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Archive for May, 2008

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May
17
2008

Finding One's Niche

I spent a lovely evening with two of my dearest friends. Tami called midweek and said we should get together (little did I know there was a real reason, not just our usual hen party). This means the three of us. Me, Tami and Karen. We have so very much in common. And I guess after they left last night, sitting and thinking back over the conversations I realized just how much. We are all about the same age. We all have wonderful kids and wonderful husbands. We all LOVE coffee and love sharing a meal together. We talk about our families, our successes, our failures, our work, our plans, our dreams, religion, politics…all those things you can only talk about with people you trust.

I hadn’t seen these two friends since I got by from my very brief, albeit very enjoyable, trip to Paris and beyond. They wanted to look at all my pictures and hear all about the real reason we came home early. But before we got to the trip, Tami had a huge announcement. They are moving. I know Karen is just heartbroken. She said as much and she and Tami are very very close. They at one time even worked together. I am sad too. I dont see Tami as often as I would like or should but I knew she was about 3-4 miles up the road if I needed her. Or if she needed me. But you know people need change sometimes. Even as difficult as change is. Personally I am not a big fan of change but at times in my life I would have welcomed it. What has changed is my need for change. Five years ago, maybe less, if Husband would have come home and said “I think we should move to Maine.” I would have said “When do we leave?” Now, I would whine and cry and beg not to have to pack 31 years worth of stuff. And it has always been a dream of mine to live in New England. Had been I suppose now.

At the same time I kinda envy Tami for her new adventure. The winds of change are blowing.

Then we got on to what I want to do. What do I want to do? 2007 brought more changes in my life than I planned, that’s for sure. Husband’s job took him 6000 miles from home a month at the time. My mom was diagnosed with inoperable cancer the first week he was gone. The next 6 months of 2007 were spent by her side. A job I was happy to have though wished it werent necessary. If that makes sense. I sold most of my soap business and desperately clung to the local business I had retained. Not feeling like I should just shut it down, all the while allowing it to dwindle to the point of it “not being worth the trouble”. I felt very unmotivated. And still do. Then the liability insurance comes due. Now it seems even less worth it. You have to sell a lot of soap to justify the insurance. I am not willing to work that hard at it any more. Not getting lazier. Just need a new “thing”. I will never completely quit making soap because family expects it. And I do enjoy it on a small scale. But frankly, the market is flush with handmade soaps and lotions and such. It isnt as unique any more and I don’t have any new or better ideas for marketing mine.

So what is a middle aged woman to do? Sew? Check. Bake? Check. Garden? Check. Plant a BIG pumpkin patch? On the list. My two friends totally understood my dilemma. And encouraged me to take my time deciding. They know how much turmoil last year brought to me. And how much is still left to do with my mom’s estate. So while I feel like I am spinning my wheels, evidently it is quite normal to go through these times of not knowing your niche.

I still want to finish my cookbooks. I seem to be able to push those to the back of the pile too easily. Though they are on my mind almost constantly, I havent felt very creative lately and they have suffered for it. I have been working on this project for 10 years. I am not kidding. I find the enthusiasm to get rolling again and then something distracts me. But I do want to finish. Honest.

Karen suggested last night that I might want to fall back on my catering experiences again. My mom, oldest daughter and I catered for about a dozen years. She was telling about this lady in Pennsylvania (Karen used to live there) who did bake sales. Just during the holidays. She would bake during the week and then have like an open house on the weekend and sell plates of cookies, breads etc. Sounds intriguing. And then I have my pumpkin patch if Mother Nature sees fit for it to succeed. Several years in the past I have sold veggies and pumpkins during the fall and even early Spring. I used to be a member of a local green market and would take my stuff and set up a booth. I dont think I am up for that but folks could pop out here couldnt they?

Can you tell I am in a quandary? Oh well, I can sort it all out one day.

Tami if you read this, I will miss you but I am truly happy for you. Really, what a life changing adventure. Karen if you read this, we are just going to have to get together more often. Once every few months is ridiculous. I expect you to help me sort out my next project!!! And plan a trip to see Tami!

Now for your photo of the day:

Rachel is really enjoying her new macro lenses! Isnt he lovely?

May
16
2008

Friday Recipe: Easy Apple Pie (Crust and ALL!!)

Crust

2 refrigerated pie crusts, softened to room temp or make your own pie crust (enough for a double crust pie ~see below for recipe)

Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)~ like to use Granny Smith
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom. In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; If using a pie bird here is where it comes in! See directions below. If not using a pie bird proceed with the following:

Spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving.

How To Use a Pie Bird

(1) Place your unbaked crust in your pie plate.

(2) Put the Pie Bird in the center of your crust.

(3) Pour your pie filling in the crust evenly around the Pie Bird.

(4) Cut a small slit in the top crust.

(5) Gently place the top crust over the pie, easing the Pie Bird through the slit. Let it rest on the “shoulders” of the Pie Bird.

(6) Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute.

(7) Bake per pie directions.

(8) Remove the Pie Bird when you cut the first piece of pie.

Gently clean your pie bird with mild dishwashing liquid ~ do NOT place in dishwasher.

My Best Basic Pie Crust

No-fail. Works every time. You will find other crusts throughout this book…but as far as a basic unsweetened crust good for general pie making…you won’t do better than this one! It can be prebaked for cream pies or used unbaked for filled pies. I even use it for pot pies.

This recipe makes enough dough for four 9” pie shell bottoms for cream or meringue pies or two pies with top and bottom crusts such as an apple pie.

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening (chilled)
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 TBSP vinegar
  • 1 egg, beaten

Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the chilled shortening into the dry mixture using a pastry cutter or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands. The resulting mixture should have fat lumps no smaller than peas.

Pour the cold water, a small amount at a time, into the dry mixture; mixing gently with a fork until the dough is wet enough to be packed into a ball. ball. The dough should be handled as little as possible to prevent the blending of all of the fat lumps, as a crust with no fat lumps will be dense and hard. Split the dough into four equal amounts, roll them into balls and wrap them in plastic before placing them in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Chilling will prevent the fat from absorbed by the flour and give a lighter texture to the crust when it is baked.

Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour and remove one of the packages of dough from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly and dust the dough’s top before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin . Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. Some people prefer do this between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap because it makes clean up and rolling easier.

Quickly roll the dough into a circle 1/4 or 1/8 inch thick. The size of the circle should be about four inches wider in diameter than the pie pan.

A trick for getting the dough positioned in the pan correctly is to fold the dough in half and then into quarters. Gently pick it up and place it into the pan so that the center point is in the center of the pan.

Unfold the dough into the pan and it should be perfectly centered. If the dough cracks a little during this process, press it back together with your fingers or patch the cracks with a bit of dough from the outer edges.

At this point you can fill your crust according to your recipe or you might want to consider freezing the crusts for later use. I roll out my circles place them individually between sheets of waxed paper and gently fold in fourths. I then place them carefully in zipper plastic bags and lie flat to freeze. When a crust is needed, take it out leave it in the bag to come to room temperature and then proceed with recipe.

PS If you need a pie bird (or two) click on him and it will take you to my etsy!

May
15
2008

Etsy Update

I added three Japanese craft books to my etsy shoppe!  Will be adding more later.  But someone had commented that they wanted to know…so now you know! Just follow the link below! Will be adding some aprons and such soon too.

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