Monday, February 28, 2011

What’s in a Cup?

When I arrived in America from my native England, I was fascinated by the numerous cookbooks that were available. I bought my first cookbook (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook), opened the pages with excitement, and saw the references to “cup measurements”. I was flummoxed. During my school years, I had had four years of cooking classes, and always used a scale and Imperial Measurements. Later the “grams” idea reared its ugly head in England, and everything was converted. Now in America, I was faced with the “measuring cup” system, and knew I had to change my favorite recipes yet again. I distinctly remember buying a set of cups, holding them in my hands, turning them this way and that, and thinking to myself, “Will these gadgets actually do the job of scales?…” Of course, I didn’t realize at that time how much they would play an integral part of my cooking experience. They were simpler and easier to use – and I’d get good results.
Over the years, I’ve researched the origin of the “cup measurement” system. All evidence leads to the pioneer women who had to adapt their recipes as they travelled to the New World. Imagine these ladies on a wagon trail cooking for their families. They had to use items that were readily available to them, and a cup served the purpose. They took a cup of this and that…modified the recipes until they were happy with the results, and hey presto – recipes began, and were passed through generations.
To be honest, everything was different for me when I arrived in the U.S. and trying to adapt my recipes meant several cooking failures. The flour and the sugar seemed to behave differently in my recipes. Self raising flour is generally used in the U.K. whereas “All purpose flour” is used in American recipes. Trying to get just the right balance of baking soda and salt used with plain (all purpose) became one of the most difficult things for me to master. I’ve tried using (American) self raising flour, but the cakes always seem too salty. I haven’t even mentioned the difficulties that our Mile High City presents to me, the problem of altitude that can arise (no pun intended). I’m still struggling with my favorite Victoria Sandwich recipe. This cake was Queen Victoria’s favorite cake – hence the name.
Following are a few conversions:
English                                           American
1 pound butter of fat                        2 cups
1 pound of flour                               4 cups
1 pound sugar                                 2 cups (granulated or castor)
1 pound brown (moist) sugar             2-2/3 cup
1 pound rice                                    2 cups
1 pound dried fruit                           2 cups
Liquid measurement: One English pint = two American measuring cups
The average tea cup is ¼ pint or one gill = one American cup (roughly speaking)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Butterick Pattern #3230 Glove Puppets

The Players from top left to right: Queen, King & Merlin
Bottom left to right: Princess, Knight & Dragon.

On a recent trip to The Gathering Place, the only women and children's daytime shelter in Denver, one of the staff mentioned that a very kind man had made a "theatre" for the children, but they did not have puppets. Now on a mission, I scoured my old pattern box, and found this pattern from many years ago. They are glove puppets, and stand approximately 10" tall. They are not difficult to make, and took me about 2 hours each.

This a wonderful project to make for children...and encourages "imaginary" play. I highly recommend the pattern/designs. By the way, there is also a McCalls pattern #M4796 with similar designs, but they include a fabric theatre that hangs in a door frame.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fast Freda

Although almost seventy-five years old, Freda Nieters is still using her very special talents. Here she is coaching a first time skier on the slopes. She is patient, kind and considerate to her students, fills them with a "can do" attitude, and is a wonderful teacher.

Freda hopes to raise money for the SIDS Alliance, an organization dedicated to the research and cure of 
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The following was taken from Freda's web page.

Freda Langell Nieters is staging an event that will both remember her little grandson Zachary, lost to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) about a year ago, and aim to provide a means that others might avoid such a loss. Soon to be 75 years old, Freda has “unretired” to resume her alpine ski-teaching career, now at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, working part-time teaching children. She will use her teaching wages as seed money for a fund-raiser to support research by SIDS Alliance aimed to combat this all-too common condition  The fund-raiser will recognize her 75-year age as she skis down 75,000 vertical feet in one day! Keystone Resort is the locus and it and its parent Vail Resorts is giving their endorsement and support.
Skiing down 75,000 feet in a day is several times more than almost anyone of any age is capable of skiing in one day. Just how much skiing is that? Freda's course will be at Keystone, utilizing its River Run gondola to access her route. She will come down from the 11,640 foot Summit House atop Dercum Mountain to River Run base at 9,300 feet altitude, a difference of 2,340 vertical feet. Thus she will need to make some 32 trips down from the top to add up the 75,000 feet! This is over 14 vertical miles. Of course because she will ski a sloping descent, she will be skiing 3 or 4 times that many miles. And she will also need to take some 32 trips back up the gondola, at about 10 minutes each, consuming about 5 hours there alone. Yet no one who knows Freda doubts she will succeed in her quest, and least of all does Freda doubt she will. For when at age 70 Freda initially retired from teaching alpine skiing at Keystone Resort after 30 years, she did so with a burst of enthusiasm that culminated in her skiing 70,000 vertical feet in one ski day of 8 hours. That event raised $13,000 to fund ski equipment for local school children who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to ski even though they were growing up in ski country. Recently she said about her former 70,000-foot event, “Well, hey that wasn’t too hard to do—I wasn’t any more tired doing that than teaching beginners.” And she says this about her planned 75,000-foot event for SIDS, “God gave me strong legs, and I’ll use someone else’s brain for the research.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Tribune Newspaper

Just last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lisa Collacott, a reporter for the Tribune Newspaper. We met in Castle Rock over lunch, and talked for almost two hours about the interesting people we meet through our jobs as writers. We talked about life in general, and writing in particular. Lisa has written an article about me and my experiences which you can read here.

The Judges Meet to Discuss The Unknown Writers' Competition

If you have not already done so, it is not too late to send your submissions to The Unknown Writers’ Competition. There are cash prizes in the following three categories: Fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The deadline is just days away (postmarked February 12th). Please go to to down load an application form. Previous winners have gone to publish their own books, and several have become members of The Denver Woman’s Press Club. This competition is an excellent way for writers to get valuable, positive feedback from professional writers.