Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Huckleberries, hats, projects and Fort Alexander

Huckleberries are in an abundance I've never seen here before.
It's been a while. I've been away. And by I, I mean the normal me, and by away I mean, I've been a little bit lost.  Being at home feels sometimes that I have no direction. I have begun to experience the crumbling of my sense of self. I have healing moments when I emerge from my cave to spend time with my friends, but not enough lately to keep me from being a grumpy Hungarican.

A douglas squirrel is beeping at me!
But summer is here, and Alex, being the outdoorsy kind of kid, has forced me to come creeping out, shielding my eyes from the rays of the sun, my pallid skin reluctantly absorbing the sun and producing vitamin D enough as to give me a little boost.  I hate summer, but I probably would be under the bed mewling like Gollum if I were not forced outside. I swear.  Oy.

I am trying to keep myself creative. I've been focusing more on writing lately than anything else, but I am slowly transitioning back to the applied arts, thank goodness.

Alex helps me pick huckleberries.

And\by helping, I mean eating them.
They're very tart, but he eats them.
First, I uploaded my vast collection of office and non-office specials (these are drawings, for those of you unfamiliar with my penchant for drawing on my lunch break at my previous employment). I have installed them at ArtPal, an awesome site where one can purchase prints in various forms, from a simple rolled print to a full-on printed canvas; with frame, matting, etc. So please do visit (and buy!). My non-working status has made our finances very tight, and so I must resort to whatever skills I have to earn a few extra dollars here and there.
Here's a plump one mommy. 

I've also been obsessing with tea-cakes for some reason. Okay, I found an online recipe that is so good, I can't stop making it, and trying it with various berries. So far, I've made it with the recommended blueberries, and with Marionberries, and with Hood strawberries, and even chocolate chips at one point. If I can find good delicious red currants, I'll make it with that too! There's a reason why I've gained back 30 of the 40 pounds I lost with Weight Watchers. I'm out of control! I use breastfeeding as an excuse, saying it makes me voracious, and part of me feels like it does. Just like how I immediately get thirsty the moment the child 'locks on'.  But yet, you're supposed to LOSE weight when nursing a child. It burns calories! Nope, not me. It might, however it probably has to with my penchant for overdoing it food-wise at any given chance. And my complete lack of discipline has derailed my husband too, but he has only gained back 15 lbs of the almost 70 pounds he lost.

We have about five bushes in our front yard area. Two of which
went from five feet to almost eight in one year, and they're just
exploding with berries.
I will get back on Weight Watchers if it kills me! After seeing photos of myself at the most recent ORS picnic, I am now doubly determined! Damn it!

So to begin this new resolution of disciplined eating and healthier foods, let's talk about this tea cake recipe! It's SoOoooooo good. I make it so much. I made it for a neighbourhood 'block party' last weekend, and made it again this weekend for the picnic.

Top: Marionberry tea cake
Bottom: Standard Fruit Tart
My spoils to share at the neighbourhood block party.

Just a brief moment or two of picking huckleberries yielded what I needed.
Here are the basics: 

Cream together: 1 stick of softened butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and one large egg, and 1/2 a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. Mix until fully blended.

My friend Stephanie II gave me her old Professional 600 KitchenAid.
I am so happy! ::lovelovelove!::
When the butter, sugar and egg are smooth, then go to the next step.
Sift together: 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend for a few seconds then add an 1/2 cup of milk.

Mix until it's a smooth, consistent texture.

I love looking at it at this stage. It's a beautiful, thick (if not sticky) batter.
I recommend you parchment up your pans (use a thin layer of butter to
make the paper stick). Unless you have a particularly deep pan,
I suggest you use parchment on the bottom and also to extend the sides,
or you'll get brown-sugar topping all over your oven floor. 

In go my berries. I doubled the recipe so I tossed in a cup of huckleberries,
and a cup of blueberries to balance out the tartness of the huckles.
Then add 1 cup of your desired berries. Blueberry is really great, but you can use any kind, really.  This time, I doubled the recipe so I could have 1 tea cake for home and 1 for the picnic at Pittock Mansion. I also blended one cup of huckleberries, and one cup of blueberries.  I blended the berries in on the slowest speed for only a few turns so the berries didn't get smashed to bits.

Alex dragged his rocking dolphin out
to the kitchen to be there with me while
I baked.

Almost looks like Christmas.
This is a heavy, sticky dough, and not the most pleasant to work with. You have to plop it into the pan and spread it evenly. I find a common butter knife to be the best tool for the job. The silicone scfaper things like to hold onto the dough too much.

Now, onto the topping!

1/2 stick of butter cold and cut up.
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
pinch of salt
and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

All the necessary ingredients are gathered along with the balloon whisk.

Run it at a medium speed for a minute, or even two or three, until you get
this texture.
Sprinkle liberally on your cake(s)
 Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes (use a toothpick in the very center to determine if done, it should come away with no batter).

Let cool enough so you can remove them from the pan. With the parchment,
it should be a simple task. You can peel away the parchment and allow them to
finish cooling on a rack.

A sumptuous cake, perfect for tea or coffee. And addictive so beware!

While I baked these babies and they filled the house with their amazing aroma, I decided to pick up that false-start project of the spoon bonnet I aspired to make using some cheap paper-lace hatting I found at Mill End for cents a yard. I had been daunted by the project when I started hand-stitching it, so I threw it aside and forgot about it for a few years. No, I'm not kidding. Then I just got a wild hair on Saturday. I decided to attack it, but this time, just give in and use the machine. So when Alex went down for his nap, and the cakes were baking, I sat down and just started sewing around and around, pinching little 'pleats' into the hatting to shape it.

Running the machine with the arm off the edge of the table made maneuvering
and shaping much easier.
Hatting lace, which I initially thought was raffia, is actually just paper. So
no biggie if it fails.
The gold lace to finish it off.
Soaked, shaped, and left in the sun to dry.
It was quick, using basic white thread and a zigzag stitch.  I achieved almost a flower-pot, cloche shape.  I trimmed a good wedge off, folding it flat and cutting a neck-access for it.  I then sewed the cut edges down with one course of the hatting strip, and then edged it all with a gold lace before folding the bottom back a bit to widen the neck access. It created a great spoon shape to accommodate an updo as necessary.  I wet it all down to lock in the final shape, tugged here and there to adjust things, and set it in the sun to dry.  Et voila. A genuine spoon bonnet. My husband says it looks like Andy Cap's flat cap.  Oy. His comments on my projects, sometimes ::wags fist menacingly::.

Yesterday, I attended the seventh annual Pittock Mansion picnic, and I arrived laden with things promised to a variety of people. I said on Facebook that I felt like a summertime Santa, carrying her ho-ho-hobag. Yes, I'm classy like that. Anyway, let's see, what little things did I create and bring?  Well, I made another Dormeuse cap, which I did in just plain white organdy with lots of decoration around the band.

Cynthia models her commissioned dormeuse cap. She had requested
off-white trim on it, but with the particular ivory tone of the off-white lace I had,
it just looked dirty. So I opted to go all white, with a band of poofs, rosettes and a bow
in the front.
I also made another dolly, commissioned for the lovely Miss Theodosia, who wanted a red-haired version of Caroline. She requested that she be unclothed for Miss Theo intends on making the dolly a lovely trousseau.

Miss Caroline's scandalously independent and fiery, ginger haired cousin did not
wait about Johanesen Cottage to be dressed in inferior togs. She threw a mere scrap of a shroud around her
delicate shoulders and whisked herself away to live with Miss Theo, where she is sure
to have the finest attire any lady could ever desire (only AFTER idling an entire afternoon
in the gardens of the mansion in nothing but a slip of fabric! Scandalous!)
I brought the tiniest set of stays I've ever made for a Miss Lily, who was to wear stays for the first time.

I think a single gusset on each side ought to suffice.

Yes, these did actually happen. They are minuscule.
And finally, I brought a tracing of the stays pattern I created long ago, and customized to work with my very, very large bust.  I will be tracing this pattern again, probably neatly, we'll see, and I will be scanning it and posting it up with the rest of my patterns to sell soon enough! I promise. ::hur!::


Weeks ago, I presumptuously set up a GoFundMe campaign for Alex to have a play set.  Okay, I know, it's obnoxious isn't it? Asking friends to buy my kid something this big and decadent when our finances are in the toilet and we're scraping by.  But you know what? The stress of everything is getting to us all, and Alex feels it. And his happiness is our happiness, so I did it. I trawled my friends for cash, I panhandled for funds, so I could give my kid a good, happy place to play on our property, which is otherwise quite unsuitable for outdoor play.  We still have to furnish it with a nice soft footing (it's mostly on gravel right now, eep!), but at least with us close by, he has this great place to go during the day, where he can deplete some of that never-ending child energy and get some great exercise! So I am enourmously grateful for the contributions from my friends and family for this play set. The donations were enough to get the set, and Dan picked up Friday and busted his ass building it all weekend, finishing late Sunday night, dehydrated and exhausted by the heat. He ended up being sick today because of it. :(  But that's fatherly love for you. And this morning, Alex was able to play on his set for the first time, and I cannot describe how excited he was. He played after breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he cried when we brought him inside. Outside! he cried standing by the door before bedtime. Nope, Alex, tomorrow you can slide on the slide.

Happy hardly describes it.

Is this really all for me?
Yep. Happy.

This is my fort.
This afternoon, Daddy felt good enough to clean up
the tools and paraphernalia and to help Alex on the slide.

So much awesomeness.

Peace out for now, folks. :)  Buy my prints! Buy The Wizard King!

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