Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter tomatoes and holiday treats

Today brought a wonderful day of relaxation after a fast-paced few days with family for Christmas.  I needle felted tomato slices as I watched old movies on TV.  I needed the break after the intense week of preparation, cooking, family activities and ultimately cleanup.  A lot had to happen before Grandma and Aunt Lois came on Wednesday afternoon.  The boys and I prepared eight different dough varieties to make multiple tins of cookies.  They included traditional Czech linecky kolacky (with black current jam, of course), a delightfully intense frosted lemon cookie, and a concoction Jacob cooked up that involved peanuts, peanut butter, and dark chocolate assembled in three layers.  Everything came out well this year and we delivered and shared many treats with family and friends.  On Christmas Eve morning I assembled the other family baking tradition, which is a stollen for Christmas morning breakfast.  My dough is filled with rum and orange juice soaked currants and raisins, nuts and candied fruit that we make ourselves.  The filling is either marzipan that I make or rum-soaked sweet cherries.  When everything cools I glaze them with a butter and powdered sugar frosting.  Both varieties very successful and well received for Christmas and Boxing day breakfast. 

I got a little carried away with the delightful foods!  I wanted to mention that I was fortunate enough to have previously blended the red wool for the tomatoes.  I was able to go straight to my stores and pull out the fleece that I needed for my slices.  I also have special wool that I use for tomato seeds.  I dyed the material using bark from a fallen giant maple tree branch at Grandma’s house.  It just made the absolutely perfect color for the seeds.  After attaching them I usually layer a bit of the dark red fleece over them to make it look like the seeds are embedded in the internal chambers of the tomato.  These are part of the cast of vegetables that will make up a larger piece I’m working on, Fall Stew.  I have the carrots completed so I’ll be moving on to snap peas and red-skinned potatoes next. 

The highlight of the holiday entertainment season was a trip out to see Cardinal Stage Company’s performance of Mary Poppins.  Grandma buys the family tickets and the whole crew goes.  Mary Poppins is a hugely ambitious challenge, but Cardinal rose to meet and exceed the standard.  Mary flew, kites flew, the children flew, and Bert walked up a wall.  The performance was great, especially the woman who played Mary, Elaine Cotter.  She was sweet but completely in control of every situation.  The two children she managed were terrific young actors as well.  The sets really stole the show, though.  The attention to detail and complexity of the rollaway pieces were truly amazing.  The structures reminded me of the fold out children’s books where whole buildings and animals pop up from the page.  At every turn there were structures that introduced something unpredictable and captivating.  The whole thing will be lodged in my brain for a long time.  Thank you David Higgins!

The days with Grandma brought some fine meals and good times.  Jim put together some wonderful dinners, including a raspberry pie for dessert that has become a Christmas tradition.  Grandma has fond memories from when she was a girl of raspberry pie from the farm on New Year’s Day.  Because of the stollen, there are even a few pie slices left over for breakfast the next couple of days!  A little pie, a little espresso and I’ll be back in the art studio with a smile on my face.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

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