Wednesday, December 29, 2010


CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): "We Americans are the best informed
people on earth as to the events of the last 24 hours," wrote historian
Will Durant some decades ago. "We are the not the best informed as to
the events of the last sixty centuries," he concluded. Today this describes
many Westerners, not just Americans. We are adrift in the Age of the
Short Attention Span -- a time when the lessons of the past are becoming
lost or irrelevant. But in 2011, I'll be rooting for you to elude this curse,
Capricorn. It's crucial for you to be in close touch with both the lessons
provided by the grand sweep of human civilization and by your own
personal history.

That birthday is right around the corner and my horoscope, according to Rob Brezsny, challenges me to get informed. 
Navigating the information age can wear me out!
Perhaps there is more I need to learn beyond creating a Like Button for my Facebook page.
Today I am going to curl up with my cat and finish the biographical novel, Loving Frank.
The story deals with a turn of the century woman's excavation of self, after having fallen in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, surrounded by color and controversy: love vs duty.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sea Salt Caramels

Each Christmas I enjoy making home-made caramels for friends and family.
This year, my mother's time honored recipe has been up-scaled,
as I jumped on the sweet/salty band-wagon and did a version with a dark chocolate pour and a sprinkle of sea salt.

The heavy cream, butter and sugar amounts stayed true to Ione's recipe but the corn syrup got a boost with honey.  And, as I like to split batches for maximum variety, I reserved half the batch for a splash of brandy vs vanilla.  These caramels got a sprinkle of toasted pecans.

The other half were topped with molten Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate. 
Before the chocolate set, I used a spoon to sprinkle the sea salt in random rows.  
I like the concentration of more salt in some areas and I chose sea salt
which had more of a crystal look than the kosher salt.
Lining the pans with parchment made clean up and scoring so much easier.

I took the first photograph and was pleased.  
By the time I ran a large knife over the top to score and slice the rows, 
our waning December sun made one last peek under the cloud cover, 
shot the sky with pink and purple, and departed.  
Because I wanted to shoot the method of cutting, I wrapped the whole board with foil wrap
and placed it in the refrigerator overnight.
The caramel held up nicely, but the chocolate became brittle 
and separated from the buttery surface.
  So these cut caramels are not as gorgeous as if I would have cut and wrapped them in wax paper on the same day as I had cooked them.

 I cut the rows approximately 3/4" wide  by 1" long 
which works well for pre-cut wax paper wrappers.

 Delicious...this recipe up-do is a definite keeper.
What family recipes have you improved, experimented?
I'd love you to share your story.

After posting on Facebook, I have had requests for recipe... here it is:

2 cups white sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup butter
2 cups half and half cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together the first four ingredients on low heat until melted, then add half of the cream.

Boil for 30 minutes, medium heat, stirring often with wooden spoon.
Add rest of cream,  boil and test to chewy stage just beyond soft ball...recipe says 248 degrees but I always found this was too far.  Stir in vanilla.
Pour into a parchment lined 9x11" pan and let cool.
Melt 8-12 ounces of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips or bars in a glass dish in microwave on low, until melted.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate.
Pour over the cooling caramel.  Before the chocolate completely sets, sprinkle sea salt as desired.  Chill the caramels until you can lift them out of the pan and they retain their shape.
Score the top with a long thin butcher knife, cut into 3/4" by 1" pieces.
Wrap in wax paper wrappers.

Of course, you could hand dip each caramel in the chocolate for a more finished look and then sprinkle...this method would ensure that the chocolate layer doesn't separate from the caramel.

I separated half of the recipe and added a tablespoon of brandy in addition to the vanilla, then topped with toasted pecans to the cooling caramels.

Store in the refrigerator, in a covered tin for up to 4 weeks... fat chance!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cheers for Tiers

Six Geese a-Laying, original art by John Tebeau

With December the 24th looming, (did I say looming that doesn't sound very positive) I have decided to create a to-do list unlike the usual.

I will start with Tier 3...the fluff, the frosting
12) make fresh boxwood wreaths
11) research, photograph, and list fifty new items for the shop
10) make ice bowl luminaria to line a 150 foot drive
9) dust

Next, Tier 2 or the B List... important but not critical
8) finish my on-line shopping
7) make my famous caramels with a new twist, a sprinkle of sea salt
6) if I can't break a few lower spruce boughs free of snow for making swags I will break down the day before Christmas and buy a discounted tree from the boy scout's lot

Finally, the Top Tier
5) glue the elements to the unfinished collages I gave my children last year at Christmas
4) make the sweet potato and goat cheese gratin side dish that Richard requested for Christmas brunch
3) process and ship all of my shop orders by Monday the 20th
2) commit to Relax in all Things, with a daily, 20 minute restorative yoga pose
thank you, John Tebeau for the inspirational Six Geese aLaying artwork
1) revel and relish the reprieve my mother has been given...she continues to gain strength...
thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.

oops...I have to sneak in a 13th to the Top Tier.
Gift Certificates for John and Jim, my neighbors who have tagged teamed getting us plowed out this winter.  35 inches of snow and counting.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best Reclaimed Shops on Etsy

Some people collect junk.
Some people create junk.
A rare breed collect junk and create art.
Here are my faves...

creates gorgeous statement necklaces.

creates incredible robotic sculpture from cast off tins.
Some are usable art, trinket holders or snack keepers.

She is a collage and mixed media artist who uses antique ephemera and prints to create art.
I especially love the doll-house series, and considered purchasing one with the birthing anatomy for my daughter, the labor and delivery nurse.

caught my attention my first year on etsy, when she suggested a trade.
She got one of Ione's vintage brooches, an enamel German cross and I got an original painting from her skeleton crew series!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Calling All Prayers

Ione has been in the hospital for 3 days.
She is fragile but continues to gain some strength and keep the nursing staff entertained.
All prayers and best intentions are welcome.