Monday, December 19, 2011

But Wait, There's More!

Since the school year started I have had to be out of my house each weekday morning a little before 6 am to get to a meeting. This means that I have to get up at about 4:30 in order to run. (At least that's the idea. I haven't been very consistant.) It takes me about 10 extra minutes to get all my outdoors gear on so I usually hop downstairs to the treadmill. What is up all of the stupid infommercials that are on about 90 of my 100 channels? The other 10 are televangelists. I'm calling for a congressional hearing to investigate the blatent discrimination against early risers! We deserve something good to watch too!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Coming Clean & Christmas Caramels

Let’s face it, on many levels running is pretty boring. For some people, pushing the limits of their body is a sufficient stimulus to keep them engaged in the sport long-term. Unfortunately, most of us need something external to motivate us. It’s probably a composite of things. For me there are several things that motivate me to keep going:

1) A sense of accomplishment
2) A desire to banish those stubborn areas of flabbiness that haunt the mirror.
3) A good audiobook.
4) A beautiful fall morning, or, when the morning is not so beautiful, something good on the TV in front of the treadmill

I know a lot of people that have given up on the sport because they couldn’t find that magic combination that worked for them. A recent development in the world of running is the emergence of events aimed at spicing things up a bit. Many of these events include ample amounts of mud, obstacles, and crazy people.

The basic format: run a little, crawl under barbed wire through mud, run some more, run over hot coals, run some more, climb over a 10 foot wall, run some more, etc., until they collapse either before or shortly after the finish line. You get the idea.

Sounds fun, right? Well, I sure hope so because I signed up for one. Luckily I have until April to train for the Tough Mudder, a 10 mile run with about 20 obstacles scattered throughout. I’ll be doing it with a couple friends, and it promises to be memorable, for good or bad. I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to agree to it, but you can rest reasonably assured that it didn’t have to do with any illegal mood altering chemical. I’m not ruling out insanity though.


The past several years my wife and I have slaved away for the entire month of December making Christmas chocolates, many of the recipes for which you can find in other posts. This year we decided to forgo the chocolates for the simplicity of the best soft caramels the world has ever known.

Before you begin will will need a large pot (7 qt or larger), a candy thermometer, and a lot of time. If you don't have a large pot it will boil over and you will curse my name forever. If you don't have a candy thermometer it will be very difficult to get them to the right consistency. If you don't have a lot of time, about an hour and a half, then you will end up with caramel sauce (actually, that's not really a bad thing, but the extra time is worth it.)

Russon's Christmas Caramels


4 cups granulated sugar
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 cups corn syrup
1 qt (32 oz) heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla. Simmer on medium heat, stirring often, until the temperature meets 237 degrees. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into greased pan. We use a large cookie sheet (technically called a half sheet, or jelly roll pan), or you can use a 9 X 13 cake pan. Refrigerate until cooled through. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in wax paper.

Okay, so that's the recipe, now some hints:

**It takes a long time to boil down. Since the boiling temperature of water is 212 degrees, the water in the milk and cream will not allow the mixture to get much above that so you basically have to boil off all of the water. It will get stuck at about 217 for what seems like forever. Be patient. After it hits about 222 then it starts moving faster.

**Once it has started boiling we stir constantly to make sure it doesn't boil over (we had to learn from experience).

**We find that a plastic knife cuts it much easier because the caramel won't stick to it as much.

**Wax paper cut into 4 X 6 pieces works perfectly.

Thanks to Wendy Russon for the base recipe!