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 …