Rainbow Jelly (friday foto finder: food)

A few years ago, a doctor wanted Phoebe to go on a clear fluid diet for a day as a part of a medical evaluation. In addition to clear juices and broths, she was allowed to eat Jello. Jello is not something we tend to eat in our family, but under the circumstances, I decided to go all out. I picked up packages of cherry, orange, lemon, lime and grape Jello, and I put together a dish of rainbow jello for my rainbow-loving girl.

The process involved making the different layers of color separately, letting each chill and gel, and then adding the next layer. I honestly don’t remember how long the process took. But I do remember that the result was quite striking to look at!
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When Theo was a baby, maybe a year or so old, I came across a link someone had shared of Andrea Bocelli singing to Elmo. We were travelling at the time, visiting my in-laws, and a super-tired baby Theo was sitting on my lap long after he should have been asleep. I clicked on the video, and Theo was entranced. What’s more, he was lulled. By the end of the video, he was asleep in my arms.

This is not the sort of magic than an overtired parent easily forgets, and this video was revisited quite a few times over the next year or so. (Not always with exactly the same magic.) I also bought the song (not the Elmo-directed version, but the original Italian version), and found that it was effective at getting Theo to nap on car rides. When Theo was a little bit older, he would request the song. However, the name he had for it was “Rainbow Jelly.” I’m not sure how long it took us to figure out what he meant, but eventually we realized that it must have been how he’d misheard “Andrea Bocelli” in the video.

And so it was that I was inclined to call the rainbow layered Jello “rainbow jelly.”

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Last week’s friday foto finder theme was food, and given my recent run on rainbows, I couldn’t resist sharing photos of this. It is somewhat debatable whether this treat counts as actual “food,” but Phoebe had fun with it.

To see what other potentially more nutritious food items have been shared, pay a visit to the fff blog.
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Another day, another rainbow.

Today’s plans were a bit of a washout. The kids’ swimming class at the town beach (on the lake) were cancelled due to thunderstorms, and the playdate we’d had planned for after the class as well. The day’s weather pretty much ranged from dark skies and heavy downpour to blue skies with scattered fluffy clouds. After a couple failed attempts to set up another playdate, we headed briefly to the playground. We stayed for a good while under the cheery blue skies, but left upon overhearing talk of thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Happily, the weather in our town was fairly calm, and tornado-free, but we did have a few more thunderstorms in the evening. Then the sun came back out for a bit before setting. This time, I knew exactly which direction to look for the rainbow. We looked out over the back deck, and were rewarded with some faint stripes of color between some of the trees. We watched for a few minutes, and then caught a glimpse of a lower and brighter arc of another rainbow, barely visible through the leaves. Then the colors faded. I didn’t get any photos. But wouldn’t you know, maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, there was a shift in the light again. This time, when I looked out on the deck, I could see quite a bit of rainbow. I grabbed my camera, ran out on the wet deck in my bare feet, and had time to get a few photos of the rainbow before it faded away again.

I was quite impressed by how bright the photo turned out. That top photo was not edited at all. Here’s another photo, a bit zoomed in, and with the brightness and contrast and such mucked with a bit.

I found it interesting that as I mucked with it, I could make out more repetitions of the rainbow. Whereas the previous double rainbow of earlier in the evening, as well as that of a couple weeks ago had arcs that were quite spaced apart, this version had tight stack of rainbows. I can actually make out a faint third repetition of the color bands, and even the barest hint of a fourth.

Wikipedia tells me that this is a supernumerary rainbow:

A supernumerary rainbow—also known as a stacker rainbow—is an infrequent phenomenon, consisting of several faint rainbows on the inner side of the primary rainbow, and very rarely also outside the secondary rainbow. Supernumerary rainbows are slightly detached and have pastel colour bands that do not fit the usual pattern.


(Apparently, seeing rainbows is a good excuse to post.)

double rainbow day

The last few weeks have been a storm of productivity and activity. John and I have both made it through some major professional deadlines, and our metaphorical skies are just clearing up.

Last Monday was a particularly big, and successful, day for both of us. My commitments had kept me in Boston late, so John ended up taking the kids to his evening karate class. I headed to the karate school to collect the kids, and ran into a quick summer storm. As Phoebe and I left the school (Theo had decided to stay with Daddy), the sun was just coming out. We looked around, hoping to see a rainbow (because you know we love rainbows), but had no luck. “I can never remember which direction to look,” I said to Phoebe. As we drove home, I’m happy to say that I got my answer: look for the rainbow in the direction opposite the sun. As we drove along eastward through the winding and hilly roads, with the setting sun behind us, the rainbow would appear and disappear again behind the tree cover. At the top of one hill, the rainbow arched itself invitingly over a farm, so I pulled over to take a picture with my phone.

Back at home, I could just make out a hint of rainbow between branches of our tall trees over the driveway, but my phone couldn’t capture it. We decided to walk back out to get better views. Phoebe ran in the house for her camera, and then we walked back up the road towards the farm¹ (a different farm) at the top of the hill. We poked our heads into various neighbors’ driveways, admiring the rainbow’s arch in the clearings over each house. At one point, we saw that there was a double rainbow visible.

By the time we reached the top of our hill, the sky was clearing quickly, and the rainbow soon disappeared.

Since it was so nice out, we decided to keep going a bit on our walk. We went towards the cow farm, and waited for the traffic¹ to clear before crossing the street.

Then Phoebe and I visited with some of the neighborhood girls.¹

Anyhow, the rainbows and the walk were a lovely end to a big day.² It was fun to chase rainbows with my rainbow-loving girl.

¹ As I post these photos, it does really strike me how rural it is where we live
² For some reason, I’m having trouble actually coming out and saying what my big day was actually about. In case you are interested, I had my prospectus hearing, and met some deadlines towards a grant application, which (as of two days ago) is submitted. My first grant application. Perhaps I will say more about these at some point, but likely I’ll choose to talk more about rainbows.

rainbow cupcakes

Over the last couple of years, and several cupcake productions, I came up with a method for making rainbow-topped cupcakes that is easy, fun, and very colorful. (Did I mention they have rainbows? We’re big fans of rainbows in this house.)

What you’ll need:

  • cupcakes (duh)
  • frosting, preferably in a light color (I make the standard butter cream frosting based on the recipe on a package of powdered sugar)
  • decorating sugar in a range of rainbow colors (also called sugar crystals or sugar sprinkles) I used bright pink, orange, yellow, light green, light blue and purple
  • (optional) other candy decorations
  • one or more small round dishes (soy sauce dishes are ideal, as they are the right size for cupcakes, and have a slight curvature)

What to do:
1. Pour out a small amount (about 1 teaspoon) of single color of sugar into the soy sauce dish.
2. With a finger, nudge the sugar over to one side of the dish, making a thick line. Don’t worry too much about shaping it.

3. Pour in your next color, and again nudge the sugar. The sugar will start to look like stripes.

4. Repeat with each of your next colors until either you have no more room, or until you have put in as many stripes as you like.

Repeat with multiple dishes if you want to make a production line.

5. Frost a cupcake, or a few cupcakes.

6. Invert the cupcake, and carefully lower onto the sugar stripes. Gently roll it around, pressing lightly, so that the whole top of the cupcake makes contact with the sugar.

7. Turn it back right-side up and admire the rainbow. (Here’s where I seem not to have taken a photo.)

If you want to add other candy sprinkles (like these stars), sprinkle a handful onto the top of the sugar stripes. (You’ll need to put the candy sprinkles again each time you dip a cupcake, but the rainbow stripes will last a few dips.)

This time I remembered to take a photo.

8. Frost another cupcake and dip it. With each dipping, the sugar stripes will shrink a bit. You can experiment with rolling the cupcake top around to make different patterns with the stripes. When the sugar gets low, push the stripes aside and start adding more stripes (like in steps 1 through 4.) Or, if you want to keep the stripes more even, you could dump out your sugar and start fresh in your dish. As for me, I enjoyed seeing the way the stripes shifted with each cupcake, and the patterns that emerged from adding additional stripes as the sugar in a dish ran low.

You can see here that the stripes vary, with the colors being more curvy in some parts, or more tightly spaced.

9. I also added white chocolate unicorns to the tops, after the sugaring. (I made these in advance with one of these unicorn candy molds. They were probably more trouble than they were worth, but I am a glutton for punishment. Unicorn-shaped sugary sweet punishment.) These needed a dab of frosting to stick to the cupcakes.


  • I don’t know how long it takes to do this project. It’s probably faster if you don’t stop to take pictures a gazillion times. I think it took a good hour, but it was fun.
  • I could imagine doing this as a project with kids, especially if you are flexible about how the stripes will turn out. (And also if you anticipate needing to clean up a lot of spilt sugar.)
  • You could also experiment with making other stripe-based patterns with the sugar, such as for holiday themes (eg. red, white and blue or whatnot) or just in some favorite colors
  • While I’m not super thrilled about using all this artificial color, it does strike me that the sugar-sprinkle topping probably has less food coloring than you’d use to make saturated color frosting, or that you might use to make, e.g., rainbow cake batter. You might also try using natural dye colored sugars, such as those from India Tree.

Other Tips:

  • Wait to frost the cupcakes until you have the sugar ready. You’ll need the frosting to be freshly spread to get the sugar to stick. (If you do frost the cupcakes earlier, or use pre-fosted ones, try giving the frosting a bid of spreading with a knife.)
  • If your sugar came in a container with a shaker top (with little holes), remove the shaker insert to pour. (Or, if you have the kind of container that has the shaker built in, you might want to make the holes bigger using a knife or kitchen scissors. Shaking it out will be tedious and you will feel like stabbing something anyhow. If you do not want to mess with the integrity of your shaker, or if the hole is still too small to really pour, shake your sugar into a separate bowl, and then pour into your soy sauce dish when you have a good amount. If you shake into the soy sauce dish directly, the sugar will fly everywhere, and the integrity of your stripes will be breached.)

  • Why do they do this?

    I was lucky not to have injured myself in this step. They also make sugar that comes in separate jars, which is easier to pour.

These were some that I made a couple of years ago. At the time, I was attempting tie-dye cupcakes. They evolved into rainbows.

true colors

I went to a conference last week in Portland, and while there is plenty to say about that trip, for now I will just share this moment from the start of my trip.

I flew out last Sunday evening, and I arrived at the airport a good 2 hours before my 7 p.m. flight. Boston Logan is, as major city airports go, a fairly moderate and manageable size. Airport security typically goes pretty fast (at least compared to some airports (Denver, I’m looking at you)), and I expected to have a good chunk of time before boarding. For whatever reason, though, things went really slowly in security that evening. I watched my cushion of extra time dwindle away such that it looked like I’d be getting to my gate only a few minutes before boarding. Having finally passed through security and reassembled myself and my luggage, I wasted no time heading to the gate, which naturally was as far from security as possible in that terminal wing.

With my gate just in view, I looked out the window. It had been raining earlier, and the clouds had parted a bit to provide a spectacular sunset.

What’s more, there was a rainbow.

Rainbows are big in our household. Phoebe and Theo both love color, and rainbows are a frequent subject of artwork. For that matter, rainbows are a frequent subject of conversation.

I confess that this love of rainbows in my children has been encouraged by me. I loved rainbows as a kid. I mean I *loved* rainbows as a kid. I had what might be considered a “rainbow phase.” And for someone who mostly wears gray and black, I still love color. I love that my children love color.

So imagine my excitement at seeing a rainbow. At an airport. (Because I also love airports.) My inner child was giddy.

My flight was scheduled to board in about 5 minutes, but I didn’t hesitate to stop to walk over to the window. I had my iPhone handy, and snapped a few shots. But they absolutely didn’t do it justice. I parked myself at some conveniently open seats at the gate closest to me (a gate which happily didn’t have a flight scheduled imminently). I unloaded my backpack, and dug out my camera with my telephoto lens.

What I found sort of hard to understand was that the vast majority of the people waiting around in the airport seemed to be completely indifferent to the stunning view. I say “vast majority” because I did overhear one guy on his phone nearby saying something about the rainbow and pretty sunset, but that may well have been in reaction to seeing me whip out my camera. (I think I made him look.) Nobody else appeared to be looking. I wanted to just stand at the window and stare.

But I also wanted to share, especially with my rainbow-loving children. I headed over to my gate, and found a seat. They hadn’t started the boarding process yet, so I figured I had time. I got out my laptop, and loaded the photos from my camera onto it. I sent an email to John with a photo, and posted it to Facebook as well. I may well have posted it here on my blog as well, but my row was called for boarding, so I had to pack up my laptop in a hurry.

I realized that if I hadn’t gotten stuck in security, I would likely have missed the rainbow. (I’d likely have settled down at my gate and buried my head in my electronics until called to board.) I wouldn’t have heard a peep about the rainbow from anyone around me.

Are most adults really so blasé about rainbows?

A photo taken with my iPhone. You can find the rainbow only if you know where to look. (It’s near the white rectangular structure near the horizon, about a third of the way from the left.)

Taken with the telephoto.

Rainbow and plane.

The scenery was beautiful even without the rainbow. This scene is to the left of the rainbow. The views of the sunset from the windows near my gate were also striking, but the crowds were too thick for me to get close enough to take pictures.

One last zoom of the windmills and big tanks just beyond the runways.

These were the photos I was considering for the friday foto finder theme of “right.” To see a rainbow, conditions have to be just right. You have to be at the right place at the right time, with the weather conditions and the lighting just right such that the water droplets are in the right direction from the sun.