Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Perfect Caramels, More Knitting, and...

More reversible cable scarves. Once I get going, it's hard for me to stop. This pattern is being tested now and will be available by June 7th in my Etsy store. I expect to have a few more reversible cables designed before the end of the year so stay tuned, you might find something you really like.

In my mission to find the perfect caramel recipe, I think I finally did it. Aren't they pretty? They taste really good too. So here is the recipe which I borrowed from and tweaked a little bit.....

Perfect Caramels

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum flavor
1 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter, cut into small cubes

1. Prepare a 9x9 pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine the cream, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and run flavor in a small saucepan, and place the saucepan on a burner set to the lowest heat setting. You want the milk and cream to be warm, but do not allow it to boil.

3. In a medium-large saucepan combine the corn syrup, water, and granulated sugar over medium-high heat. Stir the candy until the sugar dissolves, then use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming and making the candy grainy.

4. Insert a candy thermometer and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and cook until the thermometer reads 250 degrees.

5. Add the softened butter chunks and the warm milk-cream mixture. The temperature should go down about 30 degrees.

6. Continue to cook the caramel, stirring constantly so that the bottom does not scorch. Cook it until the thermometer reads 235-244, and the caramel is a beautiful dark golden brown.
7. Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately pour it into the prepared pan. Do not scrape candy from the bottom of the saucepan. Allow the candy to sit overnight to set up and develop a smooth, silky texture.

8. When you are ready to cut the caramel, place a piece of waxed paper on the counter and lift the caramel from the pan using the foil as handles. Flip the top of the caramel onto the waxed paper and peel the foil layer from the bottom of the caramel.

9. Spray a large knife with nonstick cooking spray. Firmly cut into the caramels, creating 1” squares. Wipe the blade and re-spray as necessary.

10. Wrap the squares in waxed paper. The caramels will gradually spread and lose their square shape if not wrapped soon after cutting. Alternately, you can dip them in chocolate once they are cut.

11. Store the caramels at room temperature for up to two weeks.

....And finally, I enjoyed my first walk home from work of the season. I love it because I find such beautiful things on the way. I knew from last year that I would find some interesting things, and so I brought my camera so that I could share them with you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taco Salads, Caramel, Knitting

Well, it's been a little while since I have written. I have been busy cooking, knitting, and revising patterns. I've also been fighting a spring cold & must say that I think they are worse than winter colds. At least with winter colds, it's cold outside With spring colds, one day is warm, the next day is cold, the day after that is warm and wet and it just seems that mother nature is very indecisive. Oh wait, I live in Utah, thats normal!

Now that I am feeling better I am getting back into the habit of cooking for my family. This weeks recipe is a total winner. Taco salads with Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing. So here's ya do. Prepare salad dressing according to the directions. Cook 2 pounds of taco meat with 3 packs of taco seasoning (for a family of three you can easily get dinner, lunch the next day, and maybe even dinner again). Put one flour tortilla in a frying pan with a little bit of margarine on medium heat. Check regularly until you see the nice golden brown spots, then flip it over with a little bit more margarine. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese on top and allow to melt. Then put tortilla in a bowl and squish down the middle. Voila! You now have a taco salad shell. For the salad, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, de-seaded diced tomato, and cucumber if you like. You are obviously free to add anything else you think a salad should have but for minimizing time in the kitchen, I chose just these ingredients. The nice thing is that you cut enough of each ingredient that you can eat off of it for two or three days, with minimal mess and it is very satisfying.

So, you've got your shell, your meat, your dressing, and your salad. Put it together any way you like and you are set. The picture does not express the glory that was my taco salad, but what can I say? I was hungry and did not want to fiddle with the camera.

I'm struggling too with making caramels. There is just something special about a home made caramel and after successfully making some last week, I cannot seem to make more. The obsessive part of me has used up three bags of sugar, almost a gallon of heavy whipping cream, all the Captain Morgan's spiced Rum, and three bags of pecan pieces. In defense of the rum, I only had about a cup to begin with. I am going to attempt one more try tonight when I get home, I have the cream, I have the Karo syrup now, and I am very familiar with the "hard ball" stage. Will see how it goes, but if anyone has a good failsafe recipe I would love it.

Now that I have all revisions of the Double Trio Reversible Cable Scarf complete, and its ready for sale, I have become inspired for another scarf idea. The Floating Reversible Cable Scarf.

This scarf features a lace mesh edged with reversible cables. Two more reversible cables appear to "float" in the lace. The end result? Versatility, Variation, and Lush detail without the hassle of a complicated pattern.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I have conquered!

Some of you may remember my story earlier about my tears and how I think I can battle them. Well I did it. After attending a "Thinking Errors" group session, I experienced a situation at work yesterday that I felt extremely frustrated about. During the group session I learned some key phrases and ideas that helped me cope with this particular situation.

1. An event takes place
2. As a result, I have an emotion.
a. I experience a physical manifestation of that emotion
b. My behavior reflect my reaction to the physical manifestation.

The key to this concept is using what I know about the event and the emotion to switch from negative behaviors to positive ones.

With those things fresh in my mind I had this experience...

1. Former patient called with a unique set of challenges in obtaining his medical records from waaaaayyy back. I asked for assistance from the appropriate department and was denied.
2. I became frustrated. Angry. How could they not do everything in their power to assist this patient? I was bending over backwards, using my resources to help him with this situation. Why couldn't think outside their box to see it my way? I provided them everything they would need to answer his questions, but they would not hear it.
a. I first felt confused. Then after the call, I felt the welling up inside my chest, and my eyes began to turn bloodshot. I could feel the tearduct start to fill.
b. Normally this would be a point where I think to myself, "oh here we go again, these uncontrollable tears that I cannot fight" Which would then be followed by "great, now I'm crying, I'm such a boob, and now everyone else is thinking the same thing" leading to more tears. But instead of this pattern which usually sends me spinning, hurtling out of control at times, I took a deep breath. I paused for a moment. I finished my task and then turned around to process with a coworker.

Do you know what I did? I was able to calm myself, and my eyes cleared up, and my heart stopped pounding and I no longer felt the need to cry.

I feel like this is a momentous growth for me. I truly can fight these tears and these negative thoughts that sometime fight their way into my life.

Now comes the part where I apply this to my knitting.

I'm in the testing phase of a couple of patterns.
1. Honest input is given to me about a pattern, the wording, or the techniques.
2. The old me might have felt hurt, or insulted, or rejected.
a. the old me might have thrown my hands in the air,

b. the old me would have then taken a defensive stance and maybe even vocalized the frustration, or altered my ideas about test knitting to make the next experience better. Which of course is a reasonable reaction to what the old me just percieved.

2. Not this time Me! I did not feel hurt or rejected. I felt excited. This was a chance to better my pattern, to further my business, and achieve my ultimate goal.
a. I smiled

b. I reread the comments, looked at the pattern again. Corrected the issues that were addressed because I agreed with the comments. And sent out not only replies to the specific questions, but the revised patterns.

Overall, not only am I several steps closer to having complete patterns, but I have learned much about writing patterns, and have conquered one of my personal demons as well. YAY ME!

Today is better than yesterday for this reason. Well that and it's my Friday, so I can go home and knit all weekend and make more homemade caramel. So fun! Yes caramel is fave recipe this week. And If I make it and bring it to work then I don't feel so guilty about eating it. LOL