Monday, December 28, 2009

Double-chocolate gingersnaps

double-chocolate gingersnaps

There's been a lot of baking going on here. A lot. In addition to the amazing cookies featured above, we've indulged in an outrageous chocolate mousse, a divine pumpkin-ginger cheesecake, and more cookies than I can possibly mention.

Here are some of the highlights, as well as the recipe for the double-chocolate gingersnaps, my personal favorite:

pumpkin gingerbread
A tower of gingerbread.

mounds of chocolate
The mound of 73% cacao that went into the mousse.

decorating sugar cookies
Baking, and decorating, with friends.

Sneaking sprinkles when she thinks Mama isn't looking!

pumpkin-ginger cheesecake
My dessert plate a few nights ago, featuring pumpkin-ginger cheesecake, a chocolate gingersnap, and two kinds of Julie's frozen yogurt (I love that stuff!).

Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies (adapted from a 1997 Martha Stewart Living recipe)
(makes about 2 dozen)

7 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1.5 cups flour
1.25 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
.25 t each cloves and nutmeg
1 T. cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 T freshly grated ginger (optional)
.5 c. dark brown sugar, packed
.25 c. unsulphered molasses
1 t. baking soda
1.5 t boiling water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, spices, and cocoa.

Use an electric mixer to beat butter and grated ginger. Add brown sugar and molasses and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water.

Beat half the flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then add remaining half of flour mixture.

Add in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1.5" balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 13-15 minutes. (13 will make a chewy cookie; 15 gets into crunch cookie territory).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Fairy

Christmas fairy

This week is filled with activities that may very well keep me away from the blog world (yours, too, I imagine). So I'm sending a little Christmas fairy to spread some joy your way!

Thanks for a great first year of blogging (my blog anniversary happened while we were in Japan)!


P.S. I do have at least one amazing cookie recipe I have to make this week, so do check back if you can manage another chocolaty-gingery treat!

Friday, December 18, 2009



These days I often have leftover pumpkin puree hanging around. Usually I add it into pancake batter, but I was feeling the gingerbread urge coming on and the two seemed an obvious match. I like my gingerbread on the less sweet side—moist, dark, and spicy, with molasses and ginger. A dusting of powdered sugar at the end gives it the perfect balance.

This makes a lovely tea time treat, though I can definitely see having it with coffee first thing in the morning. Hmm, might have to do that tomorrow, after Anna's at school and there's no one to see me eating cake for breakfast!

3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
2 eggs
1/3 c. molasses
1.5 t. ground ginger
.5 t. cinnamon
.5 t. cloves
1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or white, if you prefer)
1 t. baking soda
.75 t. salt
.25 t. baking powder
a few tablespoons of powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat over to 350 degrees F (175 C). Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray*. Combine sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin, and eggs: beat until smooth.

Combine flour, soda, salt, baking powder, and spices. Stir into wet ingredients until just mixed.

Pour into loaf pan and bake until center is set: about 1 hour, perhaps a bit more.

Once cooled, place powdered sugar in a mesh strainer and tap over surface of gingerbread. Then try not to eat the entire thing in one sitting!

* An alternative is to use a square baking pan, which would likely cut down on baking time since the cake wouldn't be as deep.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WIP: my first shirt (and another skirt?)


In an attempt to expand my (very limited) sewing horizons, I am working on a turtleneck for Anna for Christmas. The pattern is Jalie 2805 and, I have to say, it's pretty simple. Also nice is that one pattern makes both women's and girl's sizes, with a variety of necklines to choose from. (Full disclosure: I was originally going to sew a long-sleeve T for myself, but decided to try a smaller version first so as to waste less fabric if I screwed up.) The fabric is an interlock knit that I picked up locally at Bolt, my favorite shop for all things sewing. It does seem that finding interesting knits can be a bit challenging, so let me know if you've got a good source.


The mermaid fabric I found online at The Fabric Farm. I bought a half yard of each of the two color options, but now I wish I'd bought more. There's only so much I can make with a half yard. I'm thinking another of the Oliver + S “Lazy Days” skirts (free pattern download here), but Anna has so many of those. Again, I'd love suggestions if you know of some cute (easy) kids patterns to try. I do think she's love the pink mermaid skirt with the teal turtleneck, though. That girl doesn't shy away from color! Oh, and the little "A" detail is just an iron-on patch I picked up at Fabric Deport. It's actually supposed to be more 3-dimensional, but apparently I'm iron-on challenged!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Anna in the Bugaboo

Yesterday we sold Anna's stroller. Seems not that long ago we were researching, test-driving, and second-guessing ourselves about just what stroller would be the perfect choice. We took a chance on the very expensive Bugaboo, knowing that we could probably sell it in the future. I had read lots of stroller reviews with people saying they ended up with several different strollers for different purposes. Seemed to me that by the time you pay for all those different strollers, you could have just gotten one that did it all in the first place.

In any case, we loved our Bugaboo. It truly did meet all of our needs for far longer than we expected. But on our recent trip to Japan we didn't bring a stroller, and we did a lot of walking. A lot. And you know what? Anna kept up. She who usually whines about a quick walk to the park walked for hours each day as we toured Tokyo and Kyoto.

In our travels to both France and Japan we noticed that children as old as four are never in strollers. So we made the choice that, after Japan, we were done. And today, thanks to Craigslist, the stroller has moved on to a new family. And both they and we ended up paying about half the price of a new Bugaboo.

Of course, none of this is actually about the end of the stroller. It's about the end of the babyhood. No matter what I call her, she is no longer a baby. She is 100% big girl. The next transportation-related milestone will be losing the training wheels. Soon after we'll move to a 3-speed, a 10-speed… the car keys. Of course, there's time. No need to rush ahead in my mind. Not with the child who suggested tonight that now that she's starting to read, perhaps Harry Potter would be a good first book. (Um, she's 4. We didn't even know she'd ever heard of Harry Potter!)

Note to Anna: if you've decided reading Mommy's blog might be a good second choice, please stop and go to bed!

Friday, December 11, 2009

8 Crazy Nights

chanukah gifts

This year, we've decided to do both Chanukah and Christmas. The 8 presents pictured above are all wrapped in scraps of fabric left over from various sewing projects and tied with scraps of ribbon. I literally didn't cut anything — just made it work as is. Of course, if I was giving these to friends I would have fancied them up a bit, but they're just fine for a 4-year-old. I love this way of wrapping for Anna because she can open everything herself (very important to her at this age). No knots, tape, or other impediments to getting at the goodies inside!

Happy Chanukah everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

breakfast at Crema
The makings of a very good day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Final Japan images

These last images were taken throughout our trip, but didn't really fit into any of my previous posts. Some are beautiful, some are funny, and some just epitomize some aspect of Japan to me.

Reflection in the koi pond at our first (and favorite) hotel, The Prince Sakura Tower in Shinagawa.

Pretty typical Tokyo street fashion: short skirts, over the knee (or thigh) socks or boots, and brightly colored high heels.

The morning commute.

Many, many people in Japan wear masks to protect themselves from illness. This little girl, in her school uniform, had a knit mask on. Hard to understand how that could be in any way effective, but she sure was cute.

A perfect example of the reason things make me all wanty in Japan. I mean, come on! How cute are these?! Just seems like breakfast would be a lot more fun if it was cooked in these pots every morning!

The very efficient JR (Japan Rail) system. Loved it. We never waited for a train more than a minute or so, no matter where we were going.

The thumbs up from my seasoned traveller.

I wish I could have snapped more pics of the shoes I saw on the street. Most were much flashier than these, but the style here is so unique. Heel height typical.

While in Tokyo, I got a massage at our hotel spa. I just love the wording on the contract I had to sign, especially the "escape clause". It all seems perfectly reasonable, I was just tickled by the translation.

A beauty in the lobby of our hotel in Kyoto. Our hotel seemed like a popular place for weddings, so we got to see a lot of beautiful kimonos and the like there.

A view of one of the covered markets in Kyoto. We stumbled upon this one our first night there and just loved it. It's basically a narrow street that has been covered for a span of several blocks and is crammed with stalls full of fresh fish, produce, sweets, and a few restaurants.

Cloth sushi from one of the stalls in the market above.

Ever the ham; this time at a Christmas display in a department store.

Guarding a temple in Kyoto.

One section of a tiny shop in Nara that sold nothing but brushes.

Beautiful treats at a shop in Nara.

Anna fell in love with the tiny candies they serve at tea ceremonies. Made of rice flour and sugar, the are sculpted into beautiful flowers and leaves. Here she finally convinced me to buy her one as a treat for the train back to Tokyo from Kyoto. Smart girl!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What’s Hot + What’s Not

If I'd had a spare $125 or so, I so would've bought this! Love, love, love her. She epitomizes the Japanese street look to me.

Thought I'd interrupt my Japan blogging to tag along on Claire’s little game again. Given that we're back home now, there's really just one more post about Japan that I want to write — a summary of my thoughts/impressions during our trip and some final photos that didn't make it in to any of the previous posts.

What’s Hot
Japanese style! Wow, I loved the clothing in Japan so much! Sort of a 1980s big city, bad schoolgirl look. Short skirts, over the knee socks or tights, bright, funky shoes. And anything with sparkle!

Getting back into the holiday spirit. After losing my dad a couple years ago, I was feeling really down about the whole holiday season. This year, in large part because Anna is now old enough to participate, I'm really looking forward to crafting, baking, decorating, etc. I love Alicia's little snow village, though that's probably a little more Martha than I can muster!

Apak Studio. Just found these guys through Claire's mention of the studio tour at share some candy. Not sure why I clicked on Apak's link, but turns out they're right here in Portland (natch!), making them extra Hot in my book!

Yoga! 2010 is definitely going to be the year of yoga for me. I have found an amazing teacher who has opened up yoga in a new way for me. And extra hot (if you're a PDX local), Root has extended their biggest savings of the year for an extra week. It's a buy 2 get 1 free deal, and you have to call them or go in to get it.

What’s Not
My crazy cat who has expanded her sock-eating habit to my new pair of Anthropologie pants. Seriously, she ate them! Bad kitty!

Jet-lag. Really, it's not as bad as we expected, but it'd be nice to fall asleep sometime before 2am, given that we're up at 7. Small price to pay for such an amazing experience though!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Our last day in Kyoto we took the train to Nara, the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. These days Nara is known for the 1200 deer that wander among the temple crowds. There is a legend that a mythical deity arrived in Nara on the back of a white deer to protect the city. Hence the deer have been given sacred status, and roam around wherever they choose. Mostly they stay where the tourists are, eating the biscuits that vendors sell to feed them.

On the train. This was the trip where David and Anna bonded over their geekdom. Anna now plays video games on David's iPhone.

Persimmon (and citrus) shop.


Wedding photos.


Prayers tied onto a tree next to a shrine.



The main temple. It has a massive buddha inside. Alas it is virtually impossible to photograph.



Along the side of the road. Not sure what the apron is for. Anyone know?


Watching the turtles.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Temples and shrines, and more temples and shrines

As I mentioned in my previous post, Kyoto has more temples and shrines than you can imagine. They're everywhere. Duck into Starbucks and you may very well find a beautiful shrine out back.

Our second day in Kyoto, we decided to walk along the northeast side of town, beginning with Ginkaku-Ji (the Silver Pavillion) and heading south along the Philosopher's Path. We didn't have any particular agenda, so we were free to stop wherever we saw something that intrigued us. My favorite find of the day was a large, hidden cemetery (I have a thing for old cemeteries—it goes back to the vanning days with my dad).

The first group of photos is all from Ginkaku-Ji. After that, I really stopped keeping track of which temple was which.


These gravel gardens were very large, with walls over a foot high.







The entrance to the cemetery.




At one of the smaller temples along the Philosopher's Path.



At a Shinto Shrine.