13 Dec

Let the Cookie Trials Begin

Starting with the recipe most likely to resemble my dream Lebkuchen, I made the Braune Kuchen yesterday that Katrin sent me.

They are rich and spicy and made my house smell like a Weihnachtsmarkt! Although they are a nice texture though, they were much gingerbreadier than what I was looking for.

So, in a baking and experimenting mood, today I replaced the molasses in the recipe with honey. These are almost the right texture and definitely the right color. They are still not quite “it,” (too much cardamom, maybe?) but I think they will do, and again, the house smells divine!

I love the spicy smell of all Lebkuchen, but I’m not wild about the nutty, fruity, lumpy, iced Nurnburger style. I hadn’t given much thought to other types though until my dad came to visit us in Germany one December and recognized the ones I’m calling Odenwalder Lebkuchen as being the same as what his German grandfather used to send to him and his brothers at Christmas. I liked these breadier, smoother, treats. It’s too bad that this particular great grandfather was estranged from the family, and that he died when I was still quite young. I think I’d like to have him show me how to make his Lebkuchen. Of course, that is far outweighed by all the wonderful memories I have of Christmases with all my other grandparents.

While I was chilling the Braune Kuchen dough, I made some Drei Augen cookies from my Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies recipe book. I needed something “fancy” and maybe with jam to round out the spectrum. Since these even had a German name they fit the bill.

Now I think I’m up for trying the Lebkuchen Wiener Art from Regine.

12 Dec


Thank you for all the Lebkuchen help. I think I’ve narrowed it down to a Hamburger Braune Kuchen recipe from Katrin, a “Lutheran” Lebkuchen recipe from Gerrie, or a Lebkuchen Wiener Art recipe from Regine. The last one is definitely not the one I’m looking for, but Regine says it is sehr leckere and that’s good enough for me. Perhaps I will make all three and have a Lebkuchen taste test at my Advents party next week.

In return, I’d like to share two cookie recipes from my family. They’ve been a part of holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember. I don’t know the origin or these two recipes, but I’m pretty sure that they are from the WWII era because they use shortening instead of butter. When I was growing up we always used shortening in our Toll House Cookies too, because that was the recipe my mom had grown up with. Now I use half butter and half shortening. The shortening substitution makes me think about what we are willing to sacrifice for what we want or need — I think that we too often want it all but are not willing to pay (literally or figuratively) to get it.

OK, off the soapbox and back into the kitchen. Both these recipes make a few dozen but double nicely for more cookies.

Lemon Pecan Dainties

2/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg, lemon zest, and juice. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to wet mixture. Mix in the nuts. Shape into two rolls, about 2″ in diameter, wrap in wax or parchment paper and chill for several hours. Unwrap and slice rolls about 1/4″. Place rounds on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° F for 12 minutes or until barely golden on the edges.


3/4 cups shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Cream  shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Add remaining (dry) ingredients. Form dough into walnut sized balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes.

10 Dec

Lines 30

Lines 30 -- brush and paint monoprint

I thought on my last* day of making lines, I’d do something that transitioned to fabric and stitch, so I did the dashed line composition. I didn’t like it, and I still had time left in my allotted 15 minutes, so I made a monoprint. I’ve been chasing the elusive skinny line of dribbled paint (you know, the cool, loopy lines of paint often found on sidewalks). It’s a viscosity thing, and I can’t seem to replicate it on a small scale. I wiped teh flicked spots off my monoprinting glass and just scribbled with my paintbrush. It’s not the elusive lines, but it’s a happy bouquet to say thanks for 30 days of exploration!

It was fun trying out different mark making tools and seeing how they reacted to the cloth — seeing not only what marks I could make, but which ones I was comfortable with and which ones I would not return to.

Where to go next? I want to keep drawing. Probably not every day, and not on fabric. *I will try my best to at least doodle in my sketchbook several times a week. I think I can do that and I know it will be good for me. As for these exercises, I think I will sew them together and use them to practice some free motion quilting on my machine. I hope to take one of them and, inspired by Joe Cunningham, see if I can translate it into a lap sized quilt. The exercise in scale will be informative, and translating line into fabric will be interesting as well.

10 Dec

Recipe Search

I know this is a little late, but maybe it will help for next year. I am on a quest to find a recipe (in English or German) for THESE Lebkuchen:

I am pretty sure they are Odenwälder Lebkuchen. They are breadier than the stuff used for gingerbread houses and iced hearts, and they are not as nutty/lumpy as Nürnburger Lebkuchen (which are baked on a wafer and iced with sugar or chocolate. So, NO lebkuchen like this:

Which is, of course, the problem. All the recipes I’ve found seem to be for the sticky Nürnburger style with candied citrus inside, or for the shaped and iced American gingerbread. There is a possibility that the ones I’m looking for are the same as, or similar to, Aachener Printen. Perhaps I have a german reader who can set me straight…  or send me a recipe…

09 Dec

Lines 29

Lines 29 -- paint and a nice round brush with a good point

Wow, I’ve almost done it — 30 lines in 30 days (and only a few late ones). I’ll sum the experience up with #30. This one was inspired by the pattern of mineral deposits on the underside of a freeway underpass. In hindsight, I think the thin ends converged more in real life, which did add to the compositional coolness of them, but whatever. More importantly, I played with thick and thin using a paintbrush, and that makes me pretty happy. The verticals with neat little crossbars are inspired by a scarf I saw a lady pull out of her purse at lunch. You never know when inspiration will strike, nor what form it will take.

09 Dec


Just because someone’s quilt style is different than your own, it doesn’t mean they can’t inspire you. I started following Tonya Ricucci’s blog years ago, and though her color palette is far brighter than mine and I think she considers herself a fairly traditional quilter whereas I call myself an art quilter, I have found her work to be totally inspiring.

First it was strings, which kept linking to Tonya’s friend Bonnie’s blog and then led me to make a String Lonestar quilt. Now Tonya’s making one and it looks like it will be awesome.

Now I’m hooked on making a medallion quilt inspired by this.

Somewhere in the middle, I had to get on Tonya’s letter bandwagon too. Which, is what this post is all about.

Pieced Letter Pillows

Inspired by her word quilts, I made pillows. My four letter words are house-related though. Four pillows with four words, each reflecting a place we’ve lived. HOME was a given.

Haus Pillow

Then HAUS for our time spent in Germany (I used some of my German Blaudruck fabric too).

Casa Pillow

CASA is for Arizona and our Southwest beginnings. A little Seminole piecing nods obliquely to the American Indian influence in the west as well.

Hale Pillow

And finally, HALE means house in Hawaiian (note the vintage palm tree fabric too).

I was inspired by Tonya and just ran with it, but for those who like a bit more instruction, she’s written a book!!! When we were at the quilt show in Houston, I had the opportunity to take a look at it. This is definitely one for any piecer’s library. I’m planning on buying it as a reference book for my quilting students who want to try something different, but are still looking for a little hand holding. Tonya explains in words, diagrams and examples how to make letters and words and encourages readers to go with the flow, enjoy the process and make their projects unique and personal. There are fun examples and three projects too. In essence,  Word Play Quilts is inspiring.

08 Dec

Lines 25-28

I actually did my lines on day 25, but I forgot to post it here.

Lines 25 -- Fabric Crayon

I was in the mood for a bolder line so I tried a fabric crayon. It was too soft and squishy for a small format and subject matter though. This really wanted to be a large scale gestural figure drawing. But the poor crayon is stuck in my sewing room with a tiny square of fabric and  has to deal with it.

Then came two days of ennui (sounds more artistic than “lack of motivation”). No lines at all. I tried to make up for it today though.

Vase Three Ways (Lines 26, 27, & 28)

This little vase that lives in my bathroom has pretty lines, so I decided to draw it three ways since I had three days to cover. I started with a round brush and my thinned acrylic paint. That went pretty well. I tried to create the shadow inside the vase with lines, but it looked horrible. It wanted to be  solid so I listened to it.

Then I switched to the ruling pen. I’ve been watching others actually draw with their ruling pens. Sometimes I can be pretty “out there,” but just as often, I am a very linear thinker and things are well categorized. I think this is one of those instances. I see my ruling pen as an incredible tool for making straight lines of various weights and with various liquid media. I’m trying, but I just don’t like drawing with it. It doesn’t roll in my hand like a pencil or marker does when I make curves. I’m also learning that I am not a neat and tidy cross-hatcher. Mine keep going a little wild.

In addition to admiring others’ facility with the ruling pen, I’ve also been admiring Melanie’s use of negative space. (Natalya’s a good one with that too, in her journal work.) I tried the opposite of vase two and cross hatched the space around around it for vase three. I wanted the lines of the vase too, and then it seemed unbalanced without the shadow inside, and somewhere in there I kind of lost it and the form got all crappy looking. Oh well. It’s a learning experience and on that note this whole thing is actually going quite well.

07 Dec

The Pink Cast

The Pink Cast

Ta da! It’s so pink it hurts my eyes!

Monday morning K and I went to get her new cast. It ends up that it’s not entirely new though. The splint she was given last week was two plaster tong shapes molded to her arm, one covering the lower arm and the other covering the upper arm (overlapping at the elbow). They were held in place with an Ace bandage. Since the tongs are essentially the same material as the inner layer of a cast, and the doctor didn’t want to risk moving her well-set wrist, they just removed the Ace bandage and wrapped the splint with the pink fiberglass. I understand their reasoning, but I really was hoping for a more aesthetically pleasing cast — with a less bulky elbow area so we could get her clothes on an off more easily! She went straight from the hospital to school, so by the time we got home to the hot glue gun, the cast was pretty well covered with her friends’ names, which meant we had less room for jewels. I may have had visions of sparkly patterns, but K was plenty happy to add just a bit of random glitz.