Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Made Caramel!

Caramel, it seems, is quite a popular holiday tradition. I saw recipes in countless places around the nets, inspiring me to give it a whirl myself.

The one criteria I had was the recipe must not call for corn syrup. Which recipe was actually fairly hard to find; it seems corn syrup makes caramel creation much simpler and is definitely a popular choice. I ended up finding one here that fit the bill entirely. After a quick run to the grocery store for a candy thermometer I was ready to go.

Of course, I decided to embark on this candy making experiment about 20 minutes before leaving for a holiday party, so time wasn't really on my side. Add to this that I really did not know what it meant to let the sugar and honey "carmelize" or exactly how to read my thermometer, and it is probably not surprising that this first, and let's call it trial, batch did not turn out the lovely chewy caramels I had envisioned. Instead, we have a ridiculous amount of soft caramel sauce. Not actually too terrible after all.

The next time, however, I meant business.

I cooked that honey and sugar until it was a strongly odorous (you might want to warn the family), lava-like concoction, whisked in the butter and hot cream (that part is a blast, sometimes quite literally. Be careful.) and let the whole deal boil and bubble until I was sure it was 260˚F at least (my candy thermometer is somewhat difficult to read). I had a cookie tray all lined with parchment and poured the sticky liquid out, creating a disappointingly small, shallow puddle. It was the right color, though, and hardened nicely on a spoon under cold water. Thrilled with my success, I tried the whole thing again. This time I used a small cake pan lined with parchment and I would definitely recommend this strategy.

In the end, the cookie tray caramels stayed pretty soft and very thin. The cake pan batch hardened beautifully and I sliced them into small squares, twisted them in wax paper, and had a mountain of lovely smooth caramels to package and give away. I salvaged the thin batch by folding the whole thing in half. They were just hard enough to cut and wrap, though scraping them back out of the wrappers to eat is a little tough. However, they taste divine.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

And a Very Merry Christmas to You!

A Very Merry Christmas to You!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Welcome back, light!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree(s)

This was a fairly productive weekend around these parts. Today especially, with gift purchases so-close to done and handmade ones coming nicely along as well.

We got our Christmas tree on Thursday, C. carried it all the way home from the downtown food coop (that's about 8 blocks!) over his shoulders. We decorated and this year C-3PO, with a stocking hat and a red ribbon belt, is our tree topper. I like the personal touch.

And here are the trees I decorated at the Syracuse arts festival last weekend. I kind of wimped out in the end and stuck with mainly just the lights, but they were festive enough.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hot or Not

Since my camera is not connecting and uploading photos on its own (do I have to do everything around here?), and because I have enjoyed reading others of these lists, and for lack of anything else to write at the moment and it is still Wednesday for another 30 minutes, here is my contribution to Loobylu's Hot or Not Wednesday...


• Snow days! Even if I had already driven to work by the time I got the message. I give myself props for being a hardcore Northerner who ventures unflinchingly forth into the storm (next time I will check my voicemail first).

• Christmas lights. My late night long drive home from Syracuse last weekend was brightened by the cheerful (and not at all cheesy) light displays in the small towns along the route. I am determined to do my part to cheer the weary traveler and have begun with a nice garland over the door (I should take a picture, I suppose). More are in the works.

• New boots! Since I was already on the road, having driven to my office, I detoured to the mall on my drive home to find some winter boots (the danskos, while much beloved, aren't much good at keeping the toes warm and dry in 5 inches of powdery snow). Hooray for toasty feet!

The Three Musketeers. I have read this book before and am in the process of reading it again. I went through a Dumas phase in junior high and I just might be ready to relive this part of my youth. Such fantastic stories, with dashing heroism, clever intrigue, and cheeky humor!


• Sore throats and stuffy faces. Yuck. Need I say more?

• Carpal tunnel. Yeah, I'm just a mess right now.

• I was considering telling you about the rest area washrooms I experienced on my drive home from Syracuse, but that's really just gross.

I guess that's all, I'm not feeling very complainy right now. Plus there are only ten minutes left of wednesday (I know, slow writer), so I'd best get this thing published! This is fun, its a good way to stop for a minute and consider things - something I need more of these days.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Syracuse NY

I am away at our last 2009 Arts Festival this weekend, in Syracuse NY. The best part about this show is I get to decorate five little Christmas trees for the entrance way. I keep it simple, lights and ribbon and tinsely strands, but it is rather fun! I'll take some pictures...

ps. And of course, if you happen to be anywhere near the New York State Fairgrounds, come and see for yourself in the Horticulture Building.

pps. Oh, and there will also be 125 really talented artists and artisans selling their handmade work. You know, if the trees aren't enough to tempt you...

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Day of Advent