Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Cookbook

Teen1 likes to cook, always has. It is an oft told story that when she was about 4 years old she got up in the middle of the night and wandered into the kitchen. My mommy sense, or the noise she was making, woke me up and I stumbled into the kitchen to find her sitting on a stool in front of the microwave oven singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "Cooking breakfast." And indeed she had put bacon on a paper towel covered plate and was cooking it! I told her that bacon for breakfast was a wonderful idea, but that it was still nighttime. "See, it's dark outside." So we put the bacon away and went back to bed. But later we did have that bacon for breakfast.

Teen1 still likes to cook and asked for this cookbook for Christmas. It's by two local women, Claudia Pruett and Rima Barkett. They used to have a restaurant downtown where we often ate. The food was always fresh and well prepared and delicious. Sadly the restaurant has been sold and the food is not quite the same. Their focus is now on encouraging family cooking through this website, the cookbook, and charity projects. In fact, one day they came to Teen1's cooking class at high school and gave a demonstration. Wonderful women!
So last night Teen1 asked to make dinner and when I picked her up from work she had purchased the ingredients and when we got home she made Penne con Scampi.

And. It. Was. Delicious!

I hope this is the first of many happy meals from that book.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

VW Logo

We needed the Volkswagen logo for the horn button for Teen1's car restoration. I couldn't find a good one online, so I recreated it in Composer (our signmaking software), cut it in metallic silver vinyl, and applied it to the old horn button.
Next the Lord of the Manor will clear coat it and pop it back on. We are getting soooo close to driving this baby home! We are all excited here Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

VW Beetle Engine

We put the engine back in the Volkswagen on Sunday. Here's the engine compartment ready for new insulation and the engine, but first we had to reconnect the tail light wires.....
then fuss with the insulation to make it fit properly. The new pieces are basically correct, but sometimes holes must be cut or edges must be trimmed. Around the edges of the opening you can see the metal tabs on the chassis that bend up and/or down to hold the insulation in place.

Next we wheeled the engine up to the back of the car and reintroduced them.
"Hello, car, my name is engine. How do you do?"
"Oh, hello, I remember you. How've you been?"
"Not well at all. I've been in hospital, but I'm much better now. I think I had a heart transplant!"
"Well, I've had some cosmetic procedures myself and I suddenly feel quite young!"
Whilst they chatted, we raised the chassis up high enough to slip the engine under it. We used a forklift with straps around the bumper supports.

Then we wheeled the engine under the car with a floor jack and lowered the car down over it. When it was about 6" off the ground we put jack stands under the frame and moved the forklift out of the way.

Then the Lord of the Manor jockeyed it around whilst I raised the engine with the floor jack and Teen1 took photos. It's all about teamwork, people.

Gradually the engine raised into place. Then suddenly there was cursing! The Lord of the Manor had forgotten that bl*$!ty b{%^ shroud that goes on the front of the engine, but we managed to weasel it in without totally removing the engine.

After more jockeying and raising and jockeying some more, the four bolts that hold it in place were tightened up and it was home again. We also put on the remaining shrouding, reconnected the gas line and accelerator linkage, and installed the air hoses. And then we put the new gasket around the opening, and re-installed the bonnet/hood. I do believe this little bug will be driving next weekend. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boxing Day

We had a relaxing Boxing Day with tomato soup by Teen1...

cold cuts by the Lord of the Manor...

entertainment by Teen2, Prince Charming and the Little English Lad (his accent is adorable)...

and table setting by me. I so enjoy Boxing Day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Christmas

We had a lovely Christmas day playing in the snow. We had made some chili, my sisters brought soups, everyone brought drinks and things to fill in. We set up some tables and camping stoves, had a hearty meal there in the snow then played with sleds and saucers. It was a wonderful way to get together and celebrate.

Here's the whole gang (nieces, nephew, sisters, brother, Dad and Santa too) wishing you and yours a Happy Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brigitte Cookie Cutter

I love it when a package lands on my porch and today that's exactly what happened. I'd almost forgotten I'd ordered this cookie cutter from Germany, but it arrived today just in time for more Christmas cookies. I saw it at 2 Stews several months ago and finally ordered it. You can arrange little letters to stamp personal messages on the cookies. Is that cute or what?

So Teen2 and I made some that said Joyeux Noel and some that said Buon Natale. Merry Christmas was impossible because it wouldn't fit and there are only two Rs in the kit.

We also made some that said Nice?

And some that said Naughty?

I'm thinking I'll have to eat all the ones that say Naughty. Cause that's what I am; naughty.
This time of year is so hard for me. {sigh}

Friday, December 18, 2009


My cinnamon stars came out just fine. Here they are along with some chocolate crackles that I made. But I still want to go back to Germany and Austria to visit the Christmas Markets. Whilst I save my pennies, I'll just have to watch these videos of the markets in Heidelberg, Munich, and Salzburg. I hope you enjoy them too.

This video is of the Christmas Market in Heidelberg. This video is of the Marienplatz market in Munich - one of my favorites because of the beautiful setting and the giant glockenspeil. And here is Salzburg - such a charming old town. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zimtsterne Cookies

Honestly, I don't know what I'm thinking sometimes. Like this morning when I thought I would make some cinnamon star cookies just like I had in Heidelberg at the Christmas Market. Back in 2005 when I had them for the first time I LOVED them. Now, it might have had something to do with the fact that they were served warm, and it might have had something to do with the Christmas cheer that surrounded me, and it might have had something to do with the Gl├╝wein, but darn, they were good.
I'd found a recipe on the Internet that seemed ok, and I had all the ingredients, so this morning at 5:30am I started grinding almonds and beating egg whites. Notice it's dark outside the window? But I had my tea in a Christmas cup to warm me up.
The recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, 2 tablespoons cinnamon, 4 cups powdered sugar, 4 egg whites, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest [or 1 T kirsch]. Notice there is no flour and no butter, but trust me, these things are DELICIOUS!
First you grind the almonds to look like flour, then add the cinnamon. Then you beat the egg whites until stiff and add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Scoop out about 1/3 of the mixture and set aside for the icing. Add the lemon zest to the bowl and continue beating for about 5 more minutes until you get a stiff meringue. (I think this is where I get into trouble. I never seem to beat it long enough so when I add the almonds I get a soupy mess rather than a firm dough.) Then gently fold the almond mixture into the meringue.
Now the recipe says to roll the dough out about 3/8" thick. Mine was more like pour it out about 3/8" thick, so I kneaded in a little flour (because by then all my powdered sugar was gone) to thicken it up. Then I patted it out about 3/8" thick and started cutting my stars. By now I was thinking these things will never work out. Maybe you have to learn how to make them at your German Grandma's knee.

But, as I arranged them on cookie sheets I noticed that they were already starting to firm up so maybe they would be ok.

The last step is to take the reserved meringue and ice the top of each cookie. I used the back of a little demitasse spoon to coax the icing around and out to the ends of each point.
The cookies have to sit overnight before cooking so I stacked the cookie sheets up on the dining room table, and I'll cook them tomorrow morning. What a lot of work and aggravation for 67 cookies. It might be easier to just go back to Heidelberg and buy some.

Has anyone else ever made these? Why is my dough soooooo sticky? Help!?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sacramento Antiques Faire

I went to the Sacramento Antiques and Collectibles Faire last Sunday. It was a fun day out even though it rained on and off all day. The booths are set up under a section of freeway so you aren't really out in the rain, but going from section to section we sometimes got wet. And I think there was a lower turnout because of the rain, but we had fun anyway.

Here are some cute andirons I saw.

And look at all these Toby cups!

This was our favorite booth. She had baskets, buckets, wine bottle racks, old benches, cafe furniture, and other interesting stuff from Europe.
I only bought a few Christmas ornaments and this platter, but I'm sure I will find my way back there sometime soon from Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mosaic Monday - Christmas Decorations

I'm joining Mary at The Little Red House for Mosaic Monday. Above you see a few of my Christmas decorations. Starting in the upper left corner going clockwise are some clothes pin angels I made for my Mom many years ago, the snowy SNUGGLE bunting I made last year, a little glitter house, an old Santa ornament, one of our first ornaments bought way back in 1973, the glitter church I made this year, some reindeer candle holders, a little figure in the glitter village, and finally in the center is the tiny Silent Night Chapel from Austria. It's a souvenir of my trip there in 2005. You can read more about the chapel here.

I hope your Christmas decorating is going as planned or if not exactly as planned at least to your liking. Please drop in and visit the other participants for more Mosaic Monday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Granny basket

We are having a girls' day out tomorrow and we are going somewhere where I will need my Granny Basket. Can you guess where?

And I made this liner for my basket so little things won't fall through the wires. And I decorated it especially for Amongst The Oaks.

And I'm so excited because we are going to the Sacramento Antiques Faire. I just HOPE it doesn't rain. But I'm taking my umbrella just in case.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mistletoe Ball

I borrowed {ok, stole} this mistletoe ball photo from Martha Stewart. What a nice old fashioned decoration for the holidays. I thought about making one, so the other morning the Lord of the Manor and I cut some mistletoe out of a tree on our morning walk. And we brought it home and dumped it on the floor just inside the front door. And there it sat for several days.

This morning I thought it had sat there long enough, so I did this:
Yes, that's right, I just nestled it into the chandelier on the front porch. No trimming, no bow, no craftiness, I just plopped it up there!

Some people have compared me to Marthat Stewart. Heck, some people have even called me Martha Stewart. I guess that will stop now, eh?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cranberry Glass Ornaments

We got our Christmas tree up and decorated last weekend. I tried to decorate it in shades of cranberry, red, white and gold. Which was difficult because I can't find cranberry glass ornaments...
but I have this old Santa that is in the right colors.

And I found this new Santa ornament at World Market.

And I recently got these ornaments from my Mom's collection. I had made them for her many years ago.
You all know how much I love cranberry glass so I left it on the mantle this year and added gold candle holders, the red transfer ware photo frames with pictures of my girls and Santa, red stockings, and some gold ribbon and tassels.

After searching for cranberry glass ornaments and finding just this ONE {isn't it gorgeous?} at World Market, I thought maybe I could make some using glass paint and clear ornaments.

So I assembled the materials and a few vases for inspiration...

mixed the paint and thinned it just a little....

and this is what I ended up with. Not exactly cranberry glass, but close. I think I thinned the paint too much, because it just kept running out until they were pink. Maybe a second coat would help. Oh, well, there's always next year. But for now I'm using them anyway...

but I'm hiding them behind the ribbon so no one will see how pale they are.