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I’ve now passed my 4th blogiversary — Happy Blog Day!  This prompts a bit of looking back at what I was doing that first month of blogging.  In some ways, things are much the same.

I still love and wear my handspun alpaca mitts.

I still love and make the NYT No-Knead bread.  This post, by way, is my most-viewed post. Lotta bread lovers out there.

I’m still spinning and dyeing.  Spinning much better now, thanks to a couple of classes with the  justly-revered Judith MacKenzie.

The dyeing has turned into a business, with actual profits!  Not huge, not a living wage, but it’s a self-sustaining hobby that pays for cool equipment and classes, lets me meet great folks, and play with color as much as I want.  I’m currently winding off yarn for a commission for Syne Mitchell, who will make it available to her students when she teaches a rigid-heddle weaving class  at the John C. Campbell Folk School. (The blurry look of the winder and swift in motion in this photo is my attempt at an arty action shot.)

But, although we’ve had our share of wintery weather, there haven’t been any more visits from the river otters.

What’s different? Mostly the kids, who don’t show up here too much. My son Erik has graduated college and is navigating the chilly job market while also doing some free-lance writing.  Fingers crossed for two projects being printed and available to the public this year (I’ll keep you posted). He’s also part of the writing team on The Mongoliad, a cool on-line serial novel.  My daughter Alex continues her studies at Savannah College of Art and Design. She’s a Dramatic Writing major, which means scripts, although her writing teacher this quarter is fine with her working on a novel.  These kids, they think one make a living  writing! Fools . . .

The cookies are baked, both Brune Kager (left) and the other cookies I’ve been making at Christmas for the past couple of years, Churer Zimtsterne.

The Zimtsterne are from a recipe by local chef Greg Atkinson that I found in the paper.  Since my husband has become allergic to dairy products, it’s nice to have a cookie recipe that doesn’t call for any butter or cream.   They are from Churer, Switzerland.

Churer Zimtsterne

  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds, skin on
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup egg white (two eggs’ worth, usually)
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for handling dough

Preheat oven to 300 hundred degrees. Prepare cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Process almonds, cinnamon, and lemon zest in food processsor, pulsing until the almonds are coarsely chopped, then run motor until they are finely ground, around 30-40 seconds.

Beat egg whites, lemon juice,  and salt to stiff peak stage, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar until it’s a stiff meringue. Measure 1/2 cup of it and set aside. Stir almond mix into the remaining meringue.

Form into cookies — I scoop the dough with a spoon, form it gently into a ball in my powdered-sugar-coated hand, put on the parchment paper and press down to flatten.  The recipe says to roll out the dough on a powdered sugar-coated surface and cut into star shapes, but my dough’s never been solid enough to do that.

Brush or spoon reserved meringue onto tops of cookies.  Bake for 12-14 minutes — do not overbake. They will be tender and chewy, not hard and crisp. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

One of each of these, with my morning latte, is definitely a taste of my Christmas!

This is not.

 Isn’t fresh lutefisk an oxymoron?

Well, dear blog, it’s been quite a while.  Despite my best intentions, I’ve been less than good about keeping up with you.  I blame Facebook.  But, here I am with a little something I think you’ll like.

It’s time to make Christmas cookies! The one cookie I must make every year is this recipe, from my grandmother.

I just make half a recipe these days, so it’s:

Brown Cookies, or Brune Kager in Danish

Melt 1/4 pound of butter, cool; add 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. Karo (dark) syrup; 1/2 t. each: ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, 1 t. cinnamon; 2 beaten eggs. Sift 2 cups of flour with 1/2 t. salt and 1 t. baking soda. Mix all together. Cover and and keep in refrig. for a few days. Then roll out, cut, decorate with almonds.
350 F. 6-8 min.

This makes a very soft dough, almost a batter. I’ve fiddled with it over the years — sometimes I cream softened butter instead of melting it, and I always use butter in place of the marg. she called for. Using creamed butter makes a stiffer dough, and I’ve formed that into logs, chilled them, then sliced the logs into circular cookies. But this year I melted the butter. I divided the dough into two and formed it into flattened shapes on plastic film, then wrapped them up to put in the fridge. This’ll make it easier to roll out.

And I’m not waiting “a few days” — these get baked tomorrow!

We had a lovely weekend attending the Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductions, along with the Locus Awards.  This year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees  is:

 Frank R. Paul

Michael Whelan

Connie Willis

Ed Ferman

Frank R. Paul was the first illustrator to make a living painting rocket ships and such  — his images were the heart of the science fiction magazine look in the 20s and 30s.  His daughters and grandson were in town for the induction —  a delightful family, with lots of stories going way back into the history of the field.  Here is Greg with the daughters,  Patricia Paul Franzke and Joan C. Paul Engle.

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The Locus Awards banquet features a lot of hilarity with a Hawaiian shirt theme — here is Greg with John Kessel, who had just finished teaching a week at Clarion West, and Connie Willis, who  MCed the Locus Awards, post-banquet.

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Connie, being a woman of exquisite taste and social responsibility, changed out of her rocket launch polyester Hawaiian shirt before the Hall of Fame induction.  Greg, making it into the trivia contest because of his Lilo and Stitch Hawaiian shirt, blew away the competition by 1) knowing most of the answers and 2) having incredibily fast hand-raising reflexes.  The prize was an autographed banana.  This year, to have a permanent memento, there were two bananas, one real, one plastic.

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The wardrobe creativity extended beyond Hawaiian shirts — there was a Hawaiian print kilt that I didn’t get a picture  of, and Erica accessorized with a a wonderful mutant purse she made.

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Part poodle, part bear, part monkey.

Perfect weather for the events, and yes, we kept watching the skies.

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The real banana bravely met its inevitable fate, with a few raspberries from the garden for garnish.

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Hybrid technology is not just for cars. I was shopping for a new alarm clock, because Greg was truly tired of hearing the ticking of my old one, and found this boxy thing:

 

Silent night

Silent night

It has both batteries and tiny solar panels. And best of all, no noise until the alarm goes off.