Celebrations begin

We ventured off the mountain to come to New York to celebrate with my mother, sister and her family. I love coming to New York at Christmas time because it is so beautiful at this time of year. Yesterday I made my mother a Parisian flan, the type that is made with a lot of egg yolks, a little bit of corn starch, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and light cream. I made it as a surprise for my mother because it is one of her favorite things to eat; I also made it because I had a plan for the egg whites, they were going to be turned into financiers, the almond tea cakes that our son loves so much.

Tomorrow we are going to my sister’s to celebrate at her house. I can’t wait to see my niece and nephew open their presents. I hope that they both like what Santa dropped off at my house for them. They are hard to buy for because it is difficult to keep up with the latest trend in books and action figures. Christmas is always fun when Santa is around, thank goodness for the little ones!

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies: a movie review

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It was an amazing final chapter in the movie trilogy. My hat is off to Peter Jackson; his direction of the battle that went in so many different tangents was beyond anything that I had ever seen before. We saw it in 3-D and I couldn’t help dodging, weaving, ducking and arching back during each stage of the huge battle. It is no exaggeration to say that I felt winded by the last part of the movie.

During the movie I couldn’t help but feel a little sad because I knew that this was the last time that I would see my “friends” Bilbo, Kili and Fili, Balin and Gandulf on the big screen. I know that I will be able to see all of the movies on t.v probably in a row and that could literally be an old day affair; but it won’t be the same.

There can’t be any spoilers because the Hobbit has been published forever and so I would imagine that the dwarves who don’t make it are known to all by now. Thorin’s death I was prepared for, but somehow I had been able to banish from my mind the knowledge that Kili and Fili were going to fight until their last breath against the forces of darkness. I know that Tauriel was an addition made by Peter Jackson, but she fit perfectly within the story and the moment that Kili dies in my mind was even more heartbreaking because of Tauriel. Kili wasn’t just fighting for his uncle and the quest, he was fighting for love. I had tears in my eyes, it was so very sad.

Peter Jackson and Richard Armitage clearly understood exactly what greed looks like; its insidious grasp on a man’s soul, a dwarve’s soul, an elve’s soul and even a dragon’s soul. It was so acutely portrayed in the movie; I have never seen greed given such an accurate character study before.

I will miss visiting the Shire in the movies.

Gift wrapping/wrapping gifts

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Either way you say it, for me it is a job that I have always enjoyed. When I was a teenager I loved watching the ladies at the Bloomingdales gift wrap department work their magic; choosing with care the proper box, the gift wrap paper and the bow, cutting without waste, turning out the precise seams and corners and tying it all together as a beautiful package by the properly curled ribbon.

To this day I take time to choose the wrapping paper, I try to get different colors and motifs so that the bounty laid out under the Christmas tree doesn’t look bland or without care. I like the illusion that elves were busy wrapping and packing the night before; each one had a family member which explains the different wrapping papers. I know that the secret has been out of the bag for a long time, but I like the look of a variety of colors that show snowmen, Santa’s, Christmas trees and jolly sayings all adorning different sized boxes just waiting to be opened.

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We love plaguing Jack

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My husband was loading the mouse traps, we do live in the country and sometimes you have to put your foot down and say enough already you mices! Jack was very curious with what his Papa was doing so of course Papa decided to give Jack a nice finger full of peanut butter. It was quite amusing, I love the sound of Jack licking and licking and licking, it is so cute.

Does anyone know why dogs seem to have to yawn before they howl? Jack isn’t the only one who does it; Tuck our beagle did it and so did my mother-in-law’s dog Zingo, he was a dachshund/beagle mix and right before his serenades he would do his big yawn and then he would sing for us.

We always have a laugh with Jack; it is amazing how much joy a pet can bring to you. I think back over the years to all of the wonderful dogs we have had from Dylan, Jacquelina, Marshall, Rex, Tuck and now Jack and we have been truly blessed with each and every one of them.

Our son the baker

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Yesterday was the first time that our son had ever expressed the slightest interest in baking. He decided that he wanted to make brownies and he asked for my advice on two things and that was it. He calmly and quietly followed the instructions, asking me about the pros and cons between oil versus butter and what size baking pan to use, other than that he measured, mixed and prepped the pan on his own. His brownies came out beautifully, without a single crumb clinging to the pan. I told him that simply that fact alone was impressive for anyone’s first time. His friend just happened to arrive the moment that the brownies were ready to come out and our son poured a tall glass of milk for himself and his friend and they both went upstairs to play their video games.

Jack was well aware that something good was in the oven, even though we all told him that he couldn’t have any brownies, that didn’t stop him from being as cute as can be, in case we changed our mind. Don’t worry we didn’t change our minds, we are immune to his wily charms when it comes to food.

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I will not give in to rejection

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I have to say that this rejection letter was even more polite than my first one. I would hate to have to write rejection letters; I would agonize over the recipient’s feelings. Rejection letter writer is definitely one of the worst jobs out there. Happily enough I am not discouraged, the only discouraging thing about finding the right publisher is that there are so many more that do not accept unsolicited manuscripts than do and those who do not accept unsolicited manuscripts want you to have a literary agent.

I have been emailing literary agents both in Boston and New York and I am still waiting, though I did hear back from one and that was a form letter in the negative, what made me smirk was the upfront apology for being a form letter in the second sentence of the first paragraph; is it just me or was that odd?

I am still going to push and cajole myself into either a literary agent or getting published. I am not giving up.

Daily prompt: Kick the bucket

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What are the top items on your anti-bucket list — those things you never, ever want to do, places you never want to visit, books you never want to read, etc.?

When did the bucket list become a thing? It has been a thing for a while and for all intents and purposes, it is a good reminder to make time to think about the wonders in this world while you are still in it. I suppose that an anti-bucket list is a good thing to help cross things off that you do not want to be distracted by and to help focus yourself on the things that you truly value.

I know that with my fear of heights I can cross off excursions to the Himalayans and any other scary peak that seems to attract a fair amount of visitors; those mountains needn’t fear to ever feel my footprints on their backs.

I scared the pants off of myself scuba diving way too deep so that is another activity that needn’t be explored again.

I have no desire to travel to Russia. I am sure that it is a lovely place and the people are very friendly and lovely as well, but I just don’t feel the desire.

Same goes for much of Asia except for Thailand.

When it comes to cooking; I cannot think of anything that I won’t cook or bake, I truly can’t so there is no bucket for me; it is more of a broad horizon of possibilities.

That’s all I have for now.

Such fun at the Christmas cookie swap

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We gathered at my friend Mary’s house down the road in Blandford and it was simply lovely, low key, there were several choices of beverages, an assortment of “tapas”; sliced vegetables with different dips, all sorts of crackers, a chicken liver mousse with truffles, herbed goat cheese and a large enough gathering to create small pockets of conversation and enough of a diversity of cookies to make it sweetly interesting.

You can see from the picture that we did indeed have variety in our choices. There were ginger snaps, my cookies the Breton butter cookies, chocolate and m&m cookies, a delicate coconut cookie, a meringue cookie, thumbprint cookies with apricot jam or blueberry jam, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and there were two different cookies that made me think of clouds with icing.

I have to confess that I was so gratified and humbled by the welcome I received from everyone. I knew that Mary was happy that I was coming because we have been friends for twenty years and with her busy life and mine, it is hard for us to get together. I was surprised that the other ladies were happy to see me because we only know each other on a more casual basis. I couldn’t help but laugh when the first question they each asked me was what was the cookie that I had baked. I told them all that my cookie was a very nice one to have with tea and that it had lots of butter in them, the better to lubricate the veins and arteries with. lol

It was such a fun evening, full of laughter and great conversation and the icing on the cake, I got to bring home tons of cookies for my family.

My hat is off to all artisanal cofectioners

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It is time for the annual making of the Fleur de Sel caramels. I have the recipe down pat; one cup of heavy cream, 5 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel salt, 1/4 cup of light corn syrup, 1/4 water, 1 1/2 of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. The heavy cream, salt and butter are brought to a boil and then taken off the heat while the sugar, corn syrup and water are brought to a boil and to the desired caramel color. The hot cream mixture is poured into the sugar mixture, it will roil up violently and this is when the vanilla is added, with a wooden spoon the mixture needs to be stirred until the caramel registers at 248F on a candy thermometer. This is always the tricky moment, a few seconds too soon or a few seconds too late and your caramel will be different: either perfect or too hard or too soft, like I said it is tricky; basically I don’t quite have the technique down pat.

This is why I say my hat is off to the artisanal chocolate and candy makers, it is hard work in a professional space, but even more challenging in the home because you might not have all of the proper equipment and for those who are starting their small businesses, it seems almost impossible to juggle your normal demands on top of new candy orders. I had made pizza for dinner and then I took my cooled off batch of caramels out to cut up into pieces, dip into Fleur de Sel and then wrapping each piece individually in foil-lined parchment paper. This part isn’t difficult just a little tedious, I am lucky that I don’t get tempted by the caramel because then the job would be even more challenging. lol. :D

One batch of caramels yields about 50 to 60 pieces; I can just imagine how overwhelming it can be if you are lucky enough to have say 20 batches to make, at the home how would you figure out how to make the twenty batches, do you double up on the recipe and make two batches ten times or do you take the time to figure out how to bulk up the recipe, but that is a whole other ratio problem to tackle. I admire these entrepreneurs very much and I haven’t even gotten past the surface in terms of challenges.

I am happy making my small batches of whatever tickles my fancy; I don’t think that going beyond my small circle would give me more satisfaction. Often bigger doesn’t mean better.

Christmas card writing time

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Tis that time of year, when you break out the address book and limber up your writing hand to wish all of your close friends, family, acquaintances, business associates and anyone else that you may have rekindled something with, a happy holidays or a Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate.

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I have already run out of cards. I think that I made the same mistake last year. Luckily I wrote out the cards for my husband’s family, his close friends and my few relatives who live here and sent them just this afternoon. The rest of my Christmas card list live in France and as long as they get there by New Year’s Day, I am good to go.

While I was up in the attic getting the Christmas cards that I had purchased last year, I found Jack’s Christmas collar and since he never minds when I put things on him, he is wearing it right now. He is so cute, just like Rudolph “She said I’m CUTE”

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