Category Archives: family

Plans of Planning

NOTE: This post inspired by Pippin & Pearl’s post from this morning.  The opinions expressed are my own, but have been influenced by every wedding I’ve ever attended (or was unable to attend because the couples in question eloped to Las Vegas with little-to-no notice. Aherm.)  

Don't freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was so long ago that I didn't have a mannequin available for such purposes.

Don’t freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was taken before Tiddleywink Vintage had a mannequin available for such purposes.

Someday, I’ll get married. That’s the plan, anyway. And with each wedding at which I’m present, I make mental notes. Band too genre-specific/DJ hiring too stressful: use an iTunes playlist. Awkward, cliquish socializing: invite only your closest friends/relatives. Starving vegetarians: serve at least a 70:30 ratio of meat-free food. Disappointed parents who missed the event due to surprise elopement: just don’t do that. The most down-to-earth, smart, sane people I know getting caught up in the spiral of wedding planning: keep it simple. No, not etch-your-own-beribboned-mason-jars simple, but REALLY simple. Still, it’s a special event, and should be treated accordingly. I think I found what I’ll eventually be looking for in a book I recently enjoyed reading called Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By, by Leslie Blume. She writes:

MORNING WEDDINGS The typical American wedding used to follow along these lines: a ceremony in the morning, followed by a wedding breakfast or luncheon at the bride’s parents’ house. The guest list: relatives and intimate friends. The couple would then leave for their honeymoon in the early afternoon. Compared to the expensive fanfare of today’s circus-like weddings (the average American wedding reportedly costs upward of $20,000), the simplicity of this old ritual is very appealing.

The book also includes a “Small Wedding Luncheon” menu taken from the 1966 edition of The New York Times Menu Cook Book. Punch, an assortment of chilled salads, rolls. Cake, coffee, and strawberries served in sparkling wine. Now, that’s more my style. Assuming I get married in this neck of the woods, I already have a cake bakery picked out. Given my careers-slash-hobbies, I’ll still stress over the perfect dress and invitation. But hopefully not much else.

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Cookbook Envy

A couple of decades ago, my mom wrote up—and illustrated—a cookbook of her own favorite recipes. This cookbook contains all of the special treats that only my mom made/makes, and whenever I ask for one of these particular recipes, I’m denied with the reply, “It’s in The Cookbook.” I know that she has left this cookbook to me in her will, because she has told me in no uncertain terms that I cannot have it before she dies. And not a moment before. Cheery.

She lost the cookbook a few years back. No idea where it disappeared to, but confident that it was around somewhere.

The Boyfriend and I have been working on excavating the basement, which used to be living space before it became overrun with Stuff. We’ve set aside a large pile for VVA (and conveniently arranged pick-up through pickupplease.org), most of which consists of FIVE BOXES of books that my mother has left here for 9 years. Of course, my mother has gone through all of these boxes in her hunt for The Cookbook, but I invite here over for another peek to make sure there isn’t anything else in there that she wants.

She picks out a few keepers, and lo and behold finds The Cookbook! It turns out that it has been in my own possession all this time! AND I MISSED OUT. She won’t let me see so much as the cover. She does, however, donate the following to me:

Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design at the Met, Nov. 1974

Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design at the Met, Nov. 1974

Inventive Clothes 1909–1939 at the Met, Nov. 1974. Were an age-similar show to be curated today, it would be The 50s, The 60s, The 70s.

Inventive Clothes 1909–1939 at the Met, Nov. 1974. Were an age-similar show to be curated today, it would be The 50s/The 60s/The 70s.

And for that, I’m grateful. In the meantime, if I really want a dish of her frozen creamy raspberry swirl stuff, I’ll just have to beg my mother to make it for me.

 

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Improve Your Photos In One Easy Step

Facebook. Flickr. Instagram. Picasa. Twitpic. Photobucket. Snapfish. Smugmug. Everybody you know is posting their photos online, somewhere, somehow. And the most common, numero uno “flaw” I see whenever a person is the subject of a photo is this:

Centered Head Syndrome

The subject’s head is squarely in the center of the photo. Her body is cut off at an awkward point, and there is an enormous amount of empty, boring sky overhead. Now, this is a completely natural thing to do. As a typical human being, your focus is on your friend’s face. And your camera’s focus, quite literally, is in the same spot. But you need to embrace technology, break some boundaries, and MOVE YOUR CAMERA. Move the viewfinder down a bit. Maybe even turn it sideways. Take two steps closer. Now:

Make your friend the center…of attention.

The simplest thing to do, and if your photos fall prey to Centered Head Syndrome it will improve them by 1000%, is to think to yourself, “head to toe.” While looking through the viewfinder, can you see your friend’s head and toes? Good. Start there.

“But the landscape is so pretty, I don’t want to leave it out!” Great, work with it.

There are plenty of instances where you’ll want to get creative and start cropping your friend’s body for artistic purposes, and there are diagrams online which tidily map out where to crop, or not crop, for the best image. You can delve into the “Rule of Thirds” to think about better composition overall, no matter what the subject of your photo. But before you go there, I want you to have 10 photos under your belt where you can see your friend, or friends, from head to toe. Master this one thing, and then expand on what you’ve learned. Your friends will thank you for it.

__________________

With many thanks to the U.S. Gov’t/Peace Corps for providing a copyright restriction-free photo of a beach in Togo. It’s so restriction-free that I don’t need to credit anyone or anything, but I will, because I can.

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Happiness Is…

If this photo had been staged, I’d have refilled the mug and cleared the background clutter.

  • Warm, milky coffee in my ancient I ♥ NY mug.
  • The end of a season of oppressively hot weather.
  • Related: Pendleton going back to the original ’49er cut.
  • Finding out that a previous client called me a “fabulous graphic designer,” and not even to me.
  • Mentioning the above on Twitter, and a current client replying by saying that I’m “seriously amazing” and then following with this.
  • Getting stuff checked off my To Do list.
  • Cleaning my stove before 9am, and it wasn’t even on my To Do list. (Although it needed to Be Done)
  • My boyfriend finally managing to fix his truck (specific problem still unknown, but the replacement of many parts seems to have done the trick) which means that he’ll once again have some evenings free for socializing. Not that we usually get together during the week, but now we can.
  • Finally deleting the 276 photos that were “stuck” on my iPhone. Ah, that feels better.
  • The Many Adventures of Rebop the Robot. I might let you in on this at a later date. Maybe.
  • Discovering (granted, two weeks after the fact) that Adobe released a CS6 update and I can now package files out of Illustrator!!!
  • Starting again to list fresh items at Tiddleywink Vintage and Winkorama. (It’s still an overwhelming burden, but it’s my overwhelming burden)
  • Making some progress on reorganizing the storage situation in my bedroom.
  • Being confident that my new bike is in good hands at small, independently-owned The Bicycle Shack, where my mention of “English, internally geared” was immediately responded to with “Sturmey-Archer hub.” They pass the quiz.

And Kitchen Pr0n!

I realize that the last Kitchen Pr0n post wasn’t that long ago, but I overlooked an item that time and added a few more things. And if anyone wants to help me reorganize my kitchen cabinets, yes please thank you! Anyway, here are the newest additions:

You know what a double-boiler looks like. The logo is the most attractive part of this Wards Signature Prestige model.

Missing from the last post is this vintage Wards Signature Prestige stainless steel double boiler. It’s not the double boiler of my dreams (you know you like to cook when you have a double boiler on your wish list), but it will certainly do the trick with fewer hands than a cobbled bowl-and-saucepan bain-marie requires. Now, if it were up to me, I’d have a Pyrex Flameware double boiler like my mom used to have. Model #6283, not the older #6762 version (which has a light blue tint to the glass, and is often logically referred to as Blue Tint, but once sellers realized that the Blue Tint model garnered more money, they started describing the newer, clear model as Blue Tint as well. And asking outrageous prices. Caveat emptor). When I asked her to be on the lookout for one for me, she told me to just buy a new one. At which point I had to inform her that Pyrex hasn’t manufactured a double boiler for decades, and she was dumbfounded. Because why doesn’t Pyrex still make double-boilers? Good question, Mom. Good question.

Not shown: the metal rod that does the work.

Next in line is this clever device manufactured for the sole purpose of mixing your natural nut butters. Now, I’m not generally a fan of single-purpose gadgets. But after years of mixing separated peanut and almond butter with a spoon or butter knife, and the mess it involves, I finally broke down and ordered this sucker. The test was a jar of almond butter that friends found in the back of their pantry, which had separated to a solid mass topped with an inch of almond oil. They were going to toss it, but I took it home to see if it could be saved. It took some doing, but with this tool I eventually got it back into “butter” consistency. Over time, and as long as I remember to buy this size jar (every different lid/jar combo requires its own mixer set), this tool will hold up for years to come.

Kitten With a Whip

While we’re discussing single-use gadgets, let’s get to this joy. A few weeks ago, I broke my Bodum “Aerius” milk frother device. I was inconvenienced, but the fact of the matter is that it was difficult to store in an already-cluttered kitchen, and not easy to wash the frothing screen. Around the same time, I was house-sitting for friends who have an Aerolatte wand, and I was impressed with its small size and frothing ability. However, when I went to buy one for myself, I found them to be expensive. It’s a pair of AA batteries and a spinning stick! I bought one of these motors from Radio Shack for a school project years ago, this thing shouldn’t be $20 (or more, depending on the model). So I held off, used un-frothed milk in my coffee (oh, the horror), and jumped on this red model—to match the Shoes And Pie Test Kitchen—I spotted at Cost Plus World Market for a mere $2.99. You can get your own multicolored 3-pack of them from their web site.

The Crown Jewels of gelatin molds.

Now for something completely different: I had no idea that the Test Kitchen “needed” this copper-toned aluminum gelatin mold until I found it in a thrift store. It’s enormous. 3 quarts, with room to spare! I cannot imagine a time whereupon I’ll be called to make this quantity of molded anything. But it’s fantastic, in its triumphant gothic-arch style. And while you may think it’s a single-purpose device, it can also be used as a chic Devo-In-Metropolis hat! (Which makes me think of “You’ll never guess what loud applause this cunning hat receives.” Watch the whole thing, but if for some reason you can’t, skip ahead to 1:55)

CAN I get you anything? Get it? CAN? Oh, I’m hilarious.

Finally, the newest addition to the Test Kitchen is this graniteware canner, complete with jar rack. These have looked exactly the same for decades, so I’ve no idea how to tell if it’s 5 or 50 years old. The canning kettle I’ve been using is really a soup pot, too small to can anything in quantity, and the jars tend to rattle around and clink into each other dangerously. I’ve been wanting to buy myself a brandy-dandy real set, but keep putting it off. I mean, it’s not as though canning is a pressing need for me, and finances being what they are, well, there you go. For two years, it’s been “next season.” And then ta-da! This slightly banged up set shows up at the thrift store! And it fits on my stovetop! My overhead microwave limits the usable space, but this pot nestles in perfectly.

That’s all, dear readers! Have yourself a wonderful weekend. Shoes And Pie will be back on Monday with more adventures and rambling.

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1972 Raleigh Sports

My hair has never not been unruly.

When I was wee, I had a (hand-me-down) red Murray tricycle. When my knees started hitting the handlebars, I graduated to a (hand-me-down) violet Schwinn Hollywood with coaster brakes. I loved that bike. I loved everything about that bike. Every spring I would sit in the driveway with a bottle of chrome polish and a shop rag, and my tiny fingers would lovingly polish the fenders, the wheels, the spokes. And eventually it, too, was too small. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I got my very first New Bike. Again a Schwinn, my silver Sprint had a full 10 speeds. This was moving up in the world! It was…okay. A perfectly serviceable bike, and I rode many miles on it. It didn’t have the pizazz and style of the Hollywood, but having gears was a bonus. I eventually outgrew the Sprint and on the very rare occasion that called for a teenager on a bike, I’d borrow my sister’s semi-abandoned Schwinn Collegiate. At that point in time, the only adults who rode bikes did it for sport and I was no athlete.

1971 Schwinn Hollywood: “Graceful styling and a delight to ride.”

Fast forward a number of years, and mountain biking has taken off. At the time that I move to Colorado, my dad and his wife bequeath to me one of their two Giant Iguanas, with the statement that “I think it’s the law that you have to have one of these if you live in Boulder, right?” I am blissed. But I am still no athlete. I ride it to and from the supermarket on occasion, and that’s it. After throwing myself off the bike twice (and with great flourish), and feeling the pain of a beyond-empty wallet, I sell the Iguana for a piddling amount of cold, hard cash and pay a phone bill with it.

A few years later, my then-boyfriend secretly joins forces with my dad to buy me a new bike for Christmas. I am the very happy owner of a silver 1999 Trek 800, which still has the knobby tires for gripping the dirt but a somewhat more upright position which is better for my weak shoulders. We take it out on a couple of (flat) trails, and I ride it around the neighborhood in the evenings from time to time. I still have that bike, and it’s still in great shape, mostly because I so rarely ride it. It’s just too technical for me. No, what I really want is something more reminiscent of my old Hollywood, but with a few gears. I don’t need a lot, just, say, 3. But it has to have fenders. And a basket on the front, to hold a grocery bag. So I start window shopping. Used bikes on Craigslist cost just as much (and more) than some new bikes, plus carry the desperate need for a tune-up, so I stick with new models. Cruisers have the right look, but they’re heavy and clunky and single speed. Dutch-style bikes (think Electra Amsterdam) have the look and sometimes the gears, but the price tag is prohibitive. Pashleys are gorgeous all around, but there’s that dastardly price tag again. So I look. And I look. And I look.

Last Wednesday, on a whim, I search Craigslist again. I’d long ago learned to leave out the word “cruiser,” as that only brings up ads for crappy old bikes that people are asking astronomical amounts for (and I don’t really want a cruiser anyway). But for some reason, “cruiser” is what I type in. And there are the expected ads for $200 rust buckets that will require another $200-300 of work just to get running. At the bottom of the page is the header “Few LOCAL results found. Here are some from NEARBY areas…” and there, there is The Ad. The headline reads Vintage Raleigh Sport Bike Cruiser – $50. I click the ad. I see the photo (of a road bike, not a cruiser). I fall in love. I call the number in the ad, and get voicemail. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wonder if I’d misspoken my callback number. I wait. The next morning, I call again. Live person this time! I ask a few questions. I get the answers I’m hoping for. I make arrangements, and that Friday, I pick up My New Bike, a 1972 Raleigh Sports ladies (step-through) model in Coffee. Functional 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub. Made in merry olde England.

Rideable, but this will someday be a “before” photo.

It’s missing its original Brooks saddle, frame pump and “touring bag.” It rattles. It’s dented, it’s scratched, it’s greasy and dusty and has a few bird feathers stuck to it. It’s beautiful. I’ll be getting new tires first thing, and then will start adding/replacing parts as need determines and budget allows. Stay tuned!

1972 Raleigh catalog, page 12

1972 Raleigh catalog, page 13

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Jellofetti Cake!

Broken glass? No, gelatin cube!

What my family lovingly calls Jellofetti Cake is in truth a reworking of an official Jell-O® recipe called Crown Jewel Dessert, previously known as Broken Window Glass Cake—because that’s appetizing, no?—when it was introduced in 1955.

This is another was-going-to-be-a-tutorial post, but honestly, if you hit a stumbling block while making packaged gelatin, my photos aren’t going to help you. Shown here: A scan of the recipe as printed in The Joys of Jell-O (1962), with bonus recipe for Ginger Fruit Mold because I didn’t feel like editing it out. Click for embiggerating so you can actually read the recipe(s).

Do you remember back in the first paragraph when I said my family (and by “my family” I mean “Grandma Wink”) reworked this? My grandmother’s interpretation is what we’d now call a “mashup” of the Dessert (crumb crust) and Pie (ladyfinger) versions. So here’s what you do: line a springform pan with split ladyfingers (sides and bottom; you’ll need two packages). No crumb crust necessary, no cutting ladyfingers to fit within the confines of a too-short pie pan.

Jellofetti Cake, née Crown Jewel Dessert, née Broken Glass Cake

I never got my grandmother’s own personal version of this recipe (she is notoriously bad at sharing her recipes, which is a shame because she was an excellent cook and we didn’t press the issue before her mind started to wander, now so very much is locked away inside her head and even she can’t reach it) but I am confident that she did not use Dream Whip® or Cool Whip® or any other “whipped topping” that was not simply whipped heavy cream. My example here looks a little “short” because I’ve been dipping into my cream to lighten my coffee. Note to self: buy milk. Anyway, just whip up a pint of cream. I don’t even bother to add sugar.

Another place where I don’t add sugar: to the gelatin used for the fluffy filling part. I mean, really. Is Jell-O not sweet enough for you? That step in the recipe makes me wonder if lemon flavored Jell-O wasn’t always pre-sweetened, which would make it a considerably less bizarre accompaniment to all of those tuna-in-lemon-gelatin salads.

Also variable: I make that last batch of gelatin with pineapple juice if I already have it on hand, but water works just fine. Here’s what I’ve discovered about this recipe: I have tried many different combinations of gelatin flavors, and it always tastes similar (sweet, vaguely fruity) in the end. That ½ cup of pineapple juice isn’t going to make too much difference. Don’t fret if you don’t have it. The current version of this recipe, as culled from the Kraft recipe site, doesn’t call for adding sugar, or pineapple juice, or any kind of crust for that matter. They also suggest molding it in a 9 x 5 pan, which I think makes it look quite unfortunately like pimiento loaf. :P

leftover cubes for snacking

This recipe is going to take you about 9 hours from start to finish, but 8 of that is just waiting for the various batches of gelatin to gel. Prepare the first three the night before, then finish the rest in the morning. You’ll still need a few hours of chilling time after the last step, so plan way ahead. I typically only use about ½ to â…” of each flavor of the gelatin cubes, and impatient kids can snack on those while they wait.

My grandmother always served this to finish out our family’s Easter dinner, but I’ll make it just about any time someone asks nicely. It’s great in the summer when you don’t want to turn on the oven, but it will go limp if left at room temperature for a few hours. Considerably faster if you’re attempting to serve it outside on a hot day.

I just realized that you could probably make an adults-only version using vodka instead of cold water wherever it’s called for, but take away people’s keys. I’ve never met anyone who could eat only one slice. This could lead to serious trouble.

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Vintage Victuals: Love Apple Cake

love apple n. : A tomato. [Probably translation of French pomme d'amour (from the former belief in the tomato’s aphrodisiacal powers) : pommeapple + deof + amourlove.]

1937 and wouldn’t that pattern make a fabulous dress print?

For those of you not “in the know,” I collect old cookbooks. I frequently read them cover to cover, like a novel. Sometimes, I even cook something out of them. I’m particularly attracted to recipes that use tomatoes in unexpected, perhaps ill-advised ways, as evidenced by the now-classic Ketchup In Dessert experiment. So when my mom bought me a copy of something called Royal Cook Book from 1937 (brought to us by Royal Baking Powder), and then found a recipe inside for Love Apple Cake, well, it was just a matter of how soon I could get into the kitchen!

With the exception of Jell-O booklets, I usually don’t see the same unfortunate recipe repeated in books spanning the years. However, when I found myself at the grocery store knowing that I needed a few things for this recipe but not remembering exactly what, I did a quick online search and found a nearly identical recipe printed in the February 11th, 1935 issue of The Pittsburgh Press. So we can assume that this recipe has some redeeming quality, in order to have survived for at least two years.

An excellent Valentine party dessert, according to the Pittsburgh Press, February 11th, 1935

Now, this is not a (semi-)traditional tomato soup spice cake. This depression-era Love Apple Cake is a three-layer white cake with a tomato filling, and then coated with 7 Minute Frosting. Let’s break this down into segments:

White Cake

Oops. Not-so-white cake.

You can use your favorite recipe for white cake (may I suggest this one if you’re baking at altitude) but because I’m recipe testing, I’m using the specific recipe in the book. The caveat here is that the White Cake recipe is proportioned for two 9-inch layers, but the Love Apple Cake instructions say to pour it into three 8-inch layer pans. So okay, the layers will be thin. No problem. Except that the instructions make no adjustment in time or oven temperature! I follow the instructions as written, and wind up with three thin, overcooked (okay, burned) layers. NOTE: The only difference twixt the book recipe and the newspaper recipe is that one calls for granulated sugar, and the other for confectioner’s sugar. Even the time/temp are the same (375° for 25 minutes).

7 Minute Frosting

I finally have a double boiler! Yay! More on that in Friday’s post. I can now make 7 Minute Frosting without fumbling around with a bowl set on top of a saucepan. What I don’t have, however, is a hand mixer or egg beater. The Shoes And Pie Test Kitchen is equipped with a stand mixer, a stick blender, and whisks. What do I need an egg beater for? Well, 7 Minute Frosting for one thing. I whisked as hard as I could by hand for 7 minutes to no avail. I even poured the resulting mixture into the stand mixer to see if I could fix it, but wound up with something akin to marshmallow fluff. I should have saved it for future Rice Krispie Treats, but foolishly poured it down the drain (damn!) and started over. I wound up making an Italian Meringue instead. (Note for non-cooks: same ingredients, different cooking method.) Good thing I overbought eggs!

Tomato Filling

This is the part you’re curious about. The recipe specifies unseasoned tomato juice, but I could find no such thing at the supermarket. Even the low-sodium tomato juice contains added salt so I wound up buying a can of tomato paste (ingredients: tomatoes) and thinning it with water to a juice consistency. Everything else went smoothly, although I’m still a bit perplexed by the instruction to “cook mixture until thick and clear.” Have you ever SEEN tomato juice? It’s not going to magically become translucent. I am going to assume the author means clear of lumps. Maybe. For your use and enjoyment, the Tomato Filling recipe:

1 cup unseasoned tomato juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2½ tbs cornstarch
1 tbs butter
2 tbs lemon juice

Heat tomato juice with lemon rind. Mix cornstarch and sugar and add [to] tomato juice, stirring all the time to prevent lumping. Cook mixture until thick and clear, stirring constantly. [Remove from fire and] Add lemon juice and butter. [Cool before filling cake.]

…wherein any additional information in the newspaper version is shown in brackets.

End Result

Overall, it does make for a serviceable cake. It would look even nicer if I decorated it with red candy hearts, as suggested in both versions. The contrast between the white layers and red filling would be more pronounced if my layers hadn’t yellowed from over baking. But how does it taste? Surprisingly good. The cake layers are a bit chewy because they’re, have I mentioned, over baked. I will be making this again, though, so I’ll make adjustments there. The Italian Meringue cooks up even faster than a 7 Minute Frosting, but they’re so close in all respects that the choice is yours to make. The tomato filling is mostly lemon-flavored, due to the zest and lemon juice. My version may be somewhat more tomato-y than intended, because I self-mixed a pretty thick “juice” from the tomato paste. Still, anyone who didn’t know would be probably not be able to guess the extra flavor. You’ll wind up with a bowl full of leftover egg yolks, so try to have something in mind to do with those. I didn’t, and cringed from the waste when I poured them down the drain. Next time, I’ll use them to make a batch of lemon curd. Which is also a delicious cake filling!

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