Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Baker's Lemon Meringue Pie

Isaiah 55:12
You will go out in joy 
and be led forth in peace; 

the mountains and hills 
will burst into song before you, 

and all the trees of the field 
will clap their hands.

When I saw that the recipe for the month was lemon meringue pie I thought terrific, that will be easy. But I wasn't at it long before it didn't really seem that way. The problem was that I got ahead of myself. When I had the dough made and in the refrigerator I began the filling. Well I should have made the pie crust in the morning so that it was properly cooled by the time I wanted to put the filling into it. So in the end, when we had guests waiting for pie it hadn't yet chilled enough in the refrigerator and was a bit sloppy to get out. But we all enjoyed it anyway.

I used a very large Emile Henri pie plate that I bought at Carrefour just outside of Paris for about $12, which is an absolute steal. Getting it home was not easy, and I accidently chipped it a few months ago (which pained me, but oh well). It measures 10 inches on the bottom. Now I don't know what they measure when they say the size of a pie plate, but I think this pie plate could have held twice the filling and been okay. Communicating exactly is so difficult.

I actually had a near disaster with the meringue. The egg whites were most definitely at room temperature so they whipped up faster than expected and just as I was about to add the sugar a daughter walked into the room eager to tell me something. When I finally turned back to the mixer to add the sugar the whites were done. So I quickly added the sugar, but I didn't want to over mix. So the results of that was that the sugar was just a bit crunching to the taste in the meringue. We all noted this when eating the pie, but we didn't think it was such a bad thing.

We didn't have a full compliment of eaters because it was soooooo cold outside. I totally understood. So it was Riley and I and our most epicurean friends Ken and Marilyn. We all agreed that the pie was delicious, but it did not get the mmmmmmms that the bostini cream pie got. Partly because everyone preferred my usual pie crust, and partly for some other reason that we couldn't think of at the time. The next day a had just a taste of the pie to think about it and I realized that what made the pie unusual to the taste was the vanilla. Nothing wrong with it, but when added to a pie that you've eaten many times before with out vanilla it is a bit unusual and puzzling to the taste.

Recipe evaluation: It really was very tasty, and with correct timing - get the crust all made ahead of time - it wasn't that hard to make. I had been very wary of using 1/2 cup of cornflour, but it didn't cause any problem. I liked how the crust handled in rolling it out, but I would maybe add just a tad more salt. It was just a little lacking in flavor. When we ate the pie before it was completely chilled the filling was a bit more pudding like than desired and their was a little bit of runniness of the pie. But when it was good and chilled the next day these problems were gone.   I don't think I would ever add the vanilla again.   I cooked the pie at 325 degrees because I really thought 375 was too hot.  It just wasn't my thing to chance burning the pie after all my efforts.  My pie plate seemed a bit large, so I would just try another one or increase the filling.  I didn't use all of the pie crust. In my opinion that was enough for a two crust 9 inch pie.   I used maybe 3/5 of the dough and made a small tart shell with the rest of the dough. I didn't make the little tartlets and I would like to in the future. They sounded so cute.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust: use only 3/5 if you don't want a heavy crust

• 3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
• 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour (6 ounces)
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar (3 Tbl)
• 1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt (same)
• 1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water (3.5 tbl)

For the Filling:

◦ 2 cups (475 mL) water
◦ 1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
◦ 1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
◦ 5 egg yolks, beaten
◦ 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
◦ 3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
◦ 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
◦ 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

◆ 5 egg whites, room temperature
◆ 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
◆ 1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
◆ 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
◆ 3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:

1. Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan.
2. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.
3. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.
4. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick.
5. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated.
7. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined.
8. Pour into the prepared crust.
9. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:

Preheat the oven to 325ºF . Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rabbie Burns' Birthday, just a day late

Mark 9:35 
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 
"If anyone wants to be first, 
he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

"Burns Night is celebrated on 25 January with Burns suppers around the world. The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace. Just post the grace comes the piping and cutting of the Haggis, where Robert's famous Address To a Haggis is read, and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the "immortal memory", an overview of Robert's life and work is given; the event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne."

I was so tired on Robbie Burns' birthday that I just couldn't have the event on the correct day. Now I usually like to have an event on the correct day, but I am not a fanatic about such things. We had just as much fun on the next day. It was quite up in the air for a while as to who was coming to dinner. It turned out that Sarah and Zac couldn't come because Zac was rather sick. But in the end we had 14 of us for dinner: Riley and I, Ken and Marilyn, Annie and Corey and Tia, Heidi and Christopher, Christian and Emily, and Jessie and Carissa and Lauren. That made 9 adults and 5 children.

Burns Night Supper


cock-a-leekie soup (chicken, leeks (greens and all), potatoes, carrots, broth, seasonings)
Yorkshire pudding (made in little muffin pans)

haggis (I buy it at the Scottish Shoppe)
bashed neeps (mashed parsnips with butter and brown sugar)
champit tatties (tashed potatoes)
pot roast (cooked with a package of onion soup mix, 325 for 2 1/2 hrs)
pot roast gravy (just add water and flour to the remaining liquid)
green peas (frozen, cooked in the microwave)

Atholl Brose Syllabub (1 cup heavy cream whipped with 1/4+ cup Atholl Borse and 2 Tbls sugar)
carmelized oats to sprinkle onto the syllabub (toast oats in hot pan with brown sugar and butter until nice and toasty)
Vanilla Pound Cake with whipped cream
Vanilla Pound Cake with dried cherries and Atholl Brose syrup
Atholl Brose

Ken and Marilyn showed up at about five and Marilyn began to help. Then came Annie and Tia to help. Followed by the Brady bunch - Heidi, Christopher, Christian, Emily, Jessie, Carissa, and Lauren. And finally, just before time for dinner Corey came home from work. Carrisa and Lauren were a bit distressed that they did not have any plaid on and asked if I could find something for them. Which I did. I gave Carrisa a lovely 1950s outfit that had been Sarah's - pleated gingham skirt, white peter pan collar uniform blouse and a green cardigan. And for Lauren I found a pink and black plaid shirt that I had made for Corey when she was seven.

With everyone there, and the table set i just needed to get the Yorkshire puddings made. They don't taste nearly as good when they are cold. I must confess that I used a mix that I got on sale at Williams/Sonoma. We dished up the cock-a-leekie soup in the kitchen and placed the soup plates on the dinner plates.  You can see that the Christmas tree is still up.  We never take it down before Rabbie Burns Dinner, its such a festive thing.  We've been known to still have it up by Valentines day.  But I can assure you that if it looks like it could catch on fire we take it down.  The fake tree in the living room is still up, as are the stockings, which still have stuff in them.  The kids like to know they still have their own personal treats hanging about when they come over.

With everyone gathered Riley recited the Selkirk Grace and then he restated it so that the children could understand, and then the dinner began. The cock-a-leekie soup was a big hit as usual Annie had done an excellent job compiling it.

Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat, 
And some wad eat that want it; 
But we hae meat, and we can eat, 
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The soup was cleared away and I went to the kitchen to get the main course ready. I asked who would like to be 'Pussy Nancy' and Carrisa was very quick to raise her hand. She was the perfect choice, being the oldest female child at dinner. She was instructed to march slowly around the table 1 1/2 times when the bagpipe music started playing, and then to place the haggis in front of Riley (Papa to her).

With the haggis on the table Corey came round to the haggis and delivered the Address to the Haggis. She did an absolutely fantastic job of it. REALLY! It is an amazing talent that she has. The haggis was well liked by all who ate it. And the pot roast gravy went well on everything. We usually have barbecued Chateaubriand with the haggis, but it was entirely tooooo cold to be thinking about barbecuing. Riley would have frozen. Being a Scot I liked the pot roast because it was $1.99 per pound, up against $9.99 per pound for the Chateaubriand that day.

Address To A Haggis
by Robert Burns

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, 
they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent lyke drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
"Bethankit!" 'hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

The Translation

Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm

The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill
Your skewer would help to repair a mill
In time of need
While through your pores the juices emerge
Like amber beads

His knife having seen hard labour wipes
And cuts you up with great skill
Digging into your gushing insides bright
Like any ditch
And then oh what a glorious sight
Warm steaming, rich 

Then spoon for spoon 
They stretch and strive
Devil take the last man, on they drive
Until all their well swollen bellies
Are bent like drums
Then, the old gent most likely to rift (burp)
Be thanked, mumbles

Is there that over his French Ragout
Or olio that would sicken a pig
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust
Looks down with a sneering scornful opinion
On such a dinner

Poor devil, see him over his trash
As week as a withered rush (reed)
His spindle-shank a good whiplash
His clenched fist.the size of a nut.
Through a bloody flood and battle field to dash
Oh how unfit

But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He'll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles

You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis! 

After a very leisurely dinner, we cleared things off a bit and I went into the kitchen to get dessert ready. Christopher volunteered to do the oats for me, and I must say he did an excellent job. Carrisa got the cakes on plates and I doused the one with whiskey and cherries with a syrup of Atholl Brose water and sugar which I heated in the microwave. For the whipped cream, I whipped up the pint, removed half, and then whipped in 1/4 cup Atholl Brose. Upon seeing that the whipped cream did an excellent job of accepting the liquor I added some more. It always amazes me how much alcohol you can get into whipped cream. When the desserts were on the table riley poured Atholl Brose for those who wanted some. Actually, some people who didn't want it immediately asked for some upon taking a small sip, When set Riley gave a toast to the lassies. Carrisa said that that made her feel very special. We then commenced to do a very good job of eating a lot of the desserts. The children devoured their cake and cream. And of course more Atholl Brose was poured for those who wanted more. When all was finished, at around 10 o'clock, Heidi said that she hadn't felt that relaxed in a very long time. This was nice to hear.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knitting Baby Clothes

Luke 2:12 "This will be a sign for you: 
you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Now around my house there are two kinds of babies. The first and most important baby is dear sweet Emily. She's my baby. Of course my daughter Heidi will tell you that she's her baby, but since I have her for over 40 hours a week, she's my baby when I have her. The second kind of baby is all of my dolls, and Emily considers them to be her babies. I can't say how many of them there are, but I suspect that the number is close to 75. That is practically an embarrassing number of dolls. But I shall try and make no excuses for myself.

When I was a baby rumor has it that I received 25 dolls for my first birthday. There is a very reasonable explanation for this. The year was 1947 and we lived in Beppu Japan. My father was an officer in the United States Army which was occupying Japan at that time. It was a complete mistake that I had been issued a visa since they did not allow American babies into Japan at that time. So I was the only American baby in Beppu, and therefore my first birthday was a big deal. But when we left Japan all the dolls were left behind. I did not receive another doll until Christmas of 1953, at which time I received two dolls. I still have those dolls. One is Toni and the other is Sweet Sue. That was definitely my best Christmas to date. My father had been killed in Korea in 1950, but by Christmas of 1953 my mother was engaged to be married. I received Toni (14" tall) from my mom and Sweet Sue from my soon to be dad. It is amazing that I still have these dolls, because my parents gave almost all my other stuff that I left at home when I went to college to St. Vincent de Paul's.

I guess that it was getting dolls for my four daughters that started me on collecting dolls. Well no, that's not the case. But anyway, in about 1987 they all got Pleasant Company dolls and later I received one for Christmas. Also, the girls had stopped playing with their Barbies and I rescued the Barbies. I now have 5 or 6 Pleasant Company dolls, some were presents from my husband and some were found at Goodwill. I have the girls Barbies and Mandy and Jenny and Cindy. The ones that are uniquely mine are my four Les Cheries dolls from France, and my 6 Betsy McCall dolls, and my four 15 inch fashion dolls, and my 11 inch Toni fashion doll and my 21 inch Ruth Anne doll. That's enough, don't you think. Oh, I forgot to mention my Hopscotch Hill doll, Haley. Well okay, I didn't name all the dolls.

Emily is obsessed with "babies", which is her name for any kind of doll or small person. Everyday when she wakes up from her nap she says "babies" and slips down off the couch in search of a baby. When we go to the store and she spots anything that qualifies as a "baby" she yells out "Babies!" At Goodwill she doesn't settle down until I have taken her to the toy aisle and let her examine all the interesting babies. She is somewhat picky about what is a worthwhile baby. She knows a crummy baby when she sees it. If she doesn't like a baby she semi-discretely lets the doll drop to the floor. She likes dolls that can stand up and sit down. This puts Betsy McCall at the top of her list of favorites. But she also likes very small dolls, and baby dolls, and any doll that I won't let her have. For Christmas I gave her a Bitty Baby with a nightgown and slippers.

But now for what I started to talk about, knitting clothes for babies. I've started, but not yet finished any number of items for Emily. One is always faced with the fact that they grow faster than you can knit. You have to decide how long will it really take you to knit the item, and how bit will the baby be when you get it finished. The item that Emily wears often that I actually made was not actually made for her. The child it was intended for is now 11 years old and lives in Germany. That would be Lisa Miller. I actually had the sweater made in a timely fashion, but I had misjudged the size. So as you can see it is an all together difficult task knitting clothes for babies.  This sweater, by the way, is in Rowan Magazine #24.

My first truly successful item knit exclusively for Emily was a pair of teeny tiny angora hand-warmers. She often had very cold little paws and I had just a tiny bit of angora. I think the little mitts took all the yarn I had. I had previously made a pair of wrist-warmers for Heidi, Emily's mom, so that's where the left-over yarn came from. But I think at this time there is only one little hand-warmer. I keep it around hoping that the other one will turn up. These are not mittens but long wrist-warmers. I left the ends open, which I think works very well for a little baby. And making them from angora, even though the stuff is expensive, was excellent because she never tried to take them off. Who would want to remove angora except someone who's allergic to it.?

Another approach to making baby knits is to finish one that you have started long ago and finally realized that you aren't going to get it finished in time. I finished off two such sweaters for Emily. The problem is that infant sweaters have such a very tiny window of time in which they can be worn. My advice is that you either make sure that the project is finished before the baby is born or just forget about it and make a sweater for a two year old. I will admit that it is fun to knit such tiny little sweaters. A word of warning - it can be hard to figure out what you were doing on an unfinished sweater. You might very well have to improvise and hope for the best.

Now baby hats is another type of items people like to think about knitting. Personally I wouldn't bother. For the most part babies don't like hats on their heads, especially knit hats. The one kind of hat that I have found to work perfectly is the knit hats from Hannah Anderson.
Emily has never fussed about wearing them, and as a matter of fact she now expects me to put it one her. When we are getting ready to go "bye-bye" she will go up to the coat and hat wrack in the front hall and say "baby hat!"

But now to change the subject again. Emily loves babies. Anything that looks like a small human being is a baby to Emily. And she loves hats on babies. At Christmas when I put nisser hats on many of the dolls in the living room she got soooo excited. She loves to take off the hats and then trying to put the hats back on again. She is also very fond of trying to get clothes onto dolls. So this got me knitting hats and sweaters for her dolls once more. One thing about making hats for dolls is that you can experiment and then if it doesn't look good you aren't out much. And if it does look good then your good idea worked.

So last week I made three hats and I'm working on a doll sweater to match Emily's nice pink sweater. And at the same time I am working on making a second sweater like the pink one. It's a bit of a struggle because the first sweater was at a tension of 5 1/2 sts per inch, and the new one is only 5 sts per inch.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Some Hopes for this New Year

1 Timothy 4:9-10 "This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe."

"Well begun is half done." Mary Poppins

1. Get the tub installed in the second floor bathroom.

I really hope that we will finally get the bathtub on the second floor installed. The uninstalled tub has been sitting in the bathroom for more years than I can remember. It's a lovely 5 foot claw foot tub that we had refinished after pulling it from a very old house. We spotted it in the paper and went for it. It was owned by a well dressed man in his fifties. He helped Riley get it out of the house and it was practically the end of both of them. They both looked really done in by the time they got it into the back of our Voyager. Late that evening Riley thought he was having a heart attack. I thought he was probably suffering from the strain of moving that tub, but no way was I going to suggest he just wait and see, so I called 911. In practically no time 8 firemen and paramedics came jogging up to the third floor of our house to collect Riley. It was quite a sight. They took him off and a while later, after I got our oldest daughter up so she could watch the other children, I went to the hospital to see what was up. The doctors had determined that Riley had greatly strained his arms while moving that tub, but otherwise he was fine. He stayed there for a while longer, probably to rest up a bit, and then I brought him home. I never let him do much moving of that tub again. As it turns out he has a very healthy heart. And now, many years later, I am so looking forward to being able to relax in my own bathtub.

2. straighten up the third floor, which is our bedroom

Now we have already gotten started on this project, but it really is a rather large task.  It could actually be looked at in sections.  For example, about 11 years ago I was on the second floor, heading towards the third, when I noticed a big spot of pink on the ceiling.  That immediately suggested to me that the shower on the third floor was leaking.  First thing we did was to stop using that shower.  After that we never saw any growth in the pink spot.  Later Riley tore out the shower and sure enough the water was leaking through the improperly installed tiles on the wall of the shower.  Interestingly, this shower was installed by the previous owner of our house, who is a vice president of the largest remodel company in town.  I'm getting tired of having a half bath with a gutted shower to look at. It is really ugly. I would like a refined elegant look to this tiny bathroom. Not easy I'm sure. The room has only 2 1/2 walls at this time. We had a contractor in once to give us an estimate for fixing it up and he gave us a bid of $25,000! This is a space hardly over 6' by 6'. But even though it's a small space we've got lots of ideas. But for starters I don't want to look at a gutted shower any more.

Well enough about dreaming. First thing I need to do is get the third floor all cleaned up. It's actually a bedroom/attic, and it needs to look more like a bedroom and less like an attic!

3. Make sure that I will still be a daring baker by the end of the year

I love being a daring baker, though I feel rather like a dwarf in a group of giants. But I shall try and not dwell on that idea. At this time I feel that I can at least tackle anything they send my way. But we'll see. So far I have made Bostini Cream Pie, which Annie thinks is the most fabulous dessert she's ever tasted and she wants me to make it for her birthday, and potato bread, which was very nice though very wet dough, and a buche de Noel, which felt like quite the accomplishment. I can't tell you what this months project is, but I will say that it should be a cinch and very well received by my family, especially my husband.

If you miss two challenges in a row then you can't be a daring baker any more. So for starters I don't intend to miss any challenge. You get a whole month to do it, so if I don't leave it to the end, as I can be want to do, then I should be okay.

4. See that there is a door on the pump house.

Now the big problem here is that I can only prod Riley and give him ideas. I have absolutely no carpentry skills. But I am anxious for there to be a door there because it will look so much nicer than looking in at the pump. I want the door to be simple slats or boards connected however is convenient, and then I want it painted blue. It would be best if it were to be somewhat rustic. And even though the pictures I have placed here have rounded tops, that is not necessary.

5. Be a more encouraging person

This is especially important with my family. I did not receive much encouragement growing up. The best my mother could do was to tell me that she thought I could do anything I wanted to do. Now that sounds encouraging, but it's actually very limiting. I don't think I was hardly ever praised, unless it was for doing some activity that my mother didn't want to do. Like telling me what a good job I did waxing the furniture, or how well I made spaghetti. As a child I knew the reason behind the praise, so I discounted it. I would have much rather been praised for getting 100% on my 3 hour math exam, or on how well the Vogue designer dress I made looked.

But enough about my lack of encouragement. How can I be more encouraging to my family?

• to give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)
• give support and advice to (someone) so that they will do or continue to do something
• help or stimulate (an activity, state, or view) to develop

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.” Anatole France

6. I would like to improve my self confidence

Part of my problem is my age. In this very youth oriented culture you start to gradually feel increasing like a lesser person with each added year. But then looking at self-confidence from a different angle, I think it has a lot to do with your own personal attitude about yourself. In 2001 I spent the summer in Paris with my youngest daughter. We were studying French at the Sorbonne and living in a lovely apartment in one of the dorms of Cite Internationale. But I was really struggling with feeling okay about myself because everyone around me was much younger. I felt like a dowdy Mom. But at some point I noticed that although not all French women are beautiful or even pretty most of them still seem to have a strong visible self-confidence. I decided that it was all about attitude. So I began to walk around like I felt good about myself. I can't say that this worked all of the time, but it did work quite well a lot of the time. I must add that another thing that really helped how I felt about myself was how good I felt because I had to walk about 4 to 5 miles a day, and do it quickly. I felt much healthier than I had felt in a long time. So for starters I think I need to stand up straight and walk a lot.

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. 
The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." 
Winston Churchill