Thursday, December 29, 2005
in better news (that also seems to fit with this entry title) I have been asked to join the Polar Bear Press design team. Polar Bear Press is a small manufacturer, but they have some cute stuff and I'm very excited for the new stuff they have coming out at CHA!
Monday, December 26, 2005
Christmas morning as we're headed into church Steve asks me what time we are opening presents. I tell him not until the next day. He flips. "What? It's Christmas! why not?" scheduling conflicts make it necessary. I explain and the whole time I'm trying to figure out why he reacted so strongly to this news. He really doesn't often care about this stuff. So we get to mom's and I go to say hi in the kitchen. As I'm sitting there visiting, in walks Matty with a little box all wrapped pretty. "open it, Mama." he says. The label reads, "to Amy, from Steve." I got my present a week and a half ago. (a professional camera tripod, btw. with the pistol grip. see he pays attention. isn't he a good boy?) I'm surprised to say the least. "what is this?" "open it." is the only answer I get. I refuse until he comes in the room. So I open it to find a small jewelry box. Inside is a beautiful set of pearls. necklace, earings, bracelet. Of course, I cried. I love pearls. He had hidden the box under my mom's tree so it would be found when we unwrapped presents as a family. He wanted to really surpise me with it.
oh yes, he is a very good boy. :) and he's mine. :)
off for the rest of the week! have a good end to your year. I'll be spending mine with family.
Friday, December 23, 2005
this time of year, many bloggers wax nostalgic about the upcoming holiday. I'm not going to do that. Mostly because I'm not a nostalgic sort of person. Once in awhile I'll get a bit misty thinking about my baby growing up, but other than that, nah. Not nostalgic.
So instead of my thoughts on past Chirstmas season and family traditions (which almost all involve homemade candy and board games,) I'm going to tell you about the theives that live next door.
Yes! the thieves! oh they are wiley ones too. It took many-a weeks before I noticed what they were up to. Of course, they were stealing from off the carport and I tend to avoid looking there. It's just a good avoidance technique, works for housework as well, in case you were wondering. Anyway, there I was, washing dishes at my window and I look up to witness my neighbor scampering out of carport and across the yard next door. The bold little stinker was carrying my property right there in his paws!
oh, yeah, did I mention he's a squirrel?
There's actually two of them and they steal my apples. Apples that I don't want anymore and due to my overwhelmingly effective avoidance techniques are still out in the carport long past their peak freshness date. The two will come one at a time about every other day. They carefully sneak up, watching the windows and perching on the apple boxes to be sure there are no witnesses to their crime. Then they grab an apple in their mouths and go scampering across the yard and up the tree next door.
Perching on the branch, they eat through their apples.
Needless to say, our neighbors are getting fat.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Her game is this: she sticks her hand down my shirt then pulls it out and pretends to put something in her mouth and eat it. Then she says "mmm." It's hysterical. The first time she did it, about two weeks after I weaned her, I laughed for five minutes. I knew she missed nursing but it was so cute to see her find a way to tell me this. Now she does it just because it makes Mommy laugh.
Silly girl. Of course, I will make her stop before she goes to kindergarten.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
However, I am foiled by my slowness. Aparantly this meme is all over the blogs and done by lots of women named Amy. The game is you type your name needs, so I would type "Amy needs," into the Google search box. you list the top ten results in your blog.
My top ten results were ten blogs written by Amy's who have played the game already, lol! so here it is, my cheater lift of someone else's blog (with my own comments in italics, I didn't stoop to lifting hers):
Amy needs a new pair of shoes--I actually do. I'm just too cheap and picky to find what I want.
Amy needs to either wake up or start getting some extra will-power
I don't believe that Amy needs sex --I think Amy needs to not comment on this one
Maybe what Amy needs to do is to make up to her fans --dude! I have fans??
Amy needs an emergent Caesarean--How do C's emerge? is it a gradual thing? does it come out of truly connecting with my pregnancy? can I have one if I'm not pregnant and never plan to be pregnant again? teehee. that was a fun typo.
Amy needs to manage her time more effectively than ever--so very true.
Amy needs to spend a few years working in office environments. --good. I need the break from my real job.
Amy needs to get to town from the village.
Amy needs roommates--got six thanks, although it would be nice if they paid some rent.
Amy Needs Help!! so true it's scary.
and the one I found on my own not as part of someone else's blog:
Pit bull mix Amy needs some training.
but in reality, Amy needs to get to work. It's time to get serious about candy making. oh and making PJ's so I can have five children in cute matching pj's for Christmas morning. oh and present wrapping. oh and staying sane. that's always on the list.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Sunday, December 18, 2005
However, there is one little piece of electronics that is making me look bad. Every time I go to run the thing I can't remember what to do. Maybe it's because I only think about it at six am in the dark. Stupid alarm clock.
It's got two alarms. One of which my husband set for the insane hour of six am and the other set for a more reasonable seven. It's his own little one hour snooze button. Every morning, the darn thing wakes me out of a deep sleep an hour earlier than I want to get up. Most of the time, Steve takes care of it. However, sometimes he doesn't even flinch from my kicks to his legs and I have to get up and turn the darn thing off. Frankly, I'd rather leave it going than get out of my bed. I have a down comforter and a down pillow and the last thing I want to do on a cold December morning is drag myself out of bed to figure out where the right button is to turn it off.
I'll fall out of bed and blearily stumble across the room (strategically placed to keep us from using such trickery as two alarms and snooze buttons.) Our current clock is a bare bones model. tall and narrow and nothing like any clock we've ever owned. My first alarm clock is the sort of alarm clock that dominated the market for years. a flat rectangle with lots of nicely labeled buttons that were easy to figure out because the thing lasted for 17 years, literally. I could have still run the thing if I had gone blind. Which is very usful at six am, because I am somewhat lacking in physical dexterity and mental acumen at that hour.
(btw, if you ever think it would be cool to get your daughter an alarm clock for Christmas, don't. Seriously. Even if you think she needs one. She won't thank you. And the only joy she'll get from the darn thing is being able to lord it over her sister that she gets to decide when it gets turned on because it's her Christmas present. And it's totally not cool for her to have to tell her friends she got an alarm clock for Christmas. Even if you do buy one that's built like a tank and will last for 17 years.)
Our current alarm clock is nothing like the previous tank model. It has switches. Lots of them. And they all look the same. Or I should say, feel the same, because, as I've said, I never look at the darn thing and only deal with it at six am. Since I never look at it, when I'm facing it with my brain on 10% power and my fingers still asleep, it's imposible to work.
But you don't need to feel sorry for me. I have figured out a solution. I stay in bed and just kick harder if Steve doesn't get up the first time.
PS. Mom, you know I love you. I love just about every other present you've ever gotten me. Really. Can I still come for Christmas?
Friday, December 16, 2005
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
mix together everything but the vanilla into a heavy bottom saucepan (at least 3 quart size) and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. sweat the pan when the mixture begins to boil. Then add the candy thermometer and cook, stirring constantly, to 248 degrees. remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
for standard carmels just pour into a buttered, square cake pan. let cool and cut apart. (this will be a pain the neck). if giving away, wrap individual carmels in waxed paper.
good luck! this is my last candy post. it's been fun, but I'm ready to talk about my life again. aren't you all just lucky?
*Edit Dec 2007: Just for fun, I'd thought I'd post that the vanilla fudge recipe also makes a great carmel if you cook it to 240 degrees. Not too tough, not too soft. try it just for fun.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Imagine my surprise when I discovered the suckers are easier than fantasy fudge. seriously. The toughest part of the whole thing is tempering the egg yolk and a bit of patience and judicious use of your microwave will get you through that easily.
Truffles are traditionally rolled in cocoa powder. Buy some good stuff for this. Go name brand and a name that makes you go "oooooh." Preferably dutched cocoa. No idea what this means, but it makes it better. You can also roll them in candy sprinkles and chopped nuts. Make sure you have a different coating for each of the flavors you plan on making so it's easy to tell them apart. Also, make the coating work with the flavor. Mint probably isn't going to work with sprinkles but would be lovely with crushed peppermint or the cocoa.
There are lots of different flavors you can use for truffles. If you drink alcohol, you can use liqueurs, rum, brandy, whiskey, etc. as the flavoring. I don't drink alcohol so I prefer not to make rum balls. ;) I use flavoring extracts. Use a good brand, the cheap stuff can leave a bitter aftertaste. Try orange, vanilla, mint, butter nut (a McCormick flavoring that is wonderful!) maple, anything you think would work with chocolate.
You can also dip your flavored truffles in chocolate. This is what I prefer to do, because more chocolate can only be better, right? For instructions on melting and tempering chocolate try this link: chocolatemold.net Once your chocolate is melted and tempered drop your truffles into it one at a time and carefully fish them out with either a fork or a dipping chocolate fork (it's a fancy schmancy fork with teeny round tines made for fishing little truffle balls out of chocolate.) Set the truffles on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet. The cookie sheet is so you can pick them up and move them if you need to. If you happen to have a kitchen that is exactly the opposite of mine (which is to say the opposite of the size of a closet) and won't need to move them, just lay the waxed paper out on the couner. Let them set at room temperature. when the chocolate is completely set, you can put them in your fridge for a bit to harden up the chocolate some more.
the recipe (from BHG)
6 oz semisweet chocolate
3 T whipping cream
1 beaten egg yolk, room temperature, or warmed slowly in a microwave set on LOW power (20 seconds at a time, stirring between each heating, until the yolk is just barely warm to the touch.)
3 T your choice of liqueur or other alcoholic beverage for flavor
1 t flavoring extract of your choice
12 oz chocolate for dipping
other coating stuff
in a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine semisweet chocolate, butter, and cream. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate melts (about 10 minutes.) take pan off heat. Gradually stir half the hot mixture into the egg yolk, I mean gradually in a thin trickle, stirring constantly. This is what I meant by tempering the egg yolk, btw. return the egg mixture to the pan. Cook and stir over medium heat untill the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the saucepan from heat. (if you are doing more than one flavor from one batch, pour the mixture into two to three seperate mixing bowls before you add the flavoring.) Stir in your flavoring (please adjust this if you are doing more than one batch! use half or a 1/3 of the amount the recipe calls for depending on how many flavors you are making.) Pour the mixture into a small mixing bowl, cover and chill till completely cool and smooth, stirring occasionally (about an hour and a half.)
beat chilled mixture with an electric mixer (hand mixer is fine) on medium speed till slightly fluffy (about 2 minutes.) Chill again untill mixture holds it's shape. (1o to 15 minutes) Drop by well rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill till firm. if you want you can gently shape these into balls.
dip in chocolate or roll in coating whichever you decided to do. Let sit until set. store tightly covered ni a cool dry place for up to two weeks.
this are so lovely! have fun with them! you can give them away and get your friends thinking that you own dresses that never get dirty. ;)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
You may notice that a lot of candies cooked to the crack stage call for water. It may seem strange, especially knowing that every bit of that water evaporates before the candy gets to temp so it's not even in your final product. Don't leave it out though. That water makes your candy take longer to get to temperature so the sugars have more time to disolve. When the candy takes longer to cook, it fails much less often. As a matter of fact, I've never had this toffee recipe sugar on me and I've been using it for over a decade. pretty good track record, wouldn't you say?
anyway, if you have a favorite candy recipe that tends to sugar when you don't hold your mouth right, try adding 1/4 to 1/2 c water into it. This will help the confection be a little less fussy with you. It won't affect the final product at all, except that it will come out right instead of grainy and inedible. ;) it's a good trick.
When making toffee, you can either leave it plain or add almonds. Slivered works best. Always use semi-sweet chocolate as well. It makes a perfect blend of bitter and sweet. You can add the almonds into the candy as soon as you remove it from heat, or you can sprinkle them into the bottom of the pan right after you butter it. (which you do before you even start the candy, remember.) I prefer my toffee plain, but my mom likes the almonds. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the western states that has a WinCo, buy your chocolate and almonds in their bulk foods section. Both are high quality and cheaper than you can get anywhere else. Heck, the big blocks of chocolate are Ghiradelli, and American chocolate doesn't get much better than that.
The recipe. Make this. You'll hate me. You won't be able to stay out of it.
2 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c light corn syrup
1 c water
1 c butter
1 c marg (you can use a full pound of butter instead of the margarine/butter mix if you prefer)
about 1 c slivered almonds
mix all ingredients together and cook over med heat to 300 degrees. Stir continuously while cooking but do not scrap the sides of the pan. when hot enough, pour onto large, buttered jelly roll pan. Do not scrape the pan out! only pour out what comes easily out of the pan. Gently spread the candy out. let cool for a few minutes. then spread about 6oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate on top. Let cool until the chocolate is set. To serve, break into pieces with a butter knife.
Have fun with this one!
Monday, December 12, 2005
When choosing a fudge recipe, the only two ingredients that really matter are cream and corn syrup. You must use real cream. Evaporated milk is purported as an adequate substitute in some circles, but it doesn't give good results. The milk sugars in evaporated milk are more condensed, which makes your fudge heavy and overly sweet. Stick with cream and real butter and you'll be much happier with the results. As for the corn syrup, it seems like such an insignificant thing, but it's important. It helps the sugars melt and keeps your fudge from being too fussy. A lot of fudge recipes only call for a couple of teaspoons (or none at all) and with that little of corn syrup your going to find yourself with fudge that only comes out right when the stars are aligned and you hold your mouth right. No fun. Stick with recipes that call for at least 2 T of light corn syrup. You'll have more consistant results. You can sometimes just increase the corn syrup to 2T if you need to without affecting the candy too much.
I use a chocolate fudge recipe that calls for cocoa powder. It's almost foolproof and easy. The best part about it is you never, ever stir it. nope. not once. Once you turn the heat on, you leave it alone. You may be tempted, thinking that mixture will never smooth out, that it will scorch. Nope. Leave it alone. Sweat the sides, put in the thermometer and pour it out into a mixing bowl as soon as it reaches 238. if you stir it, it sugars, without fail. If you don't stir it, it comes out great. Don't you love it?
When using a candy thermometer, make sure the tip is fully imersed in your candy but not touching the bottom of the pot. You will also want to pre warm it by putting it in a small pan of water and bringing it to a boil before you stick it in your hot candy. remember what happens when glass changes temperature quickly? Exactly.
A note about beating fudge. You can either use a stand mixer or beat it by hand. Don't try using a hand mixer. Even if you have a $90 Kitchen Aid hand mixer. Just don't. You'll burn it out. My mom has a stand mixer and prefers to beat it by hand anyway. It doesn't take long. Let the candy sit at room temperture in your mixing bowl until it reaches 110-120 degrees. (wash your candy thermometer and dry it before you put it back in the candy. There may be sugar clinging to it.) If your bowl is metal, you will be able to rest your hand on the side of the bowl; it will be hot to the touch but not burn. If you are using a stand mixer, use a low or medium setting and your flat paddle. If you are beating by hand, use a clean wooden spoon. Hold the bowl firmly to your chest and use a strong stirring motion. Keep going until the fudge begins to thicken and it loses it's gloss. If you are adding nuts, you add them now. mix those in and then scrape it out into a buttered dish. Pat it flat and let it cool for a few minutes to set.
If your fudge does not thicken even if you whip it for ages, you probably did not bring it up to a high enough temperature. You can cook it again. Put it in the pan with 1/2 to 1 c hot water and start over. If your fudge gets really dry and crumbly, you cooked it too long and you can't save it.
Now the part you've been waiting for: the recipes! Fudge comes in many flavors, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, penuche (brown sugar,) opera, mint, etc. I'm posting three recipes that have become reliable staples in my recipe box.
My Grandmother's Chocolate Fudge
2 c sugar
1 T cocoa, rounded
2 T butter
2 T light Karo
3/4 c cream
1/4 c water
dump it all in a pot and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Do not stir! not at any point! it won't burn, I promise. cook over medium heat to 236 degrees. remove from heat and pour into mixing bowl. Do not scrape out the pan. Just pour out the stuff that comes easily and leave the rest. let cool to 120 degrees. add one 1 t vanilla. Beat until there is no gloss. add 1 c walnuts or pecans. pat into a square cake pan.
Grandma's Vanilla Fudge
3 T butter
3 c sugar
1/4 c lt corn syrup
1/2 t salt
1 c cream
1/2 c milk
2 t vanilla
1 c chopped nuts.
combine butter, sugar, karo, salt, cream, and milk in a 4 qt. heavy bottomed pan. Cook over med heat, stirring constantly until it boils. Cook and stir occasionally to stoft ball stage (236 degrees.) Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. add 1 t vanilla. Cool to luke warm (110 degrees) beat until it loses its gloss. knead in the nuts. Press into a 9x9 buttered cake pan. cut, then cool. makes about 1 1/2 lbs
Peanut Butter Fudge
2 c sugar
2 T butter
2 T light Karo
3/4 c cream
1/4 c water
dump it all in a pot and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Do not stir! not at any point! it won't burn, I promise cook over medium heat to 236 degrees. remove from heat and pour into mixing bowl. Do not scrape out the pan. Just pour out the stuff that comes easily and leave the rest. let cool to 120 degrees. add one 1 t vanilla and 3 T creamy peanut butter. Beat until there is no gloss. pat into a square cake pan.
You may notice the peanut butter recipe is very similar to the chocolate fudge recipe. That's because it's essentially the same thing sans chocolate with peanut butter added. I have been searching for a good peanut butter fudge recipe and found nothing, so I made my own ;)
Good luck with your fudge! I'd love to hear how it turns out for everybody! Please feel free to use these recipes as much as you like. Make some changes if you like. Stir broken peppermint pieces or mini marshmallows into the chocolate fudge, add unsalted peanuts to the peanut butter. Have fun with it. If you want to pass them on, refer your friend to my blog instead of just giving them a copy. thanks.
ok, so all this week, I'll be discussing candy making with a new kind of candy each day. Today we'll do just general candy making tips. Things you need to know before you start your first pan.
first off, you need a wooden spoon and a heavy bottom pan. the heaviest bottom pan in your cupboard. I use an old 4 qt pressure cooker. The best wooden spoon for candy making is the kind with the flat top. I use a wooden spatula, you know the kind that is flat with a slight angle at the top. You have to be able to keep the candy at the bottom of the pot moving so it doesn't scorch.
Now there's a trick to stirring. Keep it moving but don't splash up the sides of your pot. I use a fat figure eight that covers as much of the surface area of the bottom pot as possible. Once you feel something sticking to the bottom stir more over that spot, but do not scrape it up. this is scorched candy and you don't want that flavor getting through the whole batch. turn your stove down and be careful. Also, you never, ever want to scrape the sides of the pan when stirring. never. This can introduce sugar crystals into the candy which can make the entire batch sugar. bad. The stuff on the sides is also not cooked to the same temperature as the rest of the batch and that can cause problems.
always cook your candy at medium or medium low. you don't want it cooking too fast or the sugar doesn't have time to completely melt. basically, the two biggest hurdles in candy making are cooking to the right temperature and melting the sugar. if either one are done badly, you've got a mess.
I use a candy thermometer. If you have very little experience with candy making, you will want to get one. it makes the temperature part easy. be sure to test it in a small pan of boiling water before you use it. It should get to 212 degrees in boiling water. if it doesn't, make the necessary calculations and remember them. you will need to make that same adjustment with your candy.
Now, before you start a batch of candy, you want to have everything ready, your pan buttered, the mixing bowl ready if you are doing fudge, etc. once it reaches temperature, you don't have time to stop and get that done, because it will keep cooking in the pan after you've taken it from the heat and will get too hot which makes it too hard. I like to get all the ingredients into my pan before i turn on my stove top. This gets everything cooking together at the same temperature and means my cream won't scorch if I take too long hunting down the butter.
so you've got everything in the pot, start cooking it with the lid on the pan. The water that is evaporating from the candy will condense on the lid and sides of the pot and wash the sides down. this is called sweating the pan. When the candy starts boiling, remove the lid, start stirring and add your thermometer. it will take a bit, but keep an eye on your thermometer, especially as the confection gets close to temperature. Candy can take five minutes to go the last two degrees and then zip five more degrees over the right temp in thirty seconds. the second it reaches temp, pull your pot from the stove and pour it into your prepped pan (or mixing bowl for fudge.) Only pour out the stuff that comes easily, don't scrape the bottom or sides, just leave it alone. (if it bothers you to waste that much you can scrape this candy into a different bowl.) the candy at the bottom and sides of the pan is a different temperature than the rest and mixing it with the rest may cause your candy to sugar, so never scrape the sides! (I know I said it twice, it's important.)
let your confection cool and it should be perfect. Candy makes a great gift for friends. they'll love you and nick name you the new Martha.
tomorrow, old fashioned fudge. the kind that does not need marshmallow cream. you know, the good stuff.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
we are already getting the "when can we eat it?" question. I said never. who wants to eat a gingerbread house after it's been sitting aroud getting dusty for three weeks? Not that I think my kids will care about that. I'm very afraid that when the time comes to throw it away, someone will sneak off with it so they can eat the candy and I'll only discover the miscreant by the blob of dried up frosting by their cheek and I'll have to say, "Self, there's frosting by your mouth. better hide it before the kids see you've been eating the house again."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
the story is about how scrapbooks brought my mother and I closer together while my parents were in Japan on their mission. and no, Mom, you don't get to read it until it's in the book. ;) Scrapbooker's Soul is a paying publication. I'm still excited. still dancing.
Have a good day, because you know I will.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
yeah, me too.
Friday, December 02, 2005
I tend to do that with the chocolate chips. mostly because they are the only kind of chocolate I keep around the house. Steve gave me a hard time about it so I handed them to him and asked him to put them away for me.
(this is where the stinker part comes) This morning as I fielded the fourth temper tantrum performed by my almost four year old in a 15 minute period (sadly, not a record,) I felt the urge for chocolate. But my chocolate chips were not in the door of the freezer where I keep them. my stinker of a husband had tried to hide them from me. I think he had better stop that.
btw, love, I found them. pbbbbttttthhhhbbb to you.
Her blog is hysterical. A very fun read. one of those personalities that makes you think "If I were to have a slumber party, she'd get an invitation" and then you would make sure there would be no fizzy drinks at the party because those hurt too much when they come out of your nose when you laugh while you're trying to drink, which you know would happen because it would be that kind of party.
I would do a TPBQOTD but I'll leave that to Karen.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
2. a nice pair of gloves. probably something stretchy since I have short fat fingers. Tiffany Glove and Leather here in my town has my measurements on file, dark brown buckskin would be nice. I like the Mickey stitching on the back. :) (ha! you think this wouldn't be affordable, but it is. custom made gloves for less than $30 out of hand dyed buckskin. they are just lovely.)
3. a white or grey sweatshirt fleece zip hoodie.
4. the odd size measuring cup set at William Sonoma. I would show a link but they don't have them online. I think I have their brand with the wide handles.
5. a really good quality stainless steel measuring spoon set. I love the rectangle ones that fit in spice jars. I would prefer it had a 1 1/2 T spoon.
6. black picture frames.
7. a nice sweater. I don't like the big boxy shapes. something sleek is good. no cute apliques please. solid or subduded pattern.
8. scrapbooking gift certificate. either to an online store or Paper Cottage or Cut and Paste. don't worry about picking it out yourself. I love the fun of getting shop and choose without the guilt.
that should be enough.
ps. Mom, does that help? ;)