Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Doors of Christmas Original Artwork

12 Doors of Christmas, Door Number 12

The Twelfth and final door of Christmas is one that hits near to home. Freshly fallen snow blankets the door, window, walkway and urns. The ribbon and number 25 are a fresh take on a wreath and the colors are less a factor than in other entranceways. It's a fun way to end the series.
Eleventh Door of Christmas

Tenth Door of Christmas

Ninth Door of Christmas

The Eighth Door of Christmas

The Seventh Door of Christmas
The Sixth Door of Christmas
The Fifth Door of Christmas
The Fourth Door of Christmas
The Third Day of Christmas
The Second Door of Christmas
The First Door of Christmas

Sunday, December 21, 2014


'Tis the last weekend before Christmas and I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. This year I've met some kind, brilliant, and generous people who make my life happier, intriguing, and blessed. I was in touch with some people far away and it soothed my soul.
Ashley and Allie finished up their fall term finals and we brought them home this week! They were exhausted, stressed, and tense, but hopefully they will be able to relax.
There are times when I feel lucky to live in a small town. This week I waited in long holiday lines at the post office and when it was my turn at the counter, the clerk asked how I'd been because he hadn't seen me in a few weeks. In the middle of a hectic, rushed day, his inquiry helped me to live in the moment and think about now, not everything I wanted to accomplish that day.
I practiced tennis with my team and we and a fun time. It was great to be on the court with them.
A friend sent me a Christmas card with a photo she took on her last trip to Costa Rica. I decided to paint her picture on a ornament and give it to her. I posted it on Facebook and received a bunch of compliments from friends.
Jon and I have been busy doing Christmas arrangements together. It's the first time we worked on things for the holiday and I love it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Illustrated Recipe: Molasses Cookies

Here's a great and tasty recipe for Christmas cookies. The dough keeps well, chilled in the fridge overnight and you can make small or large cookies. They are tasty and warm with just the right amount of spices.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Homemade Panettone - Part 2

Panettone - A recipe part 2

Here is the recipe to go with yesterday's post (part 1) for Panettone.  The recipe is adapted from Carol Field's The Italian Baker.  In order to get a good end product, be sure the eggs and butter are room temperature. DO NOT ADD cold eggs or butter to the dough.  Disaster will ensue.
You can purchase panettone moulds online or use large empty cans, like I did.  2 pound coffee cans are recommended by Carol Field.

1. Sponge - combine 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, 1/3 cup warm water and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
Mix the yeast and the warm water.  Let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes until and then add the flour.  Wrap with plastic wrap and either let rise until doubled in size 30 minutes or refrigerate until ready to continue.  If you refrigerate it, allow it to come to room temperature and rise before proceeding.

First Dough
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 T warm water
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter, room temperature

2. Mix the yeast and the water.  Let sit for 10 - 15 minutes.  Add the sponge mixture to the newly made yeast mixture.  Add the eggs, flour and sugar, mixing well with a paddle on an electric mixer.  Add the butter and mix until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size about 60 - 90 minutes or refrigerate at this point.  (If you refrigerate it, allow it to come to room temperature and rise 60 - 90 minutes before proceeding.)

Second Dough
2 eggs, room temperature
3 egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 sugar
2 T honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange flower water
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups flour + more for kneading

Place the first dough in a mixing bowl. With a paddle, add the eggs, yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla and orange water to the dough.  Once smooth, add the butter.  Then add the 3 cups flour.  Once combined, change paddle to a dough hook and knead for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from bowl and knead by hand with additional flour, to make it smooth.
Place dough in a bowl oiled with vegetable oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled in size up to 4 1/2 hours or refrigerate at this point.  (If you refrigerate it, allow it to come to room temperature and rise 3 - 4 hours before proceeding.)

Prepare Pans
I used 2 large clean cans. Melt 4 T butter and paint inside of each coffee can or mould.  Line bottom of pan with a piece of parchment and paint with butter.  Set pans aside.

1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 cup chopped candied fruitcake filling minus the large cherries
grated zest of lemon and orange
2 - 3 T flour

Approximately 30 minutes before the Second dough is ready, soak the raisins in water to plump them up.  Drain and pat dry with paper toweling.
Cut the dough in half.
Mix the raisins, fruitcake filling, zests and flour.
Pat each half of dough into a rectangle, approximately 12"x8".
Sprinkle 1/4 of the raisin-fruit mixture onto each dough rectangle, leaving 1/2 of the fruit mixture in the bowl.
Take one rectangle of dough and roll up like a jelly roll. Repeat with the other dough.
Pat the log back into a rectangle and divide remaining fruit mixture between the 2 dough slabs.  Roll each dough slab into a ball.
Place each ball inside prepared pan.
Slash an X on top of each dough ball.
Cover and set aside. Let rise in a warm place for 2 - 3 hours, until doubled in size.
Once the dough is risen, reslash the X's if needed, spread the top with melted butter and prepare to bake according to the following schedule:
400 for 10 minutes then
reduce heat to 375 and bake for 10 min then
reduce heat to 350 and bake for 10 min then
reduce heat to 325 and bake for 30 minutes
Test the bread, by inserting a cake tester or long skewer into the bread.  When it comes out clean (free of batter), the bread is done.
Remove pans from oven and let cool on rack for 15 - 20 minutes.
At this point, remove the panettone from the moulds and place on their sides on clean towels and let cool thoroughly.  (According to Carol Field, if the panettone is left to cool on the rack, it will collapse.)  I didn't challenge this!
Once cool, slice into wedges and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Panettone - Italian Christmas Bread (Part 1)

(repost) Panettone - A recipe

 Panettone is a bread that you see on the shelves at Christmas time. It is quite delicious, high rising and flavorful -- packed with golden raisins, candied orange and a thick crust.
Perhaps you recall seeing dome shaped boxes like these at grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores?  Even these loaves that are mass produced are quite tasty - although fresh, is of course, best.
I bought 2 mini size loaves this year.  Each one was the size of a muffin!  They were adorable and delicious.  And, I must admit, I found the miniature packaging to be so cute!
After eating my second one, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at baking my own panettone.
The first thing I did was research.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and read to see how they varied.  After much work, I settled on Carol Field's recipe from her book The Italian Baker.  She is an excellent author and researcher.  Her recipes are authentic, humble and delicious. (I did some minor modifications to her recipe -- I always alter recipes.) I found her instruction on panettone to be thoughtful, thorough and easy to follow.  The end result -- Fantastic texture, extraordinary taste and the scent of the bread baking was worthy of it's own candle fragrance!
The recipe is fairly easy, as bread recipes go.  There is measuring, mixing and kneading and lots and lots of rising. I made the bread over the course of 3 days.
First, I made a starter.  This is just a simple mixture of yeast, water and flour.  I made this and then set it in the refrigerator overnight.  (I did this, strictly for my convenience, not because I think it enhanced the flavor.) I then followed the recipe, by making more dough and mixing the starter into the new yeast mixture.  Then, I let this rise overnight in the fridge as well. (Again, for convenience, as I couldn't get to it all in one day.) I let the dough come to room temperature and rise for a couple of hours more.
 I split the dough in half and folded in the raisins and citron mixture.  Since I couldn't find candied citron, I used a candied fruitcake mixture that contained candied orange, pineapple and cherries. I  removed the obnoxious green and red candied cherries and just used the candied citrus.
 I placed the completed dough into the moulds.  Interestingly, I was lucky that my father had some giant empty cans that worked perfectly.  (These cans held artichokes and eggplant at one time. They were approximately 2 lb coffee can sizes. )  I greased them with melted butter and lined them with parchment paper, which I greased as well.  I slashed X's in the top. Then I let these rise in the pans.
I slashed X's in the top. 
Then I covered them and let these rise in the pans.
 Once doubled in size, I re-slashed them and brushed them with melted butter.
 I baked them in the oven, follow Carol Field's suggestion about using a reverse heat pyramid.  I did change her timing and temperature a bit and found a  400 degree oven, for 10 min, 375 degree for 10 min and then 350 for 10 minutes, 325 for 30 minutes to be effective for the size pans I used.
 Look at the rise and the crust on these!  They smelled so good. I could hardly wait for them to cool!
 Carol Field recommends letting them cool in the pan on a rack for 30 min, then removing them an placing them on their side on "pillows" so that they don't drop.  I removed them from the pan after 15 min, as I felt they were sturdy and cool.
I placed them on their side and let cool.  Well, one I let cool completely. The other one, I wrapped in kraft paper and delivered while still warm to my father.
I love how the rustic bread looks wrapped in paper and twine!

Oh - I sliced the bread and ate a piece.  Then, my daughters followed suit and it was unanimous!  Delicious.  I think I will be making another batch!
I posted the recipe I used -- with some alterations, here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gift Toppers... free download

Here's a set of six gift toppers that you can download and use as gift tags or in place of gift bows on presents.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Journal 2014

In December I keep an art journal that documents many Christmas and Advent activities. Each year I do a different rendition of a journal, depending on my focus that year. Here are some previous December Journal posts 2011 December Journal    2010 December Art Journal     2012 Advent List

This year, I made a journal from file folders, Gelli Prints, and papers. I sewed the journal together this year, instead of using binding rings or a pre-made album or book.
 This was a casual album. The pages are different sizes and widths.
 I made an effort to layer them so that the largest pages were on the outer signatures.
I clipped them before sewing them together and made a little guide to punch the holes for the binding.
I bonded the journal by attaching the 3 signatures together.
 Here are some inside pages from the bound journal. Here you can see the file folders.
 Here's a look inside one of the signatures where you can see the different papers.
 I love the contrast between the bright red Gelli print and the neutral pages.
 There's plenty of room for writing, sketching, or attaching photos or cards.
There's even a folded page with a pocket to tuck in tickets, tags, or notes.