Saturday, January 31, 2009

Celebrate with Chocolate Cake!

The book, In Defense of Food, contains a passage which tells how a psychologist conducted an experiment in which he showed the words, "chocolate cake" to Americans and recorded the word accociations they came up with. The top word association was guilt. Interestingly enough, he conducted the same experiment with a group of French folks and the word which most often came up was celebration.

My son must be French, or at least he's got his head screwed on right. He turned 21 today and requested a fudgy, chocolatey cake for his birthday.

Upon searching, I found that my own recipe books and notes and folded papers and old 3x5 cards did not contain exactly what I was looking for - I didn't have the perfect chocolate cake recipe - it couldn't even be found in my copy of Julia Child's The Way to Cook. So I did what any 21 year old would have done in the first place, I googled, "fudgy chocolate cake recipes."

I found one likely candidate, but it only makes a small, square cake and really looked more like a pan of brownies than a cake. I decided to try that recipe another time and continued my search.

I went to a recipe site that I'd found upon once upon a time and really like. I searched the site for chocolate cake recipes and found the recipe for this:


It has three rich, chocolatey layers:

And the frosting is buttery and chocolatey - almost a french butter cream, but without all the fuss:

My son took one bite and gave me a high five. I was happy.

You can find the recipes through the links below:



And the recipe site that I found this wonderful cake on is called Simply Recipes. All the recipes that I've tried from this site have been very good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Planning my Herb Garden

My mailbox held a nice surprise today. An order that I had placed with Mountain Rose Herbs last week had arrived.

I was excited to discover that they sold seeds and in browsing through their offerings I found this:


It's a package of 18 different medicinal herb seed packets with which you can plant a medicinal herb garden. Here are the 18 varieties included in the kit:

They come in quantities of either 100 seeds or 200 seeds per packet. I won't plant each variety. Heaven knows that Burdock is my nemesis and I've been trying to eradicate it from my yard for the past seven years. Never ever would I intentionally plant burdock seeds- and besides, there's plenty of burdock growing wild in the park next door (and sometimes in my yard, despite my best efforts).

I also ordered these seeds. They weren't included in the kit, but I wanted them too:

Even though we have about 20 inches of snow on the ground, with waist high drifts, I'm dreaming of spring.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow, Snow, Snow

It's been snowing again. Well, it is wintertime. Have a seat and enjoy the pictures:


Teasel bending with its burden:


Queen Anne's lace all closed up and holding the snow:


Burdock. My doggie hates burdock. See all the little grippy hooks? Burdock burrs were the inspiration for Velcro:

These nibbles are from hungry bunnies. On a walk yesterday I saw bunny prints in the snow all around these low-hanging wild apple boughs. The bunnies had been busy nibbling away at the bark and the little nascent budlings. The tracks are gone today, covered by a fresh layer of snow:


My dog wants me to stop taking pictures and play in the snow with him:

My son gets the wonderful job of shoveling this morning (notice he's wearing the Jayne Cobb hat I made for him):

Happy Snow Day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some things that I've learned so far from the One World, One Heart Event and visiting new blogs

This is from This Muse Of Mine. It's a wonderful little video which I think speaks to the creativeness of all of the people whose blogs I've visited during this event:





And I can't remember whose blog this is from (Isn't that terrible? I've been re-visiting blogs to find which one, but haven't yet - please let me know if it's you!):

The two most important virtues in life, Patience and Wisdom

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Birch

Click the picture to see the paper birch's winter colors up close:

They are not unlike my own winter colors:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gudrid the Far Traveler

This is an extremely interesting book, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, by Nancy Marie Brown. It's about Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, a real viking woman whose life led her to Iceland, Greenland, L'Anse aux Meadows in the New World - where she had a son, and even to Italy.

The book will reveal what the life of of a viking woman was like- spinning, weaving, working - and connect the larger than life people in the sagas, people like Gudrid and Leif Ericson , to the real people they were and the lives they lived in the rugged, cold places of the world.

Gudrid lived in Iceland, married one man who died, and then moved to Greenland and married the brother of Leif Ericson. She made the trip to the new world and lived there for a couple of years - long enough to give birth to a son, and then made the return trip when the company left the little settlement (L'Anse aux Meadows today) and returned home. She finally settled on a farm in Iceland with two sons, and in the waning years of her life made a pilgrimage to Italy.

Today, you can go to Iceland and see where Gudrid's farm used to be. You can go to L'Anse aux Meadows and see where the longhouses stood and where a spindle whorl - maybe even Gudrid's - was found.

For some really nice pictures of Gudrid's world, visit this page, and click on the links which will take you to the places Gudrid lived and walked.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quantum Kitty

Don't let these poses of repose fool you. She's merely re-energizing. Once her energy meter reads full, quantum mechanics takes over.

This cat can be in two places at once when she reaches critical mass, or whatever it is that kicks her into overdrive.

We named her Freki, which is still an appropriate name, but lately we've been calling her Quantum Kitty for her eerie ability to be in the doorway of the next room and upstairs terrorizing the other cats, both at the same time.

Honest.


For those not familiar with quantum physics, this ought to explain it:

Schrödinger’s Equation


The time-dependent equation in one dimension:


In three dimensions:


The time-independent equation:




A general form of the wave function:



The general wave equation:


I'm pretty sure my cat has this down.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sled Dog


Today

I am so happy, the moment has come, we now have a new president.

To read Barack Obama's inauguration address, please click here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is a wonderful day for the United States of America. We are all awaiting anxiously the moment when we can finally utter the words, "President Obama."

(And the phrase, former President George W. Bush)

Wow! I'm Speechless

I've been given this:

But if you really want to see a creative blog, visit the person who passed it along to me, Adrienne, over at The Story Board.

All the same, I'm tickled pink to receive this very nice award.

As part of the award, I'm now supposed to list 7 things I love.

1. I love Chocolate


2. I love fascinating things (don't you?), like this Nature program:

I would encourage you to find it in your library and watch it. I never knew such places existed in the world (click on the picture to learn more about it).

3. I love to learn interesting little things, like the fact that Cleopatra lived closer in time to the space shuttles than she did to the building of the Great Pyramids.

4. I love Chocolate

5. I love kayaking

6. I love pleasant surprises, like finding out that desert willow has a wonderful fragrance if you only take the time to stop and put your nose to it.

7. And I cannot make a list of the things I love without mentioning the fact that I love Chocolate.

I am now supposed to pass this wonderful award on to 7 wonderful bloggers. All the bloggers I visit are exceptionally creative and I love each and every one of their blogs.

I am ashamed to admit that I have never made a list of the blogs I frequent, so in place of choosing only 7, I will now add a list of all of the blogs I have in my 'favorites' menu.

Look for it soon in the sidebar! And every one of the blogs I list can consider themselves the recipient of this award - Congratulations!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Point of the Previous Post

The point of the Chronicles of Narnia post (just below this one) is that, when something works, it can take over my emotions and thought processes for a while. If something reaches me and rocks my senses, I want to figure out why.

Why did I have that reaction?

What about that song, or movie, or passage in a book, did that to me?

And more importantly, I ask the question, can I recreate that feeling in my writing?

For example, my daughter left a CD in my car and when I started it one day, a John Mayer song began to play. I ended up playing that song over and over, having my heart broken each time. Over the next few days I started to wonder if I could write a short story that captured the kind of heartache that the song projected.

I gave it a try. I think I missed the mark, but I may have come close (if you want to judge whether or not my story comes close to the emotions of the song, you can see a live performance of John Mayer's Dreaming with a Broken Heart here, and you can read my short story, Love, here).

One scene in the Prince Caspian movie (the very end scene - leaving Narnia again) has me wondering if I can capture the emotions I felt while watching it in a written story. I'll have to let it all ruminate in my head for a while and see what comes out.

My Quandry: The Chronicles of Narnia movies


The Narnia movies have caused a bifurcation in my brain. I both love and hate them.

In my opinion, the first movie (my favorite of the two) is artfully adapted to the big screen from the novel by C.S. Lewis. There are some parts that I don't like, but the parts that I do like far outweigh the parts that I don't. I think that the musical score is excellent - I mean, can you not already feel the enchantment in the beginning when the children are on the train and that wonderful music is pulling you into fantasy? And I felt other moments on screen draw me deeply into the magic.

Even some of the non-magical scenes are my absolute favorites, like the one where Mrs. Macready is picking the children up at the train stop. "Perhaps we've been incorrectly labeled," and, "Small favors," are two lines from this scene which happen to be two of my favorites from the whole movie. That little scene is so well done that you believe in everything already - and the movie's barely begun.

Lucy and Mr. Tumnus steal the show. I must admit that as a child I never read any of the Narnia books. Once, when an animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came to TV, I sat down to watch it. I didn't get past the 'Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus' scene because Mr. Tumnus came off as extremely annoying - prancing around the light post saying, "Ooh, the City of Wardr Obe in the Land of Spare Oom!" I turned the TV off immediately. But not so in the movie. The 'Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus' scene is one of the things that makes the movie. It pulls the viewer right into Narnia.

Some of the things that I don't like have mainly to do with the overtly Christian messages in this children's story. This, however, is a deeply personal objection, and I realize that it is precisely the whole point of the story and why many of the book's and the movie's fans love this tale. Nevertheless, this is where the love/hate begins to rear it's confusing head. I am enchanted by a movie that I don't care for.


Now the Prince Caspian Movie. Definitely not my favorite. If the first movie caused a minor dichotomy of love/hate to arise in my head, this movie completed the bifurcation. I hated the message, and most of the acting, but there were two scenes which I loved. One of them is a song/scene pairing that was so powerful to me that I may actually have to go out and buy this darned movie, which I actually dislike heartily, so that I can watch that scene whenever I want to.

The two scenes in question are the 'return to Narnia' scene where the children find themselves back in Narnia, and the 'leaving Narnia once again' scene. This last one is the powerful one I spoke of. I can feel the emotions of the children as they walk back into this world, leaving Narnia behind - while the song The Call is being sung (and is placed absolutely perfectly into the scene, in my opinion). If the whole movie had been made with that sort of attention and emotion, then Prince Caspian would have been utterly unforgettable and pure magic.

And I thought that Edmund was a very fine young man indeed in this story. Much more mature than his older brother, Peter. Edmund is one thing that the movie gets right. He is believably a child who was once an adult who had a mighty change and became someone different from the child that he used to be very long ago - um - you sort of understand, don't you?

I can't speak to the novel/movie adaptation because I have yet to read the Prince Caspian book, but I will remedy that soon, and I am looking forward to seeing what went wrong with the screenplay (although what went wrong probably also had something to do with bad direction, which led to poor performances).

Anyway, that's why my brain hurts when I think of the Narnia movies. And it also goes to show how the right music can help make the magic happen, even if you don't actually care for major parts of the story.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Chilly Day

It's -10 degrees F. outside and the windchill is -28. But it may warm up to +6 later today. It's getting so that when it's in the twenties out, I just wear a couple of sweatjackets to walk the dog because it seems warm.

A good day to do some writing and some knitting. I'm trying to dust off a ghost story that I got stuck on last fall and get it going again, and I'm working on knitting a puzzle top, which I found under "freebies" at this site.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MacMillan unlocks the secrets of publishing, and a ruby-crowned kinglet

For the writers out there to laugh over, I give you this little explanation of how publishing works by the fine folks over at MacMillan. I especially love the stapling, editorial assistant salary, an swarthy lumberjack parts.



And for all of the non-writers out there, here is a little ruby-crowned kinglet who is very happy to be eating such wonderful seed:


Find more videos like this on North Carolina Wildlife Federation

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Snowy Winter Adventure

Those of the family not busy with other things trekked out into the cold, snowy forest for a winter adventure. The bare trees gave up their secrets, such as this hornet's nest:


Here's a view from below. If you look real hard you can see the cells inside:

We came across an eensy mailbox in the middle of nowhere:


They're hard to make out, but there are squirrel tracks in the snow to the right of the mailbox. I guess the mailbox belongs to Mr. Squirrel. Maybe he mail-orders exotic nuts from tropical locals. We checked, but the box was empty. After all, it's Sunday.


We came across some feathers in the snow looking as if some poor bird had been snatched out of the air by an owl or a hawk, mid-flight, and these feathers drifted down, leaving the only evidence of the poor bird's plight.

Such a silent, fluffy, snowy, sad thing (unless you're the hawk or the owl, then it's a triumphant, yummy thing).


My dog waited patiently, finding a place lie down while we snapped pictures:


On the way back home, my daughter spotted a coyote way out in the fallow farmer's field:

She got close enough to snap a few pictures:

He (or she) was hunting a mouse or a vole out in the field:


My daughter finally got too close and the coyote ran off into the woods.

Closer to home, the more tame trees are trying to uphold their burdens of snow:


Now I'm going to go have a nice hot mug of tea or coffee or hot cocoa. Just so long as it's hot.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Snowy Day

It's snowy today.

We've had several inches of of the white stuff over the past 24 hours.
My doggie isn't winking at you, he's trying to keep the pellet-y snow that's falling from the sky from getting in his eyes:



Here are a few things we saw on our walk.


An pretty little snow-covered evergreen tree:


A snowy wild apple:


The tired limb of one of the older wild apples resting on the snowy ground:



More pretty berries:


And now it's time to go inside.