Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Little Slice of Heaven

Although mother got the recipe from her mother, I never remember them at my grandmother's house. I do remember my aunt making a coconut or lemon version, but the memory is faint, and it may feed more off of stories heard than substantive experiences.

Mother would always make two, and it usually involved company coming over, or taking them somewhere. And with six of us in the house, 16 lottery slices were never enough. Since it was a stove top recipe, the sign was always clear that she was making THEM, if the crusts cooking in the oven weren't signal enough. And if you played your cards right, you could be in the kitchen to perhaps get a lick out of the pan, or off the beater if meringue was to your liking.

The chocolate cream pies were most often made to take to the Sunday dinner on the grounds. I learned at an early age to eat dessert first. If you waited until "dessert time", you would hunt down her white corning ware pie pans and see only the cornflower blue design on the bottom, the slices of pie themselves having long gone to rest on someone else's plate. Surely there wasn't anything wrong with proactively commandeering a little slice of heaven on church grounds.

I began baking and cooking in college, but didn't launch into my own version of the chocolate cream pies until several years after I married. After all, I was content to sit back and let mother and/or my older sister provide them for our family gatherings. And I still knew to go quiet, grab early and eat dessert first. But we eventually moved out of the family nest and so I guess I began making the pies myself around 1991.

I will concede that it is a finicky recipe, given that it is a custard and must be rendered at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time at just the right dew point. But, oh mercy, if you hit it right, it sure is divine. And, if it doesn't set up well, we've all learned it tastes just as good off a spoon as it does off a fork. 

Mother gave me a cookbook for my 25th birthday that held a pie crust recipe I could effectively manage. Steve's grandmother taught me how to pick a crust up off the counter using my rolling pin. But I began tinkering with the recipe not long after my first or second attempt, because I wanted that pie to set up, and I wanted more of it in a pie shell.  

At some point, I picked up a deep dish pie pan from Williams Sonoma and before we left The Woodlands in 1997, I had made peace with the recipe - having conquered it effectively enough to have recurring success and having tweaked it a little to make it better. 

I have two early vivid memories of me making it - having it at Thanksgiving one year with the Crums and Uncle Mark and then taking it to the church for the Gullo family meal following Austin's memorial service. I can still hear Lee and Kristi commenting on how good the pie was and how even the meringue was so tasty. And I remember Donna telling me how she knew the pie was homemade, based on my thumbprints on the crust, and how eating that old-fashioned pie was such a comfort on such an incredibly difficult day.

I've moved around this 'ole state, living in five cities, but I've taken that pie recipe with me to every home we've occupied, every church we've attended, every group where we've gathered. It has served me well.  I even made four one morning to take to work for my boss's 50th birthday lunch. She requested it, letting me know it was the best chocolate pie she's ever had.

My boys have grown up on it, just as I have, seeing the marks of the pie in the making, hoping against hope it's for us here at the house, licking the pan, eager for the first piece long before it has cooled down and set up. 

And I guess, of all the times I have made it, or want to make it, or hope to make it, the times that I am making it for my family are the best times. I love how they love it as much as I love it. I love that when I am making my pie, that I am making a pie that my grandmother made, that my aunts made, that my mom makes to this day, that my sisters make to this day. It's our own little tradition, this little slice of chocolate cream heaven.

Family Recipe ~ our Chocolate Cream Pie ~ September 2012

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Carta Bella

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Live from Scrap Central

The thing about a scrap room is that it grows as organically…and exponentially…as the very brads, bling and Basic Grey that you hoard…er...collect.

When I started scrapping in 1994, I stored my scrapping supplies in the under the staircase coat closet that I commandeered. I repurposed that puppy from holding coats to holding card stock. Who needs coats in Houston anyway? A trip to The Container Store and I was outfitted with a shelving system that fit neatly where the jean jackets were no longer welcome. When I wanted to scrap, I pulled my supplies out of the closet and worked on the breakfast room table. So tidy and organized was I.

In 1997 we moved to San Antonio and space had to be reevaluated. Given the age of my boys then, I needed to be near them to scrap during the moments they played together. I carved off a section of the playroom and that beloved staircase shelving unit got a promotion to the wall in the alcove of the playroom. A desk underneath it and I was good to go. I reveled in the ability to leave things out and come and work as I could with my pretties.

By the time we moved to McAllen in 2000, I was a bona fide scrapper with a growing collection. I went from occupying maybe 20% of a smallish room to occupying almost half of a two car garage that had been converted to a guest suite by the previous owners. I was in tall cotton with all that real estate! And I was loving the trend of upgrading my square footage with each move.

When we moved to Dallas in 2005, I was naive enough to think I could go back to about the same amount of space I had in San Antonio. I took half of an extra room upstairs. And hated it. Not enough sunlight, wrong part of the house, quarters too cramped, and my counter height work space was just not comfortable to sit at and scrap. I wasn't scrapping…and I knew it had to do with the space.

In 2006, I had the idea to move my stuff downstairs and split the home office space with my scrap space. Well, 7 years later and I am happy to report that I have gone from the 50/50 split to about a 90/10 split. I now have only two drawers that contain household files. And I have decadently spread my scrap stash all over the rest of the space.

But, the best part of my current Scrap Central is it's location in the house. See, it really is central. It's between the front door and the door to the garage, in the room that was to be the formal living room that we converted to a study when we built. I can swivel in my chair and see the entry way, the dining room, the family room, the kitchen and the breakfast room. 

And I can - thankfully - hear my family moving about in all of those rooms. And they can hear me. I love being in "my room", yet hearing them through the house. And often is the time when they will come in here and plop down on one of the chairs and hang out with me. Seriously love that. I nabbed those chairs from Calico Corner and they are one of my favorite elements of my room. 

Here's a little tour of my room in its current state.

We had the cabinets built-in before we moved in. I designed them and they are built to my specs. They hold so many things and keep the lines clean in the room, which is important to me. Love how the computer area is slightly lower in height than the working counter areas. Sweet hubby was kind enough to install a key board tray under the computer table, so my keyboard is ergonomic and also invisible.

The red walls are one of my favorite aspects of the room. Really love the pop of my favorite color. My chair is a Herman Miller Aeron. I have trouble sitting for long periods and this chair is amazing...a real key to allow me to sit for long stretches to scrap.

The desk is a bread and butter desk from the 1800's. It comes apart and could travel in a covered wagon. It has two drawers in it that run the width of the desk. Perfect spot to stash adhesive refills and small brads. And that chandelier has been in all of my houses. I take it every time we move. It's one of my very favorite things.

The little tiny table beside my desk holds my trimmer. It's perfect for turning to cut and simultaneously keeps it from occupying my coveted desk top space. My lamp is an Ott lite and really is key to this working girl being able to scrap at night. 

My Demdaco Angels are gifts from my boys over the years. I love their messages that speak to my heart. I grabbed the slipper chairs at Calico Corner. The wire basket in the left of the photo holds stamps - mostly phrase stamps and Studio AE stamps. Grabbed that basket on one of our trips to the semi-annual Round Top antique fair.

Please don't hate. :-) We found this antique hardware cabinet at Round Top for $400. The cabinet is very deep, allowing you to stash so much in each drawer. It holds almost all of my smaller embellishments. The vintage typewriter on top is just eye candy. I don't have the patience to type with it. It's too hard to use, in my opinion.

What Scrap Central is complete without an Ikea Expedit? I debated getting a 16 cubby unit…but went with the 8 cubby unit so I could keep my cross wall in my room. 5 of the cubbies hold patterned paper, sorted by manufacturer. 2 cubbies hold my beloved Bazzill, the only card stock I use. The last cubby holds some binders that contain memorabilia to use, 12 x 12 sticker sheets and some of my favorite sketches from Scrapbook Generation.

Oh - and see my new typewriter? It's an electric Brother GX6750 that I got at Amazon. I met a scrapper, Darby, at a crop in Missouri that had one. I fell in immediate love over it and came home and promptly ordered one. I don't love it sitting out, but I go with making stuff easy to access and use, knowing if it isn't easy to access, it won't get used. It's very easy to type on and I have to make myself not use it on every layout.

And here you can see my beloved cross wall. I have been collecting these crosses for a long time and they each tell a story.

Finally, here is a shot of the top of my desk. Love, love sitting here and scrapping. 

It's taken me awhile to get to this spot, but the journey has been so worth it. And I am happy to be blogging to you, live from my Scrap Central.