November 12, 2019

Apple Crumble Pie



This week's project is a delicious Apple Crumble Pie. After making pies all summer it's wonderful to start baking the fruit we saved for the crisp days of autumn. In fact, I've had a few folks ask me when I was going to make that American favorite and here it is!


At the local swap shop, I picked up this little tool. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be used for, but I thought it would be interesting for pressing into a pie crust.




I used my antique juicer to extract the fresh lemon juice.




The apples go into the crust. It smells great already!


The topping is added and into the oven it goes.


It's pouring rain outside, but I don't mind a bit. There's a good Sudoku puzzle that needs to be solved, plenty of hot coffee ready to be enjoyed and a fresh-made apple pie baking in the oven. The day is looking pretty perfect to me!


Apple Crumble Pie

                                                                    Oven 375 degrees

One single-crust pie shell (unbaked)
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
6 cups thinly sliced and peeled apples (Granny Smith is a good choice)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 cup butter

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, the 2 teaspoons flour and the lemon peel. Sprinkle apple slices with lemon juice, add sugar mixture and toss to coat. Fill the pastry-lined pie plate with mixture. Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and spices. Cut in the butter until crumbly and sprinkle over the apples. Cover pastry edge with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 30 minutes more or until topping is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.




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November 10, 2019

Gnome Hilda


The crafting world has flooded the internet with gnomes. They are every color and size imaginable. I thought I'd take a few minutes to make one of my own with whatever supplies I could find in my craft closet. Since I had nothing for a good beard I thought I'd go for braids instead. She's not as fancy as most, but she was fun to put together nonetheless and now I know a bit about how to put together a gnome!


I think the cat got jealous and wanted her picture taken as well. Or maybe she thinks Gnome Hilda is a cat toy.

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November 8, 2019

Neutralizing Santa


Welcome! While the weather is still permitting I put the Halloween decorations back to bed for another year and pulled out the Christmas bin . Although it's far too early for hanging lights and trimming trees at my house, I wanted to look for any decorations that needed a bit of work or washing up during the remaining mild days. That's how I came across the Santa statue.

I purchased this portly guy either at a market or hardware store many years ago and took him home more out of pity than love. He was painted very badly in a horrible shade of red that resembled rotting meat. His eyes were two blotches of white paint, smeared beyond the carved eyeballs and he looked like he had been drop-kicked around the store a few times. I took him home,  did a bit of repair and painted him a hot pink.


He spent many a holiday outside of our home on the porch, always drawing a smile from passersby.

This year I decided to upgrade his look with the same technique I used on my kitchen roosters. It really transforms those hard, cheap, plastic statues into something that resembles hand-carved, wooden pieces and the make-over on the jolly old elf was no exception.

White Roosters


      He got a good bath and a few coats of white spray paint until he was smooth and glossy. After letting him dry overnight I got out the acrylic paint. 


I mixed up a medium shade of gray and started painting a wet mix into all the crannies and crevices. I just did a bit so it didn't dry and then wiped and dabbed with an old terry cloth rag. The slick spray paint makes it easy to wipe away the excess acrylic, and the terry cloth washcloth leaves the surface a bit streaky. I worked in one area at a time until every nook and crease was antiqued, painting and wiping quickly.


Here's Santa with his top half-finished. His beard and mustache had a lot more detail than I realized!


Once he was all detailed I set him up with a personal fan for drying. After a couple of hours, I took him outside for a once over with hairspray. Cheap hairspray makes a great fixative for this project. It blends the flat acrylic with the high gloss white and adds just a bit of a sheen while protecting the new finish.


Santa now looks completely different and he's ready for his holiday debut!


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November 5, 2019

First Frost

 

I've been under the weather, as they say, over the past week with some virus or germ from hell. I felt like I had Ebola once or twice, but it's moved on and I'm in that phase after being ill that makes me thankful to be alive and well. Halloween was quiet here, as everything seems to be, and waking up to white rooftops and frozen bird baths has left me feeling pensive this morning.


A change in the weather always makes me thoughtful as well. Growing up in southern California where the climate remains constant has added to that too, I suppose. The arrival of autumn is a reminder that another year is passing and I love that about the northeast. I think I could never have retired to any place where the seasons don't noticeably change. Now that we've relocated to a new home I'm eager and curious about what each season will bring. It's clear to me that the weather in our little valley is special. The summer is cooler and the autumn bright and beautiful. 


 When the rain falls it pours hard and straight to the ground and patters hard on the rooftop of our single floor home. It always makes me feel cozy and safe. Every change has been beautiful and I still can't believe that I live here now.  I look forward to what the rest of the year will bring.


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November 3, 2019

The Tower

 

One evening from our porch my husband spied a blinking light in the distance and as twilight deepened it twinkled as a tantalizing, bright pin-prick above the mountains surrounding our valley. Perched high on some tower it flashed regularly and we watched it throughout the summer months.

Every time we took a ride we looked across the fields and farmhouses to see if we could spot the mystifying tower. We pointed it out to friends. Some of them just shook their heads. Others took pictures of local water towers thinking maybe one of them was "our" tower. It became a little game in our lives and we scratched our heads from time to time wondering what kind of structure it might be. Occasionally we discussed how one day we ought to find "the tower". Admittedly, a part of me was caught between unraveling the mystery and leaving it as an unsolved puzzle, always imagining what it could be out there, that mysterious flashing light far off in the distance.

A tower sighting from a friend.

Then the leaves fell. Now that the light not only flashed much more brightly, but we could see the tower itself out there. Looming. Lofty. Large. It's tall. Much taller than we thought. Taller than the tall water tower that's much closer and sits in a direct line to the structure. Soaring into the sky like a rocket launch pad, "our tower" became even more intriguing.


A clever friend of ours mused that it's likely a television network location and we took his suggestion and searched online for listings of local stations. We also studied maps. We got out a compass and stood on the porch and found due north. We learned that narrow, tall towers are very difficult to see from satellite pictures. Once we did find it it was clear from the shadow across the land that it is indeed very tall. It was time to find the beast!

The lights flash day and night.

One afternoon we set off on our quest armed with an address close to the suspected tower, directions on the phone and the camera.


The scenery is beautiful and while Pat drove, I searched the hillsides for the structure.


I also shot several missed pictures of the dashboard.


Then, we saw it! Off in the cloudy distance it was blinking softly.


That's it! The mystery tower!


We pulled into a drive that leads right to it! Except there is a gate and a sign. Our friend, Bill was right. It is indeed a television transmission tower.


We pushed the button at the security gate and asked the voice at the other end for permission to come onto the compound and take closer pictures, but found that we needed security clearance and an appointment. But, we were close enough to solve our mystery. The fascinating structure stands 1,091 feet high on the mountain top, certainly tall enough to be seen from 16 miles away. The ride there was breathtaking and a wonderful excursion for a couple of folks enjoying the time and opportunity to do something as delightfully simple as driving off in the middle of the day to find a tower.


We did some research when we got home from our trip and found a couple of close up shots, apparently taken by someone with an appointment.



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November 2, 2019

Emancipation


Every day I think more and more that the term retirement is wrong. I understand that if you work hard in your younger years and make some intelligent and responsible decisions that you will hopefully reach an age when your decisions will pay off and you can quit working. What society calls retiring. But there is much more that happens once you have walked out of your office with your box of knickknacks and into the Social Security office. It's a strange and rather terrifying period, that time of retiring, but then you move on. Time goes by and you find yourself emotionally miles from that day you left your job and you're in a completely new phase of life. Does age matter? It shouldn't. The word retirement ought to change I think, at least after the first year. The dictionary defines retirement as: "to withdraw or relinquish", meaning it's about giving something up. But what about what you have gained? That ought to be worth something. Maybe even something more.

When you marry you're considered honeymooners for a year and then you're simply married. As a retiree, I think you should move on to another phase as well. There ought to be a word like rejuvenated or emancipated or something. Something positive.

Imagine this: You leave a lifelong job or career in which you invested most of your youth and time and energy. You take whatever savings you have put away and any investments and spend a year learning how to adjust and move onto the next "phase" in your life. You tell people you are retired. Then, after that year, when someone asks you what you do for a living, you reply that you are emancipated. Then it's: "No, I don't work anymore, I am emancipated." "Well, congratulations! I'll be done working in June and I plan to be emancipated too."

I'd very much like to say that myself because I don't feel retired, I feel emancipated!


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October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween


Happy Halloween to all of my readers! Thank you for your precious time and your wonderful support! I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to run into friends and folks who come here to read my notes on everyday life and have you all there to give me advice on my projects and dilemmas. We may have relocated, but this blog lets me speak to all of you on a regular basis and you cannot imagine how much I appreciate every one of you that listens. Have a great holiday!




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October 29, 2019

The Eggsperiment


Hello and welcome! Today I'm sharing my eggsperiment. It all began when I wanted white eggs for an old, wire basket. I've have owned it for years, and once kept it filled with red apples for my red, white and blue kitchen. In my new home, I wanted to keep it simply for eggs. I looked into filling it with artificial eggs but nothing I saw came close to the beauty of the real things and they're free!


 I have respect for eggs. Almost every animal loves them and I can understand why raiding the chicken coop will never end. Take a simple egg, hard-boiled if you like, or better yet be bold and choose raw, and put it into the hands of a toddler. Of course, you can expect one to be quickly broken, but once they latch onto the idea that an egg is fragile and must be treated with utmost respect something magical happens. The egg becomes precious and awesome in the mind of an inquisitive child. I feel that way myself sometimes about such a perfect food.

I began my new, egg collection by blowing out the contents of every egg that I used in my cooking. If it wasn't to be fried it got scrambled in the shell and emptied to be saved. If you have never blown an egg out of the shell it's a simple task that requires a bit of care and patience. You simply poke a small hole into each end of the egg. I like to use a stick pin from my corkboard. Then take a long hatpin, or something similar, insert it into the hole and scramble the contents inside. Now hold the egg over your bowl, blow gently into one end and the contents should come out easily. If not, try enlarging your hole slightly or scramble the egg inside the shell again. Keep the egg for your cooking and soak the shell in soapy, hot water until it's clean inside. Now it will last forever, or until it meets with some eggy disaster.


Over the last several months I have collected a good number of eggs and I like not only how farmhouse-charming they look in my egg basket but that each one was baked into something delicious like yummy muffins or a batch of cookies. The basket is filling fast and sits on the shelves over my refrigerator.

Yet, there is one problem. All of the eggs are holey. Once I began to fill the basket I planned to repair the holes and make the eggs look whole again. I contemplated this over the months as the eggs piled up. Exactly how would I do that?

After searching Pinterest and other creative online sites for ideas, I found some beautiful paper mache ideas for painted eggs and jeweled versions, but nothing that dealt with the holes. If I looked closely at photographs of others' egg designs I saw that, unless they wrapped the egg in something, they still had holes. Once that egg is perforated it's obviously not that easy to disguise a telltale pinprick.

I asked crafty friends. We discussed using tissue paper, coffee filters and tiny bits of any paper punched out in small circles and applied with white glue in several forms. All of those ideas meant there was a wrinkly patch on both ends of the eggs. Are they going to be displayed in a museum? No, but I was on a mission now and I wanted flawless covers for the ends of my precious eggs.


My friend Marianne suggested hot glue. Now, this idea sounded great. We even discussed that hot glue comes in a variety of colors. White, hot glue. That was worth a try. Since I have no patience or white, hot glue I decided to eggsperiment with the clear glue stick I had on hand.

I melted a glob onto a few eggs, waited about ten seconds and rubbed the warm glue with a finger coated in coconut oil. I had read that you can squirt hot glue into a mold and it comes out easily if you coat it with vaseline. I choose coconut oil only because it was closer.

It worked. Kind of. It covered the hole, but I was a bit too generous with each squirt. Hot glue is never an exact science. Not only was there a bump on the egg, but the hot glue threads that pulled away from the gun were strong enough to grab and pull up the light, fragile egg. I learned quickly to slow down after one egg fatality. 


  

 It worked pretty well though, even in the beginning stages. My husband looked in on my progress as he passed through the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee and suggested that I try sanding off the extra glue. I pointed out to him that the glue was rubbery and well, there's the fragile aspect of the eggs. However, I thought it was worth a shot. I got out my crafting emery boards (the beauty supply shop is a great place for tiny sanding tools) and gave it a careful shot.

It actually worked pretty well. With a bit of patience, I got the glue smooth on the eggshell and down to where there was only the glue in the hole. One problem, the glue-covered the hole well but it was clear. Now I had a tiny window in my eggs. This did not entirely solve the problem, but I was headed in the right direction. 


So I tried a dab of white paint and was rather satisfied. The hole was not covered perfectly. This doesn't seem surprising to me since after all if an egg is the perfect food it comes with a pretty perfect shell. I didn't replace nature but I don't have eggs with obvious holes any longer.


 The doctored eggs are back on the shelf looking fine!


Mr. Rooster seems happy enough about it all.


Hint: If you give a toddler a raw egg be aware than when it gets broken eggs are easily cleaned up with salt. Simply pour a handful of salt on the raw egg, wait a bit and then scoop it up with a spatula.


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