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Archive for December, 2009

My nephew Gabriele is eleven years old and he is already able to create such a beautiful creature.

He’s made it out of wonderfully colored clay he got for Christmas.

He made it and baked it and it’s done.

I love it!

A dragon – so adorable!

Just look at the tongue – such a precise work.

I am amazed!

And there’s also a little secret.

The Wizard and The Dragon have their own little brains put in their heads.

There are small red balls of clay that represent their brains.

So they are pretty smart.

I think I’ve just heard them say something…

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… for Christmas from a far away land.

That is a very, very special occasion for us because we – I mean me and my parents – get to see her very rarely. Usually every three or four years.

She arrived with her husband and their lovely son and we have all been having the best time since then.

And, of course, she has brought us many adorable presents.

Otherwise we wouldn’t have let her in!

NOT!

Since she decided not to use paper for wrapping this year’s presents she created something very special.

Wonderful Christmas sacks.

Just have a look…

Adorable indeed.

She has sewn this beauty on her sewing machine and added a piece of embroidery that she has made by herself too.

And it has been custom made for each of us.

For example this is a sack for my boyfriend because he loves sweets so much.

Oh, one with a cupcake.

Who could that be for?

Who loves to bake?

I have no idea.

Not at all.

The detail of the one for my Mom.

And the one for my Dad.

Dear Adriana, this must have been so much work.

You are amazing.

And this one… who could this one be for?

Somebody who loves dogs very much?

Or…

… OR! …

… for a dog itself?

Well, the second possibility is correct.

Because everybody loves our little cute Georgina.

Adriana, my dearest sister – thank you, you are the best!


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I wish you all a warm and joy-filled Christmas!

Love,

Petra

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Lately I’ve made some yummy cookie lollipops.

In case you wonder how to wrap a cookie lollipop I’ll show you.

It’s really easy!

All you need is a piece of cellophane, some transparent duct tape, some lovely colorful ribbons and a pair of scissors.

That’s all.

1. First you cut a rectangle out of the cellophane.

My cookies were 3- inches (7 cm) wide and had 7-inches (15 cm) long sticks put in them.

For these measurements I used a 7×6 inches (17×15 cm) cellophane rectangle.

Place the lolly onto the cellophane – with its front side facing downwards.

2. Fold the left side…

3. … then the right side and seal it with a strip of the duct tape.

4. Then fold the top side of the cellophane rectangle and use some duct tape again to seal it.

5. Now we’ve created a nice little sleeve for our lovely cookie (I wanted the sleeve to be a little shorter here so I cut it a bit).

6. To give it the last touch tie the ribbon around the stick tightly.

You can even make a bow if you feel like it.

Lovely!

I’m sure everyone will be amazed by your wonderful cookie lollies!


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Would you like a cookie lollipop?

Have one, I’ve got many.

Aaaa, you want to have your own ones.

OK then…  I’ll show you how to make them…

~~~

This is what you need:

1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsweetened butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

5 cups (650 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

food coloring, in various colors

~~~

1. First we need the butter and the sugar.

Place these ingredients into the bowl of your electric mixer…

2. … and mix them together for about two minutes.

3. Now we add the eggs and the vanilla extract and beat again until it’s light and fluffy.

4. Add the teaspoon of salt and mix again.

5. And then add the flour gradually. Slowly, slowly, we don’t want all kitchen covered in flour.

Mix until all of it has been incorporated.

6. Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather it into a ball.

Divide it into smaller balls – one for each color.

And this is how to color the dough:

7. Place the dough you want to color into the bowl of your electric mixer and pour the coloring onto it (it’s fine to follow the instructions on the food color because some may be stronger than the others).

8. And mix, mix, mix just until it looks OK.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form a ball again.

9. Wrap each ball into plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours.

I decided to have two bigger balls – white and red – for marble lollipops and some cookie candy canes…

… and three smaller ones – white, green and red – for lollipops with cut out shapes in them.

10. When the dough is cooled you can preheat an oven to 350 F (176 C).

11. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

As I’ve already mentioned, this time I used the dough to make three kinds of cookies – the marble lollipops, cookie candy canes and cookie lollipops with cut out  shapes.

And this is how I made the marble lollies:

12. I rolled out the white and red dough and placed one onto the other.

Then I gently formed it into a ball again and rolled it out (into the thickness of about 1/4-inch-0,6cm).

13. And now – using a round cutter (I used 3-inch/7,5 cm cutter) – cut out round shapes.

14. Transfer the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.

Then take a stick and put it into the cookie gently – up to 2/3 of its diameter.

When the cookies bake the stick will adhere to them – isn’t that just great?

I used a 6-inch (15 cm) stick for a 3-inch (7 cm) cookie (if you have a longer stick don’t worry – they can easily be cut or broken).

These want to be baked right now.

15. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes and remove from the oven.

Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes.

And here they are, beauties, out of the oven.

Yaaay!

Mmmmm, and they smell sooooo good!

Then I made some candy cane cookies – just a few.

16. Form balls from the white and red dough.

Then make ropes out of them by rolling them back and forth on a lightly floured surface.

Place one red and one white rope side by side,  press them together lightly and twist them.

17. Place them on the cookie sheet and curve top of the cookies down to form the handle of a cane.

Bake for 12-13 minutes.

18. And the third awesome lollipop cookies are very similar to the first ones.

Roll out the balls of three different colors (to about 1/4-inch – 0,6 cm thickness) and cut out rounds shapes.

Transfer the shapes onto the baking sheet.

19. Oh, just look at this, isn’t it just great?

Cut out various smaller shapes from the round cookies and and insert them into the cookies of a different color.

It’s so easy yet so wonderful.

Bake for about 12 minutes.

I like them so much…

I like them all – can’t stop looking at them (and I also can’t stop eating them – so yummy they are).

And then I went on and wrapped the lovely lollies but that’s another story for another day

Enjoy!

(This recipe makes about 35 cookies.)


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Thumbprint Cookies – you may also know them as Polish Tea Cakes or Butterballs.

Combining all things people love so much – butter, nuts and jam – they are classic and favorite cookies for any occasion.

And you know what? They are also really easy to make –  just have a look!

~~~

To prepare the Thumbprint Cookies you need:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or hazelnuts or almonds or pecans)

1/2 cup jam (any flavor you like)

~~~

1. Preheat an oven to 350 F (176 C).

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the nuts on the sheet.

3. Toast the nuts for about 10 minutes.

4. Remove the nuts from the oven and let cool.

Then chop them finely and place them into a bowl.

Nice!

5. Now let’s make the dough.

In the bowl of your electric mixer mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

6. Separate the egg and add the egg yolk to the batter.

Add the vanilla extract.

And then add the flour and salt to the batter and beat until just combined.

7. On a lightly floured surface form a log from the dough and cut it into about 12 – 15 equal pieces.

8. Form a ball from each piece and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (the balls will be easier to work with when refrigerated).

9. In a bowl whisk the egg white until frothy.

10. Dip a ball into the whisked egg white…

11. … and then roll in the nuts lightly.

Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet spacing about 1 inch (2,5 cm) apart.

12. And now the funny part!

Take one well-built thumb and make an indentation into the center of each cookie.

13. Using a teaspoon, fill the cookie with the jam (if you want to make it more neat you can use a pastry bag or – like me – a small plastic bag with one corner cut off).

14. Bake for about 13-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and let cool.

If you are planning to make these cookies in advance, you can bake them without the jam filling (in that case, reduce the baking time by a few minutes). They can be stored for about one week and filled with jam the same day as serving.

This recipe makes about 15 cookies.

Enjoy!

(To see more of my posts click this or “Home”.)


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This needs to be said first – THIS IS NOT ME!

This is a very good friend of mine, my high-school classmate, the greatest girl ever, Miz B.

I love her very, very much and there are tons of gorgeous memories that will never be left behind.

Recently I have noticed this original picture on her Facebook profile.

And it’d left a lasting thought in my mind.

Although I liked the picture I had this feeling that there was something missing.

I liked their poses and the expressions in their eyes (the contentment in hers and every existing feeling in his).

And I liked the tree branch…

But wait, what about that gray film covering the whole picture?

Could I do something about that?

Although I am not a professional I am deep in love with photography …

… so I opened the picture in my photo editing software called GIMP (which is free, by the way, and it is very similar to Photoshop).

First, I decided to adjust the contrast …

You ugly gray film – BE GONE!

This is one of my most favorite tricks – ramping up the contrast.

It makes photos look so much more professional.

OK, the white dress is a bit overexposed now, but I think it transfers the picture out into the artistic dimension.

Ha!

Then I thought that the pic could use a bit more color …

So I went to “Hue-Saturation”, chose “Colors” and lifted the green up to 40 and the yellow to 29 …

It made the day look sunnier than it really was.

It wasn’t sunny at all actually.

What about a bit more sharpness (“Filters” -> “Enhance” -> “Unsharp Mask”)?

Yeah, that has helped, just compare their faces or the flowers.

At this point I thought that the pic could be a bit lighter.

So I clicked “Colors” -> “Color Curves” and lifted the curve a bit.

Who likes dark pictures?

Not us!

And now onto the skin.

I used the “Smudge Tool” here (you can find it on the left panel).

With the tool opacity reduced a bit, I smudged their foreheads (have you noticed the strange looking vein-like thing on her forehead?), cheeks, her neck and his hands to remove all the unnecessary shadows or wrinkles.

Nobody needs those.

I think it’s made her look  much prettier.

And him too – he’s lost much of that scared expression.

(And I added a bit more color here again to make it a tad more lively.)

And now, what if we put them into even more focus.

Have you ever heard of darkened edges?

I love them!

If you’d like to create something like that then make a new layer (“Layer” -> “New Layer”) and fill it with black.

Then add a white layer mask (“Layer” -> “Mask” -> “Add Layer Mask”).

With the mask chosen (clicked), click the “Ellipse Select Tool” on the left panel and create the ellipse.

Now fill the selection with black (with the “Bucket Fill Tool” from the left panel).

This sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

I myself don’t know what exactly I am doing here right now, but it just works somehow.

I clicked “Select” -> “None”.

And since I wanted the layer to look a bit blurred I clicked “Filters” -> “Blur” -> “Gaussian Blur” and blurred the layer.

Then I used this powerful thing called the “Layer Opacity” (upper part of the right panel) which basically allows you to faint the effect you’ve just created on your new layer.

I reduced it from 100% to 44 %.

Well, I think this could be just enough for today.

And here it is before again …

… and after.

Before and After.

(Miz B loved it – she said she looked much prettier in the new picture and it all looked very much 3D.)

The End

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