Baking Therapy Cures Mom on Overload

Batch of molasses cookies, fresh from the oven!

When people hear I write craft books they're usually intrigued. I fight the temptation to admit that it's really not very glamorous. A creative career is truly a mixed bag. There are some wonderful moments when a new design falls together and editors appreciate my work. Other times I'm up til the wee hours of the night reworking an unsuccessful design. The scariest time for a self employed artist is when your workload hits a lull. What makes up for all the ups and downs is when I meet someone who knows my work, has followed my directions, and in the process has fallen in love with a new craft.

Our oldest in his natural habitat

The biggest impediments to my work are also my greatest joys.  Our three children straddle high school to preschool.  Each day brings a new logistic dilemma: how do we get everyone where they need to be? All moms are busy whether they stay at home or work outside of the home. There's never ending lists of chores and emotional needs to keep a home and family running (or some days limping along). There's no way I could endeavor to do any of this alone, my husband Jon is always there with a sense of humor and an amazing ability to stay up late.

Our favorite athlete.

This week has been the perfect storm of home and work activity. The boys have been incredibly busy with end of the school year music performances and sports. Little Celia's preschool is almost finished, which means I'm using up my last mornings of solitude. I've been reading through the final edits for Wired Beautiful, wrapping up Halloween magazine work, and trying to get craft merchandise into stores. In the back of my mind I've been planning which new sewing book projects to tackle first.

The constant entertainer!

Whenever I'm stuck in the middle of chaos I bake. It's my therapy. I follow recipes and fill our home with delicious food. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes my family happy. It doesn't help get through my work assignments or clean the house but it offers measured moments of peace and order.

Molasses Cookies

makes approximately 30 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together:

3 1/4 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice, 2 tsp of ginger, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper, set aside

In a separate bowl blend:

8 tbsp or one stick of butter, 10 tbsp of shortening, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of white sugar: beat until fluffy

Then add: 1 egg, and 11/2 tsp of vanilla

When combined add: 3/4 cup of molasses.

Quickly fold in dry ingredients.

Lay parchment paper on two cookie trays, grease them.

Roll the batter into 11/2 inch balls moisten them by dipping your fingers in a water bowl. Roll the ball in sugar and place it on the prepared sheets.

Bake for 12 minutes until the tops are cracked.

I find it helps to rotate the trays top to bottom halfway through baking.


Carrot Cake Recipe and Pysanky Egg Decorating

This weekend's Ukrainian egg decorating workshop inspired a baking frenzy at our home. It began with getting the carrot cake ready for the workshop. The recipe comes from Jon's childhood neighbor Jeannie Hulten. My mother in law shared it with me and ever since it's been a favorite for birthday celebrations. The first alteration I've made to the recipe is to add ground walnuts into the batter. I chop them in our coffee grinder which imparts a mild coffee flavor. I also add a pinch of nutmeg and cloves to enhance the cinnamon.

Carrot Cake Recipe

Mix the following together:

3 cups of grated carrot

4 unbeated eggs

2 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cups of oil

Combine the following dry ingredients together then add to the wet ingredients above:

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

2 tsp of cinnamon

optional I add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and cloves

2 cups of flour

Stir in 1/2 cup of ground walnuts

Oil and flour two round cake pans or a 9" x 14" brownie pan

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 mins, add 10-15 minutes for the brownie pan.


Combine 8 oz of cream cheese with a 1/4 pound of margarine, add powdered sugar until the frosting has a nice thick but easily spreadable consistancy. Frost the cooled cake and then scatter chopped walnuts on top. Double the frosting recipe for the double layer cake so that you have enough frosting to spread between the layers.

The Ukrainian Egg Decorating Workshop at Art Mind and Soul was a huge success. A wonderful creative group of women took part in the class.  It was a delightful quiet afternoon with the smell of beeswax filling the air. I was thrilled with the rich colors of the dyes, and how quickly everyone grasped the process.

Deb Merrill working on her beautiful chick egg. She came with lovely eggs that her chickens had laid and a wealth of experience of batik and fabric dying.

Joy's lovely red and white eggs with Erin Vazdauskas in the background using iconic Easter imagery.

Patty Sullivan made a pair of delightful eggs in two different colorways. Beth Carr, the owner of the Studios, joined us and decorated an enormous goose egg that challenged our small dye containers. Patricia Boissevain was holding a jewelry class in the adjoining studio, it was a treat to take breaks and see what they were creating.

My husband Jon saved the day by blowing out the eggs out in the morning, what a horrendous task! The resulting eggs inspired exquisite German pancakes. Topped with butter and maple syrup the were a delicious breakfast treat, this recipe comes from an old issue of Yankee Magazine.

In the midst of mixing up the dyes he started the dough for these beautiful loaves of Challah bread that greeted me when I returned home. The smell of fresh bread trumped the beeswax but only by a small margin.

This Saturday I'm bring the dyes and tools along with another cake up to Sweetland Retreat in Manchester, Maine to teach workshop again to a whole new group. Please let me know if you're interested in joining us.

Needle Felted Hearts and Raspberry Square Recipe

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful evening sharing needle felting techniques with creative women at Art Mind and Soul Studios in the Fort Andross mill. This renovated brick mill sits beside the Androscoggin River in Brunswick, Maine. The interior has been beautifully renovated into office and artist studios, the building is also home to restaurants and antique shops. Art Mind and Soul recently opened their doors as a center for the visual arts community. It's a wonderful place to hold workshops, create for an hour or two or rent a small studio space.

My approach to teaching this needle felting class was to hand everyone a kit full of supplies and impart as much technical knowledge as I could. I demonstrated wet and dry felting techniques along with flat and three dimensional construction. The joy of needle felting is that you immediately start poking fibers together with a felting needle. I was thrilled with the originality of the finished projects. They were stunningly beautiful raised designs abstract to illustrative on wool felt rectangles, charming three dimensional hearts and even a few white bunnies.

If you missed out on this workshop, don't fret I'll offer it again soon with a different theme and new construction techniques. I'm looking forward to sharing Polymer clay millefliori beads and stamped charms on Feb 23 and Pysanky egg dyeing on March 28. If you're a parent of young children please click the sidebar link to find a listing of my inexpensive family workshops also held at Art Mind and Soul studios.

The other hit last night was my mums' raspberry coconut bar recipe named 'Louise Cake'

My parents are British, my mother kindly converted the amounts from weighted quantities. For the sake of the workshop I doubled the recipe and baked the bars in a 11"x13" metal brownie pan, I needed 35 minutes to brown the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350

Cream 1/2 cup of butter and 2T +2t of sugar together.

Add 2 egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar.

Stir in 1 cup +1T of flour and 1t of baking powder.

Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 7"x11" baking pan.

Generously spread raspberry jam over the 'crust'.

Whisk the 2 egg whites until they're stiff.

Fold in 2/3 cup of sugar and 1 cup of sweetened coconut.

Gently spread the topping over the jam.

Bake 20 minutes until the top puffs and starts to brown at the edges, let cool completely before cutting into squares.

New Year's Kringler!

Almost a week after we planned to make Kringler, Jon woke up making it his first task of the New Year. He’d already loaded the stand mixer, pressed the dough crust onto the cookie sheet and was stirring the pudding like filling over the stove top, all by the time I made an appearance downstairs. The recipe comes from his mother, my mother in law Jan whose mother (Jon’s grandma) is Norwegian. I like to think this is a family recipe that has been passed down although I need to confirm if that is truly the case. Jan would serve this Scandinavian pastry at the annual Boyd family Christmas in their Des Moines home. I have fond memories of feasting on this warm danish while the kids unwrapped their stockings.

If you’re beginning the year with a renewed commitment of health you might want to skip this culinary delight. It has only a few ingredients none of which make an appearance at the bottom of the revamped food pyramid. It’s an ideal treat for a cold winters morning when the pantry is bare. The main ingredients are butter and white flour the flavoring is dependent on the magic of almond extract. Relatively easy to make it has a wow factor when it emerges from the oven puffed up and golden brown.

Wishing you the sweetest of years filled with blessings, happiness, health and lots of crafty goodness!


Scandinavian Kringler


1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 TBLS ice water

Puff Topping:

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup flour

3 eggs

1/2 tsp almond extract


1 cup powdered sugar

1 TBLS margarine

1/2 almond extract

2-3 TBLS milk

slivered almonds

Oven - 350 degrees Divide dough in half. Press each half into a 3 x 12 inch strip on an ungreased cookie sheet. Heat water and ½ cup margarine in medium saucepan to boiling. Remove from heat & immediately stir in one cup flour until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Stir in ½ tsp. almond extract. Spoon ½ of the batter over each crust. Bake at 350 until golden brown and puffy...about 50-60 min. Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and cool. Topping will shrink. Spread frosting and sprinkle with almonds.