The Life Around Pie.

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I am a pie snob, and I admit this with pride.

We had 14 people coming to our house for the annual Groff 4th of July party this past Saturday night and I woke up that morning with a wretched sore throat that was doing its best to spread its wickedness throughout my body.

I had 3 pies to create because homemade pie at our annual function is now a time-honored tradition. It didn’t matter that I was feeling poorly, those pies needed to come together.

Some people believe pie simply comes from the freezer section of their grocery store.

Some people have never made a real pie, and could give a fig whether or not they ever do, but . . .

I’m willing to bet something of value that a respectable majority of the masses adore a really good piece of homemade pie—which, to my means and methods—means the pie crust has to be a lard-based crust. (Groan if you want, but on this I am immovable.)

I was fortunate to watch and learn from the real experts: my mother, my paternal grandmother and a couple of aunts in busy ordinary family kitchens. It had nothing to do with expensive granite counter tops, or designer light fixtures—or even degrees from prestigious culinary schools with familiar-sounding acronyms.

These women learned their pie tricks out of necessity for feeding families and large work crews.

Back to my sore throat and not feeling in the most “pie-baking” mood Saturday morning.

Because I was feeling awful, I worked slower than I normally do.

I took my time with the process. I rinsed and peeled, and washed and diced and sliced and grated and measured. With the fillings mixed up and waiting in their bowls, I turned my attention to rolling out the bottom crusts, and it hit me.

You are in this moment only. Feels good, doesn’t it? 

You are not rushing; thinking about what you’ll do after this. 

You don’t do this nearly enough, but you need to.

I took my time rolling out each crust—testing it for uniform thickness, adjusting it a bit here and there, then ever so gently arranging it in its pie plate before repeating that process two more times.

Stirring and scraping the fillings: fresh blueberry with lemon zest, rhubarb (from my garden) mixed with market strawberries spiked up a bit with freshly grated orange zest and just a touch of fresh ground nutmeg–for the second pie, and of course, apple pie for the third. I like to add fresh lemon zest to my apple pies as well because freshly zested citrus makes anything rock to the next level up.

I dabbed on the butter pieces—real butter, of course—and then rolled out the decorative top crusts, once again laying them in place, taking care not to stretch or tear, trimming excess dough, tucking and rolling the edges, before giving them finger-formed edges.

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There really is nothing better than working with your hands.

Perhaps you won’t believe me, but I swear my throat wasn’t hurting nearly as badly once those pies went into the oven to bake, and I realized I’d enjoyed my creative time at that dusty flour counter to its maximum potential.

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It takes practice at being in the moment, and I have been painfully negligent as of late in my practice of that art.

There are always deadlines to meet, the next interview to locate and set up, the myriad of things that always need doing around the house, the yard, volunteer duties, and so forth. It becomes too easy to live to rush toward that next task or duty or promise—or “always wanted to try that . . .”, and before I know it—I’m not even trying to stand in the moment and enjoy where I am. This simply is not good.

A friend recently asked me some pointers about starting her novel.

I told her to make sure she had a ball writing her first draft, because it may just be the most fun she’ll have with it.

Practicing what we preach can be such hard work, don’t you agree?

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Just for grins—here’s my family’s lard pie crust recipe. Just in case you want to try your hand at one.☺

Grandma Z’s Pie Crust

3 cups white flour

1-1/3 cup of lard

3/4 tsp salt

Mix flour and salt together, cutting in the cold lard with pastry cutter until crumbly, then add the following combined mixture:

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp cider vinegar

5 TBLS ice cold water

Mix, by hand, until smooth, shape into a disk before wrapping and chilling in refrigerator for several hours.

A few pointers:

  • Be sure the lard is cold.
  • I always use a  pastry cutter to work the lard into the dry ingredients.
  • Be sure the   and water mixture, as well, is very cold. (I ice a glass of water  first, then measure out my 5 TBLS of water and add the vinegar.)
  • Do  not overwork the dry ingredients/lard mixture. Just get them worked into a small crumb mixture and then add the wet ingredients.
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One-year old bloggist wants to share birthday cake with you.

“Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting!”

     I turned one year old yesterday – October 4, 2011. Sorta’.

     Actually, Rebecca’s Notepad blog site turned one year old. 

     While I don’t mind telling people that I am a blogger, I’ve decided I want to upgrade that term to bloggist. Kind of like diarist, feminist, spiritualist, journalist, typist—you get my drift. The more common “er” ending feels a bit too conventional. 

     It’s been a full year of creative challenge and I have to tell you: I enjoy blogging. Proof: If  I don’t get at least one post up every week—I feel cranky and dissatisfied. I’ve had a small handful of weeks where I didn’t post, but I am happy with my first year’s stats. 

     This blog site averaged 450 views (“hits”) per month in her maiden year. I consider that number dang good progress for a first time blog effort, and I anticipate the coming year with this activity. Some people will tsk-tsk and say—‘big deal.’ That’s their prerogative, but I remind them that we all have to learn to crawl before we will walk—or run.  

     WordPress protects us from, as well as reports, when the spammers are hitting on us out here. For sure, there were some spam hits, but I’m happy to say they did not make up the majority of my numbers.

     A year ago I was tearing my hair out creating this site. Many thanks go out to my clever son-in-law “from up north,” who coached me as I navigated my way through the  WordPress learning curve.

     I know the blog is viewed by editors, poets, freelancing colleagues, novelists, spirituality practitioners and cooks–to name a few. How would that have happened if I hadn’t given in to that little nudging voice that said: “Start a blog. Do it now.”

     I have subscribers who I’ve never met, but who I thank for poking their head in, seeing something that made them want to subscribe—and for commenting when something resonated with them. That’s the satisfying part of this effort. And to my friends and family who come in, read, comment—or at least email me and tell me what they like—or what they don’t—and are willing to discuss the why or why not calmly and rationally. It can be done. 

     A blog needs to offer something to its reader. That’s why I decided to post a new recipe out here every week. I figured if my post didn’t work for you, you could at least pick up a recipe idea before you departed. (Everybody likes to eat—right?!) 

     Birthday parties need cake and presents, so I am offering you a few presents from me this week: 

  • The recipe for the cake in the mug shown above can be found on my Recipe Room tab. It doesn’t get much easier than this little gem.
  • One of the wisest bits of advice I’ve read recently–borrowed from a piece written by Amy Spencer on “How to Stop Procrastinating”: “Start your day over at 2 p.m,” she wrote. “At 2 p.m. every day, assess how much you’ve accomplished . . . grant yourself a second morning in the middle of the day.” This gives you a second chance with your work day and for a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Treat yourself to a gorgeously performed and thought-provoking 4-minute song by the Canadian female singing group, Dala. My husband and I heard them in concert last weekend. Their talent for writing poetry and singing it blew us away. They wrote this song “Horses” after meeting a young man who’d been permanently damaged in an accident. I still can’t listen to it and remain dry-eyed knowing his story, but he obviously figured out how to sustain himself against life’s harshness.
  • A writing prompt for you this week that I used with my writing group recently.  Some of the writers were funny, some of my writers were pensive, sad—and some were deeply revealing and blunt. Freewriting is a gift we give ourselves. Don’t underestimate its power. See where this leads:

Write for 10 minutes on: “What I didn’t do this past summer.”

I hope you’ll continue to stop in as bloggist year number two gets underway.