Sunday, May 31, 2009
Emotions are on overload. Around every corner is someone who is leaving. Graduating students, other students not returning next year, staff, families. It is almost overwhelming.
It is hard to believe that the year that we anticipated being so long, is nearly over.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
So, I thought I better share it. Because how can something so good be hoarded? Sort of like hiding your light under a bushel, NO.
So, without further ado...
Whipped Chocolate Caramel Ganache
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Makes enough for one 8-inch 3-layer cake, or about 48 cupcakes (including the occasional "I really should test this before I frost those cupcakes for our guests"...)
1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool
1. Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. (or until you get sick of waiting, I have never checked the temp; just cook it until it is caramel-y looking)
2. In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. (if you don't boil the cream, your caramel will seize up and get stuck to the bottom of your pot and that = less deliciousness + more dishes)
3. When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.
4. Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. (that reads, walk away, do the dishes, call your mom, let the mixer do its thing while you get something else done!)
5. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.
6. Cool the ganache for 20 minutes or so before frosting the cake for easier frosting.
Now, it looks a little tricky and you have to use lots of dishes in order to make it and there are lots of steps and it is totally worth every ounce of effort you put into it. You will never, do you hear me, never buy a boring tub of chocolate frosting again, not when you can have this stuff!
This stuff holds up great in the fridge. So, don't bother making a half batch. Once you taste it, you will gladly make another batch of cupcakes to "use up the frosting". Or you might just plan on leaving a spoon in the bowl for that crazy chocolate craving that drives you frantically to the freezer for a handful of chocolate chips.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I was being bombarded everyday by articles that made every work of fiction and non-fiction alike completely gripping. But why hadn't I heard of any of these great works? I read! I'm interested! I like books! "But oh"-a little voice would say-"if you were truly interested you would have heard about Mario Levio's Is God a Mathematician? and Yiyun Li's The Vagrants." It was becoming easy to doubt my interest in books. I hadn't heard of any, definitely not read any, didn't own any, and hadn't even read any works by any of the authors.
And so, it was with a growing despair that on March 9th I received a review about an author I had read! I was excited. I like this author. I thoroughly enjoyed her previous book, plus this is a new release; I could pick up a first edition possibly. I'm going on Spring Break trips soon where I know there will be English bookstores. I could actually get it! My excitement had grown quite out of proportion before I even started reading the review, but for me it was more than just a book. It was the whole experience, the passing of one mildly interested in books to one pursuing books with intent and desire.
The review was about Azar Nafisi's Things I've Been Silent About: Memories and I was able to pick it up in Amsterdam. I first became familiar with Mrs. Nafisi a few years ago when I read Reading Lolita In Tehran. This memoir is an excellent story and historical and social commentary about life in Tehran, Iran. I had never before had much interest or concern about this part of the world but the book was a fascinating journey through regime changes, and a historical period that I have only a vague cursory knowledge of. Azar Nafisi was a professor of western literature at the University of Tehran during the 1970s and had a first hand account of the social and religious uprising and changes that drastically affected the country. She seamlessly wove her experiences of literature in with her life at the time and created a brilliant, captivating narrative.
With enthusiasm, I purchased her new book, ignoring the obvious question about how good a second memoir could possibly be. The book itself is nice. Not beautiful, but pleasing. The dust jacket has a nice gloss to it, the front has a very intriguing picture of the author as a young lady and the back holds a collage of family pictures from different decades. This is what the back says:
I started making a list in my diary entitled "Things I Have Been Silent About." Under it I wrote: "Falling in Love in Tehran. Going to Parties in Tehran. Watching the Mars Brothers in Tehran. Reading Lolita in Tehran." I wrote about repressive laws and executions, about public and political betrayals, implicating myself and those close to me in ways I had never imagined.
But what she doesn't say is that she is going to complain about her mother for 300 pages. Now, I'm sure everyone can complain about their mothers just a little (not me, though. my mom is great!) but it got to the point where I had lost interest in the book. Nafisi vilifies her mother, Nezhat. She paints Nezhat as the wicked witch and wicked stepmother combined. Her mother is malicious, manipulative, and plain mean. Even when Nafisi tries to show her mother's tender side, Nezhat seems to have some ulterior selfish motive. But it wasn't the cruel mother that bothered me the most. It was Nezhat's complete denial of every criticism. According to Nafisi, her, her brother, and her father could do no right while Nezhat could do no wrong in her own mind. The book became this constant battle of Nezhat's family and friends trying to control her and correct her when she could see no reason for such things.
There were high points throughout the book. Nafisi still weaves the history of Iran in and out. This time she retold ancient Persian stories and poems that her father used to tell her when she was a girl. These vignettes were wonderful, though it became difficult to process and remember the characters in these stories due to their very foreign names. In these scenes, and many others, her father almost become the hero of the book while her mother serves as the villain. Nafisi could not speak about her father in a more kind and loving way. She even confesses that her father pulled her into his conspiracy as he cheated on his wife with a few different women.
And yet, these moral failings were some of the most interesting parts of the story. Nafisi's father was, for a time, the mayor of Tehran. Her mother served in the Iranian parliament. Her family was secular and socially entrenched in Iranian life and to read about the affairs and liberal lifestyle came as a surprise to me and was a vivid juxtaposition to the regime that instituted mandatory head-to-toe coverings for women and legalized marriage for 9 year old girls.
Ultimately, the memories of her family just aren't that interesting. Many families have problems and quirks. Many families have members with terrible personal flaws. In many ways, these are the universal characteristics of family so she isn't able to offer any new insights on the issue. Instead, her experiences of moving between Tehran, England, and the US are the highlights of the book. Her perspective on freedom and history are unique and well worth listening to, given the political situations she has been through. They just aren't enough to redeem this memoir. If you want to read a truly interesting story pick up Reading Lolita In Tehran but don't worry about missing anything in Things I've Been Silent About. There are too many other possibilities to spend time on this one.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I am almost always behind in reading the articles and it can take me a good ten or more minutes to get through the entire review if I find the subject interesting. For now I settle on saving the emails of the books that particularly pique my interest but someday, when I have about $20-$40 of discretionary funds sitting around everyday, I will start ordering the books! The joy of reading these reviews is multifaceted. It has been thrilling to hear about books, authors, and genres in this way. By reading these reviews I've been exposed to more forms of literature than I ever have before. (The downside is that I only see how desperately I am falling behind in the world of books. Almost every day I read about a book that I want to add to my reading pile but I just don't consume books that quickly.)
Another part of the joy comes from reading the reviews themselves. There is an art to writing the reviews. These aren't simply summaries of stories, they go into depth about the author, the author's writing past (with comparisons to his or her major works) and expressions and analyses of themes and symbols. There is a historical context that is usually given that helps to place the book in the appropriate situation. The review dance between biography, history, criticism, summary, and then finally a recommendation (or not).
With all of this said, I desire to throw myself into this game. I would like to see if I am up to such a challenge and my intention is to practice and to use this blog as an outlet. What I would like from you is feedback. What do you think of my review? Was I able to convince one way or another? Was I interesting? I am excited to give this a shot, however, I see that this blog post alone has started to get lengthy and therefore I will truncate it for now. But check back soon. Tomorrow I will probably finish this up with my review of Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Doesn't have to be anything too fancy-shmancy, but a little comment of "wow, thanks for telling me about your life" or "you really are the most witty and intelligent people I know", things of that nature would make this lonely blog so much more cozy.
Plus, we want to hear about your life... and you don't all have blogs. So, if you don't want to post a comment, start a blog and update all the time so we can "stay in touch".
Thursday, May 14, 2009
We are in our third seasonal change in Kandern, and it is officially spring. How do we know it is spring? For one thing, we haven't had snow for months. Despite all the Johnny Raincloud naysayers that assured us there would be more snow in March we have been snow free for at least 2 months. Take that... imagine me with my hands on my hips sticking my tongue out!
Also, the trees went from looking like dead twigs to springing alive with bright green leaves. If you stood and looked out the window, it felt as if you were watching the color spread and deepen before your very eyes. Empty fields were blooming with daffodils and tulips, seemingly overnight.
Bugs literally crawled out of the woodwork making us beg to know why Germans just don't do screens. And spring brings storms, thunderstorms.
Again, for my So Cal counterparts, let me explain what these are. They are one of the most fascinating displays of God's power I have experienced. And they come every day.
Prior to experiencing thunder in Germany, I have to admit I was terrified of it. It may have something to do with a particular thunderstorm in Kansas that may or may not have shaken the entire house and scared the living daylights out of a particular little girl (hello, that was me!) But grown-up-Laura is much more mature about thunder. Especially now that it is a daily occurrence.
The day may start out sunny or cloudy, really there is no difference. And then as the day progresses, you can feel the humidity rising and then rain drops start dribbling or it starts with a rumble and you think "today's storm is here".
I love it. I have always loved rain. And by rain I don't mean 2 inches per year, but pounding rain that drums you to sleep, rain that makes you want to curl up under a blanket and listen, not rain that by the time you get under the blanket, it is gone and the rain is done for another year.
Spring in Germany is beautiful. Possibly, my favorite season so far. Although the fall colors and crisp air were beautiful. And the snow flakes. Oh dear. I think I love seasons, all of them!
But, if you really listen, you can hear the rain start to pitter patter on our windows. Because today's storm just rolled in.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I think something like this is really cool, an amazing opportunity, and an awesome use of technology. I shared this video with my small group guys. Between them they are fluent in 5 1/2 languages. They found it to be really cool, too. I don't know if they are going to do anything about it; they are still quite busy with school (although Phil emailed to get more information). Anyway, I thought that I would reach out to the small readership we do have and pass the word along. And you can pass the word along. Post the link on your blog, tell people about it. Check out the website. Good stuff.
Next thing. As a part of the new staff this year, Laura and I have been going to new staff gatherings once a quarter. Last week was the last one for they year, our "graduation" as it was advertised. During the meeting, kristi Schliep, the woman in charge of recruiting said something amazing. She explained to us that no matter what she does, how hard she works, or how word gets around about BFA "it is a miracle everytime someone gets here." She explained that the entire process, from start to finish, every year, is nothing short than an obvious miracle of God. First she has to find, or connect with interested parties, they have to raise support, the right position needs to be figured out, housing, transportation over here, etc. She painted a very enlightening picture (something that I have failed to do here) of what it is like to decide on the positions needed, find people, and make it all come together that everytime it works successfully, it is a true miracle. I really found her words to be moving.
So, pray for some miracles here at BFA. The school seems to be quite set in the teaching arena, however, there is some desperate need on the housing side. The dorms need male RAs and a set of dorm parents for next year. This is getting to be an urgent need. These positions are vital to the success of this school, and the service it provides to many, many missionary families, and its ministry.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Adam uses the website Flickr to share his pictures online. You can visit his photostream here, or by clicking on the slideshow above to see his photos. He takes wonderful pictures and is always accomodating when I say... oh something like "I want a photo of us kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower at night, I want it to be at an angle and I want the Tower to be lit up and for you to make me look beautiful, even after a full day of walking around Paris in the rain." And he happily complies.
He recently received an email via Flickr that one of his photos was being considered for use on a travel website. Now, its a new website, so don't go thinking he is on the National Geographic website, or anything (some day we will take a safari...). But, they notified him that his picture of Cassis, France was chosen to be used on the website. And his name is posted with the picture and everything. So official and very exciting.
Click on over to see it!
Friday, May 1, 2009
I found this lovely website that you really should check out... mostly for the ladies out there.
What is the Bright Side Project? Well straight from their website...
The Bright Side Project is here to bring you a little metaphorical sunshine every day, to help you stop for a second and remember life is (still) beautiful and there is goodness in the world. Most importantly, The Bright Side Project strives to build fantastic exposure for those contributors who have been generous and kind enough to participate. During our first 28 days, we featured the work of some amazing artists. They posed questions that readers answered for the opportunity to win one of their works. Yes, 28 days of giveaways (thus your sunshine). I know times are tough right now, and maybe shopping has become a distant memory. I feel your pain, I seriously do. The Bright Side Project Part is dedicated to YOU. All you have to do for a chance to win is answer the artist/designer’s question in the comment section. Easy-peasy! I do hope you play along each day, as your answers make our days brighter and we all need a little reminder to look on the bright side...
So, everyday I check in. I love to see what company is featured. Sometimes I check out their websites if their products call my name, which they often do! And I answer the questions. It is a fun diversion in my day. Often the questions are fun to ponder throughout the day. And I love to read what other people write. I try to guess who will win based on their answers. Will it be the cheesy answer, the witty answer that wins? Must be my Psyc major coming back to haunt me.
With anything that is free you think, "is this too good to be true?" I bet no one really wins. Well, I am here to tell you that people really win. And this morning that person was ME! When I saw my name listed as a winner, I screamed. And I never scream!
Look what I won...
Luxury in a bottle. It is lavendar body oil. And the bottle is beautiful!
I hope this doesn't make me ineligible to win other stuff. Because there is a purse I really want, a pair of shoes, some notecards, and a dress. Just from this week!
You really should check it out. It is fun and you too, could win!