Archive for December, 2011

Christmas Sweets
December 18th, 2011 | Link

My mom was a big Christmas baker when I was a kid: shortbread, sugar cookies, gingersnaps, Nanaimo bars, mincemeat tarts and chocolate-covered cherries (which had a crunchy nut layer between the maraschino cherry and the chocolate — I loved the nut layer and the chocolate but not the cherries, and years later we found a bunch of petrified cherry remains behind the piano). When I moved out of my parents home I continued that tradition for a while with my own specialties: miniature brownies, meringues, gingerbread.

I haven’t done much baking since I got married, since E. won’t (or can’t) eat most of it, and we were often at my parents’ place for Christmas anyway. Sometimes, though, we have a party or two to attend, and then I have an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth a bit. Yesterday was more about making candy than baking, but it was indulging nonetheless.

Pieces of peppermint bark

This peppermint bark recipe from the Food Network was super easy to make. I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t really need two pounds of candy(!), and I sprinkled a handful of leftover crushed candy canes on top for some sparkle. I melted the white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time at 50% power, stirring after each burst, until it was fully melted. Took maybe 15 minutes, including hammering the heck out of the candy cane.

Cut squares of chocolate fudge

I love fudge, but I don’t remember the last time I tried to make it — probably as a teenager, and I sort of remember it being a major fail. Perhaps because I didn’t have a candy thermometer at the time and was trying to cook to some “ball” stage that I had no reference point for. Candy thermometer and Alton Brown’s Chocolate Fudge recipe for the win! My one critical mistake was that I accidentally used semi-sweet chocolate instead of unsweetened, so it’s really, really sweet. But still edible!

Making Books with My Nephews
December 3rd, 2011 | Link

I go back to Calgary a couple of times a year. Whenever I visit we have a family dinner, which, between my parents and five siblings and assorted spouses and seven nieces and nephews (five of whom are 10 years old or under), tends to be a chaotic event with lots of catching up to do.

Last weekend the event was at my brother’s place, and I got to spend a little time with my nephews before everyone else arrived. The six-year-old, Reece, was in the playroom drawing, and I asked him if he wanted me to make him a book. He got really excited and gathered a handful of large index cards for me, and tape, and scissors. When I told him I was only going to use one piece of paper and no tape and he was pretty skeptical.

(I have to be honest here: the day before I flew up to Calgary I quickly learned a few single-sheet structures, just in case I got a chance to do this. The pamphlet Books from a Single Sheet of Paper from the web site Bookmaking with Kids has a half-dozen simple structures — including those I used.)

I started out with a book that the BWK pamphlet calls a center cut accordion. Reece wasn’t interested in making the actual book (when it was done he asked me to write “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the cover and then he handed me another piece of paper and asked me to make one for “Cars”), but while I was working on it his eight-year-old brother Will asked me to show him how to make one. He had a little trouble matching the corners up but it turned out just fine.

Reece wanted another book, so I asked if I should make a “pants book” (dubbed the long cut accordion in the BWK pamphlet — it looks like a pair of pants when unfolded). This got both boys giggling and they thought definitely I should make a pants book. So I made that, and then a simple accordion, and then an accordion with pockets so Reece could put things in the pockets, and then another pocket accordion shaped like a row of houses — so we made paper dolls to put in the house pockets. The dolls had abnormally enormous heads, so Will and I dubbed them Brainiacs.

It was half an hour. I think they had fun. They’re old enough now to remember me when they see me, so I think it would be cool if they remembered me as the auntie that made books.



My name is Shannon Hale. This blog is on indefinite hiatus, but it contains archives of the last 10 years of posts about bookbinding, knitting, sewing. and other random things in my life.


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