast---trying to get through lots of papers---etc.).  I've never wanted to be the all-knowing grammar snob (at least not openly), because I've got enough flaws/blind spots of my own, and I try to remember that.  But . . . "YOUR so smart"??  And this isn't the first time I've seen his teacher make that particular mistake.  As well as their/they're.  And it just makes me a tiny bit sad, because these are not really difficult concepts, right?  Contractions vs. possessives?  Certainly not un-learnable, with a bit of effort.  And they're things I'd really like Abe to have a grasp of.  But how will he if even his teachers don't?  And WHY don't his teachers?  They have college degrees, they're smart and capable.  So . . . why?  Of course I wouldn't say anything about it to the teacher.  But I'm silently (not so silently now, I guess) disappointed.
9

On the hill's shoulder

  A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
  Blackbirds and the sun of October
     Summery
   On the hill’s shoulder. 
That Dylan Thomas, he's something.  And you know what else was something?  These aspen trees.  I was astonished to see RED and ORANGE aspens among the usual golds up the canyon.  I didn't know such a thing was possible!  I sent Sam scrambling up hill and down gully to retrieve me a single leaf from each tree for closer inspection, because I couldn't believe my eyes.  But indeed, they were all aspens---just multicolored.  Amazing.
 Orange!  Orange!  Orange!

4

Some say the world will end in fire

On Sunday we finally got up into the canyon (helping to slightly calm down the frantic urgency I feel this time of year--knowing there are so many beautiful things to see, and not wanting to miss ANY OF IT).  Once we got up there, it was so peaceful.  We drove way up (the colors are not too bright down lower, yet) and found a beautiful place for a picnic.  A bit hard to climb into holding babies and cakes and so forth, but worth it for its seclusion and wildness.
The late afternoon light was perfect.  It made the gold leaves even golder.  (Golder?)

It looks like Sam is performing some strange and sacred baby-centered ritual here.  Blessed by the sun god.  I love the underbrush around the rocks---so colorful!
3

Symbiosis: Ice cream and angel food cake

Blackberry ice cream

I have two recipes for you today.  One of them is really just a variant on the vanilla bean ice cream I posted about last year.  But since it's still summery outside, you still have time to use your late-summer berries (and your vanilla beans---Beth) to make Berry ice cream.  Oh, it's so good.  I like the tart berry flavor combined with the sweet custard of the ice cream.

I've tried this with both blackberries and raspberries, and I like the raspberry flavor best.  But both are so nice, honey.

Berry Ice Cream (recipe from here)

4 cups fresh blackberries or raspberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 1 T. vanilla or vanilla bean paste)
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice.* Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice/puree as possible. Set aside.

*Another method I've used is simply to puree the sugar, berries, and lemon in a blender.  Then put them through a strainer to remove some of the seeds.  With the raspberries, I've never been able to remove ALL the seeds (my strainer is not fine enough), but I still think it improves the ice cream to have fewer seeds.

2. Heat half-and-half, 1 cup sugar, and seeds from vanilla bean in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is very hot---not quite boiling.

3. Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

4. Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

5. Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk/half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat until quite thick and pudding-y, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer, then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.

6. Add blackberry juice/puree to the cream/custard mixture and stir. Chill mixture completely, then freeze in an ice cream maker until thick. Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

Raspberry Ice Cream

"But!" you protest.  "What am I to do with all the egg whites I have left over when I make this ice cream?"  Ah yes, that's just what I worry about whenever I use egg yolks.  And here is the solution: angel food cake.  It's not hard to make (if you have a stand mixer to beat your egg whites, and an angel food cake pan) and it's SO good.  Good with the ice cream, if you wish; certainly with berries; and (my favorite) with lemon curd.  We ate some on a picnic the other day, and it was a perfect picnic food---it transports easily, and you can pick it up with your hands and dip it in the lemon curd without ever needing a plate or a fork.

Frankly, I've always been a fan of cake mixes.  They work so well (one of my Home Ec. teachers at BYU told us that when they were testing kitchen appliances/equipment at Underwriter's Lab, they had to stop using cake mixes because you just can't mess them up) and they're easy and they're just as good as (most) cakes from scratch I've made.  But . . . I think I must change my tune with this recipe.  It's incredibly light and fluffy, but it also has more depth and moistness than the cake-mix angel food.  It's spongy, but not stretchy.  Hard to describe.  I LOVE it, anyway.

This calls for lots of egg whites---10 or 12 of them.  I happened to be making great quantities of ice cream recently, so I had enough egg whites left over from the yolks I'd used.  But if you're making just a single batch of ice cream, you'll have to supplement with additional egg whites.  Which will leave you with yolks left over.  Which will necessitate you soon making MORE ice cream.  WHERE WILL IT END??!  But it's not a problem you mind having, right?


Angel Food Cake (recipe from here)

1 1/2 c. egg whites (10-12), at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 c. sifted cake flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 t. almond extract

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 c. sugar and cake flour.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites in stand mixer until frothy, then add cream of tartar and salt.  Beat until fully mixed, and then add the remaining 3/4 c. sugar 1-2 T. at a time.  When sugar has been added, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  (They will look like soft waves, and when you lift the beaters, the egg whites will droop back down into the batter---not fall down in ribbons.)  Once you have soft peaks, add vanilla and almond and beat for a few seconds to distribute.

Sift the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites in 6-8 additions and gently fold it in after each addition.  Do it with a spatula and be very slow and gentle so as not to deflate the eggs.

Spoon batter into a 9-inch tube pan with a removeable bottom.  Smooth the top with a spatula and bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes.

Remove from oven, invert pan over a bottle, and allow to cool completely.  Gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom, of the pan to release the cake when you are ready to serve it.  Slice with a serrated bread knife, and serve with berries, cream, or lemon curd.

2

Moments


I can't even remember where I first ran into this video (Sam?), but every time I watch it, it makes me so thoughtful.  It's just so strange to think that all these little everyday things, accumulated, are what make up a life.  The things you've done so many times and never really even thought about---like the girl hooking up her bra strap.  I mean, I've done that every day for so many years now; I don't even think about it, but I see that motion and I can FEEL it in my arms---and this is something that is now part of the mosaic of my life.  And turning the page of a book.  How many times have I done that?  Millions?  Then there's the kid slamming a locker.  I used to do that several times a day.  Now I haven't done it for years.  But it's so familiar.  Or the frisbee landing on the roof---I see that and think, "yeah!  I know that feeling!"---even though again, it's been years.  All these moments and motions, so different, some significant and some so insignificant---but they're all equally part of our mortal experience. 

I guess that what's so fascinating to me about this train of thought.  What is going to characterize my life, when I'm looking back on it someday?  I mean, of course it will be the kids and the milestones and the challenges and so forth.  I have those important moments in my memory: the moment of release in childbirth; looking at my dad's body in his coffin; watching the sunset over the cliffs in England. But also in that kaleidoscope of memory, and just as real, are those moments of midnight waking, my eyes blinking open to the dark.  Brushing my hair out of my eyes as I run.  Cracking an egg.  Stumbling over the edge of a curb.  Sliding the clasp around to the back of my necklace.  Which moments make me ME?  It has to be ALL of them, right?  Doesn't that fascinate you?  Doesn't it make you glad to be a living person, who gets to experience all these things?
4

Miscellany

This girl is growing up, and she's silly.


The doctor thinks my friend has narcolepsy because she can fall asleep within 5 minutes at any given time.  Which seems silly, because do you know anyone with young kids who can't do that?  It's too bad though, because I've always wanted to know someone with narcolepsy.

Have you ever bought vanilla beans?  No, right?  Because they cost like $10.95 each in the spice section?  [People I have given vanilla beans as gifts to: Stop reading here.  Don't worry, I spent lots of money on your present.  Because I care about you.]  Here's my favorite place to get them---they're 1/10th the price, and they're awesome.  You can try all sorts of different types, if you're into that sort of thing.  I also really like the vanilla bean paste.  http://www.beanilla.com/

Also, here is a service I, too, like to provide for others.
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