Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Lark": A Novel By Erica Cope - My Book Review

"Lark": A Novel By Erica Cope

My beautifully talented cousin Erica Cope has written a captivating story that intrigued me the moment I saw the mystical book cover and peered inside to read the first few pages. I am typically a non-fiction reader; I enjoy reading self-help and DIY style books to enlighten me about topics that are new to me and that I am passionate in learning about at the moment.

The last time I read a fiction novel that truly captivated me was about ten years ago! Yes, it has been that long ago! The book was a classic romantic literary tale..."Wuthering Heights" a novel by Emily Brontë; the sister of Charlotte Brontë who wrote the legendary tale "Jane Eyre". I was enthralled by the gripping story of Wuthering Heights, completely fascinated by the interesting characters; especially the dark and mysterious Mr. Heathcliff! Although the 1800s style of writing was eloquent and beautiful, it often was a little challenging for me to quickly and fluently picture the story as I often caught myself re-reading a sentence to ensure that I understood what was being conveyed in this antique Victorian era novel. Nonetheless, I was compelled to read the riveting tale of Wuthering Heights to its end as it did intrigue me very much. 

"Wire-Wrapped Blue Lace Agate" by Little Turtle Jewelry; reminiscent of Mia's amulet in "Lark" and can be found in my Lark inspired Etsy treasury collection featured below...

However, all bias aside, Erica's novel "Lark" is a tale that mesmerizes me all the more! I literally could not put this book down! Everything was so wonderfully described that I could clearly envision the tale vividly playing out in my mind...romance, mystery, fantasy,...everything that I have ever wanted to find in a great novel. I am honored to have it sitting pretty on my bookshelf so I can turn to it anytime I want to venture into another world! Celestial Light Elves, elemental magic, and an opulent castle await you in this story that is sure to pull at your heart strings; bringing back fond memories and feelings that you experienced once upon a time during your magical first kiss! There are no spoilers in this little book review as I do highly recommend that you read Erica Cope's "Lark" for yourself...and if you need a visual stimulant for a little extra encouragement; I've put together an Etsy treasury collection of items that is inspired by Lark and includes some prominent elements from the tale that continue to enchant me!

 I am happily anticipating Erica's sequel book to Lark titled "In the Shadows" that is coming out soon! Please check out Erica Cope's blog "here" to find out more about Lark and this fanciful trilogy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dorothy's Magic Slippers in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Did you know that the original slippers worn by Dorothy Gale in the famous novel by L. Frank Baum "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" were not "ruby slippers" but rather "silver shoes"?! The authentic-to-the-book silver Dorothy slippers pictured above are a glamorous pair of vintage 1950s ladies loafer pumps which can be found in my sister Andrea's Etsy shop Storybook Artifact. Yes, these stunning silvery shoes are true to the tale!

The "ruby slippers" are the shoes worn by Dorothy, played by the lovely Judy Garland, in the 1939 MGM classic film "The Wizard of Oz". Because of their iconic stature, the ruby slippers are now among the most treasured and valuable of all film memorabilia. An original pair of ruby slippers used in The Wizard of Oz are on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C...and I got the pleasure of seeing them in person! They are dazzling and yes, quite magical!

The movie's creators changed the book's silver shoes to ruby slippers to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process. In my Etsy "sister shop" LaOohLaLa Boutique, I have a nostalgic set of 1940s Judy Garland sheet music; one of them is from another MGM technicolor musical motion picture starring Judy Garland called "In the Good Old Summertime". This vintage sheet music set also features the famous Judy Garland song "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz.

The other night, I watched the 1985 Return to Oz movie for the very first time. Now, I have seen all three; the original, the sequel, and the newest Oz movie which is auh-mazing! The original is still my favorite though. I did find the story of the Disney "Return to Oz" movie a little creepy since a younger Dorothy is taken to a doctor's laboratory for shock treatments to erase her memories of the land of Oz; perhaps this is an MK Ultra mind control reference...creepy! Also Piper Laurie stars as Dorothy's mother and every time I see her I can't help but think of her being the scary mother in Stephen King's movie "Carrie", although she is certainly wickedly good...also in David Lynch's Twin Peaks!

As a child, I loved watching the original Wizard of Oz film over and over the rainbow again, like many other children; the nostalgia of Dorothy's slippers is so very magical! Are you getting the urge to follow the yellow brick road?! My sister Andrea's vintage 1950s "Yellow Brick Road Dorothy Slippers" can also be found in her Etsy Shop Storybook Artifact...they beautifully capture the magic of the legendary road that leads to the Emerald City...passed the poppy fields and into our hearts! These yellow brick road Dorothy slippers and many other Wizard of Oz themed treasures can be found here on the Octopus Pie Studios blog in the article that was posted today titled: "A Wizard of Oz Kind of Day...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Custom Etsy Shop Stamp from Dragonflybuzz for LaOohLaLa Boutique - Betty Grable Pin Up

A few months ago my dear Aunt Mary Lynn decided to pass the Etsy torch onto my sister Andrea (of Storybook Artifact) and I so we could run her Etsy shop LaOohLaLa Boutique which houses her one-of-a-kind retro pin up pillows. This pillow featured below reminds me of Betty Grable and her $1,000,000 legs!!!

Since then, we've added a few new shop sections and items but have kept the cohesive theme and "feel" of the shop's "Old Hollywood Regency/Retro Chic Housewife" style! I have very much enjoyed taking on this "sister shop" along with my beloved Etsy shop Eco-Friendly Freckles. "Vintage Pin Up Pumps" and "Retro Damsel Ephemera" are just a couple of the shop sections that I have added to LaOohLaLa Boutique; both of which accentuate the pin up ritz, glitz, and glamour of the shop! 

Once launching and revamping the shop in this new way with old treasures and managing the boutique along with my sister Andrea of Storybook Artifact, I decided that we needed to give our shop packaging a make over as well! So I went on over to the delightful Etsy shop Dragonflybuzz and had this custom stamp made just for our beautiful LaOohLaLa Boutique...and it is perfect!

It's Betty Grable with her $1,000,000 legs!!! Sylvia from Dragonflybuzz was so very helpful and sweet! Along with this darling Betty Grable image, she gave me the option of picking out the perfect font for our LaOohLaLa Boutique shop name and URL...I am so very happy with this custom wood mounted rubber stamp for our sexy, sassy boutique! Thank you Sylvia!

I'm excited about this new venture and journey that I am embarking on with LaOohLaLa Boutique. I dream of greatly refining its current refined retro chic lady presence in the Etsy world, watching it flourish, and enhancing the customer's experience by transporting them to a ritzy and glitzy era from yesteryear!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nature's Shadow Box - Etsy Seller Photography Tip

I am certainly no expert, but through the years I have experimented with several different ways of shooting my photography for my Etsy shop Eco-Friendly Freckles, and with many trial and error experiments I have discovered that the best "technique" for my optimal photography style is photographing in natural light outdoors on an overcast day. 

I remember once reading in the Etsy Seller Handbook section of the Etsy Blog that "overcast days are like nature's shadow box", and I have found this to be true! Although, the white light may be too bright or too dark at times depending on the type of cloud cover, shadows and glaring direct sunlight are no longer a problem for me! 

I still using photo editing software on all of my Etsy shop images mainly to brighten them slightly and enhance the color and vibrancy a little...and I am happy with the results! Here is an example of one of my shop item photographs that is pictured with a solid white poster board backdrop that I use for most of my item listings...notice the evenly dispersed light:

So grab your favorite camera and take some experimental shots on an overcast day, you might be surprised! I use a Fujifilm Finepix S1000fd 10MP digital camera with 12X Optical Zoom. Do you have any photography tips?! If so, please share in the comments of this blog article! I'd love to read them!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Health Benefits of Cooking with a Birthday Cherry Pie!

My husband Joe celebrated his 30th birthday on August 1st and I wanted it to be a special celebration for him. Instead of the usual birthday cake, Joe requested that I make a homemade, old fashioned cherry pie with a pie crust using a classic old timer's recipe using lard instead of the typical trans fat hydrogenated oil laden vegetable shortening "Crisco". Today, lard is not commonly used in pie crusts, but I assure you that our grandparents and great-grandparents often used it in cooking...and baking pastries! Many people also do not realize the health benefits of this animal fat. We use organic pastured pork lard from US Wellness Meats, it is the finest that we have found!
Above is a 1916 Squire's Pure Leaf Lard advertisement...YES, lard "makes tempting pastry"!

Lydia of "Divine Health from the Inside Out" in her blog article "The Truth About Lard and Why You Should Use It" writes: "If you are a follower of the Weston A. Price Foundation you probably know that this particular fat source is highly recommended. However you won’t find the use of lard in Nourishing Traditions – but Sally Fallon does recommend it’s use. I have heard her state in interviews and talks that just one tablespoon of pastured lard can contain 1000 IU of vitamin D. That’s a great source of vitamin D, a nutrient that is highly lacking in the modern American diet causing all kinds of rampant health conditions." She also writes: "Lard or pork fat is about 40 % saturated, 48% monounsaturated and 12% polyunsaturated. The amount of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids will vary in lard according to what has been fed to the pigs. Truly pastured pigs not fed on grain feed will have a higher omega 3 ratio, which is a good thing. In the tropics, lard can also be a good source of lauric acid if the pigs have eaten coconuts."
Above is a picture of Joe's birthday cherry pie next to our copy of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

Enlightened by Lydia's information and Sally Fallon's book "Nourishing Traditions" (which my husband Joe purchased as his birthday gift this year); I have been  inspired to use organic pastured lard in my cooking! Below are the recipes that I used in making this so very scrumptious old fashioned cherry pie! We gobbled it up in one evening it was so delicious...and we served it with Ben & Jerry's "Cherry Garcia" ice cream, which actually contains natural ingredients; no high fructose corn syrup, or GMO soybean oil that you find in other mainstream ice creams.

Lard Pie Crust Recipe

Makes 4 single or 2 9-inch double crusts
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups lard, cold and coarsely chopped
1 egg
5 1/2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vinegar
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the lard until the mixture is very fine. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, water, and vinegar.
Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the liquid; mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten into disks; wrap individually in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

To make a double-crust pie with a solid top crust, roll out 2 disks of dough about 1 inch larger than the pie plate. Fit one crust into the bottom of the pie plate. Fill the pie with the desired filling; slightly moisten the edge of the bottom crust. Take the second crust, fold it in half, gently place it over the pie filling, and unfold, centering it on the pie plate; press the edges into the bottom crust to seal. Trim the excess dough to leave an overhang of about 3/4 inch. Crimp or flute the edges with your fingers. To allow steam to escape, gently prick the top crust with a fork several times or slash vents with a sharp knife.

For a lattice-top crust, roll the second crust to a diameter of about 13 inches (for a 9-inch pie) and cut the dough into eighteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Fill the pie and slightly moisten the edge of the bottom crust. Place 9 strips evenly across the filling, leaving space between and allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the bottom crust. Trim the excess dough and press the ends of the strips into the edge of the bottom crust to seal. Place the other 9 strips across the first set in a crisscross pattern; trim and press the second set of strips to seal. Fold up the bottom crust to cover the ends of the lattice strips, then crimp or flute with your fingers.

To make a glazed top crust, beat 1 egg white and brush on the unbaked top crust; sprinkle with sugar.

For a brown crust, brush the unbaked top crust with milk or cream, then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the pies according to the recipe.

Make this your go-to pie crust recipe for light, flaky layers and exceptional flavor. This recipe is excerpted from Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient, a cookbook that offers you the opportunity to cook like your grandmother, while incorporating good animal fat into your diet once again.
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient.

Cherry Pie Recipe

4 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries (I used frozen cherries because that is what I had available)
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used "Madhava" Organic Coconut Sugar)
4 tablespoons organic Non-GMO cornstarch (I use "Rapunzel" brand)
1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional...I skipped this ingredient because I did not have it) 
Your favorite pie crust or pie dough recipe for 2 crust pie (I used the lard pie crust recipe above)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle

Place cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Use your favorite pie dough recipe. Prepare your crust. Divide in half. Roll out each piece large enough to fit into an 8 to 9-inch pan. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust. Place top crust on and flute the edge of the pie. Make a slit in the middle of the crust for steam to escape. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

I found this Cherry Pie recipe from the wonderful Food Network website: Cherry Pie

Here are some more dessert recipes using lard in this 1916 advertisement for Swift's "Silverleaf" Brand Pure Lard from Swift & Company