This year, my family agreed that having a Christmas tree was not our best idea. Sited among the reasons were the puppy and our not too distant robbery, not to mention the environmental guilt we always struggle with. So in lieu of a tree, we went BIG with lights. Not quite National Lampoon-style, but in the same vein.
This year, with my husband working and the days darkening by 3:30, I took it upon myself to hang the lights. “Gosh!” you say. “That is a lot of work! Not to mention the danger of hanging from the roof!” Really, it was nothing. I was a little frozen at times, more than a little wet. Sure, I was scared trying to get off the roof onto a ladder held by an 11-year old who thinks it is funny to pretend he has to go answer the phone just as you are stepping down. But in the end, it was all worth it. Well, sort of. After having put them all up and lit them, they blew out. Then I had to troubleshoot why they went out. So then I had to go back and find the connections between each string and see which string was not working. I, having of course had a brilliant plan from the start, set them up as one continuous loop, all perfectly plugging into each other. Genius, really, if only it had worked. So then I end up taken down several strands, only to discover that one after the other keeps blowing out. This due to the fact that I literally couldn’t have purchased anything cheaper than these lights. That is what I get for finally, for the first time in my whole life, being on top of things and buying what I needed at last year’s end of season sales. Figures.
So after I rip them all off in a fit of disbelief (still being very cold and wet), I go out and buy lights that are “spendy”, but supposedly worth it. I trudge back home and spend another day (day 3 this is!) hanging lights. I feel supremely proud of myself. I even had them all on a timer. I can hardly wait for the big reveal when everyone comes home and oohs and ahhs over my work. But no. They come home and say “That doesn’t look quite right.” “You have a big gap right there.” For crying out loud people! This is my first time and I am only 5′ tall! Besides, without being able to actually scale the building, this was the best I could do.
So, after a few choice words that basically boiled down to “doing it yourself if you don’t like it”, my husband did. He spent one cold day (not wet of course!) moving around the lights I had put up 3 times. I had to laugh at the parallels between me and Clark Griswold. Life is like that. Sadly, I could have used those 3 days to do other things. But then, what would I have told you about??
Today, with all the lights in place and the world looking a bit more like Christmas, I made several batches of goodies that I plan to give out with gifts. Among them, I made divinity for the first time. This was a candy that my mother often made at Christmas when we were kids. My mother is not known for her candy making skills, so sometimes it was a pan with sticky taffy-like stuff that us kids would try to dig out with a spoon. We liked it just the same. I did some research and found a handful of recipes that I liked, but in the end, I wanted to have solid instruction on how to put this together and most of the blog posts were really lacking. I thought to myself “If I am looking to make something super sugary, what would I do? Go to Paula Deen, of course!” So I did.
This one is for you mom!
Christmas Divinity (via FoodNetwork.com and Paula Deen
4 cups sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
3/4 cup cold water
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir only until sugar has dissolved. Do not stir after this point. Cook syrup mixture until it reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer, bringing it to a hard ball stage.
While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Once the sugar mixture reaches 250 degrees F, carefully pour a slow steady stream of syrup into the stiffly beaten egg whites, beating constantly at high speed. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until mixture holds its shape, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in pecans.
Using 2 spoons, drop the divinity onto waxed paper, using 1 spoon to push the candy off the other. This may take a little practice because the technique is to twirl the pushing spoon, making the candy look like the top of a soft serve ice cream. If the candy becomes too stiff, add a few drops of hot water. You will need to work fast when making this type of candy. After you spoon the cooked sugar and nuts onto the waxed paper, you’re done. Cool the candies on racks completely. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
On a completely different note, I have been playing around with cocktails for our annual family holiday party. I am not sure that I am going to go with this one, but it was pretty tasty.
1-2 shot tequila
1 shot triple sec
juice from one small orange – be sure to remove several thin strips of orange zest prior to squeezing
3/4 c. apple cider
2 T. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
Fill shaker half full with ice. Combine the sugar and cinnamon onto a plate. Using the spent orange, wet the rim of your glasses. Dip the rims into the sugar mixture. Combine all wet ingredients in the shaker and shake to combine. Serve either with our without the ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and an orange twist.