Monday, August 27, 2012

thunder cake!

Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book  Thunder Cake
If  you love thunderstorms, beautiful illustrations and chocolate cake, and if you like reading stories with kids, then Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco must be one of your favorite books?  It is definitely one of mine.  If you like it, I want to remind you of it, and prod you to make a thunder cake... not only is it still summer thunder season, but it is also abundance-of-over-ripe-tomatoes-on-the-vine season.

In case you haven't read the book, it is the story of how Patricia Polacco's Russian grandmother taught her not to be afraid of thunderstorms.  At the end of the book, she shares her grandma's chocolate cake recipe - with the secret ingredient of tomatoes - and I think it is the best chocolate cake recipe ever.  It is delicate and moist and perfect!
Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book Thunder Cake
Here is an excerpt from the forward to get you inspired:  "On sultry summer days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy. Stormclouds drift low over the fields.  Birds fly close to the ground.  The clouds glow for an instant with a sharp, crackling light, and then a roaring, low, tumbling sound of thunder makes the windows shudder in their panes."  - Patricia Polacco

And here is the recipe!

Cream together, one at a time
    1 cup of shortening (I use butter)
    1 3/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    3 eggs, separated  (Blend yolks in.  Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in.)
    1 cup cold water
    1/3 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together
    2 1/2 cups cake flour
    1/2 cup dry cocoa
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.  Bake in two greased and floured 8 1/2-inch round pans at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Frost with chocolate butter frosting.  Top with strawberries.

Last week I made thunder cake because my mom, dad, grandma, aunt and cousin were coming over for dessert.  It is delicious with the chocolate butter frosting and strawberries, but really you can do all kinds of variations.  This time I made it with vanilla butter frosting and decorated it with slivered almonds and chocolate mint leaves.

Happy baking!  And enjoy the last thunderstorms of summer!
Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book Thunder Cake

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Orange is beautiful

mammoth sunflower at the neighbor's fence, complete with feasting bumble bees
I can't get enough of walking around town.  My friend Erin was about to kick me in the shins the other evening while we were walking because I kept interrupting her mid-sentence to point out things like, "Look at that ladder in that apple tree!" or "Look at that cat arguing with that squirrel!" or "Look at that jug on that porch!"  Experiencing things closely on foot is entirely different from driving though town.  I don't think anybody in a car has caught sight of the gourd growing in the hedge near 7-11, and the magnitude of the poke weed jungle on the bank of the railroad tracks is definitely diminished when you're whizzing by on four wheels.  On foot, you walk through a surprise series of sensory experiences... you can find butterfly wings that praying mantises left behind, and lost grocery lists (why can't they be love notes?!), you can smell someone else's coffee and bacon expanding beyond their kitchen walls...and sometimes you can catch really intriguing pieces of conversation.  Here are some of the things I saw today.
white gourd nestled in the hedge

magical garden - you can still spy the gourd - and you know those bricks in the distance are the backside of 7-11

weathered wood

old directional sign at Buchanan & Kiguel

the sticky roots of ivy  (yuck!) ivy gives me the creeps

sun-drenched,  oily feather in the family dollar parking lot

poke weed jungle on the sloping bank of the railroad track

cedar, bark and lichen in front of the fire chief's house

volunteer miniature sunflower in a neglected flower bed at the edge of my yard

Thursday, August 16, 2012

good news

The August issue of C'ville's Abode is out and I'm in it on page 11!  Here's a link , or if you live in the Charlottesville area, you can find it for free near the entrances to most grocery stores.  

Also, yesterday evening, right before the Methodist church bells started chiming five o'clock and they closed the post office window, I shipped out 20 sets of pocket warmers.  They're on their way to ink & peat, a beautiful shop on North Williams Avenue in Portland, Oregon, where they'll be for sale this Fall. I found out about ink & peat through a great feature article in Victoria magazine last March.  Here's a link to the article - I really recommend looking if you're in the mood for inspiring pictures!  I've never been to ink & peat in person, but would love to...  who can tell, maybe I'll be in Portland soon?  You never know!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I had SUCH a good time at the Food Festival in Orange!  I met so many new nice people, saw and hugged lots of friends and family - including both grandmas, one grandpa, and my former kindergarten, second and fifth grade teachers, and the weather was beautiful, even if it was a teeny bit hot.  I had so much to be grateful for, especially the wonderful people who let me borrow their tent ;) and my mom, who went above and beyond in helping me get things ready, and then make it through the day.  She made the gorgeous flower arrangements and my booth would've looked terrible without them.  I especially like the basket arrangement she made with herbs from her garden, and even a few cherry tomatoes (you'll see in the last few pictures).  There were so many people, that I never really got to leave my booth the way I'd hoped... but at the very end, I did taste a delicious lager from Devil's Backbone Brewery, bought a jar of linden tree honey, and ate a homemade chocolate-banana-walnut popsicle from Charlottesville.  All day long, people were coming to look at my booth while eating these exquisite looking popscicles in wonderful flavors like watermelon.  Apparently the popscicle makers had to make 3 trips back to Charlottesville to stock back up!  Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the festival and made it such a lovely event!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

the edible food fest in orange

 I'm going to be a vendor at the Food Fest in Orange on August 11th.  I think it's going to be really exciting... delicious food, Joel Salatin as a speaker, a celebration of Edna Lewis, handmade cutting boards, real Virginia maple syrup... you can read all about it here.
I'm using my fabrics to make all kinds of table and kitchen wares, including a few one-of-a-kind aprons.  Here's the beginning of one.  The skirt of the apron was a beautiful vintage apron that some woman lovingly made a long time ago.  I think it is probably old feed sack material, trimmed in a dainty yellow gauze.  She had made the apron strings with the same gauze.  I removed her strings and added some sturdier ones I made out of my own fabric, added a bib (because I only really use bib aprons... skirt aprons can be beautiful, and good for drying your hands... but they don't offer any coverage in the area most vulnerable when you're cooking and baking).  And I put a little moth patch on the pocket to coordinate with the bib.  Sorry I don't have a picture of the complete apron yet, just these in-progress pictures. 

 I'm also going to be selling lavender dryer sachets - filled with lavender my mom and I grew and dried!  These are great for tossing in the dryer with your linens if you want them to smell extra-sweet.
And I'll also have folded note cards for sale.  These are 3 out of a set of 6.

P.S.  - I finally got my phone line hooked up on Monday and have used my rotary phone a lot already.  I've had several real conversations, plus a call from the Star Exponent... after I answered, the salesman asked if my mom or dad were home....  I said no and hung up.  I guess there is one benefit to having a juvenile-sounding voice!  And then I've had lots and lots of wrong numbers... someone looking for Russell, someone trying to reach Dr. Silvester, someone else calling for Tina, and another request for a person whose name I've forgotten because it was so early in the morning.  All of this in just 3 days.  What kind of phone number have I been assigned?!?  It must have a long history.  It's awfully exciting though... you can't have caller ID on a rotary phone, so you never know who might be on the other end of the line!