Family Traditions

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With the insanity of a more-than-full-time job, and the crush of the holidays, I’m a little sad that I wasn’t able to make a batch of my Blue Ribbon biscochitos this year. (Long time reader Ephraim has agreed to eat extra of his wife’s batch of biscochitos in order to bring balance back to the universe)

I also didn’t get a chance to make sugar cookies.

I didn’t manage to get to that chocolate covered peanut butter ball recipe I wanted to try.

And toffee. This year I was going to make toffee.

I didn’t get any of that done.

Thankfully, one family tradition did manage to squeeze through my kitchen as we near the holiday.

When I was growing up, my mom used to make these fabulous cream cheese mints. I always considered them to be so elegant and classy. Posh, as the Brits would say.

I remember my mom wrapped up a beautiful box of mints and gave them to my kindergarten teacher (who I idolized). She sent my mom a gushing thank you note. For some reason that stuck with me.

Through the magic of the internet, I was able to find myself a set of candy molds that approximated my mom’s collection, and Thursday night I put all else aside and whipped up a batch.

Tasty treats. Family lore.

Happy Christmas Eve to us all!!




This tin was supposed to make its way to work to share. It didn’t make it to work. More for me!



So pretty!!




Photos Copyright 2011, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons on the right column of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone4s and the Hipstamatic app.


That There is a Winner!

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As the Holiday season draws to a close, just two days now until “The Big Day” those of us at work come together for our annual “What Did You Get From The Suppliers?” comparison event.

As I started my career working for the government, I rather enjoy being in private industry where we can accept small tokens from the companies we work with.

Now let me just say, I’m usually the big loser in these competitions because I work with the telco commodity. Those companies are as cheap as the day is long.

I thought I had a pretty good entry this year for Worst Present. I got this tacky plexiglass picture frame that sits in a weird base and when I put the plastic part into the base, it immediately broke.

And then, I got ANOTHER one in the mail the next day. Their sales team clearly didn’t coordinate.

So I brought that out and declared it the worst gift of 2011.

But I got trumped and trumped hard.

“Oh NO!” I heard from the corner. “I can beat that.”

Beat that, she did.

Behold:






Now, it helps to know that the recipient of this present is a very classy, stylish girl from the City. She’s quite Coco Chanel and Jimmy Choo.

To make this gift even more charming, it was handed to my coworker while still wrapped in the plastic shopping bag from the Dallas airport.

Obviously I had to concede the race. I reboxed my broken plexiglass frame in defeat.

By the way, the lady with the worst gift is also the winner of the most and best gifts too. She works in temporary staffing. Those suppliers fall all over themselves to give stuff away at the holidays.

I need to consider working in a new group. This annual defeat, even in the worst category, is gosh darn humbling.

And for as ungrateful as I may seem, I really do enjoy the little trinkets our suppliers send.
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Especially when it is a box of See’s candy.


The Gift of the Magi – In short supply

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We three kings of Orient are/bearing gifts we traverse afar

So goes the lyrics of one of my all time favorite holiday songs. I belted it out with gusto during Midnight Mass through most of my formative years.

As the story goes, the Three Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on that first Christmas, thus paving the way for BlueRay players and gift cards and a Red Ryder BB gun.

I always thought gold was the good gift in that stack. Who knows what all that other stuff was? Wasn’t a gift of frankincense and myrrh like getting a fruitcake and an ugly sweater?

Yesterday, I read with interest an article in USA Today discussing how the Boswellia tree, a scraggly tree found mostly in Ethiopia, is facing quite a sharp decline. Like 7% of trees dying off per year and new saplings not maturing into full trees.

Frankincense is the dried sap from a Boswellia tree. Cuts are made into the trunk of the tree (called stripping) and then sap flows to heal the wound. When that sap hardens (called, appropriately enough, tears), the dried frankincense is harvested from the tree and it can be burned or oils extracted for perfume.

The trees are threatened for a couple of reasons, one is that the Ethiopian government has pushed people to relocate from the highlands to the lowlands where the tree is prevalent. This puts pressure on the ecosystem. The highlanders brought cattle with them, and the cows eat saplings. Also, the grasslands are burned to make it easier to get to the trees to collect the frankincense, but that also kills saplings.

In addition, the process of cutting into the trees leaves them vulnerable to attack by longhorn beetles.

Researchers are still trying to understand if climate change is also a concern.

In all, quite a fascinating bit of understanding about that gift from the first Christmas that I’ve so often sung about but not well understood.

Of course, as I read the article I thought “I betcha these trees would grow in New Mexico.” Well sure enough, there is a man in Arizona who is growing and selling Boswellia trees and they seem to do well in Southern California, Florida and parts of Arizona.

It’s too cold here in the Bay Area, but if I was back in New Mexico, I’d totally want to see if I could grow a Boswellia tree.




The Boswellia tree




Cuts are make into the trunk of the Boswellia tree to encourage the flow of resin




Hardened frankincense, also called tears



All images from LookLex Encyclopaedia.

This week’s Theme Thursday is (appropriately enough): gift


Your Mobile Phone Camera And You

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Ok, look. Facebook finally got me. Like a hungry, persistent mountain lion, it pounced on me, grabbed me by the throat and took me down.

Anyhow.

As I’ve been spending more time in the cavernous Facebook labyrinth, and seeing a lot of pages and a lot of faces, I’m starting to notice a trend.

Remember the infamous MySpace pose? That’s the self-photo taken with the camera above you, eyes looking up but chin down. Yeah, I think we’ve all seen plenty of that pose.

But that’s so over now.

The pose I’m seeing a lot of these days is the in-the-car self-photo.

Yup. Hold the phone way out to one side and snap a shot of yourself in the driver’s seat. Post it. Magic.

Look, I fully understand the need to look good in our Facebook profile. An old boyfriend from college might show up or something!

So what’s with the in-the-car profile photo and how can we make it better?

I will now dig into my deep and (not so) closely held secrets of the art of photography and perform a public service.

Ya wanna know why you like that photo of yourself in the car?

Two words: Natural light.

We ALL look better in natural light. When you are in your car, good ol’ fashioned sun comes pouring in through all the windows. Real sunlight makes you look hot.

I’m not kidding.

So assuming you want to have a nice photo of yourself on your Facebook page without your steering wheel in the background, and assuming you are all alone or too shy to ask for help, and assuming you want or need some advice on self portraiture…..


Here’s Karen Fayeth’s tips for a smoking hot profile self-photo:


Either get outside or if you have a nice sunny spot in your house filled with natural light, go there.

Next, what would be a nice background? How about a wall with a fun pattern or a wood fence with character? Sit down and lean back against it. Sit up straight! No slouchy here because we’ll all see it.

Make sure the sun isn’t shining directly in your face. That will make you squinty. Make sure the sun isn’t directly behind you. That will make you halo-y and a dark shadow. It works best if it’s a sunny day but you are in shadow, or the sun isn’t directly on you. An overcast day is even better. That diffused light is majorly hot.

Hold your phone camera out at about eye level and a little off center. If you hold it above your eyes, you’ll get that eyes-up MySpace look. If you hold it below, now you are looking down and no one likes a double chin in their photo.

Keep your chin up but not too high. Keep it at normal level as if you are looking straight forward.

Keep your elbow slightly bent. Don’t straight arm it or you will see your arm in the photo. Here’s an example.

Relax your face. Don’t force the smile. Try thinking about something that makes you laugh or smile naturally. Think about that time your buddy slipped and cartwheeled on the ice. Or think about how much your love your kid/spouse/dog/whatever. Something that tickles your funnybone and makes your eyes twinkle.

Look into the lens. Don’t look off to the side. Don’t look up. Don’t look down. Look that lens square in its little lens eye and snap the shot.

And then another. And another and another and another and another.

Don’t be shy to take A LOT of photos. You are looking for one good one among the many that make you go “uh, no”. It’s every photographer’s little secret. Take lots of shots.

Wait! Don’t just upload that photo you like right from your mobile phone to your Facebook page!!!

Pause.

Look at it on a bigger screen. Download it or email it to yourself and look on a regular monitor.

Check out the photo and crop it down if you want. Look in the background ALL AROUND you in the photo to be sure there isn’t something weird going on back there. (be especially alert for dogs pooping, kids barfing, etc. Check out This is Photobomb for a sense of what I’m putting down here. Site not totally safe for work.)

Then, if you are happy with the photo, go ahead and make it your profile photo.

And wait for the compliments to roll in.

Oh, and one last piece of advise: Fer chrissakes, no duckface!

No photos in the mirror either.



Sooo many things wrong with this technique. Good light though!





Image found all over the web. If it’s yours I’ll gladly take it down or give credit, at your request. Thanks! I found it here.




That’s the night that the lights went out at the ‘Stick

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Our poor beleaguered Candlestick Park. The windy old jewel is really starting to show her age.

Well, not starting, really. Rapidly declining is more like it.

Last night she had a show to deliver: A contending team vs a contending team and an audience on the big stage of Monday Night Football.

Then this happened:





That blue light you see off to the left is a power transformer blowing up.

In a packed stadium in a hotly contested game with rafters full of fans from the opposing team out at Candlestick point…that’s not exactly where you want to be when the lights go out.

After some waiting around, the lights did come back on and the 49ers did prevail over the Pittsburgh Steelers, so all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

But what a sad state of affairs for the ‘Stick.




Transformer blowin’ gif found here.