30 Dec

Four or Fourteen?

30 Lines in 30 Days is long over, but I’ve been thinking about where to go next. I’d like to apply one of these line compositions to an actual quilt. I think it would be an excellent exercise to see how the transfer works across mediums (media?), and it would be an interesting opportunity to push the lines a bit further. My Lines are essentially two color, but would the fabrics need to be? Are some lines better expressed by the pattern of the fabric? Should the lines be applied or integral (pieced)? Would I use the Line composition as law, or as just a jumping-off point?

With all that in mind, I’ve narrowed down the exercises that excite me. I’m really liking the simplicity of numbers four and fourteen. Twenty-four is kind of cool too though…

28 Dec

Christmas Crafts

I kept Christmas simple this year. The kids got some clothes and games and I made charitable donations in the names of most of the family. But, I couldn’t stop myself from making some fun stuff for my 2 and 4 year old nephew and niece.

They have a play kitchen they like and so I went a little crazy making felt food for it!

gyoza & strawberries

Gyoza and strawberries

toast, eggs & strawberries

Toast and egg (I love the plaid flanel crust!)

blt

A BLT — more flanel for the bacon.

spam musubi

Spam musubi. Green/black shot silk makes great nori!

Jammy pants

For my nephew I made jammy style pants to go with a cute shark tee from Target and my favorite Go Fish cards. The kids can’t read yet, but I think they’ll still have fun describing the fish and their parents can give the Hawaiian names a try!

Twirly skirt

For his big sister, an opihi tee (opihi are hawaiian limpets, or a term of endearment for clingy kids) with coordinating tiered skirt and hawaiian girl necklace.

T-shirt necklace

Finally, for my sister, a necklace made of sari yarn and t-shirt fabric. She sounded a bit dubious when she called on Christmas, but I know she can totally rock this with a T-shirt and jeans.

27 Dec

False Start

My latest Twelve by Twelve little quilt, Eggplant, Burgundy, and Emerald, isn’t turning out quite like I imagined it in my head.

Upon hearing the theme, I immediately thought not of the colors, but of the foods. I was in Houston at Quilt Festival at the time and there were many beautiful Baltimore Album Quilts on view. So, it’s no surprise that I made a connection between the bounty in a Baltimore album block (baskets and cornucopias especially) and the bounty in our Twelve by Twelve theme.

I’ve also been inspired by the ladies at Material Obsession and imagined my Baltimore album block to be contemporary looking and full of Kaffe Fasset type fabrics.

Much moving about and auditioning of fabrics later, it’s just not working. Part of it is that I don’t have nearly as many appropriate eggplanty colored fabrics as I had assumed I had. But, as I was sketching the composition, another idea tried to assert itself. I ignored it at first, but now I’m thinking it was the direction I should have followed all along… that and a trip to the fabric store.

24 Dec

Mele Kalikimaka

After a taekwondo tournament this morning, we had nothing planned for the afternoon, so after reading the day’s entertainment section in the local paper, I took action. First, I dragged the kids to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani to check out their gingerbread village.

IMG_9075

They found the Swiss chalet, but were not half as impressed as I was by chef Ralph’s gingerbread replica of Iolani Palace, America’s only royal residence.

IMG_9066

From there we walked (via the Apple store for some unrelated technical advice) to the Sheraton Waikiki to see the sand sculptures.

Santa and Mrs Claus at the Sheraton Waikiki

I expected them to all be together, but they were scattered around the expansive lobby/shopping/activity level. We soon found another sculpture though.

Santa and Mrs Claus at the Sheraton Waikiki

The third sculpture was near a table offering free gingerbread decorating. How could we refuse?

Decorating cookies at the Sheraton Waikiki

Cookies in hand, we walked down the beach to the Halekulani where I had read that Santa would soon be arriving in his canoe.

IMG_9091

Sure enough, there were little kids in adorable red and green aloha wear on the beach, singing hawaiian style Christmas songs, and Santa’s canoe was making it’s approach.

Santa's Helpers at the Halekulani

There were no elves (undoubtedly all too busy at the North Pole), but T-Shirted santa’s helpers cordoned off a landing zone and kept a path open for the jolly one.

Santa arrives at the Halekulani

And, accompanied by two paddlers and a pair of hula girls, he disembarked and handed out candy canes on his way to the hotel lobby to see the waiting children.

Having had enough Christmas cheer for one day, we continued along the beach and back to our car and headed home. We stopped along the way to take a look at Air Force One, but for security reasons, were asked to delete our photo. Though the kids had themselves been on planes as large as Air Force One, they were impressed to hear that it was more like a combo hotel room and office inside rather than just the rows upon rows of seats they are used to.

We arrived home just in time to answer a Skype call from daddy and unwrap a few presents together.

So, from our corner of the world to yours, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and more importantly, the joys of sharing kindness with each other no matter what you celebrate.

18 Dec

Zimtsterne, Lebkuchen and Gebranntemandeln

My daughter and her BFF making sugar cookies.

My art quilt blog has been seasonally hijacked by German baked goods!

Commenter urs requested the recipes for the Zimtsterne and Lebkuchen Wiener Art in my previous post, so here they are for anyone who is also interested:

The Zimtsterne recipe is from the “Joy of Cooking: Christmas Cookies“. They use the English translation and call then Cinnamon Stars. I see that the book is out of print, but there are used versions to be had and one review said that many of the recipes are also in the new Joy of Cooking cookbook. I don’t know what the etiquette on posting someone else’s recipes is, so since I can point readers to the source, that is what I’m doing.

Regine has given me permission to post her Lebkuchen Wiener Art recipe, and I’m quite sure it’s not available in an English translation anyways, so here it is:

Mix all together and set aside:

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamon
2 Tbsp cocoa

Melt together in a small pot:

1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Molasses (or for a milder taste, 1/4 cup molasses plus 1/4 cup brown rice syrup or light corn syrup)

and then add:

2 eggs
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp Butter
2/3 cup grated hazelnuts or almonds (I ground the hazelnuts (bough in the bulk section of my local natural foods store) in my coffee grinder))

Knead together the wet and dry ingredients, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons milk as needed.

Chill the dough, then roll into 2 sheets. Place one sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread generously with Raspberry and Black Currant Marmelade (I used Bon Mamman Four Fruits Preserves) and lay the second sheet on top.

Bake 20 minutes at 350°F  then lower the temperature to 300°F and bake 25 minutes more.

Cut into squares while still warm. Brush with lemon sugar glaze. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Regine says that she hopes next year will smell every house of Lebkuchen! (Sorry, I had to quote her charming use of English.)

Finally, I had the inspiration to try another staple of the German Weihnachtsmarkt — Gebranntemandeln. Sold warm in paper cones, these candied almond are divine! I was short on almonds, but had a ton of local macadamia nuts, so I used both. Robin came to visit last night and she deemed them addictive, but the the mac nut version the better one (not that it stopped her from eating the almonds too!) and though I can’t dis the german tradition, I do think that using macadamia nuts is the perfect fusion of our German and Hawaiian Christmas experiences. I found the recipe/instructions in several places, but I think this one at Tasty Kitchen is the most accessible.

Frohes Fest!

16 Dec

Go Figure

Though I can’t make spritz cookies (which may be my fault, or the fault of external influences like humidity and a less than stellar cookie press), apparently I CAN make meringue cookies.

These are Zimtsterne, and although they don’t quite look like the store bought kind below, they taste sweet and nutty and yummy and are a nice foil to the Lebkuchen collection here.

Speaking of Lebkuchen, I made Regine’s Lebkuchen Wiener Art yesterday, and they are delicious — just like she said they’d be!

They are a mix of honey and molasses (which I split between molasses and brown rice syrup) with a  layer of black currant and raspberry jam between the gingerbread layers. Glazed with lemon sugar syrup — tasty!

I considered making Nürnberger Lebkuchen to round out the collection, but I couldn’t find citron, or any candied citrus, and I DID find actual imported from Germany lebkuchen (at the commissary, of course). So, sorry Gerrie, practicality won out and I won’t give your recipe a go this time around. I will post photos after our Sunday Advent Cookie and Glühwein party and show all the variations, plus a taste test report. I should have a nice mix of military friends who have tasted the real thing, and island pals who may find it all too strange!

15 Dec

Weihnactslinks

I’ve got my Christmas music on (mostly German) and I’m in the mood for a Weihnachts- or Christkindlemarkt. So, I browsed my older posts and dug out this list of German Christmases past:

Advent, Advent. No photos, but a nice description of the time of year.

Bad Wimpfen.

Kindergarten Advent play.

Kindergarten, music and cookies here.

Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt.

Nürnberger Weihnachtsmarkt.

Waldschule Weihnachtsfest.

Living creche at Nurnberger Zoo.

Decorations at my house.

Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt.

15 Dec

De-evolution of a Spritz cookie

I think Spritz cookies are a Christmas staple. Little butter cookies with green and red sprinkles — how much more festive can you get? I vaguely remember helping out an adult either at home or a grandparent’s house once or twice, and they were always on the plates of cookies gifted from friends and neighbors. Last year I tried making some and they failed miserably. I used a tasty looking recipe, but the cookies wouldn’t come out of teh press correctly. I tried chilling the dough (even though the press said not to). I tried with my non-stick mat. I tried without the mat. I tried adding more flour (to make up for the warm and humid weather here). I tried another recipe from the pamphlet that came with the press. Nothing would come out of the press and stick to the baking sheet and end up looking like the cute little bursts in the photos.

This year I had a brainwave. I would make the cookies first thing in the morning before it got too hot. I would press them out onto parchment paper which is less slick than my teflon mats and the baking sheets themselves. I would use a recipe from the press manufacturer.

Ha! The first few cookies did stick, but pushing the lever on the press wouldn’t dispense the required dollop of dough. I messed around with it a while, but although it was making all the correct clicks and ratchety noises, and there’s just not that many choices, I couldn’t get it to work and I was determined not to let it stop me and my cookies. The cookie in the 11:00 position is manually forced out of the press.

So, I ditched the annoying cookie press that obviously hates me, and moved on to a pastry bag. I used teh largest tip, but didn’t have the fitting that secured it to the bag. I was able to make almost two dozen little cookies (in the 1:00 position) before the tip shot out the end of the bag. I used a plain, smaller tip with coupling in the next bag. I piped a few, which looked like dog poop (3:00 position) until I realized I could make little pretzel shapes (4:00 position). They still looked poopy, but I was on a roll and made at least two dozen before the side of the bag blew out. Two pastry bags down, I was done with this technique.

The last dozen cookies are just dropped from a spoon (6:00 position). The kids and I will make sugar cookies and close the book on the Spritz.