Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comic-con

We spent a few days in San Diego last weekend for Sam to do some art demos at Comic-Con.  It was more of a business trip than I'd hoped (long hours inside the windowless, airless convention center, pushing a baby around in the stroller and trying to get her to fall asleep, or at least stop screaming)---but still really fun, and lots of interesting things to see.

We made it out to the beach a couple times.  The weather wasn't super warm but the waves were really big, and pretty.  Daisy was really nervous because they were so loud, but she cheered up once she was able to eat some sand.

The convention was pretty fun.  There were probably lots of things wasted on me (I kept seeing crowds congregate excitedly to see various celebrities who I didn't recognize/hadn't heard of, and I saw lots of costumes that left me quite confused) but the enthusiasm of it all was kind of infectious.  I did have to speak sternly to Sam when he slipped into calling it "Con" ["That shows a level of familiarity with all this I'm just not comfortable with, dear"].*  

*It's not because I'm too cool that I'm clueless about all of this comic-con stuff, by the way. I'm just nerdy in totally different arenas, that's all.

Sam divided his time between doing painting demonstrations and art critiques at two different booths, both of which were more towards the fine art side than the comics/pop-culture side of the spectrum, so I was kind of surprised at the big crowds that gathered to watch him.  He even had some fans of his blog that came just to see him.  Cool.  I love watching Sam work and could have happily stayed there for all 5 hours every day, listening to him discuss techniques and art principles.
Daisy's attention was less rapt, however, so we spent most of our time wandering the exhibit hall.  The crowds were huge, but it's not too hard to drift through them if you don't care where you're going or how fast you get there.  (Also, Daisy's crying occasionally acted as a siren, clearing a way for us.)  I didn't get pictures of even a fraction (well, I guess a fraction, but a very small one) of the costumes.  Half of them I had no idea what they were.  Half were very skimpy.  Half were Star Wars (Princess Leia's prisoner-of- Jabba-the-Hut cotsume was a popular one) and half were just . . . strange.  That's a lot of halves.  There was a truly excellent Indiana Jones and Indy's Father (honestly, I was sure it must be Sean Connery himself, except that he was too young) I didn't get a picture of.  I also really liked the pac-man guys.
All the displays at the Lego booth were cool.  They had big life-size Toy Story and Harry Potter guys, too.

The signs outside the convention center were weird, like this:
and when I pointed them out to Sam he said, "Oh, those are in Klingon."  I expressed some surprise at his familiarity with the Klingon tongue, to which he replied, "Well, I knew it would be Klingon or Elvish, and I knew it wasn't Elvish, so . . . "

Everyone we encountered loved Daisy.  You could tell it made some people (people who are not used to thinking about babies or cuteness at all---people dressed in black leather and chains and so forth) a little uncomfortable how cute she was.  But they found themselves smiling at her and talking to her anyway.  She charmed everyone.  My favorite was the guy who spent 15 minutes talking to her through the medium of his Yoda puppet.  "Much older than you am I, young one!  Nine hundred years old, I am!"  She bore it with patience.

We did manage to get up to Balboa Park for a morning, and see some pretty daisies (really interesting plantings; they were all different heights creating an undulating, wave-like effect) and other gardens.  I could spend all day in the rose garden there.  Beautiful.

We also ate at the same harbor-side restaurant we ate at on our honeymoon, nine years and four children ago.  It was really lovely in the evenings.  A bit chilly, but such gorgeous light.

So there you have it.  "Con" 2010.  Did YOU know that was Klingon?  If so . . . see you there next year? :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Camp

 
I spent most of last week at Camp with twenty-one adorable young women.  It was SO beautiful.  Ever since I was a young woman myself, I have loved to go out running early so I can watch the sun come up (and enjoy the sweet, sweet quiet before the girls awaken).  When I came up over the top of a rise to see the valley just beginning to lighten below me, I'm afraid I may have started to sound like this guy. (Luckily there was no one around to hear.) 
There were lots of wildflowers.  I wish I'd had a book so I could identify them all, but I recognized columbines, forget-me-nots, sweet peas, lupines, and Queen Anne's lace.  These columbines were so pretty all by themselves in the greenery.

Lupines.  I planted some of these in my yard this year.

The sunsets were just as pretty as the sunrises.  I only wish I could have taken a picture of the starry skies!

[And just in case you're wondering where all the pictures of girls posing with flexed muscles and wearing underwear over their jeans are; don't worry, I have those too.]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is how it went.

First, Daisy opened the cupboard.  Then she got in the cupboard.  Then she carefully and systematically threw everything out.
Then Malachi got very worried and started to cry.  Then Abey got Daisy out.  Then Daisy got very sad and started to cry.
Then Abey helped Malachi barricade the cupboard with a chair.
And Sebby made a little bed for his monkeys.

I made a salad with one million things in it.  Sprouts, asparagus, avacado, cucumbers, almonds, feta.
And then Sam came home and we went swimming.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A whiff of scandal

Snoofing
One of my aunts doesn't have a sense of smell.  I can't remember if she lost it in some sickness or if she was born that way.  It doesn't seem like one of those things that would come up in everyday conversation a lot, but whenever she was at our house when I was young, I found myself repeatedly and irresistably drawn to the delicate subject: "Mmmm, look at those beautiful lilacs; don't you just love the . . . smell . . . of . . . sorry."  (I was infected with a similar conversational magnetism, regarding sounds, whenever my deaf cousin visited.  What an awkward child I must have been.)

Anyway, smell.  It's not the worst sense to lose, perhaps.  Perhaps you think in a household of three little boys it's no serious loss at all.  But Sam has lost his, and it definitely has its drawbacks.  For one thing I can't have him smell things in the fridge for me to see if they've gone bad (one of his former Household Duties).  His mom suggested that Sam should hereafter have to change all messy diapers, which is a good idea, but since he doesn't smell them he also doesn't feel any URGENCY about them.  Likewise about taking out smelly garbage bags.  He says he sometimes senses "a change in the air" if some smell is particularly strong, but that's not a real catalyst for action, if you know what I mean.

And I also feel bad for him, not being able to smell the GOOD smells---and there are LOTS of good smells around here, mostly of things baking, yum. 

And in only slightly related news, Daisy likes to wrinkle up her nose and snoof at us.  Whereupon we all snoof energetically back.  It's quite a sight.  You ought to see it.  (If you can see, that is.  If not, please forgive my indelicacy.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homemade Twix


Sam loves Twix.  So for Father's Day, the boys and I decided to make him these homemade Twix bars I'd seen recipes for.  (It was my brother Philip's birthday too, who is also a Twix-lover, so it seemed extra good to celebrate with Twix.  We're quite conscientious about celebrating other peoples' birthdays, actually.  "It's your sister's birthday today," I say.  "We really ought to have a cake or something," Sam says.  "We really ought," I agree.  And we do.  Selflessly.  I'm sure they would appreciate it, if they knew.)

So, these are really good.  Just look at them.  But they are a bit of effort, because of the layers.  They not only break my mom's "no-desserts-that-are-actually-two-desserts" rule, they flaunt it.  On the other hand, Homemade! Twix!  We considered it our duty to do a side-by-side test with actual (or should I say, commercial) Twix, and the homemade ones are so much better.  Chocolately, caramelly, cookily so.  I would save them for special occasions simply because they take more time.  But if you want to celebrate with someone you love (or eat a cake in their honor, in their absence), won't you consider Saying It With Twix?

A few notes:
I actually made two batches of these because I needed some for my lesson on Sunday (yes, those lucky young women) (and it tied in quite wonderfully, but I'm not going to elaborate at this juncture) so I had a chance to try a couple different variations.  Basically, as you can see, it's a cookie layer, and a caramel layer, and a chocolate layer.  I considered making the bottom layer more of a shortbread crust (like you'd use in lemon bars) but in the end I thought my fruit pizza crust (basically a snickerdoodle cookie) might work better.  That's what I did the first time.  Next, I did more of a basic sugar cookie.  Verdict: the fruit pizza crust won out for being softer/slightly more tangy?---for lack of a better word---anyway, the sugar cookie was a little bland.  I thought the fruit pizza crust had more character.  I think shortbread would be good, but really probably a better mix with a tart lemon bar or a cheesecake bar than with this sweet caramel.

For the caramel layer, I tried a recipe which used sweetened condensed milk.  That's supposed to speed up the process a little.  And it was good; very creamy and sweet.  But in the end I went back to my tried-and-true caramel recipe, cooked until the flavor deepens and the tender, buttery caramel gives just the right amount of resistance when bitten, and we all preferred it.  It had more complexity, and less sugary-sweetness, so it was a good contrast to the cookie underneath.

The chocolate is simply a ganache---melted chocolate mixed with cream.  You could add a tablespoon of butter to make it extra smooth and spreadable.

But maybe the most important detail is the sea-salt sprinkled on top.  I know that salted caramel flavor is all the rage these days, but it's not trendiness that makes it good----it's just that it's RIGHT.  You taste one of these bars without it, and it's fine, but honestly, do you want to go to all this trouble just for FINE?  You do not.  Trust me---the salt elevates this dessert to spectacular.  Ask my young women (even the one who just got her wisdom teeth out).

Homemade Twix

Cookie layer
:

1 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. flour
½ t. cream of tartar
½ t. soda
1/4 t salt
1 t. vanilla

Mix ingredients as usual and press into 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350.  I wish I had a time for you.  Probably about 20 minutes.  It should be pale brown on top, and slightly puffy (it will settle).

Caramel layer:

2 c. light karo syrup
2 c. sugar
½ t. salt

Stir well with wooden spoon and place on medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil and add alternately but do not stop the boiling:

½ pt. (1 c.) whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 cube butter (cut in 5ths and dropped in separately)
½ c. + 1/3 c. evaporated milk

Add the above three things a little at a time. Put in a thermometer and cook to 233 degrees---this will take about half an hour, or more. (Provo=234 degrees). Remove from heat and add 1 t. vanilla. Mix well and pour over cookie crust.  Chill several hours or overnight, until caramel is set. 

Chocolate layer:

2 c. chopped chocolate (I used semisweet, but milk would be good too)
Evaporated milk, or cream, as needed

Pour about 1/4 c. of the milk with the chocolate into a glass bowl.  Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir till smooth.  Add more milk as needed until consistency is smooth and spreadable.  Spread ganache over caramel layer.  Chill again until smooth.

Before serving, top Twix bars with sea salt.
The salt isn't on this one yet.  But it will be.  Oh, it will be.