Sunday, December 29, 2013

Patience...

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. Only 3 days left in the year. All in all it's been a good year, despite some medical challenges and the "big Colorado flood" of 2013.

My little business is thriving. Maybe next year will be the year that I will actually earn enough money so my income will pay for more than the occasional family vacation to Germany...Our little old house is in desperate need of new windows and re stuccoing. When it's windy outside you can feel it through every crack. The woodwork is in need of a paint job, too. When you live in an old house like this you are always in fear of the plumbing...



I feel torn because I want to preserve the old wooden windows but I know they are not energy efficient, and we simply cannot afford to have them rebuild to preserve heat in the winter and cool air in the summers. Living in this house is like being in the elements pretty much. You don't need to look out the window to know what the weather is like outside. LOL.

Patience, Dear, I tell myself. It will all work out in time. Little by little we will save up the money and get things fixed. Like that puzzle that we did over Christmas. It took a lot of patience. It looked impossible to do when we first started.

It's been our 3rd year of doing a family puzzle on Christmas day. This year's was a pretty tough one.

 

Usually I am the one to get the puzzle started. I dump all the pieces on the dining room table and start picking out the straight edges. Then my husband will join in and help with the task. He does the sky, and I start putting together the bottom/ground part of this year's picture. We work together quietly and patiently.

Eventually our daughter walks by. She will help organize the puzzle pieces by color for a little while. Maybe she will find pieces of the castle and put parts of the building together outside the boarder. As the image slowly grows our boy will finally join the family. He has been texting his friends all morning, telling them how his parents are making him do this crazy puzzle every year on Christmas break. But after all his grumbling, he gets excited, too. Together we make great progress and the picture of a beautiful Castle in Scotland emerges.

I love puzzles. Even the hard ones. After all, life is the hardest puzzles given to us to solve. I hope that the picture I am creating during my lifetime will be mysterious and beautiful to look at - like the Scottish landscape and the deep blue sky over Elean Donan Castle.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Frohe Weihnachten - Merry Christmas

The cookies are baked.
The Christmas tree is decorated.
The presents are wrapped under the tree.


What else?

I must have forgotten something...

I wish you all a Merry Christmas - or Frohe Weihnachten - as we say in German!




 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

German Gingerbread Recipe

Happy Fourth Advent! Slowly I have been catching up on my chores to get done before Christmas. Two sets of cookies are ready and stored away neatly in tins. Sadly I didn't get any Christstollen baked this year. Usually I give a loaf as a gift to friends and folks who have helped me a lot during the year. But there is is still time, right? Like 3 days...

German Tin that was sent to me by my mother many years ago


Here is , as promised the Lebkuchen recipe for the German Gingerbread cookies in case you want to give it a try. Even if you don't have the rice paper, I am sure they would work on a well-greased cookie sheet.




 You will need the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of shelled fresh hazelnuts, ground into fine flour
  • 3/4 cup almonds, ground into fine flour
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 stick softened butter (preferably unsalted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup candied lemon peel, chopped very small
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped very small
  • zest of one lemon
For decorating the cookies:

chocolate for glazing and blanched almond halves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare two cookie sheets. I lined mine with parchment paper and put two sheets of ricepaper on top side by side.

Beat honey, soft butter, brown sugar together in a mixing bowl. You will need a mixer with a strong motor for this. My little handmixer had trouble with the chore. So when I made this recipe a second time around I doubled everything and used the kitchen aid instead!

Mix the two types of ground nut flour with flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda.

Add the eggs one at a time to the sugar, honey, and butter mixture. Then slowly add the dry ingredients. Add about a half cup at a time. You will get a very heavy batter.

Last add the chopped fruits and lemon zest.

The recipe we had suggested cutting the rice paper in rounds of about 7 cm diameter and making little balls that were about 2 tablespoons each, then flatten those onto the wafer rounds. Since we didn't know how to cut the rice paper in circles we rolled out the dough between sheets of parchment paper and made cut-out cookies. We baked them for about 15 minutes (or until they are dry on top) on the big sheets of ricepaper. We cut the cookies out of the rice paper after they had cooled down.

It's always fun when you share the cookies with folks who have never had real German Lebkuchen. They don't know about edible ricepaper and try to peel the "paper" off the bottom of the cookies.





After the cookies have cooled down you can brush them with melted chocolate mixed with butter or glaze or just leave them plain. You can stick some blanched almond halves on top of the cookies while the chocolate is still wet. I baked the almonds into the cookie and ended up having to paint the chocolate around the almonds. Duh!

I hope you give these cookies a try. If not this year - safe the recipe for next year. I will definitely make them every year from now on.





Friday, December 20, 2013

Lebkuchen - Gingerbread

Finally! Hubby and I baked some Christmas cookies yesterday. We had so much fun working together in the kitchen, enjoying the peace before the storm - before the kids get out of school this week...

I have never tried to make Lebkuchen from scratch. Why? I didn't have the white wafers to bake them on. In Germany you can buy "Oblaten" (white wafers) in any grocery store this time of year. Not so here... So my tricksy husband ordered some "edible" ricepaper from Amazon. An early Christmas present, you know. How sweet is that? Now I have about two hundred 11X8 inch sheets. Should last me a life time.


We even decorated them with blanched almonds and glazed them with dark chocolate. I took the first batch down to the Post Office. I know they have been waiting for me all week. I always take the postal workers a tin this time of year. After so many days of dealing with grumpy folks my sweet German cookies make for a welcome treat and distraction. Hope my experimental batch was good. The folks in line all looked longingly at me. Can I have one? Hmm, maybe next year I'll have to start handing them out to the folks in line. Might make for more cheerful customers...

I'll share the recipe we used tomorrow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What is (in) a Photograph?

Sorry for being missing in action over the last couple of weeks. Here I was mailing out package after package for my little business, and before I knew it, it was time for The Nutcracker again. My daughter has been in the local production of this show every year since she was 6 years old. I have been helping and volunteering for the same amount of years. I have enjoyed doing the make-up for the parrots, clowns, and mice.
 
 Unfortunately I hardly got any pictures this year. I only took a couple of hassled shots on my cell phone. This makes me very sad. A new picture rule kept me from taking photos. I didn't get a single photo of the clowns in costume.
 
 ALL the pictures you see in this post are recycled shots from previous years...
 
 
 
What is a photo? Wikipedia defines the word in the following manner:
A photograph or photo is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image such as a CCD or a CMOS chip. Most photographs are created using a camera, which uses a lens to focus the scene's visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the human eye would see. The process and practice of creating photographs is called photography. The word "photograph" was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek φῶς (phos), meaning "light", and γραφή (graphê), meaning "drawing, writing", together meaning "drawing with light".[1]
 
 
Parent volunteer putting Clown Make-up on for 2010 Nutcracker production
 
Excitement of  being a First Time Clown from 2009

Ready to Clown around on stage 2010
 
I like that definition - A drawing with light. Yet, I think a photograph is so much more. Photos help us remember all the small details. Details you may have forgotten.You can go back to it any time. Photos help us document the passage of time and show us how much our children have grown and changed.
 
I love the clowns. They are my favorite part of The Nutcracker. They make the audience laugh so hard and forget about the stress and hassles this busy time of year. Year after year they steal the audience's heart. I see little kids point their fingers at my daughter when she leaves with her make-up on. "Look, Mom! There is a clown..."
 
Clowns 2010


Releasing the Clowns 2011
The picture below is the only photo I took of my little clown this year. There are no other photos of the clowns since the professional photographers who were allowed to take photos this year didn't take any pictures of the clowns. Maybe they didn't have time. Or maybe the clowns didn't seem important.

All I know is that I am glad to have my little gallery of precious drawings with light from previous years.




  A photo is a memory that nobody can take away from you...



 



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy 2.Advent

I gave a rest to sewing this morning and made the family some delicious German sweet bread for breakfast. I'd say it was a success. After a few minutes the big loaf I baked was nearly gone.


 


 


 

Hefezopf - Yeast Braids are a very common German breakfast food. My mom would always buy two loaves at the bakery for a special weekend breakfast. Or if she had time, she would  bake some herself. Of course, homemade is always better!

These loaves are really simple to make and require few ingredients:

500 g flour
2 cups warm milk
3/4 stick butter (melted in the milk)
1 egg
2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey

I put in a few handfuls of candied lemon and orange rind to celebrate the season. You can also put raisins, nuts, or other dried fruits.

Just throw all the ingredients together. Let he dough rest until doubled in size. Knead and separate into three even chunks of dough. Pull them into ropes and braid them together.

Before baking rub the loaves with an egg wash or some milk will.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 for about 40 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil once it gets brown.



Happy Second Advent to you! I hope you get a chance to make this delicious German sweet bread.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Baby it's cold outside...

It's been quiet on my blog. I know. Too many orders to fill, and then there was a lot of decorating to do. I decided to fore go all shopping on Black Friday weekend. Not that I am much of a super shopper anyways. But I usually do go to Joann's for Black Friday. This year I didn't participate in that fun either. Why? Well, my favorite salesgirls have moved on to other branches of the store or just quit the job. I am kind of funny that way. I get used to sales clerks. I like to talk to folks at the store and get to know them. I suppose I am grieving over the loss of the friendly faces that have been cutting fabric for me for many years. It will take me a while to get used to the young' ones that have been hired in their place. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh.



I truly enjoyed going against the grain this year by NOT shopping for anything. I don't know how people can go to 13 different stores in one day and stay sane. I am proud to say I ignored all the sales fliers this year. It's not like I am out of fabric.. It will probably take me a few years or so to sew up the stash I have. I have 7 bins total. Well, and then there are few drawers with specialty fabrics from Japan and faraway places. My husband likes to tell folks that I have filled every single square inch of the built-in linen closets in this old house with cloth. I say, it's not true. Or not quite...



Well, darn it. It is soooooooo cold outside and inside the house. We are dealing with an "arctic blast" right now. I have been ironing doll clothes all morning just to keep my hands warm in this drafty house. Some day we will be able to afford new windows. Good thing we got all our Christmas decorations done in the yard.