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"The Chief Tormentor"
The Deliciously Devilish Blog of Puzzling News From Staveland

Jun 4
2014

Broadening Her Horizons

 

Samara’s Our Girl

Just over five years ago we were lucky enough to have Samara join us at Stave Puzzles. A talented artist who turned out to be a natural cutter, she fit right in. After a few years of crafting puzzles, Samara began drawing silhouettes and edge designs which quickly led to designing Teaser puzzles, like Your High-ness, and Giant Dilemma. We tried our best to keep her busy and mentally stimulated but after four years, Samara got itchy feet and decided she needed something new. She’s been doing some exciting stuff and we thought you might enjoy hearing her tell about her recent adventure.

From Samara

Leaving Stave was very hard. It is one of those rare 9-5 jobs that allow you to express your creativity on a daily basis. My co-workers became my Stave family and I made important lifelong friendships. The decision to leave came down to this: a 9-5 job just isn’t for me. Routine makes me feel bored and lethargic, which affects my creativity in a negative way. To my surprise, everyone was very supportive of my desire to pursue my art career, which made it easier for me to leave.

Many wish to travel the world, and some never get to fulfill that wish. I decided I needed to act on my dreams so that I never had to say “I regret not traveling when I was younger.” I was 27, had no relationship or children, and I had left Stave 6 months before to pursue a career as a freelance artist. Basically, I was as free as my financial situation would allow. I made the decision to go to Thailand to teach english for a year. I signed up with a program called Language Corps, and obtained a certificate that allowed me to teach English abroad.

For most people, including myself, the thought of moving all alone to a different country is scary.

I knew I would be out of my element in a place where no one speaks English, or so I thought, so I chose Thailand because I had a good friend living in Bangkok. Already knowing someone took away the anxiety I may have had about finding a place to live because I stayed with her and her husband until I found a job, then an apartment.

I truly lucked out on my chances here. Within a month of arriving, I found a job teaching conversational English at Chang Sin College, an art school in Bangkok, for kids ages 15-18. “My kids” are incredibly talented artists who are just awful at speaking English, but that doesn’t stop them from being sly little devils who make me laugh as much as frustrate me. I’m really just teaching them the basics of English: “How are you?”, “Where are you going?”, “Why are you late for class?”, etc.

The Thai teachers really embraced me into their community, especially my boss, Achara, who I call my Thai mother. She translates everything for me, gives me advice and rides, helped me move to a new apartment, and generally looks out for my well-being. In return, I tell her the glasses she can’t find are on top of her head, and I work on learning Thai culture and how to properly pay respect to people when I meet them. In the Thai culture, when greeting another person, you wai them (pronounced like why) by putting your hands in a praying position in front of your face. Knowing how to properly wai can make the difference between an unhelpful store clerk and a store clerk who will make you sit down and do your shopping for you.

I’ve made many new friends from around the world. Friendships really can span the globe, with the bonus of having free places to stay in multiple countries! I also met a guy from Alaska whose best friend in college went to my high school and was a year behind me, proving that you really can go anywhere in the world and still be reminded of how small it can be.

I love how affordable everything is here. Nothing in my wardrobe cost more than $10, and I’ve had to cut myself off from buying shoes because I would have to buy another suitcase to get them home. I also love the traditional culture of Thailand. The fabric, houses, temples, and paintings are incredibly beautiful.

It will be hard to have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made here, especially my Thai mother. When I left on this journey, I shed tears because I would miss my friends and family. When I leave Thailand to go home, I know I may never come back, and some of my Thai friends are either too old or cannot afford to travel to the U.S. It will break my heart to leave them and I will cherish the friendship they gave me for the rest of my life.

When I talk about Stave, I still use the term “we”, and I have no plans to stop being a part of the “family” any time soon. In fact, I’m working on an alphabet series of puzzles that I hope to have finished up by this fall! Keep your eye out for them!

Samara

 

Nov 13
2013

He’s At It, Again!

 

Every good employee hopes to have that little extra something that makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd. Whether it’s their organizational skills, their knack for numbers or some other ability, we all want to shine.

I’m here to confess I don’t have any of that! I work in an ‘organized’ clutter, was only an average math student and can’t say I’m totally awesome at anything in particular. But sometimes being in the right place at the right time is all you need!

Around five years ago one of my favorite puzzlers in Birmingham shared his love for Stave with a friend who he knew enjoyed puzzling. When this friend called Stave to talk puzzles, I helped him with his order. For those of you who have spoken with me, you know I like to chat. Maybe not like Tammy but I love to visit! At some point or another I learned this puzzler was as much of a golf fanatic as Steve. To make a long story short, he hooked me up with an invitation for Steve to golf Augusta National. Steve was delighted! To top that, this year Steve was invited to play Pine Valley in southern New Jersey. I’m guessing much of Steve’s ‘bucket list’ has probably been covered by these two events. He was honored and thrilled and loved every minute of it. Due to the kindness of our puzzling friend, I’m in awesome standing with the boss. I’m practically walking on water over here in puzzleland and you can bet I’m milking every bit of it I can!

Steve claims he does some of his best work on the golf course and while we aren’t too sure about that, we know we do some of our best work when he’s out on the golf course!!

 

 

 

Yours in puzzlement,
Jennifer

 

Nov 13
2013

Let’s Catch Up

 

“When friends are at your hearthside met,
Sweet courtesy has done its most
If you have made each guest forget
That he himself is not the “host.”
-Thomas Bailey Aldrich

All the Doings ’round Here

We’ve had a busy summer here at Stave and it looks like we’re going to maintain that trend right through the end of fall and into winter. Winter! Where did that come from? We had a fun little snow shower last week and another on Saturday and that was just a taste of what’s to come. The Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting a lot of snow for us this year. I guess if it’s winter in VT we might as well have snow.

More Summer Fun

Steve and Martha were honored to spend an August afternoon with President and Mrs. Bush on Walker’s Point in Maine. They enjoyed a delicious lobster souffle luncheon and lively conversation. Mrs. Bush is as lovely as ever and sharp as a tack! As you can see from the photo above, President Bush’s hair is growing back after shaving his head to show support for the two-year-old son of a member of his Secret Service detail who is battling leukemia. Now that’s cool!

Look Who’s Here!

We ’re very proud to introduce our latest Stave team member. Easton Meyer arrived on August 16th coming in at 6 lbs. 10oz. He’s been coming to work with his mom, Jesse, for a few weeks now and boy, do we love it! Easton’s got a full head of wild hair and a smile that will melt your heart. We’re going to keep him around as long as Jesse will let us.

 

Jennifer-
Is she really ‘all there’?!

Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 2 hrs 30 mins | Makes: 1 (9-inch pie), or 8 to 10 servings

This impressive-looking pie starts with a simple press-in graham cracker crust that is coated with a layer of chocolate ganache. Fresh raspberries are cooked down, then strained, chilled, and folded into whipped cream to make a smooth, fluffy filling. To make things extra festive, decorate the top of the pie with whole raspberries and finish it off with a chocolate drizzle for a stunning yet easy-to-make summer dessert.

 

INGREDIENTS

For the raspberry syrup:

1 pound plus 2 ounces raspberries (about 4 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (from about 1 medium lime)

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

For the crust and chocolate layer:

12 whole graham crackers (about 6 ounces)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (about 2 ounces)

1/4 cup heavy cream

For the raspberry cream filling and to assemble:

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 ounces raspberries (about 3 cups)

1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (about 2 ounces)

INSTRUCTIONS

For the raspberry syrup:

1. Place the raspberries, sugar, and salt in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and stir until the raspberries are coated in sugar. Mash with a potato masher until about half of the berries are completely smashed but some medium-sized chunks remain.

2. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbles form along the edge, about 3 minutes. Add the lime zest and juice, stir to combine, and bring to a full boil, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the raspberries are falling apart, about 8 minutes more. Meanwhile, place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.

3. Pour the raspberry mixture into the strainer. Using a rubber spatula, push on the solids and scrape the underside of the strainer until all of the liquid has been extracted (you should have about 1 cup); discard the contents of the strainer. Set the syrup aside to cool for at least 30 minutes.

4. Refrigerate the syrup uncovered until cold, at least 1 hour. (If not using right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.) Meanwhile, make the crust and chocolate layer.

For the crust and chocolate layer:

1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

2. Break the crackers into rough 2-inch pieces and place in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process into fine crumbs (you should have about 2 cups), about 30 seconds. Stop the motor, add the melted butter, and pulse to combine, about 5 (1-second) pulses. (Alternatively, place the crackers in a resealable plastic bag, press out the air, and seal. Using a rolling pin, smash into uniform fine crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the melted butter, and mix until evenly combined.)

3. Pour the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and, using the bottom of a cup or your fingers, press firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides.

4. Bake until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, about 8 minutes. Remove the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool at least 15 minutes.

5. Place the chocolate chips and cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually until the chocolate is just melted and the mixture is smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Pour into the cooled crust and spread into an even layer. Freeze until the chocolate layer is set, about 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer while you make the raspberry cream filling.

To make the raspberry cream filling and assemble:

1. Chill the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use a hand whisk and a large chilled bowl. Whisk until medium peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes.)

3. Stop the mixer and add the chilled raspberry syrup. Return the mixer to high speed and whisk until firm peaks form, about 30 seconds to 1 minute (or 2 to 3 minutes if whisking by hand). Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, scrape along the bottom and stir gently to incorporate any white streaks. Transfer the raspberry cream filling to the prepared crust and spread it into an even layer.

4. Arrange the whole raspberries stem-side down in a decorative pattern on top of the filling. Set the pie aside.

5. Place the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until they’re melted and smooth. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring at 30-second intervals to avoid burning.) Dip a fork into the melted chocolate and drizzle it over the pie in a zigzag pattern. Place the pie in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

 

Jun 17
2013

We’re In the News Again!

Did you catch the interview with Steve,  the Chief Tormentor on the Nightly Business Report. It aired Friday evening June 7th. If you missed the show, now’s your chance to watch it.

 

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