Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions of a Mediocre Cook: Buttermilk Pie (YES!)

When I made Miss Priss's birthday cake, I had quite a bit of buttermilk left over. I wasn't going to drink the stuff, so I thrashed around about what to do with it. Pouring it down the drain was not an option for me.

I recalled seeing a buttermilk pie recipe in my church's cookbook, but I can't put my hands on that cookbook yet; it's still packed up. Grrr. So a-searching I did go. Online.

And I found this wonderful and highly-rated recipe at And I pinned it for future reference. If you like custard, you will enjoy this easy-peasy pie. One change I made: I used cinnamon instead of nutmeg. I had enough ingredients to make two pies, so we ate one and the other I shared with my neighbors.

Also, take care when baking. The top of my first pie browned too early, and when I tried to cover the top with foil, the foil stuck to the top of the pie and then pulled it off when I removed the foil. Grrr again. For the second pie, I lowered the top rack in my oven and then tented a sheet of foil over the top of the pie when I first popped it into the oven. It looked much prettier. That's the one I gave to my neighbors.

This recipe is a keeper. In fact, I see it's time for elevenses. A slice of buttermilk pie and a cup of hot tea sounds perfect about now!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My "New" Vintage Clawfoot Tub

I am so excited.

I have longed for a vintage clawfoot tub for years. When I was a child, I loved to run my hand along the edge of my Aunt Bee and Uncle Homer's clawfoot tub. But I figured it was just a dream.

Then we moved to our new house, where the tub in the master bath, truly an object of desire in the early 1980s, is just an oversized footbath. And my heart gave a little flutter. Maybe, just maybe. . .

So a'Craigs-Listing I did go and finally found this one. And she is now mine.

Of course it's a she. And she has a name. Mathilde.

I happened to mention this out loud (why will I never learn to keep my eccentricity to myself?), and Miss Priss smirked. "You named the bathtub?"

I certainly did. Elegance this fabulous deserves a name.

Himself intimated that we had several more projects ahead of Mathilde in our updating plans, but I quickly disabused him of this notion. I'm not getting any younger, you know.

Watch for more updates as we set her up in her new place of residence!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Confessions of a Mediocre Cook: Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

Miss Priss's 14th birthday was last month. (I know! Fourteen!) As per our tradition, she and I perused cookbooks looking for the perfect birthday cake for this year. I've made several of her cakes over the years, and some were triumphs, I must admit. (As a mediocre cook, I'll take any triumph I can get.)

Alas, we couldn't seem to find just the right recipe. She wanted a chocolate cake this time, so when our cookbooks and a few cookbooks from the library did not satisfy, I began to search the web. You might ask why I didn't start there in the first place; I actually enjoy thumbing through cookbooks.

I found this recipe; I don't recall exactly how I found it. But I pinned it, so I will always know where it is when I need it in the future!

I didn't have the required number of squares of unsweetened chocolate, which led me to call my chef friend in a panic. As ever, she solved my problem: unsweetened cocoa powder and shortening. It worked like a charm. You can see the Crisco in the photo above.

I also made one other alteration to the recipe: instead of plain water, I used strong coffee. I simply stirred a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee crystals (which I keep around for recipes) into the measured hot water. I like the added depth that coffee provides to chocolate recipes.

For those of you who are culinarily challenged, a caveat: making this cake is a real production! It's not at all difficult, but it takes some time investment. And it IS an investment because the result is SO worth it.

Doesn't the batter look luscious? That's because it is, my friends. It is.

Making the frosting is also quite a production. But it is a major sin to make such a wonderful, perfect cake and then smear it with cloying, chemical-laden canned frosting. I loathe canned frosting.

Here's the recipe for the frosting, by the way. This is one of the best frostings I've ever had the pleasure of eating from a spoon. Which I did. Twice.

Recommendation: If you have a chocolate lover in your house or a big celebration in the future (or both), this is THE cake for you. A+

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Need a Little Real Christmas

Since we bought the new house, I've been spending a lot of time (some might say too much time) browsing home decor and lifestyle blogs for inspiration in our updating projects. I am decor-challenged. Here's my philosophy: Either you have the gift, or you copy someone else.

However, around October, I began to feel unequal to even the task of copying other ladies. Time to decorate for the autumn season! Time to get ready for Thanksgiving!

Folks were gussying up their porches, sunrooms, kitchens, fireplace mantels, dining rooms, and front doors in ways I'd never imagined. Pumpkins were everywhere: orange pumpkins, white pumpkins, glitter pumpkins, blue pumpkins. And the table settings! I'd never heard the term "tablescape" before then. Now I am among the informed.

And I pinned like mad.

The Christmas season is now upon us, and these talented bloggers are pulling out all the stops. Again, I pinned like crazy. I headed to Hobby Lobby before Thanksgiving to purchase a few items to deck our own halls. I began to mull over mantel decor possibilities (mantelscapes?). Tablescapes, too.

On December 1, Himself and Tiny Girl put up on Christmas tree. Miss Priss was eager to begin decorating, so she and I hung a few ornaments. And I had an epiphany.

I just don't have it in me.

I don't have the time or energy to throw myself into creating a mini Biltmore Estate at Christmastime. My home will not be part of any Christmas home tour, virtual or otherwise. Moreover, I don't have the inclination, now that I've done some soul-searching. Although I have enjoyed looking at others' Christmas decor and whatever-scapes, I can't successfully replicate their efforts. It's just not my gift, so I don't enjoy it as much as they do.

Because for me to even copy what these talented and dedicated bloggers do in their homes, which so clearly brings them joy, I'd have to channel Martha Stewart -- on speed. Or at least Red Bull. And I'd also have to change my focus to outward appearances instead of inner peace. It's true that we need a little Christmas, as the song goes. But all the holly, candles, tinsel, and fruitcake won't make a bit of difference in our lives in the long run.

So will I ditch the Christmas decor (besides the tree) altogether? No. I like pretty things. But there's a difference between opulence and richness, and I want more richness for myself and my family. I know myself pretty well, and if I choose to focus on things this season, if I get caught up in the Christmas busy-ness, I will miss the blessings. That's not true for everyone, but it's true for me.

In the next few days, I'll share the little things we're doing for Christmas in our new home, things that add to our joy but not our must-do list. I'll call it "Christmas Decor for the Uninspired." Or some such. If you're the inspired type, there are plenty of fabulous blogs out there to get your Christmas decoration juices going! But if you lean more toward my type, check back in this week and next. And let me know what you're doing at your home, too!