It's December 13th, and there's still no snow. We have lovely frosts, some mornings...
But the ground is lamentably bare. The bare dirt where our tomato plants grew this summer looks especially forlorn.
At least this soft ground means that the squirrels can easily dig up their buried treasures!
To cheer myself up a bit, I spent a morning at Goodwill recently. I started going to Goodwill in high school and, up until a few years ago, was a regular visitor. However, they're raised their prices quite a bit and it's harder and harder to find a really good deal. Sometimes, though, I get lucky. I found this glass soap dispenser for $1...this exact model retails for $13 on amazon.com.
This little terra cotta pots usually sell for around $1 each, but I got these for a quarter. I will use them as garden-themed egg cup displays this spring. Eggs fit in them nicely!
This rubber stamp, which cost $1, still had the original $8 price tag on it. Score!
I got 10 of these silly envelope seals that I'll use for Valentine's Day for .50.
Eddie Bauer sweaters usually start around $55, but I got this beautiful one for $3.
Sometimes I find amazing things that would be difficult to find in a store. I found this German rabbit cake mold - unopened - for $5.
It has an ingenious construction. Included are long metal poles...
...which you slide into the slots around the rabbit form. Then the cake bakes, upside down. After baking, you can slide out the poles and separate the halves to reveal a solid rabbit. This will be perfect for Easter!
Another amazing find was this picture frame. At first glance, it looks like a large cross-stitch that probably sat in someone's attic for years.
But if you look closer, you will see that the cross stitch is contained within an amazing wooden frame.
It's a beautiful rich color, and the leaf design is perfect. It's solid wood, with no nicks. It was an absolute STEAL for $5. The woman behind me in line noticed the frame right away and lamented the fact that she hadn't seen it first.
It was a good trip!
Since I decided recently to cut down on my sugar intake, it was only natural that I would immediately go out and purchase a candy thermometer.
I discovered a recipe several years ago that I've been meaning to make. I learned that if you mixed copious amounts of sugar and corn syrup with a single box of gelatin...
...you can make homemade marshmallows. They make great gifts this time of year. Martha Stewart has some beautiful ones in her magazine - peppermint flavored and marbled with delicate red swirls. I decided to try the basic model first, and I apologize in advance for the photo quality...dark day + dark room + Todd's point and click camera = poor photos.
Makes one 9 x 12 pan full
4 envelopes (3 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
3 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
First, line a 9 x 12 pan with wax or parchment paper, and brush the bottom and sides with vegetable oil. Set it aside.
Mix your sugar, salt, and corn syrup together with 3/4 cup cold water and bring to a boil. The recipe says to boil it without stirring until your thermometer reaches 238 degrees, or about 9 minutes. My thermometer goes from 200 - 250 degrees, so judging 238 was a bit difficult. In the end, I decided to just boil it for 9 minutes and move on.
While your mixture is boiling, put 3/4 cup cold water into your mixer bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it sit until your syrup mixture is completed.
After your syrup mixture has boiled for about 9 minutes, pour into the mixing bowl. Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high, mix for about 12 minutes. I wasn't sure how stiff the mixture should be - like egg whites? It became glossy and moderately stiff after 12 minutes, so I hoped that was enough.
Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and let sit at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
Next, spread some powdered sugar on your counter and flop the solid marshmallow brick on top of it. Cover it with powdered sugar...
...and start cutting! You can use cookie cutters, but I just cut mine into logs...
...and then squares.
The final step is coating each square in powdered sugar, which is easily done by swirling them, a few at a time, in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Now you've got a big stack of marshmallows, ready to be dunked into hot chocolate, wrapped up in cellophane as gifts, chopped up and mixed into cookie dough, or whatever you'd like to use them for.
They last about a week, stored in an air-tight container.