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~ Kathy M.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Last year I was handmaking Christmas presents, and some did not turn out so well.  This post is about that, as I am participate in Susan's  Between Naps on the Porch "Bloopers" today.   


Rock Candy Failure:

Source:  Bing/Live Pictures

I feel like a rock candy failure.

Oh, I had high hopes for my project on this quiet Sunday morning. Yesterday, I finished my little drawstring bags. I want to fill them up with homemade rock candy and give them as Christmas gifts to the many lovely children on my gift list.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

I thought, oh, this will be easy. What can go wrong? I followed the instructions out of my make-stuff-at-home book. I assembled my canning jars, string and pencils. I cut the string into 6" pieces and tied them to the pencil ... three strings to each pencil, since I wanted to make these in bulk. So far, so good. Then, I got out the sugar, water, food coloring and flavoring.

I was kind of excited. Here we go!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews
I made my first batch. It was purple. I was unsure which flavor to add to purple, out of the choices I had available. Black Walnut? Not sure that flavor would not make a kid gag. I decided on Vanilla. You usually can't go wrong with vanilla, can you?

Well, it was right after I poured the syrup mixture into the jar and put the pencil with three strings where they were supposed to go when I became frustrated. Everything floated on top. Oh, okay. I got a wooden skewer
and tried poking everything down. The string wasn't heavy enough to go down in a straight line and stayed in random squiggles, sometimes touching each other. I just knew they would get tangled with their rocks growing into to each other and would not turn out the nice, neat, individual candies that I had envisioned.

Hmmm. My first batch was a practice batch, of course. How could I improve this situation next time around, I wondered? I decided to soak all the other strings in hot water so they wouldn't have to soak up syrup as their only source of getting wet and hanging down straight. Then I made my lemon batch of s

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews
The hot water soak did not help very much for weighing down the string. So I used the wooden skewers instead. The purple one had thickened a bit, so the skewers stand up straighter. We'll see what happens. I gave up for a while. There is nothing wrong with the syrup recipe, it is just how to make a bunch of them at one time that will not stick together that I need to figure out.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews
Cherry, Lemon and Vanilla

Recipe for Rock Candy:

2 cups of su

1 cup of water with food coloring in it

Heat on medium until the sugar is
dissolved and add 2 more cups of sugar

Add the flavoring

Pour into a nice clean j

You are on your own after that. I have no answers yet. I am going to go back to what I know how to do, lay on the couch, knit a scarf for my son-in-law, and watch t.v. about murder investigations, while my best friend husband flicks through the channels in-between commercials to see what else is on. I am going to relax instead of invent.


Well, my rock candy really was not turning out. But I had used up 12 cups of sugar, and I didn't want to throw everything away. I poured the syrup mixtures into muffin pans. The lemon mix is crystallizing in aluminum foil. The vanilla and cherry mixtures are in muffin pans sprayed with butter flavor Pam (that was all I had!). There is a little bit of cherry syrup leftover, and I put it in the fridge. What a mess. At least I got a story for my blog out of it. 

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

You might also like:

The trials and tribulations of handcrafting gifts:

See this little gal? I thought her up and I made her. I also made the fishing pole and the fish. They are not all done yet, but you can get a good idea of how what the final project will look like. Just to assure you, and myself, that I am not really normally a failure at handmade projects.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

I am not having as much luck with things made from the kitchen though. This has been my guidebook so far. I devoured this book when I found it. I was so excited! Look at all this stuff I can make for Christmas presents, I thought. I have folded down page corners, made lists and generously used post-its to mark the things I wanted to make.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

I am not really trying to be mean here. I appreciate all of the work the author put into writing her book. It is just that my rock candy didn't turn out they way I wanted it to. It is still sitting in the muffin pans, trying to crystallize. Slowly it is, but I don't know how it will taste, since I had to spray the pans with buttered flavor Pam. The rock candy is no longer in these jars:

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

So, yesterday, as the snow fell outside, I decided to make the orange/spice balls on page 281 to use for closet fresheners. I had purchased some really nice oranges (9 of them) at Ray's, for $2.50. A few weeks ago, I got a killer deal on bottles of cloves at our local canned foods store. They were only .49 a bottle. This total project cost me about $7.00, if you count the cost of the other spices I used to roll these around in.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

When I made my first 4 orange-spice balls, I posted a picture of them on Facebook. That generated ooohs and aaahs and you are so cool to be making such a thing. Until last night, when Carly got on and noticed my efforts. She told me that these were going to rot, because I didn't put enough cloves on them. She gave me some helpful hints on how to use nails for poking and a thimble for my finger so it would not get so sore. And how to make cool designs and use felt pens to help with patterns. All useful and great information that "I could have used YESTERDAY" (as in Adam Sandler as the Wedding Singer so nicely put it). I wish the lady in the book could have said, "Important: Make sure and completely cover the orange in cloves or else it will rot."

I told Cary what Carly had said, and he said, well, I know oranges, and she's right. They are going to rot. He suggested that I write a story about not to believe everything you read. That is kind of what I am doing here, I guess, taking his blog post suggestion. Thanks, honey, good idea.

Well, this morning, I put the bowl of oranges next to the forced air heater vent. Cary said, that will just make them rot faster, I know oranges. (He grew up in Fillmore surrounded by orange groves, so I kind of have to trust his expertise on the subject of oranges. I grew up in Eugene, where oranges are one thing that you cannot grow.) Then, I thought, hey, what about my new convection oven from the garage sale? So, I put 5 of them in there, on 150* and on the convection setting. I'll just keep my eye on them and see how it goes.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

Then, I remembered about my food dehydrator. The oranges are too tall for the trays, but I got creative and put the part that really matters over the bowl with the remaining 4 oranges. I'll keep my eye on them too.

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews
I swear, the things you have time to do and think about when you are not working are amazing. Also, I have decided that when I find a great idea in the book, I will go online and search for the ways other people do the same things. Research is always a good idea.

Man, this house smells great!

~ Kathy

P.S. - I did save the oranges and was able to give them for gifts, but I had to throw out all of the rock candy mess.  There was a lot of wasted sugar in that experiment! 

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The Quintessential Magpie said...

LOL! I loved this post, and I love a woman with a mission. Congrats on the oranges, and just tell yourself that the sugar might have resulted in high dentist bills! ;-) Thanks for sharing with us.

HAPPY New Year!


Sheila :-)

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Ha! Thanks, Sheila, I am happy you could find the humor in the situation, lol.

Happy New Year,


Graceful Moments said...

Don't you hate it when there seems to be some big important part of the instructions that just happened to get left out and you only find that out after you have made a huge mess! I had to laugh because these projects sound like some of mine! Glad you salvaged the clove oranges!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Vicki at Graceful Moments,

I did feel like something had been left out. I think I could have presoaked the strings so they would not have floated though.

At least it made a good story! My friend told me, "you need to give up on that science experiment!"

Thanks for stopping by,


Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch) said...

Hi, Kathy - wow, you certainly had to go all out for those oranges! I admire your persistance, I would have given up and just left them and they would have rotted even further! LOL! Too bad about the rock candy... I have NO idea how to even do that! Kudos for your efforts though!

Alycia Nichols said...

Aaaaahhh...the best laid plans! It was the thought that counted! :-) Happy New Year!

Jacqueline said...

I love that the rock candy didn't work because it has never ever worked for me either! I have watched them on How Its Made but it doesn't work like that at home! Don't you hate wasting that much sugar and making a sticky mess to boot!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Gloria, Alycia and Jacqueline,

Thanks for your support, you three. Now I'm really curious on how to make a go of that rock candy. One thing is for certain ... I am going to only try a small batch next time.

And yes, I did hate wasting all the sugar and the mess! Oh well.

Happy New Year,


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the work you have done into this post, it helps clear away some questions I had.

No Copying!


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