Journals, Safes and Lessons in Planning Ahead

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This past Sunday was my turn to host craft night and all I can say is that they can’t all be winners right? It started the night before when I was out late, in the city imbibing in a way that’s acceptable when you have a designated driver. I feel asleep promptly upon arriving home but as is my custom when I drink too much woke up at 1:30 and nearly saw the sunrise before I drifted off to sleep again. Needless to say I wasn’t 100% when I got up and started prepping for the day…

I had high hopes of practicing my chosen craft well ahead of time in order to demonstrate how best to do it. I had decided to turn some old boring library books that had been weeded out of the collection into journals. This, my friends, is not as easy as pinterest made it seem. I tried 3 different approaches about an hour before everyone showed up and they were all dismal failures. I did this, as I was vacuuming up copious amounts of dog hair, making baked ziti and running to the store to get appetizers.

By the time everyone arrived I had gotten no further than to discover what didn’t work. Fortunately, Gina (being an art major) had some experience sowing books together. She was completely successful as was Marie who has some deep hidden talents that are just starting to come to light.

Stacy & Beth chose thicker books and decided to hollow them out to make book safes, these proved supper labor intensive. Both used exacto knives and box cutters to hollow out hundreds of pages, then took fine grade sandpaper to smooth out the edge and finally a huge amount of mod podge to glue the rest of the book together. It was not quick or easy and I understand now why there isn’t a book safe in everyone’s home.

For my part I started craft day with an ill advised cocktail (a large one) and then spent the rest of the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to glue blank pages inside a book spine that I had already mangled prior to my guests arrival. By the time everyone left – their completed crafts in hand, my glue was still wet and nothing was where it was supposed to be. About the only thing I was helpful with was finding larger, heavier books to weigh down the ones we were using (utilizing my own super power of being a book hoarder).

Grand plans not withstanding I think (I hope) that a good time was still had by all.

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A little fun in the kitchen – Mushroom/seafood Risotto

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Okay, so I may have forgotten that my position in craft club does not just include drinking large quantities of wine and making inappropriate comments while doing so. I am also our webmaster, who knew? In the past couple of years, since we made pickles we have done a number of crafts – some more successful than others, everything from alcohol paintings, to infused oils, to body lotions to wine crate planters, we have learned many valuable lessons (like concrete dries really fast and you should mix it in small quantities and you always want to get the lids on your mason jars really tight) and we’ve added a new addition into our fold – a big shout out to Marie!

All that aside, here I am – back on line and about to throw down an awesome (if somewhat inaccurate) recipe for mushroom risotto.  You see, I arrived at craft night last Sunday with a bag of grits and a bottle of wine fully ready to mix up some shrimp and grits only to find out that we were making seafood risotto. I was not unhappy about this, loving everything that seafood risotto entails but being less than fluent when it comes to its preparation, I immediately filled myself a glass of wine and sat back to learn something.

The recipe – I discovered is pretty fluid and never the same twice, the way we made it on Sunday goes a little bit something like this (please keep in mind that while I was taking notes I also polished off the bottle of wine that I brought – minus the splash that went in to dinner, certainly don’t want to disappoint those relying on me to unhelpful and sarcastic):

  1. Start with a giant glob of butter (I mean a giant GLOB, you need enough to coat the rice and if you are making a big batch for a lot of people you need A LOT of butter to wet it all).
  2. Put this butter in the bottom of a large pot on medium low stove-side
  3. Add your rice, I cant tell you how much but enough to feed however many people you’ve got, if you need more butter add it now.
  4. Stir (you’re going to pretty much have to stir from now until it’s done). My personal opinion is that this should always be a team effort – make risotto in pairs. With two people one person can be chopping, adding and pouring the wine and another can just stand at the stove constantly stirring the stuff wondering where they went wrong in life.
  5. Add onions and mushrooms to the rice (the mushrooms should be raw and will add liquid to the mixture) also cutting onions is super easy with one of these or a clean hair pick will work just as well.
  6. Keep stirring
  7. Have a giant can of chicken broth on hand, you should start adding it now – and continue as needed to keep everything covered and coated in liquid.
  8. Keep stirring
  9. Add peas and pre-boiled carrots, these are totally optional. I thought the peas added a nice flavor to the dish but the carrots were really just for color.
  10. Keep stirring – drink some wine
  11. in a separate pan cook your seafood separately. we used shrimp and sauteed it in olive oil with garlic, salt and a little parsley. I suppose you could throw just about anything in there.
  12.  As the seafood cooks, go back to your risotto, keep stirring it and add a little wine – I would say we put in about half a cup (?) who knows I may have cried out something like “not too much!!!” because that was the same bottle I was drinking from. I don’t know, who can remember ALL the parts of a recipe?
  13. Keep stirring and add a little bit of cream (this is also optional) and I have no idea how much because at the time they were putting this in I was rescuing my wine from the counter and making sure it was safely back on the table – next to my glass.
  14. After the cream has been totally mixed in add the seafood to the pot – mix it up really well.
  15. Add a TON of cheese, we grated some very fresh and delicious Parmesan/reggiano  that I may or may not have grated a kitchen napkin in to (I am nothing if not super helpful). We added 2 heaping handfuls into the pot and stirred it all together.
  16. Serve and Enjoy!

 

Peter Picked a Peck…

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This past weekend we got pickled we made pickles. I was both shocked and excited to learn how easy and completely obtainable pickling is. The recipe is below and it came from Sue’s Mom. I’ve known Sue for nearly three years and I would say we’ve been good friends for the past year and a half (or so). One of the first things that I learned about her was the rift that exists in her family between she and her Mom and her sisters. We commiserate over these things as I look to her for guidance with my father.

When Sue was young(er) she had an amazing relationship with her Mom – they talked every day and shared little things in a way that only best friends typically do but because life is shitty and bad things happen to good people her brother got sick – very sick. At the time everyone had an opinion about what was best for him but Sue knew that only he could decide what that was and she honored his wishes even though they went against everything that her sisters and (seemingly) her Mother wanted. Her brother died the way he wanted to, but the fallout of these decisions ended the daily phone calls, they ended the frequent trips up to New York, they almost completely severed everything that made the relationship Sue had with her family possible.

This was seven years ago and slowly Sue, for the sake of her daughter, has tried to rebuild the tattered shards of what was once an amazing connection. Very gradually the trips to New York have started again, phone calls have begun and I hear less and less the sigh of frustration and sorrow when I question Sue about her family.

Things may never be how they once were – something has broken that no amount of time can mend but I do think it is positive and encouraging when Sue told me that in order to prepare for craft night she called her Mom to find out how to make pickles and her Mom not only dusted off her recipe but also made a practice batch to ensure that the recipe was a good one and served them to Sue and her daughter two weeks ago when they went to visit. This is progress and sometimes that is all we can ask for.

On a lighter note we didn’t have any signature cocktails for craft night – we all try and behave ourselves at Sue’s house because we do these things on Sunday night and we know that Sue is up early Monday morning. That isn’t to say that we have ever succeeded when trying to control ourselves – despite the limited booze selection three of us managed to drink four bottles of wine and most of a pitcher of margaritas. Not everyone has to get up early on Monday morning…

How to make Pickles:

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How to annoy your hung-over craft friends at 6:00 Monday Morning:

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Pickles!:

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Terrariums – and a Long Winded Introduction

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This past Sunday, our fifth craft day, the craft was terrariums and the cocktail was a peach sangria. The sangria was a little too sweet and the terrariums took only a few minutes to put together, but I wanted something we could do outside now that the weather has turned warmer and I wanted a cocktail that said ‘welcome to summer!’ Like most craft nights this one devolved into drunken story telling while we sat outside and ignored our children inside.

But the point of this entire blog is not just to get craft ideas and cocktail recipes (although that is something we will provide) the point it that five generations of women have managed to find each other and bond over our sordid pasts, our love of alcohol and our deep seeded desire to get out of our houses and enjoy some quality ‘girl’ time.

This blog was started with the intention to tell the stories of the six of us and the marvel at the various cultural differences we’ve experienced and how miraculously our journeys have all brought us to this quiet corner of Delaware County Pennsylvania. Each month the hostess of craft night will pick the craft, ply everyone with lots of food and drink and tell us a story that highlights where they are from and how they got here – I will try very hard to capture those stories and preserve them here so years from now our children can shake their heads in embarrassment and pretend they aren’t related to us.

I get to start because the terrariums where my idea.

I chose this craft because, as I said before, I wanted something we could do outside and I thought terrariums where an excellent choice that you could do while holding a wine glass in one hand. Also, I love dirt, I love the feel and the smell and well the earthiness of it. When I was little my Mom gardened a lot (she still does). We lived in Chester County Pennsylvania, at the time where we were was pretty rural, we lived in an old cape style house surrounded by corn fields and apple orchards. Before my parents divorced and everything went sideways my Mom stayed at home and raised my older sister and me. A large part of our back lawn was devoted to a big vegetable garden, and during the summer my Mom utilized this garden to feed us fresh vegetables and in the fall canned whatever was left. She made jams and jellies and preserved big jars of green beans – I don’t think people do this anymore (except my Mom). My grandmother’s basement was also always full of canned vegetables and preserves which is a memory I very much treasure.

Anyway, this big garden with rows and rows of vegetables was the perfect place as a child to take off your shoes and walk in the soft cool dirt in-between the plants, it was the perfect place to look for ladybugs and pretend that if you were a bug you’d live in the lettuce row so that you’d always have shade and something to eat.

My job, as a kid, was to weed the tomatoes. I was a terrible weeder – I could procrastinate for days on end to finish a task I didn’t want to do. I passed this trait on to my daughter who now can take anywhere between 4 to 16 hours just to pick up her room. I would spend entire days out by the tomatoes under an umbrella  feeling put-upon that I had to spend my time this way and not go to my friend Annette’s house who lived two doors down and had a pool – a pool I could have been swimming in right that very moment if not for the tomatoes.

My Mom would leave me outside all day – that’s what you did in the mid 70’s because unlike today there wasn’t any danger of my being abducted or preyed upon by pedophiles or all of the 600 things I worry about when my daughter is outside alone playing. My Mom only worried about me hurting myself because I was very accident prone and despite that still insisted on climbing trees and trying to get up on the garage roof. To her credit though she let me do what I wanted to do and if I fell or got hurt I learned what not to do the next time. Of course the days I was ‘weeding’ the garden I wasn’t high up in the cherry tree and perhaps this is why my Mom gave me this job – to keep my safe and to give herself 24-48 hours of peace and quiet.

Even after we left Pennsylvania and moved to Maine with it’s rocky soil and short growing season my Mom managed to still make something beautiful by teraforming the steep side of the driveway into a rock garden with bright lilies and hardy annuals anchored by a lilac bush that struggled every year in the weak northern sun. I would help her plant this garden too while we both perched on the edge of the hill and tried hard not to step on plants that were already in the ground.

And that, in so many words, is why I chose the terrariums because forty years ago my Mom instilled in me a love of growing things and because I currently live with a one year-old 80-pound puppy who will tear up anything I try planting in the ground I contained myself this year to glass bowls and easily maintained succulents.

In order to make a good terrarium you need:

– Sand

– Small rocks

– Potting soil

– A variety of succulent plants – we used a mix of green plants and cacti

You put all of these things in this order in a fun glass container (or shell), throw in some fun bright dollar store butterflies and frogs, mist with water from a spray bottle and voila – terrarium.

 

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For the sangria, I used this recipe, I left out the simple syrup but even without it the final version was a little too sweet for all of us so we ended up mixing in red wine, which cut the sugar and gave it a nice ombre affect. I doubled the recipe but the sangria didn’t last long, after it was over we just cracked open all of the remaining bottles of red wine that I had and proceeded to drink them all. Craft night is never over until all of the alcohol in the house is consumed – this is very good to know when preparing to have people over:

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Enjoy! See you next month 🙂