Friday, November 26, 2021


Last year I realized that a holiday where you make a giant meal and then have a ton of dishes to clean right in the middle of the workweek is stupid. So this year we are pushing our big meal to the weekend. But that meant we had Thursday free and needed an activity, so we brushed off our list of bakes we want to try.

I think I made some meringue once before, for a food science class. I can't remember what I did with said meringue - I don't think I had time to make anything out of it, so it probably just went into the compost. Several of the bakes we want to try involve meringue, so we decided to start with one that seemed not too difficult - the pavlova!

We couldn't find superfine sugar at our grocery store, so we used the food processor to turn our granulated sugar into slightly more fine sugar. 

While G was working on that, M decided to put on an apron. 

G went to get one too, but discovered that M had taken what was G's apron (but fits M better now I'm sure) and the one left in the drawer was M's old apron, so that clearly wasn't going to work! It was a little debatable if he could even get his head through the loop.

After sorting out the aprons (giving Ryan's apron to G to use), we whisked up our egg whites with cream of tartar before starting to slowly add the sugar/cornstarch. The kids helped a lot with the sugar adding, trying to do this step slowly. I think we didn't wait quite long enough between adding each spoonful, because at the end the sugar wasn't fully dissolved. I let the mixer run longer, which helped some but I was also not sure if this was the kind of thing you can overbeat and was getting nervous about that, so eventually we just decided to go for it.

They made pavlovas on GBBO this season and some people piped while others just spooned the egg whites onto their sheet and then shaped it. We opted for the latter for our first one, partly because this seems a little more traditional.

Once you put it in the oven it's a waiting game. It cooks at a low temperature for about an hour and then is supposed to cool in the oven for 1 hour to overnight. We didn't want to wait overnight for this, so gave it a couple hours of cooling time.

I was pretty worried it would be weepy given how I could feel the sugar in the mixture still, but it wasn't! The center did sink some with cooling - can't remember if that is related to not having cooked quite enough vs the sugar not being thoroughly incorporated issue. 

But we weren't overly concerned with that. We made up some whipped cream to pile on top and decorated it with fruit and then dug in! 

Verdict: delicious, but very sweet. Next time we do this we're thinking of using something tart to cut the sweetness. You got some of that from the kiwi and the raspberries, but a lemon curd would probably be more effective. Or maybe something a little more on the savory side, like nuts. We'll have to look around for ideas. Overall, not an extremely difficult bake and will taste and look good even if it doesn't turn out perfectly. Moderately time consuming, though most of it is inactive time while baking and cooling the pavlova.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Fall Concert

We attended G's first orchestra concert of the year a couple weeks ago. His teacher kept forgetting to give us vital information, like what concert dress was or when the kids needed to show up - communication around my orchestra's first concert was also a little rough. It's been a long time since we've all done this and clearly we're a bit rusty.

He and I got to spend a couple hours in mall hell trying to find concert black clothes at the last minute. There were a shocking number of people there and I can't imagine how terrible it will be over the holidays. Our nearby mall is closed for redevelopment and the next closest one doesn't really have department store staples. Also, athleisure is a terrible fashion trend if you're hoping to find concert black. We had to stick to the men's sections for everything because the teen sections were always just sweatpants/shirts. Gap had black pants but no black button-downs. J. Crew had tons of button downs, but none in black (we came across a family desperately looking for a white one who finally found it there and then were just hoping it would fit). Banana Republic also had no black shirts. We grabbed a nice black sweater there just in case we couldn't find a shirt anywhere. The shoes were the priciest bit, but also the easiest because we walked into the store, found the 3 dressy type black shoes that they had, picked the least expensive (but still expensive, ugh), they had them in his size and we were out of there. I finally remembered that we have a Men's Wearhouse near us, so we headed back there. Even there, the black shirts were slim pickings and we had to settle for something that's a little big. He really needs a belt to complete the ensemble, but everything I saw everywhere was going to be too big. It was a relief to finally have everything found, just frustrating that we hadn't had the information we needed earlier.

I'm pretty sure the seats in the auditorium are the originals from when the school was built in 1959. The concert hadn't even started yet and I was wondering how much money would need to be raised to replace them. Pretty sure my body is never going to forgive me for the hour and a half I spent sitting there...and we have 4 years worth of concerts to get through!

We encouraged Gareth to try out for the chamber orchestra just for the experience. We knew he wouldn't get in, but thought experiencing an audition would be good for him. He didn't get into chamber orchestra, but his teacher made him principal second violin in his orchestra, so he was glad he tried out. The two orchestras play some combined pieces and she told him to play first in the combined group so he gets to practice some more technical parts as well.

Both groups sounded a little rough as they started, but improved as they got going. Again, it's been a couple years since the kids have been able to actually play in person together, so not surprising. It was a good start for a fall concert.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Halloween Activities

We revived our Bob's Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze tradition this year, after a hiatus last year due to the pandemic. The slides were popular again (even with the teen):

This year they had multiple large tires stuck in the ground - G enjoyed running across them and leaping from one section to another. They almost injured themselves a few times on the larger leaps, which made me a little nervous since cross-country was still ongoing.

M had to get a new shot of the "oh no! I'm being roasted!" picture. They were puzzled by why anyone would smile in this particular cutout:

Made it through the maze and chose some pumpkins!

Auntie Karla sent us some stunning Halloween cookies (M's favorite was the stay-puft marshmallow man):

We invited D'Emily over for a pumpkin beer/cider tasting evening as well as fall foods and a viewing of Arsenic and Old Lace. Emily hasn't seen nearly enough classic movies, so I'm trying to remedy this. The menu was porcini and wild rice soup, butternut squash gratin, and pumpkin scones - all gluten free and vegetarian or vegan and all delicious. Was going to make cornbread as well, but weirdly couldn't find any certified gluten free corn meal - boo to our local stores for not having that.

The kids finally carved their pumpkins on Halloween morning, while I was at a concert. We weren't on top of costumes, so they ended up not going out. And weirdly we only got 6 trick-or-treaters coming to our door (usually it's more like 30-50). The kids seemed happy enough to eat our extra candy and play Borderlands instead, so it all worked out!