Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Playing Catch Up - A "Perfect" Place to Start

Yes, I know I'm terribly behind on the blog. Hey, with an end-of-year like we have, is it any wonder? It's always so crazy and December '10 was no exception. But the dust has finally settled, so I'll catch you up a bit. Let's start at the beginning of the madness, shall we? Opening Day for a perfect candy making season!

This year was a special year for Cousin Pam and I. December 2010 marked the 10th anniversary of our candy-making partnership. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but it has. Pam & I had already been thinking about some special delectable anniversary treat, but I wanted to do something just for us to commemorate the decade. I had the perfect thing in mind – but it would require time and the efforts of others to pull it off.

There’s a lot involved in making all the candy that we make every year:
Hours standing over a hot pot.

Careful timing, and getting the pour just right so the candy’s not too thick, too thin or too greasy.  Heating the chocolate to just the right temperature so it doesn’t dry out and get clumpy.

And of course, getting those walnuts chopped to just the right size and spreading them evenly to finish out the product.  It’s time consuming and a little stressful – especially when things don’t turn out quite right. Oh the sadness of throwing out a failed batch of candy!

But then there’s the fruits of all that labor – sheet after sheet of perfect toffee, stacked precariously high…waiting to be broken up into bite-sized pieces. The task would be daunting if smashing the stuff to bits wasn't so darn therapeutic.

I actually used to dread breaking the toffee. I used to do it by hand – which is pretty hard on the fingers when you’re talking about breaking up 50# of the stuff. Then I switched to stabbing it with a knife. This method worked fine, but it wasn’t very good for the knife or the cutting board. This is the way I was doing it when Pam joined the team. Then, through some stroke of genius, we discovered a different tool – Duke’s contribution to the process if you will – an oyster knife!  Not too sharp, not too dull, comfy rounded handle…it’s PERFECT!!

Only problem, we only had one of them…until this year. Then I had my brilliant idea! I’d have an oyster knife made for Pam so she’d have one of her very own!

Then I got another brilliant idea! Why not have it made out of a piece of walnut wood from one of Grandma’s trees? Perfect!

Hmmm…now who could I get to fetch a piece of walnut wood from Grandma’s place? I KNOW!! Uncle Jerry!!! He’s the perfect man for the job! And sure enough! He came through in spades with two nice big chunks of wood for me.

Hmmm…now how do I get it back to Texas? I KNOW!! Friends Kurt & Karen – who conveniently live out west and in Texas can bring it back to me on one of their many road trips. Yep! Perfect!!  They could do it.

Now, who’s going to make this thing for me? That’s easy! I’ll just find someone in the fabulous handmade Etsy community. I didn’t have to look far. Adam at Acrylic & Steel was happy to help me out. So, I sent him Duke’s old knife and the wood and VOILA!!

10th Anniversary commemorative toffee knives!! Made out of wood from the place where it all started! One for each of us! Perfect!

Next up, perfecting our anniversary treat – we settled something popcorn related. We wanted something that honored Grandma’s memory, and popcorn always makes me think of her. She used to use popcorn as box filler in the care packages she sent me. And she also made some pretty good candied popcorn (but you’ve got to contact my Dad if you want any of that.)

So, we started with savory popcorn, coated it in toffee & walnuts.  Our official tasters thought it was yummy, but that it could possibly be yummier.

So they drizzled it with dark chocolate.

Our gift to the world:  Toffee*Pop!  Mmmm-mmmm-PERFECT!

Oh, and I wont be making that stuff again any time soon, so don't go asking. It was too good. I couldn’t stop eating it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 - The First Snowy Day

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I'm really behind on the blog.  I'll be playing catch up in the next few weeks, I promise.  But instead of backtracking right now, I'm going to talk about today.  Because today was the first snow of the season!!!!  The kids have been wishing for it since Christmas Eve.  Last year's white Christmas is still burned into their brains.  They were both terribly disappointed when the holidays came and went without snow.

All last week, the weathermen were talking snow for Monday.  Well, the story changed yesterday.  They said it was going to start raining sometime Saturday night and that it should turn to snow by Sunday afternoon.  With that forecast in mind, we hit the deck running this morning.

1st order of business was a not-so-quick trip to Target.  So with breakfast snack in hand, we headed out the door.

All week long, Delila had been saying that if it snowed it would be "Christmas all over again!!"  Well, with their Christmas money from Aunt Sally & Uncle Jerry burning holes in their pockets, it was pretty much Christmas all over again for the kids.  (By the way, both kids say "Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!")

Jake flexed his math skills and figured out how to maximize his purchasing power.  He went home with a new Monster Truck, a HotWheels airplane and a new TechDeck mini skateboard.

Delila resorted to the time-worn "eeny, meeny, miny, mo" method.  She went home with a new doctor kit for her baby dolls.  As for the grown ups in the family, our motivation for the early Target run was to get a new waffle iron.  You can't very well have Sunday Waffle Sundaes without a waffle iron.  (Ours gave up the ghost over the holiday.)  We ended up buying the exact same one we had before.

Now, in my opinion, nothing says Sunday like Waffle Sundaes.  And nothing says snowday like the smell of fresh gingerbread.  My brilliant idea of combining the two ideas and making gingerbread waffles was met with some skepticism by Duke, "You mess up that new waffle iron, you clean it!"

...ahem.  Oops!

Told ya!

Well, while the gingerbread waffles weren't the delight I was hoping for, I'm happy to say that the forecast was.  The morning's freezing rain turned to snow around 11:00, and by 1:00 (about the same time I was finished cleaning the waffle iron) we were in our snow clothes and heading out to work on the sled run.

We trudged through the snow to the golf course.

While Duke & I built the sled run with the snow shovel, Jake developed his own snow-packing method.

Lila caught snowflakes on her tongue.

Then it was time to hit the slope.  While Lila & I got set up for the perfect run...

Jake was hatching his evil plan.

He patiently waited with a shovel full of snow for just the right moment.


Gotcha again!!!

That's OK.  Lila got her revenge!

And that's it.  Our Sunday in a nutshell...I mean a snowball.  The house is a mess.  I haven't done a single load of laundry.  I'm completely unprepared for the week.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a snowday.

Ta ta for now!  Hope your Sunday was at least 1/2 as much fun as ours.