Saturday, January 14, 2017

Heritage Pie

A long lost cousin I've reconnected with on Facebook posted a scan of an old recipe she found recently. Apparently she has been sorting through things and eliminating clutter, just as I have been doing.  Sorting recipes always slows me down because I have way too many of them and I try every year to find a way to get them more organized and get rid of duplicates. She was having a problem too, but it was more because some needed to be rewritten before being tossed. And how do you toss away a piece of paper with your own Grandmother's handwriting on it, even if it is damaged by oil and time? Such things tug at the heart.

The recipe was for a Butterscotch Pie and for some reason I downloaded it. Probably because I have my own fond memories of Vera Coughlin.

 It wasn't easy to read, so I tried running it through some editing software, but all I really succeeded in doing was to get the yellow out of the paper and changing the size. I printed off my best effort and went about trying to decipher the words that had nearly faded away. I had just rolled out the last of my Christmas pastry and needed a filling for a single crust pie. I decided this was a good time to try this heritage pie.

As I began to mix the ingredients together, I was suddenly aware that the dear lady had not spelled out tablespoon and teaspoon as even tbsp and tsp. I had to hope that "T" was tablespoon and "t" was teaspoon and that it wasn't just a quirk of her handwriting that caused her to capitalize one of the T's and not the other.

There was another part of the recipe that confused me. It looked like she wanted me to add the warm milk to the egg yolks, but if you've ever made lemon pie filling from a package, you know you would add the egg yolks to the mixture in the pot, along with some of the cold water, before adding the hot liquid. I decided to do this the same way.

In the end, it all worked out, and I will write out the recipe in a manner I can understand for future reference.

Butterscotch Pie
1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
5 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites for meringue)x
2 cups of milk, divided

Cream together butter, brown sugar, flour, salt and vanilla in a pot.
Beat egg yolks with a 1/2 cup of the milk and stir into sugar mixture until well blended. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk until it's hot but not boiling and pour into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When bubbles break the surface, cook for another 30 seconds. Pour into cooled 9" pie shell and top with meringue.

Beat 2 egg whites until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 1/4 cup of white sugar and beat on high for 2 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fresh Start - Week One

New beginning number one (art) is going to interfere with new beginning number three (losing weight). I have now signed up for an online art course, and between watching videos, and following links and doing assignments, I find myself firmly planted on my butt.  That's certainly not going to reduce the size of it.

For new beginnings number two (de-cluttering) I'm following the Home Solutions  Declutter 365 web page that breaks things down so you have a 15 minute mission to accomplish each day.  My first 15 minute chore went on for half an hour and still wasn't finished because my step stool had mysteriously disappeared over the holidays. But just the idea that it took that long to clean off, (and clean up) my kitchen counter meant it really needed it.  Yet I know my counter is much neater than some I've seen, so if you haven't done yours yet, get to it! Start at one end of the counter, take things off to clean under them. Sort through that stuff and put things that don't belong there away, or get rid of them.

After cleaning and decluttering surfaces, we have now moved on to the drawers. A couple of years ago, when I cleaned out my over-stuffed utensil drawer, I put all the useful things I don't tend to touch into a box and took them to the basement. If I found I needed something, I knew where to find it. Anything left in that box now will be disposed of. I suppose I should have done that sooner. This time, when I did that drawer, the only things I found that I felt I could remove, were a handful of plastic straws. They got moved to my studio, as now I like to blow paint and ink around to create interesting abstract designs.

The drawing course is a lot of fun, and not too hard, even for far, anyway. It's called How to Draw Without Talent, and I found it at Sketchbook Skool.  Some people are very talented. I think they inherit it from someone and are able to translate the world around them into some form of expression the rest of us can only marvel at. I may have some talents, but drawing is not one of them. It has taken me a long time to be able to paint pictures that I feel are good enough to even give away, but I've been working at that for years. I can't draw, according to instructor Danny Gregory, not because I don't have talent, but because nobody has ever taught me any of the basic skills. Yes, I can see, but I can't translate what I see to paper. I hope this class, or klass as they call it, will change all that.

Danny says learning to draw is actually easier than learning to drive. Well, I can't drive either, but then, I've never actually tried to learn how. This week I have learned the basic components of drawing.  I took steps to learn to copy lines, curves, angles and spots or circles. Instead of drawing actual things, I had to try to duplicate abstract patterns containing these elements. It wasn't easy, but it was fun. I had trouble with just one of them and thought I wasn't getting the angles and perspective right.  But when I looked at it the next day, I saw exactly what I had left out, and fixed it with no trouble at all. That gave me the confidence to try to duplicate an ad that had come in the mail. I don't think I did too badly. So already this course is working. 

Danny makes us draw with a pen, so that we will commit to our lines. That makes it even scarier for me, as I know I can't erase even the most glaring mistakes. I did this one with a ball point pen so it doesn't show up as well as I would hope, but I have just purchased a couple of nice new black pens to work with in the future.

So, to summarize week one: I'm learning the basic skills behind learning how to draw; the kitchen is looking neat and tidy and I've started on the drawers; and I've somehow lost three pounds, but that may be because I've been too busy to snack.  Hey, whatever works!

How are you doing with your project?

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year everyone!

At this time of year many people start making resolutions. I'm not going to do that, as promising to take a firm course of action would only set me up for failure. Instead, I've got some new beginnings to make.

The first is that I want to explore my art a little more than I have been the past couple of years. I am looking into a few courses that might help with that, and I have subscribed to some interesting U-Tube channels, that motivate me to just play and try things. You may get to see some weird stuff this year, but I'll try not to bore you with everything.

The second thing is my usual, declutter project. I start the year off like this fairly frequently. As we start to put away Christmas stuff (okay, so I have not done that yet), I get the notion to put away other stuff as well.  Stuff is something I have a lot of, and it tends to accumulate in messy piles here and there. Home Storage Solutions puts out a this guide each month on what to declutter and when.  I've followed it on numerous occasions in the past, and will be doing it again.  It's a good kick start, if nothing else. Their plan is never overwhelming as it breaks things down into small jobs that often aren't meant to take more than 15 minutes.

The third thing I want to do is to take another stab at losing some weight. I like to believe that a little extra weight at my age is probably a good thing. It gives me something to fall back on if I become ill.  Today I weigh in at 160 pounds, which is a bit too much for my 5'4" frame. I have sore knees and feet, so less weight would likely be helpful with that.  I have no intention of trying to get back to what I weighed in my youth. I was way too skinny back then, despite eating everything in sight.  I would, however, like to fit into at least last years clothes! I got a shock recently when I was going to a dance, and found I didn't have a dress that fit, where normally I have a hard time deciding which one to wear. I refuse to go out and buy a larger size, so I will work on slimming down, and then reward myself with a nice new outfit.

I plan to keep you updated on how things are going from time to time. Maybe I can inspire some of you to some new beginnings also. I'd love it if you shared your ideas and accomplishments on any of these subjects, or your other goals throughout the year.  Let's do this together. Start fresh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Who Wants This Book?

I recently won a book from LibraryThing. Normally I just try for the adult books, but with Christmas coming, I thought I'd try for this one. Now that I've got it, I don't quite know what to do with it.

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is like when a child suddenly starts questioning the existence of Santa Claus, but in reverse. Santa has lost faith that a certain little boy actually exists. He can find all kinds of proof that he might not be real and gets very upset about it.

Actually, Harold is about the age when he starts wondering about Santa too, and the two of them decide to lay a trap to see if the other exists. It ends  happily enough but I have to wonder if it's wise to pass such a book on to a child.

Maureen Furgus has come up with a cute idea for a story, and Cale Atkinson has illustrated it quite beautifully in rich, mostly Christmasy colours. The book is printed on excellent quality, sturdy pages, and even the flyleaf is done in an imaginative style. 

The problem lies in the fact that this is a picture book. Most kids that would be reading a book of this nature would still be young enough to believe in the magic of Santa. I'd be afraid that this story might destroy that for them. I wouldn't want to be the one to put the idea that Santa might not exist into a young child's head. So what shall I do with this otherwise beautiful book?

My own grandsons are past the picture book stage.  While one is young enough to still believe in Santa, and another Elf that shows up here at this time of year, I doubt I'd want to give him this book.  I had a discussion on Facebook about it, and though one  person thinks I worry too much and it's just a cute story, others seem to see it my way.  I don't know that I'd even want to donate it to the library.  Perhaps I could take it to a second hand book store. At least I would hope whichever adult decided to buy it might give it a look and a bit of thought first.

Meanwhile, if you have a child who is young enough for picture books, and has already lost the belief in the jolly old elf, perhaps this is the book for you. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Present Dilemma

I promised not to do the Bah Humbug thing this year when I was incapacitated last year and couldn't do all the usual Christmas chores. I found myself stuck on the couch with a bum knee and all I could think of was all the things I wanted to be doing. Things I normally complain about. Christmas is a lot of work, and though I'd finally managed to get out of it, somehow I longed to do all those things that make Christmas merry and bright.

So this year, with all the pressure back on me, I'm trying to just do it and be happy about it.  But you know what?  Even just buying presents isn't as easy as it once was.

I have two grown sons. Each year I ask them for a Christmas list. The younger one usually likes to challenge me to find some obscure music.  This year he wants clothes. But then he says we are not to buy them for him as he says they will never fit. I'm having no luck in finding out what store he buys from, either, so I'm even afraid to go the gift card route.

The other son gave me a list of possibilities. They are more likely impossibilities. This year he has done his brother's thing and is sending me on a hunt for strange things like DVD's of 60's concerts and CD's of 90's surf music that sounds kind of 60ish.  As strange as that may sound, I can find the CD's, but they are either way over budget, or not available for delivery in time for Christmas. I'm not wrapping up a parcel that promises something is coming. Last time I did that, it kept getting back ordered, and didn't actually arrive until August!  I may have to buy a couple of t-shirts but they would have have some sort of classic rock band or character on the front, according to his list.

I can't get a list out of my grandsons at all. The youngest has Pie Face as a top priority though, and the older one wants more expensive things like a new IPad, or a hover board. Pie Face isn't coming into my house.  Nope! I can just imagine the whipped cream flying everywhere! And last time I checked that was an apple tree growing in the back yard, not a money tree, so his big brother is out of luck for his wishes too.

It used to be you could go out and buy kids toys and they were thrilled to unwrap them and play with them. It kind of made Christmas more magical to see the kids so happy playing with their new toys. They were even happier if you played with them. Now they are more interested in electronic gadgets. They happily download games when gifted with ITunes cards but the most interaction I can get from that is when the older one asks me to sit beside him while he plays, and just watch what he'd doing. I'd like to play too.....even if I have no idea what he's doing. For some reason, he never lets me.

I can usually think up something to buy my hubby, but I'm always afraid he will be disappointed.

Lots of people say, "Just buy a gift card," but I feel that if I give you a gift card, and you give me a gift card, then we might as well just keep our own money and go buy something for ourselves.  Oh, I did have one friend who had a deal with her hubby that they could each spend a certain amount on things for themselves. They still had to wrap up their purchases and put them under the tree. It was only the spouse that the gift wasn't for that didn't know what was in it until it was unwrapped. I could go for a deal like that myself.

Christmas isn't all about presents, I know, but it's still a big part of the tradition around here. At the moment I'm still struggling to find some appropriate gifts. Some things have been purchased. Some things have even been wrapped. Other things are coming in the mail.....soon, I hope. And yet others have not even been dreamed up yet. A real list from everyone would be helpful. At least I'd have a clue.

Go write your Christmas list for those you love, to help make their shopping easier. That might just be the gift they will be most grateful for this season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

While my Muse is on Vacation

Apparently it's been a month since my last blog post.  Perhaps you have all given up on me.  I thought I'd better pop in to let you know I'm still alive.

Recently I've been watching a series of videos by Koosje Koene on Art Therapy for the creative block she has been experiencing.  It had not occurred to me that I might be suffering from the same problem.  I used to write newspaper columns and really hated having a deadline.  I took up blogging so that I'd have a place to say what was on my mind without the pressure of having to force it. If you look back over my previous posts you'll see that I normally post about once a week. That's not because I sit down to do so, but because something pops into my head that I want to share.  That hasn't been happening lately.

Maybe I have been suffering from creative block and just didn't realize it.  Or perhaps my muse has just gone on vacation for a while. She certainly has not been whispering stories in my ear lately.  But I have not been as upset about it as Koosje. I don't like to force things.

Creative people have to create, however, and I've been doing that in other ways. I noticed poppies showing up all over Facebook right from the beginning of November.  It made me want to try to paint some of  my own. I had painted poppies in oils in the past but thought it might be fun to experiment a little. 
I've never painted with knives before and thought I'd give them a try.  This quick little acrylic was enough to let me know I will be using knives a lot more often in the future.
 The other thing I've been playing with a lot lately are alcohol inks. (When people hear me say that in person they frequently ask me what I'm doing with alcoholics!) I don't have much experience with the inks yet but I have learned that while I may have an intention, I do not have the control.  Actually, that's what makes them so much fun.  I'm enjoying the experience of being freed up by what the knives and ink produce just as blogging has set me free from deadlines.

This past weekend I was in Hull, Quebec for the 25th anniversary of Capital Conquest.  That's a major martial arts event with instructors from all over the world.  Though I was only there as a spectator while my hubby taught a seminar on self defense using a cane, I was invited to take part in a little calligraphy seminar going on in the hallway. I was introduced to several styles of pens and got to experiment with each one.  I can tell you now that I will be writing again soon, but it might be with a pen created from a pop can.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Inspired by Nature and Art

At this time of year there seems to be a lot of artist studio tours.  I usually manage to get to see  some new art while this opportunity is presenting itself.

Merrickville has an an artist studio tour the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. The tours in Prince Edward County and  in Cornwall happen at the same time as the Merrickville one. I've been to the tour in Prince Edward County twice, and this year I finally made it to the Arts and Apples tour in Cornwall.

Merrickville becomes a very busy place during their tour, which is why they extended it to a two week event. The studios in the Cornwall area, by comparison, seemed almost deserted. Yet the artists were thrilled to have had as many as 75 people stop by. We only got to a few Cornwall area studios this year but found the artists there very friendly, and more than willing to explain their work. I will definitely go back another year, starting perhaps at the opposite end of the tour, so that we are more in the country. One of the things I love about such tours is exploring the back roads and seeing new sites.

I did, of course, check out at least 13 of the Merrickville artists on their final day, even without leaving town. It's always fun to see what the people I know have been up to, and how far they have come with their art over the past year.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we went to one of my favorite tours, up in the hills beyond Perth. I've told you about this before, in 2013 and 2014. It's such a beautiful time of year to drive those roads, art, or no art. There is even an area called the Field Work Project, where artists do installations in the wild.  We made a point to stop by and see the Eyebox, which is actually a Camera Obscura created by Franc van Oort.  When you step inside, and close the door, the light coming though the lens in one of the walls of the box projects an upside down image of what it's facing on the opposite wall. You are, in effect, inside a giant camera. The whole thing is on a turn table and you are able to crank it in a complete circle and see the view from any angle.  I heard it might actually be moved to one of the locks near Burritts Rapids next year, if all goes according to plan. I do hope it does as I'd like to experience it again, and perhaps take my grandsons to give them some idea of just how a camera works.

Artist studio tours inspire me to try new things. I used to just look and see what I liked, but now I try to figure out how some things were done, and then go home and see if I can come up with that sort of effect. After the past couple of weeks, and several tours, I think I have enough ideas to keep me busy until springtime.