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Make Your Own Rock Candy (Or Not)

I attended Girl Scout day camp as a kid. The entirety of my excitement and joy for that week traveled home with me in the form of a carefully held final project: rock candy. It was not a triumphant declaration of my DIY candy-making skills.

I had a friend who went to the same day camp, but she was in a different group. I visited her house a few weeks later, and as you might guess, she did it. She made perfect, fat, sweet, Cracker Barrel-quality crystals.

Things did not look so good in my own kitchen. One day passed, and another. I wondered, “When does something happen? Is it working?” I held hope it would show up in a few days, then weeks. Accepting failure, I licked the soggy string a few times just to taste defeat.

In the spirit of pre-pubescence, my feelings flickered between The World Is Out to Get Me, and My Friend Is Awesome, I Am A Total Failure.

I’m-smarter-now candy making

I still think about a two-decade-old failed experiment. But it’s time to let that beautiful, little sad story go and try making rock candy now. And adult-like, I’d make it fancy—artisan, even. How about organic sugar and orange essential oil and lemon extract flavors? Bingo.

Rock Candy Basics

  • Dissolve sugar in hot/boiling water.
  • Add your food coloring and extracts, swirl and dissolve.
  • Pour the mixture into a clean jar.
  • Use something to hold your string (ew) or bamboo stick (yes) in place, like a skewer, pencil, or clothespin (yes, genius.)
  • If you use a stick, prepare it by giving the crystals something to cling to, like pre-rolling the stick in sugar or cutting into it slightly with scissors. (I tried the first one and found that when I dipped the stick into hot liquid, the sugar melted off. Duh. So when I added more sugar to the mixture the next day, I notched the stick. This works… mostly.
  • If nothing happens in a couple days, the sugar water needs a higher sugar concentration. Pour out the liquid, heat it, and dissolve more sugar. (I did this last step twice since I had two different flavors. Lemon started to form while orange did not so I did it again.)

I checked-in on my burgeoning sugar crystals a few times a week until at last—I successfully made rock candy. Boom.

Except… the victory tasted like ambivalence. It was so much work, for what? Two sticks I didn’t want to eat. And rock candy doesn’t emerge from the sugar ooze dry and ready to eat. Dealing with the aftermath wasn’t too far off from my original failure.

So, it’s time to own up. Making rock candy is a lot like life. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. And then maybe you’ll have to try again, a little harder. And then you’ll get there and realize that maybe the things you carry with you aren’t really the things you want anymore. Like rock candy.

I’m just glad to make April of Yesterday proud. She’d eat it up.

Because I’m a curious being who doesn’t want to feel alone, I’m curious. Has this happened to you? Did you try to make something as a kid and it totally failed? What was it?! Did you try again?)

A Note from Housekeeping: Let’s Get Phy.. Personal, Personal!

I’ve started this blog post approximately 30 bajillion times. In my head. Without ever writing it down. (Can you imagine the mental constipation?? Ah, here’s that sweet relief.)


Fact of the matter is that I write all day long. I get paid to write. My job is to write. Can you guess what I’m NOT aching to do when I get home every evening?

To be fair, it’s not that I mind writing. It’s the baggage that comes with a well-crafted blog post. It’s the documentation, photo editing and wordy review that overwhelms me. (For instance, I’m not even writing this post in Wordpess. I’m writing it in a text file because I’m afraid I’ll see the formatting bar and won’t finish. Look—SUCCESS!)

Since I started working again, it’s taken time for life to equalize. At least I’ve started cooking and baking again! Not so much on the crafty side of things. I certainly feel guilt guilt guilty for neglecting my little pet site that I watered and tended almost every day of my experiment in unemployment and self discovery.

The great news is that my job is going well. Chronicle Books is still putting out amazing books (HELLO James Beard Award Country Cooking of Ireland!) and I must say, concocting Tweets and Facebook message is not at all a bad gig. I get home fairly early every day but plop down in front of my laptop right off the bat? No sir. I don’t know how you crazy bitches can have jobs and blogs and be perfectly styled and have lovely homes. Itmakesmewanttomakeamicrowaveablebrownieinasingleservingmugandwatchteenmom.


This is all a convoluted way of saying that I’m ABSOLVING myself of the guilt that’s been building up over the past couple months at my lack of THH upkeep. It’s not that I don’t have the energy to keep posting. I have energy. However, it’s spent on other more important things like taking showers, vacuuming every once in awhile and actually feeding myself and loved ones.

This is all temporary of course. I absolutely will pick up The Hipster Home again one day. I still get comments, emails and page views (!). It would be foolish to let such a beautiful and eternal creation like THH to die an unholy internet death of neglect.

After my time with Chronicle is finished, I’ve got an actually real and full-time (first since I was laid off Sept 08… HOLY SHIT!) so there’s THAT whole new adjustment period. GOOD BYE HOURLY RATES! I can’t even believe it. I’m giddy. Overjoyed. And a leeeetle bit stressing (weird dreams? check!) but all in all it will be ok. I’ll be ok and you’ll be better than ever.

Since I believe in making commitments and since THH was started on a self-promise of posting at least twice a week for 6 months, I’d like to put this into a digital contract for you all. I will maintain (albeit sparsely) the twitter account. And I will hold THH dormant in my heart until at least August 1, 2010 (if not sooner), after which I will reevaluate my time and make a new statement regarding posts and the future. I started THH because I felt like I was consuming a lot of content without giving back. But now I’m barely consuming any and as such, don’t feel like I absolutely must write here all the darn tootin’ time. There’s that word— equalize —again.

INTERNET HUG! You guys are the best, you really are. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for your support and kind words and barf barf barf you are completely awesome individuals that I may or maynot have actually met at some juncture.


P.S. Do you have questions? Comments? A riddle I might solve for ye? Leave me a high-five in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can… BEEP.

(I’d like to add the following footnote: SWEET JEBUS ALMIGHTY, ITS GOOD TO SOUND LIKE MYSELF AGAIN HERE, capslock and all.)

What Inspires Me- An sfgirlbybay Project

When sfgirlbybay asked the general internet if she should put together a tour of blogs talking about what inspired them, the internet answered yet. Blog it Forward was born. For my post today, here’s a handy-dandy list of what inspires me…

  1. Colors- the brighter the better,  featuring crazy geometric patterns is best.  See also: kelly green, orange, gray, navy blue, sparkles.
  2. Observing the world around me- When I’m stumped by a project, it’s amazing how frequently the solution will appear just by looking around
  3. (All of a sudden, I noticed my week-old Valentine’s day flowers. Stunning in the light.)

  4. The Internet- which features makers and doers of the world who share their work and inspiration in thousands of blog posts a day. (See also: Blog I Love)
  5. My CSA box, the farmers’ market and Rainbow Grocery- hurrah for bugs, taking 20 minutes to wash one bag of spinach and having someone else send you a box of edibles every week. Also hurrah for other people’s carefully grown heirloom produce. Veggie boner.
  6. The Whole Kit and Kaboodle
  7. Cookbooks- the pretty pictures, the idea of using a big, fat combination of ingredients with separate preparations making something wholly delicious, BAKING. Oh lord, put me in the kitchen with a good cookbook and I’m set for days. (See also: a collection of favorites featured in a tacky Amazon affiliate page, my General Store)
  8. The area around San Francisco- you can drive anywhere from 1-4 hours out of the city and reach some amazing terrain. Driving up the 1 on the coast feels like you’re on the edge of the world. Field, road, car, cow, cliff, ocean.
  9. (Lake Tahoe)

    (Driving through the redwoods)
    Day 2 of the Drive- Redwoods!

Thanks to The Goode Life for passing on the spirit stick.  Tag, you’re it living well!

What inspires you?

I wwwant that!

When you’ve got lots of time to cruise the ‘net but only a little green, I wwwant that! Please join me for a world wide romp in inspiration and completely desirable products that I could (but shouldn’t) purchase.

(Photo by The Small Stakes)

Have I told you lately how much I love WHOLE CAKES?? It is for reasons like this that they are #1 in my baked goods list. That cake topper would look fricken precious (not in a good way) atop anything but a majestic cake. Darling Dexter knew awesome when she saw it and for that reason I am grateful. You too can own a cake topper! For only three easy payments of $13.33… (just visit togetherforever’s etsy shop.)

My life philosophy is that color matches color. Chris Benz apparently believes the same thing which is why his Spring 2010 collection is ah-MAZING. Of course the one and only  Oh Joy! spotted his work the fastest, bringing about what, I’m sure, is an internet flurry of interest in this designers work. See also: sparkles match sparkles. Oh my, that yellow dress makes me want to CRY it’s so cute.

These boots are a real life find. One day, on my way to work, I spotted a woman in the brown pair. The next day, almost the same place, I saw a completely different woman wearing the black! Obviously I was behind the two women and immediately was drawn to the back contrasting zipper. After that second spotting, I knew it was my job to figure out who makes those shoes. Turns out these suckers are from… are you ready?… Steve Madden! WTF? I was as surprised as you. Second of all, I was taken aback at the steep price: $199. For Steve Madden boots? And I wwwant them?? What’s the world coming to?!? Le sigh, you wwwant them too, don’t ya? Well you can get these Steve Madden Roady Boots in black and tan.

The Mr. has a serious addiction to his Vans. Even though he has flat feet too, he doesn’t mind his arches scraping the pavement (ew?) in his slip-ons. I can’t do it. It totally bugs me! I didn’t think there would ever be a Vans shoe that would entice me. Then one day lil ole me was meekly scanning my google reader when I saw that Enchanted Royals had posted this show stopping pair of  Sophie Vans. Yes please! I’ll take two pairs. Retro refashioned. Love it.

I enjoy popping over to Mint to see what’s cooking. Recently, she posted a project that I adore. The Smock Shop exists to help starting artists make ends meet. Andrea Zittel created a simple smock pattern that artists have made into their own unique visions. All completely and utterly wwwantable! Head over to the site to check out the many variations.

I don’t have much to say about these dip-dyed curtains from Remodelista except that I find them mesmerizing. I think it’s the dark blue that really draws the eye. Or maybe the fact that our bedroom curtains are that exact shade without the white top. Either way, I love these curtains, totally wwwant them and think that they don’t belong in any room with a bed (where, clearly, you’d be wakened the second the sun peeped out.)

Look at the Pretty Buttons!

It’s gonna be a big weekend. I’ve got nothing is set in stone except having lots of free time. Guess what that means? Real THH posts about making things! It’s been spartan around here lately, I’ll admit. Coming to you soon will be a handful of posts that are beyond overdue: cooking for a bridal shower, an author event, pizza balls, candy making, fart chips, an Austin visit and BEYOND.

I also wanted to point out a few ch-ch-ch-changes around here! Last night, while watching Olympic men’s free skate, the Mr. hacked WordPress for me. It was the 21st century equivalent of being fanned and fed grapes. (GLORIOUS.)  Take note…

Look! The Twitter Mess (right sidebar) is no longer a disaster! It’s formatted and pretty and if you don’t follow THH on twitter, you are missing out! But now if you’re too lazy to click over, you can read my thoughts three at a time!

Next, please apply your attention to the BOTTOM of EVERY POST. THH has recommendations! Not only do you see the post title but a pretty, pretty picture preview. There are still some bugs to fix but it works.

He also made a few other cosmetic changes that’ll make your viewing experience like buttah. Welcome to The Hipster Home: now with more formatting for your pleasure.

So did the Mr. and I miss anything? Do you have some feature requests. Go ahead! I’m all ears.

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