Monday, December 08, 2008
It's all because of the tree...
We usually get our tree on the first weekend in December. This is a bit of a compromise between me and Mr. SABLE, and now, the kids. I grew up in a family that typically waited until the last minute to get a tree. Truth be told, we often scrounged our tree from behind the dorms in the town where I grew up. A lot of the college students would put up trees in their lounges, then toss them out when they left town for break. My dad would load us kids into the Rambler station wagon (3 on the column, I kid you not) and we would cruise around near the Dumpsters® to pick one out. When Mr. SABLE and I first moved in together, in 1984, he was incredulous when I suggested this approach to Christmas tree procurement. In fact, a few times, I did persuade him to wait until the Cornell students had left Ithaca, and we did, in fact, score some pretty nice trees near student apartments. But it always made him nervous and struck him as wrong at some level. Of course, the kids are on his side with the early tree longings. No sooner is the mess cleaned up from Thanksgiving dinner than the three of them are wondering when we can get a tree. So, the compromise. Not until December. The first weekend in December.
For a number of years we went to a You Cut tree farm west of the city. The prices were kind of steep, the crowds were fierce, and the trees didn't seem all that special to me. The You Cut places are particularly not a good deal if you want a smaller tree. They charge a flat rate, based on the species you choose, not the size. After all, they can still sell it next year to someone else. A few years ago, when we went (maybe we were one weekend late that year) they were sold out. So, we drove off on a state highway toward the northwest a bit. We saw many cars coming back toward Madison with trees tied to the roof, so we knew we were on a hot trail. Lo and behold, there was a sign by the side of the road with TREES written on it. We turned. We went over hill and dale, around bends, up a long driveway, and found another family-run tree farm. Their prices were kind of steep, too. But the pre-cut trees were far more reasonable, especially, if like me, you want a smaller tree.
This farm has a little Christmas Shop where you pay for the trees. Mostly it's very kitschy country stuff that I can live without. But I always buy the kids a little candy treat. On our way home this year, Owen asked how they make hard candy.
(Ah, that's where this story was leading...)
And I told him it involved mostly boiling sugar water until it was mostly sugar, adding some flavor and color, and VOILA. He said he wanted to try it.
This may look more like broken brown beer bottles, but it's root beer flavored shards of hard candy, coated in powdered sugar. That was the first attempt, made last night.
Today, while the kids were at school, while I was out on errands in advance of our major winter storm, I stopped in at The Vanilla Bean, a store that sells cake and candy making stuff. I bought some molds and some official flavors, and a nifty little gadget that makes accurate dispensing of the hot candy solution reasonably efficient. It's like a funnel with a stopper you can open or shut with an easy thumb movement.
Owen made these tonight. They are cherry flavored. He overfilled the mold a bit, but I think he'll get the hang of it. I need to go back to the store and get a few more molds and also the special little baggies to wrap the candies in. And a lot more kinds of flavors. They have about 50 different flavors, in one-use little bottles, for $1.40 each.
Sampling his wares.
The tree is still a bit bare, but we'll do a bit more tomorrow while we're snowed in. Unless the storm somehow wimps out, but I don't think it will.