Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie (Gluten Free)

Not many of the English have ever tried a proper, American-style pumpkin pie. Just like with my Apple Butter, it takes some getting your head around it. I know that I've got a couple of friends that should try it again, because they had it straight out of the oven, which isn't as nice as after it's cooled down.

Growing up, pumpkin pie was only served on Thanksgiving, and it was either shop-bought, or the pumpkin came out of the tin. Having my own place, I now grow a few pumpkins in my back garden. If I need bigger ones for carving, once I clean the gross stuff out, I scrape the flesh so it's quite thin (it makes it easier for carving, especially when you use stencils), and save it. I tend to put it in 2 to 2 1/2 cup amounts into a zipper bag, and just toss it into the freezer until I want it.

And, I don't just make pumpkin pie in the autumn. Since I'm no longer in the States, I haven't celebrated Thanksgiving since I last visited my family in 2003. I make it whenever I fancy it. We always have it for Yule and Christmas, in my house, and the Imp's Grumpy gets a pumpkin pie for his birthday in June.  I miss having "Cool Whip" on top, but I get by with squirty cream.

The recipe that I use is from Michelle Jones, of . I use my own gluten free basic pastry recipe, but I'm needing to experiment with how to get it to not glue itself to my metal pie plate in the baking process...I'm thinking either greasing the pan, rolling the pastry instead of pressing it in like I normally do (since I'm getting better at rolling it out without it disintegrating), and/or layering baking paper underneath.

But, here's the recipe that Ms. Jones posted, along with the alterations that I make:

1 unbaked pie crust (deep dish, if you are getting store bought) 
2 c. fresh pumpkin purée (or canned pumpkin) (I steam my pumpkin flesh before puréeing it, but you can also roast it)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I use the Carnation condensed Milk, and one tin will do, whether it be the normal or Light)
2 large eggs (in the lifetime that my quails start laying, I'm waiting to try using their will take approximately 10)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (I have a thing for cinnamon, so I do the 'this looks about right' method, and use quite a bit)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
(If you like the spicier pies, add 1/2 tsp. cloves, I do not use them.)(I do put the cloves in, it's Ms. Jones that doesn't)

Combine filling ingredients with mixer and pour into pastry shell.  Place a folded piece of foil around the crust to prevent over-baking.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees (220C/Gas Mark 7) then reduce heat to 350 degrees (180C/Gas Mark 4) and continue to bake for 35-40 minutes longer (or until knife inserted 1-inch from the edge comes out clean and not gooey).  
Remove pie from oven and cool on wire rack for about an hour or so.  Serve pie slices with a dollop of whipped cream.  Refrigerate leftovers; if there are any!

For the future, I do cross a lot between American and English recipes. If I forget to write out what I've converted (such as the original of this recipe only had the temperatures in Fahrenheit), my favourite site for conversions is this one:

Monday, 26 September 2011

Joy Pockets (260911)

Yet another busy one for us, but we've had some lovely times in between the exhausting ones.

  • Finding out that I will be able to do the higher GCSE in Maths as a blended, independent learning class alongside the foundation class that is part of my Access course. I'm extremely happy with this, as it will give me one of my first English educational certificates.
  • The Saturday morning kiddy show at the cinema. According to the Imp, we were watching 'blue quails', and she really liked them (we went to see "Rio", which is about a blue macaw). We followed it with a bit of retail therapy and lunch, and with all the rush around me being in college and her in nursery, it was nice spending time outside of being home.
  • I now have all of the bits that I need for our planned homemade Yule and Christmas gifts.
  • Being told by the Imp that biscuits make her tummy feel all better. She was a bit poorly yesterday, and didn't eat more than a slice of toast and a couple of prawn crackers. I figured that she actually was feeling better this morning, but she was afraid to eat, so her stomach didn't appreciate it. I phoned a friend to bring her some digestive biscuits, and she's now back to being all smiles and chattering away. We don't have them in the house, because I can't have them, but they seem to be doing a better job than my poor attempt at making her toast yesterday (we don't own a toaster, because we don't need one).
So, what are your Joy Pockets for the week?

joy pockets

Happy Autumn!

Well, I had started a post on Ancestry and Pathways, but I wasn't happy with the direction that it was taking, so it's now been deleted. I am honestly trying to get back into the swing of my regular posting regime, but the thoughts aren't flowing without sounding pompous, confused, and/or ignorant. Oh, well...we all have days like these.

The equinox has recently come and gone, and I completely missed that specific day out of busyness and complete exhaustion. Oops. Well, not really.  Outside of the Samhein, I find it quite difficult to pinpoint a specific day for my personal celebrations. Yule gets rather close, but it gets celebrated on the best day that I can get all of my friends organised and here on the same day, sort of close to when everybody else actually observes it. I'm pretty sure, though, that if I were regularly observing with a group, we might get close to some of the other Sabbats I have seen other Pagans and Heathens that get into an absolute flit over trying to make sure that they can observe a Sabbat on a very specific day.

One thing that we have to remember is that our ancestral tribes didn't have paper or electronic calendars to worship, oops, I mean Observe, such as we do. They'd have a few people that kept track of the moon and the stars. And the weather...we can't forget the weather. You couldn't throw that first or second harvest festival until those harvest actually started to come in, and that depended on what the weather was doing. You'd count your own age by how many moons or seasons had passed. The Chinese have named their years by a rotation of twelve animals. The Celts calculated by thirteen lunar months named after trees that were common during those months (I will be researching both of these calendars, soon, for future posts).

I regularly get teased by Witchy Kitty because of the obvious lack of clocks in my house. There is one in the kitchen, that came with the house. The only calendar in the house was bought by somebody else, and regularly doesn't get changed until we're one or two, sometimes three, weeks into a month. I don't wear a watch, but I do set multiple alarms on my mobile, and I'm making a conscious attempt to add specific dates to my Google Calendar, which will send an alarm (or three, depending on how many I've set) to my mobile. I'm early for most things, or I'll have a panic attack. But, for the most part, I run on what's jokingly referred to as 'Pagan Standard Time'. If I don't have to be there at a specific time, I will get there when I do. It's been a few hours into daylight...I'm starting to get hungry, so maybe I'll go eat something. It's a couple of hours past sunset...I'm kind of tired, it's probably time for bed.

Today feels like a good day to do my seasonal clean-up of the house, and I feel the desire to do some baking tomorrow. So, I may seem a bit late to some of you, but because the day is just right for me, Happy Autumn Solstice!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Joy Pockets (190911)

Well, most of the past week was a fair bit of disaster for me, but I can always find stuff that lighten it a little bit.

  • The Imp going swimming with Witchy Kitty for the first time today, and the joy and excitement of the both of them when I joined them afterwards on the bus. The Imp had never seen anything bigger than a bathtub or her paddling pool, and I guess she acted like she's been there forever. She even told Mr. Kitty to 'go away, I can do it myself' more than once. I'm so proud of her.
  • Seeing my kitties and Witchy Kitty's kitties a lot happier and better on a new food. And having one of her kitties that I've never seen more than a tail in the almost two years that they've had her decide that she wanted fuss off of me, she wanted it there and then, and she was going to be nose-to-nose standing on my chest to get it.
  • Having a fantastic GP that understands that he won't see me unless I have a serious issue, so actually listens to me. He gets a bit miffed with me because I'm quite prone to letting things build up and walking in with a list of problems (bad habits from living in the States, and trying to get my head around that I can just go in on the NHS and it won't cost me a couple of legs and an arm), but I did only go in with one this time.
  • Listening to the quails 'chat' in their excitement of getting bits of sunflower heads. The four girls have lovely little chirps that sound like an evening chorus of crickets.
Fingers crossed for a much improved week this week. I hope you're all doing well.

joy pockets

Friday, 16 September 2011

I haven't forgotten...

I do promise, I haven't forgotten about my blog. This was my first proper full week in college, and I'm trying to get back into a routine that hasn't existed for months. Instead of getting up at 9am, as I normally would, we're having to get up at 6am. It's a bit of a shock to the system when you're not a natural morning person in the first place. I used to always function at my best when I could stay up until 4am, and sleep until noon, but that doesn't work when you have a child.

I guess a bit of an update. The Imp and I are back to being a team again now that we're having some time apart. The three days that I'm in college, she spends in nursery. When I first came across realising that it takes somebody else taking care of her for a brief time for us to remain stable without all of the screaming and drama, it felt like I was a let down for a mum. We've been inseparable since she was born. But after she turned three, we started getting more and more frustrated with each other. I never have wanted to be a shouty mum, yet I didn't want to be a soft touch, either.

My intentions when she was born was to do all attachment parenting to the fullest extent, and to carry it further. I was going to strictly breastfeed until she self weaned....we succeeded with that one, and she breastfed until 19 months. I wanted to do baby-led weaning...we succeeded with that one, too. She nabbed a roast carrot off a plate at about 6 months old and carried on from there. I'm now getting lovely comments from her nursery that she is an amazing eater, and not the least bit picky (except with cucumbers).

I was going to babywear. Again, we succeeded in that, and she was in a sling until just before she turned three. We did briefly own a stroller in May, but that was because we couldn't expect her to walk all over London for three days, and my back and hips can't handle the extra weight any more. Freecycle is a good thing...we were gifted a lovely little stroller, and as soon as we were finished with it, we gifted it on to another family. (to find your own local Freecycle network, go to )

I was going to do home schooling. This is where we have tripped up. When things went wrong when she was 10 months old, I had to go onto government benefits. Home school curriculums are quite expensive, on top of I would have to be looking for work when she turns 7. To be completely honest, we can't afford for me to continue to be on benefits. We currently survive by me keeping very strictly budgeted. If we want something, I have to be able to work it in or we don't get it. Another issue is socialisation. I struggled to even take her to mother and toddler groups. I think it's such an artificial environment, and so political. Yes, I said political. I have a couple of really awesome friends that I met through those various groups that we used to attend, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The rule is referred to, if you've not heard of it before, the Baby Olympics. Everybody is constantly judging you and your child. And when you're going to a general public mother and toddler group with any sort of alternative opinion, well, you will be judged to be beneath them. Let's see...Pagan, attachment parenting (which goes against the mass marketed books that they all have to use as gospel), not from the area (obvious by my harsher accent), etc. You get the picture. So, if I can't cope with a group like that, how am I going to be able to put us forward to the inclusive home school groups of the city?

On top of all of that, it is just now the Imp and I. Sometimes, we can go a fortnight without any adult contact outside of popping to the shop, which doesn't count. As she's started coming into self-realisation, we started clashing more and more. I was becoming Shouty and Really Angry Mum, because we're both as stubborn as each other. And in the lifetime that I get a job, what would happen then?

When she turned three, I came to the realisation that we needed some time apart. I don't mean shipping her off. I mean just a few hours a day that we can do our own thing. It probably sounds like I'm talking about a teenager, but one big thing for me is to acknowledge that even a three year old has a mind of their own. They are humans within their own right, with opinions, feelings, thoughts, and views. We work really well together when we're both respecting each other. If I'm just shouting, I'm not listening, and it works the same in the other direction. I did a lot of research, and found a nursery that was a perfect fit for both of us. They are very child-led, without talking down to her, and encourage a lot of independence. The Imp adores it. Last week was the first three days that she's spent the whole day there. She comes home extremely tired, but laughing and giggling. She adores her teacher, and she has a circle of friends.

Given this, and starting to research primary schools, I no longer feel the guilt of not being able to home school.  I think that the Imp is so much happier with this decision. That's what the point actually is...she is happy. I am happy, as well. I now have the opportunity to take a course to prepare me for university properly...I went to university straight after High School, but I don't think that I was properly prepared, and I bombed out. I'm now 35. I have finally decided what I want to do, and a career that I actually want to do, for me. It wasn't an opportunity that I've had in the past. In the future, it will give both of us a lot better quality of life, and more opportunities.

I apologise for being so slim on the ground for posts, and it might take me another week or two to get back into a routine, but I am still here :)


Monday, 12 September 2011

Joy Pockets 120911

I apologise that it's been a fortnight since I've done my Joy Pockets, but it has been so super busy with getting back to college, and last Monday was a particularly rough day for us. But, here we go. I hope to be back to my normal posting self within the next week or two, once I'm into a better routine.

  • The hints of autumn arriving. The leaves just starting to change, the arrival of blustery winds, and the chance that the weather isn't likely to go over-warm again for a while.
  • Tied in to the weather, the excuse to make beef stew today...nom. I'll post the recipe later this week.
  • The Imp being so excited to be able to return to nursery. It's three, super-long days for her, but she adapted straight away.
  • Succeeding in sorting out my budget spreadsheets up to June. Ok, this probably sounds really sad, but I actually enjoy doing it because I'm really proud of my spreadsheets.
  • Starting back at college, and the excitement of getting into a routine, and having work that makes me think. Oh, you will probably see me posting about my frustration on papers and assignments, but I honestly do enjoy it.

joy pockets

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Restart

I'm not going to bother posting a photo today, but I've actually managed to get a couple of hours of stitching this week! It's been a busy week, still, with getting ready to start college (Induction was today), and the Imp...well, the Threenager has seriously struck over the past week and a half (part of the reason that there was no Joy Pockets post this week...on top of me being absolutely wiped out lately).

Tomorrow, my classes aren't going ahead, but the Imp still has a place at nursery. So, after dropping her off at 8am, I will be returning home, doing a quick tidy, putting on my multiple episodes of "Torchwood", and sitting and stitching all day. :)

As for the Imp and nursery, today was the longest that we've been apart since she was born. I was busy today, but tomorrow, I think will be a complete culture shock for me. She's 3 2/3ish, and more than ready to be independent. She loved being there all day, and is looking forward to much so that she's just brought me her night time nappy without being asked, at 7:15pm. Her hair is in her 'night night braids' (so we don't have to fight with it to brush it in the morning), and she's gone and put her own pyjamas on. I guess that's a hint for me to tuck her in.