Sadly, Mr. Chattering bundled up and left the house this morning in a carpool. The New York City transit strike is still in full flower, and though I tried to convince him he could get more work done at home, he had an important meeting. I dutifully made him a good breakfast, but he became distracted by his own internal chatter when his ride arrived. So he forgot to eat anything. Now all he’s got (for what could be a three-hour ride) is a car mug of coffee. I grieve for him. The kids are sleeping late (thank God, because I’ve got to blog). It’s our aim to do some family yoga. Then read.

But here is my plan for late this afternoon: we’re gonna make caramels.

Fact is, I banned candy (and feared other children’s birthday parties) for years, believing that the Red Dye #40 (which seemed to be in everything) made my children euphoric, then boring, and finally, impossible to love. Now that they’re older, they do have some store-bought candy in their lives. I just couldn’t hold the wolves at bay any longer. The kids adore Sour Skittles–the fakiest of fake things–and beg for them, it seems, every time we pass a newsstand. This bugs me, BUT there are odd times—difficult to predict—when I do allow them to pig out and go crazy. Of course, soon, the control will slip completely out of my hands.

I think the lesson today, as we make caramels according to this New York Times recipe, will be that delicious candy can have real things in it—cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and butter—and that the making of it can fascinate any budding scientist as well as be a good form of entertainment. This is indeed something folks did to amuse themselves before cable television stole their souls. I know, because my mom grew up in Texas in the 1930s, and her family made a walnut candy called “Divinity” all the time. There was nothing else to do.

To take our candy making to the level of high concept, I’m going to dig out and play some of the old Christmas radio shows we have here on audio tape. Actually, the set I’m linking you to here looks much better than the one we’ve got. Both my children are huge fans of lovable “Baby Snooks” (that’s actress Fanny Brice). They find the tormenting of her self-absorbed father hilarious. I see that it’s a great old show, but that the program’s closing spanking of bad-girl Snooks must have been included to be titillating to yesteryear’s repressed grownups.

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