China Jubilee

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Fall’s Arrival September 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 4:12 am

There’s a deep contentment in my heart this weekend, that springs from many things, many of them linked to the season. The rains have come and washed away the heat for good. There may be an Indian summer left, but the middle of September is here and in this blessed mountain climate fall really is truly under way. And at the end, I’m including a recipe for a very fall-flavored treat.

I had a 3-umbrella day on Thursday! (Car, desk, & home umbrellas all got used)

The biggest reason for joy is actually not tied to fall. I was blessed to attend a 4-day workshop this summer that included teaching on blessing people’s spirits. I have been more aware of my spiritual life since then, sometimes remembering to look outward to God rather than to the world in moments of rest, and – it’s hard to describe in words – but to sort of unfurl my spirit, unclench from trying to have things under control or come out “right” and instead open up to God pouring his love and life into my spirit.

I’ve also been blessed to have some times of intense prayer for my students. Have you seen “War Room” yet? It’s a movie about the power of prayer and seeing it just before the school year started was perfect. I no longer lamented the empty hour between my 9am and 11am classes 3 days a week – instead I dedicated half of it to God! (The other half is for grading so I don’t have to carry as many papers home with me to stare accusingly at me after dinner when I just want to put my feet up and turn off my brain before bed.) So yeah, having that time set aside to pray for students, current or past, as well as family and friends and missionaries near and far, in addition to my regular times with the Word, has been excellent.

Having students means school is in session! While there are certainly things to enjoy about the empty weeks of summer, I was more than ready to get back to structured time and to using some of the gifts God gave me. I’m so alive when I’m teaching! And while I’ve never had a truly horrible class, I do have one extraordinary class this semester that has blown my socks off. They are diverse in age and background, they are enthusiastic and prepared, they participate in all the activities to the point that I finally have to interrupt their group/partner English-language discussions so we can move on. And we are each other’s last class of the day, 5:10-6pm – that amazes and blesses me even more, that they have so much energy left and I can reflect it back to them rather than wilt in my 10th-11th hour of the work day!

IMG_4978 IMG_4983
New clothes & shoes for the school year are another bright facet of the season!

In addition to school, the farmer’s market has started carrying fresh, local, wax-free apples, the joy of my daily snacking! It’s sad to see the variety of produce decrease now that summer has waned, but I’ll enjoy the squashes and other fall fruits for now and then I can look forward to next spring again. I cooked the first small “sugar pumpkin” that I grew and it was good, first baked stuffed with rice, bacon, green pepper, onion, garlic, and a little liquid, and then thinly sliced and reheated with all that stuffing in a small pan with a little chicken powder and water.

Mom and Dad visited yesterday as rugby season started up for the fall. I made a Chicken & Mushroom Cobbler with a mix of gluten-free flours and almond milk subbed in, cheese/tomato/basil crackers/nut thins for hors d’oeuvres, and a GF carrot cake for dessert. A friend and her husband joined us for dinner (she brought a salad to balance the meal!) and it was very nice.

Most of the cobbler is already gone – going back for seconds!

Plus I cleaned the apartment after 2 weeks of school plus 1 week of preparing for school – it’s silly but that’s one more reason I love having guests, it gets me to deal with the piles of papers and incomplete tasks that tend to accumulate around the house. That means I got the herb garden back to full health as well (replacing parsley that was chucked out when I discovered it crawling with ants and rosemary that plain ol’ died) and I transplanted the little lemon tree I started from seed last fall into a bigger pot. And it means Dad now has the 2 pear trees I bought him from the nursery here for a combined Father’s Day & birthday gift! I hope they grow well in the yard at home.

This is getting long, so I’ll just list the other blessings of the recent past like so:

  • Worship in two churches this morning (Grace Covenant & Freedom Fellowship)
  • Sermons from both my pastor and the Church at Brook Hills podcast
  • Cream cheese frosting made with just a little milk and some maple syrup mixed into the cheese
  • The now-grown-up family of cardinals – 5 males!!! and several females – plus many other birds that have come to my feeders all summer
  • My $150 deposit for power being refunded to my account after 12 months of faithful bill payment – that should cover my electric bills through Thanksgiving at least!
  • I’ve gotten to know a group of Ethiopian immigrants a little recently, a culture I didn’t have any experience with until this year
  • I’ve found a group of people in a similar phase of life (working or in grad school and single) who meet for conversation, worship, and prayer – we’re starting a Bible study tonight
  • The sound of geese honking for the first time this fall, an hour ago
  • A friend here is interested in moving to the same country I’m thinking of moving to next year

Summer ends – peaches and some quickly-made brown-sugar-cinnamon almonds.

I’m just drinking all this fall glory in knowing that I may be in a different climate both physically and spiritually next year. It’s such a gift.

OK, now for the promised recipe! This goes together in about 10 minutes, from getting out the ingredients to washing the dishes. It is SUPER fast! Then you just have to wait for it to cool :)

Pumpkin Pie Pudding
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and


  • 2 cups full-fat milk + 1/2 cup full-fat milk*
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Put 2 cups of the milk in a medium saucepan over medium or medium-high heat. While it’s coming to a boil, mix the dry ingredients, then slowly pour in the other 1/2 cup milk while whisking steadily. When it’s smooth, whisk in the eggs.

Once the milk is at a boil, take it off the heat and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking all the time to prevent the eggs from curdling (turning into scrambled eggs in your pudding). Once the hot milk is mixed in, pour it all back into the saucepan and put back on medium heat. Keep whisking gently while it comes back to a simmer and then for 1 minute longer to fully cook the cornstarch and egg. It should be starting to thicken during this last minute.

Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin, then pour it into a serving bowl or several smaller bowls. (I estimate it would make 8 nice servings or 6 very large ones.) If you don’t want it to develop a “skin” on top as it cools, place a piece of waxed or parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the pudding’s surface. Refrigerate once it’s reached room temperature.

*If you tend to buy skim milk like me, mix in a little heavy whipping cream in place of a few tablespoons of the milk you’re heating. Then go ahead and whip up the rest of the carton to serve on top with freshly-grated nutmeg, since you’ve got it in the fridge now anyway!


Fighting Racism in Me June 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 11:37 am

Culture is full of man’s sinfulness – sins against God, sins against man. Figuring out where sinful trends come from and pointing out the causes is definitely satisfying (at least for me) and helpful to understanding them. But more important is to ask what do we DO, today, next week, day by day, to change a sinful trend. How do I change the racist heart in ME? And how do I work towards a community and nation without racism? So here I’m going to trace out my path on these questions since moving back to the US last summer, which brings me to ask those questions, and then my brief reflections on what I can do.

I’ve been processing the racial issues in our country a lot this year. At first I asked “Why do we have these problems? I thought we were all equal, and Martin Luther King Jr. and the others of his era ended all this!” It’s still boggling my mind that there is so much left of that hatred and distrust. There were people of many backgrounds in my public school and we seemed to get along OK, though I suppose I only knew one or two black people personally (perhaps a few more Asians, and not sure I knew any other minority students).

When there were unfortunate deaths, I found myself annoyed and dismayed that “they” would riot and destroy things instead of using peaceful methods like Dr. King. (Look out for the label “they” cropping up in your thoughts – that’s one thing I learned from living overseas.) I figured out that my simple idea from childhood, that all Americans are more or less the same, was overlooking lots of differences. It seems like the white Europeans started up this culture, made the rules about what it takes to get ahead, and then when people from other backgrounds were allowed into society, they had to learn to fit in, but without the support that many of the white kids had growing up in families that already knew the ins and outs, and with plenty of things deliberately holding them back. It started to make sense to me that there were and have continued to be cultural differences between people with different family histories. (I don’t know why that was so hard to figure out given that I’d already realized that it’s true on a small scale between ANY two people from two different families, even if they’re of the same color and from the same neighborhood. Perhaps because that realization was initially related to marriage rather than racism!)

I started to realize how people, white people, still come to think of others, black people, as “less” and then treat them accordingly – less likely to be honest, less worthy of care and respect, less responsible, less human. If only the empathy gun from the Hitchhiker’s movie was real. Why do some parents have to teach their children to behave super-carefully around police? Why is one race over-represented in prison and under-represented in many positive areas? Lots of causes, but a lot of them come back to pure sinful racism.

It’s like our country has made steps, but each stopped short of a solution – from Civil War to Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era, but it still wasn’t enough, many hearts and minds still hadn’t changed despite new laws and practices, society was not integrated and people’s hearts were closed to it. (As a side note, I cannot understand how ANYONE can fly a rebel flag in the South, both from a legal standpoint – seriously, I’m sure it was illegal right after the war, when did it transition back? why don’t federal troops remove it from southern government buildings? – and also from the association that it has with a way of life that accepted and depended on slavery. Surely there is more to be proud of in your state’s, city’s, family’s heritage than the flag of a country like that! But again I am slipping into a “they” state of mind. Darn, life is complex.)

Where was I? Oh yes, realizing that there is still a major problem. Which brings me to this latest atrocity. A terrorist attack by one American against others because of their race. Not, as a priest who spoke at this evening’s memorial pointed out, a “tragedy.” It was not the accidental result of something morally neutral or initially minor. It was terrorism, hatred poured out on purpose, even in the face of the victims being “so nice.” At this point just saying “Go in peace, be warm and well-fed,” is not enough. Saying “Our prayers are with you, Charleston,” is not enough. Prayer, said the Father who spoke, should have an effect on us too when we get off our knees.

The first thing that needs to change is inside of me. I’ve been wandering here and there with this post but I’m finally getting to my big point: There is a root of racism in our culture and in our hearts, and we – I – must do something about it. I’m going to quote directly from Austin Channing though she’s not the only one to say it this weekend:

Every time I write about race, someone white says “just know it isn’t all of us,” believing this will bring me comfort. It is offered as balm, but fails miserably. I would much rather people say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.” That’s what I want to hear. Creating distance from it doesn’t serve me, doesn’t bring me comfort. Because it is in all of us. White supremacy has infected all of us who know America. If I have to deal with the white supremacist notions within myself, than I don’t want to hear about how “it’s not all of us”. It is. It is all of us who must learn to love blackness as an equal and authentic image of God.

Some of us are doing that work. Naming that work. Wrestling through that work.

And others are content to let it grow. And I need you to know those are the only two choices. There is no such thing as neutrality. You are either nurturing love or hate. There is no middle ground, no third way, no alternative.

There is this pervasive belief that Christians can simply choose to be tolerant, or polite, or even kind. There is this sense that as long as certain lines aren’t crossed, that you’re okay. As long as you don’t tell the racist joke, as long as you had a really good reason for moving into an all white community, as long as you never say nigger, as long as you do charity work, as long as you go on the mission trip, as long as you never do anything mean- then you’re alright. Not so.

I have indeed been proud of not telling racial jokes and of thinking everyone’s equal (at least everyone who knows how to act like me), but I caught myself this fall reacting differently to people on my street who are of different colors. The danger sense I developed growing up here in the States to be more aware of my surroundings would kick in when I saw one of the young black men on my street coming past me. There were other factors – I have also been adjusting to living among people of a lower income level than where I grew up, which really just adds a layer of shame over social-status snobbery rather than excuse the first issue – but in any case those young men seem to fit with the other various-colored people on my street in regard to their income level, so it was pretty clearly racism that was triggering my reaction to them. Oh, what shame I felt to see that flower of the root of racism in my heart! Still feel, really, since every time I chop off the flower it seems another grows when I’m not looking. Perhaps they’re getting a little smaller, but I’ve also had time to adjust to being here, so I’m not sure there’s been any meaningful progress.

So I need to change. I need to pray, and reflect, and search for ways to dig out and replace this root of racism. Maybe introduce myself to the neighbors from a few houses down the block, though my mind boggles a little trying to imagine how. But why should I fear looking like a fool if I get it wrong? Surely that’s the only thing I actually have to be afraid of. As a friend told me today, “Sometimes you’ll make mistakes and do something stupid, and [your black friends] will let you know.” Somewhat encouraging! I was telling him how at least when I went to China, if I chose to step out of the “foreigners bubble,” I could have a teacher to help with the culture, but here in America I feel equally unprepared by my upbringing to interact with many of the people. So I can put myself out more, meet people, that’s one thing. Reading is another thing I can work at, putting aside the fiction I enjoy and pushing through one book at a time on this topic, getting to see another side of life in America. What else? I suppose God will show me as I keep asking and take the steps he’s shown me.

Silence is violence. It is silence that kills the world. Speak as if you had a million voices.” (Catherine of Sienna). This blog post is me speaking. It will take more than an act of God to bring racial harmony in America – it will take millions and millions of them, changing hearts and minds. But whether or not we expect to reach that goal this side of heaven, we must – I must – make that a part of what we pray for and work towards day by day.


It’s the little things February 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 6:42 am

It’s funny, but the things I miss from China these days are the little things.

The little tissue packets that you buy in bulk, 10 packets for about $2.  One packet fits well in a pocket or in the pouch in my purse that holds all the little things (gum, contact wetting drops, a few aspirin in a small tupperware…). The US packets, sold individually or in sets of 3, are both ridiculously expensive (because of course anything convenient must cost extra) and too big to fit neatly anywhere.

Gel pens with refill ink sticks, in packs of 10 each for maybe $3.  I left China just as I was finally getting to the stage where I valued those refills (I threw them out for years), and now I’m back where all I get are ballpoints that you have to scribble to get them to start writing and then in a few weeks they go dry. I actually have a pen cemetery on my end table because of all the pens that have special meaning and have died since I came back – the one I decorated to match my decorated prayer journal at the Women’s Conference last spring, the last one from IWU (I’ve gone through two or three of those actually), the one from the set from Singapore that I bought as souvenirs for my class but kept the one extra for myself, the one… Sigh. I can’t quite bring myself to throw them out.

Chopsticks. They take up half an aisle in Chinese grocery stores. Of COURSE they’ll be a few different sets in any grocery store in America. Right? Right? Nope, not even in the Asian/foreign food stores in town, can you believe it? Just disposables or nothing. I finally found some non-disposable ones at the thrift store last weekend and was thrilled, ugly plastic things though they are. (Hey, at least they were cheap!)

One thing I am grateful I knew enough to buy just before I left was a new, sturdy, conveniently-sized water bottle. I still have one old bottle here too that I left by mistake one summer, so between them I’m probably good for another year or so.  Usually the strap connecting the smaller lid to the neck is the first thing to go. Man, will I miss them when they give out!

If you’ve lived overseas and returned, what are the “little things” that you were surprised to find that you missed when you moved back?

Related to this: Culture shock. I’m doing a unit on the topic with one of my classes, and the video-lecture describes 4 stages: Excitement, Rejection, Acceptance, and Acculturation. I suddenly realized that I’m going through those stages with my new church! I had started to realize it even before this unit, and it helped with some of the things I was feeling confused or uncertain about, to peg them as “culture” rather than any sort of negative label. (Not theology, other stuff.) Having labels to put to it now made me happy – I can see where I’m starting to move past rejection to acceptance in some ways, though I still can’t imagine acculturating in the sense that it means taking on those “different culture” things – I’ve obviously got a ways to go to move totally out of the “rejection” phase!  To be super clear, they are not sinful or “bad” things as far as I know, not even huge things for that matter, they are just things that don’t “feel” right because they are not what I’m used to.  Since I work with international students all week, faculty meetings and church are the two times I really interact with the local culture with any sort of depth and regularity. The faculty meeting cultural differences mostly hit me last semester, but the ones at church took longer, probably because we spend more time side-by-side looking at the front than we do face-to-face. Now I’m going to Wednesday nights soup and Bible study time and it’s sinking in: This is a beautiful, loving body of believers, and they are different (from me).

My students and I talked today about how long the “Excitement” stage lasted after they arrived in the US. (It generally begins before you arrive in the host culture, according to the lecture.) None of them claimed times longer than 2 weeks. How about you? If you have spent long enough in another culture to feel anything other than excitement, or even moved to a different community in the same culture, how long did the Excitement stage last after you arrived?


Maps & Directions January 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 11:47 am

Originally written August 26, 2013 and titled “Directions,” I came across this set of recollections and a poem on my laptop tonight.  It’s unedited and unfinished, but I enjoyed sharing it at the completion of Writer’s Club that night and so I decided to share it here as well.

How did you learn your way around your hometown? Did you build a map in your head as you rode in the back seat of your parents’ car growing up? Did you learn it by road names and intersections, or by bus routes, or bike lanes? Is everything cataloged in relation to friends’ houses? Or is it organized in circles centered on school and rec center, library and church, Dad’s work and Chuck E. Cheese’s?

Do you know it by heart, or by head? In what may be a totally different question, can you give clear directions to someone from out of town? Or do you still find yourself unsure of the exit number from the highway, the number of stop lights before your road, the order of the intersections between the high school and the mall? If you were lost, would you keep going knowing that you would eventually hit a road that you know, turn down it, and find an intersection or landmark that would reorient you on your mental map? Or is “lost” a foreign concept, coming from a small Midwestern community with checkerboard roads in town and numbered routes beyond it, in which it takes a great deal of skill to actually lose your way?

I come from a sprawl of a city that is home to over a million yet didn’t have any buildings over 10 stories besides the hotels along the ocean until a one-block “downtown” was manufactured a decade ago (the building of new condos there actually reaches 20 stories high but is much too far inland to have an ocean view). Growing up in a neighborhood with a map that approximates Mr. Peanut – not quite oval and criss-crossed with intersections – I first realized that the linear map in my head didn’t match the squiggly world I lived in in fourth grade. You’d think a fourth grade girl scout could draw a map of the neighborhood in which she’s lived almost constantly since she was two years old, wouldn’t you? I knew all the road names, I could find friends’ houses, and I’d even heard my parents describe our house as “just before you the road curves,” but the fact that Morgan Trail met my street TWICE as it curved through the neighborhood made my brain flash “Tilt! Tilt!” until I went home, opened the mapbook (yes we are a city with a mapbook, more on those later), and for the first time in my life considered that streets are not the straight lines I’d always seen them as.

This problem persisted growing up. I couldn’t draw a map of the three main roads in our area for a friend because they all met and I couldn’t force myself to draw a triangle when I was so sure all intersections were 90 degrees and all roads straight. My introduction to the world of Super Mario Brothers in the late 80’s introduced me to the concept of a “Warp Zone.” I quickly dubbed the street near my dad’s office as a Warp Zone, which relieved the stress in my brain but didn’t really provide clarity. I couldn’t figure out how it could turn off the main road right after an overpass, obviously thus becoming parallel to the highway, and end up somewhere nowhere near the highway – in fact, even thinking about it now, I’m not sure why once you go down that road you have to take three right turns, each separated by over a mile, to get back to a road that intersects the interstate.

The interstate itself confused the heck out of me when I started driving, forcing me to take my younger brother along as a navigator. Did I get on the ramp marked “Suffolk” or “Hampton”? Route 64 East, like a snake in that old TI calculator game, curves south and then back the way it came to avoid hitting the water, so there are no handy cardinal directions labeling it where I live. What was “East” is by then actually South and about to become West before morphing briefly into 664 and meeting back up with 64 in its previous life as a regular East-West roadway. I never understood though why the signs didn’t say “Chesapeake” and “Norfolk,” which were the actual cities next door and the only ones I ever drove to – Suffolk and Hampton didn’t have a place on my mental map till I was at least 20. About my only pleasant memory of the cloverleaf from that teenage era is of taking two ramps in a row to turn around when we realized we’d forgotten something on the way to youth group, and thinking how clever we were for thinking of that solution.

Ah, youth group, which was located in another warp zone and also a different school zone, which means my social life and my school life were to a large extent separate during high school, simply because I lived on the wrong side of Indian River Road. Still, there were fun times in the ol’ car after Bible Club, being as I was one of the few who drove to school and while I was allowed to take the technical capacity of the car – 6 people – I wasn’t allowed to have more than one passenger in the front seat with me. Fitting four growing teens in the back so we wouldn’t have to make two trips was good for laughs every time, and there would always be someone around to direct me.

One friend lived on a quiet road that couldn’t really be called a shortcut since, although it cut off a corner of the main roads, it was windy and had a speed limit of 25 rather than 45mph. Routes like those were the kind I could learn – defined by relationship, practiced when I was a new driver nervous at high speeds, and still as an adult more calming and comforting than the main roads if I have time for a more leisurely trip home. …

Ode to the mapbook
To a reader
who loves books,
and a logician
who can’t pass up a puzzle,
map books are
cake with frosting;
yarn and pattern, perfectly matched;
independence and intelligence
and something that says a place has arrived.

On my bottom shelf,
trace back through my history in the stack,
with folded maps (extra origami puzzles!)
stuffed in the leaves:

Baltimore (and outlying suburbia),
first job,
first apartment,
first independence,
first loss.
Finding new friends’ homes
and the theater for special Lord of the Rings showings
and the students’ soccer games
along beautiful fall roads
and the unemployment office
in bleak January
and Uhaul.

Triple A maps show the route home and back,
and home again;
visits to the Smithsonian,
and Uncle Don’s an hour away.

Los Angeles
(just my part of it,
it can’t all fit in one book,
even a huge one like this),
beautiful and terrifying,
so many roads and hills winding,
so many high speed merges,
so many stars, parallel parked,
and so few left-turn lanes.

Plus the trip-tick, again Triple A,
for the cross-country journey,
southern route there,
central route back,
a jewel in time with my father,
talking and listening,
marveling at nature,
and realizing I WOULD miss
Indiana’s waving green fields of corn
as we stopped by one
to refill the radiator. Again.

Hampton Roads,
the seven cities of my youth,
first driver’s license,
with my brother as a navigator
because reading directions while driving
is a recipe for an accident.
(Ask me how I know.)

Even now when I return
I open the map book,
and it takes me back
even as it takes me forward.
As a child, learning to follow the pages.
As a teen, learning which roads are important to me.
As an adult, finding my way,
finding my way,
day by day and drive by drive.

It seems that all of life
should be mapped out in a book:
“Follow this route east,
Take that exit B,
Turn left at the light,
And continue to page 176.”


Frazier & Anderson’s Famous Buttercrunch December 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 2:46 am

This recipe was shared with my grandmother by a neighbor who swore her to secrecy. Dad took over making it when Grammie went on to glory, and he in turn shared it with me when I grew up. But now that Grammie’s 100th birthday has passed and Anna Mae Frazier is probably long gone, we are letting the secret out and sharing the recipe.

Frazier & Anderson’s Famous Butter Crunch

Recipe makes about 2 pounds of candy; it can be halved, but why would you?

Notes: The butter & margarine are in metric because I made this for years in China, where they came in 250g packages. For all-US measurements, use a cup each of butter and margarine (2 sticks, 225g), use the smaller water measurement, and leave out 1/4 cup of sugar.
It is best made on a dry day. Rain outside can make the candy inside less than crisp.

250g butter, salted (or add ½ tsp salt)
250g margarine
2 1/4 cups white sugar (*this might also be good with brown sugar, but I haven’t tested it)
2-3 Tbsp drinking water
2 Tbsp corn syrup (*this helps the final consistency, but in a pinch you can leave it out)
1 1/2 to 2 cups finely-chopped walnuts or other unsalted nuts
4 x 80g bars of a chocolate that you like, 2 of them pre-chopped at least as small as chocolate chips
1 almond, if possible
A small dish of drinking water with an ice cube in it (I just use the 1/4 cup after I measure the sugar with it)

2 large cookie sheets, or another washable heat-tolerant item with a large flat surface, such as a 9×13 baking pan. Whatever it is, turn it upside down so the rim won’t get in the way when you’re spreading and flipping things
Heavy-bottomed pot at least twice as big as the volume of the ingredients (they’ll boil up high)
A wooden spoon – I’ve found the candy seems to stick less to wood than metal
Offset spatula, or regular spatula, for spreading chocolate
Optional: Candy thermometer

Prepare the cookie sheets by covering them with buttered parchment paper or tin foil, or an un-buttered silicone baking sheet. As a last resort you can just butter the cookie sheet itself, but trust me, something removable and flexible makes life much simpler later.  Scatter about 1/2 cup of the chopped nuts over each sheet.

If you want to use a candy thermometer, position it on the pot so it doesn’t quite touch the bottom.  Begin to melt the butter and margarine over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot at least twice as large as the ingredients.  As the oils begin to liquefy, add the sugar, water, and corn syrup.  As they melt together, stir often – or just sit down by the stove and stir pretty much constantly – but don’t stir quickly or with lots of splashing. The goal is to scrape the bottom & sides regularly, and if something gets sloshed on the side, to wipe it back down into the liquid. * General candy-making advice: Don’t let anything else drop into it once it’s started cooking, not even more sugar.

Continue cooking on medium or medium-low heat.  You will see the mixture foam up to double its volume as the water – both from the melted butter and the water that you added – begins to boil.  If you’re the sort to use a candy thermometer, you’ll feel impatient as the temperature plateaus around the boiling point of water, but that’s how it goes for this stage.  Keep the heat steady and not too high as the water cooks off.  If you’re daring, you can turn it up to hurry things, but this MAY cause complications later on, either from the oil possibly separating out from the candy or the candy burning once the water is gone if you’re not watching it like a hawk.

Gradually the volume will sink back to where it began, and then the temperature will begin to rise and the candy to darken.  This is the time to be constantly, gently stirring, and watching it vigilantly.  If you turned the heat up before, turn it down to medium-low now.  The mixture will begin to seem curdled and lumpy, which is normal. However, if you see a lot of oil separating out, you may want to add more hot drinking water and go through the previous part of the process again – it will waste time, but your alternative is a greasy mess when you pour it out and candy with texture that’s not right, possibly even a whole batch of wasted ingredients. (A little separated oil won’t kill the texture, but take your pick on what to risk if you see it separating – the candy or your time!)

The goal now is 290F, with a color that matches the outside of an almond.  Check it visually by holding the almond over the pot; check it with your teeth by dropping a small bit into the ice water, giving it a few seconds to cool, then fishing it out and eating it. It should be crispy.  Some sources also say you’ll begin to smell a hint of burning sugar when it is perfectly done.  If you do, immediately remove it from the heat; once you get a strong whiff of burning sugar, you’ve probably gone too far and burned the candy!  If your kitchen faucet takes a long time to warm up, turn it on to super-hot now while you do the next step so it will be ready.

As soon as you take the candy off the heat, carefully pour it over the nuts on the prepared cookie sheets. Don’t just pour in the middle but drizzle it around as quickly as you can – it gets hard fast.  Once you’ve scraped out the pot with your stirring spoon, get your faucet running as hot as possible, and let it fill the pot while you go back to the candy and spread it as needed with the spoon – you want it to be relatively even, but don’t try to make it super thin or it will pull and leave holes.  Let the spoon soak in the water-filled pot for a few minutes while you keep working, and it will be clean as a whistle with just a few swipes of your soapy sponge later!

Yes, I said “keep working.”  Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the still-piping-hot candy and let it soften for a minute or two.  Using an offset spatula (or regular spatula), spread the softened chocolate smoothly over the candy, then sprinkle on a little more than half of the remaining chopped nuts.  *Here is where using only buttered cookie sheets costs you – as it cools, you need to use a spatula to keep loosening the candy from the cookie sheet.  If you can get it to harden slightly-not-flat, it will be easier to turn over later; if you leave it alone as it hardens, it will suction to the cookie sheet and shatter as you try to get it up. Still yummy, but it’s hard to spread the second coat of chocolate to the edges of each piece.

If you have a cold, dry room (eg your porch), leave the cookie sheets there, being careful not to burn yourself as you carry them.  If not, you can use the fridge if the candy will fit, or just leave it at room temperature for much longer while you wait for both toffee and chocolate to harden.  Once it’s hard, carefully turn over the slab – don’t worry if it cracks a bit – and remove the parchment paper/foil/baking mat.  Melt the remaining chocolate in a small pot or the microwave, being careful not to burn it, and then repeat the earlier step: spread chocolate over candy, sprinkle on nuts quickly before the cold candy hardens the chocolate, and then give it all a few minutes somewhere cool and dry to finish hardening.

Break up the hardened candy and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  Mix the nuts that fall off during the breaking process into your morning oatmeal, or over ice cream if you actually need more sugar in your life.  After a while the candy will start to soften, but if you take good care of it it should last a couple weeks – assuming you don’t eat it all first!


Finishing Feels Good December 18, 2014

Filed under: Craft,Life,Travel — missjubilee @ 12:06 am

Things I have finished recently (not quite in chronological order):

The fall semester at two different universities

Grading exams within an hour of the last exam ending (YES!) and writing up grade reports (that took a little longer)

Baking two kinds of Christmas cookies

A safe drive home for Christmas, with both cruise control and the CD player working most of the time after initially not working – praise the Lord

Sewing an apron, the hem on curtains that were too long, a stuffed animal I had un-stuffed to wash and then re-stuffed, 17 pair(!!!) of rice-filled hand-warmers for co-workers at one of the universities plus a few more for other friends and one for myself, and the binding on my largest-to-date quilted object. I am SO super happy to have this finished! (And can you tell I borrowed a sewing machine this week? Though the stuffed animal, the non-co-worker hand warmers, and the quilt binding were all hand-stitched.)

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The base of the quilt was left-overs from the quilt-top-turned-duvet-cover I finished a year or two(?) ago. Hand-quilting takes an age but it was fun! The spirals, such as you see on the blue and floral fabrics in the close-up, were my favorite.

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I love how the red zig-zag stitch looks on it. Pop!  And I had to hold the cat in one hand, the camera in the other, to get a photo of the whole thing spread out!

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Ah, there’s the full apron! And other little details – the ties that came with the kit and took HOURS after I sewed the first one wrong; the white back lining I added. Makes me smile.

IMG_0902 See?

Knitting two small hats – one toddler size, one baby size – and two sets of fingerless “owl” gloves. Mostly they just needed ends woven in, glued, and trimmed, but the gloves also needed thumb cuffs knitted on before all the finishing touches.

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The gloves are tied in pairs, ready to go – one pair in fact has already been gifted less than 12 hours after finishing! Can you see the faint owl outline on them? The baby & toddler hats have designated recipients, but I won’t see them till after Christmas.

Still to finish: A bit of Christmas shopping and some Christmas cards (though I’m happy to have a lot of that done).  And there’s plenty more to finish in the course of the rest of my life, I hope! For now, it’s nice to have these things done, especially SO MANY WIP’s checked off in the last week and a half!

I’ve linked up this post with Crazy Mom Quilts’ “Finish It Up Friday.


A Fresh Beginning December 16, 2014

Filed under: Craft — missjubilee @ 9:36 pm

Since I just finished a quilt, you’d think I’d take a break. But no, I quickly started on one I’ve been collecting fabric for since last … spring? Maybe even last winter.


Hm, the date on that photo is last September! Wow, it’s been a while. Those navy-and-white prints in the foreground are the centerpiece of the project, while yellows and reds are thrown in for a little extra pop. I love the Chinese blue and white fabric prints, which for some reason feel like batik to me even though I’m pretty sure they’re just plain printed.  They’re a little heavier than quilting cotton, but I’m not too picky in my fabric weights – I’ll take what I can get after living in a place where quilting is unheard of and most cottons are pre-printed with huge 2-meter designs for bed sheets. :)

My stash for this quilt has grown quite a bit since the above photo – I probably have 30 “fat quarter” equivalents.  Equivalents?  Well, only dozen or fewer were actually produced as fat quarters in the West, while the rest were cut that size by yours truly after buying a half-meter in the fabric market in the East, or swapped with a quilting friend for the other halves of those half-meters, or cut off old blouses and a skirt just before I moved across an ocean,… Or just plain left over from past projects, though that is admittedly a smaller portion.  There are also another 15-20 or more pieces that aren’t fat quarters but have plenty of usable fabric. In other words, more than enough for one bed-sized quilt/duvet cover!

The white square with embroidered butterfly and flower was once part of the front embellishment of a blouse that was super cute but totally un-fitted. You can’t add darts to something with a garden across the stomach, so eventually I stopped wearing it. More stories are hidden in these squares as well!

I cut out pieces for two quilt blocks following the Virtual Quilting Bee that Diary of a Quilter hosted a couple years ago, and the first one is now sewn up and ironed out. My first properly pieced block for a full-sized quilt top! (So far I’ve only pieced smaller quilted items, and used crazy-patch for the lap-sized and queen-sized quilt tops I’ve made.)


I was impressed by the technique that Sherri from A Quilting Life documented in her photo-filled directions for the first square of the quilting bee – put the two squares of fabric together, draw a line down the middle of the top (lighter) one, and sew on both sides of that line (that is, parallel to it). Then just cut down the middle and you’ve got two sets of joined triangles, ready to iron!

laying out the pieces – I did swap a few around before settling on this layout

all sewn together and the seams ironed flat

Ta da! First quilt square finished.

This post is shared on My Quilt Infatuation’s “Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday.”



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