New-ness

I’ve finally taken the plunge. Inspired by the gift of Natalie Goldberg’s Living Color, I’m playing with watercolors for the first time in a looooong time …

 

Not that I didn’t have a few irons in the fire already. Such as the cloth and print versions of Moon Myth which stalled when it became abundantly clear that they wouldn’t be completed in time for Christmas …

 

Fortunately, I did manage to get some gift-making done on deadline. Like this handtowel I found at a local gallery …

 

and embellished with stitch …

 

And me being me, I also launched a new project taking P’s outgrown baby clothes …

 

and stitching them into squares for a someday blanket …

 

Best of all was the grandkid Christmas project. Rather than the traditional gingerbread houses, our St Louis grandkids requested a train. I upped the ante by making chocolate springerle cookies instead, which made the house smell like a brownie factory …

 

The boys each assembled a box car and decorated to their hearts’ content …

 

Then they filled each box car with the excess candies …

 

earning me kudos from the moms, who were more than happy that all that sugar wasn’t actually consumed … ha!
So here’s hoping your holidays have been as happily spent … and that we all find much to celebrate (and maybe even complete) in the new year ahead.
Chocolate Train
I started with this recipe (with thanks to Gail):
which was the basis of the locomotive and the caboose.
But since I’m inherently incapable of actually following recipes, here’s what I ended up using to make the boxcars:
1/2 lb butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. instant espresso powder
1 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Soften butter (either let it sit out for an hour or, if you’re incapable of waiting like me, nuke for 20-30 seconds at 20% power in the microwave). Cream butter and sugar until well-blended.
Beat eggs and vanilla in a small bowl and add espresso powder to dissolve the granules. In addition to making the dough darker in color, the espresso makes the dough taste more chocolate-y. Beat egg mixture into butter and sugar mixture.
Stir in cocoa and baking powder, then stir in flour and salt. Form dough into a large disk, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll out in sections to 1/4″ thickness (I use 1/4″ wooden trim to make it even) and cut into 5″ wide rectangles. After cutting pieces (see below), put on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake 13-15 minutes at 375. Cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks. If possible, make the cookies a day or two ahead (so they’ll be less apt to break).
Each boxcar (and the caboose if you want one) needs three 2 1/2″ x 5″ rectangles for the bottom and sides, and two 2 1/2″ squares for the front and back. Optional: extra rectangles and/or squares can be made for rooftops.
The locomotive needs three 2 1/2 x 5″ rectangles and one 2 1/2″ square to form the cab (optional: cut out windows), two 2 1/2″ squares and six 2 1/2″ circles for the front engine, and some little triangles for the cow-catcher.
Make a bunch of 1″ circles with the remaining scraps for wheels and connectors between the cars. And two larger circles for the wheels on the locomotive cab.

 

“Glue” everything together with premade or homemade icing (I prefer the taste of homemade, but it was much easier giving the kids premade icing to use). My icing consisted of 2 Tbs. melted butter, 1/4 cup milk, a splash of vanilla, and enough confectioners sugar to make a stiff-but-still-sticky “glue.”
And then modify the recipe and directions to your heart’s content …

17 thoughts on “New-ness

  1. Happy Blessed New Year Dear Liz and Don! What an adorable cookie train. No doubt the boys were in their element. Liking the idea of transforming Miss P's clothing into a re-purposed \”sentimental journey.\” The love goes on. The tea towel is delightful. You remain an inspiration to me. Sweet Friend.

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  2. How deliciously delightful- a holiday train made by Nana and her loveys…May 2019 continue on \”track\” with joy, love and your amazingly creative projects. .

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  3. Wow – just wow! I enjoyed every step of this post – the watercolours, the nearly done books, the decorated tea towel (such a lovely enhancement), the someday blanket and oh my the chocolate train. What a joyful time it all seems!

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  4. Grace – thanks … it was way more fun than gingerbread houses (the roofs always slid off no matter how hard I tried to secure them)Marti – love your play on wordsFiona – it was indeed a lovely holiday (and there are still a few more “days of Christmas” to go)

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  5. Liz~ What a fabulous fun time you all have been having! Watercolors are on my someday list, maybe soon? Love seeing your partial color wheel 🙂 There will be a time for Moon Myth, it will rise in its beauty, I know it! The towel is done so well, had you not told us/shown us…your additions fit in perfectly! I can't wait to see the memory quilt growing. I've saved old dance/baseball t-shirts, nut am unsure now if I will ever actually do anything with them. I admire your ability to move forward in your plans. And your train along with those adorable grandsons just really takes the cake! Um, er…or it takes the chocolate springerle cookies!!

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  6. Nancy – thank you … except for two art courses in college, I've had no formal art schooling, and I think the last time I used watercolors was in grade school. But Don is having so much fun playing with acrylics that I decided to get in on it, too. As for t-shirts … they're so hard to handstitch! I passed over so many adorable baby clothes simply because they were knitted rather than woven. Annick – yes, much fun was had (although I'm wearing a heat pack on my back to recover from all the play time on the floor). I don't know how many watercolors I'll post, but I'm determined to have fun, so hopefully …

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  7. What a happy, fun-filled post! Your grandsons are adorable and your projects delightful. I love water colors too, and your tea towel is leaping forward in beauty…very clever. Also, what could be more festive than a candy train? Holly jolly for sure. Happy New Year to you, Don and all your helpers.

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  8. what a great idea for boys, the train. love their faces. will like seeing your watercolor play as the year rolls along. Happy New Year to you, Liz!

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  9. Hi LA – what a full post – full of content and full of fun. I bet the kids thought the making of the box cars was just the best. The books look grand. Always a challenge to go back to a medium like water colours – best of luck with that. Hope 2019 is a creative a family and fulfilled year. B

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  10. Thanks Mo … now that the holidays are over, it's time to get back to Moon Myth (including a complete reformat of the print version … ugh)Dana – thank you … here's hoping the new year brings good news for the future of these little guysDee – the idea for the train actually came from my Missouri grandsons … I upped the ante by making it chocolate rather than gingerbread. It definitely added a new scent layer to the traditional Christmas pine and spice.Barry – well, \”going back to\” watercolors is a stretch since the last time I used them was probably in grade school. So, truly something new to me, but I'm having a lot of fun and may actually get up the gumption to post something about it. Meantime, I've been enjoying your posts detailing the summer glory on your side of the world. Happy days!

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