Friday, January 24, 2014

Project Week

Every year, our "at school" children have two weeks of Christmas vacation followed by Project Week, time spent working at home.  The high schoolers write research papers, 7th graders report on an endangered animal, and 8th graders like Marianna construct a medieval town, castle, or cathedral.  

The students are supposed to spend at least thirty hours on their projects, and our 8th graders always do!  Usually the last few hours are late, late, late the night before returning to school.  Marianna worked hard and Len assisted with management coaching, so the final Sunday was not too painful this year (our family's fifth medieval project).

Here is Marianna's town:
 Some materials decisions:  plaster walls, paint mixed with sawdust for grass, dried grass for thatch, and glycerin soap to fill the well.
After searching the archives, I found Joe's castle from January 2012:
 And Daniel's from January 2009:

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find photos of David and Lauren's castles.  I'm sure they are disappointed!   ;-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Secret Family Recipe

My sister invited a new family to our Saranac Lake week this year, and they fit right in--a great match!  When J mentioned a special family recipe for an upside down apple pie, I begged her for it.  I'm not sure I'm at liberty to reveal the details, but here are some hints:
 Butter and brown sugar in a deep dish pie pan
 Pecans--this was supposed to look like a spiral.
 Place a regular, two-crust apple pie on top.  Bake. 
 Turn it out.  Patch if necessary.
 Even tastier with ice cream and salted butter caramel sauce . . .
 There was so much spill over (butter, sugar, apple juice?) that I had to pull out the foil and use a 2nd piece.
Baking side note:  I favor the flakiness and decreased fragility of a shortening crust, but so many friends recommend the flavor of a butter crust that I've been trying a combination of both fats lately.  I wasn't too impressed with the results until today when I tested a technique from Crazy About Pies.  I softened shortening and unsalted butter, mixed them into a mostly homogeneous mass, then chilled the resulting glob.  It made a great crust, not as flat and tough as the all-butter versions I've made.  I'll be using this technique again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yes, My Boys are Crazy!

 One ran to the mailbox, one took the dog out . . .