31 December 2008

and so it goes...


I just wanted to pop in here and wish you all a very happy new year! Thank you all so much for taking a few moments from your busy lives to stop here and visit me. I appreciate every single comment and even just knowing that there are more of you out there who don't necessarily comment makes my days. Thank you for all the support, encouragement, inspiration, and smiles. 2008 has been an excellent year for me. I learned a lot, met some very cool new people (in person and online) and reconnected with others, expanded my photographic horizons about tenfold, achieved some goals, ignored some others, traveled a little (not nearly enough though), and continued loving my life in Minneapolis. I can only hope that there is more excellence to come in 2009, I'm pretty sure there is. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and peaceful year to come.

Much love,
Julia

29 December 2008

oh, hi there

Hello everyone! So sorry to drop off here for about a week and a half! I was certainly not intending to do that, but I suppose if I had thought about what I've had going on for the past ten days (dogsitting, Jared coming home from California, spending six straight days with his family) I would have realized that it was just time to take a little break. Anyways, here I am. I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you were celebrating one in the last week. I'm slowly getting back into my routine and I'm so super excited that I have a whole other week off from work to catch up on some projects (crafty and not) and get my head back on straight before getting back to work next week.

I had a really lovely Hanukkah dinner with Jared's family on Saturday and gave them all (excepf for Jared) their first taste of potato latkes. They loved it, and I was wishing there were more leftovers, even though I tripled the recipe. I posted the recipe last year, you can find it here. This year, I replaced the flour with white rice flour to accommodate Jared's nephew who is on a gluten free diet and that worked just fine. I didn't notice any significant taste or consistency difference, which I was worried about.

I hope you all have been finding some time to relax during this crazy season and spend some time with the ones you love. I'll be back later this week with some more crafty posts, it feels like it's been forever since I've posted something crafty!

19 December 2008

the full tin

The final cookie post of 2008. I think...The fourth type of cookie that I made this year was tea cakes. Frankly, I didn't get any good photos of these cookies, but they were delicious. I used this recipe from Bread and Honey, a beautiful and delicious food blog that I've only recently discovered. I didn't change anything about the recipe, so I don't feel that I need to retype it here. Also, once you're over there, click around and check out some of their delicious recipes!

The final two cookies that I made, which I've already shared here before, were the lavender shortbread, and the double chocolate cookies. I wasn't planning on making the lavender ones, since I've finally come to terms with the fact that I don't actually like eating lavender (even though I really wish I did like it), but they were specially requested. I also wasn't planning on making the double chocolate, but after the mexican chocolate failed, I knew I needed something chocolaty.

This year, as with last year, I was able to find some awesome tins at the thrift store. I sort of followed through with my plan to stock up throughout the year, but I didn't have quite as many as I needed (which ended up being sixteen). So last weekend, when I was starting my baking, I headed over to Savers and was able to find a ton! I thought there wouldn't be any since last year I was going around and around to all the thrift stores around this time buying tins. So that was a major relief. They're so tacky, that I just love them. Most of the ones I found weren't too Christmas-y (which, frankly, was probably why they were left in the store), so I was happy about that.

Soooo, it's officially done. The only gifting I have left to work on is something for Jared's little nephews. I do need to make another stuffie, since apparently the one I made for the birthday boy a few weeks ago was commandeered by his older brother. I've been at a loss for what to do for them, but I had a brief stroke of genius today and I think I've got a great idea. We'll just see if it pans out the way it looks in my head. Luckily, it's supposed to snow all weekend, so I think I'll just stay inside. Stay warm and cozy wherever you are this weekend!

18 December 2008

and they're off!

I am sooo happy to report that all the out of town recipients of cookies are having their packages shipped today! I will have to make another big post office trip tomorrow, but I have no work, so I'm looking forward to going at an odd hour in the middle of the day and hopefully avoid the big line. This means, of course, that I've finished the cookie extravaganza! You have no idea how excited I am about this. And next year, I am baking ahead (or at least mixing the dough ahead) and freezing it. I might just put a note in my 2009 datebook (which I haven't bought yet)** for November 15 to come back and read this post again.

Without further ado, the third type of cookie: Chai Shortbread. I'm pretty sure that this recipe came from the same issue of Cooking Light as the snickerdoodles (we were waiting in that Sprint store for a while...). I *love* chai tea, so of course I assumed that I would love chai shortbread too. They are good. Again, they're nothing too extravagant. Not a big party in your mouth. But the cardamom and cinnamon add just enough extra something to leave you wondering what it was that made that cookie so darn tasty. So here's the recipe

Chai Shortbread
(adapted from Cooking Light)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup powdered sugar
10 tbs softened margarine
1 tbs ice water

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper. In a large bowl (or electric mixer if you have one) beat sugar and margarine together until fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Sprinkle dough with ice water. Toss with a fork. Divide dough in half and shape into 6" logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour (dough should be very firm). While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375. After an hour or so, unwrap the dough logs. Carefully cut each log into 18 slices using a serrated knife. Place dough circles at least 1" apart on parchment lined baking sheets. At this point, you can make little slashes or some other kind of design on the top of the cookie if you want them to look more interesting. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool on pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

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Tomorrow (Friday) is the last day to order anything from the shop that would be guaranteed to arrive by Christmas. There are still lots of goodies and cards for you last minute shoppers, so be sure to check it out. If you want it sent as a gift, I can always do gift cards, just put all necessary info in the message to seller. Thanks again for all your support this year!

**Also, on a totally unrelated note, I'm looking for the perfect datebook. Last year I used this moleskine one. It is perfect except that it doesn't have any holidays listed in it. This is occasionally problematic, and often annoying. So I'm open to suggestions on something simple, that closes, has lines, and also lists generally acknowledged national holidays (Jewish holidays a plus!). Thanks!

16 December 2008

a variation on an old cookie

I'm pretty sure that I've never shared this cookie recipe here before, but it's one of my favorites:: almond horns from an old Martha Stewart Living. I've made this cookie so many times, I can't even begin to count. The flavor is so perfect- just the right balance between salty and sweet and nutty. They were in the holiday cookie tins last year, and I think it might have been at that point when I came up with the idea to use that dough for thumbprint cookies with jam in the middle. Somehow I haven't managed to try that in the past year, but I did yesterday and it was so perfect. I love thumbprint cookies, but the recipes I've tried have always turned out either too flaky or too buttery (or maybe even both). I thought the almond flavor of the dough would be a perfect compliment to the fruity flavor of the jam (almost like a pb&j sandwich- but with almonds!).

There's not a whole lot to say about these cookies except that they're absolutely delicious. In fact, for some reason I didn't double this recipe and I think I'm going to have to make another batch tomorrow. At this point, though, I'm pretty much too tired to say or do anything else (though I am working up the strength to give the bathtub a quick scrub, and the only thing that's motivating me to do that is the fact that I really want to take a bath since my back is sore from all that shoveling yesterday!). In other news, triple a has saved my butt twice in two days and it turned out that the starter and the battery in my car got into a fight, and I was the loser. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a better day. And when all else fails, bake more cookies!LinkAlmond Thumbprint Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup softened margarine
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbs ground flax + 3 tbs water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup whole raw almonds, toasted and finely ground (use a food processor if you have one)
about 1/2 pint jam, I used raspberry rhubarb and I think strawberry would be delicious too

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy (you can use an electric mixer here if you have one). Add in flax mixture, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in flour and ground almonds, just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Roll one tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Make a thumbprint in each ball of dough and fill with jam. Do not overfill with jam, you don't want it bubbling over and getting messy! Bake cookies for about 20 minutes, or until slightly golden. Cool and enjoy!

15 December 2008

and it begins again

Last year began, what I'm thinking will become a long-standing December tradition, of holiday baking. This is what I made last year (clearly I forgot my resolution to bake and freeze the cookies ahead of time), and this year I wanted to do some of the same cookies and bring in some new ones too. Actually, I wasn't even sure if I was going to do all this baking, what with all the craft fair prep and my attempt at a more laid back present thing (yeah, remember all that jam I made back in the summer?). But then last week, my coworker told me that his wife asked if I was going to make them cookies again. And then, well, then I knew I had to. Also, I'm a little burned out on sewing, so I needed something to keep me busy while Jared's away (man does that make me sound like a 50s housewife!).

I made up a list of six types of cookies to make and I'll be sharing those recipes with you here this week (well, a couple have already been shared here, so I won't repeat myself!). Sadly, I already ruined one--mexican chocolate cookies. The recipe was from Cooking Light (I think, I have a recollection of tearing it out of a magazine in the Sprint store in Orlando as we waited for Jared to get a new phone) and I adapted it to be vegan. The only change I made from the original recipe was substituting margarine for butter, and apparently the dough didn't like that. The cookies melted in the oven and came out a super weird and kind of gross consistency. The flavor was good, though, so I'll have to work on that recipe some more later.

The first recipe that I made was vegan snickerdoodles, from the September 2007 Vegetarian Times. I had never made snickerdoodles before, and apparently I didn't even really know what they were. I had always thought they had more stuff in them- like nuts and coconut and other stuff like that. But apparently, they're quite plain, but perfect. They're delicious but don't have too much going on. They'd be good with ice cream, or just a cup of tea, or for a quick bite. Anyways, they're easy, and tasty and I'm all about that. So here's the recipe...I made just a couple of modifications: I used arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch, because that's just what I had in the cupboard (recipe calls for 1/4 cup cornstarch). Also, the amounts for the cinnamon sugar in the recipe are WAY too much, so this is probably all you need (and now I have a ton of cinnamon sugar on hand...). And also, the recipe calls for vanilla soymilk, but we use oatmilk, so I used that and just added an extra splash of vanilla.

Vegan Snickerdoodles (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
8 tsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick (4 oz) vegan margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oatmilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the cinnamon sugar:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs. cinnamon
1/2 tbs. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, arrowroot powder and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate, large bowl, beat margarine until soft. Add sugar and beat until fluffy (if you have an electric mixer, you can use it here. I don't so I beat by hand, it's good for the arm muscles!). Beat in oatmilk and vanilla just until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat until combined well. Combine ingredients for cinnamon sugar on a large plate. Shape dough into 1" balls and roll each one in the cinnamon sugar. Place each cookie about 1 1/2" apart on a greased or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake about 10-12 minutes until cookies look dry on the top and are slightly browned on the bottoms. Cool and enjoy!

ps: it is freezing here and I find that baking (i.e. keeping the oven on for hours) is an excellent antidote to below zero temperatures. I hope you're all staying warm wherever you are! Also, here's what I was up to this morning before work...

13 December 2008

holiday cheer

So after trying to figure out what kind of decorations I could make, I found a few solutions. I did indeed make some soft trees and I love them! I have a feeling I'll be making some more. I was really pleasantly surprised that I finished five in just two evenings. As much as I wanted to decorate for our little party last night, I was not in the mood to stress out about it. So these were the perfect solution. We put up twinkly lights too, and that always helps make things more festive. In fact, I'm loving them so much that I think we'll leave them up for a while! Abby suggested lots of candles, which I definitely did--little votives in various holders all over the house.

LinkAnother idea that my aunt gave me was to slice some fruit and put it in the oven at 175 overnight. She then puts the fruit pieces in a glass bowl or just displays them out on a table. I decided that I wanted a garland, so I strung them on some thin twine. I was thinking that we could maybe have put them in the food dehydrator instead of the oven, but that only occurred to me afterwards. I used an orange, a lemon, a lime, and an asian pear. The citrus slices didn't dry out all the way and I'm not sure if they're supposed to or not. Maybe I didn't slice them thin enough? I'm not sure, but I figured that the air is so dry here now that they'll dry out as they're hanging up.

Both of these decorations were easy and fun to make. Also, they're a little unusual and I got some odd, but approving comments from our guests. It's always fun to do something out of the ordinary and shake it up a little. Right now, I'm really excited about how clean our house is (one of the benefits of having company) and am hoping it will stay this way until Jared's parents come visit for Christmas. He left for California this morning and will be there until just before his parents come, so I have a feeling that the house should stay pretty much in order. Of course, if it doesn't, there will only be me to blame!

12 December 2008

and friday has arrived


Good morning everyone! One thing I love about winter is being awake for sunrise. This morning (well, about 45 minutes ago), I was doing some dishes and noticed this brilliant pink/orange color out of the corner of my eye. I turned around to look out the window and saw this beautiful sunrise. Of course I grabbed my camera and ran upstairs to the little balcony off the back of our house. Even though it's shared between all the neighbors here, mostly the upstairs people use the balcony and we use the front porch (in the summer, that is!). But I've found that the balcony is just perfect for photographing over the tops of all the houses in my neighborhood. It was beautiful indeed.

I'm looking forward to a very quiet weekend...a little party tonight, some baking, organizing (and planning!) of gifts to give, a haircut, and checking out (not participating in!) a small craft fair on Sunday. What are your plans for this fine December weekend? I hope they're good ones.

ps: I did get to work on a couple of decorations (thanks for the ideas!) and am not quite finished yet. I'll be sure to share them this weekend!

10 December 2008

things that bloom in the winter


Okay, so I'm still recovering from last weekend, so I apologize if things are a bit slow around here. In the meantime, I've been seriously loving some of the holiday decorations that I've been seeing around the blogs and flickr (like this, this, this, this, and definitely this). This is always kind of a weird time of year for me, since I don't celebrate Christmas and there really aren't too many Hanukkah decorations out there. Hanukkah just isn't the same kind of decorating, baking holiday that Christmas is. So here's my dilemma: I really want to get into the festive, seasonal spirit, but without getting into Christmasy stuff. Hmm, any suggestions? I'm feeling like I want to spruce up the house a little for the holidays so I'm on the lookout for wintery decorations. I'm planning on making some of these soft trees--possibly tonight so I can have them out in time for a little gathering we're hosting on Friday. Any other ideas for non-Christmasy decorations? I'd love to see more of what others are doing out there.

In other news, as a result of the massive sewing frenzy over the past few weeks, I hadn't been taking too many photos. Amazingly Jared bought me a Lomo lc-a for my birthday and it arrived a couple of weeks ago, yet I only first had the chance to go buy batteries and film for it on Monday! I'm really excited to experiment with it this weekend (when I have no plans, woohoo!), so I'll be sure to share the results with you as soon as I get them back. I also finally tried out my spectra closeup kit. It came with the camera when I bought it a couple of months ago, but never had anything closeup that I wanted to test it out on. When our Christmas cactus that our former neighbors left us began to bloom for the first time, I knew this was the perfect excuse to give it a go. I think it turned out pretty sweet.

And speaking of polaroids, check out Sarah's new shop! She's got a few really beautiful polaroid prints as well as some notecards. I'm so excited for her new venture and that she's sharing her beautiful photographs with the rest of us.

08 December 2008

I'll just sit on this couch right here, thank you very much

Today I am, what most people would refer to as, ridiculously exhausted. After three straight days of craft fairs, with the third day actually being split between the craft fair and a work event that I was basically in charge of (oh yeah, I do actually have a day job!), I managed to take a personal day today. And it was so nice. Sadly, I didn't spend nearly as much time sitting on my couch as I had planned to. But of course, it's only 6:30 so I still have plenty of time for couch-sitting tonight.

Despite the utter exhaustion, I did have a wonderful time at both shows this weekend. And, lucky for all of you, I still have a bunch of stuff for the shop! And the holiday shop is now officially open, so click on over there and check it out.

Since I don't live under a rock, I know that times are tight out there. So, I'm offering a couple of different promotions that will stay in effect until the end of this year. The first is a special one, just for you all. If you enter the code "minecreations blog" in the notes to seller, you will receive 20% off your entire purchase. You all have been so supportive of me this past year (and longer) and I wanted say thank you. Also, I am offering free shipping for any order over $20 and any 5 cards are $18 (you save $2). For any of these promotions (or all of them, as they can be used together), you can either wait for a revised invoice before you pay, or I will refund your savings through paypal.

Here's a little preview of what's up in the shop now. We've got some cards that would be just right for all of your holiday notes, some coaster sets that would be the perfect host gift for holiday parties, snappy and zippy pouches, and one--that's right, just one--fleece-lined patchwork scarf. I had so much fun making these scarves earlier in the fall that I wanted to make more, but I just knew that the lightweight wool suiting I had used in October wasn't going to cut it for this Minnesota winter. I found this amazingly soft and warm fleece that worked perfectly to back these scarves with. I sold a bunch over the weekend, but I'm glad that I have one left to offer in the shop.

So head on over there and see if you find something you like. Also, I did not list everything that I have right now, so if you're looking for something specific or have a question about anything, just shoot me an email or a conversation through etsy. Thanks!

04 December 2008

Buy Handmade This Weekend!

I've got two amazing craft fairs coming up this weekend (which is pretty much why things have been a little quiet over here, as I've been working my little booty off preparing along with getting over this nasty cold)! I'm super excited about both of them and am definitely honored to be selling my wares alongside so many other talented artists crafters. If you're in the area, I would *love* to meet you!

No Coast Craft-O-Rama is this Friday (tomorrow!) and Saturday at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis (click on the logo above for more details)

LinkLinkLinkThe Handmaidens Second Annual Craftmas is Sunday at the Uptown VFW in Minneapolis (again, click on the logo for more info). I hope you local peeps can come check some of these events out. And if you do, be sure to come find me and say hello!

And, if you're still not sure why you should buy handmade this season (and always), here's a few resources:
:: Poppytalk's 101 Reasons to Buy Handmade
:: buyhandmade.org, you can still take the Pledge!
:: Hodge Podge Farm's reasons for taking the pledge

01 December 2008

hello december...


Ahh December, there are so many things to love about you. Including...

:: the hustle and bustle, but also the little moments of calm.

:: all the parties and celebrations.

:: good food that you don't eat when it's not the holidays.

:: exchanging gifts, big or small.

:: hibernating.

:: wool socks and sweaters, scarves, hats, and mittens.

:: winter light.

:: snuggling.

:: baking holiday goodies.

:: knitting. well, all the crafting, really.

and if these weren't enough, check out Martha's new flickr group! Happy December everyone!