Monday, March 28, 2016

Lunedi di Pasqua (Easter Monday) - Torta Ricotta senza glutine



Torta Ricotta senza glutine by Crafting in Yoohooville

I often find myself reading Italian heritage recipes online and realizing that they probably do not hold true for my northern Italian family. Foods that are native to Sicily or Rome are not the same as what the Vittoriese would have eaten.

I also did not have the blessing of spending time with Nonni at Easter, so I don't know for sure if they had the same tradition of making Easter pie as Rome or Florence, but I can guess at what they would do.

Easter Monday is a strange holiday to Americans, but in my great-grandparents part of Italy it would have been celebrated with zeal (and still is!). Since they are so close to Austria and Hungary our area of Italy sometimes incorporates customs from there - like the dowsing of holy water in the morning to have your family wake up blessed on Easter Monday.

But amongst the more pleasant traditions of Easter Monday is the making of the Easter Pie, known as a torta ricotta. Here's another of those interesting cases where depending on where you are in Italy, the more changes to the torta occur. Some have lemon, some do not. Some have a top, some do not. Some have lattice work on top, some do not. Even the sweet nature of the torta is changed in Sicily to a savory pie.

Amalfi - limoni e peperoncini - "lemons and red dried pepppers"
Amalfitano Lemons
Lipari-Citrons (1)
Sicilian Lemons
 The blessing of living just an hour's train ride from Venice meant to Serravalle, the village my great grandparents were from, had the benefit of expanded trade in foods. So getting a hold of a true Sicilian lemon (less acidic than Meyer lemons, more floral tasting) was not as big of a deal as say, a village up in the mountains far from transit. Truly rich people could also get Amalfitanos, lemons from the Amalfi coast that are sweeter and less acidic than Meyer lemons, but my family was not among that bunch of wealthy residents in town. My family also had the benefit of stone pine trees producing pine nuts (if they didn't have a tree of their own, Serravalle could easily import them from Pisa), and would cure raisins each year with leftover grapes from the wine harvest. I actually do know from interviews with my great-aunt and my dad that Nonni used to make her own wine, so this is not a stretch to believe that she could also produce raisins.  A local mill produced flour of different types, a few chickens to have eggs, and a cow to produce milk and you've got pretty much all the ingredients you need to make a pie.

With having celiac disease, making a torta with the original ingredients is impossible, because of the flour. However, Italians have great respect for those who have to do a diet "senza glutine" (gluten-free), producing pastas and flours galore to serve the needs of the celiac population across the world. So I made this pie gluten-free and feel it honors my ancestors well on this blessed holiday. The crust turned out like a beautiful sugar cookie to the light and lemony ricotta, so I am very pleased with it.

Torta Ricotta e uvetta e pinoli senza glutine by Crafting in Yoohooville

Torta Ricotta e uvetta e pinoli senza glutine (Gluten Free Ricotta Pie with pine nuts and raisins)
-300 grams of King Arthur gluten free flour***
-250 grams of granulated sugar, split into 100 gram and 150 gram portions
-113 grams of softened unsalted butter (note: for Americans, this is 1 stick)
-300 grams of ricotta (If you get fresh, make sure to let it drain for at least 2 hours before using)
-1 lemon (note: a small lemon is ok as you're only going to be grating the peel)
-50 grams of raisins
-25 grams of pine nuts
-5 separated eggs (2 yolks in one container, 3 yolks in another container, and the whites in the last container)
-Cinnamon
-Powdered sugar/icing sugar (optional)
-Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions
-Put the flour, the 100 gram portion of sugar, the butter, and the 2 egg yolks into a bowl and mix. The dough will become a sturdy dough ball that's soft to the touch. If you find it a little too hard, add some cold water to it.
-Cover this bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
-While the dough is chilling, mix the ricotta with the 150 gram portion of sugar, the 3 yolk portion of eggs, and a dash of cinnamon. Add the raisins and pine nuts. You should also add the grated lemon peel here. I like lemon flavoring, so I added the grated peel of an entire lemon, but you can adjust to your taste preferences. A little will brighten the mixture, a lot will give lemon flavor.
-Beat your egg whites firmly to produce peaks. Depending on how well you beat them will produce the height of your pie.
-Add the egg whites to the ricotta mixture gently.
-Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C / Gas setting 6).

Here's where you can make another decision. My version pictured is the no top crust version.
-No Top Crust instructions: grease a pie dish with nonstick cooking spray and place on a cookie sheet. Place the dough ball in the middle of the dish and gently pat out out to the sides and upward until you have a nice ridge on the dough above the dish. Pour the mixture into the pie dish. Cook between 35-40 minutes or until the filling shows it is firm.
-Top crust instructions: divide the dough from the refrigerator into two parts. Grease a pie dish with non-stick cooking spray, and place one half of the dough at the bottom of the dish and pat out to the sides and upward until the just above the edge of the dish. Pour the mixture into the dish, and roll out the second ball of dough into a flat layer that can rest on top of your dish. Seal the edges with your preferred method (I like crimping) so that the filling won't leak out of your pie during cooking. Cook for 30-35 minutes until the dough is golden and the pie feels firm.

Last step, cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar or icing sugar if you wish. Makes a pie big enough for 8 good sized slices.

* = For those of you who aren't gluten free, you can use 300 grams of all purpose flour and increase the amount of butter to 150 grams.
**= For those of you that are gluten free, King Arthur's flour I find best for sweet goods as it is fine in nature and performs well as a drier pastry. For those of you that want to make your own flour blends, Gluten Free on a Shoestring has a mock Better Batter (and mock Cup4Cup flour) that would also work amazingly well in this recipe. If you are dairy free as well you can use her recipe as well for pastry flour and it should work just fine. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Genealogy Charting: Spreading like wildfire... (aka a genealogist's ode to Kaffe Fassett)




Facebook is full today of folks trying out J Paul Hawthorne's nifty new tool to map out where your ancestors were born (or died, or really whatever you want in common with them...).

I used the slightly different file from Mary Kircher Roddy to develop my image, and then I started to tweak it to use one color per state or country. (I have to admit, I like the way she identified all of the ancestors in short form so that you could tell where you are in the chart - otherwise I might have gotten lost!)

What comes out is a fun visualization of where your ancestors were from. Yes, I know my maternal grandmother's ancestors were all English, but it was fun to put a color behind them and identify them so clearly as such. 

Interestingly, it didn't immediately make me think that my ancestors had diverse background. What it actually made me think of was a color chart for knitting designs, specifically, of Kaffe Fassett. 


I would have never thought those colors worked together, and yet somehow, they do. Its the mosaic of me!

I can see them now, in mitered squares and abstract blocks, winding around a beautifully felted bag. My ancestors were a little rough around the edges, so felting makes a good way to represent them, sturdy and tough with a little wear and fuzz showing fragility. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Genealogy offline: A question of access, investment, and wayfinding

It comes to me very often that the problem of genealogy is that the instructions are all together too prescriptive. If this, do this. If that, do that. 

One of the most common tropes that I see in blogs is that "it's not all online", and then proceeds to talk about records that exist as if they are the same for everyone in every state and every country.

I think the biggest thing I learned in 2015 is that there really aren't standard records available everywhere for everyone from every time period. Sounds easy, right? I mean, NY is not the same as IL or MI. But I think genealogy can fool you into thinking this is the case, because so much of our training is about making lists. 

For example:
-Found an ancestor who lived 1800-1890.
1.got the US censuses for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880.
2. then research helpers suggest finding state censuses for the 5 year marks in between (1855, 1865, etc.). 
3. then they suggest looking for newspaper articles to fill in
4. then they suggest looking for vital records to fill in
5. then they suggest looking for land records to fill in
6. then they suggest looking for military records to fill in.
7. then you get into the land of offline records: schools, letters, books, etc. 

The problem with this prescriptive approach is that with the online records available, people are facing an onslaught of information all at once, and get paralyzed at a certain level. Many people stop somewhere in between steps 1-4 and never hit steps 5-7. If they do hit steps 5-7, they get flustered when they can't find what the list says they should be able to find.

The problem with offline records (and even blended offline/online where the database index is online and you have to order for offline delivery) is three parts:
1. Access - generally you have to have access to a physical address to get access to a particular record, or to search when the particular search you started with doesn't work for one reason or another (spelling-ARGH!).
2. Investment - you're going to spend more per record search, consultant hire,or copy fees in terms of dollars. In terms of time, its going to take a lot longer to search offline that it is with a fully indexed record on FamilySearch or Ancestry.
3. Wayfinding - you have to be able to find your way to the proper archive. Sometimes this is easy, if they have a website with clearly listed records that you can plan to find. Other times it takes a series of phone calls, emails, and visits to come to find out if your record is actually at that location OR has been taken elsewhere OR destroyed OR you're in completely the wrong spot entirely. 

Wayfinding is often the hardest part of the problem, because sometimes even the archivists don't know about record availability for a certain time period. I was recently at the NY State Archive, and came back home and found out that what they had told me was false information. Or when I was in Watertown, NY, the local librarian/genealogist/history buff told me information didn't exist any more - which was only partially true, part had been filmed eons ago by the LDS-FamilySearch folks. It wasn't because they didn't like me or didn't want to help me, it was just that they were specialists in their particular part of the archive and not other parts or other archives.

Generally speaking though, you have to know where to go, what you can spend, and how you can get to offline records, and then expect that there is massive variation in what is available. One county might have every state census back to the first immigrants. The one next door might only have a few decades worth. Having the flexibility in-brain to say that this variation is okay and being able to move onto the next part of the search (or hopping off the search path entirely) is a valuable skill that is only honed through practiced off-line research, so its no wonder that people are scared and wondering why they can't find something that they saw online for somewhere else. 

We have to stop prescribing to every genealogy problem a list of steps. We need to encourage people to cast a net, catch all the fish, sort the little fish from the big fish, sort the types of fish, and then figure out which ones to bring home for dinner, and then figure out where to cast the net again, to borrow a metaphor. The net can go many places - offline, online, to a consultant, to a volunteer - but it doesn't need to go in a certain order or the same places every time in order to catch some fish for dinner. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Reinvigorating the Case: Handknit Hose and Daniel Walker (1772-1851)

Hand Knit Hose by Donna Flood Kenton based off of 16th century hose design

Daniel Walker (1772-1851) is a stubborn case of mine. Genealogy-wise, he's one of my most interesting men. On the run from the revolutionists in the US? Check. Heartbreaking story of betrayal by friends and countrymen? Check.

Yet he continues to elude me by not providing any documentation that his son Joshua is the father of MY Daniel Walker (1825-1867). They were in the same area at the same time, named their kids many of the same names, but there's little to no paper trail of the familial relationship. So far investigations into land records and church records have failed, though I have one church left to cover: the Methodists.

I placed Daniel (1772-1851) into a pile of "things to do" and figured it would come back at some point. I have the same pile with my knitting ::grins:: often putting things off because of a commission or on-demand knit with deadlines causes leisurely pursuits to go awry.

Recently though, both "to do" piles have intersected yet again. I was contacted by another cousin who's willing to do the maddening work of discovering the paperless ancestor and go through what could be tangled identities of people with the same name in the same town. That also made me think about knitting socks, as Daniel Walker (1772-1851) was a proud Loyalist who would have worn stout handmade stockings that had been from the same pattern that was produced in England. It was queried of the Loyalist Association what socks could have been worn during the time period and I sent on the reference that Donna Flood Kenton's "Hand Knit Hose" would have been a period correct stocking pattern. Her website has gone away over the years, but through the blessing of the Internet Archive, we can continue to use her pattern to this day.

I have set about cleaning my craft room and found my pair of "socks in progress". I'm determined to make 2016 the year that we find my Daniel Walker and straighten out his family AND finish my pair of socks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nous sommes le globe, a free knit hairband pattern


Thanksgiving is one of the most interesting holidays because it does so much to bring people together. In light of the attacks in France and other parts of the world, it makes me happy when people take an opportunity to join one another around the table in celebration of the things that bring us together instead of driving each other apart.

Several of my knitting friends are releasing new work to in honor of the people's creativity and love in France and Belgium. With a French theme, these projects are fun and light in what could be a dark world.

When I think of France, I think of the time I spent there. Luxury. Chic. Fashion. So I used some yarns that to me are luxurious, with alpaca and mohair (nice mohair, not 80s mohair). A simple repeat creates graphic repetition with a nearly mindless pattern that one can complete in as little as one night.

And with a nod to my French speaking and knitting friends, this pattern is in English AND French (merci à mes amis pour l'édition de ma traduction!):


Please be sure to check out some of the other patterns (all will be up by the end of the day on 25/11/15):
Patriot Square Coast by American Crochet
Fierte by Stitches N Scraps
• French Flag Graph by Creative Threads

If you are looking for donation opportunities to help support France and victims of terrorism throughout the world, here are a few options:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
• Croix-Rouge Francais
• Secoirs Populaire
Doctors without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres

By the way, if you're wondering - "Nous sommes le globe" means "We are the world". One world, all standing together against radicalism.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Top 5 Genealogy Books

File:Great Books.jpg


I read Heather's update to her "Top Ten Genealogy Books" back in August and I realized that I've never talked about what books I like to use! I mean, I talk about the web all the time, but certain books of mine are dog-eared, falling apart from use, and highlighted all over the place as I've used them over and over and over again,..and mine are completely different from what she uses!

I actually held off on posting this, and I'm glad I did, because my #5 book is a recent addition to my library. While sometimes you get a new book and love it because its new, #5 has been holding steady as one of my favorite books of all time, and I'm really glad I found a copy of it!

1. Descendants of Andrew Webber by Lorenzo Webber. My most used book is probably the Webber family book. It's available online, but I have a nice copy I had made just for me to write corrections into and peruse off-line. You can see it here, conveniently marked for my ancestor! :-)

2. Wills and Other Probate Records: A Practical Guide to Researching Your Ancestor's Last Documents by Karen Grannum. It's a little older now, but I still use it to research different terms in wills, reminding me what probate is, how and where to find records. In tandem, Judy Russell's The Legal Genealogist I've made great strides in finding ancestral wills and probate records in the last couple years. (my husband says to note this is the SECOND copy I've bought because the first copy I wrote all over...)

3. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. I've got this one AND the 50th Anniversary version. I'm new to this in the past few years, and they can be a bit snoozeworthy on their own, but used in context of any genealogical problem I have, they are invaluable for helping me figure out where I've MISSED something in my quest to figure the problem out. Usually it is a missing citation or research log, but once I find it, I can keep going on the problem, and that makes this book worth its weight in gold to me.

4. The Evernote Bible - Guide to Everything Evernote, Including: Tips, Uses, and Evernote Essentials by Tyler and Brandon Collins. I am a huge note-taking fan. I have notebook after notebook of personal, professional, and genealogical notes. I've been scanning them into Evernote and organizing them into families and personal and professional notebooks. This book is great for helping me use a sometimes confusing program.

5. A Better Place: Death and Burial in Nineteenth-Century Ontario by Susan Smart. I know this sounds weird. It's not exactly genealogy, though the book does have a genealogy section. This book is a comfort to read, with the focus on the rituals and behaviors of the living around the dead. The first-hand accounts of ceremonies and rituals makes it a wonderful read, and the poetry and verse makes what could have been an extremely dull study of death rituals instead extremely enlightening and entertaining to read. I've enjoyed reading this book multiple times since acquiring it this year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tatiana's Pupkin Pie



My husband is an awesome chef. He's made all sorts of things to help our beagles eat. I actually thought I already posted this but it seems to have disappeared, so I'm posting it again! Little Tatiana is no longer with us but we celebrate her life every time we make this for another puppy :-)

This dish is based off of Alton Brown's Good Eats Pumpkin Pie . All techniques are exactly the same. The only differences are some ingredient substitutions , some left out ingredients and some different amounts.

Ingredients:
6 ounces kibble
2 teaspoon ground ginger
Enough canola oil to bring the crust together, about a tablespoon.
Filling:
1 13.5oz can of dog food.  (If you have one that your dog won't eat use that. It should about the texture of canned pumpkin. If yours is too thick add some moisture to thin it out,  like water or broth.  If the dog food you use is in chunks,  puree it.  If the result of that is thinner or wetter than canned pumpkin reduce it until it is the right consistency on the stove.)
3oz or so of canned pumpkin  (optional).
1 cup nut milk (almond milk is the most available,  but any will do).
2 tsp spice blend of allspice, Ceylon cinnamon, and cloves.
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup brown sugar, Demerara sugar, or molasses.
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

Instructions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust: Combine the kibble and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the kibble is fine crumbs. Drizzle the oil into the crumb mixture. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine.

Press the kibble mixture into the bottom, up the sides of a 9-inch glass pie dish. A metal measuring cup works great for this.  Place on a half sheet pan and bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool crust at least 10 minutes before filling.

For the filling: Bring the wet dog food (and pumpkin if using) to a simmer over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Add the nut milk, spice blend, and salt. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, and yolk until smooth in a large bowl. Slowly add the wet food mixture, to temper the eggs, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Keep whisking the whole time you are adding the warm wet food mixture to eggs to help winding up with scrambled eggs. Pour the filling into the warm pie crust and bake on the same half sheet pan until the center jiggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Pie can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Generally we slice this into at least eighths and serve one slice at a time as a "heavy snack". We then lighten up their regular food. If this is a full meal we serve two slices.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sniff and Savor Collar Accessory (a new crochet pattern)

Bear, photographed by Shawn Phillipps
Bear, photographed by Shawn Phillipps

Our latest senior foster pup, Bear is adorable. I mean, who doesn't love that cute little face! And the furry paws! I adore him. Sometimes he needs a little help calming down. I'm not usually one for the fancy, frou frou world of essential oils, but they have really helped our other senior foster encounter new situations like getting petted, going to Petco, and meeting other dogs. 

So following in the line of my most popular pattern in Norway (hello Norwegians!) I analyzed a common household shape (a tube) and made it apply to a collar accessory that my other dog already owns, a Sniff-It. 

This FREE pattern uses a bit of needle felting as well as crochet, so kids, be careful around those felting needles! 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Speedy Gonzales (marketing in the crochet/knitting world)



Quick Crochet Patterns: 1,590,000 results
Fast Crochet Patterns: 1,130,000 results
Fast Knitting Patterns: 1,220,000 results
Quick Knitting Patterns: 1,560,000 results
Arm Knitting Patterns: 664,000 results

Sigh. Why must people continue to devalue our crafts by selling their hard work as quick or fast? Is everything anyone is looking for fast or quick? Why do we continue to sell this work as such?

There are two things these patterns almost universally have in common:
1. They are in the bulkiest weight yarn possible.
2. They are simplest of the simple stitches. Garter stitch or stockinette in knitting. Single crochet or double crochet in crochet.

But the secret no one talks about is the fact that there are an incredible amount of stitches that are simple to learn and can be done by any person with experience in a short timeframe. Yes, there really are experienced people that can do a blanket in a weekend, but they don't go around saying "Look! I did this quick crochet project!". They say "Look at this great pattern! It was super fun to learn and I got into the rhythm of the stitches, and the yarn patterned out beautifully."

And how many of us have heard knitting or crocheting lamented because someone gave them a bulky, scratchy sweater that they hated?


What comes with experience is the understand of what amounts to the project management triangle. As the saying goes in our world, there are fast, good, or cheap, but you can only pick two. Fast project with cheap materials = low quality crap that ends up in a thrift store. Fast project with good quality = low quality crap that ends up in a thrift store. Cheap materials with good quality = Can sometimes be an excellent project if chosen with the right intent in mind and an understanding of the giftee (i.e. using a HL I Love This Yarn or Caron Simply Soft for a project for a baby outfit for a new mom, or using RH Soft for a pet project).

Which brings me back to the beginning video of Speedy Gonzales. For those of you whippersnappers who don't know who he is, Speedy Gonzales was a super fast mouse who was one of the characters on the Warner Brothers cartoons, starting around 1953, and broadcast well into the 1980s. Speedy was a nice friend to have around - he could save his fellow mice buddies from the evil cats. But at the same time, Speedy wouldn't speak in coherent Spanish, and he would try to take all the women from his buddies.

By focusing on speed at the expense of all else, Speedy lost out on the things that make life interesting. His women weren't wooed, they were taken. Instead of enjoying the scenery, he speeds by. The same thing happens when crafting. You can speedily do something, but then the connection and the interest in the project speed on by.

We need to think about how we market our work as crafters and designers to focus on quality, not quantity. Fun, interesting patterns that can be done without the use of the words fast or quick or super bulky that can still be completed in a weekend. Even Speedy reformed his ways - his last appearance was helping his nephew Lightning Rodriguez win an Olympic race on Tiny Toons.

Think about it folks. Instead of saying how quick something was, talk about how much fun it was that you couldn't put the pattern down all weekend. Instead of saying how fast something was, talk about how interesting the pattern developed over the course of your stitching. We can make the world a better place by reforming how we talk about our crafting works!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rules and the craft

Isn't this a great tattoo design by RageFish21 on DeviantArt? He has some awesome drawings over there. You should check him out when you get a chance.

I titled this post "Rules and the Craft" because it applies in so many situations. The craft could be genealogy, it could be writing, art, music, knitting or crochet, or your hobby of choice. Every St. Patrick's Day, I think about the Irish (not the least because my grandmother believed she was Irish) not because of drinking crappy beer and dressing in green, but because the Irish are a longstanding symbol of rebellion and spirit in the face of untenable circumstances. 

This year I have been thinking of rebellion more often because it seems like there are rules for everything. Rules for how to write (not grammar, but more like "do this" type things), rules for storytelling, rules for how to knit or crochet, rules for how to use Facebook to not become a depressed maniac, etc.  At a certain point, it seems like we live our life within a set of bars and its disturbing how many people just live with that. 


Listening to my favorite album of late by Sia, her song "Elastic Heart" expresses this feeling rather well. Two selves fight each other within her psyche, going in and out of the cage. 

This article and this article have be going around Facebook lately as well as oodles of "instructional" help for everything from how to do one's makeup to how to write a book. 

Everytime I see the posts about how to write a book, I think about how Ernest Hemingway would have reacted to someone telling HIM how to write. Or that he needs to focus on blog headlines. Did he need to follow a series of prompts to write his work? I don't think so.

That's why I write how I write. It's my decision how to write this blog. When I write patterns, I try to be clear and give as much information as possible. When I'm on my blog, when I'm telling a story, I speak in my voice and tell the most organized story that I can. Part of learning to write is to learn that our voice is okay even if we use too many dashes and commas and use the word AND too often. Worrying about all these "rules" leads to a horrible situation: the tyranny of the blank page, the empty needles, the hook without yarn. 

Do you know what my rules for writing are?
1. Start writing.
2. Do it often.
3. Don't tell other people "you're doing it wrong".

And the same thing applies in just about any other craft. There's some guidelines to live between (grammar, stitch names, spelling, paint types) but we should feel more free to do as we can. When you think about how many human beings that are in the world and the unique talents that each of them has, we can let these "rules" go and start enjoying our given talents rather than beating ourselves up about them. There are so many people I know who like to write but are paralyzed with fear because someone told them they should work on their sentence structure or word choice and all they can think about is the "rules" rather than what they want to tell.

To bring this back to the opening, St. Patrick is a great example. His legend is banishing the snakes from Ireland while on a fast. He wasn't thinking about how to kill them, he wasn't thinking about all the rules of snake management or who should be taking care of the problem. He saw a problem, he rebelled against it, and the Irish gave him love in return. That's what it comes down to: you will get a good response from someone somewhere, so you should give your craft of choice a shot! Be a rebel. Start doing something today!