Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

I'm totally feeling the Christmas spirit today. We got our tree two days after Thanksgiving and set it up in the same spot where Grandma always put hers up. Getting the tree was amusing. We tied it on top of our Corolla....and when tying it through the windows tied ourselves OUT of our car, couldn't open the doors. lol. Eventually we freed the right hand side rear door and climbed through the back seat to drive home.

Here you can see Joe climbing back out. :)
The undecorated tree.
I reused the stars that I made last year, I like how they are all of coordinating patterns but slightly different. I love the white lights. And this year I added red bows, which I tied and hung with bent paperclips. I don't plan on really adding any store bought ornaments anytime soon, I kind of like that the decorations for this tree were so cheap. :)


I've also been wrapping presents with the dollar a roll wrapping paper I got at Target and the big roll of ribbon that I've been using for a year now (many presents, bows for our tree, and there's tons left, what a steal since I paid like $7 for the whole roll).

We also put a few things on our mantel. :)
Isn't this little Santa cute? It's not exactly fitting in my current style...but I don't care. I bought it in college. And it's one of the few things that I have left from the pre-moving van days. It's hard for me to give up any of my possessions that survived since I have so few of them....regardless he's cute and I heart him. I'm so glad he was hiding in my mom's garage.
I wrapped this gift...it's for me. I did ask Joe to write the tag. Do you recognize that scallop shape Ellen? Thanks for inspiring me to buy the scallop punch, it was perfect for this.
And to be rather festive we thought it would be fun to make grandma's caramel recipe. My mom has been making them every year for 20+ years. And we are living in grandmas house so I thought it was a good year to make my first solo attempt. I won't lie, they got a little burned and I began to PANIC so we forgot the vanilla. Somehow the sugar and cream filled little treats still taste good, though I am sad they are a little spotty looking and lacking that vanilla kick. :) The burning wasn't too bad. There are a few little spots in the caramel, but they don't have a burnt flavor (much to my relief). Try not to have a heart attack as you read the recipe list...they are crazy terrible for you. And crazy good. And really just one is very satisfying. We'll be giving 90% of them away.

Grandma's Caramels Recipe

4C White Sugar
1 can evaporated milk
2C White corn syrup
1tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1C nuts (optional)
1qt Whipping Cream

Mix sugar, syrup, salt and 2 cups of cream in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and as it cooks gradually add the rest of the cream. Stir constantly. As mixture cooks down, add canned milk slowly and cook to firm ball or 232 degrees. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts. Pour into greased cookie sheet. Let stand for 24 hours and cut into squares. Makes about 5 lbs.

Let me give you some tips for success:
*Use a good pan with a heavy bottom. Less quality pans will lead to burning....not sure if this is why mine burned, my pan has a decently heavy bottom
*Stir constantly. Make them with a friend/lover/parent/child because it's a LOT of stirring.
*Know how to test if the candy meets the firm ball test, read here. Turns out Grandma's directions say 232 or firm ball...hmm.....
*Tend to undercook rather than overcook. Overcooked caramels are hard and no one wants to eat them. If they are soft (which has happened to my mom several times) you can give it away in jars as caramel sauce.
*Ensure that you have a candy thermometer, note that meat thermometers like mine do not go to 232 degrees, they top out at 220. So one moment the mixture was at like 215 or something and next thing I know burning. Ahhh!


So here are the finished caramels. They look washed out in this picture, they are slightly darker in color.



Oh wait, much better looking here. And from this view you can hardly see the burn spots. :)

We always wrapped ours up in wax paper.

Oh and by the way. I added this to 104 in 104---an adventure like making homemade caramels deserves such attention. Have you guys made 104 in 104 lists yet? You should....really you should. :)

2 little remarks:

Leilani said...

Hah, we tied ourselves out of our car last year too. We're all so smart! Christmas looks very festive at your house!

Mardi and Jeremey said...

I am SO EXCITED to try this recipe! I LOVE homemade caramels!

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