Friday, December 30, 2011

Colorado: This one's for you, Kimmer!

OK, I haven't blogged in months. In my defense, life gets crazy busy sometimes, and 2011 has been the uber craziest. But my friend Kimmer and I were just talking about a trip to Colorado, and the blog seemed the easiest way to dedicate photos and links to the topic. So, Kimmer, this blog post is for you!
In 2009, we took an amazing trip to visit my son in Denver, which included mountain hiking, seeing the Garden of the Gods and a glimpse at Pike's Peak from Colorado Springs, a side excursion to an old arcade, a bus trip to Colorado's gold-covered capitol building, and a tour of a working gold mine.
We traveled via Amtrak's California Zephyr, reported to be the most scenic route in America. While the segment from Chicago to Colorado was mostly a look at lots of scenic cornfields, the part of the trip that ends in California is both a little scary and amazing, I'm told.
My youngest loved traveling by train, because you can move around, you can buy breakfast sandwiches on the snack car, and because there's an outlet for video games or other devices. It seemed like the trip from Chicago to Denver took about 20 hours. The coach seats recline during lights-out hours, but it's a little tough on the behind. If you have the moolah, I'd spring for the sleeper car with its own restroom. (Hint: If you're a coffee fiend taking the train, I'd recommend packing a small coffeepot. Since sleeping in coach isn't easy, we were up long before the snack car opened at 7 a.m..) 

We rolled into Denver's Union Station, a beautiful retro building with old-fashioned oversized wood benches. I just learned the station is not currently operational. According to the Denver Destination Experts, as of February 2011, Amtrak moved to a temporary station at 1800 21st Street, due to construction, a move expected to last about three years. Here's a link for updates. 
                         
Colorado is a beautiful, mountainous desert region with a rich role in U.S. history. It's known for a focus on healthy lifestyles, and is home to lots of free or inexpensive recreational opportunities. The weather is a bit warmer than I'm used to in Michigan, but the low humidity generally meant good hair days! Although my son's apartment at the time wasn't in a ritzy part of town, we felt pretty comfortable walking to the local park and King Soopers grocery store while he was working.

Our first car trip was to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, renowned for being "the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world," a big draw for many performers who take the stage there. Unfortunately, there were no concerts going on during our visit, but it was still open.
               
                     
While in the area, we took the opportunity to go hiking. I was keeping a sharp eye out for snakes, but what we ended up seeing was a deer ─ a mule deer, I think.
                                                                            

There were only a few challenging parts of the hike. Good thing, since I wasn't used to the altitude.
               
               
It's hard to capture how high up we are unless you notice how tiny the cars are in the photo, or that the flash of metal you see is actually the top of a building.
                 
I look like a major lush, but I'm really just holding the bottle of hard cider we'd taken to Colorado as a gift to my son. Once up on the rock, I found it a little more difficult to get down and had to scooch down on my behind.
             
      
Both Red Rocks and Garden of the Gods, which is in Colorado Springs, were places I visited as a teenager. It was raining the afternoon we got to Garden of the Gods, which I understand nearly always happens for a little while each afternoon.
 
                                                             
Garden of the Gods is a huge area with lots of quirky natural rock formations; with some, it's hard to understand how they've kept from toppling for all these years. From what I've read, the park is supposed to remain free of any admission charges, although they do have a gift shop and other things that they charge for.
                                                    

We didn't see any wild animals here, although we saw signs of them. It's actually a pretty easy hike, since the path through much of the areas we went had very gradual slopes. From Garden of the Gods, you can get a glimpse at Pike's Peak, which is literally a high point of any trip to the Rocky Mountains. You can go up Pike's Peak via a cog railway, although we didn't because we were short on both time and cash.

After Garden of the Gods, we went to Manitou Springs for a while to play at an old arcade. This town, which is nestled at the foot of Pike's Peak, was cool, but kind of a tourist trap. If you go there, be very vigilant about looking for parking signs. We parked in a lot during a rainstorm and came back to the car to find we'd gotten a ticket for parking there. Turns out the sign announcing it was a paid lot was plastered really high on a pole. Schmucks.We were also hit up by some really aggressive panhandlers from California, who got right in our faces to beg for money. Since young son wasn't feeling well, his brother asked them to give him some space. They slinked away, calling us "mainstream." Funny, that was the first I'd ever thought of myself as mainstream!

My youngest and I explored downtown Denver on our own while we were in town, including a tour of the Capitol Building. It's beautiful, but be warned, it's not air-conditioned, except for the governor's office. Make sure to go on the optional tour to see the inside of the dome. After touring the capitol in Denver, I realized I needed to take my son to see Michigan's capitol building in Lansing, where we noticed lots of similarities. Turns out both buildings were designed by the same architect.      
                                                      

Just taking a bus was a bit of an adventure, since we don't have a lot of public transportation in our part of Michigan. We messed up our transfer but there was no hurry, and our bus driver was a sweetheart. We ended up getting our own private tour of the city, and learned about the Cinderella Mall, now razed but once an enormous shopping complex. I could be wrong, but I thought our driver said the mall was built over an abandoned mine and began sinking, although online references only mention "structural" problems.

While most of our Colorado trip perfectly suited our budget, Hidee Gold Mine in Central City was a worthwhile splurge. It cost around $50 for the three of us, but we got to chip gold ore from a vein that runs through the working mine.
                                                                 
If you go, make sure to wear closed-toe shoes that are comfy enough for hoofin' it through the mine. It goes without saying that with all the hiking you'll do in Colorado, you'll want to take some kind of bag to protect the contents of your luggage from your dirty shoes. I still have dirt from the mine on my camera bag.
My video of chipping gold ore from a vein in Hidee Gold Mine, a small working mine in Central City, Colorado.

There's so much more to Colorado than we were able to see on this trip. If you can get in, the Denver Mint tour would be interesting. There's also a Denver Mint Robbery Tour, which sounds like a fun scavenger hunt. The state offers fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and camping in warmer months and of course, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter. I won't include those links, Kimmer, since I know you're considering a summer trip. There are all kinds of eats, beverages and festivals too.

Since the state is pretty huge, there's plenty more to explore. Someday, I'd love to see Mesa Verde, a whole city built into the rocks of southwest Colorado by ancient cliff-dwelling people. I'm also jonesin' to try out the natural hot springs that Colorado has to offer.

Colorado is an awesome vacation destination. This trip down memory lane has me stoked to go again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friendship baskets

Do you remember the Solo coffee cup inserts that were sold in the 70s?

I remember turning these into Easter baskets for my parents as a kid.

Easter has great significance for me. It is, of course, a milestone holiday in my Christian faith that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. It's also a time to remember family and friends.

I've always felt people should be able to share in the celebration, regardless of age. One year, I decided kids shouldn't be the only ones to get Easter baskets. But kids have few resources, or at least that was true for the kids I knew. I bought a little candy with my allowance, colored some eggs and then scoured the house in search of something to use for baskets.

I don't actually recall my parents drinking from the Solo cups but they were in our cupboard, so I snagged them, punched some holes in the sides to add pipe cleaner-handles, filled them with Easter grass and candy, then snuck out of bed early Easter morning to add the hard-boiled eggs and surprise my parents with them.

Playing Easter bunny has always been tons of fun. When my older kids were little, certain candies became an annual tradition. Somehow, the list of favorites grew each year until the piles of candy lasted nearly 'til Halloween. OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but no child needs that much candy.

The solution: share! As winter turned to spring, it became another tradition to search out nifty baskets or  to deliver Easter goodies to our friends who lived alone (Hint: always take a whiff of natural-material baskets before buying, since they often have a musty smell). We would find pretty ways to wrap them, sometimes add flowers and get a kick out of making a friend's day when the basket was dropped off.
Sometimes we made mini baskets too. I've seen some beautiful cupcake wrappers in the stores that would be perfect for minis. The ones at left are by Wilton, which I often see in larger grocery retailers as well as places such as JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores. If you're looking for ideas for Easter basket cupcakes, check out this link: http://www.bakerella.com/eye-candy/.

Because none of my close friends live alone anymore, they eventually became immersed in their own family traditions; sadly, the basket deliveries came to an end. My older children now live out of state and most years I send them a small Easter basket so they can celebrate the holiday in their own apartments. Not so this year, since the fam will be getting together for a late, "Fake Easter" celebration that our friend Lauren has dubbed "Feaster."

It's too late this year, but next year, I'm thinking of assembling a few baskets for children staying in homeless shelters. I remember an elementary school where students did this. It was so touching how much it meant to the little ones, even though they didn't realize other kids were play the role of Easter bunny helpers.

Thinking about the strawberry bear book the other day brought to mind another Easter tradition when my kids were young, the story of "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes," by Dubose Heyward and Marjorie Flack.

The bunny, who is parenting a large family of bunnies on her own, gathers her well-mannered children to see the jack rabbits compete to become the next Easter bunny and finds herself being considered for the job. But to do so, her children have to pitch in while she's trekking around the world bringing joy to little ones. It's always heart warming to see well-behaved children who pitch in; this book is no exception. I read this as a child and always aspired to have a family this close, and thank the good Lord, I've been pretty blessed. Read this book, I think you'll love it too. If you can't find it close to home, it's sold on www.amazon.com.

I hope you have a very happy Easter. We'd love to hear about your own family traditions, so please feel free to share!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of mice and strawberries

Maybe I'm trying to hurry spring along by focusing on all things strawberry-related, but I doubt anyone in the northern U.S. would blame me. It's been so chilly this year that I fear we'll never get a true taste of spring.

Although I only get a few small strawberries each year, I love when Michigan-grown strawberries hit our grocery stores. One of our favorite ways to serve them is with a cream cheese dip. I scribbled the recipe down after seeing it on a TV talk show years ago, when my daughter was just a baby. For the Strawberry Dip, unwrap a 3-ounce block of cream cheese and microwave it 20-30 seconds in a medium-sized bowl until it's soft and easy to whip with a fork. Add 2 large spoonsful of marshmallow creme; stir it together. Squeeze a teaspoon or so of fresh lime juice over the mixture and stir it in. Refrigerate a couple of hours and serve with fresh strawberries.

Strawberries are also tasty between layers of angel food cake with whipped cream, along with kiwi slices. One recipe idea that would never have occurred to me was for this strawberry pasta salad. Since my classmate Celia introduced me to this site, I'm eager to try it.

Last summer, strawberries and mice were the focus during one day of the 10-session "Cousin Camp" my son and I organized for my nieces. Because our camp was all about having fun while ramping up reading skills, our theme that day was mice. That day's books included one of my forever favorites, "The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR" by Don and Audrey Wood.


           If you haven't read this book with your children, you're missing out! There's lots of opportunities to use different voices and just enough mystery to keep a little one enthralled. OK, maybe you don't have to be so little ─ it's pretty obvious I'm a fan. Then again, I absolutely love children's literature.


With some sliced almonds, a little melted chocolate and some red shoestring licorice for tails, we were able to turn red, ripe strawberries into little mice the day we read this book. My creative nieces decide to top wedges of Swiss cheese with the melted chocolate too. 


 The strawberry mice were so much fun to make, and perfectly complemented our book selection that day. If you'd like to make your own, here's more information on creating the strawberry mice. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easter recipes wanted!



This hardly qualifies as a blog post. It's more like shameless begging for your favorite yummy, easy, pork-free main dish recipes. If they are inexpensive and healthy, so much the better.

 In defense of my begging, let me just say this is finals week at school and I've been swamped. Plus the son and I are battling a nasty cold. But I still need recipes for a small crowd, since this year we're combining the family Easter gathering with a small celebration after my graduation (yes, after returning twice to college I am finally, officially graduating!). Having switched computers this year, my normal pre-party computer search for past menus is turning up nothing, nada, zilch. So I'm desperate for recommendations.

The pork-free main dish requirement is out of respect for my sister-in-law, who is Seventh-Day Adventist. Although I'd love nothing more than one of the mouthwatering spiral-sliced hams that are on sale this week, that won't be on the Easter table, at least not for a main dish. Our main dishes also steer clear of shellfish, organ meat and cloven-hoofed critters of any kind.

All this adds up to me asking you to lend your tried-and-true recipes to a sista in need. So can you lend a hand?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guys in grass skirts

        It's April 3 and my snow has not only refused to disappear but there are big fat flaky flurries here in Michigan, with hail incessantly hammering the windows. So maybe this is a good day to reminisce about the better-late-than-never Disney trip we took a couple of years ago.


        I always regretted not taking the whole fam to Disney World, so even though some of my kids were grown and out of state, we converged at Palm View Villa, part of the Terra Verde Resort in Kissimmee, Florida. It took lots of research and digging through online tax records for my inner skeptic to feel confident the place existed. I'm glad we went the private villa route, though, because it was easily the most wonderful, relaxing part of the vacation. If life's complexities hadn't gotten in the way, no doubt we'd have been back for more.


        The beautiful Villa became the site for a double surprise party celebrating the birthdays of both David and my son-in-law. In keeping with the lush Florida landscape, we packed up ingredients for a portable luau (minus pig and hula dancers), FedEx'd it to the Villa, and hid everything in my daughter's closet, since her hubby wasn't arriving for a few days.


         A surprise party takes plenty of planning; finding theme items that don't hog much packing space is another matter. We found fabric flower leis at Dollar Tree and tropical napkins and plates at the local party store, plus drink coasters, tropical plastic hurricane glasses, folding paper lanterns and grass skirts through Oriental Trading Company, where I'd previously purchased luau glow cups for a glow-in-the-dark party (that's a story for another time). I also found acrylic margarita glasses on Amazon.com. Turned out the Villa already had nice shatterproof drinkware, but the other goodies really set the mood.
        We'd downloaded a summery playlist with Bob Marley, the Beach Boys, some Jimmy Buffett, Toad the Wet Sprocket (my old favorite) and tunes such as "Hawaii Five-O," "Wipeout" and the Jose Cuervo tune. We also took a small portable speaker to plug into the MP3 player, just in case we needed it (we didn't).

    
        The plan was for David and my daughter to zip over to Orlando Airport to pick up her hubby. So we had just minutes to decorate and get the food ready. A green plastic tablecover was thrown over the breakfast table, with grass skirts taped to it. Leis were flung on everything, including a poolside inflatable whale. We wrapped another tablecover around a bowl, cinched it with a lei and dumped in ice to chill the bevvies, then draped a clean tropical towel over the sofa for some added color.

 
        Fruit and pineapple spears were skewered and arranged in a split pineapple and set out, along with barbecued mini sausages and other quick snacks to go with the take-out chicken we bought. My older son split an angel food cake and filled and topped it with whipped cream and fresh fruit, then circled it with a lei. When the guys pulled into the drive, we dimmed the lights and flipped on the music.
        Were they surprised? Absolutely. Especially when they found out they'd be putting on the grass skirts. But hey, when the guests of honor double as entertainment, I say it's win-win.


           Ah, vacations. They have the power to magically take you away. It's hard to leave, but on a day like today, it's nice to have the memories.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crafty Get-Togethers

I have a great friend who likes being crafty and domestic as much as I do.  She's been coming over a lot lately, and we'll bake, make things, watch movies, talk... drive my husband crazy... it's a lot of fun!

We recently made some really great hairpins with felt flowers on them, and then yesterday I had a brilliant idea to make crocheted baskets out of old jeans.  Denim is not the easiest material to work with, I have plans to make other things with old t-shirts, but they turned out really cute and didn't take very long once I got used to the material.  Denim is pretty to crochet with, because a pair of jeans turns into so many colors- the inside is lighter, the space where your pockets were is darker, and it looks really cool!  Plus, who doesn't have a pair of old, torn-up, too-large or too-small jeans lying around?!

I used these instructions as a basis, and cut the denim into strips as long as possible, in a zig-zag pattern.  I couldn't find my seam ripper, so I cut most of the seams off, or hacked at them until they went away.  Definitely remove the pockets.  Denim is thick enough as it is, add a seam in there and it's nearly impossible to work with.

I found the instructions on the above link worked best, however, because of the bulkiness of the material, I found myself adding an extra loop after each stitch.  I must mention that I'm not the best crochet-er.  I generally don't get it- I'm much better at knitting.
 I knotted the strips of denim together, using a square knot.  It made cute little bows randomly around the basket, which I love, but try to keep them to a minimum, they're hard to work around.  Cut those strips as long as possible!

And it turned out like this!  So cute!  It would make a great Easter basket, but I'm going to use it to keep track of my hairpins and headbands that live all over my nightstand.  I'm also going to attempt to make an extra-large one to use as a cat bed- I've been wanting to make a cat bed for years, but always thought they'd tear it up too quickly.  Not only is this super durable due to its construction, but denim is so sturdy it'll be perfect!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boys and their toys

        OK, since this blog is named "Gifts, gatherings and gusto," maybe writing about a gift idea would be in order.
        My 'tween son absolutely loves a present he was given by my friend Kimmer and her hubby, a remote-controlled helicopter with light-up eyes that reminds me of a supersized dragonfly.

 Air Hogs remote control helicopter. The helicopter's eyes light up until it needs a charge. To charge it, plug it into the battery-powered base.

        Don't ask me how to fly it. My son seemed to instinctively catch on; maybe all those video games were good training. It weighs just a few ounces so when it crashes into household objects, it rarely inflicts any damage. Once our Michigan winter snow finally turns to spring, I can see him running all over with it outside, as long as he finds a spot protected from the wind. Maybe its dragonfly appearance would even be good for scaring rabbits and deer away from our garden. If all goes well, this could be the year we finally have sweet corn and snow peas. (Don't feel too sorry for the poor animals; we're surrounded by farmland so there's plenty for them to eat without having to ruin our garden).
        Remote-controlled vehicles are good for boys of all ages, especially, it seems, those with a couple cats in the house. Kimmer's hubby had his own helicopter he used especially for playing with their cats, who chased it down and attacked it so greedily there was little left of it. Last Christmas, RC helicopters were on my son-in-law's wish list. I found him two (allegedly) laser-equipped helicopters for battling, the Laser Tag Combat Apache 2CH RTF models. According to my daughter's last report, he was having fun "terrorizing the cats."
        Because the helicopters are so lightweight and fragile, you can expect to go through several stages with them. First, the experimental stage, in which the pilot learns to fly. Second, the having-a-blast-with-it stage, where everyone in the house has to duck as the pilot becomes proficient at swooping the helicopter millimeters from their heads. Third, a crash inevitably affects a helicopter part, motivating the pilot to develop mechanical skills. Fourth, the helicopter flies a bit differently than it did on the first day out ─ it may appear a bit intoxicated at this point ─ but it's still loved and appreciated.
        My son's helicopter has already taken a few beatings and continues to fly. This is the kind of toy that intrigues kids (I'm sure girls would love it too) and lures them away from the couch-potato life. It's something every child should have. They're also relatively easy to find ─ I've seen Air Hogs helicopters at most department stores as well as online. Whether you're looking for a birthday gift or you're like me and keep a running list of gift ideas, I highly recommend this toy.






       

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Housewife's Magic Wand" and pie-baking tips

I once bought a Swiss-made Bamix mixer, circa the 1950s, on eBay. When the package arrived I laughed out loud at the words on the yellowed box: "The Housewife's Magic Wand." That mixer never worked right ─ I think it needs mechanical help ─ but I keep it. It's a throwback to an era of polka-dotted aprons and women wearing bouffants while baking and vacuuming in heels.
        That's likely the picture that pushed women out of the kitchen for years, for fear they'd be chained to the stove. Even today, women in the workplace resist being associated with the domestic arts because it threatens their career. My friend Marti, an engineer who has returned to school, worked in a male-dominated environment. She told me she'd never bring cookies to work or the guys just wouldn't take her seriously.
        I want to be taken as seriously as anyone else does, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of baking. I confess I'm a bit like the character Ramona in Beverly Cleary's book series, with my mind taking flights of fancy when I get caught up in something. Stirring dough, I imagine myself a pioneer woman, toiling away in a rustic kitchen. Never mind my ingredients would be considered extravagant in pioneer days. The smell of chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla wafting through the house is a time machine back to a time when food was simple and food was life.
        Baking definitely brings satisfaction, but serving up the goods is just as fulfilling. I used to work in the X-ray office of a hospital. No one was particularly happy about dragging themselves into work on weekends and holidays, but a treat like warm chocolate hunk cookies lit up everyone's faces. And honestly, it made me feel special to be able to make people feel good.
        Maybe that's what happened to Kimmer, who's been my buddy for more years than either of us care to announce. I knew her back in the days when the tiny little twig's culinary skills amounted to Taco Bell and ramen noodles. Then one day, completely out of the blue, she began baking the world's best pies. It's like a genie appeared and, poof! Turned her into a domestic diva. Now she gets special requests to bake her legendary pies, even for events she won't be attending.
        The difference between now and the era of the housewife's magic wand, is that women aren't the only ones in the kitchen. When our schedules actually coincide, David and I like cooking together. A couple of months ago we found ourselves tripping down memory lane as he flipped through his cookbooks and found lists, notes and recipes in my handwriting. (I'm better at list-making; he's better at cooking. It works for us.)
        Kimmer may have blossomed into the queen of pies (read her pie-making tips, below) but she's not stuck alone in the kitchen. I've seen her and her hubby cooking side by side. Kudos to the men who can cook and still be manly. We've all come a long way, baby!

Can she bake a cherry pie?
When David requested cherry pie for his birthday, I searched the Internet and went to my friend Kimmer for help, since pie baking isn't my strength. But it was easier than I expected, especially with a store-bought crust which was actually tasty. It'd probably be even better if you made your own crust, but I haven't had the best luck in that department over the years, so I didn't chance it. Kimmer says using butter (or lard) in the bottom of the pie pan with a little flour keeps the bottom crust from getting soggy. I tried it and she's right!

This is a version of a great recipe Diane has posted on her beautiful blog at:
http://lifeincharente.blogspot.com/2011/03/cherry-pie-and-butternut-soup-st.html.

Recipe: Tart cherry pie
2, 12-oz. bags frozen tart cherries, pitted (about 5 1/2 cups, Michigan cherries are perfect)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon quick tapioca
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup sugar (to taste, use less for sweet cherries)
Drop of almond extract
Drop of vanilla
Optional: few drops of lemon juice (especially if you're using sweet cherries instead of tart)

2 refrigerated rolled pie crusts (take each one out of refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before using)
Small amount butter
Small amount flour
Small amount sugar
Small amount turbinado sugar
1 egg white, beaten with a drop of vanilla or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the frozen cherries in a bowl. Gently toss with the tapioca, 1 1/4 cup sugar, salt, extracts and (optional) lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Lightly butter just the bottom of a large glass pie plate. Sift a very thin layer of flour over the butter before putting the bottom crust in the pan (tip: leave the crust refrigerated until about 5 minutes before you're ready to use it). After the cherry mixture has set for 30 minutes, turn it into the pie crust-lined plate.

Stir together equal amounts of sugar and flour and sift a very light layer over the underside of the top crust before putting it on top of the cherries. Pinch the top and bottom crust together all the way around with your knuckles to seal them together and form a fluted edge. Put a pie ring or strips of foil around the edge of the crust and place it on top of another pan to catch any juices.

Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 40-50 minutes. Remove ring; brush with beaten egg white and sift a very thin layer of the sugar-flour mixture over the top. Sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on if you have it. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until top is deep golden brown and inside is bubbly (either the juice will bubble out or you'll see the crust puffing up). Let set 3-4 hours; serve with vanilla ice cream.



It's actually pretty easy to make the pie filling. I just tossed frozen tart cherries with dry tapioca, a little salt and a few drops of almond and vanilla extracts. Then let the cherries stand 30 minutes.

 To keep the bottom crust from getting soggy, grease just the bottom of the pie plate with a thin coating of solid lard or butter. Don't use oil, though. (Thanks Kimmer, this helped!)

 Once the bottom crust is in place, sift a very thin coat of flour over it to help absorb the juice. Kimmer gave me a handy cup with a built-in sifter that worked perfectly. Too bad Pampered Chef doesn't still sell these. You can also dip your thumb and forefinger into flour and rub them together over the pie crust ─ you'll need to do this several times.
Note: I started fluting the bottom crust, but when you're adding a top crust, just wait until it's in place, since you'll pinch them together and flute them anyway.

David's birthday pie. OK, so it's not picture perfect but it was delicious! I learned not to let the crust set at room temperature too long ─ about 10-15 minutes max, depending on room temperature ─ because it's too soft to work with. You can see the edges didn't keep their shape; the top crust even slid down on one side (another reason to butter only the BOTTOM of the pie plate before unrolling the crust). Live and learn. David loved it, though.