John and I are spending Christmas day with my family and are then flying out to California for nearly a week with his family. This trip will involve lots of driving between the homes of various divorced and remarried parties, several celebrations at several different homes, and a dinner at a suburban fondue restaurant. Whee!

where the cream and butter merged


Last year when we did this trip, I brought a box of Frango mints from (the store formerly known as) Marshall Fields to give to John’s mom. She set them out during one of the huge family gatherings, everyone liked them, they were hit. I work rather close to the flagship store of (what I insist on still calling) Marshall Fields, so I figured this year I’d buy another box, bring them to John’s mom, and start a hostess gift tradition.

Except work blew up this week and I didn’t have any time to go to (always and forever known as) Marshall Fields to pick up the damn Frango mints. And since I have about a million houses to go to during this visit to California, and because I really feel a strong personal obligation to show up with SOMETHING to every house I visit for a holiday party, I decided to dust off last year’s go-to holiday hostess gift recipe: salted caramels.

not even all of the dishes

(they take several pans, but are WORTH IT)

I made about a dozen batches of salted caramels last year and gave them to everyone we know. They were delicious. Easy. Foolproof. Most importantly, I really liked eating the scraps that were left over after I cut them into neat squares and wrapped them in charming twists of waxed paper. So I figured it would be no big deal for me to whip up a batch and stick them in our suitcase to dole out to the many hostesses we’re going to encounter in the next week.

looks like caramel, actually is tooth killer

(mmm….soft and caramelly. Except not.)

You know what is a terrible way to discover your candy thermometer has gone wonky? When you taste your caramels after all your careful stirring and melting of butter and measuring of sea salt and discover that when it said 248 degrees, the perfect firm ball stage for caramels, what it actually meant was about 255 degrees, the perfect soft crack stage for candies that will stick in and then yank out your teeth if you try to eat them. Awesome.

where it all ended up

(Where the whole mess ended up.)

Do you think if I printed out this entry and give it to the hostesses next week, I would at least get points for trying? Because I don’t think I have another batch of candy in me today.