Another 23andMe Update: Maternal Phasing

Right after I published my previous post about wistful anticipation of my impending 23andMe ancestry composition update, I logged into that site to see that my mother-to-child phasing had already been completed. It’s a good thing I saved screen shots of my first ancestry composition. Even though those percentages seem to have been burned into my brain over the past year and a half, I have a memento of that which changed how I thought of myself in unexpected ways.

One of my earliest memories involves thinking that I spontaneously appeared on earth from parts unknown the very moment I first considered that I have a memory. I don’t think that notion was entirely erased until I saw that first 23andMe ancestry composition painting. This was evidence I belonged to a web of people who’d been cast over the earth since time immemorial, and in that belonging I felt profound comfort.

I can’t remember a time when I truly doubted I belonged to God, but I was uncertain that I belonged to any person, despite that I am part of a close and loving family. I really couldn’t ask for better parents, siblings, and close relations. The issue was knowing (and I have referenced this situation before on this blog) that there was an astronomically low probability that my parents could be my biological parents. Two parents with type O blood produce a child with type A blood about one time out of a million.

I’ve made some interesting discoveries regarding my family tree, such as uncovering the identity of my paternal great grandfather who had become a missing person 94 years ago. The odds that I am myself are much more extraordinary. There was a one-in-a-million chance my parents would have me (layered on top of the already slim odds that two parents will produce a particular child, a thought that as a parent myself makes me dread the possibility of time travel, by the way).

Before I close, I will share some screen shots about my maternal phasing on 23andMe. This process did make some alterations to my ancestry composition, and I haven’t had time to judge whether I think the new version is an improvement. More regions were added as trace results, so now I have a map that looks much more like my mothers:

Screenshot 2017-05-27 at 11.16.37 PM

My old ancestry compostion versus my new phased ancestry composition:

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December 2015 result, without parental phasing
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May 2017 result, with parental phasing . . . there is one more line to the result which I cut off because keeping it involved zooming out to a level that made the text of this screen cap unreadable. The line was “Broadly Middle Eastern/North African < 0.1%”

Since I now have a parent tested with 23andMe, I have a new component to my ancestry report that breaks down their prediction of which regions I inherited from which parent. On the left is my dad’s contribution, and my mom’s is on the right:
Screenshot 2017-05-27 at 11.18.25 PM

More About 23andMe

My mom and my sister both did the 23andMe ancestry test, and their results were ready in just 15 days from receipt at the lab where their samples were tested. This is the semi-instant gratification for which I longed back when I started genetic genealogy tests in late 2015. All 28 days I waited for my 23andMe results felt like a month a piece. I distracted my impatience by building a family tree on Ancestry; it held more than 2,000 ancestors by the time my results were ready.

In the intervening 18 months, I’ve grown attached to that initial chromosome painting. While the science behind it simply isn’t refined enough to guarantee its accuracy, it still seems the best of the geographical estimates I’ve done:

Screenshot 2017-04-28 at 9

Now that my mom’s results are ready, the company will phase our results against each other, sharpening the estimates. Once this phasing takes place, I will no longer see the chromosome painting above in my account. I hope I can let go of it easily in favor of a result that will likely be a bit more accurate.

Through the DNA tab on the DNA relatives tool on the site, I have been able to see a chart where my siblings and I have matching DNA, both half identical and fully identical. I have made a screen cap of our first 11 chromosomes (including more would have made the details too tiny):

Screenshot 2017-05-27 at 9.28.37 PM

My sister is in purple while my brother is in orange. The deeper tones indicate where we are fully identical (i.e. inherited the same stretch of genetic sequences from both Mom and Dad, in the same order). There’s a significant stretch of chromosome 9 that is darkened on both bars. On these segments, we are “triplets” to each other. There are other shorter stretches where all three of us are identical, yet I also see some lonely double gray segments where we inherited entirely opposite segments from our parents.

Among the major testing companies, 23andMe has the best combination of clarity and accuracy. It genealogy features are thin compared to AncestryDNA, but my experience with the information on Ancestry leads me to think that a significant amount of the information related to distant matches there is unreliable or coincidental. Since both of my parents have tested there, I have checked their matches with some of my Shared Ancestor Hints and found that a significant number of them are misleading. For example, some of my paternal tree hints are actually matched to my mother. That my tree intersects with that match on the opposite side of my family tree is just coincidence. Worse yet, it’s impossible to see the family trees of your matches without a pricey Ancestry subscription or individual invitations to match trees.

Now that 23andMe offers an ancestry-only test at a price that is equal to that of AncestryDNA, I’d recommend starting with 23andMe if you haven’t already taken such a test and are interested in trying one. I’ve noticed that many people who enjoy their first test end up testing with both companies anyway, if my matches are any indication. I see many familiar names across both sites.

On 23andMe, there is a world map in the Ancestry Composition section that broadly represents where your ancestors were living around 500 years ago. My mom had more of the world painted in her map, and this curiously reflects how much more broad her perspective seems compared to mine at times:

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Easy Root Beer Ice Cream


Today I discovered that simple ice cream can be made from a combination of milk, sweetener, and flavorings. This version is root beer and vanilla flavored. My daughter thinks this treat tastes very much like a root beer float.

Easy Root Beer Ice Cream

Makes 6 1/2 cup servings

3 cups 2% milk (lactose free milk may be used instead)

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 t root beer flavoring (I used LorAnn brand, available in craft stores)

3/4 t vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Since this ice cream is low fat without thickeners, I recommend enjoying it soft-serve style, right after churning is done.

Buttercream Dreams

My daughter and I have signed up for an entry-level Wilton cake decorating class in June. Provided at least two other people register for the evening session we prefer, I may be close to learning how to ice a cake evenly. When I was my daughter’s age, I iced a friend’s birthday cake, and her mother asked me if I was paying a pink tribute to the mashed potato mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I shied away from learning the Wilton method in the past because I thought that I might be better off being bad at icing cakes than learning passé or gauche techniques. I imagine that someone in America made a cake shaped like bell-bottom Levi’s Action Slacks and decorated it with a tiny star tip to reflect the tight polyester weave of that fabric. Last week I bought some large Wilton icing tips and was just thrilled with the results. Maybe just maybe this is the clan who can help me decorate a cake decently.

A dear friend of mine dug into the Wilton hobby twenty years ago, and she lent me her class books and the fantastic 1997 Wilton Yearbook. When I think of the late 90’s, I feel like this era happened about five years ago. These catalogs remind me that my sense of time is warping. 1997 really was 20 years ago, and my daughter, who already ices a cake better than I do, was minus four years old.

Before I close, I will share some shots of these catalog pages. By the way, I love aged catalogs. When I worked at a department store, I’d study the store’s past catalogs whenever customer traffic evaporated. I learned that the store had offered a hookah bong by mail order back in 1977, with the advice, “filter with water or liquor for a smoother smoke.”

The bong could have paired well with the clown technique below. This method must be more responsive to trends than I suspected. While you can learn to make buttercream mountains on top of cupcakes nowadays, back then creating a 3D figure was part of the class:

I hoped Robert liked chocolate. The script on this cake looks positively funereal:


I need this cat pan! I ordered it off Ebay, and my daughter and I hope to ice cat cakes in several versions based on our favorite shelter cats:


All that is missing is tobacco, or else one could have birthday cake candles to represent all three players in the unhold ATF trinity:


I don’t remember that the 90’s were so baroque:


Spring Photo Walk, May 22


Today I rushed after work to get some pictures of the peonies at the garden next to the library. My husband, who knew of my plans, surprised me there, as he was apt to do in the our early days. He informed some of the other visitors to the garden, “I’m having an affair with her.”

After I’d been dating him for five years, he gave me the gift of a red Valentine’s Day bag from a store where I worked in the mid 90’s. The bag looked just like the ones we offered in the jewelry department back then. He told me, “This was the bag you gave me when you sold me my garnet ring.”

He’d kept that bag for twelve years before I started dating him. When I mentioned that I’d worked at that store, he told me, “You were the girl with purple hair who worked at Service Merchandise.”

Dinner, May 21


Tonight’s dinner was salmon, jasmine rice, buttered peas, and dill pickle hummus, with some dill and parsley sprinkled over all.

Food has captivated my imagination as of late. I may as well document this season (since my hobbies have seasons in sync with those of an as yet undiscovered planet) before I wake up a couple months from now with the sense that microwaving a frozen dinner could exhaust my interest in the subject. At least the phases when I deal with cooking no more than is necessary don’t last long.

Today’s dinner reminded me that making a festive plate doesn’t need to be expensive. I already had the herbs and hummus on hand, and the other ingredients costed just $6 total. The peas and salmon were the standard frozen versions, and the rice was bought in dry bulk. This dinner serves four, so we’ll have leftovers, too.

We Made Red Hot Cinnamon Cupcakes


Today my daughter and I tried out the Red Hot Cinnamon Cupcakes recipe from The Domestic Rebel, and we were both delighted with the end result. This was the very first time we decorated cupcakes with a frosting tip, too.

For a baked good with bold flavor, this was a simple and super clever recipe. It involves adding cinnamon extract and crushed Red Hot candies to a boxed cake mix and the homemade icing that tops it.

Now that we’ve ventured into using a frosting tip, other cupcake ideas are rising to the surface of my mind. I think we might try redoing this recipe with Jolly Rancher candies and lemon extract, provided the process of crushing those larger candies doesn’t traumatize my blender.