Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Martha Stewart Madness Takes Over!

Last week I bought the December issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine because I love the food photography in it. (Honest! I don't even read the articles! Much. . .) Well, I got completely excited by the idea of making the Fleur de Sel toffee that purports itself to be so easy, and it was. I documented the process from cooking to packaging it up as gifts. Read on. . .
First I sprayed a cookie sheet with vegetable oil. Then I mixed one pound (yes, that's FOUR whole sticks, folks!) of butter, 2 2/3 cups of sugar, 1/3 cup of water and 1/4 cup of light corn syrup in the largish pan you see below and let it all melt over medium high heat. I whisked it until it looked like this:Jon was excited to try some. Toffee is his favorite candy:
Once it came to a boil, the recipe said I had to wait at least 12 minutes, (although it ended up being something more like 22 minutes) until the candy thermometer read 300 degrees and it was nice and toffee-colored, like this:
Next, I had to pour it into the cookie sheet, where I let it sit for 30 seconds and then sprinkled it with kosher salt for that sweet-n-salty goodness. Then it had to sit for 30 minutes before I could break it up.After it cooled, I was able to break it up with a little hammer into thousands of tiny pieces (boy, does it taste delicious! I ate enough to make my teeth ache. . . No, seriously!)
And then I boxed it up in little petal boxes I'd made and hand-stamped while it was cooling (you see what I mean about the Martha Stewart Madness thing now? I'll might just go out and stencil the driveway next--watch out world!) That's all for today, folks! Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight! Cheers, Martha--uh, I mean, Cindy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From my tree to you: Merry Christmas!

Well, there are still many Southern Mainers without power as I write this, but Central Maine Power Company is hoping to have all of them back up on the grid as of late tonight. New Hampshire and Massachussetts were even harder hit than we were, so I understand it will be some time before they all have their power back on.

I took some pictures of my Christmas ornaments this morning. My aunt Theresa gave us this sweet little angel (top) a couple of years ago and she's now a staple favorite each year, placed front and center.

Grammy Seger's World War II Christmas ball. This was purchased during the time when everyone was being encouraged to donate anything metal to the war effort, so it was apparently just a simple glass ball with a cardboard insert to hang it from the tree with a little kitchen twine. It has been a family favorite since I was a child, despite it's less than gorgeous appearance. It symbolizes my grandparents' Depression-Era frugality, I suppose, too. It's a real piece of history, in any case. I'm not sure who gave us the one below, but Maya loves it anyhow.
And this interesting one below --I got him a couple of years before Maya was born. He was part of a series called Santas around the world or something. I think he might be Father Christmas, but around my house, we just call him "Snooty Santa."

Thanks for taking the time to read and look as always! Happy Holidays, Cindy

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Glass World!

We bought a Christmas tree yesterday afternoon. We had been going to get it on Saturday, but like so many others, we lost our power in Friday's big ice storm and didn't get it back on for 36 hours. We stayed with my cousin and her family because they got their power back early on. So many people are still waiting to get their electricity back on that I felt a little badly being so comfortable and cozy as we decorated our cute little tree last night.
We let Maya do most of the work, really. After I put up the lights, she got out all the ornaments and showed us her favorites (like the one above, in particular, which dates back to World War II, and is seriously just a glass ball with a mouldering yellow stripe painted around it. It has a cardboard insert in the neck and is hung with a piece of white cooking twine, because it was bought during the time when people were donating everything metal that they owned to the war cause. It's our family favorite and has been since I was a child. It was Grammy Seger's.) Here's Jon, below, enjoying watching Maya hard at work:

The pictures aren't too great because I didn't want to use the flash and ruin the moody Christmas-lit ambiance, so I used ISO 1000 and a wide-open aperture to capture these cute shots of Maya having a blast, decorating. Happy Holidays to you all!

The day before that, Saturday, we went to Augusta, to meet my father, who is kindly loaning me his Pentax K20D, to do a couple of upcoming photo shoots. One is Merry Madness, which is a fun shopping night in the Old Port that starts with an opening ceremony at the Eastland Hotel on High Street this Thursday the 18th of December at 5 pm. You buy either a mug or a wine glass and then go all around the Old Port, shopping from 5-10 pm, where you can get a nice glass of wine or a mug of cocoa or coffee, depending on your preferences. The other will be even more fun: On Saturday the 20th of December, I am going to be riding on the lead tugboat in the Parade of Lights in Portland Harbor, to take photos of all the boats, lighted for the holiday and parading around the harbor several times. And finally, this week, I'll be going to somewhere between 5 and 8 restaurants to take photos of their signature seafood dishes for Portland Magazine's upcoming February/March issue. I am really excited about that assignment, because food photography is near and dear to my heart.

Anyhow, on the way home from meeting Dad for lunch at the Olive Garden in Augusta, we stopped by the Capital Building in Augusta Central (right.) The light was low and warm and I'd never taken pictures of it, so I thought I'd try my hand. In the picture above, you can sort of see the thick coating of ice on all the trees. And on the left below the capitol building dome, is the front of the building, a perspective I liked because it looks like government, frowning down upon the peons!
Finally, I'll leave you with a shot I took on the highway on the way home--the sun setting through some ice-covered trees. It really looked like a glass world for about 48 hours here in Southern Maine. Thanks for reading as always! Cindy

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Jewel-toned early evening in the Old Port

Two weeks ago, while Maya and her cousin had their dance class on Portland's West End, I drove down to the Old Port and set up my tripod and camera on the corner of Fore and Exchange Streets. I took these two long exposures of car head and taillights, streaking through the scene, enlivening an otherwise quiet early evening. Some sunsets are so gorgeous, but they generally have beautiful clouds that allow for all of those gorgeous, rich colors. But on days that have few clouds, the sunsets aren't as exciting, but I always love how the sky looks AFTER the sun sets. It's a luminous jewel-toned blue. And I find that that is how cities look best, photographed after dark: just after sunset. Thanks for reading as always, Cindy


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