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 …

All but done …

The Moon Myth covers, front …

and back (stitched as a full moon memory of seeing Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus strung across the evening sky) …

Plus the endpapers, front …

and back …

are done at last. Now all that remains is putting it all into Blurb which involves rescanning and reformatting all 18 pages … piece of cake, right?

So, while you’re waiting to see the final end product, here’s a bit I wrote to amuse myself last month. Feel free to add your own bullet points in the comments if you feel so inclined.

What if? A modern day fairy tale

What if Bill Clinton had done the right thing and resigned from the Presidency? Imagine a world where …

  • Al Gore takes over the presidency in 1998
  • Climate change is given priority attention and the process of reversing global warming begins
  • The Republican-led Congress, without Bill Clinton as a whipping horse, has no one to blame but themselves when things go wrong
  • The country, satisfied overall with the progress of the new administration, elects Al Gore in 2000 and returns control of Congress to the Democrats
  • Hillary Rodham (after divorcing Bill Clinton in 1999) wins a NY Senate seat in 2000
  • With no contested election to call, the Supreme Court continues to be trusted and respected
  • President Gore reads a daily briefing warning of a potential attack by Al Queda and takes action, preventing 9/11
  • There is no war in Afghanistan or Iraq
  • Trillions of dollars are invested in infrastructure … unemployment decreases, GDP increases
  • Al Gore declines to run in 2004, and endorses Hillary Rodham for president
  • Barack Obama gives an impassioned speech on the floor of the Democratic convention and ends up as Hillary’s running mate
  • Rodham and Obama win in 2004 and proceed to serve two terms; Al Gore become Sec. of Energy
  • Universal health care becomes law
  • Wind and solar energy begin to dominate the marketplace
  • There is no recession in 2008 and record low unemployment leads to tax cuts for all
  • Evidence mounts that ten years of climate control is making a positive difference in reducing the frequency and severity of weather events
  • With no major crises abroad, attention turns to addressing issues of gender bias and sexual assault, as well as prejudices against minorities and LGBQT communities
  • Obama runs for president in 2012 and serves one term with Joe Biden, and wins a second term in 2016 with (fill in the blank with your favorite Democrat)
  • Former reality TV star Donald Trump is a contestant on Dancing with the Stars shortly after his divorce from Melania
  • Social media is closely regulated and becomes a strong advocate for progressive causes
  • Several moderate justices are nominated to the Supreme Court and Merrick Garland becomes Chief Justice in 2016
  • The “issue” of immigration becomes the “opportunity” of immigration as illegal aliens are encouraged to become contributing citizens
  • The US is a leader in successfully mediating global conflicts, which reduce in number
  • US security agencies pick up on cyber-hacking in the UK and work with their allies to defuse threats in a series of European elections
  • The slogan “Brexit” disappears after the initiative is soundly defeated at the polls
  • In a brief article on page 6 of the NYT it is noted that failed real estate developer and former dance contestant Donald Trump was found guilty of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to 10 years in prison along with his many co-conspirators
  • We all live happily ever after …

Braille for the sky

With a nod to Mo for inspiring the title of this post, here’s where I am with the first of two “endpapers” for Moon Myth …

The moon phases, not yet attached, were made by piercing handmade paper
with a needle and then gently pushing the resulting shapes out … 

creating softly feathered edges …

The night sky was made from a thrift store linen dress which had bias-cut strips seamed together …

I folded the cloth over and visibly basted two layers together with Jude’s glue stitch worked in size 8 perle cotton, creating a wonderfully textured front …

and (as always) a wild and crazy looking back …

Don just walked in and said, “that’s cool.”
Yeah, I’m thinkin’ it is, too.