Monday, August 11, 2014

Our very own Weeping Angel

My daughter got married on Saturday.  We did just about everything ourselves and yes, that's where I've been for four months.  I've done a lot of crafts but I haven't had time to post any of them.   

One of my favorites was a spontaneous thing.  My husband and I were looking around a local thrift store for things to use as table decor for the wedding when I happened upon this lady:  

Isn't she just horrifically tacky?  That Iron Man-esque outfit, the vines picked out in green, she's just crazy.  But she's also perfect for a weeping angel.  See how her hands are posed and her head is tilted down like she's just barely uncovered her eyes?  Scary.  

So I bargained the thrift store lady down to $15 and brought her home.  We turned her into this:

The paint job was pretty easy.  We started with a flat spray primer in medium gray.  Then I painted her all over in a light gray acrylic paint.  Using a dry brushing technique, I added shadow and weathering with a deep charcoal grey mixed with a bit of chocolate brown.  It's pretty easy; you just want to lightly load the brush and then brush some paint off on a scrap of paper.  Then lightly brush the paint in the creases.   I paid special attention to all the places where rain would drip down and turn the stone darker.  I think her eyes could have used more attention, so I may go back and fix that later.  

The flecks of paint were added by dipping an old tooth brush in cream and chocolate brown and charcoal and then flicking my fingers over the brush.  It got a bit heavy with the white, but the tiny flecks really give it a stone look.  

It may have been easier to just buy a can of stone finish spray paint, but I prefer the custom, varied appearance of the hand painted look.

She's one of my very favorite things we did for the wedding.  She stood guard next to the gifts and not one was stolen all night.  I think I may have heard of a guest that disappeared unexpectedly, though . . . .

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake Pie

One of my favorite desserts is a cheesecake with lemon curd.  It's a fantastic combination of creamy sweetness, and smooth tartness.   Just for fun I thought it would be fun to play with the idea of lemon and cheesecake.  The result was a beautiful lemon meringue pie cheesecake.  Meringue on top, lemon in the middle, and cheesecake on the bottom.

Start with your favorite pie crust recipe and make enough for one shell.  Partially pre-bake the crust.  Pull the crust about five minutes before you would normally for a pre-baked crust. You want to leave 15 minutes at the end for more baking. Make the cheesecake layer while the shell bakes.

For the Cheesecake:
8oz cream cheese
1/4 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon zest

Combine cream cheese and sugar, beat until smooth.  Add the other three ingredients.  Fold in until fully combined.  Do not over mix.   Pour into partially baked crust, and bake for 15 minutes or until set. Meanwhile, make the lemon filling.

For the lemon pie filling:
juice of one large lemon  (1/4 c)
2/3 c sugar
1/8 t salt
3/4 c +2 T water
3 egg yolks
zest of one lemon (minus the 1/2 t for the cheesecake)
1 T cold butter

Combine everything except lemon zest and butter in a small saucepan.   Cook over medium heat until it thickens stirring continuously.   When done, remove from heat and pour over baked cheesecake layer.  Immediately make meringue.

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
1/2 t cream of tarter
6 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Combine egg whites and cream of tarter.  Beat until frothy and add vanilla.  Slowly add sugar one T at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form.  Pour out over hot filling and spread to edges of crust, sealing the crust to the meringue.  Broil in the oven until the meringue begins to toast.  Watch closely because the meringue will go from beautifully tan to burnt in no time flat.

It was a fun change of pace from the lemon curd cheesecake.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Big Bag of Sunshine

Wanna see what came home with me from San Diego?

Sunshine!  That is nearly 10 pounds of Meyer lemons straight from a backyard tree.  They aren't all clean and polished like grocery store lemons are, but they scrub up beautifully.  Today, two of them will become a lemon meringue pie.  I'm considering make a bit of a twist to the recipe, but that will involve going to the store. That may or may not happen.

BTW, I didn't seek out the trendy lemon. It just happened to be what my brother in law had growing in his backyard. Meyer lemons just aren't available to me in my area at all, so it will be interesting if they live up to the hype.

I have a lot of cooking to do.  What doesn't get used this week will be juiced and the juice will be frozen.  I'm going to have to research the best way to save the zest.  I use more zest than juice in my cooking so it would be sad to not find a good way to store it long term.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Found Some Sunshine

At Balboa Park

and in the Balboa Park botanical building.  (So gorgeous!)

And in the cloisters.

And then we found more sunshine the next day at the LDS Temple in La Jolla.

The classic shot of this building taken with the world's dirtiest camera lens.

 And then we went and found some sunshine in the best place to look for it.

It was a good weekend.  (and no that's not me or anyone I know catching the waves.  But they do look cool don't they?)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Raisin Filled Cookies

Recipes and foods go through trends just as much as clothing, home decor and basically anything else we humans do.  Many decades ago when my parents were young, this was a common cookie to make kids in the little corner of the world where they grew up.  In fact, it was my father's favorite cookie.  My grandmother, his mother-in-law, would make a batch of these to bring to us every time she came to visit.  She would come in our back door looking for hugs and bearing a 5 quart ice cream bucket filled with raisin filled cookies.  My dad always got some, but they were a favorite with all my siblings.   I've always associated these cookies with my grandparents' visits.  Raisin filled cookies mean hugs, love, and cuddles.  I'm not even a fan of raisins and I still love these things. 

This year for my father's birthday I made him a big batch of these cookies.  He was delighted to see me come over bearing a big ice cream bucket of cookies and looking for a hug.  He only shared with my mom.  (He said they freeze well. They wouldn't go bad before he could eat them all so he didn't have to share.)

If you like fruit filling in cookies, this is a good recipe to start with.  Any flavor of jam can be substituted for the raisin filling.  The cookie itself is a soft, tender cookie with a lot of rise.  It's important to chill the dough well and use lots of flour when rolling it out.  

Raisin Filled Cookies

3/4 c sugar
4 t flour
1 c boiling water
1 c chopped raisins

Put the raisins in either a food processor or a good blender to chop them.  They need to be pretty thoroughly diced up, but not completely minced.  A few chunky raisins here or there adds a nice texture to the cookie.  Combine all filling ingredients in a small sauce pan and boil until thick.  Set aside to cool while you make the dough. 

1/2 c butter* 
1 c sugar
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 T baking powder
3 c flour

Cream butter, sugar, and milk.  Stir in vanilla and egg.  Add flour, salt, and baking powder.  Stir just until combined.  Divide the dough up into three portions and shape each portion into a 1" tall disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  

When the dough is chilled, roll out very thin (under an 1/8") on a heavily floured surface.  Do make sure you roll it pretty thin.  It still needs to be manageable, so not paper thin, but thin.   There is a lot of leavening in this recipe, so if the dough is too thick you will get an overly thick cookie. This dough is very soft and sticky, so test the dough to be sure it's not sticking to your counter often as you roll it out. Keep your rolling pin well floured as well.  Cut out 3" circles and place on pan 2" apart.   Drop 1 T or so of filling on each cookie.   Try not to get it too close to the edges so it doesn't squeeze out the sides when you press the top and bottom together. 

Cover with another 3" circle of dough and pinch the edges together.    Like this:

You can brush the edges of the bottom cookie with water before you cover it to help the two cookies stick together, but the dough is sticky enough you really don't have to.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  The bottom and edges of the cookie will be lightly browned, but over all it will still be a pale color.  Let cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  These are excellent served warm, however, so don't wait too long to try one.

I gave you the recipe just like my grandmother made it.  If you find the soft dough a little too hard to work with, feel free to reduce the milk by a couple of tablespoons.  That will help it be a little more manageable, but not interfere too much with the basic structure of the dough.   You can also jazz up the raisin filling with citrus zest.  Either orange or lemon would be a good choice.  I would start with 1 1/2 t at first and adjust from there according to taste.   And as I said before, any jam will work as a filling.   One of these days I want to work up a date and orange filling.

Enjoy my little bit of nostalgia.  If you make these for someone, make sure you get a hug as payment.  That's the way it works with cookies.

*the recipe, being an old depression era one, calls for shortening.  I like the flavor of butter, but it does make the cookie harder to handle.  It's your choice here which you use.  Lard might be an interesting and era appropriate choice if you happen to use it in your baking.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tailor Tacking: What is it? and why should you use it?

There are several different ways to mark the tailoring marks on a garment when cutting out.  The one I always go back to is the one I learned first:  tailor tacking.  It's simple.  It's quick. It uses items I always have on hand.  And frankly, you tend to go back to the things you know.

Tailor tacking uses items that every single seamstress has.   No matter how simply stocked your sewing stash, you always, always have a needle and thread.   That's all you need.  I prefer to use bobbins that were wound for other sewing projects.  It gets those bobbins emptied off and ready for a new project and I didn't have to throw out the thread or take the time to unwind it just to empty the bobbin.  Your needle choice depends on what you have on hand and your fabric choice.

A tailor tack is just a single stitch in the fabric.  You leave several inches of thread on either side of the stitch.  Leave it longer if you are going through several thicknesses of fabric (I like to leave four inches for two layers.)  If you are marking an area you will handle a lot during sewing, it's best to leave a little extra as insurance against pulling out the thread.

  After marking all the spots needed on the piece, remove the pattern and gently pull the fabric pieces apart.  When you have about 2-3" of thread between the fabric pieces, clip the threads.   Now it's ready to sew with.  You can remove the thread as soon as you are done sewing that piece (just be sure you won't need that mark again before you pull) or just pull all the tacks out when completely done with the garment.

Tailor tacking works for most tailoring marks.  All those little circles your supposed to match up, center line, fold lines, pleats, etc. are all great uses of tailor tacking.   This technique does not work as well, however, with things like stitching lines, i.e. zipper flies and scalloped necklines.  It's best to use transfer paper to mark those.  You also need to keep your fabric in mind.  If you are sewing with fabric that is easily snagged, it might be best to not be putting an extra needle near it.  Heavyweight fabric like extra thick canvas or leather isn't great for this either.  Leather just doesn't need the extra holes and you can hurt yourself trying to run a needle through thick fabrics.  Transfer paper or pens are useful with these fabrics as well.

If you are new to tailor tacking, you might want to leave your pattern pieces around so you can double check which marks are which.  The thread is just thread so it's up to you to keep track.  It may seem confusing at first, but you catch on pretty quickly and the marks are seldom complicated anyway.  I almost never have to refer to my pattern piece to interpret a mark.  If I do, 99% of the time it's because I'm working on a UFO without the factory instructions and I've forgotten what the mark was for.

I hope you learned a new technique and you find it helpful in your future sewing.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Leather trim houndstooth skirt

I took these pictures back in November, but I wasn't happy with them, so I delayed posting.  I have now admitted to myself that I will not be getting great pictures of this skirt.  This is it.  Sorry.  It is a great skirt though.

 It features a faux leather yoke and wool houndstooth skirt.  The skirt has five deep box pleats across the back.  And it's very fitted.  I finished it up after she left for college so I didn't have her to test the size for me.  If she were home when I sewed it, I would have let out the pleats a bit so it wasn't quite so tight.  But then that's how a lot of women's pencil skirts are being made these days, so whatever.  (by the way, the boots do look great with the skirt in real life.  The black and tan of the houndtooth blend more in photos than they do in person so the undertones in the colors are different.)

We used the same basic technique to build this skirt as I did for her wild print deep yoke skirt.   I did use a light fabric for the facing on the faux leather and I sewed down the facing at the top of the waist.  I also sewed down the seam allowance on either side of the seam as well as the darts at the waist.  

For the skirt, we decided on length, subtracted the length of the yoke and added in hem and seam allowance to get the fabric length.  Two pieces were cut.  One the width of the front yoke piece (including seam allowance) and one the width of the back yoke plus ten inches.    

The back skirt has five box pleats.  One in the center and two on either side spaced two inches away.  You could easily do fewer pleats or no pleats altogether.  Just adjust the width of the back skirt piece accordingly.