Taffy 4

Pioneer Taffy

Happy Pioneer Day! For those of you who may not know what Pioneer Day is, it is when the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “Mormons”) celebrate the day the first pioneers made it into the Salt Lake Valley as they were trekking west.

Although we are in Texas, where Pioneer Day is not recognized as an official holiday, we still decided it would be fun to commemorate it. SO, I found this recipe for Pioneer Taffy from Jamie Cooks It Up! and thought we could give it a whirl. If you would like some more pictures, check out Jamie’s site for great step-by-step pictures of the process, including a great tip on checking for taffy readiness using a spoon and cold running water. **Note: This recipe is best done with several people, or it will take a long, long time to get everything pulled, cut up and wrapped.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. *VEGETABLE GLYCERINE (see note at the bottom about this)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. butter

***You will also need kitchen shears, waxed paper (pre-cut into squares) and a candy thermometer.

Directions:

1. Mix sugar, water, corn syrup, salt & glycerine in a heavy saucepan.

2. Bring to boil and continue cooking on medium-high until it reaches 258 degrees. Jamie said it should take about 35-40 minutes, and she was absolutely right.

3. Take the taffy off of the heat and add your vanilla and butter.

4. Pour onto greased cookie sheet (I used butter) and let it cool down until it is no longer hot to handle. This takes probably 10ish minutes. Make sure it really is cool enough to handle, or you WILL get burned. No personal experience here (cough).

5. Hand out pieces to all of the lucky participants. Pull the piece straight out into a line, fold it in half, and then pull again. Repeat cycle until you have beautiful white taffy.

6. Cut up into little pieces and wrap into wax paper.

That is it!

Ours turned out great – it had a perfect consistency (I thought) and the flavor is excellent. After the taffy had been pulled, I made the mistake of just leaving it in balls. Don’t do that. You’ll want to roll them out to a good thickness to cut BEFORE they cool down completely (like playdoh snakes) or you will have hard-ish candy ball to try and deal with and roll out later. Once I fixed my ball problem, I ended up putting my “taffy snakes” back on the greased cookie sheet while I was cutting them each up into pieces (the pieces went onto a plate lined with waxed paper to keep them from sticking). I used kitchen shears to cut the taffy. My lovely assistants were great at helping roll each candy into waxed paper – many hands makes light work. What good helpers!

Overall Rating: *****

Difficulty:Easy (make sure you have a candy thermometer), BUT it is time consuming.

Would I Try it Again? I have mixed feelings about this. They are delicious and the individually-wrapped end result is great, BUT they took a little more effort than I had planned on. If I had things thought out earlier (waxed paper cut up beforehand, make sure the taffy stayed in a good snake shape instead of a ball before cutting it, realize that the taffy will stick to EVERYTHING that is not waxed paper or is not greased), it probably wouldn’t be that bad. So, I probably will do it again once I forget the effort it took.

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***GLYCERIN vs. VEGETABLE GLYCERINE***

I went looking for glycerin at CVS. And at Walmart. And at another CVS. At the second CVS, they found a manager who finally was able to find glycerin for me. In the cosmetics section. It turns out it is for covering up skin wounds or something. I told him it was for making taffy, and we both looked over the label and could not find anything about being edible anywhere on it. So I went home and did some research.

Turns out there is GLYCERIN (no “e” at the end) and GLYCERINE (note the “e”). Vegetable glycerine can also be used as a skin cleanser or something, BUT it is also food grade. Which, as far as I understand, means it is edible.

I read from the comments on Jamie’s blog that a pharmacist had told another reader that glycerin would probably be okay in small quantities, but I found the vegetable glycerine at a whole foods-type store here – and it was actually a bit cheaper than the glycerin would have been. Bonus! It was near their essential oils – I just called ahead to see if they carried it, and they did. You could call around as well and save yourself some driving around and foot time.

GV 9

Glowing Volcano!

This is a twist on the classic “vinegar and baking soda” volcano – it GLOWS. Super cool.

Here is what you need:

  • Highlighter (yellow is best)
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Black Light
  • Glass Containers

That is IT. I found this idea from Play at Home Mom and thought the kiddos would love it. And me too. :)

Step 1: Clip the back off of the highlighter. Supposedly you can put pressure with scissors to get it to “pop” off, but I ended up finally using an exacto knife after I almost broke my scissors.

Step 2: Get the color out of the highlighter. Just take the “ink” part of the highlighter and put it into water. If you had a hard time opening the highlighter and didn’t want to cut into it, you can just hang the highlighter so the tip is facing downward into the water.

I actually squeezed some of the highlighter ink out when the tube was soaked in water, and then let the rest of the color get out into the water by letting it soak. I was a little excited to hurry it along…..

Step 3: After the tube is basically white from the ink coming out, find a dark room and hook up your black light.

Cool!

Step 4: Make your “volcano” liquid by pouring some of your highlighter water into a container with some vinegar. Stick your volcano liquid container into another container to catch the “lava” as it flows out. You don’t want messes!

As you can see, the color diluted down quite a bit when I added the vinegar. Keep watching though – it turned out just fine.

Step 5: Dump some baking soda into your “volcano liquid” and enjoy the show!

We had some more vinegar and baking soda on hand to alternate so we could keep the fun going.

There you go! Super easy cleanup and a very fun experiment.

I saved the rest of the highlighter water that we didn’t use in another container so we could try it again another time.

Enjoy! :)

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DIY Holiday Window Clings

I love the 4th of July. It probably ranks as my favorite holiday. I love America. I love our freedom. I love to think about all of the sacrifices that people have made to make this country great. And I love fireworks. :)

I found this cute idea on Pinterest, and thought it would be perfect to adapt for the 4th of July. It originally comes from Merry at Merry with Children. I found a comment from a Kindergarten teacher on Merry’s blog that made this project WAY easy, and very fun. Teachers are awesome!

Materials:

  • Glue
  • Food Coloring
  • Liquid Dish Soap
  • Plastic Sheet Protectors
  • Templates (if desired)

Step 1:Take your glue bottles (about half-full) and add several drops of food coloring. I probably added 35+ drops of red to my “red” bottle because I didn’t want it to end up pink.

Step 2: Add a few drops of dish detergent to your glue.

Step 3: Shake well. Take the lid off and squeeze the bottle to “knead” the color into the glue. Let the glue sit overnight (or at least several hours) to let the color settle in. In the picture at the top, you can see the white on the bottom – that’s what it looks like with just shaking and not waiting yet. If you look to the picture just below, you can see how letting it sit for a few hours makes a big difference – the color went the whole way through.

Step 4: Put your templates into your sheet protectors and go to town! To me, things that “scream” 4th of July are stars, the Flag, fireworks, and the Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington are two of our family Founding Father heroes, so I googled to find silhouettes of them that I could print off and have us fill in.

My husband and I were excited to try out our project, so we worked on Ben and George and added a few decorations of our own. I also wanted to see how long it would take for them to dry.

My husband’s handiwork.

My work – I wrote the letters for “America” backward so the writing would look the right way for people looking at it from the outside.  The part of your window cling that is touching the sheet protector is the part that will stick to the window.

The kids woke up bright and early and were excited to make their own window clings. Squeezing the glue directly from the bottles made it a project that they ALL could do – even my 2-year old. No paintbrushes required.

Here is how our final clings turned out:

I LOVE how the silhouettes turned out – SO awesome. And yes, I did flip this picture so “America” is a little bit more readable. That’s what the neighbors see. :)

We’re still waiting for the kids’ work to dry as we speak. They had some fun (and some very abstract) red, white and blue creations.

The clings all pretty much dried overnight, except for the very middle of George Washington. The thinner the glue, the faster it will dry. HOWEVER, the thicker the glue, the sturdier the clings will be.

You could modify this easily for any holiday, or just to do for a fun summer project. Add glitter. Whatever. Seriously, this was an easy, fast, fun project.

Enjoy! :)

RG 16

Make Your Own Rain Gauge

We had a couple of really good storms here last week – the kind that dump down rain for quite a while. Since we’ve been in a drought for a year and a half now, rain is a big deal. Both times I checked the official rainfall expecting to see at least an inch of rain, give or take, and I was shocked to see the “official” amount was listed as 0.25″ and 0.08″ of rain. The official gauge is across town, and apparently the storms missed that area. I did find one website that has people self-report rainfall, and the estimates in my area were more in the 1″ range. But it made me think – I need a rain gauge. I had griped about the rainfall measurements on facebook too and one of my cousins mentioned that I should just make one as a project with the kids – that was enough for me! Great minds think alike. :)

I started scouring the internet for how to make your own rain gauge, and some fairly complicated (or, at least, multi-step) plans came up, and even though some of them had sand in the bottom of the gauge to keep it from falling over, we get some crazy winds here and I was pretty sure that it would just fall over in the first storm and we’d have a mess.

Then I found this idea from the Franklin Institute website. Any place that is dedicated to and promotes Benjamin Franklin has to have good ideas, right? I modified it just slightly to make it work a little better.

Here is what you need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • A wide-mouthed glass jar (I used a queso jar)
  • A sharpie
  • A ruler
  • Packing Tape
  • Pliers, or similar, to help you unbend the coat hanger

That’s it! The gauge itself is simple. Take your glass jar and your ruler. Line the “0” of your ruler up with the bottom of the glass jar and mark with the sharpie every so often (I did every 1/4″). Then write in some numbers so you can easily see some of your major measurements (1/2″, 1″, etc.).

I wanted my “measuring” to be visible on the back side so I wrote my numbers backwards so that when you are looking “through” the glass, you can see the numbers the right way. If you are happy with the numbers on the front of the jar, you can just write them the normal way.

Take a strip of packing tape that is as long as your jar is tall and put it over your numbers. This will help to keep your numbers from rubbing off as you take it in and out of your rain gauge holder, and will also keep them from rubbing off.

Congratulations! You now have a rain gauge! But where to put it?

That is where the coat hanger comes in. This part is going to sound a little more complicated in writing than it is in real life, so just take a good look at the pictures as you are going along and you will be able to figure it out easily. You are just basically going to use the coat hanger to make a sort of cup holder for the rain gauge. You need support on the bottom and around the sides, and you need a way to hang it up. You will are just bending a wire to do that. It really is not too tough.

Take your handy pliers (if needed) and twist apart the wire on the top to open your hanger up. Mine was a thicker hanger and the pliers definitely helped to get it started. Now you can start to make the “cradle” for the gauge.

After you have untwisted it, start from the hook side and go down to the first major bend. Open it up so the long part of your hanger makes an “L” shape (or 90 degree angle) from the hook part of the hanger. With the hook end up, place your gauge onto the long part of the hanger so it is touching the hook end of the hanger. The part underneath your gauge is what will be the bottom part of your gauge cradle. Bend the long side up so it runs parallel to the hook part. If you took your gauge off of the hanger it should look like three sides of a rectangle – two long and one shorter. The shorter one, again, is the bottom of the cradle.

From this point on you will be working with the long portion you just bent up. Keeping that part running parallel to the hook part, measure up a couple of inches and bend your wire sideways. If you had your hook piece on a wall, the other end should face either directly to the right or directly to the left. Take this part and start bending it into as much of a spiral as you can around the rain gauge. Mine ended up going around about 1-3/4 times. I had to keep sliding the gauge in and out to make sure that it fit snugly in the wire, but not so tight that I couldn’t get it out again. The idea is to make a safe place for the gauge to hang up so it isn’t blown over, but you have to be able to take it out to dump your rain water out after a storm.

Your gauge holder is now done! Wahoo! I took mine to my back fence and hammered some nails on either side of it to support it along one of my fence boards. As you can tell, my fence has seen better days so I didn’t feel too bad about hammering it into the board directly. You could also find more creative ways to fasten it if you’re worried about your fence, or if you think you may want to move it to another spot someday.

When you are looking for a location to put the rain gauge, make sure it isn’t directly under something like a tree or a roofline that would cause it to give an inaccurate reading. It’s good for it to be in the open. That being said, we’ll probably need to move ours up so the gauge itself is near the top or over the fence so the fence board itself isn’t blocking rain.

I’m planning on printing out a sheet, or having a notebook where we can record the daily rainfall and have our own household annual rainfall recording. Go us! :)

There you go! Super simple rain gauge. Fairly easy (and cool-looking) gauge holder. Now we just need to add some rain and we’re in business.

Enjoy! :)

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Happy Summer!!

The kids are all out of school!! Which means only one thing – IT’S TIME FOR SUMMER! Ready or not. :)

Here is wishing all of you a HAPPY SUMMER! What kinds of fun things do you have planned? What are some of your favorite summer things to do?

One of ours, apparently, is to wear goggles around the house.  Or our brother’s goggles, when he isn’t looking. Whatever the case may be. :)

 

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