Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Inside Kind of Girl

It's been raining for a decade now. Or at least it feels like it. Anytime the sun comes out it feels like some kind of brief reward. This is frustrating. After almost five days of crappy weather I just feel blah. I want to lay around the house, drinking coffee and reading and reading and reading. And so I kind of have been, especially with Joe out of town all last week. The rain was the perfect background music last Saturday morning. The window was cracked open, a little Billie Holiday on the stereo and I sat engrossed, ok laid around under my fluffy comforter, for hours reading Joe Hill's latest book, Horns. Its been like that lately with my reading. I seem to go through these dry spells, where every book I read is mediocre or crappy or strange or just doesn't click for me. And then I experience these magical spans of time where every book is superb and quick and sticks with me for days after I've finished it. I am happily ensconced in the middle of one of these good runs.

I always have a big hold list at the library and two weeks ago about five of my requests all popped up for check out at the same time. Ah, the pressure, the glorious pressure, I must read these, and fast. So I did. And they were each perfect in their own way. But first the craptastic offerings!

Not Great Books - Probably Should Avoid, Unless All The Other Books in the World Have Been Burned In A Bonfire, Then They Probably Aren't Too Awful In Comparison:

The Raw Shark Texts - a theoretical shark is stalking and slowly stealing the consciousness of the protagonist. What? Uh? Strangely compelling, but ultimately how do you care about something that doesn't even exist?

The Eyre Affair- another odd bit of lit, alternate universe, characters are being kidnapped out of popular literature, the protagonist is named Thursday Next, clever premise and yet just not very good.

The Swan Thieves - Just a huge disappointment. Her first book, The Historian, was beautifully written, great pacing and plot, strong characters, and vampires! But Swan Thieves, ugh. It drags on and on, the different narrators are barely distinguishable from each other and it just bored me. And I didn't like any of the paper thin characters. I wanted to like it. But it wouldn't let me.

Books You Really Should Read Now, I Mean It, Go to the Library, Right Now, I'm Serious, Stop Reading This Post, Get Your Library Card, and Go Start the Car:

Little Bee - Heartbreaking, brutal, gorgeous, mysterious, I might have cried two or three times while reading, this book is staggeringly good. I don't want to tell you anything about the plot because discovering the story for yourself is half the joy of reading this book.

Let The Great World Spin - A lyrical, lofty, poetic and beautiful story. Set in New York City in the 1970's, it weaves together the story of ten different characters, connecting them all on August 7th, 1974 when Phillipe Petit strung a cable between the then under construction World Trade Center towers, and spent an hour walking, dancing and running across the cable, 1350' above the ground, with 100,000 New York residents watching him. Phillipe Petit is the real life character in the book, but for more information on him you should rent Man on Wire. The book is set in the 1970's, but feels timeless.

Whip Smart - Sex, sex, sex! And fetishes and spanking and domination. This one was naughty. And just flat out raunchy. But smart raunchy. The memoir of a professional dominatrix in New York City, Melissa Febos was a bright young college student who put herself through school by dominating and verbally abusing rich white guys. With a serious drug problem, Febos becomes nearly as addicted to the power of her sadomasochistic daily grind. I thought this was a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a private dungeon, into the even more private secret fantasies and fetishes of everyday men, and inside Febos' own thought processes as she gets deeper into the lifestyle and then successfully kicks her drug habit and moves away from the unsavory, sex work. A reflection on sexual power, cultural mores and female empowerment, all without any actual sexual intercourse.

Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good Living - It's Mark Twain. He is wise and timely and hysterical and irreverent and he's been dead for 100 years. But he knows people. He knows how to educate and entertain. This book is a great collection of essays, stories and personal letters on subjects from hospitality to food and drink to raising children. I love Mark Twain.

Horns- The author, Joe Hill, is the son of Stephen King, and it shows.  But this isn't a retread of his father's work. Joe Hill is his own man though his books, Heart Shaped Box is his terrifying first novel, are certainly in the same horror genre as King. This book is a wild, funny, scary examination of good and evil, grief, revenge and salvation. Not a perfect book by any means, the ending was a slight let down, but the exhilarating story and likable characters, particularly the main character, Ignatius, make this a giddy, speedy, creepy read.

Joe and I are on vacation all next week, now comes the real challenge, what books to bring? I may blog on vacation, I may not, but either way, Florida here we come.  Fruity drinks, sitting on the beach, and maybe a jet ski or two.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

My younger brother turns thirty one on Tuesday.

I once defended him during a vicious snowball fight by throwing an icy snowball at the meanest boy in his class. Gave the kid a nosebleed. I'm proud of that.

Mike is a pretty amazing person. Other than being my brother, which automatically makes him a lucky bastard, he is smart, a superior sous chef, funny, tall, a gifted musician and writer, tattooed heavily and with great variety, a fan of the partying, has a million friends, loves his mother, can sleep through a tornado or paramedics bursting into the house, is greeted like Norm on Cheers every time he enters Johnny's on 119th, can quote nearly verbatim every movie he's ever seen, is a closet Dave Matthews Band fan, makes me laugh simply by saying "buffalo deer," is cooler than I could dream of being, got to meet and cook for one of his heroes, Anthony Bourdain, and is one of my favorite people in the world.

Growing up, Mike and I were best friends and fervent enemies depending on the minute. I remember one vicious fight, it was summer time and we were home alone, Mike was chasing me around the house with a metal tipped ruler and whacked me on the elbow, cutting me and drawing a little blood. We both stopped short, kind of shocked that it had happened. Mike's face turned white and he started apologizing and I started laughing and we plopped back in front of the TV and finished watching The Monkees rerun. Or after constantly letting Mike get away with hitting me and not defending myself, our parents finally got tired of me whining about it and flat out told me to hit him back next time. We were fighting in my parent's bedroom, I think Mike had hidden my Barbie dolls, high up on the loft bed my dad had built for him. I turned around to walk into his bedroom to dig around and find them. He slapped me hard on the back, I turned around and hauled off and punched him right in the stomach. He doubled over and collapsed in the doorway. I don't think he hit me again. And while I felt powerful and dominant for a brief minute, I also felt a little ashamed.

I remember listening to Q-104, the top 40 radio station in Kansas City in the 1980's and early 90's, and recording ourselves singing along on this tinny Fisher Price tape recorder. Recording our own radio shows, Dr. Demento knock offs, and Weird Al parodies. Trying out fake British accents, interviewing each other and pretending to be DJ's. God, I'd love to listen to those tapes today. Or laying on top of the loft bed together, with the lights off, each of us taking turns holding the flashlight and reading out loud from Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, and then terrifying ourselves so much that we'd scurry down the ladder, hiding in his closet together, so this couldn't find us.

I should publicly apologize to Mike for one very serious scam that I perpetrated on him when we were children. I may have convinced him, through an elaborate and ongoing story, that he was adopted and that he had an older brother who was a professional soccer player who lived in Australia and raised Labrador puppies. I fiendishly combined Mike's three favorite things and one irrational childhood fear into one ridiculous story. I think he believed it, at least a little bit, until he was fifteen.

I could go on and on. That's the beauty of having siblings. Someone to share the family car trips and escapades with, someone to confess to, someone who has your back, someone who knows you better than nearly anyone else ever could, someone who with one phone call takes you back to being thirteen years old, walking up to Hy-vee to rent a movie together, teaching you his favorite rap lyrics on the way, singing along together until you get the rhythm and the lines just right. Someone to check you on your shit, someone to tell you they love you and miss you when you're homesick. Someone who loves you no matter what. No matter.

Mike and I are incredibly different and shockingly similar sometimes. And like most siblings, we haven't always had the smoothest, closest relationship. Our family dynamics have slapped labels on us both that we tend to rely on. I'm the well-behaved, stable daughter, he's the wild, rebel son.

Under the weight of these labels we struggle to find out who we really are, in the world, in our family and in ourselves. Because we are both much more than those labels want to permit us to be. They become an excuse and a crutch. For both of us. I turn into the preachy, judgmental sister and Mike is the rebellious, 30 year old brother without a checking account.  Over the last year Mike has really struggled and forced himself to make difficult, brave decisions.

He moved away from home. He started a new life in Florida. Complete with a demanding and exciting job, new apartment and a different lifestyle. I know he struggles with missing home, friends, the life he's always known, but I couldn't be more proud of him for taking risks, challenging himself and trying to figure out who he is without the weight of his past keeping him tethered in Kansas City.  I think doing all of this on his own, under his own energy and willpower is something he should be deeply proud of himself for accomplishing. And he got a checking account.  At 31, he's turning into a grown up.  I'm proud of you, Michael. I love you and happy birthday, kiddo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fell Off the Wagon So Hard I've Got Bruises

Last night I put three cupcakes down the garbage disposal.

Honestly. I had to. I ate one. I shoved the other three down the sink, grinding them up one at a time. Because I have no willpower lately. I went grocery shopping while starving. I bought macaroni and cheese from the deli and cupcakes from the bakery. I shouldn't do that. I know better. But Joe is out of town, I'd been out of town all day, I didn't feel like cooking and the rainy, glum day required comfort food. If I could have bought just one cupcake I would have, but I couldn't. So I took four home on impulse. Which is four too many. I was weak. And then they taunted me.

I ate the heavy, creamy macaroni and cheese for dinner and then promptly polished off a cupcake. I wasn't hungry. Then I thought about eating another one, and maybe another. I was home alone. No one would know. No one would judge me. And the guilt and craving and stupid interior food monologue took over. I could picture myself eating all four. And you know what?

They weren't even that good. These grocery store cupcakes were oily, heavy sponges compared to cupcakes I could make at home. Why would I waste calories on something that left a lardy film over the inside of my mouth? Because my relationship with food is jacked up, to put it bluntly. So I put them down the garbage disposal.  I feel like an idiot. I need to work out tonight. I haven't lost weight in a month. I've lost my focus and my drive. How do I get it back?

No idea. But I'm working out tonight and every day until our vacation at the end of the month. I'm guessing spending a week in a swimsuit will re-inspire me. God, let's hope so. The cupcakes might win next time.

I hate feeling like this. Like my power and control have been taken over by a freaking cupcake. I have more strength than that. I'm smarter than that. I deserve better than that. But for some reason I can say this all I want in my own head, but I can't act on it consistently. I don't treat myself and my body as well as I should. I can make good choices for a couple of months and then old habits creep back in. I need to get back on track and just start making better decisions. Thinking about the consequences before I eat anything. Tracking my meals in the Lose It app. No, I haven't gained any weight, but I need to be losing again: for my health and my self-esteem and my own well being. I hate failing and I've been failing myself lately. So once again I humble myself to my loyal readers. The cupcake might have won the battle, but I'm going to win the war. I think.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Giraffe's Name is Sydney, by the way.

Last Friday we got our art on.
First Fridays May

We met some friends downtown for First Fridays and the ArtsTech benefit.

First Fridays May

We browsed and noshed and perused and were seen and saw and mixed and mingled and toured and bought and actually scored some B-List Huey Lewis rock star parking.

First Fridays May

First Fridays May

Old men wearing red cowboy boots wandered between the galleries.

First Fridays May

A gang of hula hoopers paraded up the block.

First Fridays May

A wooden motorcycle parked outside of The Mojo Collection.

First Fridays May

Live, walking, fish-netted advertisements for June First Fridays caught our attention.

First Fridays May

Models with Amy Winehouse bouffant hair strutted the makeshift runway.

First Fridays May

And we saw a lot of art. I actually ran smack into this piece, hung a little low.

First Fridays May

First Fridays May

First Fridays May

And we took home a giraffe wearing a beret and a monocle. It was a good night.

First Fridays May

Thanks to Joe for most of the photos, as usual.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The 100th Post, Can I Make it to 200?

Can you believe that this is my 100th blog post? Now, the fact that this blog has been in existence since 2006 reduces the impact of that number. But still, 100, woo hoo! I wrote a grand total of 2 posts in 2006. And then another chunk of book review posts in the summers of 2007 and 2008, when this blog was just my own little Book It summer project.

It wasn't until the fall of last year, at my friend Bethany's prompting, that I really started this blog in its current phase. And I love it. I love writing. I love taking photos. I love sharing the thoughts that consume me, the daily events that seem so simple but that I relish, the struggles, the joys, and I love hearing from the friends and family and occasional strangers who read this stuff. I love hearing how you think, and what's going on in your heads and your hearts, too.  And I love the sense of a tiny community that can develop through a silly little blog. I feel connected to you in some small way. Like my own comfy front porch, open to the world.

For their 100th post, bloggers traditionally post 100 things about themselves. But I'm going to buck tradition. I'm going eclectic, because frankly 100 things is too much work.  So I'm going to post 34 things about myself, one from each year of my life. I think I may regret this decision.  I want to hear some of yours too, so maybe all together we'll get to 100.

34 Years of Bravely Obey:
1. I am born in Cape Girardeau, MO. Rush Limbaugh is also from Cape. This is a sad fact. 

2. My parents are disowned by my father's family. This lasts for almost ten years. My dad and mom dared to move to Kansas City, leaving the family business in Sikeston.  This is punishable by silence.

3. My brother is born and I am three and a half. I remember watching Planet of the Apes, pressed up against my mother's side on our bristly couch, while she feeds him. The light from the TV makes his pale blond hair glow.

4.  My first bestest friend lives two blocks away. Our mothers watch us walk to school together, holding hands.

5. My room has glossy pink, green and yellow striped wallpaper. I sleep on a white canopy bed, with a pink bedspread. I am certain princesses sleep in the same bed as I do.

6. I win a coloring contest from Buster Brown Shoes. The prize is 4 pairs of shoes and two bicycles. Rainbow banana seat for me and sparkly blue for my brother.  My mom still has my winning coloring sheet in her jewelry box.
7. My aunt and uncle get married. I am the flower girl. My dress is pale blue and twirly and I walk down the railroad tie stairs in my grandparent's backyard, thinking, "I can't trip. I can't trip. I can't trip," dropping flower petals at the same time.  A guitarist plays "Blowin' in the Wind."

8. Our class guinea pig has babies. I am giddy when I have the privilege of taking them home for the weekend. They are so dirty and smelly by the end of the weekend that my mom has to help me bathe them in the bathroom sink. So many squeaking, squirmy little bodies. Suave shampoo does the trick. They smell like strawberries after.

9. We move, only five miles away but a different state and school. I like 4th grade. On my first day, my nemesis tells me my favorite sweater is ugly. She is mean for the next 8 years. Last I heard she works as a sales clerk at a Banana Republic.

10. I am in my first play with a speaking part. On stage I am terrified and alive. I can make people laugh. I am playing a singing, dancing dragon. This will be the first of many roles. I am the tallest girl in school.

11. I have a crush on Eric who lives in the house behind ours. He has red hair and a crooked front tooth. He falls off our swing set, lands on his back and can't speak. I'm certain he is dead. I burst into tears. He just has the wind knocked out of him. Later he kisses me on the cheek.

12.I sneak into my parent's closet and swipe my mother's romance novels. I read them at night with a flashlight under my covers. They are confusing and intense and thrilling.

13. My parents separate. I tell my friend Yvette the next day, as we jog in circles around the gym. She looks at me wide eyed, unsure of what to say. So am I.

14. Freshman year. I don't want to get out of bed. Home is a mess, family is a mess. I am a reflection of this mess. The laundry has piled so high in our basement that my grandmother takes trash bags of it home with her to wash for us.

15. I have a bedroom wall covered with pictures cut from magazines, boys, boys, boys. This year is better. I smoke Marlboro Light 100's with my friends in parking lots and strange college guys' apartments. And then go home and watch Mary Poppins with my brother. This is teen life in the suburbs.

16. My dad takes me and my friends to see U2 on their Achtung Baby tour. It is the best concert in the history of my world. I feel I will never love a band as much as I love U2. This will change with their next album.

17. I am madly in love. I get my heart broken for the first time. I will graduate soon. I want to be a journalist or an actress or a professor or a writer or a I have no idea. I just want to move out and yet I am petrified to be on my own.

18. Playing Trivial Pursuit down the hall with my coed dorm mates, I get drunk on Wild Island Boone's Farm. My teammate is Ben, Asian-American ROTC student, 6' 2", and two years older than me. He doesn't drink and helps get me back to my room after. I am giddy with our triumphant win. His lips are soft and he has no hair on his arms.

19. My grandmother dies of cancer. She is at home surrounded by family. I leave RA training at KU to return home for her funeral. I am devastated and certain that the heart of our family is gone.

20. As an RA, I observe a totally nude girl eating a burrito while perched on a radiator in the communal bathroom. She doesn't even live here.

21. I go sailing with my dad. It is a late summer evening and getting dark  I steer the boat into our slip, we are going a little too quickly.  Dad jumps off, grabs hold of the boat with one hand and the dock with the other, trying to slow the boat before it hits the end of the slip. His bicep muscle snaps. I hear it pop. He has to have major surgery to reattach it. I don't sail the boat again for a long time.

22. I am dating my best friend, Joe. He is smart. He reads, he's curious about the world. He loves art and architecture. He could eat macaroni and cheese everyday. He has wavy dark hair and a sarcastic mouth. I can tell him anything. He is funny. I want to spend every moment with him. We go back and forth between dating and just being friends. This goes on for awhile.

23. Africa. I spend July traveling all over the Ivory Coast with an art history class. It erases my desire to join the Peace Corps, yet easily the most amazing travel experience of my life.

24. I move to Philadelphia. Joe and I share a very long, skinny, non air-conditioned apartment over the shop where he works. I work as a foster care social worker.  It is a brutal, difficult, enlightening job. The areas where I work in Philadelphia look like war zones. Evidently I pronounce "car" and "Barbara" funny, according to my foster care kids.

25. We spend two weeks in Stone Harbor, NJ.  I am a real Philly resident now, heading to the shore with Joe's Aunt Suzy and her family. Sun, reading, The Ugly Mug, Carmen's, mini-golf, walking to Springer's, sleeping in and lazing around on the beach, it's a perfect vacation and we are moving back to Kansas City in one month.

26. Outside, under a huge tree covered in twinkly lights, with 130 of our favorite people, Joe and I get married. It is the single best day of my life, so far.

27. One of my coworkers steals the monthly stipends from twelve of my clients with serious developmental disabilities. She disappears.  Secret crack problem. I'm starting to turn into a burned out social work cynic. I don't think I'm tough enough for this line of work anymore.

28. I have the second panic attack of my life, staring at the stack of mortgage papers we are about to sign. "What if the house floods? What if I want to move to Fiji? What if we get divorced?" I am not normally a commitment phobic person. Joe is the picture of calm. This feeling passes and I breathe again. 

29. I am sitting on the floor surrounded by eight layers of peeled wallpaper. I am a home owner. I loathe it and love it. The paradox hurts my paint fume filled brain. But we have a yard, so we put a cute guard dog in it.

30.  I turn 29 again. This time with lots of friends and family and mango rum drinks.  I end the evening standing in the kitchen, my brother-in-law and I taking bites directly off of the enormous birthday carrot cake.

31. We host our first Thanksgiving in our own house. Lots of relatives come to town including Dave, Joe's cousin, who shaved his chest hair into a heart shape. This is the only photo we have from Thanksgiving. Isn't that odd?

32. Joe and I, along with our good friend Tara, embark on a fabulous trip to Italy. Somehow we end up iced and snowed in in Philadelphia, endure a death defying cab ride, Tara accidentally attempts to kill Joe's grandparents' dog and we end up driving back to KC.

Joe and I in Rome, just a couple of weeks later.

33. I find myself working in the nonprofit world again. I feel like I've come home. I think this job was made for me.

34. Today I bought tickets to see Modest Mouse with Joe in July, working on #21 on the list! I am excited, really, really excited. I will commence listening to nothing but Modest Mouse for the next three days. Oh, and I got a purple pedicure. I like 34.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Chewy, Melt in Your Mouth Success

And we have caramels!

Round 2 - Success

Round 2 - Success

Armed with my newly purchased candy thermometer, some cream of tartar, a better recipe, and multiple viewings of Alton Brown analyzing sugar bubbles, I made my first successful, delicious batch. They are dark, smooth, buttery, and with a touch of savory saltiness. (Secret ingredient: soy sauce)

Round 2 - Success

After chilling in the refrigerator over night, I cut off a small corner of caramel this morning. Joe and I each popped a tiny piece in our mouths and my face lit up as the mingled flavors came alive on my tongue. Success! Tonight I'll be twisting those little guys up in wax paper. You might be getting some in the mail if I know your address, dear reader. Checking #31 off the list! And other than being a great learning experience, it was fun too. As discussed with my dad and stepmother at lunch yesterday, since my learning style is an experiential style, otherwise known as screwing up on my own terms without seeking helpful advice first, I picked up a lot from this cooking project.  I might try making divinity next. Though if I wait until we have a low humidity day, which making divinity requires, it might be November before that happens. Just in time for the holidays.

Round 2 - Success

Round 2 - Success

Next up on my Bravely Obey in Action list, #15 - planning and cooking an elaborate Italian-American feast from Lidia's cookbook. I'm going all out on this one, people. I started reading the cookbook yesterday. I'm thinking at least 4 courses. I'm going to have my hands full. But her recipes are thorough, with lots of instruction and technique training. Plus, I'm pretty sure Joe will want in on this one. Now I've just got to pull together the guest list. Frankly, the best part of working the list is sharing the results with my favorite people. Since I kind of know the cook, I might be able to get you a table.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Delicious #31

Accomplishing #31Accomplishing #31

I'm making caramels today. Homemade creamy, buttery, smooth caramels are one of my favorite treats. I don't mean the slightly plastic, chewy Kraft caramels that you get for Halloween or melt down for caramel apples. Though they certainly possess their own charm.  Instead my goal this afternoon is scrumptious, perfectly-cooked candies twisted up in wax paper. My grandmother is a whiz at candy making, divinity is her specialty. So I've got it in my genes. I've certainly eaten enough candy to be considered an expert. But I've never made candy. Frankly, I'm intimidated by something that has to hit an exact temperature. Something that requires its own type of thermometer. Something that has different "stages" of readiness. Today I'm aiming for the firm ball stage, picture me snickering like a twelve year old boy every time I say it, which will be often today, because I can.

Accomplishing #31

So #31 on the Bravely Obey in Action List is happening. On this cloudy, mild, totally free spring Saturday, I'm whipping up some goodness.  I'll be stirring frequently, checking temperatures, oiling parchment paper and taking pictures along the way.

Ok, so I frittered away the day, finished an amazing book, made a new banner for this blog which I'm undecided on, realized it was already 3 o'clock, threw on some clothes, hit the grocery store at the stupidest (read busiest) time, and purchased the requisite ingredients. I've got groceries put away, I'm be-aproned, rings and bracelets removed, and ready to get down to some serious candy-making business.

Accomplishing #31Accomplishing #31

My candy-making team includes heavy cream, vanilla, unsalted butter, salt, light brown sugar, and the star of the show: Dark Jamaican Rum. Also, here to assist me today is Joe, for some extra photos, and a rum and Diet Coke. I mean I had to have the rum out for the recipe. I had to make sure it still tasted good. It does.

Let's begin: ingredients measured out. Parchment paper lining the baking dish, parchment paper oiled. Oops. Wow, really oiled. Over oiled, now cleaning up extra oil with paper towel. No one saw that. Let's move on.

Accomplishing #31

Dumping all ingredients except the vanilla and a dash of rum, into a large pot and bringing to a boil. This goes on for awhile. It bubbles and thickens and smells like a dream, a buttery, rich, thigh fattening dream. I stir. I sip my rum and coke. I stir some more. I check the temperature. Not quite there yet, at 198 degrees, we are shooting for 248, the firm ball stage, ha ha, you said ball. More stirring and smelling and sipping.

Accomplishing #31

Some photos in the middle. Changing the song, I'm tired of Spoon, now TV on the Radio, that's caramel making music right there. And we are bubbling. That seems like a lot of bubbling, but I'm sure that's what it's supposed to look like.

Accomplishing #31

Now what is that burning smell? That's not good. Is that coming from inside the pot? Wow, burning caramel smells like smores. Nope, just spilled some on the burner. Everything is going fine. More stirring, temp check, 220. Not firm balls yet, ha, balls are funny. We are getting there. Turning the burner up a touch, the temperature on these burners can be inconsistent sometimes. Temp check, 230, closer.

Accomplishing #31

More stirring, and I think it's ready, thickened, fewer bubbles, temp check confirms, 248, and firm balls!

Accomplishing #31

Poured into the baking dish, tucked away to rest and cool in the fridge and we'll see you in couple of hours, my new friends.

Accomplishing #31

We return home after dinner with friends.  My mouth is watering in anticipation.  I take the block of caramel out of the pan, flip it over. And we have caramels. Except not so much. We have something more akin to pralines. Sweet, rummy, crystallized pralines. Dang. Must research what went wrong. Google searches commence.

And we have...pralines

Turns out, after some research, that the recipe I used wasn't a particularly good caramel recipe. Though it was from Epicurious and I usually have decent luck with that site. But candy is a fickle mistress; demanding, high maintenance, good in bed, and totally worth the effort.  After reading all the recipe comments, checking out a couple of Alton Brown videos and a candy maker's blog, the recipe was off. Too much stirring and adding the cream and butter at the beginning, instead of after the sugar is caramelized in water first.

I am undaunted. Tomorrow I'm trying the Alton Brown Dark Salty Caramel recipe. I'm toting the laptop into the kitchen and I'm watching as Alton makes caramels right along side me. I feel better already. And Joe thinks that crumbled "mistake" pralines would be delicious sprinkled over coffee ice cream. We might have to try that.
Accomplishing #31