Yogaopolis: Yoga Asana Cookies–Better Late Than Never


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It’s been TOO long and I’ve made too many shareable delights to delay any longer. One of my favorites from December is my batch of yoga asana cookies. As adorable as they were for the Yuletide season, I think they’ll be even cuter for Valentine’s Day when I outline the gingerbread men in pink. See for yourself…

Firstly, here are the cookie cutters, available at Baked Ideas. I opted for the ten piece set, but you can buy them in sets of five.

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Here’s the progression of dough to naked gingerbread men…

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…followed by piping of royal icing…

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…individually wrapped in baggies for gift giving…

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…and pictures of a few of the individual asanas…

Corpse pose
Corpse Pose
Plow Pose
Plow Pose
Lotus Pose
Lotus Pose
Side Angle Twist
Side Angle Twist
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Tree Pose
Full Wheel Pose
Full Wheel Pose

…and as decorations in my kitchen…

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I used Cook’s Illustrated’s Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookie Recipe, which I always use with great results.

For about twenty 5-inch gingerbread people or thirty 3-inch cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons milk

1. In food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. Alternatively, in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.

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Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls


Day of the Dead Mexican Sugar Skulls

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When we used to live in Orange County, California, my sister and I (and later Raj), would occasionally make the trek up to Olvera Street, the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles, via the train. It was an annual trip at the end of September that signaled the beginning of Halloween decorating season and an excuse to buy Day of the Dead items. If you’ve never been to Olvera Street, you need to go. It  makes a great day trip to eat authentic Mexican food and to stroll around cool and hip shops full of Day of the Dead figurines, sugar skulls, and lots more. A few years back, I tried to find a local shop or bakery in Virginia that sold sugar skulls and/or Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead bread), but with no such luck, I’ve had to create my own.

Making your own sugar skulls is really easy, but it does take time and LOTS of granulated sugar. I only made four large skulls and two smalls ones and used  5 pounds of granulated sugar for the skulls and 2 pounds of powdered sugar for the Royal Icing, but your hard work will pay off AND they last for years!

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Sugar Skulls

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup meringue powder (a must; it helps the sugar stick together)
  • 3 tablespoons of water

Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients into a large bowl using your hands until all of the sugar is moistened. It should feel like wet sand.
  2. Pack the plastic sugar skull molds (I purchased a small one at Sur la Table and a large one online) firmly with sugar, using a straight edge to scrape the back of the mold flat–I used a piece of cardboard for this.
  3. Tip sugar out of mold and place on a flat surface to dry overnight.

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Royal Icing

After the sugar skulls have been allowed to dry at least overnight, prepare  Royal Icing recipe to piece the two halves of the skulls together and to decorate them.

Ingredients

  • 2 pound bag  of powdered sugar (7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup meringue powder
  • 2/3 cup water

Directions

  1. Mix 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds of powdered sugar with an electric mixer until icing peaks (about 9 minutes).
  2. Mix icing with food coloring.
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I use Ziploc bags with tips for decorating.

Making Your Skulls

  1. My molds are made of two pieces, a face and the back of the skull. With the plain white Royal Frosting, add a small amount to each half and place together, wiping away any excess that comes out of the seams.
  2. Decorate your skulls using sequins foil paper (I ordered this online as well)
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The foil that I used to fill in the eyes and to cover up mistakes I made when decorating.

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Sequins for decorating.

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Mummy Loves You


 

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Mummies are not generally considered cute…unless they adorn your home during Halloween season, doing yoga, riding a cast iron lamb mold, or sitting atop your mantelpiece.

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Namaste!
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Full Lotus Pumpkin Pose

Here’s an inexpensive and  quick project that you can whip up in no time. After your first one, you will probably find the need to make numerous others to accompany your pack of mummies.

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Ride ’em Mummy

All you need is floral wire, white cloth  (or rags) torn into strips, and your imagination.

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1. Make the armature out of wire.

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2. Wrap in cloth.

3. Shape the mummy to your preference.

4. Display and smile.

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Felted Valentine’s Day Garlands


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My newest fascination is with wool felt balls. Why? Because they are adorable, inexpensive, and make my home festive. I bought 200 in multiple colors just before Christmas to string for garland for the tree. I loved the garland SO much that I decided to purchase more in Valentine’s day hues.

I ordered the felt balls online from TaDaaStudios and I have to say, the packaging is adorable.

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I strung up a few shades of pink with white and hung them in the kitchen…

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Detail of the embroidered heart
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Side view of the garland draping on the bakers rack

…and on the menu board…

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…and I can’t help myself, so I’ll share with you AGAIN, my fabulous felt Valentine’s Day calaveras (skulls) from last year–though I couldn’t do them justice being housed in Amman.

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…and since I’m on a roll, I’ll just add one last Valentine’s day touch in the kitchen…another embroidered tea towel.

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Happy pre-Valentine’s day and stay tuned for my next Easter garland.

Cross-Stitched, Handmade Christmas Stockings–A Year in the Making


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With my underwhelmingly open schedule while living in Jordan, I had lots of time to bake homemade bread almost daily, make Greek-style yogurt, read, exercise and craft. A lot! Here are two fine examples of what my idle hands were able to stitch in record time. Normally, such projects would take countless months to make each one; not so in Jordan. I did both of these stockings in about two months. I’m not a skilled sewer, unlike my highly gifted mother, whom I managed to convince (connive?) that no one else would be able to sew the final products nearly as well as her. I think they turned out spectacularly, even better than I imagined with lining, piping and all.

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Raj’s is sewn on a tan linen, and mine is sewn on an off-white, extremely fine Irish linen.

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How to Avoid Doing Chores–Take Up Embroidery


The trio of fabulousness…
(which will be even better once I sew the pompoms along the borders)

I am busier than ever, yet find myself carving out minutes here and there to work on my newest favorite hobby–embroidery. Before you feel sorry for me and ask me how many pounds I’ve put on or how many cats I’ve adopted since returning stateside, you need to check out the website Sublime Stitching. As the website states, “This ain’t your gramma’s embroidery.” Do yourself a favor. Check it out. Now!

{I’d like to add that I was in Anthropologie today (I’m VERY busy) perusing the tea towel section and I have to say, I was not even TEMPTED to buy one of their $34.99 towels because I think mine are equally as adorable–although for $12.99 in the sale section, my heart did skip a couple of beats, but I passed them up. Imagine ALL of the money I’m saving by making my own!}

I happened upon Sublime Stitching’s website months ago while I was trolling the Internet aimlessly (as I did all day long in Amman). I fell in love with her whimsical and charming patterns and ordered a few last month as a prize for myself. I started with a kit, which included a hoop, floss, scissors, a tea towel, and needles, and also ordered a couple of additional patterns: Dia de Los Muertos and Bon Voyage, plus a couple more towels.

Here are my first attempts–and keep in mind, I’m newly minted in this art, so my stitches are BASIC–nothing fancy (yet). I’ve included the pompoms below that I’ll be sewing along the borders once I get my sewing machine back (it’s still in Jordan) just to show you how much cuter they’ll be after the addition. (Can they get any cuter?)

Here’s the progression:

The patterns for Day of the Dead
My very first stitches…so nervous
Voila…
Onto project numero dos
Closeup of Our Lady of Something
The cutest sugar skulls I’ve ever seen
Project number three from a world traveler
I want those gold shoes

I ran out of out of towels last night and I’m almost out of floss…BUT I CAN. NOT. STOP. So I bought some more SUPER cheap towels at Ross ($3.99 for FOUR! What a bargain) in cute colors AND I checked out (as in borrowed from the library–saving even MORE $$$) Jenny Hart’s two embroidery books from the library today. Flipping through the pages, I’m spying some cupcake and pie patterns that I’ll be incorporating into my next masterpieces.

The books that I’ll be buying. I wanted to be sure that I wanted them.

Retail Therapy, Syrian Style


There is nothing to buy in Amman. Sure there are shops and malls, amazing ones too. There are the usual designer boutiques: Louis Vuitton, Burberry…, all of the familiar mall brands: MAC, H&M, Gap, (no Anthropologie)…, but I cannot afford anything here because everything is about three times more expensive than what I’d pay at home. I suppose it’s a good thing that there’s nothing to buy because it makes Raj all the more willing when an opportunity to spend arises, as it did last week at the embassy.

Before arriving to Jordan, Raj and I discussed our desire to purchase some sort of furniture or artwork reflective of the region without going overboard with a middle eastern theme. The uprisings in Syria began shortly before Raj arrived, seriously impeding our travel plans to visit and buy Syrian furniture. The Syrian situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better so I’ve accepted the fact that Syria’s not in our future travel plans. Luckily for us though, a Syrian furniture salesman braved the border crossing to sell his wares at the Embassy.

I’ve been relatively good so far, limiting purchases to a couple of camel-hair rugs, some Arabic looking pottery, a brass lantern, a large mosaic, and now a Syrian chest and mirror to place in our foyer back in Old Town. I don’t know much about Syrian furniture, other than what the salesman shared and what I saw, but it seems to be easily identifiable through its use of walnut wood, mother of pearl inlay, and traditional Arabic design.

Detail of the mother of pearl inlay medallion
The mirror (set aside on the floor temporarily)

The guy arrived with a truck full of tables, chairs, armoires, a few chests, and a fantastic array of lanterns (these were amazing but were the first things to go). He got delayed crossing the border, creating a stir for the eager shoppers (money in hand) anxiously awaiting his arrival. He began unloading the truck while a small swarm of embassy employees pretended to feign interest, casually eyeing each piece as the packaging materials were removed. People began posturing and sidling up close to the things they liked, lest something better was to be revealed from the truck. I soon became afflicted with the buying frenzy as nearby shoppers discussed the worsening situation across the Syrian border and how this might be our ‘one and only’ chance to buy authentic Syrian furniture. I was determined to buy something, anything in case this was true. Cost and reason flew to wayside as one chest and then another were quickly spoken for. I swooped in on one of only two remaining chests and had Raj settle the price. (This guy had a captive audience so there wasn’t much in the way of haggling). We added in a mirror to be hung above the chest and sealed the deal.

The chest’s storage

The chest we bought has grown on me significantly since we brought it home. While it was sitting at the embassy, side by side among the other pieces, I was a little overwhelmed. I was having a hard time deciding whether I loved it or not because I felt the pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’m happy with the purchase. I can’t say we got a great price, but who knows? It’s beautiful without being overly ornate.

Top of surface of the chest
Side panel detail
Detail of mother of pearl inlay on mirror
Key to open chest