It was soft spring today: Warm but not hot, sunny. The lilacs are still blooming and the lily of the valley is out. My favorites. I can smell the lily of the valley before I can even see it; heaven.
This little fellow at the library seemed pretty content on a peaceful afternoon.
On my way to pick up the kids this afternoon I realized that it must be prom night. The high school parking lot was packed; young women in long colorful dresses were stepping from cars; young men were straightening ties; parents were pulling out cameras. I pulled over to watch for a few minutes. They were so lovely, and so young! They called to each other and laughed and stood self-consciously and proudly in their fancy duds for photos. There were lots of diaphanous layers and bright vests, and here and there some major bling. I heard a mother ask these two for a photo, smiling as she said she’d put it next to the one from preschool. At that I pictured my little ones at 17, dressed up for prom, and wasn’t sure if I was going to laugh or cry.
Then I arrived at daycare, and received big kisses from dirt-smudged faces and laughed. Prom is a loonnggg way off.
It’s a beautiful night for a party, and the air is just cool enough now for the girls to borrow their dates’ jackets. Remember that? There was something so thrilling about it.
A while ago – eighteen months or so – I made a little elephant wall hanging for a friend who was expecting her second child. It was my first attempt at applique, and, after several unfortunate practice runs, I ended up with something cute. I really liked the little elephant sketch and kept it to use as a template. To download a free PDF of it, click here.
By request, the rhubarb custard pie recipe.
Yep, that’s it. “Austin” is my grandfather, and this truly is his favorite pie. Where my grandmother noted “I used less” next to sugar, she really meant it. I use 1 cup, not two; you can adjust as needed. My grandfather does prefer the 2-cup version, but I like my rhubarb dishes on the tart side. I also add a little more nutmeg than the recipe calls for. (If you have a small assistant, keep an eye on the nutmeg!)
AUSTIN’S FAVORITE RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE
Fill a pastry-line 9″ pie pan with the following:
Beat slightly: 3 eggs
Add: 2 2/3 T milk
Mix together: 2 c sugar (I use less); 4 T flour; 3/4 tsp nutmeg
Add: 4 c chopped rhubarb
Dot filling with 1 T butter. Cover with lattice top crust. Bake until nicely browned, 50-60 minutes at 400 degrees.
If you have a favorite pie crust that you buy, go right ahead and use it. If you prefer to make your own, here’s the recipe I use:
Blend 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Add 2 sticks of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix until butter is cut into 1/4″ lumps. Add, one tablespoon at a time, 7 tablespoons ice water. Blend until the dough just sticks together. Gather into a ball, divide into two pieces, and flatten into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and chill 20-30 minutes. After chillling, roll each disk out on a floured surface until it’s about 13″ around. Transfer one disk to the pie plate, fill the pie, and then top with the second disk. Press the edges of the crust together. For a prettier crust, crimp the edges and prick holes or slits in the top of the pie. Brush with a mix of 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon cream. (I never get around to doing this, but it does look very nice all browned up.)
It’s rhubarb season, and that means PIE! I broke out my old family cookbook and baked up a yummy, sweet-tart rhubarb custard pie last night. So good. I had a little help, too.
Rhubarb has the most beautiful color. I think that’s one reason I can’t resist it as soon as it pops up in the market. That, and the unusual tart, springy taste. It defies any description, really.
After the kids went to bed, I sat down on the couch with a slice of the pie and this book:
This is it, my favorite-novel-from-childhood-that-I-can’t-believe-but-am-kind-of-glad-isn’t-a-movie-yet (see this post). I probably didn’t need to read it; it could have just sat there on my lap and had the same effect by osmosis. I’ve read this book so many times! I had to replace my old disintegrating paperback with a hardcover years ago, although I do sort of miss the romance novel-y cover of the old one.
I first read The Witch of Blackbird Pond at age nine in Miss McNamee’s fourth grade class. I don’t remember if we were studying Colonial New England at the time; possibly, but I was fascinated by Puritans and witch trials and local history as a kid, so I would have read it anyway. I was, pun intended, bewitched.
Elizabeth George Speare won the Newbury Award for The Witch of Blackbird Pond in 1959 via a rare unanimous vote. It’s that wonderful a book – rich and superbly researched. As an adult, I can consider the craft of the novel, how perfectly it’s composed, but as a child I just plain loved it.
What, exactly, was so bewitching to me? Kit, especially Kit, smart and disastrously impulsive and loyal. Stepping into Connecticut of 1687, with its meadows and church meetings and itchy linsey-woolsey dresses – and its witch trials and political tension and perverse Puritan austerity. The very real and human characters: irritating and charming Nat Eaton, gentle and resilient Hannah Tupper, patient Mercy, intimidating Uncle Matthew. The world of Blackbird Pond felt real to me. I could go there. I still can.
A few years back, not long after I moved into this home, I discovered that Speare grew up not far from here. I’d already driven by her childhood home a few times without knowing it – but of course, I had to go back and take a good look at the house. Hopefully no one was home to be concernced about the car that kept circling the block! It’s just a house, really, but it seems important. Like I picked the right place to live. I wonder if the current owners know who lived there once upon a time?