Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Southern Butter Mints part 1

Some friends of ours have a granddaughter getting married (and she's a friend of ours as well) and so I agreed to help out with the shower.  Apparently this is to be a "southern" shower, full of tradition and elegance, but not too far over the top.

Among things that are needed for a shower are punch with great grandma's punch bowl, sandwiches with cream cheese and green pepper jelly, and southern pulled butter mints.  "Ah, nobody can make those anymore.  We used to know someone, but the tradition needs to be passed down."  Like a fool, I said that I'd be happy to give it a try.  I suffer greatly from "I got a PhD in math, how hard could X be?" where X is something like gardening, or quilting, or cleaning, etc.  It's always harder than I think it will be.

"We'll call Mrs. X who makes these, maybe she'll pass down the method.  I hope you don't hate me!"  I was actually planning on doing research online, watching a few videos, and trying it to see what happens.

Here are some resources I found: 

So I tried my first bunch.  It hasn't creamed yet, but I am eagerly waiting.  I think we didn't pull it enough since it didn't get "ribbons" in it.  We will see.   The chewy mints are actually pretty good, all things considered.

I'm always up for a cooking adventure. Can't wait to see how it turns out.  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Orchestra fun

I was a part of my first orchestra concert yesterday. I've been in a community orchestra for the past 4 months, made up mostly of people who played in high school or college and who want a reason to practice. There are a few of us who picked up the instrument as an adult. I definitely feel like the weak link, but on the other hand I improve every time I play, and the other members and my teacher assure me that my skills are sufficient. Also, playing next to competent musicians helps me to improve and they seem to be tolerant of my sour notes.  My one strength is that having listened to the music we pay for my whole life, I know how the piece is supposed to go, even if I can't get my body to comply.

I learned several things about playing in a concert. First, it was long for me to play. It was about 45 minutes of almost constant playing, and just sitting down for that long is unusual for me, not to mention holding up a viola... I kept expecting our director to stop us and tell us to re do a section, but she kept going. By the end, I was worn out.

Another thing I learned is that playing music in an auditorium sounds different than playing it in a practice room. In the room, the best place to listen is in the middle of the viola section. There are vibrations all around and your are completely surrounded by the sound from the cellos and the other violas, not to mention your own instrument. I know that cellos have lower notes than the C string, but they don't hold their instruments to their chins.

In the auditorium, I could not hear the other instruments nearly as well, it sounded like we were playing into space (which we were, I suppose). That part was not as much fun.

On the other hand, playing for an audience was fun... Although the reason to play in a community orchestra is not primarily for the sake of the audience. I think that was the reason I was not as nervous as I  thought I would be. I flubbed many notes, but I worried more about disappointing my orchestra mates than the audience. It may have helped that I was sitting in the back row and couldn't see anyone in the audience (Amanda said that she watched my bow tip because she couldn't see me).

The main thing I learned is that the best way to enjoy music is by playing it with other people. I highly recommend it!

Monday, December 10, 2018


We just finished a puzzle!  It is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle titled, "Beautiful Santorini." I got the puzzle in the summer when I heard about a tour going to Greece and kept getting beautiful status updates. We started the puzzle way back after the hurricane in September.  The sky was finished almost immediately after we started---the subtle variations in clouds and colors made it surprisingly easy.  Then we started on the city.  It turns out that little bits of windows, doors, televisions, umbrellas, are actually harder to do than swaths of color.  It took about 2 months to make any significant progress on the rocks and grass around the town, and on the buildings of the town.  That's a long time to be without your coffee table...

The best part of putting the puzzle together was finding little scenes that are unnoticeable when looking at the entire puzzle from a distance.  For example, there is a piece with a guy climbing over a wall, or pieces of the two mini-marts, or the Greek Flag, and the televisions on the porches of the hotel.

Unfortunately we now we have a 999 piece jigsaw puzzle, since one of the pieces has gone missing. And after counting the pieces on the edge, Eleanor says that we have a 27x37=999 piece jigsaw puzzle, so we now just have 998 pieces.  Whatever.  I'm confident it will come in handy when we do eventually make it to Santorini.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Snow crazy

We got some snow. And now Luke is outside shoveling snow. Off the grass. Into a wheelbarrow. To make a fort.

He notes that this is not as crazy as the neighbor who was out riding his bike wearing a swim suit. I suppose I agree.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hunger Games vs. Robert Louis Stevenson

Luke and I have been reading The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson over the past few weeks.  I remember really enjoying it when I read it as a child, even if I didn't really know who was fighting in the War of the Roses.  And Luke is enjoying it as well, despite the archaic language and difficult to understand motivations.

After the third or fourth person was shot in the back and died in front of the main character, he did say, "This is worse than The Hunger Games!"  And I have to say, he's not wrong.  The main character, Dick, kills a spy in cold blood (by surprising him, not really in a fair fight) rather than be discovered, which would mean Dick's certain death.  Then he has to stay all night in disguise in a monk's habit in the abbey praying for the dead spy, after which the monks clean the blood off the floor and prepare for the wedding of Dick's beloved to a greedy, conniving nobleman.  During the wedding, though, the groom is shot through the heart with a black arrow.  Other scenes have a greater number of people dying, but this night wins for volume of named characters dead. 

So it's a bit bloody but I never even noticed when I was growing up.  It's hard to say whether the violence in the Hunger Games is of a different type, or if I'm just more sensitive to it now that I have kids, or if the modernity of the setting makes it seem more graphic and personal.  I'm not really willing to reread the hunger games to find out, but it's interesting to think about.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The fixer

"Do you have to fix something everywhere you go?"

Luke, after Michael helped with an LED problem at the house we visited for dinner

The answer is yes. Yes he does.

Friday, November 23, 2018


When I was a one and a half years old I was an only child, so I had actual adult supervision.
-Eleanor, explaining why she didn't climb up into the cabinets when she was little.