Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slow Approach to the Soft Ball Line

Caramel jargon. Temperature gradient. Mercury assist. Chemistry = candy. Turns out the Oompa-Loompas were the Linus Paulings of the Chocolate Factory. Me? I just eats 'em. Candies, that is. Caramels and I have a precarious relationship. I want to steal their flavor and they want to steal my fillings, which would not be a difficult feat for the caramels (I once broke  tooth on a Snickerdoodle).

This is Erin's first attempt at candy-making. She's got cookies down to a t (or tea biscuit). When the melting sugar hits the "soft ball" temperature, the caramels are ready to cool. You spoon a sample out of the pot and drop it into a bowl of cold water. Then you fish it out with a finger and if it retains a ball-like shape, it's done cooking. Like this:

How did I help? I got the bowl. And I put the water in it. Sometimes just being there is what's important. Right? Who else is here? Not Adam & Josh -- they were out shopping. But the dogs are here. You remember the dogs. Let's go look for them.

There's Emma, looking like she was shot (as if there was a bullet sharp enough to pierce the protective layers of blubber under her mottled coat). The heat pulsing off (and out of) her body helps keep the thermostat down. This is her contribution. Thanks, Emma. No, don't get up...

Hey, call Ripley's, it's the Loch Ness Monster. More like "Lacks Sense" Monster. Or "Looks Nuts" Monster. Or "Licks Notch" Monster. And it looks like Sluggo killed Mr. Bill again. Oh, nooo!

Looks like Christmas. Smells like Christmas. And it's starting to really feel like Christmas. Imagine still getting that Christmas feeling at the ripe age of 42! Watching Christmas specials helps. I had on "Simple Gifts" earlier. My old pal (yeah, old like me) sent me a DVD of nostalgic TV rarities from the 60s and 70s. Moss Hart's recollections warmed my heart. Do the kids know who Moss Hart is? Do they even know what a DVD is anymore?

Erin's gonna dip those caramels in chocolate once they cool. A couple of you will probably get to sample them (how quaint to have a small audience). And now she's melting white chocolate for some other confectionery delight. More desserts means more coffee. I'm always wired during the holidays.

Hope you get your share of Christmas cookies and candies (or milk chocolate gelt and dreidels). Or both, if you've got a non-discriminatory sweet tooth like me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Saint of a Thousand Slightly Different Faces

There he is! Kris Kringle. Pere Noel. Sinterklaas. Santa Claus. Thomas Nast's illustration of Santa has become the stand-bearer of the modern representation. Nast's image was largely based on Clement Clark Moore's description in his poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" even though Moore imagined Santa as an "elf" with eight "tiny reindeer" pulling his "miniature sled." When exactly he grew to his popular Wellesian proportions, I nae can say.

Artists embrace variations on a theme. As such, with snowflakes and fruit cakes, no two Santas are alike. This became apparent to me when Adam unleashed a tide of Yule, nay a tsunami of Yule, in the house, saturating the basement in the process. Oh, foy! (festive joy)! Holiday LPs, vintage greeting cards, plastic Noel candles, old super-hot Christmas bulbs...and everywhere, on everything -- Santa Clauses! No twins here. Few siblings. Mostly chubby guys with beards and even (God forbid) beards sans mustaches (the worst). Come on, have a look!

No mustache, really? You put all that effort into a four-foot beard and you don't top it off with a 'stache?

I had no idea Mrs. Clause was so beautiful! She isn't. Santa is having an affair with Betty Draper.

This one brings toys to the boy and girl 'squatches all over the world!

Santa? Mrs. Claus? The football coach from "Glee"? The real question is: Hot dogs and beans
for Christmas?

What do you think his breath smells like? Candy canes? I'm thinking sardines.
He's got walrus breath. I'm certain.

That branch couldn't hold up a plaster ornament, never mind a 400-pound toymaker.

Santa after his third 5-Hour Power of the evening. It's beginning to look a lot like an addiction.

He thinks he's trapped in a box, but I keep telling him there's not even any cellophane. Happi, my ass!

Der Jingle.

Santa's forearm is as black as a coal miner's lungs. Must've been a lot of naughty kids that year.
Yeah, I see that kid. Do I even need to say anything?

That's just a sampling of all the St. Nick-nacks festooning our little winter wonderland. So many Santas! And reindeer. And so many snowmen and weird little elves! And so many Baby Jesuses!

Nope. No Baby Jesus. Or Snowbaby Jesus. Which might be worse than no Baby Jesus. You know what I mean? Oh, boy, I gotta go -- there goes Linus dragging that filthy blanket into the spotlight...