Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Candy-Making

During the winter, my grandfather told me that he wanted to learn how to make candy, specifically pecan clusters, and I figured it would be a fun, easy project for a cold day.  He's taught me so much (how to play the flute, how to fish, how to drive) and I liked the idea of teaching him something new.  Today, when we finally tackled the recipe, it was the farthest thing from a chilly day.  The kitchen was extremely hot and humid but we manged to have a great time and make some pretty good chocolate pecan clusters, too.

Armed with a straight-forward recipe I found online, I brought all of the ingredients and my candy thermometer over to my grandparents' house bright and early.  Pop arranged the pecan halves into foursomes on a cookie sheet, grouping the broken nuts together to make larger clusters.

Meanwhile, I combined the ingredients (corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream) for the caramel into a saucecpan on the stove.  Once the mixture started to boil, we attached the candy thermometer and just waited for the temperature to reach 246 degrees, stirring continuously to avoid burning the caramel. 

It took a while but after about 15 minutes, I was able to remove the caramel from the heat, add in some vanilla and let it cool down.  I spooned it onto the pecan formations and slipped the entire tray into the freezer so that the candy could set. 

Using a double boiler, we melted dark chocolate and then dropped on top of the pecan caramel clusters once we took them out of the freezer. 

The clusters tasted great.  The caramel was soft, but not chewy, and kind of firm at the same time, if that even seems possible, and it had such a fresh, buttery taste (Pop suggested letting the mixture get a bit hotter next time so that when it hardens, it's not as pliable).  I do think that the humidity contributed to the stickiness of the final product but I'd be interested to try again when the weather is cooler to see if the results are different. 

My grandfather suggested nougat for our next candy-making adventure.  I'm just glad he had enough fun today that he's willing to give it another try. 

My grandfather's concoction with the remaining caramel and some chopped cashews.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Almost-Midnight Snack

Tonight, we were supposed to go the movies, like a typical couple would do on a Saturday night.  Instead, I wasn't feeling well and kind of fell asleep for a half-hour, which then made it impossible to get to the theater in time for the show.  Anthony and I wound up going to the grocery store at 9:00pm and dancing through the empty aisles to the oldies station that was playing over the loudspeaker while we picked out peaches, yogurt and breakfast bars for the coming week. 

And when we got home, we realized we were starving.  Since my stomach problems started, I've been eating small amounts of not-so-filling food at weird times of the day.  I looked over at the loaf of Italian bread that I'd just bought, quickly sliced it up and made some delicious impromptu french toast and cinnamon eggs (these were kind of experimental but turned out to be pretty good). 

Hopefully, we'll get to the movie tomorrow night but I love the fact that we had a fun date-night on our own terms, complete with maple syrup.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cork and Polish

This nail polish is so cool.  I just love the cork handles, and that champagne color on the bottom right is awesome.  Of course, it's sold at Anthropologie.  I still have a coupon that the store sent me for my birthday so maybe I'll make a trip this weekend and rummage through the sale racks and clearance dishes. 

Image via Refinery 29

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm Not Looking Forward to the Turkey

Thanksgiving 2011 cannot come fast enough...

What an adorable movie poster.  I seriously would pay money to pose against a wall of Muppets. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot Hot Heat

This week's heat wave was a killer.  It didn't help that I've been sick since last Monday, even going for a catscan a few days ago.  Could my stomach problems be attributed to diverticulitis? Colitis? Ulcers? No one knows for sure.  In the meantime, I decided it was a good idea to turn on the oven and make a Peach Brown-Butter Cobbler to bring over to my brother and sister-in-law's house. 

The peaches didn't seem that ripe but after sauteing them with sugar and lemon juice, they turned pretty sweet. 

Is the butter brown yet?

The flour/sugar/buttermilk mixture is spread on top of the brown butter mixture, then the fruit is put on top. It didn't look right to me, but I'm not an expert and just followed the recipe in the New York Times

The final result was a really great-looking fruit casserole (I had to use a pie plate since I didn't have an 8x8 Pyrex dish).  It was a good choice for a summer dessert and everyone seemed to like it (Anthony had seconds but I'm not bragging...).  And as always, we had a great time at our family Sunday dinner. 

For next week, I'm contemplating a blueberry-picking outing at an orchard, even though I don't really eat fresh blueberries.  It's all for the experience, right?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Netflix Friday: Cyrus

When Anthony and I were in Baltimore last June for his birthday, we went to a movie theater near the harbor, joining all of the locals to see Get Him To The Greek on a Friday night. It was such a low-key non-touristy thing to do, exactly what I like doing in new cities.  While we waited for the show to start, there was a television in the lobby with a running loop of coming attractions.  It was there we first saw the preview for Cyrus, starring John C. Reilly, Marissa Tomei and Jonah Hill.  The clips were funny yet serious, and I knew that this was my kind of movie. 

Flash forward a year later, and Cyrus was sitting next to our television in a Netflix envelope.  We watched it around midnight on Friday night while we were both wide awake for some reason.  Cyrus is a quiet movie, but it really felt full of life and kept us interested until the end.  It just feels like there is just some cameraman following these people around as they go about their routines, kind of the same feel I got from Margot at the Wedding or Please Give.  There were several points when I was uncomfortable, but still amused.  And overall, I loved that things were messy and mostly unresolved at the end. 

I was really impressed with the acting, too.  Marissa Tomei is obviously a talent but I think it was brave to cast John C. Reilly in this leading role in which he excelled (there was even a funny part that mocked his clown-like hair) and to give Jonah Hill such a serious part which is opposite of so many of the other characters he plays (personally, I still think his small role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a pot-dealing, obsessed restaurant host is the best).  His "Cyrus" was manipulative and conniving but I still felt for him.  The subtle humor of the character made me laugh aloud at several points and I don't think that would have happened if someone else had been cast. 

It took a while to finally see it but once we did, Anthony and I really enjoyed Cyrus.  Has anyone else seen it?  Thoughts?

P.S. Two weeks ago, we watched another Netflix movie and had very different results.  Now, I love Ben Stiller (I even sat through the awful The Heartbreak Kid for him) but I thought Greenberg was pretty horrible.  I was so disappointed by how much I didn't like it.  I was able to watch until the end though, which I guess is something.  I've yet to find another person who's seen it though, so if you have, let me know what you thought. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Exhilaration, or Lack Thereof

I took a short walk during lunch today and as I neared my office building, a huge group of boys, led by two brave camp counselors, passed me.  They were young, about 6 or 7 years old, and unbelievably jubilant.  As they ran by me, I couldn't help but smile.  They all looked so happy and full of energy, and I tried to remember a time when I felt that happy.  You know the feeling I'm talking about, like when you run so hard and so fast for no reason and then can't stop laughing because of the ridiculousness of the situation. 

Life seems to get in the way of actually living sometimes.  This weekend, I crossed off many things on my to-do list, but I really did very little that I actually wanted to do.  No writing, no reading, no movies, no beach.  All that equals no fun and no joy.  When did I become so dull and worried about everyone but myself?

I attribute this to a build-up of stress.  Over the past few years, things have snowballed, and it seems like I can't see straight lately because I crave a break from everything.  So, how to proceed? I'm determined to add more enjoyable tasks to my daily life, even if it's just buying a coffee in the morning on my way to work, or seeing a movie with Anthony on a random Tuesday night.  And tonight, inspired by the group of boys I saw  today, I'm actually going to push myself to run until my lungs are practically bursting and I'm laughing at myself, and I plan to enjoy every second of it. 

Photo courtesy of weheartit

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Perfect Party

When I browse through stationary sites, sometimes I wish that I had frequent, lavish parties so that I could send out awesome invitations all the time.  I get so excited when I receive an invitation or card in the mail, especially one that looks like someone took at least a few minutes to make sure it looked special before throwing it in a mailbox, and I'm sure other people do, too.  For Christmas every year, I typically send out about 50 holiday cards and I always make sure there's a cute sticker on the back and some kind of festive stamp (It really seems to bug the postal workers when I ask to see their holiday stamps but whatevs). What a difference a little bit of glitter makes.

In my perfect world, the next batch of cards I send will have a cool customized stamp on the back, perhaps something like one of these:

 (With our own personal information, obviously)

Maybe I will hang these crepe paper chains around the apartment the next time we expect company:

 (I think a combination of peach and navy blue would compliment one another well)

And maybe, just maybe, I will have a reason someday to throw a party with a fantastic "Cow/Milk" theme like this:

(This is probably the cutest party recap I've ever read, and I had a problem 
picking only one or two photos because they are all so creative and fun.)

Doesn't everyone love a party?  Who wants to come when I put together my shindig?

Photos courtesy of PaperSource, HipHip Hooray and Hostess With the Mostess