Pie Pusher

In our family, pies are not just for holidays. Just about anything might inspire a pie craving, but by far the most reliable craving-inducer is to watch an episode (or two…) of Pushing Daisies. When the characters are not talking about pie they’re rolling dough or mixing pie filling or adding secret ingredients or making deliveries of pie in the most picturesque of wooden boxes. You might think the murder central to each episode would dull your appetite, but, no. The creators of the show managed to turn dead bodies into just one more layer of creativity and visual deliciousness that leaves you hungry for the next episode. It’s like pie for your eyes, and it’s guaranteed to make us want pie in our mouths.

Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

7 cups apples, peeled if you like, and sliced or chopped

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 Tablespoons butter

1 egg yolk

1 Tablespoon water

Grated sharp cheddar cheese

Pastry crust (We like this recipe.)

Combine apples, lemon juice, sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Lay pastry in bottom of pie pan.

Fill with apple mixture.

Dot with pieces of butter.

Cover with top pastry, poke steam holes, and crimp edges.

Whisk egg and water, and brush on top crust.

Cover edges of crust with tin foil.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 20 minutes

Remove tin foil and sprinkle top of pie liberally with grated sharp cheddar cheese, then bake for a final 20 minutes.

Your Move

On an endless afternoon in 1985, Jon pulled out this very Othello board and taught me how to play.

We played hundreds of games, but eventually the realization that he wasn’t going to win any of them meant the box gathered dust. When the kids were little it made its way back into rotation, but getting anyone to play against me was still a challenge. Rowan mostly used the pieces to make designs, drawing smiley faces or her initial or a heart.

She feigned disinterest in rules or strategies, lulling me into a false sense of security which vanished abruptly when I found myself roundly defeated.

If you’re looking for a gift idea this holiday season, I recommend Othello. Just warn the recipient to beware of hustlers.

Keeping Score

In the beginning we count weeks, “I’m 30 weeks pregnant.” Later we count months, “She’s 15 months old.” We ease into the idea of years, as if that will slow a score of them from suddenly passing by. The me who counted weeks and months made a decision and a promise. If time was going to pass as quickly as everyone said, if children grow in the blink of an eye, she was going to do her best to truly experience it. She would be with her kids. She would pay attention.

Dagny turned 20 years old this week. We started the day with pumpkin waffles, ended it with chocolate cake, and spent the day between together. I was there. I paid attention.

Pumpkin Waffles

1/2 cup brown sugar

6 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

4 eggs, separated

2 cups milk

2 cups pumpkin puree

8 Tablespoons melted butter

Break up cornstarch with a whisk.

Add dry ingredients.

Separate eggs.

Add pumpkin and milk to yolks and set aside.

Whip eggs whites til stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Pour melted butter into the pumpkin mixture and whisk together.

Mix wet and dry ingredients til just combined.

Fold in eggs whites.

This recipe makes 9 waffles, and can be cut in half.

(Cake photo stolen from Dagny’s instagram.)

Hat Head

I’ve never been a hat girl. Partly because I have a big head and a lot of hair, so it’s difficult to find one that fits. But mostly, I’ll admit, because I don’t look very good in them. As I faced numerous trips to the woodshed in cold, hard, rain this week, though, I reached for one of Dagny’s hats. Not just any hat – a hat handmade by my favorite Karen. If I’m going to look stupid, I might as well have two giant pompoms bouncing on my head.

What I learned? Hats are good. By the time I finished hauling wood, I didn’t much need the fire.

Sweetness and Light

I read a number of blog posts this week that mentioned the ‘Switch Witch’ or the ‘Candy Fairy’, both of whom take the candy kids have trick or treated for and exchange it for something the parents find more wholesome – books or craft supplies or something along those lines. I read other posts lamenting the existence of Halloween altogether. Mostly what I read boiled down to parents worrying.

People seemed to think I should worry a lot when my kids were little.

“Aren’t you worried they won’t learn to get up early when they need to if you let them sleep in whenever they want?”

“Aren’t you worried they’ll never learn to share if you don’t make them?”

“Don’t you worry they’ll never do anything else if you let them watch TV whenever they want?”

“Aren’t you worried they won’t learn to read if you don’t teach them phonics?”

“Don’t you worry about their teeth falling out and vitamin deficiencies and sugar highs and them never eating healthy food and all the other apparently deadly consequences of eating candy if you let them eat it any old time?”

Nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope. Why? I believed the best of my kids. I believed they were reasonable and thoughtful and intelligent and responsible and curious and trust-worthy. And you know what? They were. And yours are too.

As for Halloween, I think  a day where a 15 year old girl who loves costuming can walk into CVS as Ariel without anyone raising an eyebrow is a good day. I think filling the seemingly lonely older man down the road with happiness with a simple, “Trick or treat!” is worthwhile.  I think making space in our lives for imagination is important. I think staving off the darkness with fire is an instinct older than memory. I think fun is fun. And I think candy is delicious.

(Picture of Dagny by Andrew; picture of Rowan by Dagny.)

Measure Twice, Cut Once

As I scooped a cup of flour from the canister a few weeks ago, I heard a snap and felt the weight fall from my hand. The stress of daily use had caused my plastic measuring cup to throw up its handle in surrender.

That measuring cup was a remnant from another time. A time in which I was a bargain hunter, shopping regularly at discount stores and sales racks. These days I shop much less and much more carefully, following these steps:

1) Ask myself, do I actually need to buy something? (Of course, ‘need’ is a tricky word. Very little is actually necessary to survival. What I’m really asking myself is whether the thing I’m considering buying will truly be of use.)

2) Take time to think about exactly what my goal is, rather than rushing right out to shop.

3) Consider what features will best meet that goal.

4) Look for a second-hand item if at all possible.

5) Look for the very best quality I can find.

The size of the purchase I’m considering doesn’t matter. I follow these steps whether I want to spend $1 or $100. So when my measuring cup snapped I thought, do I actually need to buy another? I use measuring cups just about every day, often more than once a day, and my supply has dwindled as one by one they snap to pieces so, yes, I think I need them. They will be of use to me.

What exactly is my goal? To measure dry goods, over and over and over.

What qualities will best meet that goal? Not plastic – something stronger, that will withstand heavy use.  A handle long enough to comfortably reach the bottom of my canisters.

Can I find it second-hand? I’ve never found measuring cups at a thrift store. (Not to say it’s impossible, I’ve just never seen them myself.)  How about ebay or Etsy? Bingo.

How’s the quality? Copper and stainless cups with brass handles attached in such a way that even I’d have trouble wearing them out.

Total cost with shipping: $18 for four cups. More than I would have spent if I’d headed to a big box store. Less than I would spend over time to keep replacing plastic cups. An investment made possible by the fact when I think twice, the answer to number one is most often no.

Eyes Wide Open

I’m working on a baby blanket. I decided to take some time today to transform the easily tangled commercial skeins of yarn into balls that are less likely to make me swear while I’m crocheting. I like my baby blankets to be filled with love and good thoughts, not echoes of frustration.

I spun and spun, and while I spun I thought about being the mom of a new baby, and I thought about being the mom of a married woman on her way, with her camera, to capture another woman’s wedding day, and I thought about how quickly I went from being one to the other. Layers of yarn spun on top of each other, each one disappearing as the next covered it, and suddenly the end of the yarn flew through my fingers and I was done.

In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”