Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sarah's Hat

As I said in the previous post, Sarah's wedding hat was also mine.  I had kept it in the top of the closet for twenty years.  I loved it the day I got married, but I had no fantasies that my daughters would want it.  Hats had gone out of fashion for weddings almost immediately after I got married.  I think I was riding the last little wave or may have even missed the trend altogether.  To be honest, hats still haven't come back, but when your girl decides on a steampunk wedding theme, you get to ignore current fashion trends with great abandon.

My hat had a veil that went past my knees in the back and a huge, leftover from the 80's bow on back.  The lace trim on the edge is the same lace that was on my dress.  It's easy to do things like that when your mother makes your dress and you trim your own hat.  I started with a blank white hat.  My sister and a family friend helped me wind on all that ribbon and tulle.  We hot glued on the fake flowers including a little bunch on the underside of the brim.  I loved my hat even if the weight of that monstrous bow and veiling tried to pull it off my head all day.

It's obviously dated now and it most definitely wasn't very steampunk, but the basic shape worked beautifully for a Victorian-ish wedding.  It's not perfectly time period appropriate, but steampunk is all about taking that aesthetic and tweaking it to your taste.

Since my daughter spent the summer working full time, I had the fun of retrimming the hat.  I removed the massive mess off the back and the ribbon twist from around the crown. The fake flowers  and lace stayed.

I made an eyebrow veil that covered the whole hat with tails that reached about shoulder blade length.  Over that I added a 20" ostrich plume.  That was interesting.  I had never worked with feathers before so I had to do some research to know how to form the plume so it bent the way I needed it to on the hat and how to attach it to the hat so it wouldn't fall off.  (Steam!)

She adored the hat.  It worked beautifully with her dress and looked very steampunk even if it wasn't a top hat.  The plume was just fantastic.  I ordered it off Amazon and it came pretty quickly and well packaged.  (Well, the packaging was ridiculously over sized, but the plume arrived in perfect condition.)   It's attached to the hat with both thread (at the front) and hot glue (at the back.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Daughter's Wedding Dress

Like I said, my girl got married this month.   She and her husband have been good friends since seventh grade.  Last summer they started dating. They were engaged in March.   It was a quick time to put together a wedding, but it worked best with their schedule to do it this summer.  So we hit the ground running and I spent the summer up to my eyeballs in wedding prep. 

Sarah wanted a steampunk wedding.   Ashton didn't want anything too over the top or costumey.   We decided on a steampunk lite or, as I would explain it to friends, steampunk meets English garden party.   The steampunk aspect did get her this dress:

And from the back:

 We used a Butterick pattern for the bodice but heavily altered the fit and cut the neckline up so it looked better with the corset.  The patterns for the Victorian apron drapey parts, the skirt, and the awesome bustled petticoat are all from Truly Victorian.  I loved working with those patterns.  They were easy to follow for the most part.  We did make some alterations.  I did not sew the aprons into the dress.  They were made as separate pieces like the corset.  It made it much easier to sew the bodice and skirt together and install the back zipper.  With the corset over the top, you can't even tell it's not all one piece.   This way she can also take the apron and corset and use them with another dress for a steampunk costume of her own.  

The aprons were slightly modified from the original pattern.  I did two aprons with the top apron cut 6" shorter than the bottom.  We used Skirt A that already had the double sash.   I used a ribbon to finish the top edge and added a hook and eye to fasten them together.  And then since I ran out of time, we had to safety pin the back edges so they came together properly.  Ah well.  She can sew so she can add a hook and eye there too when she gets time.

The dress was made from a lovely ivory duchess satin.  It draped beautifully and was the perfect weight for the dress.  The corset and aprons are a shantung (Joann calls them blackberry and taupe.)
I'm sad to say we had to do the whole wedding on a very tight budget ($2500) so the fabric was purchased at Joann with a coupon or on sale and it's all polyester.   The fiber made it harder to work with, but it fit the budget.  Her ensemble cost around $300 including boots, hat trimming, fabric and patterns.  

She wore my wedding hat that I retrimmed (like a good Victorian woman.  Redo it to fit the new fashions.)  I'll do a post soon on the hat.  I've got before and afters.  Shaping the ostrich plume was an interesting experience.    

One of my favorite things we did for them on their wedding day was send them off on a picnic.   After the ceremony we did family pictures and then sent them off by themselves while the rest of us had a light dinner.  Sarah's grandma bought them the adorable hamper as a wedding gift and one of the bridesmaids packed it with a delicious meal.  I had the lemonade bottle already in my cupboard (yea for hoarding!) We just had to remove the labels.  Crisco worked beautifully for that.

The photographer followed them to the park for some private couple photos and then left them alone.  They had 45 minutes of together time before they came back to the party.  It was a good break from the crowd and the hectic schedule.  The guests were so busy eating and mingling that the bride and groom weren't even missed until 15 minutes before they were due to come back.  

It was a lovely day and Sarah and I were both very happy with her dress.  

*the photos were taken by the incomparable Jyl Read of Jyl Read Photography.  It's a lot to ask a photographer to drive 6 hours to shoot your daughter's wedding, but in this case, it was worth it.  She was amazing.  

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.