Happy belated 4th of July everyone! I hope you had a nice day with family and friends! It was such a weird holiday this year - right in the middle of the week. People took very long weekends and since I didn't and had to be at work bright and early at 8am the next day, I didn't feel like doing anything major. But I did do some fun things for me.
First on the list - Blueberry Pie. My wonderful farm share this year has been terrific! I got three pints of very sweet and flavorful blue berries. Perfect for pie.
The crust is my favorite Bon Appetit Tender Pie Crust recipe, with some tweaking of course...
Firstly, I keep my flour in the freezer so its nice and cold and I let the butter come to room temperature because I'm too impatient to mix cold butter with flour. The flour stays cold quite a while so the mixture does stay chilled. I also substitute orange juice for the ice water, and this time I didn't have apple cider vinegar and so I used the precious blood orange champagne vinegar I've been saving. It was a gift from Beverly very long ago - only recently opened. Perfect for pie crust. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cardamon and the zest of a lemon to the crust.
Blueberry filling is directly from my trusty The Joy of Cooking, (Berry Pie with Fresh Fruit p650). My battered paperback copy still serves me well. 4 cups of blueberries, 2/3-1cup of sugar (I used 3/4), 1/4 cup of flour, 2T lemon juice AND 1/2t cinnamon. I forgot the butter pats on top - but it tasted fine all the same.
Cutting vent holes - very important - and very easy. After you have put the "lid" on your pie, cut out the first leaf shape with the tip of a sharp kitchen knife. Carefully lift it out and add a little water or juice to the bottom of it and place it directly across from the hole. Use your knife to draw in the veins of the leaf, one down the center lengthwise, then lots of close lines up both sides. Then cut the leaves out right next to the one you've just made and place them next to the cut hole. Repeat decorations. Voila!
Now, it was just about a bajillion degrees in Philadelphia on the 4th of July. Perfect holiday weather. No seriously it was unbelievably hot and humid. So I was even more grateful that I had the oven down stairs on the first floor to bake this thing in. I could leave the air conditioning on on the second floor and heat the kitchen on the first floor oven to a whoppin' 400°F for an hour and half.
And didn't it turn out lovely?
So while that was baking - yours truly - Miss Crazy - when outside and did yard work. Yup - with a hat on, mowed the lawn, weeded, trimmed AND - cleaned the shed.
And finally, I replaced the slat over the top of the door and the iron eagle that had hopped of the ledge some time ago. It feels good to go in there and be able to find what I'm looking for and not trip over things.
But because I hadn't had enough of the heat by cleaning a shed (which by the way was at least 10 degrees hotter than outside where there was a pseudo-breeze), I decided to continue to put my farm share to good use. I grilled the four enormous zucchinis and yellow squashes for the week.
I really love my farm share this year. I don't think I've mentioned it much. I will have to. Talk about an abundance... I have a hard time eating it all! But grilling all of those veggies and making a pie were a good way to prepare for my fun weekend ahead.
I went to Don Rash's School for Formal Bookmaking to learn titling and tooling. This is something I've been needing to get a handle on for a long time. I've got some books I need to finish. I've also always wanted to be able to do gold tooling directly on the spines of some of my leather bindings. Well - what I learned is I need a LOT of practice. But at least I now know what I need to do.
We started out by trying out all of the different tools - palettes and letters. It's not as easy as it looks - those tools need quite a bit of pressure and a special rock-around to get an even impression. Here are some of my practice impressions. We held the tools in a candle flame to cover it with soot and then pressed into Japanese paper for the impression. That alone is quite lovely and satisfying.
Don has a wonderful collection of tools, some inherited some purchased, but all with a wonderful story of great craftsmen who used them.
After this initial practice session we set type and worked with his Kensol hot stamper - stamping leather labels. We talked about spacing and editioning the labels. Lots of great tips and tricks for that.
Unfortunately I was not used to that stamper and promptly smashed the lead type the very first go around. (sigh) - Don was very nice about it though.
And finally we worked on a mock up of a leather spine.
Here is my practice spine on a piece of calf leather. Whew! It is so tough to keep things straight even with all of Don's tips and tricks. The other student, Lara, really got the hang of things - despite having a broken wrist! I need to work on keeping the lines at the top straight and even, and to make sure that when I do the blind tooling (no gold) that I work the tool evenly to keep the color even. Trying to get the text straight is a whole other ball game.
Oh - and Don has some cats...
We were tolerated while we worked in their space as long as there were lots of pets and scratches. Here are three of the four - Mitzi is at the top and the other two are Pumpkin and Butterscotch. They are big kitties! Very sweet and fun to have around. It was a great weekend of learning and inspiration. Don taught me my first leather binding almost 8 years ago. Hard to believe so much time has passed since then.
One other little highlight of the weekend was stopping at a moving sale in Don's neighborhood during a lunch break. I found 10 of some favorite children's books I never owned but could check out from the sunday school church library. The "Value Books" as we called them.
I loved these books as a child. They were constantly checked out and I had to wait forever to get some of the best ones. I could never get them at the Public Library because they were also always out. Now I have 10 of my own! These 10 have been through the ringer. They need some serious conservation work. You can see the top one has a torn spine, and on the one beneath it the cover is no longer attached and there is a lot of sticky stuff over several of them. But I re-read one of them when I got home and you know what? They are still special as special as when I was 7.