Dying Art

Once upon a time women were taught beautiful arts. At bridal showers, the bride received a “Bless This House,” cross stitch/embroidery, or something along those lines to hang in their new house from a grandmother or an aunt. When babies came, quilts and afghans were made for the little one to snuggle up with as a gifts from older generations. Schools are cutting art and music programs and parents are enraged. So why are these same people not enraged that they were not taught these other precious gifts?

My aunts taught my mother how to crochet, and she in turn taught me. They started the tradition of making baby blankets when ever a little one is on the way. It is something that my mother and I have both continued to do for our friends over the years. It’s not huge, or fancy, but something most mothers and children treasure over the years. When I’m cold, I just make ear warmers and scarves. FullSizeRenderI’ve been blessed to grow up surrounded by women who were fortunate to know these arts, whether out of necessity or choice. I have grown up in a house full of pieces lovingly cross stitched and surrounded by crocheted afghans and heirloom quilts from aunts, my great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, mother, and myself. Throughout the year quilts and larger blankets grace our quilt hanger….the majority of which were made by these women. IMG_5939I recently set up one of my sewing machines. I learned how to sew on my great-grandmothers Singer. I am nowhere near the seamstress as the other ladies in my life, but I’m working on it! I needed a skirt for a costume. Working at JoAnn Fabrics, I bought myself some supplies and made my Minnie Mouse skirt, for a fraction of the price a skirt like this would cost in stores. It took me 30 minutes.
IMG_5936I was struggling with a bridal gift. I remembered that I had some embroidery floss from making friendship bracelets in high school. Again, working at JoAnn’s, I bought myself some hoops, fabric, needles, and more floss. I’ve now completed 3 pieces in the last month. IMG_5810 IMG_5938 FullSizeRender-1I am not posting this to brag about my craft savvy. It’s a question and something for us all to think about- when did we get so busy that our mother’s and grandmothers and great grandmothers couldn’t teach us these gifts? For hundreds of years women spent their days using their hands, passed down from generation to generation. Many times, it was out of necessity. Wool was spun, clothes and blankets were made. Embroidery was for more than decorative tapestries, but to decorate what would have otherwise been a very plain dress or cloak. My pieces are a far cray from Renaissance pieces like this one.

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Elizabethan Polychrome Nightcap c.1600.

How did our lives get so busy that basic skills like sewing a button or fixing a hole in a garment have been lost to the past? Why is there such little interest in these hobbies in the younger generations? When did these arts get lost? When did they begin to die?

As of right now, I have 3 weddings and a baby this year, not ME, but other people. Since handmade gifts like these don’t show up at showers too often, I have made it my mission to be that person. Everyone deserves to have something that can’t be bought, something made just for them, something that will last, something that is literally stitched with love. I am not saying our mothers, our aunts, or our grandmothers have done a disservice, but quite the opposite. I think we have let them down by not looking to them to teach us these arts that they so painstakingly learned. I for one am taking the stand. I want my children, my friends and my family, to grow up in houses full of love, full of stories, and full of art- just like mine.

 

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie (Actual Pie)

It was just within the last few years that I had learned that there are two versions of “chicken pot pie.” One is the literal pie version, with flakey crust stuffed with chicken and vegetable goodness. The other is the “Pennsylvania Dutch” version that is a thick and creamy chicken soup with big egg noodles. Some of you may be scratching your heads, I live about 30 minutes from Lancaster, home of relatively large Amish and Mennonite communities. Being so close, some of the recipes and cultural norms have wiggled themselves in…anyway. This recipe is a classic, actual pie version. In true Anna fashion, my mother asked me if I had  recipe, I said yes. “Yes” actually means “I’ve got a plan but I’m totally making this up.” 9 times out of 10 it works for me.

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Pennsylvania Dutch CPP

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“Classic” CPP

 

Ingredients for filling:

2-3 thawed boneless/skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup carrots

1/4 cup green beans

1/4 cup corn

Any other vegetables you’d like- peas, lima beans etc.

3 potatoes

2-3 chicken bullion cubes

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup flour

1 cup milk

Salt/Pepper

Pie Crust:

You can use 2 store bought crusts (top and bottom) or you can use this tried and true, my personal favorite, recipe HERE!

*Pre-heat your oven to 350*

1. In a medium-large pot boil chicken bullion cubes in about 6 cups of water.

2. Chop your chicken breasts into small bite sized pieces/cubes. Throw them into the water to cook. This flavors both the chicken and the stock. You will use this for the gravy filling later.

2. While the chicken is going, make your pie crust. Roll out and place your bottom crust into the pie dish. I made the bottom pretty thick because we like crust! Poke holes into the bottom to keep it from puffing up. Place in the oven at 350 until it is just turning golden brown. Mine happened to time perfectly for when I was ready to fill, about 30 minutes since it was thick.

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3. Peal and chop the potatoes into small bite sized chunks. Throw them in the pot with the chicken to boil until tender. I also threw in the carrots since they can take a bit longer.

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4. In a medium sauce pan, melt half a stick of butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and started boiling it will start to kinda bubble. Whisk in your flour continuously. It will bubble, thicken and start to turn brown. When it is a toasted almond color and smells nutty, remove from heat, slowly add in the milk to temper. Continue whisking. It will continue to thicken. This is a rue!

5. Using a ladle, ladle in as much of the stock from the pot with the chicken and potatoes as possible and put back on medium heat. Continue to whisk together. Add in salt and pepper to taste. This will be the “gravy” in your pie.

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6. Dump the rue/stock mixture back in the pot with the chicken and potatoes. Dump in the green beans, corn and other veggies in at this time. I used fresh-frozen veggies so they’d already been pre-cooked, they just needed “heated up.”

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7. Pull your bottom crust out of the oven if you have not already. Fill with your filling! You will probably have some left over filling.

8. Roll out your top crust, place on top, poke holes in the top to release steam. Put the pie glass/tin on a baking sheet to catch potential drips and replace back into the oven until the top crust is golden brown. This will take about a half hour. I used the broiler to then add a bit more color to the top crust.

Serve HOT! If you have any extra pie crust or filling, roll out the extra dough, cut circles, place in muffin tins and fill with the extra filling for mini-pies that you can freeze and eat later! YUM!

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My dad chalked this up to “another success.” Not too bad for not quite having a recipe! This recipe took a little over an hour start to finish, but for a CPP with HOMEMADE crust and gravy, I think that’s pretty good. This was perfect for the blustery cold winter we’ve been having up here in the North East!