-Don't be distracted. This stuff is HOT, people.
-Caramel goes from light brown to burned quicker than you think. Don't leave the pan. EVER.
-Don't stir it, swirl the pan. Stirring tends to make sugar crystals form
-The pastry brush thing works. Keep it handy, right by the stove. A long handled one is best, if you have it.
Check out BakedBree's blog post about making caramel sauce-lots of great photos so you can get an idea what I'm talking about. Don't let her comments about failing spectacularly scare you off though, you CAN make this!
Also, watch this video. It might help.
Recipe for Basic Caramel (adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
Have some cold water handy nearby in a measuring cup or bowl, with a pasty brush.
Pour the sugar, lemon juice, and cold water into a 2 quart pot. Brush down the side of the pot with the pastry brush dipped in water to get rid of any sugar crystals, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Don't stir! You don't need to. Just watch it carefully while it cooks, brushing down the sides of the pot to get rid of sugar crystals every now and then.
After cooking for about 5-8 minutes, the sugar will start to change color. Give the pot a swirl so that the color evens out, and watch carefully. Swirling also helps the caramel cook evenly, instead of having some spots burn on you. The color will continue to darken. What you want is medium amber, which should take about 30 sec after it starts to darken. As soon as it's the color you want, take the pot off the stove.
Now you can use your caramel to make sauces, and more. Most caramel sauces need butter and whipping cream, which will be coming up soon, along with the recipe for these incredible chocolate caramel pecan brownies. Oh MY.