Tutorial Tuesday : How to Make Pie Crust

One of the easiest, yet most intimidating things to make is homemade pie crust. It's so easy to pop open that box and unroll that frozen pastry, but tasted side-by-side, there is no contest in flavor and texture with the real thing. I think a homemade pie is one of the most thoughtful things you can offer a friend.

I can walk you through this, but you must promise me you will try it. I found this recipe as a new bride, motivated to learn to make the perfect apple pie. This is Martha Stewart's recipe from her magazine and it must be about 13 years old.
Pull out your food processor and let's make some pie crust, baby!


2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1/4 cup ice water

Begin by measuring your dry ingredients into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse about 5 times to mix well.

Now, add the chunks of cold butter.

Pulse about 15 times or as long as it takes to get pea sized pieces of butter throughout the flour mixture. It will look like this:

Begin to add your ice water a tablespoon or so at a time while pulsing, you will probably not use the entire amount measured. The key here is to not over mix and incorporate as little water as possible into the flour.

You want just enough water to make your dough stick together when pinched - like damp sand. Can you see how it is beginning to come together?

This recipe is for a two crust pie, so divide the dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap.

Begin to pull the sides up to make a ball of dough. Try to use the plastic wrap and not your hands and do this quickly. Keeping the butter cold is key here, and working quickly and not melting it with your warm hands will help.

This nice disc of dough is ready for the fridge. I would try to keep it there for about an hour.

Now, between two pieces of plastic wrap, begin to roll your dough. You can judge the size by laying your pie plate on top to measure. You want it a bit larger than the rim of the plate to accommodate for depth.

Peel off one layer of plastic wrap and place the dough into the pie pan, leaving the top plastic wrap intact. Like this, and pop back into the fridge for at least 1/2 hour longer. You can use this time to prepare your filling or preheat the oven. Keeping the butter cold is key for flaky crust.

Want to make Apple Pie? Okay, peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and pile the following into the crust:

4-6 lbs. peeled, chunked apples
1 t. cinnamon
1 T. flour
2 T. butter cut into small pieces
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. sugar

Pop it into an oven (preheat it to 400 degrees, then turn down to 375 degrees when ready to bake) for about an hour. Keep an eye on it and tent with foil if the edges are getting too brown.

Girl, you just made an apple pie from scratch! You are sooooo going to hear about this from all the other wives in the neighborhood.
Head on over to Kimba's; It's a party, man!


Summer Blogging Schedule

As you know, my kidlets are home for the summer. I am having fun with them, keeping them busy, taking them on trips, cleaning up their messes, and still working my business...something has to give. Yep, it's the blogging.

I have a LOT to say ALL the time, but for the summer I'm going to have to cut my 7 days per week blogging schedule down a bit. I will try to keep up with Tutorial Tuesday and Feedback Friday as they are my two most popular features. For the rest, I will fill in when I have time.

One of the new things I will be doing this summer is taking you into my home a bit more. I want to show you all the little touches I've come up with here and there and hopefully give some inspiration. So, sit back, enjoy the summer and I will see you when I see you.


Week in Review

Week in Review, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

Another busy week of summer around here. Take a look at my photo session inspired by PamperingBeki's photo shoot with her kids. You can click on the photos for a bit more info. Have a great weekend!


Feedback Friday - Neighborhood Warzone

Well, the summer has erupted into a neighborhood war zone. Let me explain...

Our neighborhood is about 6 years old. Some of us who first built have been caring for the common spaces (the cul de sac grass and the grass and beds around the neighborhood sign). Of the 20 + homes, 5 families have been shouldering this responsibility for about 6 years.

As the neighborhood grows, we would like to do more to care for and improve these spaces. So, one neighbor sent out an email to all of the families asking for a donation to be set aside in a bank account to hire it out. (We are too young for a home owner's association yet).

There was an overwhelmingly positive response and checks started pouring in from most of the neighbors except two. These two neighbors live on the cul de sac and were under the impression the lawn care elves took care of all of this while they slept. They have never offered to help cut the grass (with their riding mowers), or water the trees, or weed the beds, or plant the flowers and "had no idea" we have all been taking care of this.

Rather than contributing financially, they decided that we should make up a schedule and they will now help out. Here is where I need your feedback: Status quo is not cutting it any more, the grass needs fertilized, over-seeded, the beds need mulched and edged. All of this has been agreed upon by the rest of the neighbors and they are holding things up because NOW they want to cut so they don't have to contribute money.

What to do???

PS:(The only other negative feedback is actually really hilarious, one of the neighbors wants us to not only to take care of the common spaces, but to also mow all of the empty unsold lots in the neighborhood so dogs don't poop in his yard. Who's dogs, you ask? The folks who are trying not to contribute! Classic.)

***Update: Thank you all for your feedback! We have all decided to move forward without them. Hopefully, they will feel guilty at some point and pitch in.

A few tidbits...the neighbors in question drive Jaguars and sports cars, live in expensive homes, and take nice trips...and we're only asking for $50 for the whole year. They recently voiced that their denial to participate is on principle because the developer is really supposed to be doing this stuff. However, it's been 6 years and the developer has done squat. So, we're flying solo and we've made peace with it. No more fighting :)

And how could I not mention Michael Jackson, The King of Pop? As strange as he was, I grew up with his music and one of his songs will still make me get up and dance. I can moonwalk and "Hooo!" with the best of them. I had his picture in my locker and imitated his dance moves in little productions my cousins and I performed. Rest in peace MJ...


Fins to the Left!

I know I was supposed to take you to Fallingwater today to see a marvel of architecture...but doesn't Jimmy Buffett sound like so much more fun? Okay, let's scrap refined and go for recreation!

If you are from Pittsburgh or have ever visited, it's all about the tailgate, baby. Pittsburghers can tailgate like you've never seen and any event is a good excuse to pull one together. Imagine a large parking lot with music coming from full sized speakers set in the bed of a pick up truck. There are blow up pools full of water, sand banks, flatbed trucks with DJ's and a dance floor...and the FOOD!

Our menu included grilled shrimp, marinated drumsticks, steak shish kabobs and key lime cupcakes. Sound good? Look for the recipe at the end of this post.

After all of the eating and drinking and dancing, it was time to get our annual group photo before we headed into the show. We look like we've got it together, right? Our friend even looks like Jimmy Buffett (my kids think he IS Jimmy Buffett)

What you don't see is the attempt to rouse the last member of our group that passed out in the backseat after indulging in too many adult beverages, shhhhh ( I obviously found this infinitely funny):

Oh, and take a look at the potty someone built in the parking lot! I ran all the way back to get my camera for this one. Let's just say, I wasn't in bad enough shape to use this. It's like a Martha Stewart concoction, look at the toilet paper holder! There was even kitty litter in the bucket to pee into...wow.

We finally made it to our seats in 7th row and were soaking up all the island breezes when the theme from Jaws began to thump...you know what that means... Fins to the Left!

23,000 fans obliged:

It was a great night for good food, good friends, and great music. See you next year, Jimmy!

Do you want to make some Margaritaville fun of your own? Start out with this delicious recipe from The Cupcake Project. I made a few changes, but the core recipe is hers and it was delicious!

Key Lime Cupcakes

• 1/2 C butter (room temperature)
• 1 C sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 C milk
• 1 C flour
• 1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
• 1 t baking soda
• 1 t baking powder
• 1/8 t salt
• 5 egg yolks
• 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
• 1/2 C lime or key lime juice

1. Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until creamed.
2. Add the sugar and mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to beat for 30 seconds for each egg.
4. Use food processor to grind the graham crackers into tiny crumbs.
5. Mix flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt.I whisked
6. Add about 1/4 of the mixture to the butter mixture.
7. Add some of the milk.
8. Continue to add the ingredients in a dry - wet - dry method, ending with the dry.
9. Mix until just combined.
10. In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lime juice.
11. Dump the key lime mixture into the graham batter and lightly stir. Do NOT fully integrate the key lime and graham batter. You should have clumps of batter in a key lime soup.
12. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Make sure each liner has a nice distribution of key lime liquid and graham clumps. (I might consider spooning both in separatly next time and swirling)
13. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until top springs back.

Cool completely and ice with Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 stick butter, softened
1 block cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp key lime juice
1/2 tsp. lemon or lime extract (it's hard to find lime extract)
4 cups powdered sugar

Whip all the ingredients together and frost cupcakes.

I sprinkled graham cracker crumbs on top and decorated with a paper drink umbrella.h


Stay-cation in the Laurel Highlands - Let's Take a Hike!

My alternate title for this post was "Three Boys Pee Their Way Across the Laurel Highlands". Seriously, these kids are like dogs marking their territory! I bet my kids peed in nearly every spot I photographed. It's a guy thing, I guess.

We started out on bikes and noticed a little trail marker on the side of the path (we might have been peeing when we noticed it). Somehow, the kids' bionic ears picked up a waterfall (I seriously heard nothing) so we set off to investigate...on a nice marked trail.

Eventually, the Big Guy's GPS brain kicked in and he determined the trail was headed in the wrong direction. So, who needs a trail? Right? Those kids made me scale down a cliff (which they first peed off) and down into this valley,

and damned if they weren't right - jack pot!

Next, they painstakingly climbed up to the ledge next to the waterfall and peed (I am not kidding) and threw rocks down into the water. Big Guy quote: "These three kids can cause more destruction in 30 minutes than erosion accomplished in 20 years"

Fam-on-a-log (they stood on this and peed off the side)

When it was time for lunch, we stopped on the river bank for a picnic. The kids found this cool "tide pool" to explore.


The highlight of the trip was viewing the big waterfall from the viewing deck

It wasn't long before they were down in that river themselves. They decided to built a raft (after peeing of course):

And wade into the water pulling up their shorts to reveal their chicken legs. Well, some of them.

Once one got in, they all got in and enjoyed riding some natural "water slides"

What a great day in the mountains. Did you know you can follow the Laurel Highlands on Twitter? Yep, mountains even twitter now. Get with it, man.

Tomorrow I will take you to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, so come on back now, ya hear?


I Heart Faces Photography Blog - Theme Boys!

Boys, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

Here is a photography theme that was just MADE for me - Boys! I am entering the kids catagory and the rules are easy, boys only. I decided to contribute a photo of two of my boys and a nephew relaxing on a bench at our cabin in the woods.

I love that they were unaware of me taking the picture. They were tired and dirty after a long day and look a little like kids from the Depression era. Cute. Most of my favorite photos are of the kids NOT looking at the camera. So, there it is. Do you want to check out this awesome website? Just click on the button above and have fun!

Come Vacation With Me...The Laurel Highlands

Last week we had a little family "stay-cation" and hung around beautiful Western Pennsylvania for the week. Work was set aside for fun around our hometown. I thought you might want to see what the Laurel Highlands has to offer and give you some ideas for an inexpensive vacation at home.

We began our trip with a visit to Ohiopyle State Park to ride our bikes on the Youghiogheny River Trail. There was some sweating and swearing when it came to loading 5 bikes onto our brand new bike rack (little bikes are not built for these sort of racks), but after the Big Guy pulled it together, we were off!

This trail can be ridden all the way to Washington D.C. and we met a father and son doing just that - biking and camping for the next two weeks. My kids were mortified at the amount of gear the dad was making the son carry on his bike. I guess they aren't ready for that sort of thing yet.

A quick family pic and we began our ride:

We stopped on the wooden bridge to watch the white water rafters below:

The wooded trail is flat and beautiful. Easy enough for my Helper Munchkin, but challenging enough for an experienced rider. I never thought about the evolution of bike riding before this trip. My kids must have said 100 times "This is so fun!" I realized then, that kids today never ride their bikes TO someplace, just around and around for the sake of riding. Riding as transportation was new to them and they loved the feeling of freedom.

Pretend you're with us, just run a track in the background of birds singing, leaves rustling, and me yelling "Here comes another bike! MOVE TO THE RIGHT! The RIGHT! MOVE OVER!!!" Yeah, it was peaceful.

We were exploring a small waterfall along the trail when my kids noticed a culvert under the bike trail. Really, why bother with nature when there is a man made PIPE underground just BEGGING you to play in it.

My kids started posing and yelling, "Take a picture, take a picture!" So, I did.

All of this riding and picture taking went on for about 4 miles. Whoopee!!!

Then 4. Miles. Back. whoopee. Mental note: Don't wait until they are getting tired before turning around. Trust me.

If you do, you might have to bribe them to return by promising to buy them ice cream and the super cute ice cream parlor in town. I hope you brought money...

Come back tomorrow, we'll go for a hike and play in the river!


Sunday Funny - Happy Father's Day

Man, it's hard to find a Father's Day "funny", so let's just poke fun a little...


Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and
3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play
two sports
and either take music
or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must
take care of his 3 kids;
keep his assigned house clean,
correct all homework,
and complete science projects,
cook, do laundry,
and pay a list of 'pretend' bills
with not enough money.

In addition, each man
will have to budget in money
for groceries each w eek.

Each man
must remember the birthdays
of all their friends and relatives,
and send cards out
on time--no emailing.

Each man must also
take each child to a doctor's appointment,
a dentist appointment
and a haircut appointment.

He must make
one unscheduled and inconvenient
visit per child
to the Urgent Care.

He must also
make cookies or cupcakes
for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for
decorating his own assigned house,
planting flowers outside
and keeping it presentable
at all times.

The men will only
have access to television when the kids are asleep
and all chores are done.

The men must
shave their legs,
wear makeup daily,
adorn himself with jewelry,
wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes,
keep fingernails polished
and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks,
the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches,
and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or
slow down from other duties.

They must attend
weekly school meetings,
and find time
at least once to spend the afternoon
at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to
read a book to the kids
each night and in the morning,
feed them, dress them,
brush their teeth and
comb their hair by 7:00 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information:
each child's birthday,
height, weight,
shoe size, clothes size
and doctor's name.
Also the child's weight at birth,
length, time of birth,
and length of labor,
each child's favorite color,
middle name,
favorite snack,
favorite song,
favorite drink,
favorite toy,
biggest fear and
what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island
based on performance.
The last man wins only if...
he still has enough energy
to be intimate with his spouse
at a moment's notice.

If the last man does win,
he can play the game over and over
and over again for the next 18-25 years
eventually earning the right
To be called Mother!

Happy Father's Day!

Your Skin Fix, December Edition