Hello Summer Break.

Summertime~ let it begin.

Otto and his friend, Lila.
Summer is a challenge. With as much fun as we have, with three boys ~ it can be a challenge to fill a day. Some summer camps are in store but we are always on the hunt for ideas. How will you and your kids be enjoying summer break?

The Beginnings of a Studio

Eventually this....

will become this....

Ok, maybe not exactly like that, but close. We're in the midst of an exciting building project here at the Smith Homestead.
As many of you know, we live in a rather small house. It might not seem so small to some (1400 square feet...not too tiny), but with 3 growing boys and a 2 businesses under this roof, it gets cramped, quickly. I have always dreamed of having a detached studio space and with a $300 budget (holiday gift money we've been saving) we are going to do it.
At first I was hoping for a completely free standing cabin sort of structure. My dream? A sleeping loft. But with the budget in mind, it was much more rational to use our existing porch area that doesn't get a proper usage as it has been.
$300 isn't much. Thankfully there is a floor and a roof already. The siding will be made from reclaimed oak horse farm boards we found on Craigslist for $.50 a board. Not crazy about the black so we've been painting each one and running it through the table saw to straighten out the sides.

Pinterest is, of course, completely perfect when thinking through projects like this. If you're curious, I  have 2 boards going right now with studio and decor ideas. You can see them here and here.

I'll snap photos along the way and let you see our progress as it moves along.
Did you ever see our kitchen remodel on a $200 budget? See that here and click the link in the post for a flickr side show of that fun (and cheap) project.

What house projects are you tackling these days?

How to Make Pizza Dough

I state it in the About Me page...I am a pizza girl. It really is, for me, comfort food to the max. Born and raised on Donatos Pizza in Columbus I have such nostalgic memories tied to the weekly large pepperoni pizza delivery from Donatos. I vividly remember laying out a brown and yellow floral (gotta love the 80's) bath towel over our long coffee table, sitting on the floor in front of the TV and enjoying greasy pepperoni pizza and Pepsi with my mom ~ who was, by the way, the most amazing single mom imaginable.
The first time I ever remember eating homemade pizza was when I spent a summer in Papua New Guinea at the age of 15. The thought had never really occurred to me that a pizza could be made  outside the confines of a pizza shop. Mike says he grew up on homemade pizza. I argue that Chef Boyardee boxed pizza is NOT homemade pizza. He disagrees.

Nonetheless, here at The Smith Homestead, homemade pizza makes a regular appearance. Over the years I have tried many pizza dough recipes. Some with success, others, not-so-much. A few years ago I stumbled across The Figs Table , a cookbook written by Chef Todd English, owner of Figs in Massachusetts. Figs was touted by Zagats as having the best pizza in Boston so I knew I had to give the pizza dough recipe a try. I wasn't disappointed. It is the only recipe I have used since.
Its so easy peasy. Ridiculously so. I use my standing mixer for much of the work but even when I make it by hand I find the "work" very easy and rewarding.

Figs Pizza Dough
(Makes Four 8-10 inch pizzas)
(Serves 1-2 people per pizza)

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
2 tsp. fresh yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
1 2/3 cup lukewarm water

Place all dry ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. While the mixer is running, gradually add the oil and water. Knead on low speed until the dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 balls. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place two balls on a sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm spot about 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
To roll out dough: Dab your fingers in flour and then place 1 ball on a generously floured work surface and press down in the cetner with the tips of your fingers, speading the dough with your hand. When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer border should be a little thicker than the inner circle. Pick the dough up with a spatula, allowing it to fold up almost like an umbrella and transfer it to a baking stone or cookie sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough balls and proceed with any pizza recipes.

What Inspires and What Keeps My Fingers Typing

I am inspired by photos. Aren't you? Here are two that bring a smile to my face and make my day just a little brighter.
I wish someone would just buy me an angora bunny already! Canaan was going to and Mike convinced
him that it would poop all over our house. Canaan gags just thinking about a baby drooling so when Mike
said that, Canaan said he wouldn't buy me one anymore.

My dear friend, Pam, is a fantastic photographer and business woman living in Minnesota. Her company
Leaves of Grass just does absolutely amazing work.

On a totally different topic, I have been incredibly blessed with some really interesting writing gigs recently. Some have yet to be published ~ so I'll keep those under wraps for now. But a few came out in recent days:

BabyYourself Magazine ~ I loved writing this article about losing baby weight. Its never easy to shed those few pesky last pounds; but its doable! You can read the entire magazine online there at the link. Buh-Bye Baby Weight is on pages 10-11.

Trawick and Martin ~ I got connected to this company recently and I adore the topics they ask me to write for them. Recently, I wrote about collecting hotel silver. I could have researched that topic endlessly~ oh to live in the height of glamour in London! Browse their online store...dreamy times ten.

Chevy Chaser~ I am so lucky to have a columnist gig with a fantastic local publication. This month the topic was picnics. A topic near and dear to my heart because this girl loves a picnic.

Speaking of writing...there's a little something special going up in our backyard. I'll start sharing about that next week~

Have a great weekend!

Kentucky Transparent Pie

The name of this pie kind of freaks me out. I don't really like foods that are transparent so much. Those transparent, see-through noodles...what are those things? Rice noodles? They get my gag reflexes going in a matter of seconds. (shivers up my spine, as I write that.)
But back to pie...it has been on my mind lately. I've written a few articles about some of my favorites and learning a ton about others. Namely, this guy. Mr. Transparent Pie.
He falls into the category of a custard pie and there doesn't seem to be many differences between him and some of those other famous ones like chess, buttermilk, sugar or even the oddly named Jefferson Davis Pie.
This pie, despite its name, is not transparent. Thank God.

Transparent Pie is incredibly sweet ~ the old timey cookbooks I've read say to serve just a fine sliver. It's a cinch to make and really has this amazing crunchy, sugary topping that is new to me and oh-so-delicious.
It is said that this pie is a favorite of famous Kentuckian George Clooney who has them delivered from Magee's Bakery in Maysville, Kentucky to his movie sets. Not sure if that's truth or not but I like to think that the likes of Pitt, Roberts, Clooney, Damon and Garcia were putting away a few thin slices of this pie between takes on the Ocean's Eleven set.

Transparent Pie
(recipe is the same from multiple old time Kentucky cookbooks)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with unbaked pie shell (either homemade or refrigerated.) Place in freezer while you prepare filling to prevent shrinking while baking.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add cream, and mix until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined, then stir in flour and vanilla. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake at 375°. for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top. 
** I found that I had to bake mine longer than 40 minutes. You need the pie to "set", not just get brown on top.

Rock Climbing in the Red

Climbing rocks has not been something I've been waiting to check off the bucket list.
But nonetheless, when you become great friends with a rock climber, its bound to happen.
And a few weeks ago, it happened.....and I loved it.

This is Amarillo Sunset and one of my Spiderman friends Aaron climbing it. Amazing.
I can't imagine learning to climb with two better instructors~ Tina & Aaron, who own the Red River Rockhouse down in the Gorge were the right balance of encouraging and butt kicking that this girl needed.

The Makings of How to Make an Apple Pie Video

Mike and I tackled a really creative and exciting project together recently. Our first HD cooking video. It was an absolute blast to film and even the editing process proved to be rather enjoyable~
Ben Sollee gave the thumbs up for us using his amazing song ~ if you aren't familiar with this innovative cello skills and amazing voice, you will be now. He's incredible.
(Click the little gear at the bottom to change the quality to HD & the 4 corner frame thing to watch it in full screen) Full Recipe for actually making a homemade apple pie with homemade pie crust coming soon..
Please feel free to share this video on your social media networks...we're already dreaming up the next. What would you like to see?

Click below for some behind the scenes photos ~ There was certainly a steep learning curve.

Ezra; He Reads, He Kicks Goals and He Woos the Girls

Ezra is a Renaissance man if ever there was one. He'll turn 6 soon. In just a few short weeks, in fact. I keep telling the boys to slow it down on this aging thing, but they aren't listening.

Kindergarten has been great for our Ez. His teacher is out-of-this-world perfect for him. The balance of sweet and spunky that Ezra find comradery with. Kindergarten holds really fond memories for me and I know, without a doubt, he will have the same.

Ez has always loved soccer. Last weekend, on the drive home from another great game he told us he love to play soccer because he was born to play it. Seeing this kid in action on the field, I'm getting the sneaking suspicion he might be right. And more power to him. I wish, at 33, I knew what I was born to do.

And let me just tell you a bit about our ladies man. A very respectful, sweet ladies man, of course. No teasing or sending girls home crying to their moms~ he has the fine art of wooing the girls down to an art.
This photo, snapped by my uber amazing and uber pregnant-with-twins friend (how she was able to squat down to take photographs is beyond me) was taken a couple of months ago in our backyard. Go check out her site ~ her work is swoon-worthy.

In June he will be 6. Any fun birthday party ideas out there? I am always on the hunt for some unique (but not over-the-top) party suggestions and Lord knows, this year I am falling just a little behind on this whole birthday party thing.

Mompreneur Monday ~ Cheryl Arkison, Sunday Morning Quilts

    This month I'm so excited to share my interview with Cheryl Arkison of The Dining Room Empire and co-author of the new book, Sunday Morning Quilts. Although Cheryl and I have never met in person (yet), we've come to connect via our blogs and dialog over the past year or so over email. I am in awe of her work ~ her quilting is so innovative and I am in awe of her as a person. She's incredibly witty and smart, charming and business saavy. I love this girl.

    How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start blogging?
The Dining Room Empire is where I rule the roost, and share on my tiny piece of the internet. I started blogging over 5 years ago as an additional outlet to quilting while on maternity leave with my first kidlet. To be perfectly honest, it was all about external validation when I started - I wanted people to tell me they liked my quilts. But very quickly it expanded to sharing inspiration and process on making quilts. At some point I started to share recipes and that led to a second blog. From there a network of other writers grew, as did a writing career. Recently, I've gone back to one blog. It felt like a natural transition as motherhood and my career changed. And as I changed. Now I share my quilts (finished and in process), creative ramblings, recipes, and musings from my dining room table.

         Tell us about the book. How did that project come about?

Even though I was writing stories as a kid, went to journalism school (and transferred out), and was blogging, a book wasn't something I'd ever really thought about. But then I had a lame but spectacular ski accident. Two months of barely walking, working, and mothering gave me the opportunity to think about what I wanted out of life. I was unhappy at my job (working on environmental policy and programming) and wanted a way out. And writing and quilting made me happy, it fed my soul. So I started thinking about ways to make it a career, not just an obsessive hobby.
At the same time I started talking more with Amanda Jean, another quilting blogger I knew. Our conversations, combined with my reflections, led to a book proposal. A few months later we were writing a book! We went through the entire process without having met, not until right before our final draft was due. Sunday Morning Quilts is out in the wild now. I couldn't be happier with the final product and where that wipeout on the mountain has taken me, although I still can't ski.

     Besides blogging and book writing, I know you juggle other professional hats. Some TV appearances,  some freelance writing gigs…tell us a little about that.

My first moves beyond the blog were some on-line articles. I did some for free a long the way, but only a few. I was lucky to have a couple of writers lend some good advice and door-knocking on my behalf. That led to a magazine gig at What's Up, a Canadian family magazine. I also picked up additional freelance gigs with the local newspaper and some on-line sites. And yes, a few times along the way I've cooked on a local TV set.
For a long time I was doing this while still working full-time at my other job. My goal was to get to the point where it made sense to quit the job I hated and write. In the fall of 2010 I did quit my job, but it was to be home with the family. I continued to write, but it was a different balance of work. And my family had to come first.

Click below for the rest of the interview...

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Pie Ice Cream

That title is a mouth full...and so is the recipe. Its Kentucky Derby time and here in the Bluegrass, that's a big deal. Bourbon is a big deal all the time and I think Kentucky Pie is too although this time of year they are in high demand at our local bakeries.
I'm all about ice cream so anytime I can make our dessert an ice cream, I do it. The bourbon ice cream is good and strong. This is no ice cream for sissies. I made a Kentucky Pie and chopped it up. I considered the option to just swirl in the elements of the pie (nuts, chocolate, pie crust) but the ooey gooey center of the  pie-similar to pecan pie- just needed a presence.

The result is pretty incredible. I cut the pie in dime sized chunks. Some of them stayed together, some of them broke apart more while stirring. There's a nice balance of both.
I'm sure you could go all out with an expensive bourbon. This was my first attempt at an alcohol based ice cream so I stuck with a cheap brand. I had anticipated that the ice cream might be a little "ice crystally" but it maintained its smooth, creamy, thick texture.
Ok...enough of my blabbing ~ onto the recipe.
Click below for the full recipe. Happy Derby day!