Hot Sugar Action

It’s a new year! Time for the standard resolutions that will be dropped in a couple of months (eat better! exercise more! write in the darn blog more than once a month!). But it’s also a fine time to focus on a new hobby.

Lately I’ve been exploring the world of candymaking–or, as my husband and I joke, gettin’ some hot sugar action. A few months ago I picked up a book on it (Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home), partly because I was interested in learning how to dip things in chocolate, but perhaps more because the cover looked good enough to nibble.

Reading it whetted my appetite for learning more. I’ve got lots of friends who are amazing bakers, but candymaking is an area where I don’t have many people’s brains to pick, so I’ve had to do online research and experimentation. The book’s recipe for saltwater taffy just gave us hard candy; success was found elsewhere. For Christmas I received another book: Candymaking. Both have been helpful in their own way: Candymaking has a lot more variety in each area, but Sweet Confections features a photo of every single recipe, which can be incredibly helpful.

It’s ironic that even though chocolate was my gateway temptation, it’s one area where I’ve done very little further work. For chocolate to stay stable at room temperature and not require refrigeration, it needs to be properly tempered. On top of that, I’ve found there are many different ideas on what’s the best way to dip chocolates, or at least the non-round ones. (For round ones, the consensus appears to be that hand-dipping is best–and yes, that means using your hands to coat the centers with chocolates.)

At any rate, I’m having a lot of fun with it, and will likely be writing more about my candymaking adventures in the future. I’ve got some favorites already, and some drool-worthy ideas of what to try next. I’ve also been compiling a mental list of equipment I’m going to need at some point. To my husband’s chagrin, one of those dream items is a new kitchen. I’ll just have to keep him plied with caramels, and maybe one day he’ll concede.


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I think never is enough, yeah, never is enough

    I never had to spend a summer planting trees
    I never worked my way through a forest inch by inch, doubled over on my hands and knees
    I never spent a single day in retail
    Telling people what they want to hear, telling people anything to make a sale…

–“Never is Enough,” Barenaked Ladies


There are a lot of things I wish I had more time to do in my life.  Forget the basics, like spending more time with my Kiddo and husband, or keeping the house Martha-Stewart-snazzy; I’ve got a sizable list of pastimes where I’ve love to direct my creative energies.  Here’s a few of the ones I think about most often.

My friend Jennifer is a demonstrator for Stampin’ Up.  I went to a SU party at her house a couple years ago and not only did I have a great time (I usually feel awkward at product pitch parties because I rarely buy things) but I also picked up the bug for card crafting.  I attempted my wedding save-the-date cards and invitations on my own and they turned out okay, but not quite what I was hoping for.  One of the neat things about cardmaking with Stampin’ Up is that even someone like me, a crappy artist with a poor eye for color combinations, can turn out something that looks pretty darn good.  I had a great idea a couple weeks ago for how to set up a cool card-crafting space.  Then I realized that this requires both space in my home and space in my calendar, neither of which I have at the moment.

Knitting and crocheting
In theory, this is something I could do in front of the TV.  There’s a pattern for a Kiddo-sized hat in my yarn bag, and yarn for this project purchased and waiting to be used.  But most nights, by the time the boy is tucked away in bed, the laundry is started, and the dishes are done, I barely have enough energy to focus on the show I’m trying to watch.  It’s a good thing the pattern included more than one size, because he’s already outgrown the practice hat I made last year.

Creative?  Maybe not at first glance.  But a couple years ago when I was able to get to the gym on a regular basis, I found it was a great time to let my body go on autopilot and my brain kick into high gear.  Mainly I was trying to distract myself from the ticker on the treadmill, but I found some great insights on problems I’d pushed to the back of my brain.  The additional physical benefits were a nice bonus–and sad to say, something I’m really lacking these days.


On the other hand, there are a few activities that might seem like they’d be up my alley, but as the Barenaked Ladies put it, “I never want to do that stuff.”  Nothing implied against anyone who does enjoy one or more of these–if you love it, that’s wonderful!  It’s just not for me.

It’s similar to cardmaking and I get to show off the finished product, so I should be all over this.  And yet… I’m a terrible photographer, I don’t save keepsakes like I’d need to do, and I don’t know where I’d put the books when I’m done.  It’s far easier to flip through a digital slideshow on the computer or better yet, upload my photos to a digital frame I can set up on my desk at work.  I tried keeping a baby book for Kiddo and stopped writing in it when he was about five months old.  Before I start doing anything resembling scrapbooking, I feel I owe it to him to at least finish out his first year.

Sewing, embroidering, and other needlework
I’m not sure why yarnwork appeals to me while needlework doesn’t.  Maybe because hand-stitching requires good eyesight, and because setting up to sew with a machine seems like a lot of work.  Modern sewing machines are probably much easier to tote around than the heavy Singer my mom had when I was a kid, but it made enough of an impression on me that unless I became a stay-at-home mom with plenty of time on my hands, I probably wouldn’t get into this craft.

Competing in a triathlon (all three legs)
I’m not much of a swimmer.  It took me years to get out of the basic class when we took swimming lessons in elementary school.  Biking might be interesting if I were out enjoying a casual afternoon ride, but after seeing two separate crashes in the same race right in front of me a couple years ago, I’m too skittish to attempt riding for speed.  But hey, the running part I can handle just fine!  I did a relay with some friends a couple years ago, and that was enough to satisfy my triathlon leanings.

Getting a tattoo (the permanent kind)
My understanding is that needles are involved.  I’m no longer phobic of needles–heck, I’ve even given blood voluntarily–but I’m not willing to be repeatedly stuck with them if I have the option to do something else.  Same thing applies for acupuncture.  Just thinking about it gives me the willies.  Excuse me now while I go over there and shudder violently.

Jumping out of a fully functioning airplane or off a perfectly sound bridge.
Nope.  Just nope.  It’s not the heights, it’s the falling.  Not gonna happen.  Not even for a million dollars, Phil.