· comments  · 12-28-2009 · categories:food · links ·
Wishing you all the happiest of holidays! (Shown above are some of the favorite vintage ornaments on our tree, I especially love the teal one with white and red stripes.)
· comments  · 12-24-2009 · categories:christmas ·
· comments  · 12-23-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·
Earlier I made gingerbread houses meant to perch on the edge of a mug, but I wanted to work on a few more things.
First, since these are meant to be eaten I wanted to cut down on the amount of royal icing. I still used it to assemble the houses, but to get sugar decorations to stick to the roofs I decided to use simple syrup. I heated one part water and one part sugar and let it bubble for a while on the stove just so it would thicken. After it was thoroughly cooled I put a dot on the roof and spread it around using a small brush I keep to use as a mini pastry brush. Then I sprinkled sanding sugar or nonpareils. I let it dry overnight and it worked nicely. It tastes a lot better than a layer of royal icing, and I like the way it allows the gingerbread to peek through.
Second, I added a chimney. I rolled out some gingerbread dough a bit thicker and cut out a square-ish shape, using the house template to get the correct angle.
I think it turned out very cute, though I found that the taller chimneys looked incongruous, so I’ll stick to very short chimneys.
Third I decided to see what whole happen if I moved the door shape, the part that fits over the mug, off to one side to allow more of the house to hang on the outside of the mug. It worked just fine but moving it over made the pieces more delicate and I broke three out of six during assembly, enough to convince me to keep the door where it is.
Last I wanted to see if it would work out using sugar cookie dough. This was from a mix (I know, I know but I had hit my cookie dough-making wall) and spread quite a bit despite a good amount of chilling before baking. I trimmed the doors when the cookies came out of the oven and were still pliable. They still worked out nicely. Now I’m wondering if there would be a way to make one out of shortbread.
· comments  · 12-22-2009 · categories:christmas ·
I made tiny gingerbread houses that are meant to be perched on the edge of a mug of hot chocolate.
I had been thinking about those sugar cubes that hook on the rim of a teacup earlier this month, and I was also thinking about 3-D cookies and how they fit together and figured it would be pretty neat to make cookies that hang on the edge of a mug. I thought I was being so brilliant but it only took a few seconds to discover that a flat cookie on the edge of a mug has already been done. So I started wondering what else I could do. At the time I was making a bunch of gingerbread recipes trying to find one that would hold up for my partridge in a pear tree cookie, so a gingerbread house was on my mind.
I made a few versions to figure out how to make one that wasn’t so top heavy that it would flip off the mug, and how small I could get away with and still fit on both large and small cups. I generally followed the size of my The Mini Gingerbread House Kit (though, those pieces don’t fit together as nicely as I’d have liked).
I’ve made a PDF pattern of gingerbread house pieces which you can open or download right here. My only instruction is that you should make sure that the wall pieces are to be sandwiched on the inside of the door pieces, that way the roof fits on properly. I included two door pieces you can choose from, one at 3/8ths inch wide and one at 1/2 inch wide. I found that a 3/8ths inch door, or slot, fits most mugs but the 1/2 can be used for your really big and heavy mugs. I traced the pieces onto this template page at 9:54 in the evening, please forgive the sloppiness but I’m getting tired, let’s just call the untidy lines charming.
I used the Gingerbread Snowflake and the Royal Icing recipes from marthastewart.com.
I rolled it out onto a sheet of tin foil at 1/8th inch thick. I skipped a silicone mat because I use a paring knife for the corner details and didn’t want to accidentally cut down to the layers of glass fibers, and after some trial I found that parchment paper will warp after being chilled and then stuck in an oven which can distort some shapes.
I used a dull sewing pattern roller (like a small pizza cutter) to go around most sides. You can do all of one side than turn the entire sheet of tin foil 90 degrees to do all of the next side, this makes the process go a bit faster. Try to fit all the pieces for each individual house in the same batch, I found my batches browned differently from each other. Lift the excess dough up from the tin foil, not moving your cut out shapes at all, this will help them keep their shape. Then slide the tin foil sheet onto a cookie sheet and put both in the freezer for about 15 minutes, you want the dough really well chilled before baking.
I used a (well cleaned) flat head screwdriver to get in the detail around the doors, then a paring knife to make sure the corners are cut cleanly.
Here are some tips, most of these are in the recipe but I don’t want you to overlook them:
- After making it divide the dough into thirds (I made half a recipe) wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Make the royal icing while it’s chilling, you’ll need it before you make all the gingerbread you are planning on.
- Roll the dough out to 1/8th of an inch. It seems impossibly thin but you be cutting the shapes and pulling the excess dough from around them so your pieces won’t be too disturbed. Feel free to nudge your shapes back into squares before chilling them again.
- Preheat the oven, roll the dough out on tin foil, cut your shapes and lift off the excess dough, slide the tin foil onto your cookie sheet, now put the cookie sheet into the freezer for at least 15 minutes before baking. This will keep the gingerbread from spreading too much.
- Make a single test house with your chosen door width. This sounds like a pita, and it will be, but it will be far less trouble than the frustration of finding none of your finished houses fit on mugs. Knowing now that you need to cut a wider door is worth it.
- I found that dough chilled for only an hour puffed up quite a bit, but didn’t necessarily spread if the cut out shapes were chilled in the freezer. Dough that had been in the fridge overnight, or even the second day (it’ll keep for a few days) puffed up quite a bit less, perhaps because the baking powder had lost it’s mojo by this time?
- If you suspect your intended mugs are thicker and sturdier than usual grab some cardstock or a magazine insert and cut a few different slots — 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch wide, about two inches deep (or tall). The one that slides easily onto the edge of you mug and even has a little wiggle room is the width you want for your door.
- If your gingerbread should spread and the doors look too narrow to you, you can trim them when the gingerbread is just out of the oven before it sets and cools too much. I suggest a paring knife and trimming just a bit from either side of the door.
I decided to only decorate the roofs for now. I might make these again next year and get more detailed with the decorations. I used a variety of sugars and sprinkles. One note, I discovered that candy cane dust will stick together so well that it will not show any piping detail beneath it. I liked the way regular sanding sugar made the roof sparkle a bit, though I couldn’t capture the cuteness in my pictures.
Don’t fill your mug of hot chocolate too full, you don’t want the bottom of your gingerbread house to get soggy.
Can you tell the crushed candy cane one was my favorite?
I would be these would be fantastic made out of sugar cookie or shortbread dough. You could certainly leave them undecorated, or perhaps press sanding sugar into the roof pieces before baking. On the other hand I’m curious to see what one would look like covered in pieces of tiny candies. I’m also planning on making house-shaped marshmallows that will fit on the edge of the mug.
update: I made a few variations including a chimney and a version made out of sugar cookie dough which you might be interested in.
· comments  · 12-18-2009 · categories:christmas · food ·
Just a note to say that I’ve made some changes to the site that allow for bigger pictures and text, and in the process I broke some pages that I’ll be cleaning up tomorrow. But now I must sleep. Goodnight.
· comments  · 12-18-2009 · categories:mumbling ·
Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash, and Basically Have It All is about selling your crafts online and in shows. I’m a huge fan of all the people profiled inside.
Snowy Village Cakelet Pan from Williams-Sonoma, I’ve always resisted buying the specialty holiday bakeware from W-S but I don’t think I can let this one get away. Besides, it will go really well with the stacking chocolate evergreen tree molds I got ages ago from the old Martha Stewart catalog. (I miss that catalog.)
How did I miss this? A Lego Harry Potter game! I mentioned before that the Lego games are a ridiculous amount of fun because you can play them together, and a lot of the puzzles need both of you to solve them. That and if your character should expire you simply pop back into existence, no waiting, no loading, no throwing you back to the start of a level. This game is years 1 to 4 which means there will be more games coming along, yay.
· comments  · 12-17-2009 · categories:shopping ·
· comments  · 12-17-2009 · categories:food · links ·
· comments  · 12-16-2009 · categories:links · technology ·
I have the extraordinary luck to be headed to Paris in a few months. I’ll need a few things before I go.
I’m terrified of being without my iPhone for any length of time, even just for the books and games that will amuse me on long flights or train rides. This $15 iPhone charger is one I mentioned earlier, and it also made the Holiday Gift Guide for Geeks written by Mighty Girl. It gives two full charges. I might buy four. I’m also eyeing the Flexicord which I found over at NOTCOT, it’s a flexible USB cord that can work as a stand for your phone, and I’m betting it will prop up an iPhone well enough to allow me to watch movies. (Flexicord image used is from from NOTCOT.com.)
I already have one of these Bucky Ultralight masks but I’ll need another since Scott likes it too. I’m also going to get a Bucky Neck Pillow, previously I’d bought an inflatable pillow and it didn’t work out so well.
I will need books! Besides the Rough Guide to Paris I’m looking at The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, to get myself in the right mindset, and Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, because I anticipate eating as much as possible while I’m there. And of course, I’ll have to get the PNW’s own Rick Steves’ Paris 2010. Oh neat, they are all available for the Kindle, I wonder if they would look ok on my iPhone’s Kindle app?
· comments  · 12-15-2009 · categories:iphone · shopping ·
· comments  · 12-14-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens is a fairly inexpensive lens that has been recommended to me over and over again from the moment I got my Canon XSi. The lens works well for indoor, low light conditions and I could really use that during our short, overcast days.
I bought a basic KitchenAid mixer on sale so it was nice and cheap. However, the bowl it comes with doesn’t have a handle on the side and I didn’t anticipate how, well, handy that would be. Fingers crossed somebody will get me this replacement bowl with a handle. Also, having two mixing bowls would be very convenient lots of times, like have one bowl chilling for whipped cream while making gingerbread in the other. I also sort of want one of these new fangled beater blades.
I want to perfect my calzone making this winter. This baking stone from Old Stone Oven will also help keep a constant oven temperature, which I need badly. I just went and measured my oven to make sure this one would fit inside. When I made those calzones I accidentally burned the bejeezus out of my thumb so I bought some idiot proof OXO Good Grips Silicone Oven Mitts shortly thereafter, and they’ve served me well. They have a nice ring to hang on a hook as well as a magnet so you can store them on the side of your fridge.
Shortly after we got a PlayStation 3 Netflix announced they were offering free streaming content for it. The PS3 is also a Blu-ray player (it also plays regular DVDS and does a better job of it than our old DVD player, oddly). We may never leave the couch, in which case we’ll also need the PS3 remote.
But we need more games! Scott and I like to play games together, instead of against each other, and we’ve already worked our way through Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (both were SO much fun). Games you can play together (as opposed to networked) are lacking, but here are the ones we’re looking at next:
LEGO Batman, Lego Indiana Jones 2. The Adventure Continues (There is more? There is more!), and The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon.
LittleBigPlanet, Super Stardust HD, and PixelJunk Monsters.
Uncharted 2, Borderlands, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
There is a complete list of cooperative games (beware, some are split screen) at Co-Optimus, found via Ask Metafilter.
· comments  · 12-11-2009 · categories:christmas · shopping ·
This project is part of the Baker’s Dozen Ultimate Cookie Exchange. Thirteen bloggers are joining up to share cookie recipes, and there are six giveaways sprinkled among the posts so be sure to visit them all.
I decided to take a literal interpretation for my Christmas cookie project, and I also wanted to try making a cookie that stands up on its own. A partridge in a pear tree was just perfect.
The good news is that I have found you one kick ass structural gingerbread recipe. The bad news is that while it’s technically edible, you wouldn’t want to eat it as it’s very tough and could potentially do some damage to your teeth.
I’ll be honest here, I wish I could do this over. It was my first time working with serious royal icing and I didn’t quite get the hang of it. After way too many batches of gingerbread that couldn’t hold up under it’s own weight I ran out of time and the icing technique suffered.
I made separate pears and used royal icing (recipe below) to glue them on.
Besides the pears there are only three pieces:
I’m trying to show how they fit together:
The tree pieces fit together to hold everything up, and the bird perches on the branch that extends out front. The tallest part of the tree is just over nine inches tall.
Here is an overhead view:
Gingerbread recipe, printable pattern, tips, and many, many pictures when you click MORE.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-9-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·
I keep seeing recommendations for the Canon S90 point and shoot camera. And, as luck would have it, I’ll be headed to Paris in a few months (yay!!!) and could use a camera with remarkable picture quality that takes up a lot less space than my DSLR. It shoots well in low light, it shoots in RAW, it has controls a DSLR user will appreciate, it makes me drool a bit.
But then, somewhere in my research of the Canon S90 I came across a mention of this Panasonic Lumix LX3. It’s cool looking, sports a Leica lens and HD video recording.
And then I came across the Canon G11, which has an articulating display screen. It also shoots in RAW and has the same low light performance as the S90. I used to have a Canon with one of these flippy, rotate-y screens which I loved until the day it refused to take pictures anymore.
I’ve already worked my way through the Stages Of Justification and decided I need one of these but I just cannot decide. Which one? Which?
(Earlier this year Scott and I bought a teeny tiny Nikon point and shoot the day before we went to Vegas. It was inexpensive and lightweight and fit in my wedding purse and took pictures that were just fine in the Vegas sun. However it’s really not good in the Seattle winter. Lesson re-learned, you get what you pay for.)
· comments  · 12-9-2009 · categories:shopping ·
I’ve mentioned the mirrormirror boutique here before, so you already know I like the stuff they carry. This year they are offering Not Martha readers free shipping to anywhere in the world. To get it choose the ‘FREE shipping with offer code’ option at check out and write the code word ‘Not Martha’ in the ‘how did you hear about us?’ box in shopping basket. The last day for free shipping is Dec. 10th.
I picked out a few things that caught my eye, some of them are recurring favorites. Above you’ll see Chick Stud Earrings, Creative Interiors Journal and Colouring Book, Paris Tea Towels, Stacking Egg Cups, Hanging Peacock, and the Paprika Table Lamp (expensive but so lovely).
· comments  · 12-8-2009 · categories:shopping ·