Sometimes, things just happen. You can’t control them, try as you might. Life just takes control and you just need to let it run it’s course, leaving behind the lessons that it may. Happy things, sad things, falling in and out of love and lust, births, and deaths. It’s all part of the course, and we need to let things happen. I’ve been trying to just let things happen lately.
This past semester…well, you could say that I was a little stressed, but that’s an understatement. I kept it to myself, not really wanting to burden anyone with the mounds of stress I felt. What to do now, what to do this summer, what to do next year, what to do after college…you get it. We’ve all felt it. Those moments when it feels like every deadline is tomorrow and you need to have your life figured out in the next five minutes.
This past winter break I was a mess, freaking out, trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was baking like crazy, trying to put myself into a zone where I would maybe be able to solve my problems…but no. Nothing. Still a ball of stress. The few people I did vent to had one of two reactions: 1) Chill out, you’ll figure it all out eventually, or 2) OMG me too. What are we gonna do with our lives?! The first answer came from the older and wiser, the second answer came from my young friends, also struggling to bear the stress of life.
Since I’ve been back at school, the workload has been so massive I’ve barely had time to stress about the future – I’ve had enough to worry about in the present, but it was always there, nagging the back of my mind. But two weekends ago, one of my best friend’s life changed, and with that, so did mine.
Max, one of my best friends since the first day of college, received a phone call in the middle of the night. His dad, a world-renowned underwater cinematographer, had passed away in a helicopter crash in Australia. Our whole friend group was in utter disbelief. We all mourned for the man we had heard so much about but had never met. I flew down to Santa Barbara to be there for Max at the funeral on February 11th, and if there was ever an awe-inspiring, life changing funeral, this was it.
Mike deGruy, a Southern-born man, was absolutely incredible. He was so passionate about everything he did in life – his work, his friends, and of course, his family. In his brother’s speech, he recalled him as a nine-year-old child, vowing to forget his fears on the diving board and going for the dives he was most afraid of. Mike wouldn’t let fear dictate his life. Instead, he pushed his fears aside and did everything that he wanted to do. His brother described him as a human exclamation point, someone there to mark the happy, exciting times on everyone who knew him. A mere half hour later, at the beach ceremony, someone pointed to the sky. There, in the clouds, was a perfectly formed exclamation point. Mike got in the last, final impression. He really was an exclamation point.
I’m still in awe, and every time I glance down at my wrist and see the W.W.M.D. bracelet fit snugly around my wrist, I think to myself, “What Would Mike Do?”. And I always know the answer – he would live life to the fullest. He would live in the moment, not let the fear of the future guide his life. I try to live by his philosophy each and every day, and even though I’ll never get to meet him, his legacy lives on through his wife, his daughter, and his son.
In honor of Mike, I’m sharing with you one of the treats I made over winter break, in an attempt to get out of my own head. Marshmallows are also something I failed miserably at the first time I tried them…really, it was a complete disaster. Burning syrup ended up all over me and my kitchen, and threads of sticky marshmallow fluff were laced all over everything they touched. I tried again though, determined, and now marshmallows are one of my absolute favorite things to make. They’re not hard once you’ve done it once or twice, and everyone is wildly impressed by them. And boy, do they make the best s’mores you’ve ever had. Toast em up, eat them plain, or make a Nutella, Peanut Butter, Marshmallow Sandwich on a panini press! (Not that I’ve ever done that…) It’s a bit time consuming, but once you get a hang of making marshmallows, you’ll be doing it all the time! Enjoy, and remember to live everyday in the moment.
- 12 sheets gelatin*
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting
- Grease an 9×13-inch pan with shortening, using a paper towel to rub it lightly and evenly onto the bottom, sides and edges of the pan. Set aside.
- Put the gelatin sheets into a medium microwave-safe bowl and fill it with very cold water to cover by several inches, adding a few ice cubes to keep it cold. While they soak for about 10 minutes, move on to the rest of the recipe.
- Place the sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and stir gently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pan, and place it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, checking it occasionally–you are looking for it to eventually hit a temperature of 235-240 degrees (soft ball stage).
- Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/2 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. By this point, the gelatin sheets should be very soft–drain them well and give them a quick wringing out, and place them back in the microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until the gelatin is completely melted, about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer on low, and very slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup. Keep the mixer running while you check the sugar syrup.
- Once the syrup reaches 235-240 degrees, pull it from the heat. Carefully transfer the syrup to a large, heatproof measuring cup or a similar vessel with a spout for easy pouring. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. When all the syrup has been added, crank the speed up to medium-high and let it go for about 6 to 7 minutes–the mixture should turn white and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and increase the speed to its highest setting for 1 more minute.
- Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula spritzed with a bit of cooking spray to nudge it into the corners and smooth the top. Usually, they settle themselves pretty well and I don't have to spread them much. Tap the pan on the counter a few time to get rid of air bubbles. Sift confectioners’ sugar evenly and generously over the top. Let sit for about 6 hours or until firm.
- Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and invert it onto a confectioners’ sugar-dusted work surface. Dust the marshmallow slab with more confectioner’s sugar and cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great here). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more confectioners’ sugar, patting off the excess. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
*This recipe calls for gelatin sheets, and I strongly recommend them for best results, but you can use unflavored powdered gelatin instead. I've definitely used it quite a few times in this recipe! Great resources for converting the gelatin amounts from sheets to powder in recipes can be found here and here.
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking