Sunday, December 30, 2012

Possibly the best cut-out Gingerbread cookies


Story of a family recipe found, lost and found again


The Recipe


1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg
3 and 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
Juice and zest of 1 orange

Cream the butter,sugar and molasses until well mixed. Add the egg. Mix again. Add the zest grated off the orange and the juice you squeezed out of it.

Mix the dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture. Combine thoroughly.

Wrap or put bowl in the refrigerator until chilled through and stiff.
Roll out dough on a floured surface. Use cookie cutters to cut out cute shapes. Transfer onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until light browning is seen at the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes.

The Story
And I've been a witness to the tale and will retell it here.Mom got the recipe through the Vasa Lodge about 1967 or 1968, maybe a few years before then. The Vasa Lodge is a benefit fraternal organization for Swedish immigrants to which my parents to belonged.The only person that can argue or more accurately pinpoint the date is my brother and I am relatively certain he does not actively read my blog.
 After my mother Ingeborg first baked these cookies, they immediately became one of our Christmas standards. Inga had other pepparkakor recipes, but we just loved the extra dimension made by adding orange to the dough.

Sadly, one Christmas many years later, maybe after she moved from the house on Wauwatosa Road to the one in Cedarburg, the handwritten 3 x 5 recipe card had disappeared. It no longer lived in the green rosemaling-decorated, metal recipe box. Old Swedish friends were called and research was done at the local library to no avail. No one had a copy of the recipe.

Christmas went on, but with different pepparkakor. Cookies that were adequate, but not quite as delicious.

Then, the cookies showed up at my mother-in-laws! My all dutch-all the time mother-in-law had the recipe. I had passed the recipe along years before and forgotten about doing so.

To make sure this recipe did not disappear again, I purchased an 8 x 10 framed picture at the thrift store. Took the picture out and replaced it with a drawing and the recipe. That picture now hangs at my nephews house. One holiday, when I could not easily find the recipe, I asked him to photograph the framed recipe and post it to facebook. Now it will also live on my blog.

Hope you find these cookies to your liking.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Martin Creed - Deep Purple

This exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art could be your worst nightmare if you are allergic to latex or claustrophobic. For the rest of us it is a unique and enchanting experience.  The exhibit features 27,000 purple balloons piled 8 feet deep in a room with mostly glass walls.

This installation is the work of British artist and musician Martin Creed. Entitled Half the Air in a Given Space, this concept was first created in 1998 with white balloons and has been reenacted several times since in different colors and configurations.

As the name suggests, half a room's entire volume is filled with air-inflated balloons and then visitors are encouraged to walk through. “It is important to me,” says Creed, “that the situation is normal, that, as usual, the space is full of air; it’s just that half of it [is] inside the balloons.”

Meant to evoke a sense of celebration and remembrance of childhood, the installation is almost guaranteed to leave everyone giggling or with a smile on their face. As you can see here one of the major challenges for exhibit staff is to get people in and out without loosing large quantities of balloons in the process.

Only 10 people were allowed in at a time and you flattened yourself as close to the glass as possible and slid in .

Staff picked up and stuffed stray balloons back in.

Because this is a room with 16 foot ceilings, the balloons were 8 feet deep and once inside you were enveloped in a purple landscape. You heard rather than saw other people in the room unless they were extremely close. For me, initial navigation stayed along the perimeter until the situation grew more familiar and then I braved the depths of room central.

It was a bright sunny day and taking pictures of the view through balloons proved entertaining. A cloudy day would likely yield a different experience.

And I found it hard to resist a little self portraiture in hard reflective surfaces.

If you want to encounter this phenomenon yourself,  get a move on to the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibit closes November 25,2012 or you'll have to wait for another incarnation somewhere. 

The link above takes you to the installation at the Rennie Gallery in Vancouver 2011. Watching it reminds me of the effect the balloons had on my hair. Having relatively straight and slick hair I thought dreadlocks were an impossibility for me. The balloons altered that idea. 

If you watch the video, notice how much these adults are laughing.

Go see this, if you have the opportunity.
And if you are not allergic to latex or claustrophobic.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

It feels like Christmas at Halloween

 There is something quite lovely about a package of goodies arriving in the mailbox. Goodies that other hands have made for you. Even if you know they are coming or maybe, it is especially sweet when you are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the mail carrier.

Here I test my ability to operate a camera shutter with my left hand while slitting the package tape with a paring knife.

I belong to a Yahoo group called Charmsters. It was created by Laurel Stevens in 2007. We are a group of a little over 100 people that make and swap charms through the mail. Jean Brederode and Erin Keck became our group moderators in 2011.

Participants sign up for specific swaps that interest them. This Halloween swap was hosted by Lori Guerin. She sorted the charms that were submitted and shipped them to participants in this snazzy orange bag, fiercely guarded by the skeleton.

Here is my loot all spread out. Next I'll show you the charms one by one and tell you who made them.

 A dark stained clay pumpkin with a green glass leaf bead by Kimberly McIntosh

  Glass candy corn charm by Marjorie Grace Sayers

 A bag of assorted goodies and a small vial of stardust from Rena Azevedo Kiehn

 More goodie loot and a bead embellished skull by Anne Savage

 Dark chocolate and caramel square and a spooky, crackled eyeball by our host Lori Guerin

 Black cat in a Deschutes Brewery bottle cap by Eunice Oakley

 Shrinky Dink ghost with dangling  bead eyes by your truly

 Kooky bead embellished skull charm by Zhulia Abrock

 Glitter face in a bottle cap charm by Linda Bucci

 Fluffy black fiber embellished skeleton skull charm by Susan Zacher

 Fused glass gem and Shrinky Dink crow by Carol Ingram Moore

 Enameled candy corn by Susan Berry

 Clay licorice candy and bone skull duo by Amy Huff

Skull and stiffened baler twine scarecrow by Jo Morrison

As you can see we all put our own spin on these charms. Packaging and presentation are often almost as interesting as the charms themselves. Next step is to get these lovelies onto some necklace chain before the holiday overtakes me.

Have a spooktacular Halloween.


P.S. Charmsters - If I made any errors in spelling your name or describing your charm, leave a comment and editing will occur as rapidly as possible.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unexpected Beauty - Exit 17 Interstate 26 - North Carolina

Of all the places my travels take me, North Carolina's Department of Transportation seems to have the most successful wildflower program. The principal source of revenue is the sale of personalized license plates. A portion of the extra fee supports wildflower planting and highway beautification. Some folks also make direct contributions, 100% of which goes to the program.

This fall day, the sunflowers are making a glorious and cheery visual statement, but I have seen some lovely plantings of corn poppies and gaillardia in other seasons.

With faces or flower heads  that turn through the day to follow the path of the sun, sunflowers symbolize adoration.

Different sources on the language of flowers say that sunflowers represent loyalty and longevity...

or pure and lofty thoughts.

You get to pick your favorite interpretation.

This spot at exit 17 on Interstate 26 near Weaverville, North Carolina is an easy pull-off and it is just as easy to get back on, so stop and have a look if you pass on by.


It is a lovely autumn - enjoy it before the snow flies.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Button, button...she's got the buttons!

While not yet in need of a 12-step program, I do have a certain fondness for buttons, old, previously-used buttons in particular. Turns out my friend Cherie St. Cyr shares my predilection for vintage buttons.

My last visit with Cherie occurred this past February, while she was in the winter apartment she owns in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This time we met up in Madison, Wisconsin, where she spends the rest of her year. Cherie is a textile artist currently focusing on art quilts, a massage therapist and tarot card reader.

Find out more here at her web site:

Beyond just chatting, I admit to an ulterior motive; I needed a tutorial on free motion sewing, with a hands on demonstration preferred. Her skillful instruction helped me generate this sunflower and cat thread sketch on a white fabric and batting sandwich.


The buttons in Cherie's basement studio are sorted into a variety of glass jars by color family.

In the past, she has revealed a particular fondness for red buttons, which may explain why they occupy the fanciest jar on the shelf.

If you have a button stash, the next time you look through it, check out how few of the buttons are green. Yellows are also less common, found more often an women's blouses and dresses.It must have taken a while to gather all these.

Blue buttons are found on both men's and women's garments and are a little easier to obtain.

These larger white carved buttons likely adorned a light colored sundress many decades ago, the plainer buttons something a bit more utilitarian. 

Button collections are a relic of a different era. Our grandmothers and sometimes mothers stockpiled such accumulations. Often stored in fancy tin, they amused many a child or grandchild in the sewing room. Button containers and jars belong to an era when clothing was repaired and when the garment was finally worn out, the buttons were cut off to be used to repair a different garment.

While sorting my own buttons by color will wait for another day, I thought Cherie has found a fabulous way to display these little treasures.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jennifer Street - Madison, Wisconsin - August 2012


These are adjectives easily applied to Jennifer Street. Jenny Street runs parallel to and one block over from the busier Williamson Street in the Marquette neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin. This neighborhood is one of Madison's oldest with a plethora of architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate and Arts & Crafts bungalows. 

During my recent trip to Wisconsin, I inhabited this vicinity while staying at my sister-in-law's house between Willy and Jenny Streets. While strolling on Jenny Street, I photographed these two yards, about a block apart.

Obviously not available at the big box stores, these yard art dogs have none too shiny, gravel teeth...

 ...and sport dark sunglasses.

Serious party animals, these two.
 I'm willing to bet they howl just fine when the moon is full.

 You may have seen painted bowling balls utilized as yard art before, but these demonstrate the power of quantity and repetition.

The pink zinnias set off the blue bowling balls, offering a pleasing counterpoint.

The lady of the house was sitting on the screened in porch and she came out to chat.

One of her favorite features in the yard are the moon flowers shown here in bud. She grew them from seed.

Stay tuned for more trip photos.