Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ready for the holidays and Fudge Recipe

I finished work on Friday (yay!) and have spent the last few evenings and Saturday finishing preparations for the holidays:  lots of housecleaning to get ready for guests, a final big late-night grocery shop to avoid the crowds, finding homes for the remainder of the Christmas decorations, and starting to make Christmas treats.  I've invited my knitting group to come round this afternoon for a knit & natter, and we've also invited the previous owners of the house round in the week to see what we've done with the place, then the in-laws are coming for Christmas.  So hopefully one clean up will last through all the visitors.


I made the first batch of Christmas fudge, which is delicious but I think I had the pan a bit too hot so the fudge crystallised as I was pouring it into the pan.  Therefore it looks far too untidy to serve to guests and we will have to eat it all ourselves (Result! according to my son).  Here is our traditional family recipe:

- 3 cups light brown sugar (not dark brown, it doesn't work well)
- 3 Tb real butter (not marg)
- 1 cup milk (full fat - won't work with skim.  Works OK with 2% though)

Put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring regularly to avoid sticking.  Bring up to a soft-ball temperature then immediately take off the heat and commence beating the mixture with a wooden spoon.  This is the part that is more of an art than a science.  Continue to beat until the mixture thickens,  and is just about to crystallise -  but about halfway through this cooling process beat in 1tsp vanilla extract.  At the right point in time, pour into a buttered 8" square pan.  Leave to cool and cut into squares while still warm.  Once cool, store in a sealed container, will keep several days but you'll probably eat it before then.

Notes:  I use a candy thermometer to see when I am getting close to the soft-ball temperature, but the real test is to drip a few bits of mixture into a glass of cold water, and push at the resulting blob with your finger.  It should hold its shape and resist your finger pressure but not actually be hard.  When beating the mixture, occasionally let some mixture wash up the pan side and let it drip down to see how thick it is.  When you are getting near the crystalisation point, the drips in the pan will be congealing and not dripping down any more.

Happy Christmas fudge making!

Here's our tree.

This is the quilted tree skirt I made a few years ago, with Santa and his reindeer

Christmas overmantle

Craft rooms

The last week I've been trying to lick my craft rooms into shape.  The sewing room is pretty much there apart from some tidying, and I also gave my handknitting room a good tidy up. I eventually removed some of the cube dividers because I prefer to keep balls of the same yarn together in bags and the bags didn't fit very well into a half-cube.

I've also been unpacking and assembling my knitting machines, although they need a lot more work to bring them into use.  The sponge bars are pretty much all shot, and the gubbins need a good cleaning and oiling.  It was rather challenging trying to find all the bits to put the machines back together, as clamps and brackets etc all seem to have ended up in various boxes - I don't know what I was thinking when I packed them away two years ago.  I've got two standard gauge machines: a Brother 881 and a Brother 950i (electronic) in the middle of the room, and then my chunky Brother 260 against the wall.  I may switch around the 260 and the 950i as the ports for the electronic machine are on the right side and the power point will be on the left.


This week I finished the furry fingerless mitts in Sirdar Ophelia to match the tam I made earlier. They're very soft and silky, but as it's an artificial fibre they aren't warm enough for really cold weather.

I also knit a Santa Hat from a pattern in Let's Knit magazine, which uses acrylic DK yarn for the body, and an eyelash yarn for the 'fur'.  I wore this to Tesco supermarket for our big shop last night, much to DH's embarrassment. It's very comfortable.

 I knit up a free kit that came with Simply Knitting magazine a while ago, for a little change purse. The kit provided the purse frame, and the wool (Cascade 220 superwash), buttons and lining are my own.  I found it very difficult to stitch the frame to the purse neatly, there must be an easier way?

And I've been working on a hat in Rowan Big Wool based on a pattern called 'Misty Mornings' which was in Let's Knit magazine but is originally from a book called 'Winter Knits Made Easy' published by DK.  I've pulled this back a few times to get the right number of stitches for my big head, and because I didn't like the effect of having six purl stitches between cables in this thick yarn.  I've cut that down to three purl stitches and increased the number of cables accordingly.  This means I'm having to improvise the crown decreases however. I've had this Rowan Big Wool in my stash for years so nice to be using it up.

I did get in to see the doctor about my hand on Monday.  He thinks it is likely rheumatoid arthritis and sent me for blood tests which came back negative for the RF factor.  But apparently about 30% of people test negative even when they have it, so I need to go back to see him again to see what the next step is.  The good news is that as far as I can tell from googling, it isn't going to make anything worse by knitting, and in fact many doctors have recommended their patients keep knitting to help keep their fingers supple.  So I don't have to restrain myself from knitting anymore, although I am trying to remember to take more breaks and to do finger stretches before and after.  So I was relieved about that and to read online that loads of people keep on knitting and crafting with RA although they have to adapt how and when they can do things depending on symptoms. I was afraid that I had a house full of stash in various hobbies that I wouldn't be able to use up!

Happy Christmas! Hope Santa is packing lots of crafty goodies to bring you on Thursday.


Mairead Hardy said...

Happy Christmas Sharon, and I hope 2015 brings you lots of good things. :-)

Daisy said...

Happy Christmas! Your house is looking lovely -worth all the hard work this year.

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