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Friday, December 28, 2012

DIY Addiction

I've just spent three hours watching back-to-back-to-back-to-back home renovation shows. From House Crashers to Property Brothers and High Low Project to Kitchen Cousins, the shows are addicting. I'm sure I'd make a mint if I wrote a 12-step plan to kick the DIY habit.

It started innocently enough with Trading Spaces years ago. That was one show. Then it was two - Design on a Dime. Before I knew it, there were DIY shows around the clock. I started recording shows to get my fix of DIY before I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed at night.

I started spending money on DIY magazines and books. Then things got worse. I've started scouring thrift stores for furniture with "good bones" that I can refurbish and transform into a fabulous piece. My coffee table -- DIY. China Hutch - DIY. TV/Media stand - DIY. I've recovered chairs and painted old frames. It's out of control. I can't walk into a furniture store anymore without thinking, "I can get that much cheaper if I buy an older piece and restore."

Now, we're house-hunting and the DIY addiction has hit a new low. We're looking for a fixer-upper and have even considered building a house -- with the help of experts of course, but with us doing a lot of the interior work.

This is not going to end well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Candy Making

What the candy was supposed to look like...

The Christmas Spirit took hold this week. That's your first warning.

Up until Sunday morning, I just didn't feel like putting up the tree and decorating. The red Rubbermaid tubs sat in my living room since shortly after Thanksgiving. I decided Saturday to haul everything back down to the garage and not decorate this year. But the Christmas Spirit hit me hard about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Since you just can't run out and buy a tree anywhere at 5:30 a.m. except maybe Walmart and well, I just didn't feel like getting dressed to decorate the tree. So pajama-clad, I dug into the tubs. I found two huge tubs full of artificial greenery, collected over the years because one of our children is allergic to the real stuff. I went back to the garage and grabbed two tomato cages, rinsed off any garden soil in the bathroom, dried and stacked them. Upside down, the cages have just the right shape. After tying the stakes together to form a "tree top," I wrapped the green garland around the tree then added white lights. I decided this year to use the blue and silver ornaments and viola! a tree.

Wow! I felt like Martha Stewart on steroids -- and a pot a coffee at this point. So, I decorated the mantel, plopped a tree on the front door, threw the Christmas towels in the bathroom. I was on a roll.

After hubby woke up and showered, he realized I was not going to make it to church. I was on a mission from a higher calling -- the Christmas Spirit. We cleaned, we rearranged the furniture and even tackled a couple of projects -- the house was looking good.

Then I turned my attention to baking. That's your second warning.

I burned the cookies, and forgot to add something to the bread. But I was undaunted. My "holiday spirit" email popped in just in time with candy recipes! My husband always talks glowingly of the candy his mother used to make for the holidays every year. I've got this. I can do this. That's your third and final warning.

After two or maybe three trips to the grocery store, I had everything I needed to make Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Kisses. They were beautiful in the page. The recipe sounded easy enough. I felt a little apprehension, but come on -- egg whites and some sugar -- how hard could this be?

The instructions said to beat the sugar in slowly, one teaspoon at a time. The stand mixer's been down for a while, so I grabbed the hand mixer. My shoulders and arms were burning after 20 minutes of beating, but it was going to be worth it for the beautiful candy that everyone would ooh and aah over and then devour.

But the sugar just wasn't dissolving. I beat some more. The instructions then said to use a pastry bag and some star tip to create the meringue kisses. I had no bag, so I improvised just like Martha would by using a large sandwich bag with the corner cut out just enough to put the tip in (I should say I inheritied a lot of my mom-in-laws cooking gadgets, which is the only reason I have a whole set of cake decorating tips.) It started out fine. Then it got bad, the meringue would not come out of the bag after a few kisses. I had 180 more to go. Who knew four egg whites could make so much meringue. I squeezed. The bag exploded.

I wiped off the mess as much as I could. And, I finally got the meringue back out of the bag and decided to use a small spoon and drop dollops on the cookie sheets. Folks, the recipe clearly said this recipe made 192 candies. One Hundred Ninety Two is a lot of candy. I gave up after filling two large parchment-lined cookie sheets with dollops. I obediently baked for 7 minutes, turned off the oven, opened the door and let it cool off. In the meantime, one more trip to the store to replace the milk chocolate that had mysteriously disappeared from the kitchen drawer I hid it in. The plan was to dip the now cool candy into the melted chocolate first, then into the pile of peppermint candies that we had crushed. The latter sounding more like we were firing guns than just crushing candy.

Simple enough? No. I grabbed a meringue kiss. It broke apart. In the end, I had chocolate and white sticky stuff all over me. I gave up halfway through the meringue dipping because the more I dipped, the worse I got at dipping. Practice did not make perfect. My husband walked over and stifled a laugh. I offered him a candy. He politely declined. MY HUSBAND TURNED DOWN A CANDY. They actually do taste good.

I bought the ingredients to make candy cane bark. Be very afraid.

What my candy looks like. Sigh.