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December 2013 Archives

Minty, Minty Christmas Love

December 27, 2013

Each year for Christmas we have a lot of fun making something crafty and yummy and festive for our large list of friends and family members. And the treats have always been well received.

After the awesomeness of fighting through drunken bees to make fireweed jelly last year, the pressure to exceed expectations was so high that we avoided the entire topic for months.

"Hey what should we do for Christmas this year?"
"Iunno."
"It should be something amazing."
"Yeah probably."
"OMG we're going to disappoint everyone we love."
*shrugs*
*pouts*
*curls into a ball*

Then I watered our giant mint plant taking over the back yard and BAM there was the idea and it was awesome indeed.

First we harvested the majority of our giant mint plant, washed everything really well, bruised the leaves and submerged them in mason jars of alcohol. Then we left them for months until it became a wonderfully smelling mint extract.

Then we strained the leaves from the extract and portioned it into small glass jars with fancy labels. Steve designs the labels every year and I just love them. He's so amazing.

We added one little leaf into every bottle for authenticity sake, and then sealed the bottles with a heat gun.

After all of the extract was bottled and sealed, we made mint candies by adding mint and gel food coloring to approximately 56 pounds of gum paste, one egg-shaped handful at a time.

We mixed everything together thoroughly until we had a nice little colored ball. Donovan made most of the red mints, I made most of the green, and Steve made all of the white. I think the green ones taste better.

We then flattened the ball, and punched out little rounds using large straws we had stolen borrowed from the smoothie place in the mall. The straw punching took a bit of practice, but all three of us are now experts.

We wore rubber gloves because soaking your hands in mint is not as pleasurable as it may sound.

Mitzi and Olive were really good helpers during this project, despite the lack of opposable thumbs for holding a straw.

After all of the rounds were punched out, about the size of Altoids, we put them in some powdered sugar and spread them all out to dry for a few days.

Once the candies were all dry, we portioned them out into little metal tins, added labels and sealed them with the heat gun. We've found the little plastic seals are the perfect little touch that make the products feel more professional and secure for shipping.

And people are more willing to eat something that comes with a plastic seal.

While I was at work the week before Christmas, Steve and Donovan packaged everything up for mailing.

I'm a little sad we didn't get to keep any of the mints, but we still have a ton of extract left over and I'm looking forward to making all kinds of minty things.

Merry Christmas!

Here at Christmas

December 24, 2013

I am absolutely in love with this holiday season. Olive and Mitzi are... less enthusiastic.

Merry Christmas!

Alaska Robotics Drawing Night

December 20, 2013

Alaska Robotics in Juneau hosts a really fun drawing night every Wednesday, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to stop in when I was in town for work last week. I had made arrangements with Pat Race and the model Kaylee to let me photograph her while she was posing.

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed drawing or sketching. I must have enjoyed it when I was a child, as most children do. I remember having graph-paper-like books when I was young that let me create crazy geometric shapes by connecting lines and dots, and oh man I would do that for hours.

I'd probably still do that for hours, actually.

Reminder: add to Christmas wishlist for next year.

As an adult, drawing has been a source of more frustration than enjoyment. I can't get the final result to look anything like I want, let along look anything like the subject I was drawing. I couldn't get on paper any of the details that my mind was seeing and also drawing was stupid.

I love photography. There's a lot of math involved and rules that I can base the creativity off of. By contrast, drawing feels like it has no base of math or rules: just a white piece of paper and a pencil.

So I was happy that I was able to photograph Kaylee while she was posing for other artists. Until the poses were 10 minutes long: there's only so much I want to photograph, and filling 10 minutes with more photos of her shoes wasn't terribly appealing.

To fill the time, I pulled out my iPad and stylus and started sketching.

It was amazing. The iPad and stylus combination is terrible for precision work, which didn't allow me to get stuck on my inability to capture details. The details may look like crap but that was partially due to my tools, and I was able to let my perceived artistic inability go.

Limiting my tools helped me release the little anxiety whispers that it wasn't perfect and didn't look anything like the model and why do I even think I can do this art thing anyway, I'm a terrible person.

I was pleased and surprised at what I sketched: it doesn't look like crap at all! I mean yes the fingers look like crap and I gave up all attempts at drawing faces.

But more importantly, I really enjoyed sketching.

My brain hyper focused on the model and the light grey lines on my iPad and the two hours was over in a heartbeat.

I'm so glad I went. I recommend Alaska Robotics drawing night (Wednesdays 6-8) to everyone in Juneau, and will be seeking out similar drawing groups here in Anchorage.

All of the Snow

December 15, 2013

I was in Juneau last week for work, and while I was there they were hit with a big snow storm. It was beautiful and chilly and windy and airplanes couldn't land.

My plane did manage to take off from Juneau, albeit late and quite bumpily, and I made it home safe. Just in time to experience the same snow storm again.

And the dogs were driving everyone crazy because wah the snow is too snowy to go out and do any business in. So Donovan and I bundled them up in hew sweaters and booties and took them both to the park today.

We forged our own trails through a foot and a half of powdery snow, which Mitzi thought was amazing and Olive thought was torture. Which might be related to the snow being deeper than Olive is tall.

For a good portion of the walk I was the main trail maker, Mitzi was directly behind me in my path, and Olive was behind Mitzi.

Towards the end of the walk Olive just sat down in the snow and was done. DONE. Because she hates everything and everybody and the deep snow in particular.

I think it was the most pathetic I have ever seen her when at the park.

I didn't pick her up. GET MOVING, DOG.

They slept like amazing once we got home. Well worth it.

Skirting the edge

December 7, 2013

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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