As always, my resolution is to have no resolutions. And since I’m almost a month late in declaring this, I’ve done an incredible job of sticking to them (yay Brandy)!
I quietly resolved to ride my bike to work on my first work day of 2016. On the eve of that day, I threw out my back in a mysterious accident (backcident?). New Year’s resolutions and I are not friends, and I’m not looking to become friends with them.
That said, I’m hoping to update more frequently. Or ever! Either works. I tend to post my random thoughts on Facebook, but I think this is a better place. This thing belongs to me and my name is all over it. It makes sense to make it more mine. But who am I? It’s been so long, right? It’s time for a new paragraph.
I’m Brandy (hi, it’s me)! I like cats and downloading apps that promise to make me more productive. I share a cool house – it floats on the ocean! – with a guy who is great and two cats who are cats. I have a job that I love, and while it’s not a secret it’s also not a hot blogging topic. I would say I’m living the dream, but a) I hope I’m not obnoxious enough to actually type out those words intentionally and b) I never dreamed this far. I would mostly say I’m happy, which isn’t a very deep well of writing inspiration, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ I’ll see what I can muster.
My boyfriend and I are lucky enough to have two cats, and the two-ness of that statement is a recent thing. Max has been our buddy for over four years, and adopting him was a dream come true. He’s friendly, chilled out, really silly, and super fluffy. When we introduced him to our new floating home, it took him a whopping 24 hours to get used to it, and he’ll spend hours sitting on the deck, staring at the water like a wistful sailor. Here are some quick Max facts:
He loves bananas. The day before Max came home was the last day I was able to eat a banana in peace.
He’s probably a Viking. We don’t know his true genetic makeup, but I’m sure he’s got a lot of Norwegian Forest Cat in him.
I once saw him gobble up an entire (abandoned) spiderweb. So he’s not perfect.
It became obvious that Max was lonely. After careful consideration, we brought home a Hershey. Here are my favourite Hershey facts:
She loves Hawkins Cheezies, so we have a lot in common.
If she had a catchphrase, I think it would just be “What?!”.
She likes to bite my hair, right at the scalp, and pull as hard as she can, and that’s her version of “good morning”. She’s a bit of a freak.
How to force two cats to love each other
Thanks to our impeccable taste in adopted kitties, solid advice from the internet, determination and tons of luck, we made it through a few weeks with two very good catfriends. The BC SPCA has some solid tips for introducing a new cat to your existing cat (http://www.spca.bc.ca/pet-care/care-behaviour/cats/introducing-your-new-cat-to.html), and we followed them as closely as we could. The only advice I could add to this consists of two words:
We knew we had a huge cat on our hands, and we specifically looked for a small cat to be his pal. This wasn’t some selfish aesthetic desire; Max has been bullied by medium cats, and he’s played well with small cats before, so we thought a tiny feliney would be less of a threat and more to his taste.
Before becoming a multicat household, I daydreamed about two cats cuddling, following each other around, grooming each other. What I didn’t expect was literal copycat behaviour.
I catch them doing this all the time. The fact that Hershey is less than half the size of Max makes this whole thing impossibly funny to me. But don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of cuddling, and grooming, and wrestling.
I can’t say that everyone should get two cats, or that it’ll be this easy – I know a few fightin’ fluffsters out there. But it was definitely the best kitty decision we’ve made.
I started making pita bread shortly after learning to make hummus. I lucked out on my first attempt, a hasty decision before a party that wound up being a hit, and I’ve barely let a day go by since without a jar of it on the go.
I was still eating store-bought pita bread, because I was under the impression that making bread required some obscure magic that I probably couldn’t access. But then, one day, I ran out of pita bread.
The struggle is real?
I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to eat my hummus. I made my first batch of pita bread that day, and I’ve barely had a reason to go to the store since.
Like most things, my pita bread gets better with practice, and the most satisfying part of the process (apart from eating it, a skill I was born with) is popping those floppy little disks of dough into the oven and watching them puff up into magical gluten balloons. It didn’t always happen, until I finally got around to buying a baking stone.
For those unfamiliar, a baking stone is porous and retains heat brilliantly, and it’s great for not burning things and for absorbing excess moisture. I won’t pretend to know the full science behind it, but it creates perfect conditions for pita bread, and pizza. I finally picked one up recently, and my first use resulted in the most incredible pita bread balloons I have ever seen. I might even take a picture next time.
Speaking of pizza…
Baking stones are also called pizza stones, unless I’vebeen lied to, which I’ll never fully rule out. What I picked up is called a pizza stone, and it worked on non-pizza baked goods (more like baked bests), so I’ll keep running with that. And it inspired a brilliant friend to suggest that I try making pizza with it.
I did, and it was amazing, and now my life is full of pizza and so am I. I’ll probably do this once a week, which means that this baking stone is not going to get any prettier.
Lather, rinse, and go buy another baking stone because you just ruined yours
The thing about these things is that they require special care. You can’t pop yours into the dishwasher and walk forth into a regret-free life. You can’t even use soap because it’ll absorb it and impart a lovely soap flavour into anything you bake with it for the rest of your life. Your cleaning options involve scraping and rinsing and nothing else. They also say that the inevitable stains and discolouration add to its charm. If I think about it as a visual record of all the flour-based joy this stone has brought me, I can think of it as something pleasant instead of horrible gross stains. I’ll take it.
This is the second part of a totally doomed 2-part post. Check out Part 1!
Why you should never write a blog post about making candy corn
I swear, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it just wasn’t a very popular thing to do. After all, only a certain type of person even eat candy corn, much less is inclined to make it. And of that tiny sliver of humanity, I imagined yet fewer consider writing about it.
I had no idea writing part 1 of a 2-part blog post about making your own candy corn could kill your blog for almost a year.
I’m blaming the post itself, and not my pre-existing inconsistent blogging habit, even though that has been well demonstrated here. As I like to say in professional correspondence: LOLOLOL.
Candy corn is OVER.
I’m not saying I’ll never try to make my own candy corn ever again, but I am saying that I haven’t attempted it since last documenting it. I’m not denying the fun times I had with it; I had plenty. But I’ve spent the past almost-year having other kinds of fun.
Other kinds of fun?
I’m torn between wanting to spend all my free time making candy, the undeniable draw of the outdoors, and how much I love sleeping. In the past year, I’ve nursed my bicycle back to road-readiness and learned to swim, and Scott and I have welcomed both a canoe and a second cat into our lives. For the most part, candy-making has taken a backseat to canoeing adventures in Burrard Inlet, riding my bike to the pool, or just staying in bed all day watching Max and Hersey wrestle.
I think these are all good decisions. I’ll get into more detail about all of these fabulous decisions, but first: closure.
Candy corn may not seem like the most timely obsession, but I have enough love for the stripey little triangles for the entire year. When I have it on hand, I only crave more. Paired with my fledgling obsession with making delicious treats, the quest to make my own was inevitable.
I’ve tried it twice, and I have yet to nail it. Candy is hard, you guys. Also, it’s said that humidity can ruin candy, and that you shouldn’t even bother trying to make candy on a rainy day. I live in a famously rainy climate, and on top of that, I live on the water. Not by the shore, not with a lovely bay view, but literally on the water. It is always an environmentally bad time for me to attempt candy.
But I love candy corn, and I hate candy rules, so I tried it anyway! I’ve erred in two opposite directions, so I’m pretty sure my third attempt will be just right, and then I’ll have the Goldilocks threshold for homemade candy corn all figured out, and I’ll never have to wait for post-Halloween sales ever again!
Candy Corn: my first attempt
I decided to go with Alton Brown’s recipe, due to the great reviews and it being the first recipe I looked at. I find it easier to make decisions when there’s one option or less.
Candy is tricky, even when the elements aren’t against you, so it’s absolutely crucial to have everything measured and laid out. Molten sugar doesn’t wait for anybody. It’s also a good idea to preheat your oven to around 300°. I’ll tell you why soon.
If this is your first sugar-boiling rodeo, make sure to watch your candy thermometer carefully. I’ve boiled a few sugars in recent days, and I’ve observed that the temperature definitely does not rise at a consistent pace. Once it’s boiling, it’ll slow down, and you might want to wander off and pick up a new hobby. Then, somewhere around the 200° mark, the temperature will decide to make up for lost time and it’ll climb and climb, and hopefully you’ll be there to catch it.
Despite thinking I’d learned a lesson with my lollipop adventure, I was slow to react at this point. I had reached the magic 230° mark, but I let it go over by a few degrees, and this is probably why my first batch of candy corn was so chewy.
This stuff hardens quickly (especially when you’re an overboiling genius like me), which makes the final steps of kneading in two different colours, squashing them together into a triangle shape and cutting the individual pieces challenging, and it’s probably not all going to get done in one go. If the visuals aren’t important to you, by all means skip the colouring.
I, personally, could never. Candy corn is iconic, and the white/orange/yellow colour combination is a huge part of the magic. And it looks great in a jar. That preheated oven comes into play here: use it to soften candy that’s cooled and gotten too hard to work with.
(I said “hard”.)
This batch came out too chewy. I ate it anyway, and so did my friends, but I knew the potential for a better candy corn experience was attainable. I tried again, and I’ll try even againer.
Stay tuned for more thrilling tales on how candy corn can go wrong!