Easter weekend

Happy Belated Easter!  I had all sorts of fun things to blog about this weekend, but kinda took the weekend ‘off’ and this is my first chance to sit down (Not really, I still have TONS of schoolwork to do, but this is somewhat time-sensitive, too.  If I wait too long, it will be old news!) and type it all out.

There was LOTS going on this weekend for us, with Andrew’s grandmother visiting and Abigail home from school…

I ran in the Bunny Hop 5K…and scored SECOND PLACE in my age group!  Holy smokes!  Seriously…despite some of my recent PRs here and here, when I saw the 1,011-runner crowd lining up, all hopes of placing went right out the window.  In fact, I was having a bad morning due to a sudden neck spasm and stress (what else is new?), so I really had to pep-talk my way through the entire (almost all uphill, if that’s possible) race.

The neat thing was that the course went right by Andrew’s parents’ driveway!  I waved as I passed the first time… (I’m in pink and purple.)

Andrew’s family (and the dogs!) came out to cheer me on…

Here I am on the way back, just a 100 yards or so from the finish.  LOVE my purple running pants!

Andrew was convinced I’d placed in my age group (based on the small number of ladies who finished ahead of me), so we waited around for what seemed like forever at the finish for them to post results.

At least the oranges were good and even the store-bought oatmeal raisin cookies were decent.  Andrew ate my hot dog, but I caved and got another one and ate about half when the results still weren’t posted…

Sure enough, I DID place–I got SECOND!  Prizes for the Bunny Hop are chocolate bunnies, which, despite their appropriateness, are (in my mind) a bit counterproductive.  Carolyn had the brilliant idea to throw mine in the freezer and use it to bake with later.  It’s currently crushed into small pieces and chilling with my other chocolate.

We spent the day relaxing at Andrew’s parents’ house and running errands on Main Street.  We wanted to show grandma the new cupcake place, and while there, I picked up this little guy:

Perhaps the most memorable event was our dinner Saturday night, and, as usual, I got no photos.  We ended up at a local hibachi grill/Japanese Steakhouse/sushi bar due to our large party (8) and lack of pre-panning (it was 6:30 and we were trying to find a restaurant without an hour wait).  Can I just say the Layers aren’t big on change, ethnic food OR fish??

Let’s just say that if Carolyn’s face had frozen they way she was turning up her nose at the menu, she’s be one unhappy camper.  In all honesty, Andrew and I were pretty nervous–we’d taken everyone here thinking it was akin to a Benihana, but it turned out to be about 95% sushi and sans-hibachi tables.  Our table ended up with five chicken teriyakis, one beef teriyaki, one soba noodle and one edamame order with an Alaska roll.  Can you tell which one was mine??

The night wasn’t a total loss; we ended up in a room of our own and had a few good laughs, and everyone got to experience a few things out of their comfort zone 🙂

Happy Easter morning!  I got up early to cook breakfast 🙂

I made the Clinton Street Baking Co.’s buttermilk waffles (thanks for the book, Susy!), maple-roasted bacon and fruit.  I even made the maple butter from the cookbook and it. was. divine.  Even Andrew loved it.

As always, we did Easter baskets.  Andrew’s is full of junk food and candy.  I threw in a Bananagrams game, thinking it would be a good 2-person game for the house.

Andrew (as usual), went way overboard with my basket this year:

He collected all sorts of my favorite gourmet/health foods, like sweet potato chips, Luna bars, flavored seltzer, Starburst Jellybeans, Ritter chocolate with Marzipan (Heather introduced me to it before we moved last year)…

…brie and special topping…

…I’ve been DYING to try this chocolate bar since I saw it in a Food Network magazine like two years ago!

Dave sent me home with some Cadbury creme eggs last weekend, and I broke into it Easter morning!  (I was good; I only ate half, though.)

Andrew particularly liked his tangerine-flavored Jelly Belly carrot.  I had to force him to eat one before church…  Seriously, who has to be forced to eat ONE jelly bean EVER?  I wasn’t going to eat a bunch of candy all alone!

After church (we accompanied the Layers), we rushed home to finish our contributions to the meal and walk the dog before heading back to their house.

Butter ‘lambs; are a big deal around here.  I saw them at the grocery store a week or so ago and wondered where they’d been all the other Easters of my life.  Not where I lived, apparently.

I made caramelized pear, sage and orange biscuit bites, a recipe I found in a cookbook of Susy’s last time I was at her house. They were pretty darn good, but I don’t know if I’d make them again.

I also made Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches cake for dessert.  I. CAN’T. STOP. EATING. IT.  Seriously.  I had two pieces yesterday and two pieces (so far) today.  Not good.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out before Abigail had to head back to school.  I studied for my Micro test (I have THREE tests and a quiz this week…say a prayer for me, people!).

The rest of the family played ‘bean farmer,’ which I believe is really called Bonanza.

Andrew taught grandma.

Carolyn opted out and instead searched for dishes on the iPad.

After a light dinner of sandwiches and leftovers–not that anyone was terribly hungry–Andrew and I headed home to rescue the puppy and prep for the week ahead…if only I’d had another day off!

I’ll be up for air sometime on Thursday!

candy corn…what?

Look what I found a week or so ago at Wegmans:

It’s candy corn.  But it’s not.

It’s blackberry cobbler-flavored candy corn!  (They also had apple cinnamon, tangerine orange and caramel flavors.  I personally think it was the blue/purple color that drew me in…)

Genius!  Seriously, whoever thought to give flavor variety to candy corn deserves a medal.  Or to be whacked upside the head…I can’t stop eating it!  All this time candy corn had never been a draw for me.  Ever.  I just never really liked the flavor.  No calories of candy corn to be counted.  No cravings.  No guilt.

Not anymore…now it’s all I can do to just take 2-3 at a time and limit that to a couple times a day.  I know, I know…it’s my own fault.  I went and bought the stuff.  I held out, but then Carolyn went and bought those orange pumpkin candies and I lost all determination.

Oh well, Halloween comes but once a year, right?

And while we’re on the subject of sweets…  My sweet-tooth is OUT OF CONTROL!  Seriously.  It’s like it has reared its ugly head after all those months of counting my calories and has declared victory over both my willpower and cravings…

I’m sure part of it is just this time of year–it’s pumpkin season, which for me means ANY excuse to have a pumpkin-y treat is a good one, because it’s fall and fall only comes once a year (kinda like Halloween, huh?) and the weather (warm cup of coffee with massive amounts of maple-brown-sugar-latte-flavored creamer, anyone?).

Anyway, it is BAD people.  Yesterday, I had SIX cookies.  SIX.

Granted, the first three were my afternoon snack and they were Tate’s, which are paper-thin so you don’t even realize you’ve eaten any until it’s too late.  The last three?  No excuse.  I knew I shouldn’t have walked to the lobby to “check out what they had for dinner” AFTER I had already had dinner.  I discovered WARM, melty chocolate chip cookies and it was all I could do to not take the entire tray back with me!  To top it all off (no pun intended), I added a teeny tiny scoop of ice cream to one when I got back to the room!  Holly, what is wrong with you?!

(And did I mention ANdrew got me a box of Fowler’s chocolates for Sweetest Day?  I’ve been picking at those…  AND I discovered that adding caramel sauce and granola to pumpkin ice cream is an awesome make-at-home-sundae…

Help needs to come soon!

it was a caramel-making kind of day

Get ready to salivate.

Seriously.  My stomach is in so much pain from the amount of caramel I consumed this afternoon, yet I don’t regret a single taste of it.  Or forty.

(99.9% of the photos courtesy of Ms. Jennifer Reaves)

We used Susy’s friend’s grandmother’s recipe for caramels.  Barefoot Contessa also has a recipe, so I’ll have to try that one next.  (I have this thing with finding the “best” recipe for any given thing…  I once made SIX different blueberry muffin recipes one Saturday morning just to figure out which was the best.  Results in a nutshell: the recipe I’d been making for the last few years came in dead last, Martha’s came in first [of course her’s would].  Andrew did document that morning in pictures, so perhaps one of these days I’ll share them with you all!)

Anyway, back to the caramels.

Anna, Susy’s daughter, helped the whole time.  Here she is getting every last drop of the corn syrup into the measuring cup.

Let the corn syrup, butter and sugar boil for five minutes.  And use a wooden spoon.  Apparently it’s a requirement.

Here is Susy in her natural state: caffeinated and offering to make her guests an espresso or latte.  She loves her espresso machine more than life itself.

Susy and Jennifer have been friends for years.  Susy introduced me to Jennifer at Bible study awhile ago and I love her!  I love her short hair (finally, someone who understands what “short” really is) and her Southern accent.  And her faith in God–such an amazing woman!  And, she was our photographer this afternoon, which is nice for me, since I’m not naturally inclined to take photos, yet I love having them and being in them.  Note to self:  learn to use the timer on Andrew’s camera for times I DON’T have Jennifer around.

Anna and I stirred, and stirred, and stirred, and stirred…

We added two cans of sweetened, condensed milk.  You actually add 1.5 cans and use the remaining half to mix (really well!) with 1/2 cup sifted flour, then add that, too.  And vanilla.  I love the smell of real vanilla extract.

Candy thermometers are a must here.  Hmm, I LOVE my candy thermometer at home, yet I’ve never actually used it to make candy…  Homemade yogurt, water temperature before making bread–now that we’re moving and Andrew won’t be getting any of Susy’s caramels every time she makes them, guess I need to add making caramels to the list of things I use my candy thermometer for.

Apparently, you test “done-ness” by spooning a tiny bit into a glass of ice water and tasting it.  It should be “hard ball,” or relatively solid.  We must have tested it five times before it was ready…

Nope, not ready.  More stirring, and stirring, and stirring… (and intense gazing).

It started getting darker, which told us it was getting close.

Once it passed the consistency test, we poured it into an oiled dish to cool.

Sprinkled on some sea salt.  If I had my way (and probably Susy, too), I’d roll each piece in some coarse sea salt as well.  YUM.

We threw the pan in the fridge to speed up the hardening process, then left to do some Goodwill shopping.  I scored some BRAND NEW Ann Taylor camis and a pair of dressy, black, knee-length shorts.  I’m still on Cloud 9 about trying on size 6’s and 8’s.  Never. Been. Happier.

Susy scored the top before it hardened any more, then we popped it back in the fridge.

We finally cut into it and started wrapping.  In all honesty, it probably could have stayed in the fridge a bit longer to harder, but we had to get the show on the road!

Picture the stickiest, messiest, greasiest (we oiled our hands to keep them from sticking) scene possible.  Then double it.

Finished, wrapped caramels!  Andrew will be in heaven when he gets home.  Did you know he told me, explicitly, that he WOULD NOT allow me to move to NY until I’d gone to Susy’s and learned how to make caramels?  Well, he did.  Glad I got that box checked off!

Anna made up banana muffins for lunch.  Great photo!

I LOVE Susy’s napkin holder.  Does anyone know where I can get one?  I’ve been on the lookout for awhile now for a colorful, slightly funky yet simple/traditional napkin holder.  And a banana hanger while I’m at it.  I have a bamboo one and it’s just so BORING.  I am not boring.

And then, because we could, we made salted caramel sauce.

You start with a saucepot and sugar.  Turn the heat on.

The sugar will start to melt into what look like clumps.  Stir a little, but not too much!  (Susy said not to.)

Always time for a photo!

Before long, the sugar looks like this!

Add the butter.  It will bubble and sizzle a bit.

Then add the vanilla, cream and a teaspoon or so of salt.

Finished sauce!  Yum.  I drizzled some on an apple to start, but by the end of the afternoon, we were basically eating it with a spoon.  I’m willing myself not to pour the sauce I took home on ice cream tonight…I was in a sugar-stupor all afternoon!

I recovered with a bowl of Ellie Krieger’s Nutty Sweet Potato soup with scallions and peanuts.  Healthy!  Tonight I plan on packing up all our pantry food and most of my clothes.  Wish me luck!