Monday, November 28, 2011

a note to my dear readers regarding my original patterns...

A few of you have contacted me asking why I have started to charge a nominal fee for my original patterns. I feel that that is a valid question, and one that I'd love to discuss...

Most of the patterns have been available for free on the web for the last two years. In that time I've had the honor of them being downloaded (in some cases) several thousand times! What a compliment to my designs! However, I've been working on a few new patterns that I'd like to release over the coming months and while looking at other patterns available online, I realized that the for the amount of effort that goes in to designing these little gems as well as the quality of the project/pattern/graphic design itself - it seemed more than fair to charge a nominal fee to cover both the time and effort that goes into such an endeavor.

Keeping that in mind, I've kept my prices very low. Personally, I'm choosy with which patterns I pay for, and you can rest assured that any pattern I put out there for purchase is well worth the nominal fee attached. Any research for knitting patterns on the web will show that most of them are more expensive than mine, so I hope that is noted as well.

As always, I thank you for your sweet comments and enthusiasm regarding my designs and I look forward to sharing more of them with you in the coming months!

Happy Knitting...

Monday, November 14, 2011

lassoing the moon...

Guess what? I'll be back on the boards soon. This time in a musical version of the Holiday Classic, It's a Wonderful Life. I'll be playing "Mary Hatch," the Donna Reed role from the movie, wife of "George Bailey."

This musical version isn't very well known although written by Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!She Loves Me, just to name a few. The music is truly beautiful, and if I may say so, I get to sing some of the best numbers in the show. The other thing I love about this role is that in this adaptation "Mary" is written with so much strength... so much grace... so much grounded lovliness. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie, and no offense to Ms. Reed, but I didn't quite remember her that way. I like this strong Mary, this "stage Mary" - she's going to be fun to play for the next two months. And although I'm sure this comes as no surprise, I suppose I should also admit that I've long since wanted to be Donna Reed, so really, this is perfect. (Smile)

We're in rehearsals now, and will open just after Thanksgiving on November 26th. So if you find yourself on or around Long Island, you should stop in to Northport and take in a show. We'll be at The John W. Engeman Theatre, the same theatre where I did The Sound of Music last year. It's a lovely, little theatre in a idyllic town, much like the town of Bedford Falls...

Post Script: Working out at The Engeman means lots of time spent on a train commuting to and from which means... lots of forced down time that can be spent knitting. (Happy Dance.) That's right, ladies and gents, the knitting needles are coming out of storage. Well, they've not really been in storage, per se... they've just been hidden behind boxes and boxes of cookies... (Smile)

Monday, October 31, 2011

recipe: candy corn trail mix

I love Candy Corn. It's no secret. Every year, for about two weeks, I am completely addicted to them. I keep a bag handy at all times. (Please to click here and read this post.) However, they can eventually get to be... a bit much. At first wonderfully honeyed and chewy, and then eventually sickeningly sweet chalky. I go from wanting them all the time to being unable to stand the sight of them... until next the Fall and I can be found stuffing my face with them all over again. (I'm a classy lady.)

In an effort to prolong the "wonderfully honeyed and chewy" phase I posture this recipe of sorts:

Candy Corn Trail Mix
Walla Family Recipe (... although surely we're not the first to have thought of this.)

Candy Corn

It's quite simple: Take equal parts of each ingredients and mix them together in a bowl... and then try not to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.

Four simple, yet magical ingredients that create the perfect mix of salty, sweet, crunchy, and chewy. This time of year Mother Dearest keeps little bowls of this all over the house... but they don't last very long. Plus it's a great, healthy(ish) alternative to eating mounds of Snickers, Kit Kats, and Butterfingers.

Friday, August 19, 2011

hand made: infinity scarf

I made this this morning. It's an infinity scarf. I used vintage cotton fabric found at an Antique Mall and then I hand knit the lace panel out of a soft merino wool. Imagine this with the perfect trench coat come Autumn. Perhaps something like this:

I'm sort of loving this lil' number. I think I shall make more of them and see if people like them. Then I think I shall post a tutorial/pattern for it. Hmm... yes, let's add that to the list of things to do, shall we?

Monday, August 15, 2011

dr. pepper-blackberry pie (or, a farmer made me do it...)

Yes, you read that right. I have made a pie using all-natural, farm fresh blackberries and all-unnatural, choc-full o' 26 flavors soda pop. And it's surprisingly tasty, if I do say so myself.

The inspiration for this pie came about something like this: I was roaming around a small, friendly Farmer's Market in Overland Park, KS (where I purchased the necessities for this post and this post) when I spied a booth with the most luscious looking blackberries. I love blackberries! They are, in fact, my preferred berry. Seeing as how they had free samples, I popped one of the little beauties in my mouth and just as I did so, I heard the guy behind the table say, "You ever follow one o' them up with a swig of Dr. Pepper?" I gave him a quizzical look and replied, "Uhm... no. I can't say that I have." His only response was a mischievous smile, so I asked, "... Should I?" Then he winked at me, smiled again, and said "Well, all's I'm sayin' is that of the 26 flavors that go into the stuff, blackberry is one o' them. So you pop one o' these in yer mouth and follow it up with a swig of Dr. Pepper - just try it!" 

So try it, I did. He was absolutely right - following one with the other did bring out a pronounced blackberry taste in the Dr. Pepper. How interesting! 

(The author of this blog would like to take a moment to laugh at herself for just writing the sentence, "... a pronounced blackberry taste in the Dr. Pepper." Good Night! What am I trying to sound like? A carbonated connoisseur?)

Now, I'm not a big fan of soda or "pop" - depending on your particular regional colloquialism - and to me all carbonated beverages pretty much taste like chemicals and liquid sugar - not the sort of thing I would normally bake into a pie and post about on the great wide interwebnets for people to read about, but there was something about this idea that intrigued me - it just seemed fun!  Plus, I had been jonesing to make a pie and one had even been requested of me by the lovely Miss Jane, so... voila! The experiment commenced...

Just look at that filling! Perfectly luscious, n'est-ce pas? I added a bit of lime juice to the fruit mixture and a bit of zest on top before I placed the lattice crust over the filling. Blackberry and Lime is a classic combination in my book, and I felt that the lime helped to round out the flavors of the blackberries and the Dr. Pepper.

 So how does the pie taste, you ask? Quite good! The Dr. Pepper taste is not overwhelming, and for someone who doesn't know what had been added to the fruit filling, I'm not sure they'd be able to guess that the mystery ingredient is Dr. Pepper. However, I found the filling to be super flavorful (if not a tad on the sweet side), and it certainly didn't last very long around my apartment. My roommate, my Beau, and I made good work of it.

To conclude: It's hard to top a simple, old-fashioned blackberry pie, in my opinion. They are my favorite kind of fruit pie. But if you're someone like me who makes a lot of pie and is therefore intrigued by something new and/or interesting or you simply love Dr. Pepper - it's a fun one to make! There's also a fair amount of novelty in making a pie with "pop." (Smile)

Dr. Pepper Blackberry Pie
Recipe by Alison Walla

  • Your favorite pie crust, enough for a 9-inch double crust (I use a pate brisee, like this one)
  • 6 cups fresh blackberries 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup, 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (Option: Lightly brown the butter - adds a bit of depth)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dr. Pepper
  • Bit of lime zest
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • coarse sanding sugar
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Gently combine blackberries, both sugars, cornstarch, melted butter, lime juice, and Dr. Pepper in a large bowl, being careful not to smoosh the berries too much.  Let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Roll out one piece of dough to fit a 9-inch pie place.  Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch around the edge.  Chill.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out second piece of dough into a large rectangle.  Cut strips about an 3/4" - 1" wide with a fluted pastry wheel or a knife. Place strips on parchment and chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Let them stand at room temperature for 3-5 minutes before trying to assemble the lattice top. You want them slightly cool to the touch, but pliable enough that they won't break when handled.

Gently stir the berry mixture and then spoon it into the chilled pastry shell.  Sprinkle lime zest over filling.  Arrange strips in a lattice pattern on top (Click here for some tips!) and trim to the edge of the pie plate.  Roll up and crimp the edge. Brush the rest of the crust with egg white and sprinkle generously with coarse sanding sugar.

Place pie on preheated baking sheet for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until the pie crust is golden and the filling looks thick and bubbly - about an hour longer.  1 hour, 20 minutes total.  Baking time may vary with your oven, though, so I always make sure to check in periodically.  If the pie crust edge is getting too brown, cover it with foil and all should be well.

Let the pie cool completely before serving.

Friday, August 12, 2011

earl grey peach preserves

I am a die-hard coffee drinker, but on occasion I will cross over to the more refined side of things and have a "spot of tea" - always Earl Grey, and always with a dram of milk and raw sugar. 'Tis the British way of having one's tea, I've been told. Lingering over a steaming teacup of tea is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and what better accompaniment to this than a few slices of baguette or a warm scone slathered with butter or clotted cream and tea infused preserves? (Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is.)

Part of my canning marathon last week included another recipe from Kevin West, but this one was for Earl Grey infused peach preserves. Just imagine naturally sweet, summery peaches blended together with the comforting, smokey smell and taste of Earl Grey tea. Heaven. It's a perfect pairing and frankly, one that I'm surprised I haven't seen more of! I use a lot of jam and preserves for my cookie business, and am always scouting out new and interesting flavors. As soon as I spied this recipe I was dying to try it.

I followed the recipe exactly as printed, save for the fact that I didn't have a scale and had no idea how many pounds of peaches I picked up from the Farmer's Market. When I tasted the preserves midway through, I felt that the Earl Grey wasn't prominent enough, so I opened up an additional tea bag to add to the bubbling mixture. Judging from the number of half pint jars I wound up with, I think I had about twice the amount of peaches called for, so that would make sense why I had to ramp up the tea... as well as why my preserves were taking twice as long to set up.

I feel that canning can be sort of a pain in the butt tricky process for a novice or casual canner, so I'm actually glad that I accidentally doubled the peaches in the recipe. Unless one cans on a frequent basis, it's a lot of trouble to go to for only 2 pints (which is what the recipe originally called for). Instead I wound up with about 8 half pint jars - perfect for gifts!

Blanching and peeling the peaches is always my favorite part. I'm not sure why, but I just love peeling the dull, fuzzy skin back to reveal that absolutely perfectly colored, juicy fruit...

This was my first time making preserves without pectin, as well as my first time testing the "doneness" of the preserves using a Chilled Plate. I've always tested jam using my Great Grandmother's method, the Double Drip. She would dip a spoon in the preserves and then hold it horizontally over the pot. When two drips would form and then run to the middle of the spoon to form one drip, the preserves were done. As you can imagine, both of these methods are terribly scientific... in that wonderfully, old fashioned "Granny knows best" way. (Smile)

When the preserves successfully formed a Double-to-Single Drip and didn't "run" on the chilled plate, they had become this almost caramely color and smelled like Heaven! Truly, they did! I highly recommend that you make them yourself... and then come back and tell me just how divinely they made your kitchen smell.

As previous mentioned these preserves are very good with a bit of soft butter and a baguette or clotted cream and a scone, and although I'm not an ice cream lover, I can imagine this would be lovely warmed up and spooned over a big bowl of vanilla bean ice cream. Of course, if you're impatient or desperate for a fruit fix, you could always just spoon it from the jar. Not that the author of this blog has done that... very often...

Lord Grey's Peach Preserves
Adapted from a recipe by Kevin West, via Bon App├ętit August 2011

** Note: I accidentally doubled the peaches in this recipe, which is why the ratios may seem off. However, I was really pleased with the result and would do the same thing over again. The peaches I bought were so naturally sweet that I think doubling the sugar to match the amount of peaches would have produced an overly-sweet jam. Instead, it was subtly sweet - just how I like preserves. Should you like a sweeter jam, then I would recommend adding a bit more sugar, but depending on the sweetness of your peaches I would add it in increments of 1/2 cups until you get the taste you like.
  • 10 lbs. ripe peaches
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Earl Grey tea bags, divided
Cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each peach. Working in batches, blanch in a large pot of boiling water until skin loosens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Peel, halve, and pit. Cut into 1/3" slices. Combine with sugar and juice in a large bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Place a small plate in freezer. Transfer fruit mixture and 4 tea bags to a large heavy pot. Open the remaining 2 tea bags; crumble leaves slightly; add to pot. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook for 30-40 minutes. (** Cooking times will vary. Just be sure that your jam is not burning on the bottom and make sure to check doneness regularly with your preferred method of testing!**) Test doneness by scooping a small spoonful onto chilled plate and tilting plate. (Preserves are ready if they don't run.) Remove tea bags. Skim foam from the surface of jam. Ladle jam into hot jars. Wipe rims, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

... a moment where life styled itself

I was sitting in my comfy corner chair this morning, slowly waking up and thinking over the many things I have to do today, when I looked over and spied this lovely, little view...

It was one of those moments where life styled itself. I love those moments. I live for those moments. I usually don't have my camera with me when those moments happen... save for this morning.

Observe how my vintage Eiffel Tower picture is perfectly framed in the mirror! Le sigh...

The zinnias are from my garden. I can't tell you how much I enjoy having fresh zinnias in the house every few days. I still can't quite understand how they're doing so well in my busted Brooklyn soil, but I'll take it! They just might be the best garden flower ever.

The ring was a Christmas gift from my roommate. Doesn't she have the best taste? Simple and elegant.

Anyway, I find myself with an unexpected three day weekend, and with this gorgeous weather we're having there's a laundry list of things I'd like to do:
  • Go on a bike ride with my Beau
  • Bake a pie (as per Jane's request)
  • Experiment with some fall flavors for butter + love
  • Sit in the park reading Nancy Drew (I'm working my way through the series - for nostalgia's sake.)
  • Sweet talk my Beau into making me one of his amazing Strawberry-Lemonade cocktails, and then sit on the porch in the evening and chat. We've both been so busy we haven't had much time to simply sit and talk and be. I crave those times.
  • Catch up on a few blog posts pour vous...
  • Work on a couple of side projects I've been meaning to get to. There's never enough time, is there?
  • Brunch at an outdoor cafe or garden with friends. What say you, friends? Are any of you in town this weekend and jonesing for some brunch?
That's a recipe for a great weekend! I shall keep you posted...