Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baking a Pie.....or Five


When I decide to bake pies it always goes something like this:

Oh, we have a pumpkin left. I think I'll make a pie.
Hmm. Will one pie be enough? Better make two.
Dear me...just to be safe, I should make two recipes of dough.
oops......now instead of simply whipping up a couple of pies, I now have 5 crusts to fill.

Yes, that is exactly how it went one afternoon this week. I always overestimate, so ended up with many piepans, and without an exact idea of what to put in them. I only had enough pumpkin puree for two pies, so I finally decided to do one mock mincemeat (that was easy, as I had some mincemeat all ready that we had canned a couple of years ago...) and then (my favorite) custard pies. Yum!

 There is just something so fun about pie-making. I love to make them as pretty as possible, and experiment with decorating the tops in various ways. (And you must wear a checkered apron. That makes everything better.:)

Piecrust
(makes 2)
Mix-
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt

Cut in 3/4 c. shortening

Add - 7-8 Tb. cold water

Mix until it just all comes together. Don't overwork.
Take half the dough and roll out thin with a rolling pin. Use a thin spatula to carefully raise the dough off the table and flip it over on to the pie-pan. Press gently down into the pan. Trim the edges with a butter knife and then crimp with your thumb and first two fingers. (at least that is what I do! :)

For the shortening, I prefer to use some type of oil. I've been using cottonseed oil, but this time we were out and I used a mild olive oil, and it was wonderful! Easiest, smoothest, stretchiest pie dough I've ever worked with. And since it was so mild, there wasn't a strong taste. So, I think I may be switching to olive oil permantenly...



Mock Mincemeat Pie

1 1/2 c. raisins
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled cored and sliced
1 Tb. orange zest
1/3 c. orange juice
1/2 c. apple cider
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
2 soda crackers, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 425. Stir the raisins, apples, orange zest, orange juice, and apple cider together in a pan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sugar, spices, and crackers until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use, or pour into pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven, then reduce oven temp to 350 and bake until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes more.

For mincemeat, I think you are really supposed to do a complete top crust, but...
I love using mini cookie cutters for pie tops!
The other day I made a blackberry pie and used a star shaped cookie cutter for the top - it looked quite patriotic and pretty.
This particular leaf shaped cutter came from the cute Fall Leaves set.



Fresh Pumpkin Pie
I learned a valuable lesson while chopping up pumpkins. (after a cut and bleeding finger...)
 DON'T try to peel the pumpkin fresh. Instead, half, clean, and cube the pumpkin with the peel on, boil the cubes until soft, and after they are cooled and drained, THEN peel and puree them.
So. Much. Easier. (and safer) Wish I had been doing that all these years. Sometimes I feel really dumb. *ahem* Anyway. Now I know.

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
3 eggs, beaten
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 t. vanilla
salt
1/3 c. milk
1/2 c. honey (or 3/4 c. sugar)

Mix all together and pour in uncooked pie shell. Bake at 350 until center is firm.



Coconut Custard Pie

4 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. shredded coconut

Mix and pour into uncooked crust. Bake at 350 until firm and and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

This particular coconut variation of custard, I just tried for the first time. It was excellent! The recipe came from a great little recipe book called 'The Lost Art of Pie Making".
 


It was a nice treat for the boys when they came home from work to see all the pretty pies just waiting for supper to be over! (but they didn't last long....)

What is your favorite type of pie? Any pie-making secrets you'd like to share?


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bronze Silk Regency Weskit



I love these things! Little fitted weskits (vests) -such a perfect way to dress up the lovely, simplistic Regency dresses. For day or evening wear.



This particular one is made froma beautiful, shimmery bronze colored silk.
 Ready to ship, and now available in the shop!


Laces up the front with hand-sewn thread eyelets and narrow brown satin ribbon.
The edges are bound with matching silk.



I think these look especially nice against white dresses, and I can imagine so many lovely color combinations, from pastels to jewel tones! More weskits are definately on my to-do list. :) So fun!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Giveaway of the e-book "The Jeweler's Apprentice"


Check out the new blog of one of my dear friends, Elizabeth! (You may remember she and her sister where one of the winners in the last Historical Costume Inspiration Festival)

Well, she has a giveaway running for her new e-book called 'The Jeweler's Apprentice', now available on Amazon. It sounds very intriguing!!

The giveaway is only running for another week, so don't waste time! :)




Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pen and Ink Musings



There is something indescribably magical about about the hand-written word. Have you ever been in an antique store, and opened up an old book or postcard, and thrilled at seeing a hand penned script scrawling across the page, perhaps declaring to whom the book once belonged, or recalling a long-forgotten event? It's like having a little glimpse into someone's life, seeing each unique hand.


I'm not against modern communication. In fact, I'm very thankful for it! I love being able to call, text, and email friends and family at any time, and hear back from them almost instantly. That is a great blessing, if used properly. But - I don't want to loose sight of hand-written communication, records, and drawings, etc. I think all these things are so beautiful and have been neclected for far to long. They are due for a revival.

So, I'll share with you a few of my inspirations and goals in this area, and some of the things you can do to bring back the art of pen and ink.

 Write a letter.


Whether it's a handmade birthday card, a newsy catch-up letter from a friend, or even a long awaited love-letter, there's always a special "something" about recieving a letter in the mail.

Emails and texts are so...casual, so ordinary. Years after you have recieved a certain email, do you go back and pour over it, sigh over the wonderful typefaces? Um....no. Not really. Emails are read, they are useful, then they are forgotten. Chances are you won't even have your electronic messages years from now, as they will have probably been deleted...or lost in a computer crash.

Old-fashioned letters are a different thing. They can be kept, and treasured, taken out of their box and re-read years from now and not loose any of their charm. And, yes, I do keep a box where I store all the letters I wish to keep.

I have an especial fascination with trying to write letters the old-fashioned way. Unlined paper, homemade envelopes, writing in my fanciest script - perhaps even using pen and ink and a wax seal. 
Here are a few fun and helpful articles on the subject of letters from the olden days....





Journal.


It has long been my goal to keep a journal regularly. Oh, I do have many journals I have filled over the years, but I have not been good about writing in it every day. Something I want to change.
I always take inspiration from reading diarys and accounts from my favorite eras (one of the best is 'Sarah Morgan, the Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman') and thinking how thankful I am that they took the time to write down a day-to-day record of the things happening in their lives. Even the most 'mundane' details are extremely interesting to me (what they were wearing, cooking, what was inside the shop in town....etc.) as a student of history. That's how I try to think about my own journaling. Even if nothing particularly 'epic' is happening, small details and everyday happening are just as important - or perhaps more so because it is these little details that are often forgotten as years blur our memories. And though I don't plan on anyone else reading my journals, it's a neat journey to the past for me to go back and read some of my old volumes, I am always surprised at how many little things I would have forgotten, had it not been for writing it down at the time!

I've always wanted to try other types of journaling too - for instance an inspiration/ephemera/sewing scrapbook/diary. This could include fabric and notions swatches fo future projects, inspirational magazine or book clippings, quotes and sketches. This would also be a fun way to experiment with collages and color combinations, either for future artwork, interior designs, or sewing projects!


Draw.


I have an intense need to draw, and I often feel like I fail, because I push that desire to the back of my mind, 'just until I get this one job done'......Mainly the only type of artwork I do now is dress sketches for upcoming projects.

One of my main goals this year is to paint, draw, and sketch more and varied subjects.

Read.


To really write well, you need to have a good vocabulary. The best way to learn? Read - read challenging books. Books of information, books of fiction, books of history. Books that were written well before our present century.
(Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens are always a good place to start for the fiction side!)

I could never stand the though of a kindle or electronic book. I realize that they can be useful...and I know they have a place. But I have adamantly refused to have one. Nothing could ever replace the feel and experience of opening a book for the first time (or the fiftieth....:), flipping through the pages, and discovering the adventure anew.


Practice.
Don't like your cursive hand? Think your artwork skills could be improved? Signature is sloppy? Don't have enough discipline to actually finish that long read? (and I'm talking to myself, here) There is only one way to get better - practice, practice, practice. If you become confident with your pen (or pencils, or paintbrush....) all of this will be so much easier and fun!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on old-fashioned paper arts, journaling, penmanship, reading and art. Any tips, ideas, or reccomendations?

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