It ain’t New Years without the Mummers

What happens when you ask a group of men walking down the street if you can take pictures of their shoes?  If it’s New Years day in Philadelphia, they are likely to say yes but only if your husband gets in  the picture too.

GoldenSlippers

Golden Slippers

Ken and Mummers2

Here are some links to   for Mummers fans.

A Guide to Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade

It ain’t New Years without the Mummers Parade.

and a couple of old blog posts

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM PHILADELPHIA

NEW YEARS IN PHILADELPHIA MEANS MUMMERS

Have a fun and safe New Year!

Happy Holidays

PlumptonSanta-framed

Plumpton does not look  happy

Welcome to My Holiday Cookie Bake Shop

Baked

 

I didn’t have an Easy Bake Oven when I was little. I didn’t need one. My mother let me use the big oven, with her supervision of course, but I was turning out cakes and cookies by the time I was six. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, my friend Debbie Levine asked me to come over to her house for lunch. I came and brought some peanut butter cookies for dessert-you know, the lunch box classic with the crossed fork marks on the top. “I baked them myself,” I announced proudly.

Debbie must not have been too impressed because she took a bite out of one and screwed up her face. “Eewww,” she said, “they taste like throw up.” Debbie’s mother rushed over and took the cookie from her hand and said, “Debbie we don’t treat our guests like that.” I wasn’t too upset because I knew Debbie was only kidding. She finished the first cookie and had a second one.

My mother made spritz every Christmas and had an ongoing battle with her constantly malfunctioning cookie gun. She wouldn’t get a new one though; she preferred thrill of the hunt for the perfect recipe for spritz dough that would work in her cookie gun. She never found it and when she died, I returned her cookie gun to the earth. I was never fond of spritz anyway.

I don’t bake much anymore, but I did bake this year. I thought I would share some of my tips to make the task easier (besides throwing away tools that you can never get to work.)

If you make cookies that have to be cut out and decorated, do yourself a favor and make them over the course of three days. Mix your dough on the first day and let it chill properly. Just put it in the fridge and forget it. Roll, cut out and bake on the second day. Decorate on the third day. This will make your life so much easier. If you think this is impractical, go out and buy some cookies.

cutting out

Properly chilled dough is easier to roll. Rather than dusting with flour during the rolling, I prefer to use cooking spray. I spray the rolling surface, my hands, even the rolling pin. If you roll between sheets of wax paper, spray the paper. If after you’ve cut the shapes out the dough is soft again, return the wax paper with the cookies to the fridge for a couple of minutes to let it firm up. You will be able to move the raw cookies to the pan without distorting them.

Rolling pin

It’s important that rolled cookies have a consistent thickness. I have a rolling pin that has different sized rings that fit on the ends to help maintain uniformity. You can get yourself a set of rings here.

Parchment brown

Baked on parchment paper

If you learn only one thing from this post, let it be these two words: parchment paper. Parchment paper for baking that is. I don’t know what took me so long to start using this stuff but once you use it, you won’t go back. It saves on pan cleanup and you don’t have to grease your cookie sheets. It’s easy transfer a whole batch of baked cookies off the hot pan for cooling and it’s easy to get them off the paper. Foil or a so-called non-stick pan will not give the same results. I do not advocate any particular brand. I bought mine at a grocery store. I have heard that you can’t use sheet more than once. Not true although it does become brittle after awhile and since you can’t really clean it, you don’t want to save it too long.
Twokinds

The more fat chocolate chip cookies have in them, the more they spread. If you want firmer cookies, use less butter and make up the liquid balance with water or eggs. The cookies in the foreground had more butter in the recipe and those in the background had less. Both taste fine. It’s your choice
I love the convenience of refrigerator cookies and who says you can’t slice and bake drop cookies like chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies? It’s easy. I make logs of cookie dough, wrap it in foil and put it in the freezer. It never freezes rock solid. A day or two later, I unwrap the dough, slice and bake. What could be easier? These cookies keep a shape too. But with any cookie, always make sure you start out with a cold cookie sheet. Otherwise your cookies will spread more and you won’t get the shape you want. I have two cookie sheets and bake with one sheet at a time. When a batch of cookies comes out of the oven, I wait a couple of minutes and lift the sheet of parchment with the baked cookies (carefully!) off the pan and put it on a rack or other surface to cool. Then I let the pan cool before putting the next batch on it. If there is a short time between batches, I will cool the pan in the sink with cold water. It really does make a difference.
Well, tomorrow night is decorating time! Here are some more pictures of today’s cookies.

Four Birdies Swinging

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I finished the birdie ornaments and decided to put them on swinging perches because they are swinging birds. In fact, their first stop after they left the workshop was a party where Mr. Green found a home on a Christmas tree

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I managed to catch the birdies in candid shots before they flew off to their new homes.  They are made of polymer clay with  newspaper and foil armatures,  I painted them with liquid clay stained with alcohol inks-a technique I’d never tried until I saw Kate Clawson‘s work and attended the class she gave for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild

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I managed to catch the birdies in candid shots before they flew off to their new homes.  They are made of polymer clay with  newspaper and foil armatures,  I painted them with liquid clay stained with alcohol inks-a technique I’d never tried until I saw Kate Clawson‘s work and attended the class she gave for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild


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The birdies chat before they depart for their new homes. 

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Hats for Little Boys

I was in Denmark last month and saw a wonderful exhibit at  National Museum of Denmark called Vikings.  The Danes seemed so orderly and socially responsible that I found it hard to believe they had ever been Vikings. But a thousand years, give or take a century, will change the culture of a group of people.  Today the descendants of Vikings are peace loving individuals known more for their incredible design sense and self-assembly furniture than for carnage and pillage.

Now I find that history duplicates itself in odd ways and patterns emerge that seems to repeat down through the centuries.  Hitler and Napoleon’s invasions of Russia come to mind.  Another example is my step son Maxwell who was a Berserker as a child.  When he grew up and left home,  Max calmed down a bit and  married a lovely woman who taught him to eat with a fork.  They went on to  have two sons who are apparently carrying on the Berserker tradition: hell bent on  toddler destruction, mayhem, refusing to share along with occasional biting  and kicking one another under the table when they think Dad is not looking.  But Maxwell, being an ex-Berserker (or maybe just a closet Berserker) is rarely  fooled.   Mom is never fooled even though from what I understand she was not a Berserker or even a member of the Women’s Auxiliary.  But I digress.

I do not want to encourage such barbaric behavior and yet I think that little boys need to get down with their inner Norsemen.  So I made a Viking helmet and a crown for them so  they can reenact the Battle of Edington until they leave for college.  You don’t need to thank me Max. Their precious smiles are all the thanks I need.

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I made the helmet out of a wool sweater I felted in the washing machine.  The horns are purchased felt stuffed with fiber fill.

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I used recycled sweaters in the crown too.  The yellow felt is purchased.  I added pom poms for jewels.

9 6The cap is half blue and half purple

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I didn’t have a pattern for either hat.  The helmet was not too difficult to plan but I had to study  pictures of crowns  to figure out how they were put together before starting the felt crown,

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I stitched the horns on the sewing machine and then turned them out, stuffed them and sewed them to the sides of the helmetnIMG_20131201_132641~2~2

I had to hand sew the helmet because the wool was so thick.
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Now if you ever wondered what those strange Ikea names mean, press here.  Press here for a list of movies about Vikings.