For Dad

Today would have been my Dad’s 73rd birthday. He did not ever get to taste one of my pies, although I’m sure the desserts are much sweeter where he is today. He always said that I should write a book, and I’ve got a couple in the works, but for today, I hope this blog counts.

In his honor, I ate an ample slice of this Apple Pear Crumb Pie for breakfast today. Not really on my diet plan, but birthdays are for celebrating, right?

 

Today, I’m remembering my Dad with lots of gratitude.

Thanks, Dad, for working hard as a “telephone man” to provide for our family.

For reading to me from your old green Bible about Jesus healing lepers–that time when I watched a Bible movie on TV and thought I would get leprosy.

For eating “pogey bait” with me and growing my sweet tooth.

For teaching me how to plant tomato seeds in a styrofoam cup.

For growing the vegetables that filled our table for years. I have a jar of the last beans that you grew in my pantry that I just can’t open yet.

For being an artist and a writer, even if you never believed you were.

For taking us to church.

For being faithful to mom.

For making me a giant clock to go with my White Rabbit costume in 5th grade. Thanks for not saying I looked more like a snowman or a marshmallow than a rabbit.

For building me a doll house with tiny windows made of match sticks.

For knowing how to tie knots and name trees by the shape of their leaves.

For showing us that serving and giving should be part of life.

For bringing me little frog figurines from your work trips. And bells for Stacey. And cats for Kim. I still have those frogs.

For putting the Christmas tree lights on every year (never mind the language involved :))

For showing us that you can, if you need to, learn to fix a toilet, repair a roof, change your oil, or pretty much anything.

For the smile you gave me on my wedding day when, after saying “Her mother and I” for the last time, you let out an audible (but just to me) “Whew” noise.

For the cool centerpiece you could make with pineapple chunks and cherries.

For the conversation we had in the front yard of 1818 Leslie Lane, when I told you I thought Joseph would propose to me soon. You were waxing the car under the maple tree.

For planting a tree in our yard on our daughter’s first birthday.

For giving our son his first bike.

For giving our artist her first “real” easel. You would be so proud of her artwork now.

For being Papa.

For taking care of things so that Mom does not have to worry now.

For loving Mom.

For loving us.

For loving me.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

Measuring Up

For the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have been on a nutrition kick. He started meeting with a trainer, and we’re both keeping track of everything we eat. We’ve researched apps for our various devices, counted calories, read labels, measured stuff…LOTS of measuring. Here’s the drawer where we keep some of our measuring stuff:

On a side note–why isn’t there a good way to organize all this stuff? All those neat freaks on Pinterest and on all those organization blogs must not have the same type and volume of plastic crap that we do. Sigh.OCD hell is full of mismatched Tupperware. ANYWAY….

All that measuring is precisely why I will NOT be eating any of this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread that I baked this morning. It smells delicious. I know it’s good, because I’ve baked it a billion times. But the thought of all that math just makes me lose my appetite. So I’m gonna take it to work for those folks to eat. I’ve used the same recipe for years. It’s not from a cookbook. It’s from my Mom the BFA (Bringer of Food Awesomeness). One day, early in my married years, I called her for a banana bread recipe. I didn’t want to forget it, so I grabbed this cookbook and wrote it down in the front. Funny thing is, that’s really the only reason we keep the cookbook now. I think we got it as a wedding gift.

If you gave it to us, it’s our favorite cookbook ever! Thank you so much!

Truth be told, we’ve only tried one recipe from it. See those pretty green circle cookies on the front cover? My husband and I tried to make those during the first year we were married. I remember our efforts in the tiny kitchen of our one-bedroom basement apartment. Not a success, really. He seems to remember the cookies tasting pretty good, but they looked like they’d been run over. Oh well, it was fun trying. 🙂

So the bread recipe lives in this cookbook. It’s funny that I even use it. Ask my husband about me and recipes. I usually just improvise. This has always driven him nutso. In the past, when baking or cooking, I’d just “guesstimate” amounts. I used uncertain measurements such as a glug, a dollop, a little bit, two shakes, or “until it looks right.” It wasn’t until my 40th birthday pie adventure that I really embraced measuring.

In an uncertain time in my life, I think all that measuring provided some certainty–some order in things. It was one small way of controlling something. It’s funny though, that all that measuring did NOT provide guarantees or predictability, two things we all want deep down. Sure, we want to say we’re daredevils, or spontaneous, or whatever.

I just wanna know what’s gonna happen.

Too bad. Gotta wait. None of your business. Need to know basis. Just chill.

NO! I don’t like waiting and not knowing. Does anyone relate? Anyone?

Meanwhile, though, I’ll just have to wait and pray and know that things will be all right. And bake pies. You may be wondering where the pie is today in this pie blog. It’s for lunch.

My husband and I will be sharing a Feta Veggie Freeform Tart. It’s got a homemade crust, red and yellow peppers, onions, feta cheese, and basil. And YES, I’ve measured EVERYTHING that’s going into that thing. After doing the math involved with homemade pie crust, I have this advice:

Don’t look, just eat it!

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

No punishment here!

This week, I’ve been thinking about something my Dad would say when he was frustrated–“No good deed goes unpunished!”

I can’t blame him. I’ve felt this exact sentiment many times. This week in particular, I was involved in a situation where some people just DIDN’T ACT RIGHT.

“GET SOME HOME TRAININ’!”

That’s what I wanted to yell. I complained about the situation too much. I let my heartbeat race. I furrowed my brow (which is really bad, because suddenly, my 40-year-old face tells on me from all that furrowing of days gone by). I got mad.

I flung all kinds of useless judgement around:

They should KNOW better.

I can’t believe how UNGRATEFUL!

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

Can’t they see that they’re just WRONG?!

All that angry energy…

Didn’t. Change. One. Thing.

At least not about the situation. It just changed me. In a bad way. This got me to thinking. Why am I punishing myself for someone else’s bad choices? Silly, really. So I decided to do something else.

Just in time, a sweet friend of mine hinted (and by hinted, I mean asked outright in writing and by voicemail :)) for a pie for her birthday. I was very excited to get the request. This person is the kind of gal you just wanna do nice things for, so I did. I made her a Coffee Chocolate Pie with Orange Meringue.

Now, I know I just made that pie the other day AND I seem hooked on that orange meringue. I can’t help it. Besides, the last time that pie was available, my friend got there too late for her slice–it was all gone! Plus, the pie is so dang good.

So this good deed–baking a sweet birthday pie for my sweet friend–definitely goes unpunished. On the contrary, it’s a reward! When someone asks me to bake them a pie, they think it’s a present for them, but really, it’s a gift for me. Gives me time to think and reminds me of this:

Even when lots of things seem to be going wrong, you can always, always, always, find something going right.

Never thought I’d get so much joy and peace from stirring stuff up, making a mess, and sticking a pie plate in the oven.

So thanks, my friend, for having a birthday. Thanks for being you, and thanks for the gift of your friendship!

Coffee Pie…maybe?

I decided to make a pie for a sweet friend who’s having a tough week. Not sure what all’s going on, but sometimes you can just tell when a person needs pie.  My husband–smart guy–remembered that our friend loves coffee, and he suggested a pie with coffee and chocolate. Great idea. Two of my favorite things in the world.

Which just goes to show you–

Never say never.

I used to hate coffee. Didn’t even like the smell of it. Then one Lenten season, I gave up soft drinks, and the Devil made me a better offer… Anyway, I drink the stuff every day. Aren’t there some health studies somewhere that say it helps your brain? Or something? Keep researching for me, ’cause I’m not ready to quit yet.

So I started looking for recipes with coffee and chocolate. I’ve watched my favorite TV chef, the Barefoot Contessa, pour brewed coffee into dozens of recipes, so I know it must be good. I love that lady. She’s messy, and she looks like she’s actually eaten a bit of the food, so I have respect.

I found lots of recipes, but none of them seemed just right, or I’d find that I was missing an ingredient, or there would be some crazy step that required tools I don’t know how to use.

So I made it up. *cue foreboding music*

I’ve made quite a few cream pies, and melting chocolate seems like a great place to start, so that’s what I did. This photo shows the point where I decided that one and THREE QUARTERS large Hershey bars would be just the right amount to melt. I had to eat some. Had to. Then I started making up excuses about balanced flavor or some other cheffy reason not to use too much chocolate.

Here’s the rest of the recipe. Don’t start baking yet–I haven’t tasted it. At least not in its final format–I always taste a bit of the filling before it goes into the shell.

On the stovetop, combine the following over low heat:

1 and 3/4 large Hershey bars (4.4 oz each)

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

6 large marshmallows (I don’t know why, but they just make it richer and creamier)

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (I used what was left in the pot from this morning)

4 TBSP unsalted butter

1 cup half and half

2 1/2 TBSP corn starch

I stirred and stirred and stirred over low heat for FOREVER. It was at least 15 minutes. Those marshmallows are worth it, but they are always the last to melt. My hubby even stirred a while so I could work on the meringue topping.

OK, here’s what’s in the meringue:

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

6 TBSP sugar

1 tsp vanilla

zest of one orange

You beat the heck out of it for a few minutes until it has stiff peaks and kinda stands up by itself.

Then I poured that hot filling into a graham cracker crust. Now, here’s the thing–it didn’t seem that thick. I mean it got thicker, but I don’t know if it got thick enough. I just poured it in there.

Next, I spread the meringue topping to the edges of the pie top. I baked the whole thing for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The meringue behaved and got toasty.

I let it cool for about 30 minutes before putting it in the fridge to chill overnight. I sure hope the chilling helps. Otherwise–

My friend may be drinking his Coffee Pie from a coffee mug.

Oh well, I hope he feels the love anyway.

Pie can’t make everything all right, but it definitely makes everything tastier. 🙂

 

 

Unphotographable

Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of how something tastes.

The empty plate above is from one of the two pies I baked last night. I had a great time making Apple Pie and Chocolate Cream Pie with Orange Meringue.

The Apple Pie was a standard two-crust pie with a sweet little heart cut in the top crust. Cinnamon and sugar did their work, and the pie got gobbled up at work today. So did the chocolate pie. Yum. Again, I say, “YUM.”

Let me tell you a little about that Chocolate Cream Pie with Orange Meringue. The Orange Meringue part happened last-minute. Right before it was time to put the meringue on top of the chocolate filling, I decided to add some orange zest. I gotta say, it was one of the best last-minute decisions in my brief pie-making history.

Sometimes, when you follow your heart, it turns out AWESOME.

The chocolate combined with that creamy orange meringue–there just aren’t words. And the only picture that could come close to describing it was that empty pie plate. The only people who can ever know the taste of it are the ones who got a forkful (or two, or seven…).

I love to take pictures. A photograph can go a long way when it comes to telling a story. But I’m reminded by that pie that sometimes, you can’t photograph something.

There’s so much in our lives that’s just meant for only our hearts to capture.

Tonight, I took part in a beautiful experience at our local high school. Some friends of our family lost their daughter to cancer last year, and they had a wonderful memorial celebration tonight where folks lit lanterns outside. Donations raised money for a scholarship fund for students who “Light the Way” in their school and community. The young woman honored by this scholarship did just that.
I did take a few pictures at the event. But as it turns out, it was really just impossible to capture the feeling–the beauty–of what was happening. Hundreds of colorful lanterns lit up the night sky. Smiling faces–many with joyful tears– shone in the glow of those lanterns. Young and old celebrated together the life of someone wonderful, and the lives of all of those who pushed their lights to the sky.

It was a night to love life.

As my daughter and her friends, like so many others, tried to capture the event with photographs I said to them, “You can try, but really, you’ll just have to remember it in your heart.”

And they will. And I will. We all will. 

Sweet Spirit Pie

Well, it’s Holy Week again. And once again, I’m NOT holy.

So thank goodness for my church, which still lets me in along with a bunch of other sinners. Tonight was our Maundy Thursday service (if you’ve never participated, it’s a celebration of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples), and I baked some pies to bring to the covered dish supper. I chose Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie, two simple, traditional pies–although, call me a big liberal for making pumpkin pie in the spring instead of at Thanksgiving–again…big sinner. I even got to take them to church in the cool pie basket I got from friends this past Christmas. Perfect gift.

Anyway, I chose two very recognizable pies because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a bunch of church folks standing around at a dessert table poking at stuff trying to figure out what it is…

“Myrtle, do you think there’s pecans in this? I hope not. They give me hives…”

“What is this pink stuff–I hate coconut–is there coconut in here?”

 

I just didn’t want to hear it. So I made apple and pumpkin, and they got eaten all up. Along with a bunch of other AWESOME food. Man, those people can cook. I made an embarrassing, towering- casserole -of -church- food -deliciousness on my plate and declared to others at my table,

“It’d be rude not to try everyone’s, right?”

The meal was really great, and after supper, we transitioned into a really nice communion service. The pastor spoke for a bit, and then we all had communion. It was cool, because each person got to offer bread and juice (sorry, Catholic friends, just juice) to their neighbor and say, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you,” and then “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”

Nothing fancy. No one practiced or trained. Just friends and neighbors and families, celebrating what Easter is really about. Such a blessing.

I looked around the room as this was going on. Husbands served wives. Old folks served young ones. Friends served staff members. Children served parents. And special to me–my mom served my son. I won’t soon forget it. The whole thing reminded me of this:

When we commune with one another, we are communing with Christ.

At the end of the service, we all sang this old favorite hymn. Hardly anyone needed the words, and the harmonies were sweet indeed.

There’s a sweet, sweet, Spirit in this place
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord
Sweet, Holy Spirit
Sweet, Heavenly Dove
Stay right here with us, filling us with Your love
And for these blessings, we lift our hearts in praise
Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived
When we shall leave this place.
 

Yes. A Sweet, Sweet Spirit.