Category Archives: Seasonal

Gift Exchange! WOOOO!

Yesterday we headed to Sarah and Paul’s for our annual Christmastime dinner and game night. It’s one of our favorite traditions of the holidays, and normally we target the first Saturday after Christmas for it, so we can still enjoy their wonderful decorations but can also exchange tales of our mad gift-giving skillz and be in a slightly more relaxed post-holiday-madness mood. Thanks to the dumb calendar this year, though, there isn’t a convenient non-New Year Saturday immediately after Christmas, so we had a pre-holiday game night instead. That meant that it marked the very first gift exchange of the season! WOOOO! Presents!!

As you can tell from her blog, Sarah is a prolific sewer; she makes the most beautiful aprons and clothing for her kids and jewelry rolls and zipper pouches and softies and just so many clever, lovely crafts… and pincushions!

Pincushions From Sarah

These are the wonderful dressmaker kind of pincushion, the sort you wear on your wrist, and they’re just the cutest design because of the flower petals all around them. Pookie claimed the pink and green one, because that’s her favorite color combination, and I claimed the Farmdale one, because that’s my favorite fabric. Basically, Sarah couldn’t have made these any more perfectly than she did.

Shortly before we left for their house, Sarah emailed me to say she was stressing out trying to decide whether to make one last surprise for us. It turns out she went for it, and it’s a good thing, too:

Snowman Potholder

What an adorable pot holder! Look at that snowman fabric! EEE! I can’t believe that she whipped this up in such a short time, because it’s just the cutest.

Meanwhile, we gave Sarah a snowman mug rug…

November 4 2010

(I can’t believe this is the only picture we’ve taken of these. We ended up making quite a few of them, for ourselves and to give as gifts, and seriously, this is the only picture? Man, that’s lame. Anyway, take my word for it that this is a cute mug rug.)

…and a felt-and-sequin chicken in honor of her Cornish Hen business venture.

Chicken

I’m sorry I didn’t get a better picture of this apron-wearing hen, because I have to admit that I’m really proud of her. I didn’t know I could draw a chicken that actually looked like a chicken, let alone design one in felt that’s wearing a sequined, rickracked apron. I know that she’s gone to a good home!

It was, I think, a very auspicious kick-off to the gift-giving (and -receiving!) season; of course, we’re lucky to get to enjoy Sarah’s and Paul’s friendship, so wonderful gifts are a total bonus.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Bonanza!, Celebratory!, Pins and Needles, Seasonal

Meow! Christmas Kitties!

Shortly after we started quilting, I spotted this fabric and nearly died laughing:

Christmas Kitties Backing

It was like a bunch of little Christmas Favres, wearing little bows and smiling mysterious kitty Christmas cheer at me. I had to have it. I had to back a quilt in it. And conveniently, it was part of a line from Timeless Treasures that was all equally retro charming but sort of low-key and not flashy, in-your-face retro charming. Lots of bells and tiny trees and little sleighs, and all in a bright, old-school Christmas palette that reminded me of my youth lo so long ago.

Christmas Kitties Sunlit

I chose for it the “Morning Star” pattern from one of Pat Speth and Charlene Thode’s “Nickel Quilt” books, the series of patterns for “five-inch scraps”. It seemed like it would be simple, because I was a novice quilter and I assumed “five-inch scraps” was code for “charm pack”, and any quilt pattern designed for the Moda pre-cuts smacked to me of being slightly bobo. Not that I don’t use tons of pre-cuts myself, but I felt, in the early days, that I was being somehow lame for going in for, say, jellyroll patterns. Well. I was quickly disabused of that notion. Dude, this “Morning Star” pattern kicked my ass.

Christmas Kitties Star

It’s not that it was hard, but it was time-consuming. And fastidious. And unending. The gold stars, which I thought would be so Christmassy and festive, became my own personal hell of stripe directionality and more eensy-weensy magic triangles than a person should have to deal with in one lifetime. I finally broke down and demanded that Pookie help me finish this bastard. I have never hated working on a project (while still powering through instead of recognizing that life is too short to hate the handwork you’re laboring over) more than I hated this. And just when we thought we were done, we’d discover a whole new row of stupid stars that needed to be added. Then there were the baffling, brain-busting instructions for how to calculate the pieced inner border.

Christmas Kitties Stupid Border

You know what I’m never doing again? A pieced inner border.

Anyway, we finished the top shortly before Christmas last year, and handed it off to our longarm quilter Mary after the holidays. She got it back to me in, I think, February, and I just wadded it up in a closet in the guest room and tried not to think about it for several months. I needed some time away from it. But when it came down from its hidey-hole late this Fall, ready to be bound, it delighted me. The “I’m a seven-year-old again” reds and greens and hint of sparkly gold! The little trees and sleighs and colorful bells! The way the gold striped fabric looks just perfect in the stars! The busy, festive, totally Christmas feel of the “Morning Star” pattern! I love it. There was some pain and suffering along the way, but now that I can keep toasty warm under a seasonally-appropriate quilt while basking in the glow of our Christmas tree, it all seems worth it.

Christmas Kitties

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Quilting, Seasonal

Felty, Beady, Sequiny Nostalgia, In Tree Form

There are few things on this planet that make us happier than our “heirloom” (read: “in battered, tattered condition, because they were perhaps loved too well when we were children”) Bucilla Christmas tree ornaments.

Santa Ornament

Reindeer

Tin Man

Boomer made the three above either before we were born or when we were very young. As we got older and she began imparting her crafty knowledge to us, we used to regularly raid her sewing room to dig out the Bucilla ornament kits she had buried under piles of other UFOs. Many a giggly, preteened summer afternoon was spent dreaming of Christmas, still months away, while snipping out little pieces of felt and affixing sequins to them with tiny glass beads. Truly, nothing spells Christmas for us better than that.

In our adulthood, we have often stared longingly at the scant few Bucilla items at our local Michael’s and felt horribly depressed that they just don’t make those projects like they used to. There’s been a void in our lives where felt and sequins and holiday cheer used to be.

Enter: “Fa La La La Felt”. Making our beloved Hooters H. Puffnstuff gave us the chance to discover that it is very easy to create a felt project… and just add your own sequins. A couple of weeks ago we dove in and made our own Bucilla-esque creations:

Pookie's owl

Pookie’s owl

Schnookie's bird

Schnookie’s cardinal

11/02/2010

Boomer’s cardinal

We shipped those three ornaments off to our friends at the Attic Needlework in Mesa to be included in their annual ornament auction to raise money for cancer research. And, um, we completely neglected to pimp the auction here… it’s over now, so if you were interested in bidding on any of the ornaments there, too late.

Anyway! The cardinals above were sort of self-designed, heavily modified from the “Fa La La La Felt” bird template, and, encouraged by my mad felt free-handing skillz, I decided the next project to tackle would be a Christmas tree. And behold! I am delighted with the end result:

Sequined Tree

Sequined Back

November 18 2010

Sequin Star

It doesn’t quite have that early ’80s Bucilla elan, but it’s getting closer. We’ve got a huge store of felt now, and buckets of sequins. The sky’s the limit, and our Christmas spirit is abundant!

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under 25 Days Of Maple Hoo Christmas, Celebratory!, Pins and Needles, Seasonal, Stitching

SNOW DAY!

Marshmallow Deck

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Filed under Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Seasonal

Blog Post de Noel

How did you spend your New Years holiday? I spent mine separating eggs! At least, looking back on it, it seems that way. You see, thanks to a shortage of oven and refrigerator space, I wasn’t able to make the dessert I was planning on for Christmas, so we put it off a week, and had our yule log for New Years. Or rather, our Chocolate-Malt Stump de Noel.

I found this recipe during my usually desultory magazine flip-through when my latest issue of “Food & Wine” is delivered. It’s from the December ’09 issue, and despite being wildly unenthusiastic about food production during the last few months, I was still totally inspired to give it a try. I’ve never had a buche de noel, nor have I ever really yearned for one, but for whatever reason, this stump version spoke to me. So heading into the long weekend, I prepared for making it.

The first step for me was to check, when I got home early from work on New Year’s Eve, whether I needed to be making any cake components so it would be ready to eat the next evening. I read all the active parts of the cake and frosting recipes, neglected to read the “make ahead” instructions about what could be kept for how long before assembly, and decided it all had to be made in one fell swoop. That was my first mistake. But at least I did think to make my meringue mushrooms ahead of time.

Meringue Mushrooms

Having never baked meringues in my life, I did consult a recipe for assistance with this. I’m glad I did, too, because it never would have occurred to me that you pipe the stems and the caps of the mushrooms separately, then assemble them with a tad more meringue and bake until the “glue” is set. I would have just tried (and failed) to pipe mushrooms in one fell swoop, and would have gotten angry, cussed a lot, and declared that we weren’t having a stump de noel after all. So thanks, Joyofbaking.com! You’re a lifesaver! Or at least a stump de noel-saver.

Makin' Mushrooms

So here’s how I made them:

Ingredients:

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have that, just run regular sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds)

Instructions:

Using a mixer with clean, grease-free beaters (or whisk attachment), and in a clean, grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Then add the sugar in a gradual stream while still beating on high speed. Continue to beat until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks (about 5 minutes).

Position two racks in the oven to allow room for two sheets of meringues, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees (F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a medium-large piping tip; I think the one I used was about 1/2 inch. Put most of the meringue into the pastry bag, reserving enough to pipe later as the “glue” in the mushroom assembly (about 1/4 cup), and then get to piping those mushrooms. For the caps, pipe circles about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high, and try to twist the pastry bag so you don’t end up with peaks on the top. If you’re like me and do end up with peaks, just smooth them out with your fingertip, dipped in water. For the stems, just pipe like a little hershey kiss shape, dolloping a base onto the tray, then just lifting the pastry bag straight up. Make more bases than you have caps, because they won’t all work out, and because you’re going to want to eat them.

Bake the caps and stems for 1 hour, or until they are dry and hard, rotating the trays once after 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and using a pointed knife or toothpick, make a little hole in the center of the undersides of the caps. Put the reserved meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip (or in a sandwich bag with a fine tip cut from the corner), and pipe a small dollop into the hole. Then fit the pointy end of a stem into the hole, and put the mushroom, cap-down, onto a parchment-covered baking tray. Once they’re all assembled, return to the mushrooms to the oven for about 25 minutes, until they’re set.

After they’re fully baked, you can sift cocoa powder over the tops for decoration, and then either gobble them all up on the spot, or save for decorating your buche/stump de noel. I know it was touch-and-go there for me whether the meringues were going to survive an entire day while waiting for the cake assembly.

Dressing the Stump de Noel

So, New Year’s Day dawned for me with a platter full of mushrooms and the prospect of baking a stump hanging over me. I hadn’t read the recipe very carefully, so I had no idea what was in store for me. When I cracked open the magazine and really looked at it, I realized I had horribly miscalculated how much work was going to go into this thing. There are a lot of steps in this cake. A lot. But with no hockey but the dumb Winter Classic on TV, I decided to forge ahead, and set to separating all those eggs. (Counting the meringue, and the one broken yolk I had, this whole baking affair used 22 eggs. All separated. I don’t think I’d separated 22 eggs in all of 2009.)

In case you don’t want to follow the link to this recipe (again, it’s from the December 2009 “Food & Wine”, just to give credit where it’s due), here it is:

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water
1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Malted buttercream and dark chocolate buttercream (recipe below)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.

5. Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

Ingredients for the frostings:

5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup malt powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
12 malted milk balls, crushed

Instructions:

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine on, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Beat the dissolved malt powder into the remaining buttercream, then beat in the milk balls.

(For the record, I omitted the malted milk balls.)

Stump de Fridge

The stump was too tall for my cake dome, so I had a bear of a time jury-rigging a foil covering for it that wouldn’t mess up my “artful” frosting.

Whew! That’s a lot of recipe there. Oh, it might not seem like it on paper, but dude. I think I used every single bowl I own. Making the cake batter was almost comical, how the steps just would. not. end. I was cool with beating the egg yolks and sugar, then adding the chocolate. And I was cool with folding that into the egg whites. But dude, the folding in the butter? That’s just crazy! Anyway, after what seemed like a lifetime of tempering and folding, the batter (which was delicious, I might add) was ready to bake, and I was ready to wish I’d made the frosting ahead of time. My recommendation if you try this recipe is to read all the notes about how you can make the frosting up to four days ahead of time, and to have someone else do the cleanup for you.

What I discovered about the frosting part of this project is that it didn’t take 8 hours to set, as the recipe suggests (I let the frosting chill in the fridge for about 2 hours before assembling the cake, and it could have been sliced right away, I think). Also, I didn’t have enough of the chocolate frosting to do much more than crumb-coat the outside of the cake. It barely hid all the cracks. I’m not sure that separating out more of the frosting to mix with the chocolate would be a good idea, though, because there was a perfect amount of the malted buttercream for the filling as the recipe is written. I dunno. My advice is to make more chocolate frosting. As it was, I didn’t have enough on the outside to do any artful fluting to create realistic bark to go with my realistic mushrooms.

January 1 2010

But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care that my stump wasn’t barkfully fluted. I don’t care that I reached the end of my rope when making the buttercream and didn’t mix in all the butter perfectly. And I don’t care that I didn’t have the recommended rosemary sprigs and used bay leaves to set-dress my cake instead. You know why? Because the cake is AWESOME. I have never made anything that looked this incredible. I am so delighted with it. I love it. When we got out the tripod and staged our stump de noel photoshoot, I was as giddy as if the Devils had just won a huge game. This cake was a total victory for me.

Furthermore, look how cool it looks sliced!

Slice of Stump

I had my concerns when I was handling the cakes that this would be dry, but it wasn’t. It was perfect. As adorable as it looked assembled, it tasted even better. It was a ton of work, with a bit of frustration, but was absolutely worth it. We managed to kick off 2010 with a bang, and so far, it’s been a great year!

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under Baked Goods, Celebratory!, Fancy Dessert, Pommerdoodling, Seasonal, Special Events, You Don't See That Every Day