Homemade Saltwater Taffy

9/2/14




You know how in old novels people are always spending a wild Saturday night taffy pulling with their friends? A few weeks ago, simply because we have run out of things to do, it's been a long summer, Anouk and I decided to try it. She's really into cooking lately, and I'm always up for eating something delicious. And it turns out taffy candy is a great thing to make with little ones who want to try making something a little more advanced than celery boats or Watergate salad but still beginner level. There are bubbles! Thermometers! Lots of stirring and rolling! It's kind of a gateway recipe to actual cooking.

We decided on saltwater taffy (because isn't that one of the best parts of a beach vacation?) and used the recipe found here as our jumping off point.

Funfetti Saltwater Taffy (adapted from the Cupcake Project)

Ingredients: 

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Candy thermometer
Sprinkles of your choice

Directions:

Butter a shallow baking dish. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, butter, water, and vanilla in saucepan, mix to combine, and set on the stove over medium-high heat. Heat until the mixture begins to boil and the candy thermometer reads 265 degrees (or the hard-ball stage, if you don't have a thermometer and are winging it, which means that a little of the hot syrup, dropped into cold water, will form a hard ball but will still flatten if you try to squish it).

NOTE: The original recipe called for a lower temperature and a softer taffy but I was worried it might not be taffy-like enough and upped the temp. The result is a very chewy candy that is the texture of a Sugar Baby -- you may want to watch out for loose teeth when eating!

Once the candy has reached 265 degrees, pour into the buttered baking dish and cover with a layer of sprinkles. When the candy cools is cool enough to handle, scoop it out onto waxed paper and begin to pull. This basically means you pull it toward you, fold it back over on itself, and do it again. Continue for about 10 minutes -- the candy will lighten in color and become harder to work as you go.

Roll the taffy into a rope and, with buttered scissors, cut into pieces, which you can then wrap in wax paper (or else they will stick together). I let Anouk do some of the cutting so we ended up with pieces of nonuniform size -- about 35-40 of them in all. We ate most of them and gave some to our friends. They went fast!



Good luck to everybody starting school today! Here's to a fabulous first day for a wonderful year.

Washed Ashore at the Virginia Aquarium

8/26/14





There's just about a month left to see the Washed Ashore exhibit at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach and it's one that definitely needs to be seen. The giant sculptures that make up the exhibit -- a friendly seal, giant jellyfish, massive coral reefs -- are, at a distance, beautiful and whimsical. But as you look closer and start to pick out familiar objects -- bottle caps, fishing bobbers, soda bottles -- you realize that they are all made out of trash washed up on the beach. And the scope of how polluted are oceans have become is even more striking.



We appreciated how interactive the exhibit was -- you can touch and play with most of the pieces, including a set of drums made of huge blocks of styrofoam (which was fun, but imagining these littering the shore of our favorite beaches is just mind-boggling). There were also stations scattered around the room where visitors could see the effect of all of the trash on the animals and plants that live in the ocean, and a table showing off some of the stranger things that have been pulled out of the waves (shoe skeletons, what?)

The volunteers who assembled the Washed Ashore exhibit did a great job in creating something beautiful and powerful out of something ugly and pretty awful, and in fostering awareness through art. It's definitely worth a look.

The Washed Ashore exhibit will be at the Virginia Aquarium through September 28 and is free with admission.





Sons of Summer: Support the Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association!

8/20/14


My amazingly talented photographer friend George told me a while ago that he was starting work on a super-exciting project and now it's done! And it's awesome, AND for a good cause, so even though it is not exactly standard WTWG fare, I really wanted to share. The Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service has recently released their 2015 Sons of Summer calendar calendar, featuring Virginia Beach lifeguards off duty and looking pretty amazing themselves.

A portion of the proceeds of each calendar go to benefit the Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association, a nonprofit that works to prevent drownings and promote beach safety, a mission I think all parents can support. Now that I have Anne, I find myself even more grateful for the lifeguards who watch over us when we're at the beach, and glad they're trained to help us if we need it. Besides the lifeguards, the calendar features water safety tips, history of the VBLS, and beautiful Virginia Beach scenery, some of the best.


The Sons of Summer calendar is a great souvenir to take home if you're visiting the area or a fun gift for local friends. You can buy your copy at the Old Coast Guard Station (they have a fab story time, btw) or online here.

Read more about VBLS here, and see more of George's work here. He was also on the news talking about the project last week. You did great, George!

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