I'm joining in again with the hot+not meme over at loobylu. Thanks, Claire!
HOT THIS WEEK
The Kindness of Strangers I swear the blogging community includes the nicest people. Special thanks to crzylady, a budding pro organizer at Home Grown Insanity who has given me some excellent, excellent guidance on whipping my creative space into shape (witness the first step of the transformation tomorrow through kootoyoo's My Creative Space meme)! I'm very excited to say the least. Thanks too to Chele at Happy Dacks who kindly taught me the correct pronunciation of whinging. What a fantastic word. To Gale at scribble prints, who gave me some much needed reassurance about my messy space. And to all the other bloggers participating in this meme - such great inspiration, laughs, and interesting thoughts to look forward to each week.
My New Old Apron
Picked up this lovely vintage apron at an estate sale on Saturday for two bucks. It was very stained, but thanks to the miracles of Oxi-Clean, it now looks pretty much good as new. Check out the sweet hand embroidery. I am swooning.
Apple Pie for Dinner
That apron reminded me of the zillions of little aprons I'd embroidered for Granny Smith in my latest book which in turn reminded me that I'd stumbled upon a new review of it this week. Saralynne said some very nice things about my artwork, so nice that she put me in the mood to make apple pie and actually serve it for dinner. The book includes a very tasty recipe, but I think I'm going to make my usual sour cream apple pie this time. I'll include the recipe I use at the end of the post. (I have to wait and make the pie on Friday - my hubby is out of town on business and gets back late that evening. I think hot pie and ice cream will make a nice welcome home, don't you? Maybe I'll wear my hot new apron too.)
Reading that good review also put me in the mood to go check my amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com rankings. (I have been relieved to come out of the closet on this and learn I'm not the only author/illustrator who does this obsessively.) They were still disappointing. Rats. SoI consoled myself by reading all the other good reviews the book has gotten (which the Barnes and Noble site has in their entirety here, or which you can read at the website the author created for the book here).
Oh, I also found a really interesting interview with the author, Susan VanHecke, here. What a fascinating life (and family) she's had.
Fooling Around with the Camera on my Phone
I took a bunch of pix of weird reflections this week. They have a creepy surreal feeling I think. The one above is of my husband and various plants reflected in our new backyard pond.
This one is of my hand and some furniture in my husband's office, as reflected in his window with a view of the construction of the new subway tunnel that will go under the Allegheny River. (I was waiting almost patiently while Steve finished up some work.)
This one's my favorite. It's of the stained glass inside a mausoleum, with reflections of the grounds (and the top of my head) at Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh. My friend and I walked there on Sunday - so beautiful and interesting, but of course I forgot my real camera. I love how the reflections pick up the colors of the stained glass and I like the ghostly feel.
Going to my first Steelers game ever and having them lose
To the Bengals, no less, who are usually lousy, but are now in first place over my beloved team. Plus now everyone I know says I am never, ever allowed to go to another game since I am obviously bad luck.
Really, that's mostly okay. It was fun (and very loud) - but I think there's a lot to be said for watching sports from the comfort of my family room. Including a bathroom nearby and commentary for those of us who need a little explanation some times.
Steelers Nation, baby!
The Lost Tutorial
See those cute little pies in their bottle cap pie pans? And the teeny-tiny apples? I had a nice tutorial almost finished on how to make them. Guess where it is? On my computer that died. And guess if I just remembered that when I went to finish it up and post it? Poop.
Whinging about Whinging Or more specifically about my use of the term, which has been perhaps a tad liberal since I learned how to pronounce it. But you don't see ME whinging about that, just my daughter. WHO STILL HASN'T FINISHED HER COLLEGE APPLICATIONS. Not that I'm feeling hysterical about it.
Recipe for Sour Cream Apple Pie
Which is Hot, Not Not
(But It's Good Served Cold Too - Just Better Hot)
This is basically the recipe from my well-worn copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook (by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Workman, 1979). Because I am NEVER able to follow directions precisely, I have made a few small changes, and I also just use the Pillsbury prepared pie crusts because I am much too lazy to make one from scratch.
This pie has been a group project at my house for years and years. Every summer, one of my Ohio nephews would come stay for a week and he, my kids, and my Pittsburgh niece would make it using a zillion of the tiny, very tart apples from the tree in our backyard (or if it was a no apple year, with Granny Smiths). This summer, that nephew's little brother came instead - here he is making it with my daughter.
Anyway, when I got the manuscript for Apple Pie I laughed and thought, "How perfect!" This reaction blinded me to the fact that there were a million characters (well, 13 humans and a bunch of animals), people (which I'd never done for a book), and very detailed backgrounds (which take me forever). Fortunately I did not go utterly insane, just nearly so.
But I still love apple pie.
Invite a few young friends to bake with you. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 inch pie pan with a crust. Set another pie crust aside for the top. (I wait to preheat until after the apples are peeled and sliced, because that can take a long time with young helpers.)
For the Filling
6 Granny Smith apples OR one zillion little ones from the tree in the backyard, preferably ones with relatively few worm holes
2/3 cup sour cream (I use lite sour cream and it works perfectly)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 generous tsp vanilla (the generous part is because the kids have always managed to spill it all over and now I'm just used to it on the vanilla-y side)
3 T flour
Peel, core and slice all the apples. Feed the peel to the dog and hope it doesn't give her diarrhea. Take a short break to plant some of the apple seeds (optional). Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl, giving everyone a chance with the whisk, and pour the mixture over the apples (which should be in a bigger bowl - important to specify this to young cooks). Toss well until all the apples are coated and the dog has had a chance to eat the ones that have sloshed out of the bowl and landed on the floor. Dump everything in the prepared pie pan.
For the Filling
3 T brown sugar
3 T granulated sugar
1 T flour (not in the original recipe - I added it because our pie is invariably over-filled and the extra flour seems to keep the topping from bubbling over onto the bottom of the oven and setting off the smoke detector. But you can leave it out if you prefer.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped or ground
Combine all these ingredients and sprinkle the topping over the apple mixture.
Make a lattice top crust, if you already know how or can follow my confusing directions. First cut the remaining pie crust into long thin strips. Lay half the strips across the top of the pie in parallel strips, leaving an equal distance between strips (put the longest strip in the middle and the work outward). Fold half the strips back in a line along the middle and lay one of the remaining strips across the middle of the pie. Then put those strips back flat and fold the others back, laying another strip across. Continue until the whole thing is covered in a pretty woven pattern. Crimp the edges lightly. Pop the pie in the oven and take the dog out potty.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, until the pie is bubbly, the apples tender, and the kitchen smells like cinnamon.
Serve generous slices with vanilla ice cream. Eat every last crumb.