Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I think that future meetings will be fantastically fun.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
First we started with these ingredients:
1 kilo chestnuts, shell and membrane removed
1 kilo sugar
650 ml. water (+-2-1/2 US cups)
1 vanilla bean
First we scored and peeled off the leathery shell of the chestnuts. This is not an easy or quick process. It took us about 45 minutes, with a few expletives, curses for the French who invented this candy, and bleeding thumbs.
This is not efficient or fun and caused more cursing of the French and the conclusion that people in hell make these for people in heaven. So, we heated them again. This made a huge difference--with the hot nut, the hull came off, usually in one piece.
In the meantime, we have boiled & simmered the sugar, water, and a vanilla bean together for about 5 minutes.
Then we added the chestnuts and brought it back to a boil for 10 minutes.
Once it has boiled, you remove the vanilla bean and you take the pot off the burner and let it sit over night/12 hours at least. In the morning, you bring it back to a boil, boiling for one minute longer and then letting it sit again for 24 hours. According to the recipe we were using, the exact procedure is:
Now, cover and allow to steep over night or at least 12 hours. *Bring again to the boil and cook 1 minute more. Again allow to stand this time for 24 hours*. Repeat again from * to * until all the syrup has been absorbed (shouldn't take more than 3-4 times). Cooking over the time may inhibit the crystallization process - which is dependent on the above steps.
When we pulled them out and we had Marrons Glacés.
Will and I, having never had them, asked Sylvia to be the expert taster. She concluded that while they were tasty, we had it wrong because the nuts was hard in the center. She opened the jar of real Marrons Glacés we purchased for her Christmas present as a back up should this experiment not work out and we saw that the nut had really become almost jelly-like.
But we all decided that our Marrons Glacés tasted better.
Next time (and yes, there will be a next time), we will boil the nuts longer in the beginning so the center becomes soft and we will not boil/steep them 5 times. We did this because the recipe suggested that all the sugar would be absorbed into the nuts. For ours, it wasn't even close to being gone. We thought that one more boil/steep might do the trick and instead it did crystallize the sugar and broke down the nuts into bits.
In the end, after 6 days to make these, we have conclude that $80 for 12 candied chestnuts is totally worth it. And the French devised this recipe specifically to taunt the English.
Sylvia, Will's mother, bought the most beautiful white Christmas lilies for us for Christmas. I am sitting next to them, and they are gorgeous and the smell is beautiful. Don't you wish you were sitting here too... next to our fire and the pretty tree with our morning coffee and/or tea, gossiping about what the crazy aunt did at the dinner table over the Christmas pudding....
Thursday, December 25, 2008
For Christmas this year for Chloe, Annabelle illustrated her own version of Eric Carle's "Brown Bear," which happens to be Chloe's favorite book-- especially when read by Annabelle. Cleverly, her parents recorded Annabelle reading the book so Chloe can hear her cousin reading.
Check out her amazing book!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The sheep in question is actually a plant holder and I throw Will's spare change in it when he leaves it lying around, usually hidden, for me to find when I dust the living room. Underneath several months of change, was the ring box. Will had been dropping hints for ages about "emptying the sheep" and finally, after about two weeks, I got the hint.
Now the sheep is (almost) empty. I wonder what I will find when it get full again....
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We all know that I am *slightly* in love with Apple and the iPhone, but this is the GREATEST APP for the iPhone.
The Christmas Snowglobe. I can change the colors of the snowflakes, I am change the background (including having a real photo), and it makes noise. It is the best. You must get it. And if don't have an iPhone, ahem, well. You.Must.Get.One. NOW.
The app is called esnowglobe and it is $0.99 and TOTALLY WORTH IT
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
At the bottom of each figure is a bit of pointed metal that rests on a stand. Each has this large weighted arm that allows the toy to rock back and forth, moving parts. Santa moves his arms and heads as he skis down a slope, the jockey raises his arm with a whip and the horse's head moves back in forth as they sprint towards the finish line. In case of the Snowman, he waves his top hat back and forth and his suitcase swings, wishing everyone a happy day and merry holiday. It makes me smile every time he rocks back and forth.
Will and I picked them up at the Louisville Antique Mall, on three different occasions. They have several different characters, but we got the best ones. They are made out of metal and very heavy. They have that nice patina on them too, so even if they aren't old (and we don't think they are), they certainly look it.
Seeing them out at Christmas just makes me happy.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
It may not have any chocolate or mini gifts behind each window, but this is my favorite Advent calendar in year. It's Buckingham Palace (Annabelle and Juliette got Windsor Castle). It is quite fun and adds a *bit* more British feeling to this holiday.
I have decided this and so am resigned to the fact that when we fill up the bird feeders (all 5 of them), that we will also be feeding the squirrels. It is fun to watch them schimmy up the poles to reach the feeders or to dangling from the gutter of the garage to get to the seeds.
Will has decided that he is tired of feeding the sunflower seeds to the squirrels and took disparate measures. Three new bird feeders arrived at the house yesterday.
We have the cooper cage with the plastic tube in the middle for the regular bird seed. We have a black one with the wire tube for saffflower seeds, sunflower seeds, or peanut chunks. And finally, we have the green one. You all know how much I love green, but this still seems too good to be true.
It is called the Single Sided bird feeder Squirrel Proof. It came with its own pole (ready to assemble). It promises that no squirrels will be able to get the food. I am not sure how it is going to do that, but it seems to have a lever of some sort that when you push it, it closes access to the food and you can't avoid this lever if you are a squirrel. I will let you know how the assemble and the installation go....
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
So, for Halloween, Jen's niece and nephew were Velma and Shaggy. She sent me this photo and it is hilarious. They joined the rest of the gang for trick-or-treating and were a big hit.
Yes, I realize it is Christmas time, but I am just getting this photo and it is too good to have to wait a whole other Halloween.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I: Yes, Mother, very lucky indeed. I am glad you are friends with Miriam. She is the bestest godmother ever. She is so talented and thoughtful, not to mention bea-u-t-full. I am glad that you take me to see her. She brings me things.*
Why have a boring traditional star or an angel that may or may not have a pretty face* on the top of your Christmas tree, when you can have a PEACOCK?!!
We found this at Fortnum & Mason in September and I have been waiting for Christmas ever since. It is the crowning glory to our fatty, fresh Christmas tree that takes up an ENTIRE corner of our living room. I lurvs it. and the tree. and the combo of both.
(And, if you have never been to Fortnum & Mason, you should. Yes, you *might* have to go to London, but is that really so bad? This year, the store is celebrating its 300th anniversary. Um, yeah, that is *older* then that U.S..... They have all sorts of luxury items that you never knew you needed, but once in the store, you.must.have.it.all. And at Christmas, they have some of the best window displays ever.)
* to be fair, my mom, natch, has a very pretty angel for the top of her tree, but it took years of searching and Caroline finally found it.
Can I claim that dental work is to blame? Two temporary bridges, 4 shots of Novocaine, 4 temporary crowns, and the inability to eat anything crunchy, chewy, or hard has just stopped my blogging in its tracks. I guess the knowledge of not being able to consume the entire bag of Aunt Carol's homemade caramels only made this time of year is just too depressing at the moment.
However, I will get over it. How?
THERE ARE LOADS OF CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS TO PUT UP!!!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I know it's Thursday and I have been back to DC for almost 4 whole days and haven't blogged yet. I have been recovering from some major dental work.... but, here is a photo of my new (and only) nephew to tide you all over....
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
The best thing about being home is discovering stuff your mother has unpacked from your childhood. Stuff that you had forgotten even existed but she kept for some reason and then you rediscovered all over again, like these mugs. I am not sure whose was which. I think Becca had the lion, the ostrich was Jeremy's, the elephant Caroline's, and the monkey was mine.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As part of our Thanksgiving tradition, we decorate the Christmas tree. When my brother went off to college, this was the only weekend we were together until about a week before Christmas. Mom can't go that long in December without a tree-- I utterly agree. This year, because of schedules of coming and going, we have to decorate the tree *before* Thanksgiving.
Because of allergies, we have to have a fake tree. Because of years of frustration with putting the lights on the tree, we have a pre-lit tree. These are great: you unwrap, assemble, and plug in. Then you are ready to go with the pretty ornaments. Only this year it didn't work like that. One of the strands of lights on the bottom of the tree didn't light up. Mom says to turn that part of the tree to the back, and put the ornaments on anyway.
But having a section of lights out is verboten in the engineer's world. Especially when that engineer is a mechanical engineer... and my Dad.
He has this nifty tool purchased at a store that I can't believe he supports. He bought two, in case the first one breaks. It is a wand that tests Christmas light bulbs and strings of light to see if the bulb is bad or the fuse is blown. You see, Mom's solution is too easy. And I have an *entire* family of engineers of varying specialties. Therefore you *have* to find out which bulb is burnt out or which fuse is blown... the rest of us watch the ensuing hilarity, warning each person to abort! turn around! don't get sucked into the search! it is futile and you will never get those 3 hours of your life back.
After *all* this engineering help, we still turned the tree to the back because that section of lights are out. Mom's solution works everytime....
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Will and I are becoming a half-way house for historians, many of them foreign.
First it was Fiona, but she doesn't *really* count in the "historian" category in our book. (Yes, she is a historian by profession but she is first and foremost A #1 Friend. Very few achieve that level of friendship; I have a couple in that status. The rest of you can keep trying.)
Then came the AHA's annual meeting, where we had Fiona (historian of 19th Century US) again--actually she has been here quite a few times; Dan (from England, historian of Kenya) ; and Jason (from TX, which really is like a foreign country if you think about it, historian of the Caribbean/Modern US foreign relations) staying here. Over the summer, we had Fabian (from Germany, historian of the German Empire and human rights) for a few nights. He is due to make a repeat visit in December. Roger (from TX, historian of British Empire and well, just about everything really), was here for a night when the hotel messed up his reservation. Jason might also make another appearance along in December.
Currently, we have Zeynep from Turkey (by way of Jason, who met her in England. Jason gets around... the archives that is). She is here for the Middle Eastern Studies Association of North America's annual meeting. Unable to get a hotel room, Jason called us and asked if she could stay. Sure, no problem! We currently have the room.
And what do we get for our hospitality? Yummy delicious authentic Turkish Delight and this lovely tradition trinket.
Apparently, most Turkish households have this hanging in their house.
The flowers are common around Turkey (notice the irises...) and it is just so pretty! We haven't found a current home yet, so it is now hanging from the fruit basket in the kitchen. I'll let you know when we find a permanent home... as well as, when the guest room becomes available. We are booked solid until at least February.